Joe is an atheist who takes issue with my asking another commenter about supporting evidence for his claims. When I asked the other visitor, “what’s your evidence that only evidence matters?” Joe responded, “Sir, you may not be stupid, but this phrase is nonsense. YOU use evidence to support everything.”
Apparently Joe buys into the idea that only evidence matters, that everyone uses evidence to support everything, and even that every claim must be supported with evidence. But if every claim must be supported by evidence, then the claim, “every claim must be supported with evidence” must also be supported with evidence. However, atheists are typically exceedingly hesitant to provide such evidence or even to tell us what it might look like. Instead, they attempt to change the topic. (See for example this post.)
The most probable cause for the atheist inclination to so blindly accept evidentialism is the relative ease with which one may parrot Bertrand Russell’s quip that there’s “not enough evidence” available in order for a person to rationally believe in God. We can call this the evidentialist objection. But if evidentialism as a whole is problematic – as argued in the paragraph above – then the evidentialist objection loses all of its force. If atheists want to be taken seriously then they need to find a new objection. This one gets old quickly.
My exchange with Joe starts here –
In this post I will offer a quick response to his last comment:
I beg you to forgive my ignorance in the field of philosophy, as well as my not having enough time to read over your blog entries for the past three years. I’m sorry that you do not like my analogy. I am no Jesus with my parables, so I’ll try to stick with plain language from here on.
Personally, I detest presuppositional apologetics. I won’t use the word “nonsense” for fear of engaging in more semantic hairsplitting. Instead, let me say that the argument from pre-suppositional apologetics is maddeningly circular. Christian thinkers are forced into the uncomfortable situation of asserting that if their god exists, then such-and-such would be proof of his existence. They might as well condense this lemon of a philosophy into “God exists, therefor God exists.” (Tell me if you’ve heard this one).
You seem to enjoy exploiting the problem of infinite regress with other posters, including myself, in asserting that I should have evidence for my evidence. That’s really clever and funny, but can you tell me what Christianity would be without the Bible? What Islam would be without the Koran?
I “suppose” you would look around at the beauty and the intricacy of the world around you and would immediately know that the god, Yaweh, whose son, Jesus, died on the cross for the sins of the world had created all of it?
And the Bible, being your “evidence,” is subject to the exact problem of infinite regress that you tax your atheist posters with. So, yes, I still take issue with your statement. “Anti-theism” only pre-supposes theism in the sense that each concept could not exist without the other. You’ve given no evidence that your first cause, the existence of God, is true, so you cannot further assert that your second cause, there are no atheists in principle, is true.
BTW, like the Sesame Street reference. That takes me back.
“Personally, I detest presuppositional apologetics.”
It does not surprise me one bit to hear that a non-believer detests presuppositional apologetics. Unfortunately, personal detestation does not serve as an argument against presuppositional apologetics.
“Instead, let me say that the argument from pre-suppositional apologetics is maddeningly circular.”
Of course, this “objection” is maddeningly old and faulty, but that does not stop amateur atheist apologists from repeating it ad nauseum. Using the site’s Search feature or just clicking on the FAQ tab might have prevented such an ignorant objection from being touted here yet again, but that’s okay. Epistemological circularity is unavoidable. For anyone. But epistemological circularity is not the same thing as logical circularity. It will not suffice to label a presupposition logically circular, for it is merely a presupposition and not an argument in the strictly logical sense. And even if a presupposition leads in some roundabout way (no pun intended) to epistemological circularity it does not matter, for there is no logical problem with mere epistemological circularity.
“Christian thinkers are forced into the uncomfortable situation of asserting that if their god exists, then such-and-such would be proof of his existence.”
That’s not presuppositional apologetics, nor is it the transcendental argument. The commenter does not cite anything that I have written to this effect, so I suspect I need not give his assertion any more time.
“They might as well condense this lemon of a philosophy into ‘God exists, therefor [sic] God exists.’ (Tell me if you’ve heard this one).”
Well, no, I haven’t, and if I did, then I would say the person making such an assertion is missing a few elements of his or her argument. Again, the author of this comment does not cite me anywhere in making such a silly assertion regarding what the presuppositional apologist “might as well” do, so I will move on.
“You seem to enjoy exploiting the problem of infinite regress with other posters, including myself, in asserting that I should have evidence for my evidence.”
Enjoy? Exploit? Perhaps the commenter is attempting to guilt trip me for pointing out something that his own philosophical position requires of him, but that’s not an argument. That’s just ill-informed moralism. The problem of an infinite regress is a problem for some philosophical positions. So is the problem of logical circularity. So is the problem of arbitrary assertion. So is special pleading. I don’t have any warm place in my heart for pointing out one of these problems any more than another. I find it rather odd that a commenter who makes the outdated evidentialist objection would turn around and falsely accuse me of fallacious circularity while denying that he needs to fix his own difficulty with an infinite regress, circularity, arbitrariness, or special pleading with respect to his evidentialist claims. How convenient!
“That’s really clever and funny,”
More hand waving to adorn the earlier attempt at pietistically pointing out my alleged enjoyable exploitation of the “infinite regress problem.” But still no answers from our evidentialist objector. He does not seem to grasp that his primary objection does not hold any water. It would be much better to say that it is dead in the water.
“…but can you tell me what Christianity would be without the Bible? What Islam would be without the Koran?”
How exactly does this non-sequitur fix the difficulty I raised with respect to the evidentialist objection? It doesn’t. Moreover, the commenter is rather sloppily trying to draw parallels between religious texts and naïve evidentialism, but they are disanalogous. He will not or can not answer the fundamental difficulty with his own view so he resorts to tossing out some irrelevancies to distract us.
“I ‘suppose’ you would look around at the beauty and the intricacy of the world around you and would immediately know that the god, Yaweh, whose son, Jesus, died on the cross for the sins of the world had created all of it?”
More distractions. And he can’t even get those right. Where have I talked about aesthetic (“beauty”) or teleological (“intricacy”) arguments? Certainly not in my original post nor in my initial reply to the commenter. Yet he wants to bring them into the discussion. Why? Again, to divert attention away from the fact that he is relying upon a thoroughly broken objection. Moreover, he seems to think that I believe that aesthetic and teleological arguments not only reveal that God exists as Creator, but they reveal that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world! Here’s a hint for atheists: Do your homework. Christians have been talking about this stuff for over 2,000 years. There are these nifty books you can buy that are all about this thing called theology. If you don’t respect me and my beliefs enough to at least try and get them right, then don’t expect much respect back from me.
In any event, here is a quick clarification. General revelation like that found in nature tells us that God exists and what He is like. Natural theology (in terms of arguments like those the commenter mentioned) are predicated upon it and tell Christians only some things about God. Special revelation tells us those things necessary to salvation, such as the death of Christ Jesus on the cross for the sins of the world.
“And the Bible, being your ‘evidence,’ is subject to the exact problem of infinite regress that you tax your atheist posters with.”
Where did I say that the Bible is “evidence”? What is the commenter talking about? Why is he putting words in my mouth? Where is his answer to the difficulty I raised with respect to his evidentialist objection? Hey I know, let’s talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Because that’s relevant to the post.
Again, I am not sure that the commenter really grasps what is going on here. If someone makes a claim (call it claim E) to the effect that, “All claims must be supported by evidence” then that person should be asked what evidence he or she has to support that very claim (E). The problem is that there isn’t any. This is very basic. Now what the Bible has to do with this I do not know, because the Bible is not a statement like E. It does not even contain a claim like E. (I warned the commenter to stay away from analogies!)
“So, yes, I still take issue with your statement.”
What statement? Why?
“‘Anti-theism’ only pre-supposes theism in the sense that each concept could not exist without the other.”
And again, he has not bothered to look at what I have actually said elsewhere about the claim in question. Even after I suggested that he do so. Instead he’s content to make an unsupported, ignorant assertion that completely ignores my comments about concepts and the ontological argument in my initial comment as well as my allusion to the fact that there is much greater context for my claims that can be found on the remainder of the site.
“You’ve given no evidence that your first cause, the existence of God, is true,”
Yeah, throw an allusion to the cosmological argument in there too. Why not? Let’s talk about everything but the glaring inconsistency in this poor guy’s objection. I have not mentioned God as the “first cause.” And I’ve already explained why the evidentialist objection fails. So what does this atheist do? He reasserts it. Sorry, but that’s not how critical thinking works.
“…so you cannot further assert that your second cause, there are no atheists in principle, is true.”
I’m fairly confident that he’s overconfident in what he’s established by ignoring his problems.
“BTW, like the Sesame Street reference. That takes me back.”
I am often tempted to make other such references, but those would not be so well received.