Monday, August 27, 2012

STB: Two Years and Counting

It has now been two years to the day since I posted my refutation of the argument showcased on Sye Ten Bruggencate’s website “proof that god exists dot org.” While the argument on his site remains unchanged, Bruggencate has so far failed to vindicate the defense of his worldview which he has presented to the world against my critique.

Of the several points that I raise against Bruggencate’s case, I think the most damning include
a) the lack of any rational justification on Bruggencate’s part for categorizing the examples he cites (e.g., truth, the laws of logic, universality, mathematics, science, moral principles, etc.) as “immaterial” (as opposed to conceptual phenomena), and  
b) Bruggencate’s association of his god with “abstract entities” such as truth, the laws of logic, mathematics, science and other conceptual operations only suggests that his god is something psychological rather than an independently existing entity.
All of this serves to confirm my view, for which I have supplied ample argumentation (see for instance here, here and here) that the Christian god which Bruggencate claims to worship is nothing more than an imaginary construct on the part of its believers. Moreover, by failing to recognize the conceptual nature of phenomena like the laws of logic and moral principles, and insisting that they have some fundamental relationship to the Christian god, only indicates that Bruggencate has no conceptual understanding of these things and arbitrarily prefers a “storybook” view of logic, universality, mathematics, etc. After all, Christianity has no account for concepts, and the absence of any philosophical understanding of the nature and formation of concepts is the gaping void in which Christian apologetics takes refuge.

Bruggencate’s reaction to my criticisms of his argument has typically consisted of a two-fold evasion: on the one hand, he complains that my criticisms are too lengthy for him to spend any time examining; on the other, he seems to think that the best way to engage my criticisms is to have some kind of live debate. Neither approach addresses any of my criticisms, and neither approach suggests that he is either capable of or serious about defending his worldview against my critique in an intellectual manner. In fact, it only suggests that he is unwilling even to familiarize himself with the substance of my criticisms, which are available for him to examine in written form at his leisure. I suspect that engaging my criticisms would force Bruggencate to confront the fact that his worldview provides no account for concepts, and since he likely recognizes this, albeit probably only on an implicit level of awareness, he likely senses that this is not an area of discussion for which he would be very well prepared. The failing here is not due to lack of education, but rather a heritage of subscribing to a worldview which is inherently anti-conceptual in nature.

Bruggencate’s excuses for ignoring my criticism ring hollow and lack the stamina to go the distance. After all, two years is certainly long enough for Bruggencate to read a paper that’s less than ten pages in length (the PDF version of my critique is only nine pages long – something that would be “longwinded” only for high school students taking the bonehead path). Bruggencate does know how to read, does he not? Meanwhile, he champions apologists like Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen and John Frame, who have published writings far exceeding the length of my one blog entry. Indeed, one advantage that my blog entry criticizing his argument has over the argument he presents on his website, is that one can copy and paste it to a word processing file and print it out (or simply print the PDF version), as opposed to having to click through a series of pages on a website which never allow you to see the entire argument on one shot (and that’s only assuming there is an argument there to begin with, which in Bruggencate’s case is certainly debatable).

Christian apologists are constantly asserting, often without any argument whatsoever, that non-believing philosophies cannot provide an “account for” their own intellectual underpinnings without “borrowing” from the Christian worldview, thereby undermining their non-believing stance. But when this is challenged, and internally consistent accounts are presented on behalf of a non-Christian worldview’s intellectual underpinnings, those same apologists either remain entirely silent, or make excuses for not engaging the matter any further (e.g., “it’s too long for me to read!”). This exposes the only thing that the apologists have had all along – a highfalutin bluff intended to intimidate rather than inform.

Every encounter I’ve had personally with Sye Ten Bruggencate, and every encounter I’ve witnessed between him and some non-Christian, calls to mind the image of a schoolyard bully picking on some unsuspecting child and trying to provoke a playground fight, bellowing the words “After school, punk!” as though it were an impressive show of force in itself. Given the failings of the Christian worldview, this is really the only thing someone like Sye Ten Bruggencate has to rely on. This is why years of Sye’s silence will likely just keep rolling on while my refutation stands unchallenged.

by Dawson Bethrick

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Blogger Ydemoc said...


Your entry brought to mind something I recently heard while listening to Objectivism Seminar podcasts, (by the way, you and your blog got a few plugs here and there on various episodes -- with Andrew Dalton, an occasional poster here, doing the plugging... I made a note which episodes, but not the exact timestamp, if you're ever interested)...

Anyway, I believe they were talking about how no matter how many times it's pointed out to the typical Christian apologist (in a debate, for example) that he or she is clearly wrong about a factual point (say, about thermodynamics or evolution), the apologist will invariably resort to disseminating the same false information to a different unsuspecting audience in the next town over -- completely ignoring any previously raised objections or corrections regarding the material.

Obviously, the apologist's agenda doesn't seem to place much importance on correctly identifying facts of reality. It's all good! -- so long as what they're spewing is in line with their Storybook and the latest interpretation of it.


August 27, 2012 4:27 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

I would not be surprised in this Dawson. Sye Ten Bruggencate is a con artist and snake oil salesman. If he had not found "god" as his shtick he would be selling used cars or fake watches from a back alley. The man has the moral backbone of a piece of limp spaghetti noodle.

August 27, 2012 5:14 PM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

I have to say Justin, you're being incredibly harsh on limp spaghetti noodles ;-)

August 31, 2012 4:07 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

well this is funny

September 01, 2012 3:56 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...


I could not resist posting my thoughts over there. (Actually, I could have resisted, but chose not to).


September 01, 2012 5:26 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

can we charge philosophers with grand theft concept?

September 03, 2012 4:34 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Hey Ydemoc its that same old fallacy again, grand theft concept!

September 07, 2012 6:28 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...


Thanks for the link. You got me riled up enough to pop on over and toss in my thoughts.

Upon re-reading what I wrote, I can see I was a little sloppy here and there, in both grammar and clarity.

But I think I'll just let it sit like that for a bit.



September 07, 2012 8:52 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Correction: I should say "the exchange got me riled up enough..."


September 07, 2012 8:53 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Virt is a Calvinist but is not very much impressed by TAG. Id say it was like the good old days except unlike Nide this young man has a brain and has honest intent. Anyway thanks for coming on over:)

September 07, 2012 10:48 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Ydemoc the fun continues on that thread...

September 08, 2012 8:24 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...


Dawson have you ever wondered about the irony of those that via Hume's problem of induction claim that we are placing an unwarranted assumption that the past is a guide to the future. However all the while at the heart of Hume's problem is the assumption that something anything can spontaneous and for no reason change its identity, a phenomenon that has never once ever been observed? what reason is given for this conceptualization? what are its referents? All I can say is pot meet kettle

September 09, 2012 9:48 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Justin et al.,

Sorry I’ve not been able to participate. I took a few glances at the discussion on your blog with “virtuosity” (don’t Christians have real names?), and it’s all quite interesting. I wish I could jump in, but I’m entirely too busy right now. Really, abominably busy!

In regard to your question, I think what I find most ironic about Humean skepticism on the topic of induction is the apparent inability of its advocates to recognize its implicitly self-refuting conclusion. The conclusion of Hume’s argument, at least so far as it is commonly interpreted by presuppositionalists (cf. Brian Knapp, “Induction and the Unbeliever,” in Hubner’s The Portable Presuppositionalist, pp. 118-142, with which I have interacted here), tells us that induction is unreliable or at best viciously circular, presumably because one must appeal to past experience in order to validate the appeal to past experience as a means of justifying what has been called “the inductive principle.”

Doesn’t this conclusion entail an inductive conclusion of general scope? It’s basically saying that all instances of induction are fallacious, which is itself inductive in nature.

So if induction is fallacious, then the inductive conclusion of the skeptical argument against inductive reliability seems to fall victim to the argument’s own conclusion. That’s self-refuting by definition.

Presuppositionalists of course claim that appealing to their god somehow resolves this problem, since, as they claim, their god assures us of the uniformity of nature. But the very doctrines of divine sovereignty and miracles undermine this claim completely. On the Christian view, the uniformity we discover in nature was put there by some conscious activity, which can only mean that nature is not inherently uniform. So uniformity on this view is something that can be switched on and off at will. And who knows the depths of a divine will better than the divine will itself? Well, of course those who imagine the divine will in the first place, for they dictate its next move. So in a way, psychologically, presuppositionalists sense that they are on safe grounds by pointing to their god, but only because their theism is not true. If it were true, then nature would be inherently chaotic, and any uniformity we observe in nature would be a completely artificial phenomenon, much like the simulated realm in a Matrix-like universe: one could never be fully confident that he’s in the “true” realm, for it could just be yet another layer of simulation that he’s interacting with. Since uniformity in such a case would only obtain at the will of the consciousness supposedly “sustaining” it all, there is no consistent basis to suppose that the uniformity in question would be constant. And the doctrine of miracles only confirms this analysis.

You can see why I’m so glad these aren’t my problems.


September 10, 2012 4:52 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 11, 2012 7:49 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Dawson, thanks for answering my question and also thanks for stopping by at my blog. I did notice that someone in Thailand had visited and I thought that might be you:) I to have notice the contradiction in trying to use induction to call into question induction. However taking this line of argumentation to me sounds to much like "oh yah, well your answer is even worse!" What I want is a good answer for us, to heck with what they think:)

It seems to me that there should be a way to anchor induction to the perceptually self evident via deduction and thus break the circle. Any thoughts?

September 11, 2012 7:56 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Justin,

You wrote: “@Dawson, thanks for answering my question and also thanks for stopping by at my blog. I did notice that someone in Thailand had visited and I thought that might be you:)”

Yes, that was probably me. I’m busy battling armies of ants and armadas of millipedes on a moment-by-moment basis… Oh, and don’t forget nosy food vendors…. Some like to ask, “Why are you here?” I like to reply: “Why are you here?”

Justin: “However taking this line of argumentation to me sounds to much like "oh yah, well your answer is even worse!" What I want is a good answer for us, to heck with what they think:)”

Perhaps I’m misreading you, but your statement here makes my previous remarks sound like they’re conceding something (“your answer is even worse [than mine]”), when in fact they make no concession whatsoever. You asked about the irony of getting behind the skeptical argument against induction, and I was merely pointing out that it’s quite ironic how self-refuting such a stance seems to me. It is not conceding anything to the Humean skeptic.

Justin: “It seems to me that there should be a way to anchor induction to the perceptually self evident via deduction and thus break the circle. Any thoughts?”

I’ve written much on induction, Justin. Where have you been? Yes, induction is anchored to the perceptually self-evident level of cognition. However, not via deduction, but rather via concept-formation. As for breaking the circle, I’m not sure what you mean. With an objective starting point, there is no circularity in the sense of some logical fallacy.

Presuppositionalists tend to make the problem of induction primarily a metaphysical issue, and they do this in order to construe the issue as some kind of evidence for their god. Thus they focus on justifying the assumption that nature is uniform. The implication of their approach seems unanimously to be that, if you can justify your assumption that nature is uniform, then the problem of induction is licked, and they have that solution in their god, which through conscious activity “creates and sustains” the universe according to its rational designs. But simply recognizing that nature is uniform does nothing to address the need for an understanding of how the mind comes to general conclusions based on a limited input sample. In other words, the presuppositional approach leaves completely untouched, unexplored, and unexplained the epistemology of induction, which is the real issue here. Moreover, the presuppositionalist approach completely sabotages inductive reliability by premising the uniformity of nature on a conscious will which could do whatever it pleases (per Ps. 115:3). The cartoon universe of theism is not a realm where any inductive reliability is possible, let alone likely. So even on a probabilistic view of induction (which I tend to think is overplayed to begin with), the presuppositional approach will only destroy induction rather than provide a suitable response to Hume.

My approach, as I have developed it and consistently informed it, first challenges Hume’s faulty premises, and then shows how concept-formation provides the proper model for inductive inference. This approach exposes the problems with Hume’s argument concerning induction, and it also provides an elegant epistemological solution which has apparently eluded philosophers for generations. Like the presuppositionalists, they’ve been looking in the wrong place – they have forgotten the fact that human consciousness indeed has identity and that it does act in certain ways. Why not focus the search for answers there?

Check out this blog entry for details about what I’m talking about.

Does that help?


September 11, 2012 3:47 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

it does indeed, many thanks and sorry for not making my self clear earlier. I will read what you posted and get back to you. Also thank you for putting forth the effort on this.

September 11, 2012 5:28 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

No prob, Justin. Believe me when I say it's my pleasure. Seriously, it really is a pleasure to do this blog.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.


September 11, 2012 5:32 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...


Have you had any opportunity to visit the link Justin provided a few weeks ago?

John Donohue and I tried to put out a few fires over there, from people attacking Rand's ideas and rejecting her and Comte's definition of altruism. They preferred some watered down version which, not surprisingly, they never really bothered to make explicit (other than pointing us to Wikipedia, which essentially affirmed that Rand and Comte's definition were correct).

Donohue posed the following question: "is 'altruism' per the teachings of Jesus and Hillel, or Kant or Adam Smith an important moral guide to be voluntarily conducted by private citizens or a political position to be enforced by government?"

About 15-minutes ago, I checked to see if any those champions of altruism over there, with their watered down version of such hideousness, had bothered to answer. None of them had.

Meanwhile, I plan on posting a follow-up comment over there, to someone named Leni, who got on Rand's case for taking Social Security; and claiming that she benefited not only from doing so, but also from, and I quote, "Robbers who built the roads and public transportation she used, the infrastructure that led to her being able to sell her books, paid the wages of the people who admitted her into the country in the first place, and who educated the populace enough to be able to read them and have jobs through by which they could afford to buy said books. None of that happened without the “robbery” that you, and she, complain endlessly about.


September 11, 2012 6:17 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

She didn’t just benefit from SSI, she benefited from every tax dollar spent by every American ever. Just as we all have. She has no special claim to it.

So yeah, she got back more than she paid and would have even if she were born here."

Like I said, I plan to offer up a solid rebuttal, sometime soon. And I have some idea of where I want to go with it.

But -- and I don't want to intrude (too much) upon your busy schedule -- if you have any ideas to offer... some points you think I could bring out, etc., they would be, as always, much appreciated.


September 11, 2012 6:18 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...


check the comments, he lives!!!

September 11, 2012 8:06 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...


Please don't tell me it is who I think it is.

I'm a'headin' on over.


September 11, 2012 8:25 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello friends. I'm still alive and kicking about a bit. I hope you all have profitable endeavors for which to labor. Best wishes and many thanks for your insightful comments.

September 12, 2012 5:53 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...


Thanks for pointing that discussion out to me. It's incredible, not only the amount of ignorance, but the intensity of spite that churns up when Rand's name is mentioned. I drafted up some thoughts on this last night after "skimming" (a skill I learned from STB himself) the comments of that blog. Perhaps I'll dress 'em up and post 'em one day soon. I really wish I had more time for this, but I have found that there is increasing demand for my skills here, and it is really bringing home the bacon. But sadly it's eating up any time I might be able to spend on my blog. So, it's quite frustrating in that regard. At this point, October promises to be a lighter month, but that also depends on whether or not the greater BKK area gets another 50-year flood... Stay tuned for that!


September 12, 2012 3:39 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...


Thanks for your reply, and I'm glad that you got a chance to check out those comments. And I look forward to reading your response should you end up posting one.

In the meantime, (like I mentioned before) I plan on posting some more of my own thoughts, which I've already started working on. But I'm going to take my sweet time. What's the hurry, really? Those comments over there aren't going anywhere.

Hard to believe it's approaching one year since the all that flooding. Hopefully, you and everyone else over there won't have to suffer through anything like that again.

Until next time.


September 12, 2012 4:34 PM  

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