Wednesday, April 03, 2013

On the Validity of the Senses

D.A.N. of Debunking Atheists recently posted some comments on my blog Incinerating Presuppositionalism: Year Eight. In his 28 March reaction to the entry marking the anniversary of my blog’s inception, D.A.N. wrote:
I am cheering the day you abandon this blog to renounce your current autonomous and fallible reasoning as faulty, and worship the God you know exists. That is worth celebrating.
In part of my response to this statement, I wrote:
you insinuate that “my reasoning is faulty,” but you cite no example from my writings as evidence to support this. Is this because you have no example to support this? Or, is it because you think there is so much evidence that it should be self-apparent to anyone reading your comment?
Then D.A.N. in turn replied:
Well, you tell me, is it viciously circular to employ your senses and reasoning to validate your senses and reasoning?
Now, D.A.N. made the insinuation that my reasoning is faulty, and I noted that he produced no evidence to support that insinuation. And even after I point out the fact that he provided no support for his charge, he still fails even to make an attempt to provide support in his response. Instead of substantiating his claim, he asks me whether or not it is “viciously circular to employ your senses and reasoning to validate your senses and reasoning,” which does not strike me as relevantly supporting the characterization of my reasoning which he published on my blog. But in spite of this, I am willing to explore the matter.

But before doing so, I have to pause here as I wonder what exactly D.A.N. thinks is the apologetic value of such questions. A question as such is not an argument, and in my experience with presuppositionalists (a long list now), they typically do not give much care to considering suitable responses to questions of this type. It seems to be one of those “Duh, I donno! Must be God did it!” forms of apologetic interrogation. As such, it represents the apologist’s anxious need to keep the focus off of what his worldview teaches (and fails to teach) and on the non-believer. Tactically, then, this line of question is offensive in nature: it seeks to put the non-believer on the defensive.

However, I must admit that I’m wildly curious as to how the bible itself addresses this question. When Christian apologists ask questions of this sort, they imply that their worldview can answer it. But if Christianity does answer such questions, where might we find these answers? Where, for instance, does the bible give any insight or instruction on circularity, validation of one’s reasoning, proper construction of argument, the validity of the senses, etc.? I’ve scoured my bibles for just this kind of information, and I have found nothing in its many pages which can be identified as informatively treating any of these topics. Indeed, note what we get when the apologists’ other favorite question – “How do you know?” – is turned on what their worldview claims: presuppositionalist John Frame answers this question by saying “We know without knowing how we know.”

As for D.A.N.’s question to me, I’m sure he realizes that “vicious circularity” is a fallacy that occurs in some poorly formed deductive proofs. But since not all forms of validation are of the deductive proof variety, but may in fact consist of simply pointing to the facts which assure that something is the case, not all forms of validation are susceptible to the problem that apparently worries him (at least in the context of the present area of inquiry). Of course, if D.A.N. thinks I’ve produced a deductive proof for validating my senses and reasoning which fallaciously employs my senses and reasoning in doing so somewhere in my writings, I invite him locate it and point it out to me. It may be the case that he has misunderstood something. Otherwise, it appears that he’s trying to fabricate something “faulty” for the sake of making good on an insinuation for which he still has not produced any supporting evidence.

But allow me to present some points from my worldview’s perspective for D.A.N. to consider on this matter. I will constrain the focus of my discussion on the senses in particular; we need clarity and understanding in this area before discussing the validity of reasoning, since perception comes before reasoning.

So let me first point out that, on my view of the senses, there is nothing that I must do volitionally in order to validate my senses. That is because the activity and operation of my senses are automatic and pre-volitional. Asking whether or not one’s senses are valid is like asking whether or not one’s digestion is valid: if your stomach is digesting food, how could it be deemed invalid? Even if one gets a stomach ache, this itself is due to the “validity” of digestion: you ate too much, or a combination of foods, or spoiled food, which in turn results in discomfort. Usually the discomfort passes, which is yet another fact we can point to which assures us of the validity of digestion. But either way, the organs associated with digestion are functioning according to their causal characteristics, which is just another way of saying that digestion is “valid.” Similarly with the senses: my senses are the means by which I have awareness of objects existing in my surroundings. If I have any awareness of any object(s), this itself is a fact I can point to which assures me that my senses are valid.

More to the point, we do not have to prove the validity of the senses. Peikoff explains why (Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 39; italics original):
The validity of the senses is an axiom. Like the fact of consciousness, the axiom is outside the province of proof because it is precondition of any proof.  
Proof consists in reducing an idea back to the data provided by the senses. These data themselves, the foundation of all subsequent knowledge, precede any process of inference. They are the primaries of cognition, the unchallengeable, the self-evident.
Thus, to answer D.A.N.’s question, any attempt to prove the validity of the senses by means of a deductive argument would itself have to assume their validity, and in this sense such an argument could be said to be circular. But the broader take-away here is the fact that since the validity of the senses is axiomatic, no one needs to prove that the senses are valid in the first place. One can only be rightly accused of engaging in circular reasoning in the present context if he is attempting to infer the validity of the senses by means of a formal proof. Since proof as such presupposes the validity of senses, such an undertaking is unnecessary. I already know this, and that is why D.A.N. will not be able to find any instance in my writings where I am attempting to conclude that the senses are valid by means of a deductive proof. Even if he did, this would not undermine either the validity of the senses or the overall soundness of my worldview, which does not depend in the least on a formal proof of the validity of the senses.

Attempts to undermine the validity of the senses often rely on examples of what are styled as ‘sensory illusions’. But this only demonstrates an error in the skeptic’s thinking rather than serving as a successful basis on which to declare the senses invalid. Again I quote Peikoff (Ibid., p. 40):
A so-called sensory illusion, such as a stick in water appearing bent, is not a perceptual error. In Ayn Rand’s view, it is a testament to the reliability of the senses. The senses do not censor their response; they do not react to a single attribute (such as shape) in a vacuum, as though it were unconnected to anything else; they cannot decide to ignore part of the stimulus. Within the range of their capacity, the senses give us evidence of everything physically operative, they respond to the full context of the facts – including, in the present instance, the fact that light travels through water at a different rate than through air, which is what causes the stick to appear bent. It is the task not of the senses but of the mind to analyze the evidence and identify the causes at work (which may require the discovery of complex scientific knowledge). If a casual observer were to conclude that the stick bends in water, such a snap judgment would be a failure on the conceptual level, a failure of thought, not of perception. To criticize the senses for it is tantamount to criticizing them for their power, for their ability to give us evidence not of isolated fragments, but of a total.
So it should be clear that the senses very often provide us with far more information than we ever realize. We have to selectively isolate portions of that data to focus on in order to derive the knowledge we are seeking. But how could that be the case if the senses were not valid?

Besides, does it ever dawn on the skeptic that he had to rely on his perception even to know that there was a stick in the first place? How did the skeptic know, without relying on his senses, that there was a stick and that it was dunked in some water? Indeed, to say that the stick appears bent when it is in water, and thus criticize the senses on this basis, assumes knowledge of the fact that the stick is straight to begin with. But how did the skeptic know this if his senses are invalid? Blank out.

Moreover, as NAL, a visitor to my blog, pointed out in a 30 March comment replying to D.A.N. on my blog:
It is not circular to use your sense of touch to validate your sense of sight.
This is a truth which any child grasps on the implicit level of knowledge, and yet it is very handy in quelling skeptical arguments when it is identified explicitly. A child sees a toy in front of her. She reaches her hand out and grabs it. First she perceives it visually, then she perceives it tactilely. The latter experience confirms the validity of the former experience. The toy may even have a fragrance, such as Play-Doh right out of the package. This would be a third form of perceptual experience confirming the validity of the other two. Thus, collectively, the senses are self-validating, and in a non-circular way to boot.

Yet another fact that we can point to is that my senses would have to be valid in order for me even to raise and/or consider the question whether or not they are valid. I would need to be aware of things in a most fundamental manner long before I could ever get to the level of forming and entertaining questions. And the fundamental means of awareness are the senses, which, from what we saw above, are self-validating in a non-circular way. In terms of the knowledge hierarchy, then, sensory perception comes at the very beginning of the cognitive process. If my senses were not valid, I could not have awareness of anything concrete, let alone abstract issues, such as questions about the validity of the senses. Skeptical efforts to undermine one’s confidence in his senses, then, always commit the fallacy of the stolen concept: such efforts implicitly assume the validity of what they are seeking to deny or dispute. Concepts are formed ultimately on the basis of perceptual input. Thus, in order to formulate an argument concluding that the senses are invalid, one would need to use concepts to inform that argument, and yet the arguer would not have been able to form those concepts in the first place without perception. As Peikoff rightly puts it (Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 39):
If the senses are not valid, neither are any concepts, including the ones used in the attack.
Additionally, as the Peikoff quote above indicated, it is important to note the fact that there is a difference between perception and identification, and very often attacks on the validity of the senses trade on confusing these two functions, or at any rate on ignoring what properly distinguishes them. Generally speaking, the process of acquiring knowledge involves first perceiving objects and then identifying them, in that order. That is the general essence of the objective approach to gathering knowledge of reality: it must begin with the objects of awareness. We cannot identify an object without perceiving it, or at any rate by relating it to something which we have perceived (such as when someone we’re talking to on a phone tells us about something he has seen), or in some cases by reference to something in its vicinity (such as when astronomers infer the existence of a planet orbiting a star by the movement behavior of the star and other nearby objects – but even this would be an incomplete identification).

In sum, then, we need to perceive in order to identify, and since knowledge is at root identification of what is and integration of identifications into a non-contradictory sum, knowledge without perception would be impossible. Moreover, we identify objects by means of concepts, and conceptual integration is a volitional activity – we do it by choice, and we must select the objects or attributes of objects to be identified and integrated into the concepts that we form. When skeptics claim that the senses are invalid, or in some way seek to undermine our confidence in perceptual experience, they very typically point to so-called “illusions” such as the example Peikoff discusses above. But it should be clear upon closer examination that what is happening here is that the individual does in fact perceive something (in fact, he perceives a huge context of information), thus validating the senses, but subsequently he misidentifies what he has perceived.

Consider the point which George H. Smith makes in a would-be dialogue with a skeptic that he includes in his book Atheism: The Case Against God, where he writes (p. 155):
”I would like to emphasize a major source of confusion in your argument against sense perception. To speak of our senses ‘deceiving’ us is, at best, a sloppy metaphor. Philosophically, it is nonsense. Our senses are simply physical organs with no will of their own. To say that they ‘deceive’ us makes no more sense than to claim that our hearts and lungs ‘deceive’ us. Sense organs respond to physical stimuli from the external world; they have no capacity to deceive or misrepresent. They simply transmit sensations according to their physiological characteristics, which our brains then automatically integrate into percepts. We may misinterpret the basic data given to us, but there can be no question about the validity of the data per se. For example, a man may see what he believes to be a lake in the middle of a desert, whereas what he actually sees is only a reflection of light waves off the sand, or, in other words, a mirage. The man is mistaken in his identification of the sensory evidence – he has not properly interpreted the data given to him – but his senses have not somehow ‘deceived’ him. The light waves that reach his eyes actually do exist, but the man’s interpretation as to the causal origin of these waves is mistaken.”
Thus in the case of someone thinking initially that he has seen a lake in the middle of a desert, there is no question that he perceived something, which can only mean: there is no question that the senses are valid. The only error involved here is identifying what he perceived as a body of water instead of merely the reflection of light waves affected by the heat of the desert floor. The error is confined to the conceptual level of cognition; it is not in his perception. And indeed, as he gets closer to where he thought he saw a lake, he will find that it is just more of the dry, baking sand he’s been seeing all day.

To recap, note the following points:
- the validity of the senses is axiomatic  
- we do not need to establish the validity of the senses by means of deductive proof  
- the senses are self-validating in a non-circular way  
- skeptical attacks on the validity of the senses commit the fallacy of the stolen concept  
- efforts by skeptics to cite examples of “faulty” perception ignore the distinction between perception and identification
So the validity of man’s senses is not the insurmountable philosophical problem that some presuppositionalists apparently think it is. Of far greater importance is rationally understanding the role which the senses play in knowledge, and for this one needs the objective theory of concepts. D.A.N. may want to begin devoting some thought to this matter. Unfortunately, he will not grow in his understanding in this area by reading the bible or attending Sunday school lessons about the Moabites or Obadiah. Christianity has no epistemology to speak of (in particular, no theory of concepts whatsoever, not even a bad one), and yet presuppositionalists like to go hither and thither pretending that their worldview has the only answers to grounding knowledge. They know not what they are talking about.

Now, in my reply to D.A.N., I had also written:
To form the conclusion that my “reasoning is faulty” (you make it sound like I couldn’t draw a connection between flipping a switch to the ‘on’ position and the generation of light from the lamp to which that switch is attached), I’d think that you’d be able to cite at least a few examples.
D.A.N. then asked:
Do you have an ontological basis for being 'light-switching flippers'?
Again, D.A.N. simply asks yet another question, one that strikes me as rather frivolous in the present instance, while ignoring the fact that he has yet to support a claim that he previously affirmed. Is this a habit for D.A.N.? Don’t get me wrong, this does not bother or anger me. I realize that Christians can often be expected to do no better than to try to divert attention away from their claims and mannerisms when their worldview is being probed. So while I would hope for D.A.N.’s sake that he could and would do better, I have to admit that he’s right on schedule here with his evasions.

As for his question specifically, I do not understand what it is asking. D.A.N. provided a link, which may explain its relevance, but I do not recognize the address, and given his admission that he has visited prostitutes earlier in life, I’m weary of clicking on it. So if he has something intelligent to offer here, I invite him to do so in a direct manner which attends to the matters that are already part of the discussion.

by Dawson Bethrick

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Blogger freddies_dead said...


First off, nice! I don't think I've ever seen this fallacious question given such a concise and thorough beating. Shame Dan will most likely ignore your argument and continue to use use the question as if it had never been addressed.

Second, the link is just from a service that allows you to organise and track your links through the shortened url it generates to refer to your pages. The actual page it eventually links to is - it's a post of Dan's where he accuses atheists of assuming an objective morality they cannot account for. Of course he never gets round to explaining how he accounts for objectivity from within his inherently subjective Christian worldview but he's not going to allow niggly little things like that stop him.

April 03, 2013 5:06 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Freddies,

Nice to hear from you.

Yes, you’re probably right. My experience is that, time and time again, the apologist for Christianity will ignore the points made in response to their questions and claims and focus instead on something completely incidental to the whole in order to raise a challenge. For instance, D.A.N. might quote a statement of mine like “I invite him locate it and point it out to me,” and ask: “How do you know you invite me? Can you be wrong about this?” Meanwhile, in some other forum, he’ll ask essentially the same question about arguing in a circle to validate the senses.

Also, thanks for the info on D.A.N.’s link. I figured it was like the ‘tinyurl’ service I’ve seen before. Even those I didn’t care for. I would prefer to be able to see the full address before clicking on a link.

I did follow the link that you provided on D.A.N.’s behalf and saw his blog entry on morality. It looks like more of the same presuppositionalist sloganeering and chicanery we’ve seen so much of before. It’s fascinating that Christian apologists find that they have to quote someone like Ted Bundy to serve as their foil. Why suppose he speaks for anyone but himself? Actually, reading through the Bundy quote, the essence of it reminds me of what the bible says of its own god. According to Psalm 115:3, the Christian god does whatever it pleases. So when it sends a massive tsunami across the Indian Ocean to kill some 200,000 people, it’s doing what it pleases to do. All indicators are that the Christian god, were it to exist, would be utterly indifferent to human life, just like Ted Bundy. Indeed, it would take pleasure in man’s destruction. And it is the worldview which enshrines this imaginary being as the source of everything which offers the only standard for morality? Sorry, couldn’t fool me with that one.

Okay, almost my bed time here. See you all tomorrow.


April 03, 2013 5:59 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

I've just started to read your recent entry, but already I've come across something that jumps out at me and bears repeating, mostly for Dan's sake, who I hope pays it special attention.

And that is the following:

"But since not all forms of validation are of the deductive proof variety, but may in fact consist of simply pointing to the facts which assure that something is the case, not all forms of validation are susceptible to the problem that apparently worries him (at least in the context of the present area of inquiry)."


April 03, 2013 10:14 AM  
Blogger D.A.N. said...

>>D.A.N. provided a link, which may explain its relevance, but I do not recognize the address, and given his admission that he has visited prostitutes earlier in life, I’m weary of clicking on it.

Was this a joke? Or are you AGAIN providing evidence for your faulty reasoning, and assuming your reasoning is valid?

Is "poisoning the well" viciously circular reasoning itself? Or did you do that so people will doubt my arguments before they even start?

So you poisoned this post. Nice.

April 03, 2013 12:34 PM  
Blogger D.A.N. said...

>>As for D.A.N.’s question to me, I’m sure he realizes that “vicious circularity” is a fallacy that occurs in some poorly formed deductive proofs.

If your reasoning is not deductive, as you just said after this point, ("But since not all forms of validation are of the deductive proof variety,...") then your insinuating that it is inductive. Well, inductive reasoning allows for the possibility that the conclusion is false. So thanks for admitting that your reasoning is "possibly" invalid.

But hey, the post is already poisoned.

April 03, 2013 12:47 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...


Speaking for myself, I read Dawson's comment as nothing more than a bit of good-natured humor. Light ribbing, if you will.

Besides, you were the first to bring the topic up over on the previous thread, which I also thought showed some good-natured, (albeit light) humor on your part.

Here it is, in part: "Although, the woman prostitute I was with did take me to meet her family, and her mom fixed me right there on the beach the greatest chicken Pad Thai I ever have had, so my experience was sort of 'family' oriented. :7)"

So I don't think Dawson "poisoned the well" at all; I think all he did was "walk through a door" which you opened!

Then again, maybe your latest comment was intended as a humorous retort of your own, while I'm the one who is misreading it.

April 03, 2013 1:11 PM  
Blogger D.A.N. said...

Just watched something that is valid to this conversation.

Uh oh, another link you will have to decide about. :p

April 03, 2013 2:08 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...


I can see why you get banned from blogs and chatrooms. You start writing your stupidity without even bothering to properly understand what was told to you. Or you just can't understand any of it.

Remember that according to your worldview, the incompetence at understanding, the laziness, the faulty reasoning, is your god's. After all you are incapable of autonomous reasoning.

That leads to yet another set of problems that you will be unable to solve from your worldview's perspective (as all the others you could not work out in the previous thread): why would your god tell you that your reasoning is valid despite your clear-cut display of stupidity and/or incompetence at understanding what Dawson wrote? Shouldn't your god have told you that you are an ass-hole instead? Is this god not supposed to be honest and all-knowing yet he either lied to you or misjudged your reasoning? Since he could lie to you or misjudged your reasoning, how do you know he did not lie to you about, or misjudged, other things? Then, if you are thinking your god's thoughts after him, how could then your reasoning be deemed valid if it's not yours? Man, so many contradictions inside contradictions, all while stealing from my worldview just in order to claim anything.

So glad those aren't my problems.

April 03, 2013 3:17 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello D.A.N.,

Again you come back to me.

In my blog, I wrote: << D.A.N. provided a link, which may explain its relevance, but I do not recognize the address, and given his admission that he has visited prostitutes earlier in life, I’m weary of clicking on it. >>

D.A.N. asked: “Was this a joke?”

Not exactly. As Ydemoc rightly called it, it was an attempt at some light humor. But as a rule I do not follow tinyurl-type links (which includes the type as well). Just my own prudence. So it is true: I did not click on your link.

D.A.N. asked: << Or are you AGAIN providing evidence for your faulty reasoning, and assuming your reasoning is valid? >>

How is conducting my activity on the internet with prudence at all symptomatic of “faulty reasoning”? By their very nature, URL shortening services hide the actual address to which the given URL links, which means I cannot be fully informed of where I’m going before I click it. I’m aware of this, and I govern my practice accordingly. Some folks are comfortable clicking on such links. That’s fine. Generally I’m not, unless I fully trust the person sending it to me. But even then, I prefer full disclosure. How is this policy indicative of “faulty reasoning”? Again you accuse me of “faulty reasoning,” but you provide no support for this. It seems to be a habit with you. Like the kid who cried wolf, you throw around charges that share the repeated tendency of having no substance or support. And you say *my reasoning* is faulty?

D.A.N. asked: << Is "poisoning the well" viciously circular reasoning itself? Or did you do that so people will doubt my arguments before they even start? >>

You seem very touchy here, D.A.N. What’s wrong? I thought apologists were supposed to be ready for the rough-and-tumble world of debate and intellectual warfare. What was Sye’s favorite command? Ah yes, I believe it was “grow some.”

By the way, what makes you bring up poisoning the well? Oh, do you think *I* have poisoned the well somehow? Let’s see:

D.A.N. wrote: << So you poisoned this post. Nice. >>

D.A.N., if anyone poisoned your precious well, it was you. Go back and examine the unfolding of the events in our little discussion. Are you sore that I referenced your sojourn with the prostitute woman in Thailand? Since it was in Thailand, I have a question for you: How do you know it was a woman?

More on the way…


April 03, 2013 3:54 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In my blog, I wrote: << As for D.A.N.’s question to me, I’m sure he realizes that “vicious circularity” is a fallacy that occurs in some poorly formed deductive proofs. >>

D.A.N. responded: << If your reasoning is not deductive, as you just said after this point, ("But since not all forms of validation are of the deductive proof variety,...") then your insinuating that it is inductive. Well, inductive reasoning allows for the possibility that the conclusion is false. So thanks for admitting that your reasoning is "possibly" invalid. >>

Okay, since this is so juicy, I’m going to itemize the points in my response:

1. In my blog, I explained that the fallacy which D.A.N. has asked about is characteristic of deductive proofs, specifically of formal proofs in which the conclusion is in one way or another a restatement of one of the premises supplied to support it, or one in which one of the premises assumes the truth of the conclusion to be drawn. It is not a formal fallacy – it is an informal fallacy. This means that it can infect otherwise valid arguments.

2. D.A.N. says “inductive reasoning allows for the possibility that the conclusion is false,” which itself is a very general statement. Since D.A.N. states this categorically and without qualification, he’s essentially saying that *all cases* of inductive reasoning do this. But this in itself must be the conclusion of an inductive inference, for D.A.N. surely is not omniscient (we’ve already seen plenty of evidence for this fact). If that is the case, then it is potentially self-refuting: D.A.N.’s central premise allows for the possibility of its own falsehood. Nice work!

3. I realize that many thinkers casually accept the view that induction is necessarily probabilistic or that inductive inference cannot yield a certain conclusion. Since this view makes a statement about *all cases* of inductive inference, it seems to suffer from the same problem we saw in my previous point. At any rate, I reject this view because I understand the conceptual nature of induction. There certainly are cases where an inductive inference may lead to a probabilistic or uncertain conclusion, but these samples should not be taken to represent all instance of inductive inference. Take for example the inferential conclusion that all human beings are biological organisms. I have full confidence that this is the case without exception, and yet I must rely on induction to generate this conclusion. Indeed, it is ironic that D.A.N. apparently does not realize that deduction in fact relies on inductive generalization, since deduction applies already existing general premises to generate a conclusions. For instance, the classic example:

P1: All men are mortal.
P2. Socrates is a man.
C: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

Note that P1 is not only general, it is universal in nature. So how did we get this premise if not by means of induction? If we got it by induction, then according to D.A.N. it carries with it the possibility that it is false. But if that’s the case, then the conclusion of the deductive syllogism could be false. So since deduction relies on induction, why should we have more confidence in deductive conclusions than we do in any inductive inferences? The solution to all this is to revise our understanding of induction. But this requires a conceptual approach to the problem of induction, as I have suggested in several postings on my blog. But taking this route will only expose the fact that Christianity has no theory of concepts to begin with, which can only confirm that the Christian worldview cannot account for knowledge as such. Geesh! The problems for the Christian just get bigger and bigger here.


April 03, 2013 4:10 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

4. In my blog, I explained my procedure – namely pointing to those facts which assure us that the senses are valid. For instance, the facts that:

(a) the senses are automatic (like other biological functions);
(b) the senses are pre-volitional (we perceive things before we make choices);
(c) sense perception is both fundamental to and a necessary precondition of the conceptual level of cognition;
(d) the senses are self-validating in a non-circular way;
(e) attempts to attack the validity of the senses must assume their validity;

Now if D.A.N. thinks there is anything faulty or false in any of this, he needs to point it out. Otherwise, by saying “it’s inductive, therefore it could be false,” which equates to faultiness in his view (a supposition which itself is not even tenable), without citing any evidence to support his criticism, then it appears that it is he who is trying to poison the well here.

At any rate, I have give an answer to D.A.N.’s question. I’m inclined to suppose that he is sore because my answer entirely satisfies his question. What is his rebuttal? How can he sustain his charge that we are somehow fallaciously assuming the validity of our senses????? Where’s the fallacy in what I have presented? Indeed, WHERE AND HOW DOES THE BIBLE ADDRESS D.A.N.’s OWN QUESTION???? Blank out.

I’m glad these aren’t my problems!


April 03, 2013 4:10 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Good questions, photo. Something Christian apologists don’t seem to fully grasp is the fact that when they put their “reasoning” on display, as D.A.N. has attempted to do in these discussions, they are not only representing their worldview and all it teaches, but also the god they worship. Christians claim to have received the “Holy Ghost,” and that this ghost comforts and guides them, protecting them from harm, ensuring their steps, sanctifying their psychology, and safeguarding their salvation. But do their actions reflect such an enhanced state of human affairs? Not from what I’ve seen. Christians actually act just like the fallible little snots their worldview characterizes us “unchosen” to be. We do not observe any increase in knowledge, wisdom, logical ability, insight, etc. We do not observe in Christians anything markedly different from non-believers except for their *attitude*, which involves treating the imaginary as though it were real, affirming ideational content without any factual evidence in the world to support it, and often moving through life with a haughty self-righteousness which predisposes believers to confuse themselves with the god they claim to worship.

If they exhibit any “enhancement” in their intellectual abilities as a result of their confessional investment, it is in the opposite direction of what we would expect if their beliefs were true and their god truly existed and were taking care of its devotees. The “reasoning” we see from believers is often so poor as to almost make me feel embarrassed for them. Of course, they excuse this by saying that their “wisdom” is “foolishness to the world,” so we would naturally find their “wisdom” foolish. And yet, even taking this stance, they act as though their “reasoning” might persuade us, or at any rate as though we should be impressed by it somehow. But notice that their “reasoning” is typically used in the interest of *attacking* rival worldviews, and even then primarily by trying to undermine the non-believer’s confidence in his own mental faculties. And even here, it’s the usual skeptical trickery that they typically use. They do not dazzle us with good arguments designed to seal the conclusion that their god is real or that their worldview is true; only “evidentialists” ever really take this route, and even then, it is usually localized to a defense of the resurrection and other biblical motifs. But even these are full of major holes.

The alternative is that D.A.N. and other internet apologists whom we’ve seen simply are not real Christians – they aren’t “saved,” they do not have the “Holy Ghost” indwelling them, they do not have “the mind of Christ.” After all, Christ is supposed to be “God,” and “God” is supposed to be both omniscient and infallible. How can a being with “the mind of Christ,” then, be capable of such horribly poor reasoning and on such a consistent basis?

If D.A.N. were truly interested in issues like the validity of the senses, I would expect to see him devote much greater care to the discussion than he has. Instead, he uses his cheap, gimmick-laden question as though it were a cudgel he was bringing down on our heads. He does not seem to realize, or care, that there are legitimate answers to his questions, and he ignores the fact that his own bible does not provide these answers.

This is the effect of presuppositionalism on the human mind. It is like a corrosive agent, disintegrating every mind which embraces it and gets lured into its labyrinth of confusion.


April 03, 2013 5:20 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Hey Dawson,

This is the effect of presuppositionalism on the human mind. It is like a corrosive agent, disintegrating every mind which embraces it and gets lured into its labyrinth of confusion.

Yes! This shit seems to bolster their egos while eroding any tiny bit of decency and integrity that the Christian embracing it could have had. I witnessed this happening to Dan. I warned him. Yet, he just embraced Sye's version of presuppositionalism. He thus went from being able to have at least a few moments of honesty and realization, to becoming a dishonest mindless parrot of nonsensical catch-phrases from Sye's book of rhetorical crap.

April 03, 2013 7:01 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I think if D.A.N. had any evidence that my reasoning is “faulty,” he’d have presented it by now. But he hasn’t.

Instead, he picks on incidental irrelevancies (e.g., “Your blog has comment moderation!” or “You’re trying to poison the well by referencing my admitted indiscretions in Thailand 25 years ago!”) rather than engaging the meatier topics – e.g., the relationship between the senses and our knowledge, how we can be confident that our senses are valid, the fact that the senses are self-validating in a non-circular way, the fact that skeptics who seek to undermine confidence in the senses must assume their validity to begin with, etc. D.A.N. steers completely clear of these issues, issues which his own line of questioning introduced, and prefers the nonsensical chicanery of presuppositionalism by claiming something is the case without ever producing any argument to support his claims.

This is in addition to the fact that D.A.N. has essentially no *argument* for his god-belief.

I had drafted up some thoughts in response to D.A.N.’s admission to having sought out the services of a prostitute in Thailand, and I was going to post them on my blog. But it may be the case that folks here are not interested in what I might have to say on this matter. I do have some insights on the matter given that I am quite familiar with the culture here in Thailand. So if anyone’s interested, please let me know and perhaps I’ll post them to my blog. We don’t know how many prostitutes D.A.N. has frequented in his life. We don’t know the extent of any other indiscretions he’s indulged in throughout his life. But we do have his confession here on my blog, and we have his blog. And along with all this we have his fawning deference to Sye Ten Bruggencate. If there’s any well-poisoning here, it’s not my doing. D.A.N. needs to accept responsibility for his own actions in life, no matter how hard they come back to bite him in the ass.

Now suppose we encounter D.A.N.’s hero Sye Ten Bruggencate (who doesn’t come around here no more) and ask him, point blank: “Have you ever had intimate dealings with a prostitute?” If Sye says “No, I haven’t,” we might ask: “How do you know?” How would the apologetic heavy-weight squirm out of this one? Now, I’m not saying STB has had dealings with any prostitute as D.A.N. has admitted he has. That’s not the point. The point is epistemological in character, and it’s right in line with the kind of tactics he unleashes on unwitting college students trying to get to class. Really, I would want to know *how* Sye knows that he hasn’t been with any prostitutes. I would suppose that any answer he gives would be open to additional questions of “How do you know?” I somehow doubt that snippets of such interrogation would make it on to American Vision’s montage of an apologist it hopes to showcase as some force to be reckoned with in the “unbelieving” world. That would seem to go against its marketing ambitions.


April 03, 2013 10:01 PM  
Blogger Dawson'sNightmare said...

Dawson aka wise in his own eyes,

How do you know you're not omniscient?


April 03, 2013 10:27 PM  
Blogger DawsonsNightmare said...



April 03, 2013 10:30 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

The sockpuppet “Dawson’sNightmare” who prefers to remain anonymous asked: “How do you know you're not omniscient?”

If I answered this question by saying “I don’t,” it should put it entirely to rest.

But there’s a better reason: reality continually shows me that I’m not omniscient, and I’m good at taking notes. So not only am I honest, I am also wise. Why would any Christian have anything against these virtues?

Christians, you expose yourselves more than you realize when you seek to attack my worldview and/or defend yours. That’s why Christians will always be the entertainment around here.

There you go, court jester, chase another bone I’ve thrown. Let’s see how long you can last. Not long, I’m guessing. But run while you can.


April 03, 2013 10:50 PM  
Blogger DawsonsNightmare said...

Run from what?

It's entertaning to watch a fool thats wise in his own eyes.

Anyway, how do you know that reality has shown you that you're not omniscient?

Dawson, you're ominiscient. Dont you know?

April 03, 2013 11:03 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Sockpuppet “DawsonsNightmare” asked: “Run from what?”

From the clock, of course. Your time is running out. I know this. How did you not know this?

Sockpuppet “DawsonsNightmare” asked: “Anyway, how do you know that reality has shown you that you're not omniscient?”

Simple. I know this by means of reason. Reason is the means of knowledge employed by an honest, non-omniscient mind. If I were dishonest or omniscient, I would not rely on reason. As a non-omniscient mind which has made the decision to be honest, I know that I am non-omniscient by means of reason. And since I am honest and I rely on reason, I know implicitly that reality has shown me that I’m not omniscient. I simply acknowledge these truths explicitly. If I were omniscient, I would not need to rely on reason. The very fact that I need to rely on reason in order to know anything, is sufficient to put to rest the question of whether or not I’m omniscient.

So, “DawsonsNightmare,” why do you hide like you do? What are you afraid of?


April 03, 2013 11:20 PM  
Blogger DawsonsNightmare said...

Dawson aka comment moderation,

I'm not hiding. I'm here. Can't you see?

Maybe its because your senses are invalid.

April 03, 2013 11:33 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

To the person commenting under the moniker "DawsonsNigtmare":

If you are not hiding, then state your full name and address. If you do not do this, then you are hiding something from the readers of this blog.

It's up to you. Stay in the shadows, like a cockroach, or come out into the open, like a confident man.

Which will you choose?


April 03, 2013 11:38 PM  
Blogger DawsonsNightmare said...


Men dont moderate comments.

Choose what?

You know who is this. Remember you told me you cared about me.

Laughter makes the heart merry.

April 03, 2013 11:42 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Sockpuppet wrote: “Men dont moderate comments.”

Which men do you have in mind? “Men” like Joshua Whipps? Brian Knapp? Matthias McMahon? David Smart? Peter Pike? These folks moderate comments. Are they not men?

So let me ask: How do you know this?

Sockpuppet asked: “Choose what?”

Was this so difficult to figure out? It’s easy: choose between hiding in the shadows, as you have been doing, like a cockroach; or, to come out into the open, like a man.

Clearly you’ve chosen the former. Perhaps you are a cockroach.

Sockpuppet: “You know who is this.”

Actually, I don’t care who this is. Clearly whoever it is does not care much for himself. Otherwise, why would he choose to hide as he does?

It does not matter anyhow. Your time is running out.

Sockpuppet: “Laughter makes the heart merry.”

Yes, and I laugh a lot. And my heart is very merry. I have enjoyment in life like you will never know. That burns you up, doesn’t it?


April 03, 2013 11:59 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Well, as I predicted, the clock ran out on "DawsonsNightmare," and he/she's had nothing of substance to share on behalf of supporting his/her characterizations or claims.

So this person has eliminated him/herself from any chance to go toe-to-toe with the best.

As they say, water finds its own level. Way below our feet!

I'm glad these aren't my problems.


April 04, 2013 12:16 AM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...


Hola Hezek/Nide/Richard/DawsonsNightmare. Has your ass healed enough for you to come and take more of your own shit back up your ass? Are you so used to it that you think you can handle part of the shit that D.A.N. is producing up your ass too? Or will you now lick D.A.N.'s ass in hopes of relieving him of the pain as you did with your spectacularly-self-blown-up-ass friend whose name I have forgotten?

April 04, 2013 5:26 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. Peikoff's insights into "sensory illusion" was enlightening.

Also enlightening was Dawson's comment about the inductive aspect of the famous deductive syllogism. Hadn't noticed that before.

D.A.N. tried to get cute with his "viciously circular" comment and ended up looking foolish. I'm off to think about thinking.

April 04, 2013 9:48 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello NAL,

You wrote: << Also enlightening was Dawson's comment about the inductive aspect of the famous deductive syllogism. Hadn't noticed that before. >>

I strongly doubt that D.A.N. had noticed this as well, since if he had, I don’t think he would have ditched induction under the bus quite so eagerly. But it stands to reason: deductive arguments very often make use of premises which are general or universal in nature, frequently making reference to what may be considered common knowledge about an entire category of things. Once we have this categorical knowledge, we can apply it to drawing more specific conclusions via deduction. But where do we get these generalized premises? How do we acquire the categorical knowledge which informs them? That’s where induction comes in, since it is by means of induction that we draw general conclusions from limited samples. D.A.N. casually assumes, most likely because that’s what he finds his presuppositionalist sources repeating, that induction cannot produce conclusions which can be accepted as certain. But if that’s the case (I reject this view), then any deductive argument which enlists the use of a premise drawn by induction will inherit this uncertainty. There’s no escape for D.A.N. here. That’s probably why he’s not here challenging any of this.

NAL wrote: << D.A.N. tried to get cute with his "viciously circular" comment and ended up looking foolish >>

The sad thing is that, given the influence of presuppositionalism in particular and Christianity in general, D.A.N. really does not care about knowledge, how we acquire it, how we can rationally put to rest skepticism’s gimmicks, etc. Presuppositionalism has heavy investments in the trappings of skepticism, so we will not find apologists out there offering legitimate solutions to these would-be problems. Presuppositionalists are counting on the potential (very high these days) that their non-Christian audiences will not know how to answer their questions (they’re also counting on the likelihood that those same non-Christians will not notice that Christianity does not have a solution either). In this very way, they are essentially predators on ignorance: presuppositionalists consider a non-Christian’s ignorance or lack of knowledge in some area as a welcome mat for deploying their mind-negating schemes. That’s why they’re always trying to sniff out some opportunity to get a non-believer cornered into saying “I don’t know.” That’s not a procedure which vindicates Christianity. Not by a long shot!

But in fact, these issues are not that difficult to figure out, so long as one wants legitimate answers. Hopefully what I’ve presented above will point some folks in the right direction. But D.A.N. and his ilk will pay no mind – they are not interested in learning about these things. They’re only interested in honing their skills at undermining men’s confidence in their own minds. So long as men have rational confidence in their own minds, the presuppositionalists’ tactics are doomed to failure. Unfortunately, many folks out there haven’t the slightest clue as to what rationality is, and presuppositionalists view this as opportunity.


April 04, 2013 4:00 PM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

On April 03, 2013 at 5:06 AM I said...

"Shame Dan will most likely ignore your argument and continue to use use the question as if it had never been addressed."

It turns out that I'm a prophet...

On April 4, 2013 at 3:29 PM Dan asks (on his own blog):

Did you use your senses and reasoning to come to that conclusion? Again, is it viciously circular to employ your senses and reasoning to validate your senses and reasoning?

So predictable.

April 05, 2013 7:07 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Yes, Freddies, you're entirely right! You pegged D.A.N. exactly. It should be obvious to everyone that D.A.N. is not at all interested in truth, knowledge, validity, fallacies, logical integrity, etc. His actions demonstrate this beyond question or dispute. In his enmity against his own mind, D.A.N. has sworn to destroy the human mind, beginning with his own. This is why reason will always be on the side of his adversaries. That's always the case when one chooses to defend a faith program.

The evidence for what I announce here is the clear fact that D.A.N. is not open to correction or interested in learning anything new on the matters that his apologetic seeks in its own horrendously superficial manner to make use of. He couldn’t care less if anyone has answers to his questions. He’s not interested in anyone’s answers to these questions he repeats over and over, as if they had some serious weight. He’s looking for people who cannot defend reason. If he encounters someone who can defend reason, he simply turns up his nose and moves on, looking for his next victim, deploying the same methods which have already been shown to be erroneous. He doesn’t care about all this. He’s got a parasitical hunger to dominate other minds, just as his mind has been dominated by others. When he flares his nostrils at non-believers, it’s because he resents their liberty – he resents the potential that they may indeed be free of the mind-debilitating paralysis of the Christian devotional program. It’s a form of envy which fuels his fight against the human mind. He surrendered his, now he’s angry that you haven’t surrendered yours. This is the mentality of a bully. Presuppositionalism is perfect for bullies.

D.A.N. can have it! I’ll go with reason. That will of course only heap hot coals on D.A.N.’s self-loathing worldview.


April 05, 2013 4:34 PM  
Blogger l_johan_k said...

Thank you!

October 11, 2014 1:28 AM  

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