From the beginning, Rawlings has come to us wielding multi-syllabic jargon and point-missing braggadocio in a most characteristic fashion. But according to Rawlings and the defenses he’s provided, what does the Christian worldview have to offer in terms of philosophical value? Let the reader decide, but the reader should be informed before settling his opinion prematurely. So here is an overview (but I caution the reader: this is by no means an exhaustive catalogue of Rawlings’ indiscretions and deficiencies – not by a long shot!):
- In metaphysics, Rawlings has explicitly affirmed the primacy of consciousness – i.e., the metaphysics which reduces to “wishing makes it so.” At root, this is what Christianity is all about: out there, beyond the knowable universe, there exist, according to believers, a super-consciousness to whose wishes and dictates the realm of existence conforms. And yet, at the same time, he acknowledges (how could he not) that “human consciousness” (he repeatedly ignores all the other types of consciousness we find in reality) does not have metaphysical primacy over existence, but yet he fails to produce an epistemology which is consistent with this recognition. Indeed, his own behavior is indicative of a person who struggles against the primacy of existence, apparently never having grasped that reality is not going to re-order itself in response to his tantrums and meltdowns. To top it off, he cannot explain what he as a Christian could possibly mean by ‘objective’ when he uses this term (and he has used it numerous times, and I’ve asked him several times to explain it – he never does).
- In epistemology, the fulcrum upon which all “knowledge” rests according to Christianity is eloquently summed up by John Frame’s open admission (speaking on behalf of believers) that “We know without knowing how we know” Presuppositional Apologetics: An Introduction (Part I)). This is at best the epistemology of self-inflicted ignorance, at worst an admission to having no epistemology whatsoever. Rawlings has not improved on this at all; instead, he has affirmed the view that conceptualization is an “automatic” process, the mechanics of which he cannot articulate or explain, and in spite of insisting that Christianity has its own theory of concepts, he speaks of knowledge in long chains of referenceless and convoluted abstractions which are clearly not intended to inform his readers with understanding, but rather to lose them in in a maze of go-nowhere complexity (indeed, Rawlings offers himself as an example of a victim who’s been utterly lost in its endless labyrinths – acting as though complexity in and of itself were a sign of a system’s virtues). Meanwhile, he has failed to connect any talk of the conceptual level of cognition to anything we can read in the bible. I have asked Rawlings to explain what Christianity has to say about the nature and formation of concepts, but he doesn’t even provide us with Christianity’s definition of ‘concept’, let alone point to where we can learn about the conceptual level of cognition in the bible. It is something which its authors and subsequently its believers take completely for granted, clearly believing that the whole process “just happens” – i.e., it’s “automatic,” meaning: there’s nothing to know about it. So much for “Christian epistemology.” We’ve seen enough to know that such a notion is, fortunately, nothing but a vanishing chimera.
- Rawlings’ only angle for securing any semblance of rationality (and that’s using the term exceedingly broadly) on behalf of his god-belief is to somehow conceive of the concept of ‘infinity’ as though it necessarily implies the existence of an “infinite consciousness.” But investigation of this line of “reasoning” has proved that it is nothing of the sort; indeed, merely probing Rawlings’ claims on this matter has set him off in a rage of straw-manning the opposition, non sequiturs, reification of stolen concepts, full-scale launches of insults and innuendoes, and tirades of bawling and invective. To make matters worse for his position, it was pointed out to Rawlings early on that the meaning of ‘infinity’ is conceptual and in fact derives from the nature of conceptual reference as such. Far from pointing to some supernatural “divine perfection” which exists only in the believers’ imaginations, the concept of infinity finds the impetus of its meaning in the nature of human cognition, specifically in the open-endedness of conceptual reference given the operation of measurement-omission. There’s nothing mysterious or otherworldly here. But to grasp this, Rawlings would need to know something about the nature of concepts, but again he doesn’t know anything about concepts (again, he thinks they’re “automatic” and has no explanation for the mechanics of their formation; he does not even offer a definition of ‘concept’). The deficiencies of his argument can be traced directly back to the deficiencies of his “epistemology,” which, as we’ve seen, is nothing but a mirage mistaken by Rawlings as something “unique and profound,” even though there’s certainly nothing unique or profound about it (the various mystical cults throughout history have produced the same thing in terms of essentials). When confronted with a defense of Peikoff’s view that the actual is always finite, he blatantly mischaracterizes it, completely ignoring the defense I assembled for it (even after he asked for one several times), and insists that his straw-man is what Peikoff really means. If Rawlings had a rationally defensible position, would he need to rely on such tactics? I trow not.
- Rawlings exhibits a repeating pattern of interaction throughout his discussion, and it has no redeeming virtues whatsoever. In the beginning he was fairly cordial and presented himself as though he were serious about intellectual interests and curious about Objectivism. (Of course, this turned out merely to be a front. We will see below that Rawlings is no stranger to internet discussion forums, and his behavior on this blog is in no way “unique” or “profound.”) At the same time he believed (or wanted us to believe that he believed) that certain mistakes were being made in attempts to interact with what Christianity teaches, and thereby sought to correct those mistakes. (Of course, this is quite odd in itself, since the chief perspective from which I have consistently critiqued Christianity is by exposing its basis in the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, which Rawlings himself explicitly affirmed when hoping to defend Christianity.) When Rawlings’ assertions were challenged, he suffered a meltdown, presumably since we were not accepting him as some kind of credentialed authority on the topic (yes, don’t forget he made a big deal, very oddly I might add, early on about his “credentials,” which he never identified). Clearly he wants his say-so to be accepted as the final word on matters, as if it were unimpeachable, unquestionable, unchallengeable. It’s not. Throughout the discussion, the more Rawlings was challenged on any point, the more he resorted to insults and other types of childish behavior, including re-posting entire series of previously submitted comments of his, even after they had been addressed and demolished, as though they were beyond scrutiny.
- When confronted with my argument that the Christian god does not and cannot exist because it is imaginary, Rawlings does not challenge the premise that the Christian god is imaginary. Rather, he curiously focuses on the premise that the imaginary is not real, apparently but not explicitly angling that something he imagines actually exists (he famously used the DVD cabinet he apparently wants to build as an example). According to Rawlings, the DVD cabinet he imagines somehow exists, and yet he still needs to buy parts in order to build it. It never seems to dawn on our genius guest that one does not need to build something when it already exists. In substantiating his case, he produced a mock dialogue in which the individual he encounters readily accepts that the DVD cabinet he’s imagining is real. Rawlings is so accustomed to being surrounded by members of his cult who share in his fantasies, that he projects the same indiscriminate and uncritical acceptance of the imaginary as real onto the characters of his mock dialogue to make the point that the imaginary is in fact actual. If his god’s existence is in any way analogous to the DVD cabinet that Rawlings imagines, there’s certainly no hope for rescuing his theism.
Off-list several interesting facts have been brought to my attention about Michael David Rawlings. Apparently Rawlings runs his own blog, which I have never visited. But from what I have learned, Rawlings has posted on his blog a commenting policy which reads:
Comment Policy (Due to the restructuring of this blog, comments posted prior to November 6, 2012 are longer available. I apologize for the inconvenience, but the new format is permanently fixed, and future comments will be secure.) 1. Debate. Discuss. Feel free to disagree, but keep it civil. This doesn't mean that satirical or sardonic remarks won't be allowed, but rude or hurtful epithets, particularly those launched without substance, will be deleted. 2. Irrationally slanderous or sexually explicit comments will be deleted. Comments containing threats of physical violence will be deleted. Comments containing excessive or gratuitous profanity will be deleted. I will not delete a post simply because someone finds it to be offensive, but boorish behavior will not be tolerated. It's really simple, folks. Be decent. Be mature. 3. Spam, advertisements or comments whose sole purpose is to direct traffic to other sites will be deleted. 4. Stay on topic. 5. Anonymous comments will not be allowed. Finally, I reserve the right to delete comments or close comments on posts for any reason, regardless of whether or not they conform with the above.
Liars. You've all been shown that. You've also been shown why ID is scientific. In fact, you've been told how abiogenic research has affirmed the theoretical constructs and predictions of ID, and I invited you, more than once, to discuss the specifics of that research. LOL! But we all know why you phonies evade the findings of abiogentic research, don't we? Also, you will not acknowledge the undeniable regarding the metaphysics of science or the nature of the presupposition underlying your theory; you're merely trying to hold ID to the same materialist apriority. Your response is to simply repeat the same questions over and over again, just like Greenbeard mindlessly repeats the same assertion over and over again. None of you ever get around to directly addressing what has been given you. You're like mindless robots. I might as well be talking to the wall. So too-da-loo, loopy-doos!
And I will always be civil to persons who present their ideas in a civil tone, no matter how much I may disagree. Most times I ignore incivility. What I have no tolerance for are the moral outrages and flagrant lies of bootlick statists. A man who will abuse language or logical categories, that is, a man who will lie, twist and pervert reality, slander truth, will murder too given the power.
I just believe that we are very good about lying to ourselves, and only accepting, uh, or interpreting the evidence the way we would like to.
Being hostile toward #atheism is basically like having a hissy fit because I won't play "make believe" with you. Sorry. I'm not 5.
by Dawson Bethrick