Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Fumbling at the First Down

In an audio exchange with AronRa, Sye Ten Bruggencate offers some clues as to just how absurd his worldview really is.

For example, at one point he affirms the view that “knowledge is justified true belief” (23:03 – 23:04).

So on this view, knowledge is a species of belief – a belief that is true and has been justified.

But Sye also states “if it’s a belief, it’s not knowledge” (39:11 – 39:12).

How can these two assertions be integrated without contradiction? This is like saying something cannot be a chair if it’s furniture. But the concept ‘furniture’ includes chairs as well as other species of furniture, just as the definition of knowledge as “justified true belief” includes (indeed specifies) beliefs that are true and that have been justified as well as other beliefs.

If knowledge indeed is “justified true belief,” then any particular ideational content would at minimum have to be a belief to qualify as knowledge. On the JTB model of knowledge, knowledge presupposes belief. But here Sye tells us that if something is a belief, it’s not knowledge.

What we have here is a failure to integrate. But the failure to integrate basic epistemological concepts is a hallmark of absurdity. Consequently, Sye radically undermines his claim that Christian theism provides the necessary preconditions for knowledge.

Sye also states that “everybody knows that the Christian god exists” (with AronRa, 1:53 – 1:54) He even claims that every human being has “innate knowledge… of God” (Ibid., 2:47 – 2:49).

Again, knowledge on Sye's view is “justified true belief” – a species of belief. Thus at minimum, by this definition, according to what Sye says, everybody believes that his god exists.

But if everybody already knows that the Christian god exists, then at minimum this could only mean that everybody believes that the Christian god exists. So why does Sye think it’s so important to convince people of what he himself insists they already believe and know?

It won’t do to say that it’s because people “suppress” this knowledge, as that is not how beliefs operate. A belief is an estimation of what is the case with some degree of confidence but in the absence of confirming proof. Confidence is based on positive evaluation of a claim. Generally when someone has confidence that something is the case, he does not suppress it, but rather consciously allows that it may in fact be true. If one believed that the god of the Christian bible really existed, it doesn’t make sense that he would suppress such a view. So we have more absurdity at the very core of Sye’s apologetic.

When Sye is asked how he knows that the Christian god exists, he responds, rather curtly, that he knows it the same way everyone else knows this (cf. BTWN show with Sye Ten Bruggencate, 40:1 – 40:17). So according to Sye, I know this the same way that Sye knows this.

That’s too bad. Because every time I examine my own cognitive activity when I contemplate the Christian god, I consistently find that I’m using my imagination here. In fact, I recognize that I have no alternative but to imagine the Christian god whenever I contemplate it. I could not conceive of the Christian god without my imagination. This is why Christians have an interminably difficult time explaining how we can reliably distinguish between what they call "God" and what they may merely be imagining.

So when Sye says that he knows the Christian god the same way I do, I can only infer that he’s imagining, too.

This conclusion is compatible with the unavoidable likelihood that Sye has been deluded by the Christian worldview, given its failure to distinguish between reality and imagination at the most fundamental level of knowledge, and as a result cannot integrate simple claims into a non-contradictory whole.

So I submit that, if anyone is suppressing anything, it’s Sye. Among many other facts, he is suppressing the fact that the Christian worldview has its basis in imagination rather than reality.

by Dawson Bethrick


l_johan_k said...

Great article (as always)!

Are you aware of the upcoming debate between STB and Matt D (from the Atheist Experience)?

What would be your best advice to Matt? (I do not think he likes Objectivism though.)

Also, if you have the time, have you read this article: http://www.ericsteinhart.com/articles/platonicatheism.pdf

I found it to be very interesting.

best regards, Johan (Sweden)

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Johan,

Thanks for your comment.

No, I was not aware of the upcoming debate.

Advice for Matt? I suppose that depends on what Matt is seeking to get out of such a spectacle. I've watched quite a few atheists "debate" (if we should call it that) Sye, but I'm almost always quite disappointed with everything I hear from both sides. Sye's opponents are almost always completely averse to affirming anything with certainty. It's as though they came to the debate with confidence in their own minds already destroyed. That just ends up playing right into Sye's hands. Also, most tend not to have a clue what reason is, what concepts are, what their relation to perception is, etc. Of course, neither does Sye. So the exchanges I've seen him in are like watching two blind people argue over the color blue.

And yes, I think I recall Matt making disparaging remarks about Objectivism, but I never heard anything from him that suggests that he's very well informed on what Objectivism teaches. His loss.

I have drafted up a lot more interactions with portions of Sye's YouTube appearances and will be rolling them out over the next few weeks, assuming I have time. So stay tuned.

Also, thanks for the link. Not sure when I'll get a chance to check it out, but I'll try to take a look one of these days.


l_johan_k said...

Thank you for the reply, Dawson.

Here is a link to some information about the debate: http://t.co/L1IHTAxV7g

Unknown said...

Hello Johan. I have to agree with Dawson. Matt is a skeptic who holds that knowledge isn't possible. Like all skeptics he thinks there aren't matters of fact ascertainable by sense perception. For the skeptic, all is probabilistic speculation. Bayesian analysis of analytic philosophy's skeptical claims shows how vacuous they are. Both prior and consequent probability depend upon the primacy of existence. Skeptics ignore this. Sye will defeat Dillahunty by simply claiming to be informed by magic. It'll go something like this.

STB > It's all magic. You don't know shit and I do, so fuck off.

Matt > You can't know that because knowledge is impossible.

STB > All knowledge is revelation from God. God tells me you're on your way to Hell. Repent before it's too late, or fuck off scum bag.

Matt > You can't know that because knowledge is impossible.

And so on ad nauseum.

Skepticism has no defense against what Sye will claim as all any skeptic ultimately claims is that the evidences provided by the senses are invalid. If that is the case, then all concepts are likewise invalid and discourse is foolish. Sye will take advantage of that by asserting magic.

Cheers and Best Wishes

Ydemoc said...


As usual, I'm really looking forward to reading the blog entries that you have in the pipeline. As for this one, you wrote: "How can these two assertions be integrated without contradiction?"

Great question! This failure to integrate without contradiction really goes right to the heart of this present issue, as it does with so many other Christian conundrums that apologists often find themselves in. I've seen it time and time again with the personal interactions I've had with one particular apologist. In the end, if and when they recognize the deep swamp they've gotten themselves into, this apologist always evades the particular problem, either by ignoring it or rationalizing it.


l_johan_k said...

Hi Dawson,

I would like to share the following "note" that I wrote for my home-page. I was wondering - if you have the time - if you might give some comments regarding my reasoning.
best regards, Johan

Random Notes Regarding PA:

(1) When the presupp. ”accounts” for, e.g. the laws of logic, he often states that these laws are an intrinsic part of, and only of, the ”nature” of the Christian God. This is self-refuting since the concept ”nature” presuppose that ”it is itself; that it is something; that is has boundaries; etc”, i.e., it presupposes the law of identity. So, this is the ”stolen concept fallacy”.

(2) Furthermore, if ”A is A” is an intrinsic part of, and only of, the Christian God it would be self-refuting to state: (i) ”A is A” and (ii) ”God does not exist”; (compare with the statement ”this sentence does not exist” which is obviously false since it presupposes existence). However, this can only be true if there is a valid ontological argument for God. (It seems (to me) that presuppositionalism is rooted in the ontological argument.)

(3) Also, if it would be true that ”A is A” is a part of, and only of, the Christian God, it would still make logic subjective since these laws would be dependent upon a ”nature”. (And since this ”nature” is not absolute (which would require a valid ontological argument) the laws would also not be absolute...)

(4) The question: ”Can you be wrong about everything?” can only can be answered with ”No!”. A ”Yes!” would be self-refuting since it would also be a knowledge claim. But, according to the statement itself, you might be wrong about that. In which case the statement would be false...

(5) The same would go for the question: ”Can a fact be revealed in the future that falsifies all your knowledge?”
A ”Yes!” would imply that this ”fact” would falsify the statement itself, which is self-refuting.

(6) The TAG-argument seems to be based on a false dichotomy between ”material”and ”concept”. The question is then ”What is God?”; either it is ”material” or a ”concept”. Neither is good for the Christian worldview.
Both Bahnsen and Slick has to put God into another ”category”, which, of course, refutes their dichotomy. Bahnsen does it in his debate with George H. Amith: http://www.citv.com/secured/audiostation/ram/mcu/bahnsen.ram
and Slick does it in his debate with Dillahunty: http://youtu.be/ypLGCv5fyYk

(7) Ask the PA: ”Can God make you feel absolutely certain that ”X” is true (false), while it actually is false (true)?”

One possible answer (from Scott Terry): ”We know He is not lying,because He tell us He's not.”

Now ask the PA: ”How do you know that this was not a lie?”

One possible answer (from Ted Curtis): ”The power to facilitate conditions such that an omnipotent being cannot lie, is an additional power to posses. Its actually ”greater” to have this ”power” than it is to not have this power, so an omnipotent being must necessarily have this ”power”.

A possible rebuttal would be: It would follow from your ”reasoning”, Ted, that a being which would have ”the power to facilitate conditions” so that He cannot do X for EVERY element X in the infinite set of all the things that this being already can do, must be - not only a ”greater” being than you puny Christian god - but the GREATEST being since He has an INFINITE amount of ”added abilities”. An omnipotent being would therefore, necessarily, be THIS being, i.e., a being which contains not only one violation of the law of non-contradiction (”can lie & cannot lie”) but an INFINITE amount of violations of the law (”can X & cannot X). Even though it is enough with one violation of the law to know that your god is bs, it is still funny though to realise that your ”reasoning” leads to the fact that TRUE omnipotence involves being both omnipotent and non-omnipotent at the same time!

l_johan_k said...

(8) To ask "why" about an absolute is self-refuting, since all absolutes will be presupposed in all "why" questions and all "why" answers.

(9) To justify induction by using Genesis 8:22: "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." is circular since it presuppose that the verse is invariant with respect to time.

My page: http://www.ateism.nu/

regards, Johan