Saturday, December 24, 2022

On the Kalam Cosmological Argument

A fellow by the name of Jason who frequently posts thoughtful comments on this blog under the moniker Jason mc, recently had a friendly discussion with a Christian apologist named Arul Velusamy. A video of this discussion is publicly available on YouTube here:

The discussion was primarily occupied with Arul’s presentation and defense of the so-called “Kalam Cosmological Argument.” (For those interested, there is in fact an entire page on the Kalam cosmological argument on Wikipedia.) Unfortunately, as with other theistic arguments, I still find that I have no alternative but to imagine the god whose existence is said to be proven by this argument. Beyond this, however, the argument suffers from numerous other deficiencies.

Jason’s discussion with Arul is rather long, with Arul doing the lion’s share of the talking. At nearly three and a half hours, I have not listened to its entirety, but hopefully at some point I will. That said, I have listened to at least half of it and I’m confident this, along with an examination of the visual aids, is more than enough to get the gist of what is being argued.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Evolution and the Persistence of Religion

Many thinkers apparently believe that there is a contradiction of sorts between the theory that human beings evolved from more primitive organisms on the one hand, and the persistence of religion throughout human history on the other. If religion is not true, it is surmised, then how is it that religion has thrived in all eras of human history to such a fervent degree? Put another way: if human beings evolved and continue to flourish on earth through the survival of the fittest, how is it that religion has survived right alongside unless religion is true?

(Of course, here we apparently need to set aside the fact that there are many competing religions, some monotheistic, others polytheistic, and others that are not theistic in any ordinary sense.) 

Curiously, some thinkers believe there is a need to reconcile the fact that religion is so pervasive throughout the history of humanity with the premise that human beings as a species evolved from non-human ancestors. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Is Creation Possible?

In their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics, authors Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli introduce their discussion of the topic of divine creation of the universe as part of a series of questions:
There is much to be said about the issue of creation and evolution. However, here we only summarize the answers to five essential questions: (1) Is creation possible? (2) What difference does creation make? (3) Is evolution possible? (4) What difference does evolution make? (5) Does evolution contradict creation? (p. 103)
Not surprising (to me at least), Kreeft and Tacelli’s answer to the question “Is creation possible?” is superficial and uninquisitive. That is to say that, while Kreeft and Tacelli will of course, as believers, affirm that creation of the universe is possible, they identify no evidence whatsoever to demonstrate such a possibility, nor do they explain what “creation” in this context practically means. Rather, their primary if not only concern seems to be to secure the belief that creation is possible from the charge of irrationality.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Why Do Apologists Raise the Problem of Induction in Debate?

A visitor to my blog posting under the moniker Rageforthemachine (hereafter just Rage) recently left the following comment on my entry Same Old Song and Dance: Anderson on Induction… again:
I've never understood what presupps think they have over everyone else when it comes it inductive justification. Are they saying "because I have seen a thousand white swans I know all swans are white" which is false; or are they saying "because I have seen a thousand white swans I know the next one might be white or it might not" which of course renders inductive knowledge just as insure as they claim everyone else's is.
It's a good question, and I think that however it can be answered ties in closely with what motivates apologists who raise certain topics as a focal point for debate. Discerning other people’s motives often involves speculation and conjecture, but if we’re careful, we might just find a certain pattern of tells which suggest and confirm certain desired end goals. The key part of Rage’s question is stated upfront: apologists do in fact seem to think they have something “over everyone else when it comes to inductive justification,” otherwise I doubt they’d be so eager to raise such questions in the first place. Curiously, however, I’ve never found any evidence of such advantage on behalf of Christianity in the pages of the bible.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

TAG and the Appeal to Magic

Proponents of the “transcendental argument for the existence of God,” or TAG, are well-known for repeating charges that non-Christians cannot “account for” some phenomenon or other of fundamental philosophical importance (e.g., truth, certainty, the laws of logic, induction, moral norms, etc.) simply because their worldview rejects Christian theism. On occasion some effort is made in the attempt to support the negative aspects of such charges, often with little more than pat slogans, such as that one cannot “ground” unchanging laws of logic in an ever-changing universe of constant flux, that rationality cannot arise out of the irrationality of chance-based evolution, and the like. Non-Christian worldviews are philosophically deficient because of reasons, so the Christian worldview prevails, almost as if by default.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Stovetop Realizations

I’ve had yet another very busy month and in fact I had intended to post a couple entries this month, but life’s responsibilities have robbed me of the time needed to focus and work on them, so those drafts will have to continue incubating for some time.

But I did want to share some thoughts in response to a comment which was made on my previous blog. Before getting to that, I just want to express my gratitude to everyone who reads anything I post here and even more so to those who take the time to post such thoughtful comments. I started this blog back in 2005 and I didn’t know how long I’d be able to keep in running. It’s become something of a compendium at this point. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do intend to keep it going. Let’s see if I can make it to 20 years! That would be quite a milestone, no? In the meantime, please know that I do read all comments, and I almost always have something to say in response, if nothing more than “Thank you!” If I do not reply, it is not because I missed your comment (it’s possible, but probably not the case), but instead because I’m just a very busy workhorse. Writing is a love of mine, but sometimes it takes a lot of energy to get into the proper frame of mind to say something intelligent, and even then I can wildly miss the mark. 

Anyway, on to today’s post. 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Same Old Song and Dance: Anderson on Induction... again

Christian apologist James Anderson has published yet another article on the problem of induction, this time as others essentially repeating the same superficialities from two decades ago, as though he has learned little in the intervening years: David Hume is still the prevailing authority on the topic of induction, and the problem of induction is “solved” by imagining an invisible magic being which ensures the uniformity of nature by means of sheer will. Nothing else really needs to be considered. The fact that he can point to academics who continue to be confused on the nature and basis of induction, as though this were even relevant, only serves to reinforce his theistic prejudices.

My views on the problem of induction have indeed evolved over the years. More and more I have come to the assessment that the problem of induction commits the fallacy of the stolen concept: the very framing of the problem of induction in fact tacitly assumes the validity of induction, and yet the validity of induction is what the problem essentially aims to call into question.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Apparently I don't have the right...

Cornelius Van Til writes:
No human being can explain in the sense of seeing through all things, but only he who believes in God has the right to hold that there is an explanation at all. (Why I Believe in God, emphasis added)


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Some Thoughts in Response to Anderson’s Argument on Propositions

Last month, the Ivy League International Apologetics Database, aka ILIAD Forum, published an article by Christian apologist James Anderson titled In What Ways is God the Foundation for all Knowledge? The ILIAD Forum is new to me, and it may be new to readers here at Incinerating Presuppositionalism as well. In its obligatory About page, it states that it “was founded in 2021 by undergraduate students from all across the Ivy League, who wanted to provide an online, accessible, and rigorous database of answers to common questions about the nature and commitments of orthodox Christianity.” The site hosts articles by some of the more familiar names (e.g., Vern Poythress, K. Scott Oliphint, William Edgar) and some not so familiar (to me at any rate). Without having explored much of it, already it appears to be a promising quarry for future reading.

In Anderson’s article (cross-posted on his own blog here), he includes a paragraph which demonstrates how apologists can pack so much distortion into so little space. Brian May must be green with envy!

In this entry I will first quote that paragraph in its entirety, then I will follow that with my own interaction, and readers can post their own reactions in the comments section.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Incinerating Presuppositionalism: Year Seventeen

The years keep rolling by, and the past one is no different – at least so far as “the passage of time” is concerned. This blog started on March 26, 2005 with its initial installment, and seventeen years later here it is, still chugging along! At this point, it’s quite a collection – more than I ever expected it would be when I first set out. I suppose that if anyone out there ever encounters presuppositionalism and needs a go-to source for a second opinion, this little corner in the internet might provide a few insights.

As I do for every anniversary of my blog, I dedicate a post listing all the entries I’ve posted over the past year starting with the previous anniversary post. The link to the new anniversary post is then added to the handy Blog Chronology in a panel on the right-hand side of my blog, so it’s always at your fingertips!

So, without any further ado, here is this year’s list:

493. Answering the Epistemologist - May 21, 2021

497. Christianity and Socialism - September 28, 2021

498. ”He walked among us” - October 25, 2021

499. The Specter of Antithesis - November 24, 2021

Over the past year, I posted my 500th blog entry (special thanks to Jason mc for helping me to figure that out!). While that may not seem like a major milestone when compared to some blogs, keep in mind this blog is dedicated to a fairly narrow range of topics, most entries are full-length explorations of the topics they address, and I’m not a very fast worker (at least not so far as writing for this blog is concerned). I have a fairly arduous work schedule and my family gets most of what’s left over after that.

Over the next few months, while I have some entries in the planning process, it’s going to be a demanding task to keep up even with my current single-entry-per-month posting rate as I’m in the process now of selling my house and preparing for a move across the country. Plus, I expect work to be very busy this summer as a few new projects are lining up. But I’m up for the challenge, so don’t be surprised if I manage to keep up with my already meager pace!

Thanks to everyone who stops by and reads what I have to say! And for those who even take the time to provide feedback or just post a comment about whatever, thank you even more! I very much appreciate the dialogue.

by Dawson Bethrick

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

An Examination of Van Til’s "Argument from the Uniformity of Nature"

A typical strategy of presuppositionalism is to focus on some area of philosophy which has historically been surrounded by controversy – a “problem” of philosophy in which consensus has historically been elusive and debate continuously ever-raging – and proclaim that the controversy is neutralized by adopting a specific brand of theism. It does not seem to matter to apologists that such a move does nothing to increase our understanding of the problem in question or that it invites yet new problems which apologists cannot resolve. This is because solving the problem was never their actual goal in the first place. On the contrary, their goal is to convince themselves of the alleged truth of their self-imposed delusion and to bamboozle as many unwitting sideliners as possible. This assessment is only confirmed by the fact that, even when the defects of their theistic “solution” to such philosophical quandaries are pointed out, apologists will continue on as though their defenses were entirely tenable. 

The appeal to ignorance underlying such a strategy should not be difficult to detect. Instead of pointing to empirical evidence demonstrating the existence of supernatural beings (e.g., prayer fulfillment, curing diseases by “laying on of hands,” restoration of amputated limbs, resuscitation of decedents, in-person meetings with angels – or the risen Jesus for that matter, etc.), apologists seek to put non-believers on the spot to “account for” some fundamental recognition about reality and articulate full-blown philosophical explanations solving some centuries-old debate found only in the hallowed chambers of academia. Wouldn’t it be most ironic if the ignorance which such apologetic strategies are purportedly aimed at exposing and exploiting actually haunts the proponents of those strategies in the first place? 

Thursday, January 06, 2022

An Examination of Van Til’s “Argument from the Unity of Knowledge”

In my previous entry we surveyed the salient background features propping up Cornelius Van Til’s arguments for the existence of the Christian god as formalized by apologist James Anderson in his paper If Knowledge Then God (IKTG). The four biggies here are that (a) there can be only one argument (hence Anderson presents a total of seven formalized arguments in his paper, four of them on behalf of Van Til), (b) this argument establishes specifically Christian theism (as opposed to some “generic theism”), (c) the argument’s conclusion is certain (“not merely probable”), and (d) the argument must be a “transcendental” argument (by which means the apologist “discovers” or rather asserts what the necessary preconditions of knowledge must be). Thus we witnessed Van Til boast that “there is absolutely certain proof for the existence of God and the truth of Christian theism” (The Defense of the Faith, p. 103.) and that “this one proof is absolutely convincing” (Common Grace and the Gospel p. 192). 

So the very nature of knowledge as such, which human beings do in fact acquire and possess, is purportedly of vital interest in drawing the conclusion that there must be a god, and accordingly this god must be the god described in the Christian bible. What always strikes me as a fundamental liability to the presuppositionalists’ project here is that their procedure exhibits virtually no awareness of how the human mind forms concepts or even any discussion of whether concepts even play an integral role in epistemology. This omission is evident even in the fourth argument which Anderson attributes to Van Til, the so-called “Argument from Conceptual Schemes” (cf. IKTG, pp. 23-24), which is where one would most expect to find an analysis of concepts, but does not. If knowledge is conceptual (and it is), this oversight is quite a liability. In fact, I’d go even further and wager that not only is it because Christianity lacks an understanding of concepts – their nature, how they are formed, how they relate to and depend on the perceptual level of awareness, etc. – that believers might therefore imagine that knowledge must somehow be sourced in the supernatural, but also that supernatural notions cannot be rationally inferred from an objective understanding of concepts. 

How all this plays out is very instructive when it comes to assaying the intellectual deficiencies of presuppositionalism in particular, and Christianity in general. So with my earlier points in mind, let’s turn to the Argument from the Unity of Knowledge and see how “absolutely convincing” this “absolutely certain proof for the existence of God and the truth of Christian theism” might be.