Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Bahnsen’s “tremendous philosophical mistake”

Presuppositionalists love to tout the debate between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein. In apologetic circles, it is commonly believed that Bahnsen got that evil atheist Stein real good, and no atheist thinker can really be capable of crawling back from that public whipping.

Of course, such evaluations are quite superficial and self-serving, and they willingly ignore many striking deficiencies in Bahnsen’s presentation (see for example here, here, here and here).

However, what’s curious is that apologists do not tend to point to Bahnsen’s discussion with George H. Smith, author of Atheism: The Case Against God.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Anderson’s Anti-Epistemological Argument Against Naturalism

Recently Christian apologist James Anderson recently published An Epistemological Argument Against Naturalism. Readers are encouraged to take a look for themselves.

There is much that I could provide in response to what Anderson presents there, but along with some comments about Anderson’s overall approach to the matter, I’m going to confine my present objections to two primary areas. In my estimate, the objections I will present below are sufficient to refute this argument beyond recovery. (Mind you, in doing so, I am not attempting to defend “Naturalism” as a worldview, for no version of Naturalism that I have looked at addresses the fundamental philosophical needs which Objectivism addresses.)

If, after reading through what I have to say here, readers still have further questions on Anderson’s argument, feel free to post a comment. Reader feedback is always welcome.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Visitor Questions on Jeff Durbin and Formal Debates with Apologists

A visitor to this blog recently left a question in the comments of this entry and I thought I’d share it in a dedicated post in case other readers had some insights to offer. Readers are invited to post any thoughts in the comments.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Jason Lisle on Sensory Experience and Epistemology

Nearly a decade ago now on this blog I interacted with writings by one Dr. Jason Lisle, a Christian astrophysicist who operates the Biblical Science Institute which, according to its own about page, is a “creation-themed science ministry” which “exists to help you rationally defend the Christian worldview against those who claim that the Bible is unscientific.” Now who could possibly make such a claim as that? Lisle is a proponent of presuppositionalism, and my past interactions with can be found here, here, here and here.

I recently came upon a blog entry by Lisle in which he makes some comments about sensory experience, a topic I explored in my previous entry. My 2014 posts which I linked to above themselves contain links to Lisle’s old blog; those links seem not to work any more – my machine gives me warnings when I click on them, so I’d suggest not trying to visit them. Lisle seems to have moved his blog to his “institute” website. The present entry I found is here: How do I Know that I Know? – a Response (Part 1).

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Do the Senses "Distort"?

Some time back I was having a conversation with a colleague of mine. Our discussion started touching on philosophical topics and it was clear on the surface, at least up to a point, that my colleague agreed with my points about foundational principles and the need to govern our reasoning by facts and to steer our inferences by rational principles. He expressed strong agreement with these points, but suddenly made the remark in passing, “Yes, the senses do distort, but…”

There I stopped him and asked him to explain this. He seemed taken aback by my challenge, as though it were self-evident that the senses “distort,” as though the recognition that the senses “distort” were unimpeachably true. After querying him on this assumption, it started to become clear that he really did not have an argument for this premise, but he also did not demonstrate any willingness to reconsider it.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

"What are the odds..?"

In the comments section of my previous entry, a frequent visitor to this blog named Robert shared some excerpts from encounters he had with religious apologists trying to push their mysticism. As is often the case, the apologist insisted on certain conditions which he as a non-believer needed to satisfy in order just to participate in an exchange, such as the alleged need to “provide a 'valid' explanation as to exactly HOW the genetic code created 'itself' WITHOUT the advantage of 'intelligent' thought'.” I can only suppose from statements Robert has made in numerous comments on my blog, that he does not in fact hold to the view that “the genetic code created itself,” either with or “WITHOUT the advantage of ‘intelligent’ thought.”

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Frank Turek vs. the Laws of Nature

Recently I saw a brief video on Youtube of Christian apologist Frank Turek interrogating someone who appears to be a student in some kind of public venue, like a seminar or classroom setting. The clip is clearly an excerpt from some longer broadcast, but I have not seen the whole thing. The clip is just under a minute long (what is called a “short” on Youtube) and was apparently deemed worthy enough to publish as a standalone piece of entertainment.

The interaction here exemplifies an all-too common tactic in apologetics: the apologist demands that another person (presumably a non-Christian) present an explanation of something of a general nature about reality, and if the thinker cannot satisfy this demand, the apologist affirms “God” as the correct explanation, and the thinker’s inability to provide an alternative is construed as confirmation of the theistic worldview. On this strategy, a child repeating the affirmation of the existence of a god that he learned from adults in his life would be treated as having supplied an informed explanation. In essence, it is an appeal to ignorance packaged as a seemingly innocent gesture of philosophical inquiry. We must never forget that gods always come in the shape of man’s ignorance. The purpose of apologetics is to mask this ignorance as a recondite form of insight.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Bahnsen's Poof Revisited... Again

Recently this blog entry received a comment from Jeffrey Jay Lowder (yes, this Jeffery Jay Lowder), one of the original founding members of Internet Infidels (his articles there can be accessed here). It does not seem that Lowder is much associated with Internet Infidels any more, but the site did post an interview with him back in early 2022 (see here), which I have not at this time yet read.

Many years ago (I’m thinking 20-plus years at this point!), Internet Infidels was one of my more frequently-visited sites, though I do not visit very often at all any more. I just haven’t been keeping up, I’m afraid! But as I mentioned in my reply to Lowder’s recent comment here on my blog, I do remember enjoying his debate with an apologist named Phil Fernandes (that is with an ‘s’, not a ‘z’; the debate can be seen in its entirety, with the Q&A session, here). That was back in the video-cassette days. In fact, in my first collection of self-owning statements made by Christian apologists, From the Horse's Mouth: Apologists Shooting Themselves in the Foot, I included the following comment which Fernandes makes in that debate, which I take as a confession on his part:
"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."
In his comment, Lowder provided a link to a video on Youtube in which he presents a very detailed analysis of Greg Bahnsen’s opening statement in his famous debate with Gordon Stein (PDF transcript can be found here). I watched the video and encourage readers here to check it out for themselves as well.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

TASC: The Transcendental Argument for Square-Circles

Hitherto it has been commonly supposed by the ill-informed that the non-existence of Square-Circles could be casually taken for granted. But demonstrating their non-existence has always proven problematic. After all, proofs are useful in demonstrating a positive, while proving a negative has always been notoriously difficult if not dubious. How exactly would one draw the conclusion that Square-Circles do not exist without begging the question or committing some other informal fallacy? What would one point to as evidence for their non-existence when everything we observe aligns so conclusively with the presupposition that Square-Circles exist? Wouldn’t one need to be omniscient to know that there are no Square-Circles existing somewhere in the universe beyond the reach of mere mortal sensibilities in order to proclaim definitively and with confidence that there are in fact no Square-Circles anywhere at all whatsoever? How would unSquare-Circulers account for logic, science and morality?

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Incinerating Presuppositionalism: Year Eighteen

As usual on IP, I mark the anniversary of this blog (first entry posted on March 26, 2005) with an entry listing the posts which I published over the previous year, beginning with a link to the previous year’s anniversary post. Whether readers find this valuable or not, it does help me in a variety of ways, especially since navigating a blog looking for that one item that I know is there, is not always very easy. It also gives me some added sense of accomplishment. 

Since this time last year, here are the entries I posted on this blog: 

507. Stovetop Realizations - July 28, 2022

508. TAG and the Appeal to Magic - August 28, 2022

510. Is Creation Possible? - October 11, 2022

512. On the Kalam Cosmological Argument - December 24, 2022

513. Buried Signposts - January 16, 2023

515. TAG in Two Steps - March 5, 2023

As always, a special thanks to anyone who bothers taking the time to read anything I post here, and even bigger thanks to those who trouble themselves to post a comment. I do read all comments, though I do not always have time to reply. But as far as comments go, they are always intelligent and bring additional value to my blog. So I am grateful for that.

I do not know how much longer I can maintain this blog, though I have no intention of stopping. Writing and editing take time and sustained focus, and I do try to provide something that readers will find valuable. My blog is not an advertisement for books, nor is there a paywall to the “real content” beyond some teaser. There are no ads and I don’t even ask for donations (and hope I never need to); there’s no link to Paypal or Subscribestar where I ask for coffee money. I will buy my own coffee as long as I can. We are always being hit with messaging urging us to “give back” to “the community.” Consider my writings my way of doing this. Those who muscle through an entry or two might find that this is a way that I can provide more impactful and lasting value than volunteering an afternoon at the local high school car wash, scrubbing graffiti off a parking structure or picking up trash along the interstate.

With that, we embark now on Year Nineteen.

by Dawson Bethrick

Sunday, March 05, 2023

TAG in Two Steps

It must be tough being a presuppositional apologist, for the quandary which haunts his vocation is never ending. On the one hand, he is under pressure to characterize his god as so fundamental and ever-present that only its existence could serve as man’s supreme epistemological axiom. On the other, given the fact that we have no direct awareness of anything that answers to the descriptions attributed to “God” or “the Lord,” the apologist cannot avoid the need to claim to be in possession of some kind of argument which compellingly establishes the conclusion, “therefore, God exists.”

These two horns which the apologist must somehow balance are mutually exclusive. An axiom identifies a fundamental fact which is perceptually self-evident. We do not need to prove that which is perceptually self-evident, while the purpose of an argument is not to establish the truth of facts which we directly perceive, but to make explicit the inferential steps leading from a truth which is perceptually self-evident to a truth which is not self-evident. It is always in the convoluted tangle of the apologist’s attempt to outline such an inferential sequence that the apologist’s argumentative efforts break down. But just by assembling an argument in the first place, the apologist is tacitly conceding the fact that his god-belief in fact does not have the fundamental status he claims it has.

The purpose of presuppositionalism as an apologetic method seems to be to play these two mutually exclusive horns while pretending that there is no dissonance between them at all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Epistemology or Methodological Amnesia?

In today’s post, we begin with a quote from Christian apologist John M. Frame:
Scripture actually has a great deal to say about epistemology, or theory of knowledge. It teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10; 15:33) and of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). “Fear” here is that reverent awe that yields obedience. It is based on the conviction that God is Lord, and we are his creatures and servants. He has the right to rule every aspect of our lives. When he speaks, we are to hear with the profoundest respect. What he says is more important than any other words we may hear. Indeed, his words judge all the affairs of human beings (John 12:48). The truth of his words, then, must be our most fundamental conviction, our most basic commitment. We may also describe that commitment as our most ultimate presupposition, for we bring that commitment into all our thought, seeking to bring all our ideas in conformity to it. That presupposition is therefore our ultimate criterion of truth. We measure and evaluate all other sources of knowledge by it. We bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). (Five Views on Apologetics, pp. 208-9)
Frame assures his readers that the Christian bible (“Scripture”) “has a great deal to say about epistemology,” and immediately cites several passages from Proverbs and the Psalms.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Buried Signposts

Some fifteen years ago or so, I watched an episode of a program called “I Shouldn’t Be Alive.” The episode, titled “Lost in the Snow” (available here), told the story of the Stolpa family, a young couple who got lost with their infant child in very remote northwestern Nevada during a snowstorm in the winter. They started driving from the Bay Area in late December 1992, heading to Idaho for a family gathering. Hoping to make time and avoid a heavy blizzard hitting the Reno area, they headed north and took a small highway into a very sparsely populated portion of Washoe County. Unfortunately for them, the sign on the highway notifying motorists that it was closed, was buried under snow. They got stuck in a frozen desert and eventually ran out of gas, and their harrowing adventure was just beginning. Luckily they survived, but the lessons of their experience are worth considering. 

For me, the story brings home an important point: our minds do not have a built-in signpost telling us when we’re departing reality and wandering into the realm of the imaginary. Religion is like a road into a fantasy-land with no signs warning drivers that they’ve gone beyond a fundamental boundary. When believers read the gospels, for example, and imagine the Jesus depicted therein preaching and performing miracles, they can be so engrossed in what they consider a solemn experience that they do not realize how far they have ventured beyond the realm of fact and into a figment of their own mental creation. What’s more, they think they’ve arrived at some sacred destination which they like to think of as a spiritual awakening of sorts, when in fact they’ve shut down their reasoning by going off-course and getting stranded in a wilderness far from reality.