Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)

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Presuppositional obliviousness

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7 minutes to read A continuation of the ongoing exchange with an anonymous atheist.

A note before I repost this: I mentioned to this fellow that I’m not primarily emailing him for his sake; I use exchanges like ours as fodder for this blog, to encourage other Christians and to give genuine skeptics (as opposed to scoffers) something to think about. He isn’t too pleased about this. For the record, fair use allows republishing of material provided it is for the purpose of criticism or parody, and a significant new work is created from it. This seems to be the definition of what I’m doing. Since there is no possibility of defamation or privacy breech, I don’t see the issue.

On to the exchange…

I don’t claim there is a God. I’m the one saying “I don’t know” and you’re the one saying “I do know.”

I’m coming from a lack of belief in any God, and you’re coming from a belief there is a God and the entire system of Christianity that comes with it.

I think you missed what I was getting at here. I’m not talking about one belief; I’m talking about all the beliefs that anyone holds. Their entire worldview. You don’t just lack belief in God. You also have belief in the regularity and comprehensibility of nature, the reliability of your senses, etc. You have an entire system of belief that is all based on certain assumptions you can’t prove. So it doesn’t make much sense to criticize Christianity just because it rests on assumptions, if the exact same criticism can be turned around on you.

The question we need to assess is whose assumptions are more consistent, more reasonable?

It’s plausible, yes, to believe many things without evidence. Doesn’t make them true, though.

This seems obviously false to me. Can you give an example of something that it is plausible to believe without any evidence? Any time I try to come up with something that can be believed, and might even be true, but for which I have no evidence, I find that I would be completely unwarranted in believing it. Bear in mind that we’re talking about strong beliefs—beliefs we are at least fairly sure are true, if not beliefs we think we know to be true. We’re not just saying, “That’s possible.” We’re saying, “That’s more probable than not,” or even, “That’s really true.” Can you give an example of a belief that someone can hold as strongly plausible without any evidence?

It’s plausible to have 101 seemingly logical reasons why there’s a God. Still doesn’t make that true, either.

I think you need to make a choice here. Either logic tracks reality, or it doesn’t. If logic tracks reality, then logical reasons are good reasons. If the premises are more likely to be true than not, and the inference is valid, then the conclusion is more likely to be true than not. And if you have 101 independent logical reasons why there’s a God (or even just a couple of dozen) then that is some serious cumulative evidence.

On the other hand, if logic doesn’t track reality, then logical arguments for the existence of God don’t count as evidence at all. But then, since science relies on logic, science doesn’t count as a way of acquiring knowledge either.

If it becomes testable, repeatable, observable and peer-reviewed and all that other good stuff science moves forward.

I guess I don’t understand what you’re saying here. If logic tracks reality, then it doesn’t matter if something is testable, repeatable, or observable to count as knowledge. The existence of God isn’t a scientific question, so trying to solve it scientifically just looks like you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s a basic category error.

That said, science is essentially a process of reasoning from the evidence to the best explanation. Hence it is perfectly scientific for archeologists to assume that arrow heads are not naturally occurring phenomena. But in that case, it’s perfectly scientific for biologists to note that DNA is a code, and assume that it is not a naturally occurring phenomenon either. So one can certainly make scientific inferences to the existence of God.

The reason you are asked for proof is because you (religion collectively) are the one making a claim. Burden of proof and all that :-)

Burden of proof is more complicated than you give it credit for. It’s not as if you aren’t making claims, after all. I can play the “lack of belief” game too. I lack belief in other people. You now shoulder a burden of proof to show that your claim that other people exist is reasonable. How do you intend to prove that?

So your logic is that what you can see, touch, and interact with … is a thing you have faith in just as much as what you can’t see, touch, and interact with?

No, my logic is that you can’t prove that you are seeing, touching, and interacting with physical things outside your mind. You’re so accustomed to taking your sense experience for granted that you’re blind to the fact that the inferences you draw from it aren’t provable.

Let me show you. How do you intend to complete this argument?

  1. I perceive what appears to be obviously a physical world outside my mind
  2. ???
  3. Therefore, there is a physical world outside my mind

As for me, truly, I don’t have faith you exist. I really don’t.

You just exist. It’s a fact.

Let me show you how oblivious you look:

As for me, truly, I don’t have faith that God exists. I really don’t.

He just exists. It’s a fact.

You’d respond, well, no—it isn’t. You assume it is based on your experience. You believe you’ve had an experience of God. But just because you experienced something doesn’t mean you interpreted the experience correctly, right?

And that’s exactly true. But then the same can be said about all kinds of things you believe as facts.

let’s just stop the debate then. Because how do we get any where if we go down that road.

But this is exactly my point! If you don’t have a worldview that can handle basic skeptical challenges like this, because it can’t even provide any good reasons to believe that our experience of the world is accurate, then you can’t get anywhere. But that’s exactly what you have, because there are no good reasons at all, under evolution, to think that your mental faculties are designed to apprehend truth. There are no good reasons at all, without God, to think that the universe is comprehensible, regular, etc. It’s just a crapshoot. You simply have to take everything on blind faith. It’s a science stopper. And this is why no other worldview than Christianity has generated real scientific advancement. If you believe that the universe is ultimately incomprehensible, or ruled by capricious gods, or simply fated to cycle through the same events over and over again, you won’t even consider something like the scientific method. Unfortunately, the same goes for a worldview where human beings are accidentally intelligent matter in motion in a universe that has no purpose, and no reason for us to think it can be understood.

The scientific worldview, in other words, is the Christian worldview. That’s how science got started, and it’s still the only way to justify all the key beliefs and assumptions required to do science. Atheists who love science are simply borrowing from the intellectual capital of Christianity without giving credit. They haven’t thought through their position clearly enough to notice how inconsistent and ad hoc it is.

So you have a feeling that a God exists, and you think everyone else does, too, and those who deny it are … deceiving themselves?

I can’t continue this. That’s nutty.

Hang on, do you think I’m insane? I’m not sure what about my experience would qualify as nutty? What is so strange about deceiving oneself, and only coming to realize that later?

Moreover, what’s so odd about someone having an experience of God similar to our experience that other people exist? Your argument, as usual, doesn’t seem based in logic or reason or evidence—it’s just based in your gut reaction to things. Why do you think that if you find something incredible or ridiculous, it must be false? Indeed, that is exactly the kind of reaction someone who is deceiving himself has! He judges emotionally, based on his subconscious feelings, rather than rationally assessing the arguments and evidence. You see, the reason I find your protestations so uncompelling is because they exactly mimic mine as an atheist!

But thank you anyway. And I don’t recall giving permission to share my words, anonymously or otherwise?

Well, recognizing that you don’t want to continue this, which is fine, let me conclude with a question for you to ponder: Am I doing something wrong by using your words without permission? What would that mean under atheism? It seems that it would mean I am acting in a way contrary to how we evolved to act. But so what? Evolution is unguided. There is no way we should be under evolution, since the universe itself is completely without purpose or meaning. Our moral intuitions are just instincts programmed into us because they help us survive.

But if you were programmed by a mad scientist to feel guilty about eating apples, and you came to realize that it was just programming and had nothing to do with objective truth (because there is no objective moral truth about eating apples), wouldn’t you override that programming if you liked apples?

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