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Mar 11

Bad Apologetics

There are many apologists that I consider to be intelligent who present thoughtful, well-formed arguments. And then, there is the essay Atheism: A Falsified Hypothesis by Brian Colón.

Colon sets out a lofty goal for himself – to prove atheism false. He says that if atheism is false, then theism must be true as a consequence. This is true, in some sense, but we would still be left with the question of what type of theism. I would also consider deism to be in the running, which is probably not the conclusion your typical theist would want. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t even come close to showing that atheism is false. At most, he showed that a few people held unsuccessful views, but I wouldn’t even grant him that.

He lays out his case as follows:

The way I choose to show Atheism false is by showing the self contradictions contained within the Atheistic worldview.

Upon examining his claims, we will see that his argument does not actually accomplish this. The argument may also commit the genetic fallacy, but I would have to hear more explanation of his case to say for sure.

According to a few famous Atheists, here are a few necessary consequences of Atheism. There is no God; there is nothing but the physical world (Dan Barker – Protest sign at the Washington State Capital). Humans are nothing but machines that generate DNA (Richard Dawkins – The God Delusion). Morality is based on the consensus of human beings (Gordon Stein – “The Great Debate: Does God Exist?”).

Wait, so because these atheists say these things are necessary consequences, then that means they are? We could immediately stop reading and dismiss this article because, even if successful, Colon would only show that these specific people had worldviews that needed some alteration. It doesn’t even mean they would have to give up their own atheism! They could simply clarify some points in their worldview. But let’s continue and consider his full case.

If this is true then it would be impossible to account for things such as moral absolutes, laws of logic, or human dignity; three things that we all understand to be indisputable.

Wrong again. These items are hardly undisputable. The general argument in favor of this is, “deep down we all know it,” which is no argument at all. Colon then goes on to elaborate on these three areas – moral absolutes, logic, and human dignity.

 

Moral Absolutes

Every Atheist I’ve ever met believes that murder and rape is evil. But what is evil? I thought all that exists is matter. Is there anything evil about matter?

They could be using a convention of speech when calling something evil. It’s not conclusive that this would entail a real contradiction. For example, I don’t think there is anything evil in the absolute sense many theists propose, but that can’t be drawn out to mean that we are unable to pronounce something right and wrong. There are several ethical accounts held by atheists which could accomplish that goal. This is repeated often and is absolutely ludicrous.

Perhaps evil is just something that we experience as decreasing our happiness. Wouldn’t that mean that since the rapist increases his happiness by raping people, then raping people would be considered good for him? Who’s to say that the rapist’s moral judgments are flawed and ours are not?

Well, this would only apply to a certain kind of utilitarian. And the utilitarian would respond that the rapist is not the only person involved. The utilitarian could still say the moral judgment of the rapist is flawed. Besides, there are several other ethical theories that could also do this without relying on happiness, as I’ve already said.

Once an atheist woman told me that she heard that her co-worker was cheating on his wife with another woman from the office. She told me that she was outraged at how immoral he was and how she lost all respect for him. I asked her “What was so wrong with what he did?” Why does the fact that he’s married make the act of sex with another woman immoral? She simply said “Its just wrong!” I agree, but I’d like to know why it’s ultimately wrong given the Atheistic worldview.

So, because this woman appealed to simple common sense and didn’t give you a philosophically rigorous answer, then that is evidence for your case? How does any of this lead to a contradiction? There are several ways to say this is wrong, and I suspect Colon knows it. He will probably try and wriggle out of the problem by his use of the term “ultimately,” as if the solutions aren’t good enough. I would need clarification on how he defines that term to comment further.

Colon has not supported his view at all. Remember, he is going to prove atheism false. He should be famous for this! Unfortunately for him, the arguments are not successful or persuasive. But let’s look at what this portion of the argument would show even if it were successful. It would entail that these people don’t think there is inherent evil even though they use language as if they do. Well I happen to agree with that. I don’t think there is inherent value in things or objective morality existing like a platonic form. Does that mean atheism is false? I can’t see how. Would it mean that people use loose speech? Yes, what a breakthrough. I can’t believe I ever called myself an atheist.

Now, he might go on to try and say more about how this means atheists can’t really say things are right and wrong, that we can’t have moral obligations, etc. Let’s suppose this were true, even though it isn’t. Would it make atheism false? No. If it is true that we can’t say things are right and wrong and that there really are no moral obligations, then it doesn’t matter if everyone in the world thinks there are. This is not tied to the truth of theism or atheism.

So, we’ve examined point one of three and found no disproof of atheism. In fact, we saw nothing even close to that. I hope the next two are better or I’m going to have to say Colon simply misled us in his opening promise.

 

Laws of Logic

Consider the law of “excluded middle” which says that a proposition is either true or false, there is no third option. What is the ontological foundation of this law? Is this law just a result of the chemical functions in our brain? If so then how is it universal? Is the law material? Of course not! Laws of logic are immaterial abstract entities, the very things that cannot exist if the only thing that exists is matter.

Again, how is this a disproof of atheism? Bertrand Russell, one of the most famous atheists of modern times, held the view of platonism. That is the view that abstract objects do exist, in some sense. In a recent survey of philosophers, this was the most widely held view, gaining approximately 39% of votes. There were more votes for platonism in the survey than for theism, which means necessarily that at least some atheists hold a platonic view about abstract objects. So, for the most popular view in philosophy, this is not a problem and it does not require theism to work.

Dan Barker, in a debate with Dr. James White, attempted to refute this argument by saying that “logic is not a thing.” Well if by thing he means a physical object then I would agree with him. The problem is that he already said that things are all that exist. So according to Dan Barker there is no logic.

To be more precise, we should say that according to Dan Barker logic does not exist in a platonic sense. He could hold a type of nominalist view. But are we really judging the coherence of atheism by a comment made by Dan Barker in a debate? Should we judge the coherence of theism by Colon’s nonsensical article?

Ok, so there are two arguments out of three that do not in the least entail that atheism is false.

 

Human Dignity

Why do people put on a lab coat and argue that people are simply evolved animals, and then say that we shouldn’t treat people like animals? If all that exists is matter, then that would mean that we are nothing but matter as well. If that’s true then why do we believe that humans are worthy of respect?

Yes, we are nothing but matter. This is fairly conclusive.

Keeping Colon’s initial goal in mind, I’d like to make two points. First, there are plenty of reasons to treat people with respect. To pretend there are not simply shows an ignorance of the many ethical theories that do not invoke God. Second, let’s suppose there aren’t any reasons to treat people with respect and people just do it by convention. Does that make atheism false? Of course not! So, both conclusions you can draw from this do not entail that atheism is false.

In a debate with Paul Manata, Dan Barker asserts that human beings are no more important than broccoli. I find it very interesting that the piece of broccoli known as Dan Barker thinks that other certain pieces of broccoli are worthy of love and respect, as if they were something more than just broccoli. Every single day we all treat each other with respect and dignity, and we all know that those who disrespect people ought not to do that. This is true for Theist and Atheist alike. Humans really are worthy of respect. This is inexplicable on the Atheistic Worldview.

Here we have more opinions from Dan Barker in a debate. I can understand people quoting William Lane Craig, and I do it myself. He is a clear leader in Christian philosophy and apologetics. He is widely published in peer-reviewed, scholarly formats. Dan Barker does not have this status. He is not the head of atheism. But let’s pretend that he is and see that the point still fails.

To say that “humans really are worthy of respect” is simply an assertion with nothing offered in support. Colon is probably trusting our intuitions will guide us to this conclusion. Whether things have intrinsic value is hotly debated; it is not simply common sense.

Let’s consider that human beings have no intrinsic value and Dan Barker still treats people with respect. Is this contradictory of him? A few possible reasons for this are that (a) he could simply be following a faulty intuition which happens all the time or (b) he could ascribe to one of the aforementioned ethical theories.

Hmmm, no disproof of atheism there, and that was three out of three.

 

Conclusion

I won’t even bother quoting from his conclusion because it is just a restatement of his three points and a celebration of how great they are. Oh, those atheist fools. Unfortunately for him, none of them have any force, as I have shown.

Colon has trotted out a few popular views, but has offered no insight into philosophically rigorous views. This is a dishonest approach, and this is one of the worst apologetics pieces I’ve ever read. Let’s take one last look at the reasons his claims fail.

Atheists can still provide accounts of morality and logic and give reasons to treat humans with respect. So, his claim that acting this way contradicts atheism is demonstrably false. Even if it were the other way around, and the atheist acted as though these things existed but deep down really thought they didn’t, this apparent contradiction could be resolved. It could only mean they act in a pragmatic way, as many of us do. Does this mean atheism is false? I go about my life as if there aren’t all these completely random forces causing things. However, even though I act that way, I know there is a great deal of randomness to life. Don’t believe me? Read The Drunkard’s Walk. So, does my acting as if randomness doesn’t play a huge role in my life imply that my actions reflect reality? No.

In conclusion, either the atheist can give accounts for acting the way he or she does or the atheist cannot. Neither option entails that atheism is false.

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  1. ryan

    Refuting that guy’s argument is like stomping on kittens. It’s easy to do, painful to watch, and the kittens have no idea what’s going on.

  2. Mike

    I thought about letting it be…but it’s featured on a prominent apologetics series aiming to show Christianity is true.

  3. Brian Colon

    Mike,
    I must admit, you did an excellent job of critiquing my article. It should be said that I wrote this article about a year ago, and I’ve since grown in my knowledge of logic and argumentation. After realizing the logical errors I made, I removed this article from my own website several months ago but I obviously can’t remove it from the Apologetics 315 site.
    You’re right, showing that a few famous Atheists contradicted themselves does not show that Atheism itself is false. I was obviously in the wrong to say such a thing. My apologetic at the time I wrote this article was almost entirely Van Tilian. While I still hold Cornelius Van Til in a high regard, I’ve since expanded my thinking to include evidential arguments as well.
    My main reason for commenting on your article is to thank you for the politeness with which you critiqued my article. While you showed no mercy in refuting my particular arguments (which I admit are fallacious as they stand in the article) you, at no point resorted to ridicule in your argumentation. Thank you very much. I look forward to perhaps more interaction in the future.

  4. Mike

    Thanks, Brian. I wasn’t expecting to hear from you.

    I should also say for my readers that I was careful to point out this particular article as a bad example, not you as a person or your work as a whole. I’ve been reading some pieces on your website – some I like and some I don’t. But I do think you can do better than this. I think you overreached when you set your goal in the intro.

    I would assume all of us have done the same thing in this type of field. I can say that I once thought I caught William Lane Craig in a collossal error. I took my view over to Reasonable Faith probably thinking, “Ha! I’ll show them.” Someone pointed out a serious flaw and my argument was done.

    Thanks for the comment.

  5. Rich R

    Having listened to the whole debate mentioned with Barker, I must defend him a little bit here. His adversary in the debate also jumped on the “broccoli” statement. Dan was forced to clarify and did so in a way that made perfect sense to me. He concluded humans are no more important than broccoli in a cosmic sense. And we’re not. However, from our own point of view, we are, quite obviously, a bit more important. It comes down to the basic divide. Atheists do not think the universe was designed for us. Is that so surprising? Any importance or moral responsibilities we have are in relation to other humans (and to arguable degrees other life forms).

  6. Brian

    Rich,
    I understand your point, but the question now arises, why does the Atheist condemn the nihilist who recognizes that human beings don’t have any real value apart from our own relative subjective opinion? The nihilist could very easily say, “I realize that I feel that humans have intrinsic value, but I also realize that, since the Cosmos doesn’t care about the value of humans, my feelings are ultimately wrong. And since my feelings are ultimately wrong, it is therefore not wrong of me to

  7. Mike

    Why is intrinsic value necessary to derive duties or obligations?

    For example, consider two works of art – one by Picasso and one by a child. They are both pretty similar in that they portray some weird looking people, but one is considered very valuable by certain members of society and one is not. It would not be considered wrong of me to throw away the child’s work of art after displaying it on the fridge for a sufficient time. But I think many people would say it would be wrong to throw away the Picasso. So, there doesn’t seem to be in that case an intrinsic value or both pieces of art would be valued approximately the same. Rather, there is value added subjectively to the thing in virtue of other things. But we still have a sense of duty derived even without intrinsic value.

  8. Brian

    I understand your analogy, but it seems to me that you are saying that there is nothing really wrong with (1) throwing Picasso’s art away or (2) torturing prisoners in concentration camps. Doing both would be extremely undesirable. In fact we could make a long list of adjectives to describe both actions: Disgusting, cruel, sickening etc. But the one adjective that would not be on the list is “wrong.” Your previous comment seemed to indicate that since more people would object to your discarding of Picasso’s art than the child’s art, that consensus is what determines right and wrong. The problem is that Nazi Germany had the consensus in their society. If they had won WWII and succeeded in brain-washing or exterminating everyone who disagreed with them, then according to your view, what the Nazis did would have become a good thing. I think the late Richard Taylor, an Atheist Philosopher sums this up quite well. He wrote…

    “The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well. Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things as war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are ‘morally wrong,’ and they imagine that they have said something true and significant. Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion…Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning.”

  9. Mike

    I agree with your concern because I too want to be able to say some actions are condemnable, others praiseworthy, etc. What I hoped to show in the analogy was that we did still find reason to consider one action good (or at least not bad) and the other action bad.

    So, my point is that even if there is no physical ontological foundation out there for truly objective morality, I am hopeful we can still ground it in such a way as to have universality. I favor a Rawlsian approach of rationality. If we can successfully accomplish this, then we avoid problems like “What if Hitler won and brainwashed us all?” We can still condemn actions regardless of whether or not there is a consensus.

  10. Timothy McCabe

    What are your thoughts on this argument?

    http://www.godcontention.org/index.php?qid=431

  11. Mike

    Timothy,

    After a quick look, I don’t see any reason to grant your initial assertion (and the rest of your argument would therefore not follow). Why, if atheism is true, would it be the case that every single thing is the direct result of randomness? That’s clearly false. Some things are surely the result of randomness, but intention exists even in an atheistic picture of the universe.

  12. Mike

    I think another issue is that your first statement could be expanded into numerous sub-premises. It would be helpful to clearly state those to better understand where the disagreement lies, if any.

  13. Timothy McCabe

    “Some things are surely the result of randomness, but intention exists even in an atheistic picture of the universe.”

    Could you provide an example of something that is not the result of unintentional random processes in any atheistic universe? Thanks.

    “your first statement could be expanded into numerous sub-premises”

    Could you provide an example of these sub-premises (I’m assuming you mean that said sub-premises are in some way necessary for the argument to be seen as valid).

    Thanks. I really appreciate your thoughts.

  14. Mike

    It’s your argument, so you would need to explain and detail your reasoning to support your first statement. I don’t really get what you had in mind.

    However, upon reflection, I think I can resolve all of this with one fell swoop. I think you actually need to take up a different argument. I think the real issue you need to resolve is around whether or not mechanical, unintentional processes can bring about beings with intention. We can start by recognizing two things an atheist would grant. 1. Our bodies are composed of elements that were pre-existing and do not themselves have intention. 2. There currently are beings with intention, like me.

    Now, there is a somewhat established picture on how this plausibly could have happened that does not invoke God. You’ll need to argue against that partially established picture first and foremost. Because if the atheist can account for 2, then our conclusions, for example, are not all randomly determined.

    That’s where I’d begin because clearly there are intentional things happening all around us. Your point shouldn’t be that atheists have to deny that because they don’t. Rather, it should be that they can’t account for it.

  15. Mike

    A side note to that: it cannot be said that nature bringing about intending creatures is either logically or physically impossible, so don’t waste your time with metaphysical arguments down that road. Instead, focus on probability over possibility.

  16. Timothy McCabe

    “1. Our bodies are composed of elements that were pre-existing and do not themselves have intention.”

    I disagree that most atheists (let alone all atheists) would grant this in an argument. For example, an atheist may assert a sort of “animistic atheism” that sees life and even individual intentionality in all that exists and yet still not recognize anything as having any kind of ontological sovereignty. Under this kind of view the claim would be that everything is alive, but there is no real ontological god.

    However, this view would still require that there is no overarching intentional coordination (God) behind existence, meaning that absolutely any intersection of any two disconnected causal chains (originating from the individual intentions of separate persons) would result in an uncoordinated accident, and all the results of such an uncoordinated accident would always likewise be uncoordinated accidents, all the way down the causal chain.

    Without the overarching intentional coordinator (God), these separate individuals in the “animistic atheistic” view would have to never come into contact, or else everything that results from their contact (since neither one of them ontologically controls, coordinates, or intends the actions of the others) would be an uncoordinated accident. In other words, each of them would have to be ontological Gods with a capital G over their own realities, with no outside interaction. Otherwise, absolutely everything that is caused or descends from that interaction would be an unintentional accident.

    So I have provided you with what I think is an example of where the type of argument you are suggesting I use fails, but where the argument that I myself do actually use still succeeds. Can you provide me with an example of where the argument I linked to, the one that I use, actually fails? Such an example would be very helpful for me, and I think others might benefit from it too.

    Thanks again!

  17. Mike

    I’m sorry, but there is simply no way that most atheists would not grant number one. I’ve never met a single person who is an atheist and buys into this animistic nonsense. I’m sure there are people out there, but I’m actively involved in this arena enough to confidently state that is very much a minority view. Or perhaps there is some confusion between saying something like a cell is alive and that it has intention. I mean intention in the philosophical sense, as used by Anscombe for example, not just something like a hard wired goal or end. I mean cases of the interplay between desires, beliefs, and often actions.

    The argument you have provided is, by your own admission, not against my own view. So, no, it is not what I had in mind. I don’t believe that something like an element of carbon has intention. If you want to argue against my own view, you’ll have to argue against the two points I gave and say why it is not plausible that 2 could come from 1 even though the scientific consensus is that it could have and even though a probabilistic analysis says that however 2 came from 1, it is almost certainly via naturalistic means, given what we know.

    Finally, you asked where you argument would fail. Well, it fails if the two points I already gave can plausibly be accounted for in a naturalistic picture of the universe. If 2 obtains without any need of divine intervention, then things like our conclusions are derived at in non-random ways. I’m sorry, but I really don’t find your argument persuasive at all.

  18. Mike

    P.S. Maybe I should also explain that it can be a fallacy to attribute some property from one end of a causal chain to everything else in that chain. So, even if something like quantum mechanics entails randomness (and it’s not even conclusive that it does), then that doesn’t also necessarily imply that it’s random when my stomach acid is at work or when my CNS raises my arm to scratch my nose. If you could surpass my objection just given, which I don’t think you can, then you would also have to give very good reasons to believe that randomness on a lower level (and you should take care in defining that more precisely than you have) is a transitive property that will also account for everything on every higher level.

    You’ll also want to be careful that you don’t also make an argument against libertarian free will in the process of trying to say everything is random under atheism. Libertarian free will requires that the will can freely choose something without being forced to do so by outside forces. The standard Christian theological perspective is that libertarian free will is true, so even under a standard theistic picture, there is a disconnect between what happens in the natural world and the conclusions we come to of our own will. There are atheistic accounts of libertarian free will as well, but I don’t know if they’re in the majority or not.

    In other words, you’ve got a lot of work to do.

  19. Timothy McCabe

    Human free will, in the sense of a will free of all prior causation, does not exist. As I read it, this is clearly the teaching of the authors of Scripture. I am joined in this conclusion by John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and Jonathan Edwards. Present day theologians in agreement would include RC Sproul, John Piper, John Frame and James White, just to name a few. (I hope I have not misrepresented any of their views, apologies if I am mistaken.)

    As I am using the words:

    Accidental – Unintentional
    Random – Uncoordinated

    “It can be a fallacy to attribute some property from one end of a causal chain to everything else in that chain.”

    I agree, but surely “caused by” and “dependent upon” would be distributive properties or we would not have a “causal chain” at all…?

    (P1) Assuming causal chain X-Y-Z, both Y and Z can be properly said to be dependent results of X.

    (P2) If X is objectively unintentional (there is absolutely no intention behind it in any way, shape, or form), then all dependent results of X are dependent upon an accident.

    (C) Y and Z are both dependent results of X, therefore both Y and Z are dependent upon an accident. The accident has caused them: they are caused by accident.

    This describes every form of Atheism, both yours and that of the atheistic animists that I invented, though most atheists deny these conclusions in order to be taken seriously. Biblical Christianity, however, denies the existence of the objectively unintentional. If “X” is a sovereign intentional person, genuine knowledge is possible. Otherwise, beliefs and conclusions (or “Z”) are nothing more than accidents.

    Of course, that’s just one single linear causal chain. In reality, we have multiple causal chains intersecting all over the place. Under any form of atheism, these initial intersections are entirely uncoordinated, or random. A similar argument as the one above for beliefs or conclusions being “accidents” (though of necessity more complex due to the lack of a simple, linear, X-Y-Z example) leads to beliefs or conclusions also being “random”.

    Do you disagree with any of my premises, or do you think the conclusion does not follow from them?

  20. Mike

    I think you’ve merely stated that the property is transitive and haven’t shown it to be so. I don’t think it follows. For example, if we just cut out a small section of the history of the universe for simplicity, we will find in my past a process involving unintentional zygotes coming together, then some complex processes ensue, and out came a baby boy with a brain. That boy had the ability to make intentional decisions. Furthermore, it is not the case that all properties are distributed across a causal chain.

    You’re still trying to make an impossibility case. Like I said before, it’s neither physically or logically impossible for this to happen without divine intervention. You’re wasting your time there.

    I would have to see more, but I also think you’re headed somewhere strange theologically. Would God be controlling the movements of atoms, or example? And what does this ultimately mean for our accountability if so? If God is not in control of the atoms, then are they not acting randomly after initial creation?

    Either way, all you’ve done so far to appease my complaint is simply restate that your transitive claim is correct. Atheism once again entails both unintentional building blocks, so to speak, and intending creatures. Our brain is quite clearly made up of these elements and nothing else that anyone can show. How is that incorrect?

  21. Timothy McCabe

    I wasn’t suggesting that ALL properties are distributive, only the properties “caused by” and “dependent upon”. Do you find these properties to be distributive in nature in a causal chain?

    Back to X-Y-Z…

    Certainly I’m not suggesting that because Z is caused by Y that X is also caused by Y, but everything causally following an element in the chain would be “caused by” or “dependent upon” that element.

    Do you agree with that? If so, I’m not sure what I said that you are in disagreement with. Which property am I claiming is distributive that you say is not?

    Thanks.

  22. Mike

    The property I’m saying is not distributed is the lack of intention in action. The zygote does not intend even though it may be goal oriented whereas the human does intend. And that’s perfectly compatible with an atheistic view of the universe. As far as we know, God is not needed to make that transition from zygote to human.

  23. Mike

    Let me add just a bit which I think will further clarify my point. If what I said is true regarding an atheistic picture of the universe, then the following two propositions can also be true without there being really a problem.

    3. The existence of my current brain counterfactually depends on events which were not themselves intentional.

    And 4. I currently am an intending being even though my existence counterfactually depends upon what you call an accident. That does not make my conclusions within the current context of my own rational decision-making themselves accidental.

  24. Timothy McCabe

    I guess I’m having trouble seeing why the ontology or metaphysics of Y is relevant to the question of whether or not X ultimately caused Z; or whether Z is ultimately dependent upon X, or necessarily follows from it. It seems clear that X and Z have that relationship regardless of what Y is like. You say Y can be intentional if X is random and accidental and I say it cannot, but in the end, the argument I presented really doesn’t care.

    If one’s conclusion is based upon, the result of, caused by, dependent upon, rooted in, grounded on, derived from, inevitable because of (etc) random accidents, it is entirely unjustified. It doesn’t really matter if you “intentionally chose” to ground your beliefs upon random accidents… if atheism is true, you had nothing other than random accidents to ground them on. If atheism is true, your beliefs and conclusions were determined by X: random and accidental processes; and so were mine. There is no authority to appeal to — you are just as unjustified in rejecting Christianity as I am in rejecting atheism.

    If Christianity is true, both of us believe what we believe because God coordinated and intended us to; and there is an authority to appeal to for justification of belief (the only logically possible justification for belief): Divine revelation, the inerrant promises of the Intentional Coordinator.

    Ask yourself how you know that you are an atheist. It will be “because of [PQR]”. Then ask yourself how you know PQR. It will be because of EFG. So ask yourself how you know EFG. Eventually, you will come to a point where you don’t know how you know something, so you have no reason to hold it as true. It is unjustified. If everything that you know is grounded in the truth of something that you have no reason to believe, you have no justification for your beliefs.

    A coherentist epistemology, which is only possible with a self-justifying Justifier, is the only imaginable venue for justification of belief (and thus knowledge), and such only exists outside of atheism.

    That was the point of my argument, and again, I think the ontology of Y is irrelevant to it.

  25. Mike

    Wow, there is a lot wrong there and you seem confused on some philosophical issues. I’ll just hit a few highlights and that will be my last comment.

    First, I don’t know if the thrust of my responses to you are getting through. It could be my fault but I feel like if I try to write it again I’ll just repeat myself.

    Second, you cite the regression problem, coherentism, and the requirement of a bedrock of justification as if they all go together. You also say it requires theism. A couple of notes. Regression arguments and a foundation for beliefs are part of a foundationalist epistemology, not a coherentist one. In fact, coherentism thinks the regression argument does not really apply. I’d also say you’ll sound quite absurd in philosophical communities where many are both coherentists AND atheists. These people have studied it much more closely than you, so I think you should take seriously the possibility that you are mistaken in your reasoning or reading of the theory. Many atheists are also foundationalists and will appeal to basic beliefs that are not God, so that doesn’t really help you either (God just pushes it back one step but it’s still circular).

    Third and final, on that note about circularity, your own proposed view sounds open to criticism. You say you believe what God intends you to believe. That’s the perfect case of something not being rationally justified!

  26. Timothy McCabe

    Thanks for the conversation, Mike.

    I’d suggest that

    (1) asserting a “properly basic belief” is to assert no foundation at all since no “properly basic belief” asserts itself (while the Christian God does) and all “properly basic beliefs” are thus definitively unjustified;

    (2) an atheistic position is absurd in any community since it is of necessity unjustified;

    (3) if God is inherently rational then everything He does is rationally justified — without a rational God, nothing is rationally justified (nor can it be), and that was the point of my argument.

    God bless, and thank you again for your time and review of the argument I presented.

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    […] Bad Apologetics (reply to Brian Colón) […]

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