This essay will be dealing with the concepts of rationality and knowledge, and the abuse of these terms by presuppositionalist apologists.
I will first make statements of my own personal beliefs that will be clarified and defended in subsequent expanded arguments.
I have no absolute knowledge of anything outside my subjective perceptions, nor does anyone else.
(This will be true of every statement in this essay. But read the next point carefully.)
Having no absolute knowledge does not equate to an inability to assess the likelihood of various propositions since I have access to my perception of regularity.
Making statements about things for which I have a high degree of belief does not require that I have absolute knowledge in those statements since the default conventional definition of truth does not imply absolute knowledge.
A rational position does not necessarily equate to an objectively true position.
I am rational in my high degree of belief that an objective world exists based on the high degree of regularity I perceive.
Thirty minutes ago, CNN Breaking News released the following headline.
A now-retracted UK study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an “elaborate fraud,” a medical journal reports.
It’s hard to think of an issue that is not more emotional than autism. It involves children and parental responsibility. Love, guilt, shame, anger, and fear all played a role in a few parents and doctors taking 2 co-occurring events–the appearance of autism and vaccination–and running the notion past science before science had time to react. The the return to truth has now been much more painful than necessary due to the emotions of so many who hold to this myth. [http://whatstheharm.net/autismdenial.html]
In my most-read post entitled Reasons For My Deconversion, I claim that human minds are not well-equipped to assess what is true.
I recently had a christian who goes by the Youtube name anonazero point out the incoherency of this claim by sarcastically stating,
Yeah, that’s logically coherent. You say that we can’t know truth when you say that we are not equipped to asses what is true. If you can’t assess truth, you can’t know it.
This is a opportune case study in which we can explore the mind of a theist. We can, from this quote, extract 2 salient principles that may inform our understanding of christian illogic.
- The Abuse of Terms
Note that I said “not well-equipped” while our christian said I said “not equipped”. When I called him on this, he responded with the following.
If I’m WELL-EQUIPPED to assess truth it is the exact same thing as being EQUIPPED to assess truth.
This christian incredibly cannot distinguish between entailment and equivalency. His logic would require him to say…
If I’m WELL-ENDOWED it is the exact same thing as being ENDOWED.
While it would obviously be to the psychological advantage of someone poorly-yet-nonetheless endowed to adhere to this equivalency, an equivalency it is not. It is an entailment. And, as I need not tell those who have even modestly sought to remedy their poorly-equipped logical minds, non-tautological entailment is not bi-directional.
Having 6 legs entails having legs, but having legs does not entail having 6 legs. Being well-trained entails being trained, but being trained does not entail being well-trained. Thinking well entails thinking, but thinking does not entail thinking well. Being well-equipped entails being equipped, but being equipped does not entail nor equal being well-equipped.
Christianity has long been guilty of claiming invention and ownership of everything considered virtuous in society. Here are just a few examples.
- Morality: After centuries of divinely-sanctioned genocide, rape and slavery, Christians tell us that these things are now immoral while thumping the very Bible containing conflicting examples. I actually had one Christian tell me that the Golden Rule had no moral force until Jesus uttered it.
- The Institution of Marriage: Most of the best known “godly” characters of the Holy Bible were polygamous without any complaints from Jehovah, yet Christians have now emphatically stated that God had always intended monogamy to be the only proper sexual union.
- Science: While both Catholics and Protestants for centuries asserted on conclusive hermeneutic “evidence” the Earth to be the center of the universe, Christians now claim that the Bible has always served as a foundation for science. Imagine trying to get research funded during the age when the Pope, Luther or Calvin reigned.
- Medicine: During the time the Bible was the core of European society, those who dared to suggest that plagues were anything other than the direct hand of God were considered heretical. Now Christians are claiming that modern medicine was a Christian innovation. If only faith-healers were banned from hospitals…
Could Christians get any more arrogant? Yes they could.
They could suggest that logic belongs to Christianity. Here is a quote from one Christian.
Remember, you said that you are a materialist. Logic is immaterial. You can’t account for it, nor is it logical for you to assume that it works. Nor is it logical for you to try and use logic in order to demonstrate the validity of logic.
The difference between us is that you don’t have any basis upon which to first assume the value of logic and science (which require an orderly universe to work). I do because my world view starts with an absolute God creating an orderly universe. You must borrow the presupposition of order in order to put any trust in logic and the scientific method. If you didn’t assume order you would have no way of knowing whether logic and science were reliable.
It is as if he believes that logic had to have a divine stamp-of-approval before it could be of any service to us. And because so much of this Christian’s ideology is based on unsubstantiated assumptions, he over-projects and decides that my confidence in logic is also a product of blind assumption. It is not.
We acquire logic because it works. What works need not be logical or require the assumption of cosmic order; it just needs to work. As infants we, through induction, discover heuristics of inquiry that produce results. These results include explanatory and predictive power that children then use to avoid danger, plan, accomplish goals, and expand their web of knowledge. Children do not need a divinity to walk up and tell then to use logic and that they need to assume order. Logic works. Our expectations of further order and successes of logic are warranted through inductive assessment. Our confidence in logic is not prior to its testing. It is subsequent to inductively assessing its efficacy. And logic quickly becomes an integral tool in the life the every healthy human child. It needs no divine sponsor. It works. That is what it is used for, and that is enough. Should logic ever begin to fail, so would also my confidence in logic. My confidence is based on the inductive assessment of the efficacy of logic to produce explanatory and predictive power. My degree of confidence in logic is only warranted to the degree that logic works. Logic works impressively well. Therefore, my confidence in logic, while not absolute, is quite high.
Now, is logic immaterial? Continue reading
Homeopathy is a popular but worthless “alternative medicine” that involves diluting disease compounds in water to a degree that there is little chance that any of the compound molecules remain in the resulting container of water that is then marketed as cures for everything from asthma to cancer. Proponents claim that the water’s “memory” inoculates the patient from the disease.
In a recent debate over the efficacy of homeopathy “drugs”, a spokesperson for homeopathy seriously made the statement…
If [the homeopathic drugs] didn’t work beyond the placebo effect, why do people keep buying them?
Let’s have some audience participation. Here are your possible responses to this rhetorical question.
- Because claims of the drug’s efficacy are true.
- Because of the placebo effect.
In the absence of any other evidence, the only warranted answer is #2, and is amazingly even part of the question. If you chose the 1st option, you may well be among those who employ the same basic argument in other domains of inquiry. One of the most common defenses of religion I have heard is in a rhetorical question of the same form.
If there were no truth in my religion beyond a placebo effect, why do so many people believe it?
I’ll give you the same 2 basic options.
- Because claims of the religion’s efficacy are true.
- Because of the placebo effect.
If there is efficacy in either homeopathy or religion, it will not be demonstrated by someone pointing out the number of believers. In fact, if a believer employs this argument to their own particular religion which promises to provide superior wisdom to its faithful, then it has failed since the argument that the reliability of a claim increases as the number of believers increases is a logical fallacy called argumentum ad populum. To persist in this argument will require holding that the god of your religion has his own rules of logic, not a direction I’d suggest you take.
Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation said,
Reason is a whore of the devil.1
Luther then demonstrates his commitment to this claim by employing a Christian version of reason and arguing,
Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children.2
The “broad hips” of women were reasoned evidence to Luther that women should “sit still” at home. Perhaps if Luther had learned what reason was and how to properly engage her, she would not have seemed like a cheap whore. Instead, Luther’s commitment to the deceitful whore called “Faith” led him to abuse reason.
A few hundred years and the internet later, we have a Christian named Ray Comfort similarly arguing from bananas to Jehovah’s purpose in the following video.
Just think of all the things that are hand-shaped and mouth-shaped that we could, with Christian logic, argue were made to go into hands and mouths. If you treat reason like a whore, don’t complain when you discover you’ve been arguing with a diseased mind. However, treating reason with respect, and making a commitment to her alone while refusing the whore in the shadows called “Faith” will yield far more rational conclusions to inform our lives.