Monday, December 2, 2013

Murky no more

I had a follow-up to my prior post all ready to publish, then decided it might be worth changing tack to focus less on Alethian Worldview commenter “murk” personally, and more on the presuppositional argument he and others use. Mind you, murk still gets held up as an exemplar of “not very good apologetics”, but I’ve realized he’s not that much at fault, given what little that presuppositionalism supplies in the way of material.

I skimmed over the Bahnsen Procedure earlier this year - here, here and here - and concluded that it still suffers the same flaws that all apologetic efforts do:
  1. it asserts the existence of God without evidence or justification
  2. it claims that God is the reason that (insert your mysterious phenomenon here) exists without warrant as to how God could be that reason
  3. it doesn’t account for how the apologist can know these things
It is really no better than any other flavor of apologetics. The main twist is a crafty maneuver called the “Transcendental Argument” that hopes to inoculate against the first flaw by concluding God’s existence is a necessary precondition for some phenomenon. This is a classic bare assertion fallacy, thus invalid reasoning. Only apologists take this seriously.

From Wikipedia, here’s how it attempts to succeed:

(transcendental arguments) are also distinct from standard deductive and inductive forms of reasoning. Where a standard deductive argument looks for what we can deduce from the fact of X, and a standard inductive argument looks for what we can infer from experience of X, a transcendental argument looks for the necessary prior conditions to both the fact and experience of X.

You can guess that the “looks for the necessary prior conditions to both the fact and experience of X“ activity is less than intellectually rigorous (see my “three flaws” above). Murk doesn’t patch this up to make it effective, and experienced apologists don’t patch this up to make it effective. You see he and they claim that God is necessary, but never demonstrate why this might be true.

That’s it, in a nutshell.

Apologists like murk, whether they’re novices or masters at debate, are using a defective strategy. The novice probably doesn’t even know these flaws exist, thus they repeat them - over, and over, and over. That might explain why presuppositional arguments seem like filibusters.

You might think that apologists would see these flaws and either correct them, or abandon this approach because the flaws cannot be corrected, but they don’t. It keeps coming up, and it keeps getting knocked down because no one should get the mistaken impression that it presents even a minimally compelling argument. It just doesn’t.

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