Saturday, May 24, 2008

Nailing Jello to a Wall: Critiquing an "Aloof" Atheist

INTRODUCTION

On the Narrow Mind webcast on 5-17-08, my friend Pastor Gene Cook had the professing atheist Dr. Lee Basham on his show for some post-debate discussion regarding a debate they had on 4-8-08 that was sponsored by The Church of the Open Door in Leavenworth, Kansas. Dr. Basham said in this post-debate discussion that he desired to remain “aloof” as to his particular brand of atheism. This is a common strategic tactic used by atheists to avoid explicitly giving any reasons or explanation for their atheism because they recognize that to give any positive assertion or to develop arguments in defense of their position means that they are potentially sticking their necks out so that we can cut off their heads, philosophically speaking. What follows is a time-ordered commentary on the show.

15:59-17:58 – Gene noted that in his debate with Basham, that Basham reported several things that atheists think and say but Basham noted that he wasn’t necessarily committed to any of them. Basham noted at 16:12 that it wasn’t his “job to bombastically declare a particular position”. He then went on to say (16:20) that he understood his place in life to understand different philosophical positions as best as he can and then critique those positions without himself dogmatically declaring a position but remaining aloof as to what he actually believes.

18:15ff – Contrary to what Gene correctly stated, Basham noted that when he showed up to the debate that he didn’t need to defend his particular position, but that he could merely show up to represent and argue for a particular position. Again, why would a man want to show up to a debate to represent a position and defend it without holding to that particular position, especially when formally debating issues of ultimacy like the existence of God? It seems that he’s either doing so for the purpose of playing some sort of intellectual game, to remain aloof by defending any brand of atheism from a distance without actually committing himself to any one position because he recognizes that there are philosophical problems with each, or, he’s simply being irrational by representing and defending a position in a publicly moderated debate when he himself doesn’t hold to it because he knows that there are huge philosophical problems with that position!

20:15ff – Basham remains aloof by proclaiming himself to be a student of philosophy so as to avoid giving us any substantive information about his own position.

PROBLEMS: It isn’t very helpful to critique all other philosophies to show their bankruptcy without offering a cogent and rational alternative to replace them. If he says “Why do I need to offer an alternative philosophical position to replace them?” then we can say, if you have something to replace them, yet you refuse to do so, then you’re being philosophically disingenuous [1], but if you truly don’t have anything to replace them with, then you are behaving like a skeptic and to be consistent you would have to resort to global skepticism. But, if you’re consistent with that, then you’d have to then be skeptical of skepticism as well. This type of tact necessarily refutes itself.

21:00 – The first positive assertion that Basham made was “You are not what you believe, you are the believer. What you believe is one thing; what you are as a person can be very different.” Of course, this is true as far as it goes because, to a point, this is true of everyone. But some people are more consistent than others. Because Basham is an atheist of any sort, he’s terribly inconsistent either way since he presupposes the uniformity of natural and logical law by appealing to constant features of the universe like the laws of physics in order to answer the problem of induction (cf. 40:00).

PROBLEMS: (1) As Bertrand Russell noted, to appeal to the presupposition of a necessary and unchanging feature of the universe such as physical law in order to argue for the high probability that the universe will remain uniform in the future is to beg the question. (2) Some philosophers of science such as Steven Hawking, in his Brief History of Time, have argued that the laws of physics have changed and evolved over the history of the universe. If such is the case (which I don’t think that it is), then we have a defeater for Basham’s unchanging natural law feature. (3) We also have another defeater for Basham’s position because if the uniformity of nature is dependent upon the constant feature of physical laws, then his position necessarily refutes itself because according to all popular evolutionary cosmologies, the universe began as an infinitely dense singularity of matter that exploded in the big bang and when you have a singularity with all that exists squeezed into a dot the size of a pinhead, you cannot have physical laws because physical laws by definition cannot operate in a singularity because it doesn’t contain, any time or space. The operation of physical laws are dependent upon an extension of space and a successive duration of time, but physical laws cannot operate where there is no extension of space or time sequence, such as in a singularity, therefore, assuming popular atheistic cosmologies, physical laws have not always been a constant unifying feature of the universe and so, Basham’s position about the principle of uniformity is wrong even if he assumes the popular atheistic cosmologies that undergird his position. (4) Worse yet, if some philosophers of science have said that the laws of physics can change and evolve over time, why not the laws of logic, especially given atheistic premises, they are of necessity a contingent feature of the time-space-matter universe? If we take what Hawking has said in light of Basham’s statement’s about the principle of uniformity, is it possible in the future for something to be itself and something else at the same time and the same relationship, thus a clear violation of the most fundamental law of logic, the law of non-contradiction? To presuppose such a thing would be absurdity, and to presuppose what Basham has said about physical law being the necessary constant feature of the universe by which we can guarantee uniformity is to presuppose that the universe has always been here, which is impossible philosophically and scientifically.

23:55 – Basham makes a good statement, “In the question of God, I think it’s perfectly open for people to go, ‘Well, yeah, but, should we grant that assumption and on the basis of what would we do so?”

26:00ff – The dialogue on certainty. At 27:55, Basham states that really the only things that one can know with 100% certainty are things like mathematical laws, logical laws, etc. However, in 30:15 he argues that the senses only give us reasonable probability to know what is true, especially in regard to the teachings of the Bible. The problem is that in order to know and understand mathematical propositions wherein the principles used to solve a mathematical problem necessitates the correct answer to that problem; you have to use the five senses. But if the five senses can only give us reasonable probability and not certainty, then we can’t know mathematics with certainty. So, if you are consistent as an empiricist, you are back to at least some degree of skepticism about everything and you can’t say you know anything with absolute certainty. That is unless, you have a “more sure word of prophecy” than that of empiricism (cf. 2 Peter 1:19 contra what Basham asked for at 30:16), empirical experiences that Peter, James, and John had, yet Peter said that those who have the word of God, have a more sure word (cf. 30:16).

47:40 – Sye asks how Basham could know anything with any degree of certainty, to which he essentially replies that you gather evidence and look for the most likely explanation for the evidence. But again, this assumes the validity of the senses to correctly interpret that data through the scientific method. Dr. Basham already argued at 30:15 that we can’t know with absolute certainty whether any proposition in the Bible is true because our senses can only give us reasonable probability when we read the Bible. Again, the problem is that if we use those same senses to interpret evidence to substantiate a conclusion regarding any data, and then we can’t know anything with any degree of certainty because our senses might be deceiving us. This would include mathematical and logical law as well; to which Basham actually admits that he might be wrong about many things, including Christianity (cf. 48:23). Of course, in the discussion that follows (48:31), he admits that Christianity gives him nothing that could rationally compel him to be a believer. I submit that unless he becomes a Christian, he can’t be consistently rational at all!

A CRITIQUE OF THE “PLATONIC STORY”

Although Dr. Basham did not say that he was a Platonist, what follows is the final interaction I had with a very cordial atheistic idealist several years ago. I think it provides a simple and clear refutation of the “platonic story”.

Thanks for your reply and willingness to discuss these issues rationally and cordially. Since my time is limited, this will be my last response to you. Essentially what you’re arguing for is an atheism that is Platonic versus materialistic in nature. You have rightly recognized that philosophical materialism is bankrupt for some of the following reasons as represented via the following syllogisms:

Argument One:

  1. Material things are extended in space.
  2. Logical laws are not extended in space.
  3. Therefore, logical laws are non-material.
  4. Materialism posits that non-material entities do not exist.
  5. Therefore, logical laws do not exist.

Argument Two:

  1. Laws of logic are objective, universal entities that apply to all people, places, and times.
  2. Materialism holds that only particular entities have ontological existence.
  3. No material thing is a universal entity.
  4. Logical laws are not material things.
  5. Therefore, logical laws do not exist.

Argument Three (using “is-ought” fallacy):

  1. Some atheists say that because we are logical means that we ought be logical.
  2. But what is the case doesn’t tell us what should be the case.
  3. Therefore, because people are logical it doesn’t follow that they should be logical.

Argument Four (Against Rationality using “is-ought” fallacy):

  1. Some atheists say that because man displays rational behavior means that they ought be rational.
  2. But what is the case doesn’t tell us what should be the case.
  3. Therefore, because people act rationally it doesn’t follow that they should act rationally.

You said, “You seem to be confusing atheism with materialism. As an atheist, I simply do not believe in God. This does not rule out an immaterial world. For example, atheism is technically consistent with a supernatural afterlife (albeit one not controlled by a God). Therefore, presupposing immaterial abstract laws of logic is not a problem. I do not have to show how these are compatible with naturalistic materialism, because I am not holding to a naturalistic or materialist position, merely one without the Christian God.”

And so, you rightly note that there are some atheists that not only believe in the physical realm, but like you, they also believe that non-physical things exist. To put it in other words, you believe not only in a physical realm but also a non-physical one that is often called a realm of ideas, a mental realm, or some sort of non-physical realm. I’ll try not to say “spiritual” because you may object that this is too “religious” so, I’ll try to avoid that kind of jargon. And so, as a Christian, I’ll take the time to consider a philosophy that which was popularized and systematized by Plato, and again, as I’ve already reiterated, this particular philosophy believes that there’s not only the physical domain, but there’s also the non-physical domain. However, this philosophy is a secular philosophy (meaning, it’s not governed by sacred ritual, religious dogma, and things of that nature). This philosophy has been known in Western philosophy as idealism.

The outworking of Plato’s beliefs

Plato did not believe that the physical world was ultimate reality but in fact he thought that it was at best, a secondary reality. He taught that the physical world is always changing and because it’s always changing it cannot be the object of knowledge. So, for whatever it is that we know in the realm of concepts, ideas, thoughts, immaterial laws, those things are unchanging. In other words, these objects of knowledge do not move around, they are not in flux. And so, since this world is always changing, then the ultimate object of knowledge is not grounded in this world, but it must be in another world, one that’s not like this constantly changing world of time and space. So, when I write the number “3” on the chalkboard, I am putting the numeral “3” on the board, a physical representation or instantiation of “3” rather then the number “3”, which is the concept “3.” And so, concepts are things that are immaterial, meaning you can’t go grab them out of the refrigerator and you can’t stub your toe on them. So it goes with the concept of humanity. Humanity doesn’t exist in this world, but humans do and so Plato said that there must be a realm of these ideas (the idea of “3”, the idea of humanity, the idea of mortality, etc.). Now, there’s a little inconsistency that’s humorous here, you don’t want to nag about it, but Plato was embarrassed to say that there was a form or idea for icky sorts of things. He didn’t think there was a form for things like hair, warts, or feces. He thought that there’s no need to have a form for those things. Now, I’m certainly not discrediting the intelligence of Plato, for he truly was a brilliant man, but one has to wonder what’s wrong with a guy when he’s that inconsistent.

A Brief Critique of Platonic Idealism

For all the noble concepts such a justice, goodness, and truth, according to Plato, there is a realm of ideas or ideals (hence the name Idealism) where they are found. So, in this world, we find Huey, Duey, and Louie out on the pond and duckness in heaven above (although I don’t like saying “heaven above” in this context because that makes it sound almost religious when it’s obviously not). So, Plato believed in a realm of ideals (i.e., ideas), and so I’m going to offer a friendly critique this position, which is often called Platonic idealism.

Now, there are many atheists who wouldn’t call themselves Platonists per se, but nevertheless, they take for themselves this same basic philosophical position. They want to say that all that exists is the physical cosmos and matter in motion but then they want to believe in immaterial concepts like love, justice, and fair play. They may not be as sophisticated as Plato in developing this realm of the forms and the relationship between the forms and things in this world, but they are, under the skin, philosophical brothers and sisters with Plato. Of course, there are other forms of idealism than just the one I’m writing about, but the most rigorous form of idealism in the history of Western thought is Plato’s. And so, if we can deal with the most philosophically rigorous form of idealism (which is Plato’s), then we can more easily handle the others also.

So, Plato said there’s an immaterial realm that contains the concepts and ideas of things like duckness, humanity, justice, and love. In fact, according to this philosophy, everything you can think about (unless it’s disreputable like warts.) has a form in that immaterial realm of ideas. Now, in this world of time and space, we find particulars (particulars are material objects that are locatable in space such as a chair, a person, a tree, an atom, etc). For instance, think about the three ducks Huey, Duey, and Louie out on the pond. So particulars are in this world of time, space, and matter. Universals, that is, the universal idea or concept of “duck” is in a different realm, an immaterial realm. What is one of the things that you would be inclined to ask Plato if you got to talk to him?

“PLATO, HOW DO YOU *KNOW* THERE IS ANOTHER REALM?”

It is at that point that Plato falls right into the Christian apologist’s hands at that point because his answer would’ve been (unlike those who are less philosophically sophisticated): “I’ve never seen that other realm because it is not open to the senses. But, there must be another realm because it’s a rational necessity.” In other words, if there is no other realm like that then we cannot make sense of our experience. I’ll readily admit that this is good thinking on Plato’s part, but it falls dreadfully short because it ends up writing philosophical checks that it can’t cash, as we’ll see in a moment.

Now, those of you who have paid careful attention will understand why the ancient church had such a problem with Plato. We had church fathers that wanted to say that Plato was a “crypto-Christian” in the sense that Plato represents the Christian worldview but he didn’t have the advantage of hearing from Moses and the prophets. And so, some early Christian apologists made a huge mistake in trying to make a quasi-Christian out of Plato, but you can almost understand why they made this mistake because they wanted to put Plato in heaven because his argument was good. The point is: Plato said there has to be something more than this world or this world just doesn’t make sense. So, let’s take a look and see how he tried to “make sense” of this world.

Refutation of Plato’s Idealism

Q: Do you know who refuted Plato to his utter embarrassment? His best student, Aristotle refuted him. [2] Aristotle’s response to Plato was classic. He said, “What good is an unchanging form outside of this world?” He was essentially saying, “Big deal Plato. We never encounter these forms or ideals (ideas) and so how can they help us explain anything?” Aristotle also added this, which was really rigorous, “Especially, how can they help us explain motion? The most pervasive characteristic of this world is motion and you’ve got these unchanging blocks or forms such as the concepts of love and justice. How do they help us explain what happens in this world?” It was in this context that Aristotle coined the phrase, “You’re so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” You’ve got this philosophy that answers the problem of how there can be immaterial laws of logic and laws of morality (In that case it would be unchanging moral values such as goodness and justice), but they don’t have any relationship to this world!” Now what did Plato think the relationship of those ideals or forms was to this world of time and space? The answer he offered to Aristotle essentially was this, “The things of this world participate in their form.” “Participate in their form”? You must understand that this is considered philosophically ridiculous.

The best Plato could do to explain this was to use the illustration of different actors participating in their role. He said that is kind of like what it is. All the ducks in this world are all trying out for “duckness.” They’re all playing the part of duckness. So, there are many actors playing the part but there’s only one role. [What a dreadful philosophy!] So, we’re coming down to the basic nature of reality and Plato is resorting to a metaphor! It’s actually worse than that.

The Question we then ask Plato: “Plato, how is it that the forms end up informing the material world?”

You see, the ducks are made out of matter. Think of it this way, your mother is making cookies, she’s rolled out the dough and she’s got a little duck-like cookie cutter and she imposes the cookie cutter on the dough and now we’ve got three duck-like cookies. But now, what if your mother never brought the cookie cutter and the dough together? Would we ever get any duck-cookies? No, and so Plato can’t just say that there’s another realm of ideas like justice, “duckness”, and so forth. He’s got to bring that realm of ideas into contact with the physical world in which we live and he knew that he couldn’t explain how that’s supposedly donebecause in Plato’s philosophy (and in modern Platonic forms of atheism) there is nothing or no One that imposes such immaterial forms on the physical world.

Plato knew that [3], and when he was pushed to give a rational explanation as to how the forms (ideas) informed the physical world he said he didn’t know and he had to resort to a non-revelational myth. Again, Plato said that he would have to resort to a non-revelational myth to explain it. He ended up saying that the demiurge [4] imposed the forms on the material world many years ago. Of course, this isn’t a philosophical explanation, it’s a mythical story! Worse than that, it’s not even a story that Plato believed was literally true! So, another theoretical question we can ask Plato and modern atheistic Platonists:

**“So, getting back to the main point Plato, how do you get your forms (concepts, ideas), how do you get your laws of logic, how do you get your universals, how do you get your moral absolutes, how do you get your class concepts, how do you get all those things into this physical world?”**

And the answer given by one of the greatest idealist philosophers in the history of Western thought said, “I don’t know, beats me!” So he loses because you can’t have a worldview that just *arbitrarily* says, “Well it’s kind of like an actor playing a role, or like the demiurge making cookies.” But that’s just *not* going to cut it philosophically, and that’s why his best student Aristotle went in a completely different direction. Aristotle said, “I don’t care about anything that exists outside of time and space because the only thing that’s going to be helpful to us are things that exist in time and space. But then of course, when you take Aristotle’s route, you’re right back to the materialistic atheism that was briefly refuted in the earlier syllogisms.[5]

Aristotle realized that Plato’s attempt to bring ideals, class concepts, or laws into his explanations was not justified. So, he could believe it, but he couldn’t justify why he believed it. And in order to know something with certainty, you have to have a justified, true belief (or to be more philosophically correct per Plantinga, you need warrant). Plato may have had a true belief (in the sense of positing the existence of an immaterial realm), and Aristotle said, “I’m not sure that it’s true”, but it’s certainly not justified or in other words, we have no way of knowing whether it’s true or not. So ultimately, it’s no good.

The modern atheistic idealist

Now, the modern idealist may say “You know I don’t believe in a god but I believe in the immaterial laws of logic and the immaterial moral absolutes consisting of class concepts like justice, fairness, equity, and love.” Or, “I don’t believe in the Christ of Christmas but I believe in peace and goodwill toward men.”

Questions for our Atheistic Idealist friend:

  1. From within your worldview, how can justice be absolute since in your worldview everything’s changing and everything’s subjective? There can’t be any objective, absolute notion of an immaterial class concept like justice to apply to this world since everything’s changing and everything’s subjective. And by the way, the world’s not a very happy place if there’s no justice either, so you can just forget about your goodwill and peace on earth at Christmas time also! There are no ideas or ideals that you can justify. But if my idealist atheist friend goes on to say, “No, I really think that they exist . . .” then I’m going to ask,
  2. Where do they exist?
  3. How do they exist?
  4. Where did they come from?” Or to give the atheistic idealist the best question of all,
  5. What’s the relationship between your ideals and the world we live in? That last question is the problem that Plato couldn’t answer and that’s the problem that no idealist can answer. Remember that as you think through these issues.

So, atheistic idealists (who are, by default, metaphysical dualists) believe that there are two types of reality and they will always be faced with the dilemma, “How do you bring the two types of realities into relationship with each other?” Again, that is the 64 million dollar question that idealists cannot answer!

COMMON ARGUMENTS AND QUESTIONS

In light of the above discussion about Dr. Basham’s performance on the 5-17-08 Narrow Mind webcast, we’ll move on to some common objections and questions that are asked of presuppositionalists.

“So, I ask you, why can I not presuppose the existence and correctness of the absolute laws of logic, and produce a coherent worldview?”

Again, you can, but when you do, if you are an atheist of any stripe, you will have to appeal to some form of mystery, the very thing that you cannot account for with your atheism nor can you resolve the rational/irrational dialectic present within such a position. You stated,

"You say that I have no 'epistemic warrant' for presupposing the laws of logic. I still do not see how you escape the same problem with God.”

Keep in mind that by making the above statement you admit that you do have a problem justifying the uniformity of logic from an epistemological standpoint. Christians have no epistemic problem because God has revealed Himself to us in history and through His word and we have no source to which to turn of higher epistemic status than His own authority (Hebrews 6:13). We have no epistemic problem since we can justify our knowledge of the uniformity and regularity of the universe by appealing to the revelation and mystery of the triune God while avoiding the rational/irrational tension present in your own system. You go on to ask,

“You say that the bible gives you authority to say that nature is uniform? So, what gives you ‘epistemic warrant’ to presuppose the truth of the bible?”

God’s own testimony provides its own self-authenticating, epistemic warrant (cf. Hebrews 6:13). There is no higher referent point to turn other than God’s self-disclosure of Himself as found within history and recorded in His written word. We cannot appeal to extra-biblical evidence in order to bolster the truthfulness of God’s own word because to do so would mean that God’s word is no longer the ultimate authority, but the extra-biblical evidence is. Please allow me to explain in some detail.

In the history of apologetics, Christians apologists have done two things (the vast majority have done the one and I’m in the small minority that does the other). The vast majority say (1) we let the secular world determine the standards for obtaining epistemic certainty and then we as Christians come along and say ‘we can meet those standards.’ So, when we pass the test of those standards with an A+, therefore, you can say then that Christianity is certain. Now, it doesn’t take any sophisticated work in epistemology or logic to see that if that is your general approach, even if you can get to the conclusion that Christianity is certain (and I don’t believe any evidentialist has done that, I mean there’s a whole lot more in-house talking amongst evidentialist Christian apologists about the certainty of the Christian faith than there is conviction outside), but even if you could theoretically get to that type of certainty, you would get to it at a very high price because Christianity becomes certain at the cost of something being more certain that it; namely, those very standards set by the secular world.

So whenever you have an apologetic system that argues, “You tell me what the standards of truth and certainty are and I’ll meet those standards and then you’ll see Christianity is true” - even if you get to that conclusion, you have to grant to your opponent that there is something of higher epistemic authority; namely, those very standards that have been delivered to you and by which you measured the truthfulness of Christianity. This is the very thing the Christian should avoid.

Now there’s another fatal defect that goes beyond this; which is if you use this approach for defending the Christianity, you will also end up saying, “. . . and you don’t need Christianity for your standards.” Christianity at best becomes the conclusion of the system, not the heart of the system. You not only say that Christianity is less certain that those secular standards, you’ll end up indirectly saying that those secular standards make sense on their own. This is what Reformed theologians have called autonomy. Something is autonomous when it’s independent, when it’s self-sufficient, when it’s a law unto itself.[7] So, if we prove Christianity is certain by this method, we do so as the cost of granting that secular standards are more certain and that secular standards are autonomous. And, if I were an unbeliever that had some knowledge of philosophy and I realized that these were the implications of the approach I’d say (like you have hinted at already with your questions), “Even though you’ve proven the resurrection of Christ to me, I don’t need Christianity because my standards are sufficient as far as they go.” And consequently, Christianity is at best an appendix to my system and not the heart of it.

However, the biblical approach from a Christian standpoint, is to say, “There can be no certainty regarding anything without Christianity.” Now, on that approach, instead of taking one standard that somebody else gives you, showing that you pass that standard, then concluding that Christianity is true, instead you say, “We can take anything in the world that anybody claims to know (i.e., “I know that that’s my car.” “I know that stubbed toes hurt.” “I know that rape is wrong.”), anything that a person knows and challenge them to show how they could possibly know it if the Christian worldview were not true. This is really a turning of the tables – we’re saying that there can be no standards without Christianity. There can be no absolute standards, nothing can be known with certainty without the Christian worldview. Of course, that’s a much bolder claim and you can understand why some people would shy away from it because it would seem to lead to the conclusion that unbelievers don’t know anything. But that isn’t what it leads to at all, it leads to the conclusion that you, as an unbeliever can know *a lot* of things, you just can’t account for what you know. Again, you can still know many things, but you can’t give an account of what you know. As Cornelius Van Til liked to say, “Unbelievers can count, but they can’t account for their accounting.” So, unbelievers can know much about the world.

My unbelieving exercise science co-workers know a lot about anatomy, exercise physiology and so forth. But, if the Christian worldview were not true, my unbelieving co-workers couldn’t know anything about bones and muscles and thus, couldn’t do their job. So, my unbelieving co-workers have a job in exercise science not because their worldview is right, but because my worldview is right. Even though they are taking the measurements of joint angles, strength, and cardiac output, it’s only on the basis of a Christian outlook on life that anything makes sense. Science, math, morals, human dignity, or whatever else you can think of has its epistemological root in Christian theism. You go on to ask,

“Instead of presupposing a God who declares that nature is and will be uniform, why can't I just presuppose that nature is uniform and skip God?”

Because to do so would mean that you would be (a) suppressing the truth in unrighteousness since you willingly refuse to give credit where in your heart of hearts you know credit is due (Rom. 1:18-25), thus suffering eternal death. Also, (b) you’ll die intellectually as you will have to maintain the rational/irrational dialectical tension that was referred to earlier.

I would not be merely ‘assuming’ that the laws of logic will operate in the future as they have in the past, because that violates the presupposition I have proposed.”

Well then if you know with 100% certainty that the laws of logic will continue uniformly in the future please show how you know this will be the case without begging the question by appealing to past experiences. Also, please explain in greater detail how I have “violated” your presupposition that the laws of logic are “absolute” based upon your original question,

“Why can't I just presuppose the existence and correctness of absolute laws of logic?” and “How do you account for the existence of God? I'm sure you will say you don't need to because it’s your presupposition, i.e., what you take for granted. Why can't I do the same maneuver with the laws of logic?”

I do not understand how “presupposing the existence . . . of absolute laws of logic” and “taking them for granted” as part of the whole of reality is not essentially the same as assumingabsolutely (“absolute” - that they exist being self-sufficient and free of external references or relationships) and thus, being absolute, will continue to operate uniformly in the future. This is what I understood when you used “absolute” in the first series of questions you posed.

It is also important to note that you hint at your own assumptions of the uniformity of said laws when you wrote, “Why can't I just presuppose the existence and CORRECTNESS of absolute laws of logic?” [All capitalized letters mine for emphasis]. Presupposing “correctness” assumes that the laws of logic will operate uniformly in the future, thus providing an external, objective, means by which you can tell what is correct and what is incorrect. So, while you seem to be trying to remove the burden off your own shoulders here, you still have to contend with the fact that you are indeed assuming (whether you’re aware of it or not) that the “correctness” of logical law will continue uniformly in the future, and to assume otherwise, means that we cannot necessarily have this conversation because the law of non-contradiction may not operate uniformly tomorrow. This one of the absurdities that your position logically leads to.

“Appealing to mysteries or abstract laws of logic that “just are” does not cause any conflict in my worldview, because I am not holding to the positions that you ascribe to me. Once again, I’m merely constructing a worldview that doesn’t include the Christian God.”

CONCLUSION

Dr. Basham avoided all meaningful interaction about any particular position that he holds to in order to give him the strategic advantage. I suspect this is because he is skeptical about most things (excepting analytical things like mathematical and logical law) and recognizes that all atheistic positions have philosophical holes in them. It is certainly understandable that people would deny our arguments against their positions so as to deflect the irrationality thereof, but to those who understand the history of Western philosophy and can follow what I’ve previously written will realize that many atheists are no different than the atomistic scientific rationalists because whether they want to admit it or not, they are maintaining a rational/irrational tension within their worldview and our internal critique of their position stands. I pray that they will repent of their irrationality and sinful autonomy, and turn to the Lord of Reason, the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 2:3).



[1] As the Merriam-Webster Dictionary says, you are “lacking in candor” or “you are giving a false appearance of simple frankness”. Essentially, this behavior lacks unreserved, honest, and sincere expression of what one believes, if indeed they hold to anything other than skepticism.

[2] Aristotle’s best known student was Alexander the Great.

[3] Plato knew his system had this problem for he certainly wasn’t dumb, he was one of the most brilliant unbelievers that ever lived.

[4] A god-like being in ancient Greek philosophy that communicated through the physical world through emanations called aeons. The network of these emanations was called the pleroma.

[5] Aristotle was not technically an atheistic materialist, but he operated as such on a philosophical basis.

[6] Sometimes the idealist will blow off those questions by saying “Well, I don’t know where they came from and it’s not really important.” However, we are back to the same problem that we discussed in part I, namely, that of the rationalist appealing to a type of mysticism in order to justify his rationality, which creates a tenuous rational/irrational dialectic that his worldview cannot sustain and one that his worldview wants to avoid.

[7] Autonomy comes from the Greek autonomia, which literally means “self-law.”