Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Friday, May 27, 2005

Evangelizing to Christians

To me, the main thing that this blog so far has been highlighting is the giant gap between Christians and atheists in terms of ability to understand order.

As I discussed before, I divide explanations of order in three main types - type 1 is divine creation (the simplest - "God did it"), type 2 is self-directed order, type 3 is emergentism (the most complex). My hypothesis is that, probably because they were never taught, most Christians are unable to grasp any kind of explanation except type 1, and that this is a severe limit on their capacity to understand science, evolution, morality, and that this is a major obstacle to evangelism.

The thing is that presuppositionalism illustrates this perfectly. Because what we have in presuppositionalism is a Christian saying "type 1 is necessary" as a premise. Which is as clear a proof as you could ever have, that they are utterly unable to understand other types of explanations.

Well what I think we should discuss on this blog, since our presup friends are not going to give us anything new, is how we can break through to them, and to Christians in general, that reductionist/emergentist explanations are more powerful and emotionally uplifting than theirs (as well as rational and true - but that is less likely to convert anyone committed to emotionalism - which is what Christianity is).

Creationists and Intelligent Design scammers have been quite successful so far in taking down a type 3 explanatory scheme (Neo-Darwinism) and making people believe that it is a competing type 1 explanation ("just another religion"). They can do this because everyone can understand creationist-type explanations but few people understand natural law. So we have a big problem of assymetry here.

We've seen Manata and his supporters refuse to acknowledge that their type 1 position is really type 2 (through contingency, subjectivity, and Cartoon Universe). It's obvious that Manata himself is incapable of accepting type 3 explanations, because they make him profoundly uneasy, as he demonstrated on his post where he laughed nervously at materialist quotes. This is obviously a common unease amongst Christians.

Why is there this underlying fear ? How can we break it ? My think on this topic right now is that we could try to emotionally show the invalidity of Christian solutions (afterlife without a brain, divine plan we can't understand, religious utilitarian morality, etc) and the validity of materialist solutions (the power of science to solve problems, taking control of one's own life and purpose, reality-based morality, etc). But I'd like to hear from other atheists on this and try to get this topic going on the blog.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Getting A Handle on Manata's Evidentialism

In his blog entry entitled “A Brief Presuppositional Analysis of Islam,” Paul Manata takes aim at a competing brand of theism for his arguments, rather than atheism. He does so presumably to dispel the criticisms of the TAG which show that, at best, it provides proof for the existence of a personal deity, but not necessarily the Christian god.

Manata delves into an “internal critique” of the Muslim worldview, with the intent of showing it to be contradictory, and thus incorrect. All things being equal, Manata has actually made a quite forceful argument for the inconsistency of Islam, to his credit. But I find it fascinating that Manata has begrudgingly admitted that the presuppositional approach “has a hard time critiquing a religion with a personal sovereign God and a revealed word to mankind.” From his following arguments, Manata seems to make it clear that not only does presuppositionalism have a “hard time,” but it is virtually useless, since he uses exclusively evidentialist tactics. Acknowledging his about-face in apologetic methodology, Manata belatedly insists that “we must do away with the myth that a presuppositionalist cannot appeal to evidences. We can appeal to the facts of history to embarrass our opponents.”

But here the “facts of history” seem to be confined to textual criticism of the Koran. His main thrust is establishing the Muslim contention that the Koran and Bible are as one, followed by showing direct contradictions between the two works of scripture. Some of Manata’s contradictions seem to be fair, others more spurious (not being aware that Miriam and Mary are the same name is a slight mistake, admittedly). I’m not interested in presenting the Muslim rebuttal- there is one, undoubtedly, and it likely uses the same kinds of ‘harmonizations’ that drive atheists mad with frustration- but I am interested in pointing out the opening that Manata has allowed by attacking using evidentialist apologetics.

One of the inspirations for the title of this blog is the phrase, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” which can be applied to any situation in which the arguments of the theist can be used against him. In this case, since Manata has made the argument that Islam is false because of contradictions within its sacred scriptures, then we are fully justified in making the same argument against Christianity.

I don’t intend to publish a list of contradictions here- there are far too many for this blog to document. But a cursory search of material published in print and on the Internet should give you any number of contradictions within the Bible. I’ve included a few links at the end of this post- these represent just a sample.

What I do want to get across, however, is that apparently the philosophers here have been wasting their time battling presuppositionalism- when his back is up to the wall, Manata becomes a willing evidentialist.

Contradiction Links:
Internet Infidels
American Atheists
Skeptics Annotated Bible

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Christians in Denial

Paul Manata has a recent entry over at Press The Antithesis, where he tries to show that atheism has dark days ahead. Too bad his sources for this conclusion are Darwin and Hume, not exactly the best place to find contemporary, modern trend/prediction data with patterns such as collective social beliefs.

The fact is, that atheism is on the rise. In the developed world, atheism is more prevalent than it has ever been, and here is the source.

I don't want to get into too much detail, for that link has plenty of detail already. Please click on it. But I will state that the Catholic Church has been lamenting Europe's increase of secular humanism as of late. Funny that they ignore the fact that Europe's losing of religion coincides with a reduction of crime, (especially murder and rape, and other violent crimes), an increase in life expectancy, a reduction in STD infections, a reduction in teen pregnancy rates, and a reduction in infant mortality.

Not to mention that between 1990 and 2003, the "nonreligious" percentage in America doubled from 8% to 16%. How's that for growth? Any religious systems in America growing that quickly? Here is the source for that figure.

Missionaries and priests themselves will tell you, as they have told me: The only successes in evangelizing are happening in undeveloped and developing nations. In the developed world, religion is dying. Churches are closing their doors, and priests have to be imported from third world nations to make up the shortage of them (that's right, a double shortage of both church attendance and priest supply!). Just the other day, I read an article in the paper about how so many closed churches are being converted to houses and businesses and shelters, because nobody is around to worship in them anymore.

When people like Manata talk about recent trends regarding belief in society, they should stick to referencing current-day sources, not old predictions from Hume and Darwin.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Looking at Presuppositionalism - last show

Well, we ended the four-part series on presuppositionalism recently on the Hellbound Alleee show. And it took us almost two hours. If you want to listen to it, check the archives at

I'm afraid I've been derelict in my writing on this blog. There are two main reasons for this. First is that I am starting to see the point of discussing with presuppositionalists less and less. It's obvious that no dialogue was ever started and none ever will. They are not interested in honesty or truth, only in preserving their beliefs. This is no surprise, but the total obliviousness of Manata et al is stunning.

Second reason is that I am working on a new book, with the working title "The Triumph of Materialism Over God". It's about presuppositionalism, materialist apologetics, emergentism, and the human mind. I'm almost done with the third chapter out of five, so it's going pretty well.

Finally, remember to reduce induction. Induction is an epistemic use of the uniformity of nature. Uniformity of nature is an extension of causality. Causality is a corollary of the axioms of identity. Always reduce everything to their foundations.

My point specifically is that uniformity is not non-change. Non-change is non-existence - to exist is to exist in spacetime. We don't make valid claims of induction because concretes don't change, but because of underlying principles. The typical example, "all swans we've seen are white, so probably all swans are white", was correct at the time of its formulation. It was indeed probable that all swans be white. But this is not in fact the case, so the induction is incorrect today. And we know it's wrong, because no underlying principle makes it necessary that swans be white. The "problem of induction" here is not a problem with induction but with our limited knowledge. This applies to all methods, not just induction.

Same for the "grue" example. As I commented, the "grue" scenario is in error because of failing to take into account all the relevant parameters, which is a scenario of either error (forgetting to include) or limited information (not knowing which parameters are relevant). Suppose we have this :

Fact : Grass is "grue" (green until time t, then blue)

t-3) Grass is green
t-2) Grass is green
t-1) Grass is green
Inductive conclusion at t-1 : Grass is green
t) Grass is blue
t+1) Grass is blue
t+2) Grass is blue
Inductive conclusion at t+1 : Grass is blue

Contradiction ? No, not really. It seems like a conclusion because the very fact that grass is grue - which, if true, is observable and knowable - has a bearing on the observed result ! What we should have, without the mistake, is this :

Fact : Grass is "grue" (green until time t, then blue)

t-3) Grass is grue (expressed as green)
t-2) Grass is grue (expressed as green)
t-1) Grass is grue (expressed as green)
Inductive conclusion at t-1 : Grass is grue (expressed as green)
t) Grass is grue (expressed as blue)
t+1) Grass is grue (expressed as blue)
t+2) Grass is grue (expressed as blue)
Inductive conclusion at t+1 : Grass is grue (expressed as blue)

There is no more problem here since grue takes into account both the green and blue expression. Furthermore, we would now know the time t when the causal change occurs due to the grue property.

The point has been made by my esteemed colleagues that "grue" is not a colour in itself, but rather a contradiction, and thus breaks uniformity. I think we might be muddling waters here, and need to introduce the notion of wavelength. Since colours are mental experiences of different wavelengths, this gives us more specific understanding of the scenario.

Does "grue" demand that a specific colour called grue (just like red or orange) change wavelength from 510 nm to 475 nm ? In our reality, colours are attributed wavelengths by conceptualization. So is this what is happening here also ? If so, there would be no break in uniformity at all, although such a change would be undesirable for many reasons.

Or does "grue" demand that the photons emitted by a given object switch from 510 nm to 475 nm, and that is why we call it "grue" - not as a colour but as a change ? In this case, there is, as I commented, no problem of uniformity either. Such change in colour would be knowable through the identity of grass, and we could find out why and when it occurs.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Problem with the Problem of Induction

There is a problem with the problem of induction at its very premise. The problem of induction acknowledges identity while simultaneously violating it.

Here is an interesting quote from the evil, secular Wikipedia:

So, for instance, from any series of observations that water freezes at 0°C it is valid to infer that the next sample of water will do the same only if induction works. That such a prediction comes true when tried merely adds to the series; it does not establish the reliability of induction, except inductively. The problem is, then, what justification can there be for making such an inference?

The problem of induction is saying that as time progresses, why should we believe that the identity of an entity (in this example, water) would remain as it is? In the water example, the PoI states that we cannot know that the water will still freeze at the same temperature in the future. The PoI could even go so far as to state that we cannot know that the water will freeze at any temperature in the future. But why stop there? The PoI could go so far as to challenge the existence of the water itself! If we can challenge the freezing temperature of water by challenging induction, why not challenge the continued existence of that water by challenging induction? Whether you challenge a property of the water, or the existence of the water itself, you are still challenging the same thing: the identity of the water. I contend that if the water changes freezing temperature without any other factors involved, then it is no longer water. Its identity has been violated. The PoI assumes identity in its acknowledgement of the water's existence and properties at time T, but it then violates the identity of the water (and therefore existence, because water that doesn’t freeze at 0'c in a normal earth environment/pressure is not water) at T+1. Where is the justification for such an identity violation?

Time is dependent upon axioms such as identity. Axioms are not dependent on anything. But the PoI states that we can violate axioms with the insertion of time into the mix. Where is the justification for such a proposition? How does time cause a violation of the axioms it is dependent on?

Lets take another example from the evil, secular Wikipedia. This is another snip from the same link:

Nelson Goodman presented a different description of the problem of induction in the article "The New Problem of Induction" (1966). Goodman proposed a new color, "grue". Something is grue if it is green up until some given time, and blue thereafter. The "new" problem of induction is, how can one know that grass is indeed green, and not grue?

I don’t know if anyone has challenged Goodman before in the way that I will challenge him, but I hope I can state it clearly enough. I think that Goodman's color issues highlight the misunderstanding of identity that the PoI exhibits. Let's talk about what color is for a second. Color is defined as a particular frequency of light. Light comes to us in waves, and these waves have frequencies. Blue has a different frequency than green. If you mix the two frequencies together, you can get blue-green or green-blue. Green and blue come to our eyes in completely different frequencies of light. They are identified by their distinct frequencies. When you look at colors such as blue-green, what you are seeing is either a combination of two distinct frequencies, or you are seeing a frequency that resides at the cusp of blue and green. Either way, the identities of these colors, and their frequencies, remains constant.

So what is Goodman proposing? He is proposing a color that would change frequency or identity after a given point in time. Goodman is proposing a violation of identity, in that the frequency of the "grue" would change. If someone proposes a blue-green color mix, I imagine a combination of the blue frequency, and the green frequency, or possibly a frequency that resides halfway between blue and green. But that's not what Goodman had in mind! Goodman thinks that we can assign one identity/color value (grue) to an entity (light wave) that will violate it's own identity, and change its light frequency, after a certain point in time has passed!

A color's identity involves the constancy of its light frequency. It is not possible for a color to keep its identity while changing its light frequency. One color (grue) cannot be defined by having two distinct frequencies that exist in different points in time. The only way to do it would be to have two identities(blue and green) and have one replace the other after a given point of time. But then, there would be no PoI because we wouldn’t be talking about one entity changing its identity, instead we would be talking about two entities keeping their identities constant, but merely substituting the place of each other after a given point in time. Goodman grossly misunderstands color, or should I say, the PoI grossly misunderstands identity.

No defense of induction against the PoI is necessary, for we can defeat the PoI on its own premises. The PoI fails to mount a proper attack because it violates identity in its attack. If the PoI has no concept of identity, it cannot attack induction itself, which does have a proper concept of identity.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Using Induction to subvert it?

I was reading the article by Michael Martin on the Secular Web where he looks into the possibility of induction assuming theism and the Christian God in particular. Martin says:

Christian apologists like Bahnsen who appeal to TAG acknowledge their debt to David Hume, the eighteenth century Scottish skeptic, and Bertrand Russell, one of the twentieth century's most famous philosophers. Both thinkers raised skeptical questions about induction. Bahnsen's strategy was to take these seriously and then try to show that belief in the Christian God could dispel them. Unfortunately, he exhibited no awareness of the philosophical arguments that have challenged inductive skepticism in general and Hume's and Russell's versions of it in particular.

I do not know what arguments Martin is talking about - if any of you know please post them. I turned to Wikipedia for a quick paragraph on “the problem of induction” as formulated by Hume.

We all think that the past acts as a reliable guide to the future. For example, physicists' laws of planetary orbits work for describing past planetary behavior, so we presume that they'll work for describing future planetary behavior as well. But how can we justify this presumption – the principle of induction? Hume suggested two possible justifications and rejected them both:

  1. The first justification states that, as a matter of logical necessity, the future must resemble the past. But, Hume pointed out, we can conceive of a chaotic, erratic world where the future has nothing to do with the past – or, more tamely, a world just like ours right up until the present, at which point things change completely. So nothing makes the principle of induction logically necessary.
  2. The second justification, more modestly, appeals only to the past reliability of induction – it's always worked before, so it will probably continue to work. But, Hume pointed out, this justification uses circular reasoning, justifying induction by an appeal that requires induction to gain any force.

I think both of these rely on the false premise of analytic and synthetic truths – but that is not my argument. Perhaps you guys can point out my error in thinking here but it would seem that Hume and Russell would have to use induction in order to undermine it. [I have not read any of their material so I have no idea.] I.E. they would have to find particular possibilities of justifying induction, show why it can't be justified and then come to the general conclusion that induction cannot be justified. If I am right then this amounts to concept stealing and their arguments against induction collapse – along with any presuppostionalist usage of their arguments.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Driving Blind on a Highway to Hell

Paul Manata over at Press The Antithesis loves Van Til. He also loves to quote Van Til and use him as a tool for defending his faith. But I think that both Manata and Van Til are a bit confused about faith (among other things).

Manata, in his most recent blog entry, "The Root of The Problem With Auburn Avenue Theology?" quotes Van Til a couple of times. I would like to focus on this quote in particular:

"Positively Hodge and Warfield were quite right in stressing the fact that Christianity meets every legitimate demand of reason. Surely Christianity is not irrational. To be sure, it must be accepted by faith, but surely it must not be taken on blind faith. Christianity is capable of rational defense." (Common Grace and the Gospel, p. 184)

I changed around the italics to emphasize the portion of the quote I want to focus on: the part about faith, blind faith, and being capable of rational defense. Incidentally, Mr. Manata seemed to have some confusion regarding the definition of faith in the last cross-examination segment of his recent debate with Derek Sansone.

The dictionary provides two definitions of faith (relevant to the Van Til quote). They are:

1. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
2. [O]ften Faith Christianity. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.

The first definition refers to the uncritical acceptance of a worldview. The second definition refers to belief in the honesty or sincerity of God's will, but presupposes the acceptance of the worldview itself without any defense of said acceptance. I think its pretty obvious that Van Til and Manata are not referring to the belief in God's truthfulness when they refer to faith, but instead they are referring to the acceptance of the Christian worldview as true. For if the second definition were to be applied to their arguments, then it would seem that they would be arguing not for the existence of God, but for his honesty. Obviously, God's honesty is not the issue, but His existence is, and the first definition of faith is what is applicable here: belief in a worldview (namely Christianity). And finally, we all know that Christian apologetics isn't about God's honesty, but about his existence. I will therefore use the first definition of faith in my critique of Van Til and Manata.

Van Til attempts to distinguish between "faith" and "blind faith" in the quote. But I contend that there is no distinction between the two. Faith is belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, and therefore, it is blind faith. Even if your faith is based on numerous talking voices in your head, it is still blind faith, for it does not rest on anything you perceived by any of your senses. No matter how you cut it, faith is, by definition, unevidenced. And unevidenced faith is what Van Til was referring to when he said "blind faith."

Van Til assumes his readers all know the difference between "faith" and "blind faith," but I think that, in actuality, Van Til didn’t really know the difference between the two. I don't think Paul Manata knows the difference either. Both of these people (Manata and Van Til) think that their faith in a Christian God is not "blind" (in other words, that it does rest on logical proof or material evidence), and furthermore, they think that they can present this logical proof or material evidence (as Van Til indicated when he wrote "...Christianity is capable of rational defense.") to support their faith. This, of course, is folly.

To defend a position with logical proof or material evidence is to quite specifically not have faith, for faith is belief in a position without logical proof or material evidence. If I have material evidence of the existence of my Mustang, then I do not have faith in my Mustang by definition. Instead, I have knowledge of my Mustang; knowledge based not on faith, but on material, quantifiable, logical, and independently verifiable evidence.

Paul Manata and Van Til find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they have faith in their religion, then their faith is without logical proof or material evidence per the definition of the word, and their faith is therefore blind. Hence, their faith is not capable of rational defense. (I challenge anyone in the comments section to differentiate between "faith" and "blind faith" without destroying the definition of the word).

But if Manata and Van Til have logical proof or material evidence for their religion, then they quite specifically do not have faith, and therefore do not meet the requirements for salvation as set forth by their messiah.

How can you have faith in the existence of something if you have independently verifiable evidence for it? Faith is totally abolished when you have evidence. Faith is taken by assertion, and is therefore "blind," but rational defense requires more than faith to back it up; it requires logical proof or material evidence.

To sum up my anti-faith argument, and to touch on it's implications, I will offer a list of points:

1. Faith is belief in something without logical proof or material evidence.
2. Faith is "blind" in that it has no logical proof or material evidence.
3. Rational defense of a worldview requires logical proof or material evidence.
4. (Blind) faith is not capable of rational defense.
5. If you can provide a rational defense for your worldview, then you do not have faith in your worldview, because your defense is based on logical proof or material evidence.
6. The Christian worldview states that faith (blind acceptance without logical proof or material evidence) is required for salvation.
7. (Assuming the Christian God exists) either Manata and Van Til cannot rationally defend their Christian worldview, or they are going straight to Hell.

What I want to see from Manata and other Van Til-ers is consistency. They should either apply their Christian dictates to their lives, and admit that they have "blind faith" in a position that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, or they should deconvert to materialistic atheism, and hold the one worldview that is rationally defendable by logical proof and material evidence. Because right now, these apologists are speeding in the carpool lane on a Highway to Hell.

Friday, May 06, 2005

You can't account for your use of the Incarnation

There were some comments on a blog some time back where our dear friends talked about the soul. This got me asking the question: "Where do souls come from?" This has deep implications when viewed in light of both the concept of original sin and also atonement through the incarnation of the god-man.

Among Christian theists there have generally been two answers to this question. Creationists say that God creates each soul as the child is conceived - making God a busy deity indeed - and the other view is called traducianism. Traducianists claim that the soul is the product of man and woman - it seems that not only are egg and sperm a means of uniting DNA but also a "half soul" as well.

Most theists are of the creationist bent however many protestant theologians seem to adhere to a traducianist approach. Their argument is mainly philosophical in nature and runs this way:

Where do souls come from? Does god create them? If so does he create them pure or impure? If pure it conflicts with our view of original sin. If impure then God is the author of sin. God cannot be the author of sin and the doctrine of original sin must obtain therefore the soul is the product of reproduction.

Of course this entire line of reasoning is in no way biblically based and any theist claiming that only a Biblical worldview is justified cannot use it. There is no Biblical justification for saying that men's souls are the product of reproduction - in fact there is good evidence from the bible that men's souls are the creation of God.

Eccl 12:7 states "the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it"

Is 57:16 states "I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry, for from me proceeds the Spirit, and I have made the spirit of life." A contrast between the spirit of God and spirit that animates his animals.

Heb 12:9 states "Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?" God as the father of spirits.

Creationists respond to the traducianists by first giving biblical support for their view - like the verses above - and then argue that God creates the soul pure and places it in man where it is immediately corrupted by the flesh. [How this gets God off the hook as I’m not sure.] The justification of this seems to come from David when he says:

Ps 51:5 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me”

It seems that the traducianists are relying upon their own thinking to solve this problem when the answer is right before them - creationism. But does creationism solve this problem and more importantly what are the implications for the incarnation?

Christianity unanimously tells us that Jesus was perfect and without sin. The author of Hebrews tells us that he was tempted like us in every way but without sin. And in another place that he was a high priest able to sympathize with our weakness. Somehow the all corrupting flesh of man is incapable of corrupting the spirit of God himself as the god-man.

This is a glaring inconsistency - which should not surprise us at all. How is it that God is able to be placed within flesh and yet remain unscathed by flesh? It does not matter that Joseph wass not the father for the flesh of the mother is still being used. Perhaps God created his own flesh in Mary? Then God is the author of sin again. Perhaps God has some innate quality that keeps him from being tainted? Then he cannot be tempted in everyway as Hebrews tells us. [This is really a non-sequitor in purview of the doctrines of Christianity. Jesus being tempted in every way is irrelevant when taking into account the total corruption of flesh. Temptation would be considered an "empiracal proof" that the flesh is tainted and can't be used as an argument against his soul being corrupted at conception.] Perhaps Jesus just managed to live in perfect obedience which kept him from being tainted... but this would invalidate the claim that the flesh corrupts making it possible for anyone to be a "Christ." Perhaps God just creates men's souls differently than God's own allowing them to obtain a fallen and corrupted nature once put into flesh? Then we are back to God not being able to be tempted as man and also God creating a soul "imperfectly."

There is no way to reconcile a pure man [a god] being placed within an impure body and remain pure. Theists cannot account for their use of the incarnation as a means for the "perfect atoning sacrifice." Of course they can always fall back upon special pleading and the “God’s ways are mysterious” argument… can’t they?