Empiricism: Only Valid & Objective Knowledge? Two Atheists “Reply”

Empiricism: Only Valid & Objective Knowledge? Two Atheists “Reply” May 9, 2018

“ButILikeCaves” was hyper-insulting and asserted that all Christians are fundamentally dishonest. He was banned as a result, but before he was escorted to the door, he refused to defend his basic axioms. Here is that discussion, with his childish insults omitted, as much as possible, with his words in blue:

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Mythology is cool, and fun to study, and can have some good lessons. You should never let it rule your life.

I (like Tolkien and C. S. Lewis) contend that there is such a thing as a “true mythology.”

Physical Evidence: bring it to me. I’ll wait.

Why do you think that evidence is confined to empirical, physical evidence? From whence did you adopt that presupposition?

From reality. And from the fact all other religious types of differing faiths think all the other faiths are wrong. I happen to agree with all of them: they are all wrong. Now I will cut and paste: “Physical Evidence: bring it to me. I’ll wait.”

That’s not an argument. Put up or shut up. Where does this notion come from that the only evidence is physical?

I asked first: you put up or shut up. Ball’s already in your court.

(Normally, this is where I say “I’ll wait”. But you and I both know you will never deliver: thus far no one ever has).

So, I’ll twist the argument around: Where does this notion come from that any real evidence is supernatural? “It can’t empirically proven, therefore (insert deity here) did it” is no greater an argument, and has the disadvantage of completely lacking physical evidence to back it up.

You refuse to answer. What else is new? This is what almost all atheists do when asked hard questions about their axioms (that we all have; it’s only a question of whether we acknowledge them or not).

You asked me about “physical evidence”. Like Socrates would do, I questioned your unexamined premise, and wondered where you got this odd idea from that evidence is confined to physicality (empiricism). And you refuse to answer.

My answer is in my 2000+ online posts and 49 apologetics books (including very extensive web pages on atheism and science and philosophy). It’s a long, complicated answer, but you have already said that you don’t like “long” and have mocked me for supposed long answers above. You want simple slogans and sound bites. That shows me that you will gain nothing from me.

You had your chance to show that you had some rational basis for your asserted premise, and you refused and punted.

Not interested in playing those games . . . Life’s too short.

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“Vfilipch” then chimed in (words in green):

Because there are no others known to be objective.

I didn’t ask you, but since you replied:

1. Why should I believe the statement you just made, since it is not empirical evidence; therefore, by the criterion you just expressed, not objective (merely subjective), and thus, can be summarily dismissed as irrelevant to anyone else but yourself?

2. On what (not immediately logically self-defeating) basis can you assert that only empirical evidence is “objective”?

Do you really wanna go down this road? But at least you have the guts to give it a shot, unlike “Caves” above. I do admire that.

1. I stated: “there are no known ways to obtain objective knowledge other than empirical”. You should either address this point or don’t reply at all.. I don’t really care if you believe me or not. My credibility is not going to be a subject of the discussion because it is boring.

2. It is objective because it delivers the same results for everyone, and results do not depend on anyone’s prior believes [sic].

I addressed the point by denying the premise and asking:

“1. Why should I believe the statement you just made, since it is not empirical evidence; therefore, by the criterion you just expressed, not objective (merely subjective), and thus, can be summarily dismissed as irrelevant to anyone else but yourself?

“2. On what (not immediately logically self-defeating) basis can you assert that only empirical evidence is “objective”?”

Until you demonstrate why I should believe your premise, the discussion is stalled. I can’t skip over what to me is a crucial point of the whole discussion.

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My friend, Jon Curry (also atheist) wrote a lengthy critique of my argumentation above, which can be read online at my Facebook page. Here are some of my replies to him:

They were indeed saying it is the only evidence worth bothering with, or at least the only compelling evidence for religion or religious truth claims. And this is proven by their words.

Thus, when I challenged him, he proved that this was his thinking:

Me: Why do you think that evidence is confined to empirical, physical evidence? . . .

“ButILikeCaves”: From reality. And from the fact . . . 

I don’t see any denial there. Why do you?

It was the same with “Vfilipch”. He answered my same question by saying, “Because there are no others known to be objective.” He didn’t deny that it was his only criterion of truthfulness. These guys were trapped by the incoherence and self-defeating nature of their own positions: not by some nefarious apologetics plot or “trap.” And their refusal to answer betrays that this is the case. I merely pointed it out (sorry!). It’s the error of logical positivism or scientism. We’re all illogical or insufficiently educated in a certain area at one time or another.

I said not one word about supernaturalism. That’s another discussion altogether. I am challenging the philosophically naive and hyper-absurd common atheist notions of positivism and the empirical-only mindset.

Lots of fields of knowledge are not empirical; for example, mathematics, without which there could be no modern science. Logic itself is also non-empirical. The very starting assumptions of science are non-empirical, as many philosophers of science have pointed out.

We have nothing against empiricism. Modern science began in a thoroughly Christian culture. Thomas Aquinas reasoned in mostly empiricist terms (emphasizing sensory information). What we object to is an empiricist-only epistemology (scientism / extreme positivism). These guys believed in that, as shown in their responses.

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See the related papers:

God, Empiricism, & Atheist Demands for “Evidence”

Vigorous Critique of Irrational, Incoherent, Excessive, Arbitrary, & Relentless Atheist Demands for “Empirical” Proofs of God’s Existence

Must Christianity be Empirically Falsifiable in Order to be Rationally Held?: Positivist Myths and Fallacies Debunked by Philosophers and Mathematicians

Non-Empirical “Basic” Warrant for Theism & Christianity

Atheist Double-Standard Demands for (Empirical-Only) “Evidence”

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(originally 7-18-17 on Facebook)

Photo credit: Random mathematical formulæ illustrating the field of pure mathematics [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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