Guest contribution by Aron’s wife.
Last week, I had the unfortunate experience of watching yet another would be apologist rope well- meaning atheists including into attempting to unravel his twisted reasoning. Aron invited this young man, who was very much impressed with Eric Hovind and his ilk, to an online discussion basically hoping he could reason with him. The young man was coached into using a Presuppositional apologetic. I know… the discussion took a frustrating, predictable path for those of us who follow these sort of debates. Yet we still follow them in hopes of spotting that rare occasion when an indoctrinated person realizes they are wrong.
Still, I often wonder during these interventions why rational people often get entangled in this ponderous and tedious argument. It usually starts with a loaded question like asking how a person knows what truth is or how they know what they experience is real. What happens a lot of the times is a rationalist attempts to answer as truthfully as possible, that it is impossible to know for certain what is real. Then the apologist smugly chimes in pointing out they admitted to not knowing anything is real. Ironically, all loaded questions are worded in ways by the questioner that limit their opponents to answers that are presupposed by the questioner. Presuppositionalism is the ultimate loaded question!
The apologist’s answer is that the truth is revealed to them by God. Frustrated by the mental gymnastics of tortured reasoning, a lot of rationalists don’t notice that their opponent has side-stepped the burden of proof with dishonest, fallacious tactics. They have become entangled in the ponderous knot they were trying to unravel. Don’t believe me?
Here’s a quote from an article on the Answers in Genesis website titled “What Is’ Presuppositional’ Apologetics?”
When explaining their beliefs, Christians often feel they must first prove the Bible or prove the existence of God. This approach reveals that they do not yet understand the Bible’s approach, known as presuppositional apologetics.
Presuppositions are simply beliefs that everyone has that affect how they think, view the world, interpret evidence, and read the Bible. Apologetics is a reasoned defense of beliefs. So presuppositional apologetics is a reasoned defense of Christian beliefs based on recognizing our presuppositions.
So basically, they consider this a “reasoned defense” of a belief in God without the need to first prove their God’s existence. The irrationality on their parts is to be expected, but how often they escape the burden of proof in a debate this way is frustrating. This young man was no different.
Briefly after the discussion, I was able to Skype with him . I asked him if he was asserting that humans are incapable of reasoning without a divine revelation. Immediately, his handler piped in to answer for him. Aron pressed him to answer the question himself. I added to the question if it was impossible for me as a nonbeliever to reason that two plus two equals four. The discomfort was plain to see on his face as he haltingly answered that the universe has laws.
“Yes!”, I told him, ” evolution has laws too!” His handler quickly cut me off with, “Evolution is a lie!’
As an educator, I hate to see people turn their critical thinking off, and allow someone else to think for them. It’s not just this one young man, who is being duped. As PZ Myers reported, despite all the knowledge that has been amassed by scientists about evolution, the Louisiana government is giving serious consideration to curricula that claims among other things that evolution has been disproved. It is institutionalized ignorance, and a completely reprehensible neglect of the responsibility that comes with authority.
Anyways, back to the Gordian knot. If you remember your mythology, there was this huge knot that nobody could unravel. Alexander the Great rides into town, and looks at the knot. He then gets off his horse and slices right through the knot, and gives the gawking onlookers both ends of it. In the process he cemented his greatness as an out-of-the-box thinker with what was later called “The Alexandrian Solution”. I would like to see a hero great enough to slice through rather than attempt to laboriously untie the Gordian Knot of the Presuppositionalist Apologetic. Perhaps, I may just sit in on the next discussion with my husband and this young man to see if his Gordian knot is not too ponderous to slice through.