Presuppositionalism: Solving a Headache With A Lobotomy
Could the argument from incredulity get any more objectively silly? If you answered “No.” to this question, you and I need to talk.
See, you have been living in a world where theists are only marginally insane, you have not been introduced to the fruits of having to create a plasticine reality to justify a confused mythology, you have never heard of presuppositional apologetics, let’s call it presup., for short.
Don’t worry. I’m here to help. Get that pot of coffee brewing, take a load off. You are about to visit the fringes of sanity; if you come out the other side intact, then I’ve done what I set out to do. Presup remains a tricky argument to counter because it is packed with loaded questions, misplaced definitions, bait and switch, and technical jargon. It stands on your ignorance, and it falls on close inspection.
What the F#@% Are Presuppositionalists Even Talking About?
Yeah, I know. Some troll just came into a good thread conversation and dropped a steaming pile of nonsense on your lap. I bet it went something like this:
You: Can you believe some people believe the earth is only 6000 years old? SRSLY!
Your Friend: Dude! I so know what you’re talking about! YEC’s…..for the LOL’s, right?
S#!+ For Brains: Excuse me, my good fellows. How do you know the earth isn’t 6000 years old?
Y: OMFG! SRSLY? It’s called evidence, homey! Have you heard of it?
YF: Totally. Case closed. Sucks to be you! I know because the evidence says so.
SFB: No. You see, you don’t know. You don’t know anything. You cannot have knowledge of anything in your worldview. If you do, it is surely circular! In order for anything to make sense, you need to presuppose the existence of God. You are a theist and don’t know it!
Y: WTF. That s#!+ makes no sense. You are ridiculous.
YF: What the F#@% does that even mean? Of course I know S#!+, like, I so know you are a douchebag.
SFB: Ahh! Can you prove that you know anything?
This is where it starts. You just got served with a steaming pile of presup nonsense. This is the “knowledge” variation. There is also the “morality” variation, the “existence” variation, and the list goes on. First, I guess we should dispense with the definitions. In this post, I’m just using the first two. The third definition for Moral Presup will be the subject of it’s own post, though I have argued against it in the past.
Argument From Incredulity: The assertion that a premise is true or false based on insufficient knowledge, willful ignorance, or misunderstanding of probability.
An argument from incredulity was the good old standby of theologians for years. Eventually though, people started figuring out that we could use the tools of reason to answer those nagging questions in our universe. Below is a cursory list of incredulous assertions (theistic and otherwise), followed by their reasoned explanations:
- The earth is suspended on a firmament→ Yeah. Turns out the earth is held in space as a result of it’s gravitational relationship to the sun. Who knew?
- The moon is a source of light→ Again. Seems logical, but turns out it is just a giant reflector of the large gaseous sphere we call the sun
- Illness is caused by evil spirits→Really? People thought that? Yep. And unless you define “evil spirit” as being a microscopic organism, you are probably wrong.
- Humans sperm is a humunculus→ That’s right. Turns out your sperm is just a boring nucleus of chromosomes that require a diploid bond to take any real form. Sorry to burst your bubble. Thankfully, this allows us to sidestep the uncomfortable conversation with our girlfriends about whether sperm is the dietary equivalent of “Soylent Green”.
- Rainbows are God’s “shout out” to the LGBT community→No matter how cool that sounds (and I still want to believe it), turns out light refracts off of water molecules in the atmosphere. Science ruins all the fun.
So science seems to have ruined everything. Slowly and methodically, it seems that superstition gets squeezed out of the world we live in.
How does one manage to “win back” our world for hocus pocus, superstition, and anthropomorphic Godheads? Enter Presuppositionalism. This takes the old argument from incredulity:
We don’t know how this happens→.·. God
and changes it to this:
We can’t know how anything happens without God→.·. God
Bam! That will learn ya.
Presuppositionalism: God is the source of knowledge, reason, and logic. Claiming otherwise is circular reasoning, because you need to use logic and reason to verify logic and reason. There must therefor be something that transcends logic and reason. That something is……wait for it…….wait…for…it……GOD! Boo Ya. If we claim to know anything, we first must presuppose the existence of God. Whether we deny it or not.
The Moral Presup Argument: There can be no objective morality without something that makes things objectively good or objectively bad. Guess what that something is? No. Really, Guess….Without G-O-D, actions are just a matter of preference. If God doesn’t exist, people can’t say there is anything wrong with murdering people, or molesting children. If you don’t think child molestation is the bee’s knees, you instantly presuppose God.
Yeah, I know, that sounds absolutely retarded. And it is. But, and this is a big but, how do you show that it is, in point of fact, retarded? Well, let’s just rejoin your conversation from earlier…..
You: How do I prove I know anything? Well I use reason to test what I know against evidence.
S#!+ For Brains: How do you know that your reason is reasonable? If you test logic and reason with logic and reason, then you create a viscous circle. You need to account for reason in a non circular way, and that requires God.
Your Friend: That is Ten Drumsticks short of an Ice Cream Truck! WTF?
SFB: So you can’t account for reason then? Thanks for coming out, Jesus loves you, your going to Hell, and God Bless!
Holy mother of an imaginary zombie superhero! What just happened?
Well, I’ll tell you. Here is your logical chain:
- Humans possess logic and reason
- In order to prove this, we need to use logic and reason
- Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy
- Therefor we must presuppose something without logic or reason in order to account for logic or reason
- That something is God, and by God I mean the God of the Bible, YHWH, God of Abraham, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
So the presuppositional argument is that we cannot reason God’s existence, there is no rational proof for God; we must accept the entire premise on faith in order to avoid “circular reasoning”. They can’t explain why we must presuppose any God, or that God in particular, just that we have to presuppose something, and then they insist that there is only one possibility to presuppose.
You see, in order to reason which supposition we ought to presuppose in order to avoid our circular reasoning, we would also have to use logic and reason. So really, you can’t just assume a Christian God, because if you assumed Him, then you would have to deny that the Bible is evidence of God’s existence. If you claimed the bible is proof of His existence, you would have to use logic or reason, and that would be off limits- else you yourself commit the fallacy of circular reasoning. Essentially what I am saying is that Presuppositionalists commit circular reasoning every single day. They just think that by adding an extra step, that you won’t catch on.
The Parable of Presuppositional Logic
Imagine that a chair stands on the ground in front of you. Your legs are tired, you wish to rest. You go to sit down, when someone interjects:
“You can’t sit on that chair,” the man says, “it will surely fall to pieces under your weight!”
“It looks perfectly sturdy,” you say,”it appears to be made of oak, with four sturdy legs.“
“You think that now” says the man, “but I know chairs, and this one is no good. If you allow me, I will fix it so that you may sit.”
Then the man pulls out a cushion. He plopps it down on the chair. “There!” he says, “Now it is perfectly safe.“
“What are you talking about?“, you say, dumbfounded. “All you did was put a cushion on it. That makes it no more safe, or sturdy.“
“Maybe. Maybe not.“ says the man. “Yet if you really think about it, I surely made it more comfortable.“
Thus ends the parable of presupposition. Presup can’t change the nature of anything. It doesn’t add structure to anything. It just takes something that works perfectly well and makes your use of it less of a pain in the ass. You feel like you are sitting on a cloud, and so long as you don’t look down, you can keep imagining it was so.
Does The Cushion Make The Chair More Sturdy?
So where does this leave us? What did we learn today? Hopefully we all agree now that presuppositionalism is just bait and switch. It is adding a step for no good reason. You still disagree?
Tell me then. What is the difference between these two propositions:
- Humans have reason and logic
- Reason and logic are the culmination of activities in our brain as a means to interpret, interact, and express the reality in which we exist
- the source of reason and logic, then, is in our brain, but dependent on the input of reality
- If I wish to prove reason and logic, I must appeal to the source of reason and logic. This is circular reasoning, but not viciously circular.
- Humans have reason and logic
- The source of reason and logic is God, as is the source of reality.
- If I wish to prove reason and logic, I merely need to appeal to God.
- If God is the source of reason and logic, then I must appeal to the source of reason and logic to prove reason and logic.
- I also must appeal to reason and logic to prove that the source of reason and logic exists. Oh, and appeal to reason and logic to argue that the bible was authored by the source of reason and logic. This is not at all viciously circular, or begging the question.
So they have made the chair more comfortable by changing the definitions and assuming their premise by fiat. So long as you focus on the cushion and not the chair, you can keep believing you don’t need four legs and solid ground. The chair is more comfortable because it hides your need to examine what lies beneath.
Welcome to presuppositionalism.
To end this post, I will pull two quotes from the previous post that started this discussion. I think that Jason basically sums up this whole post in a single comment:
Dan The Atheist Debunker:You cannot use a term “suppose” three time only to conclude an “actual” afterwords. Your logic and critical thinking skills are certainly lacking. Please try again. Thanks for the smile though. I will cherish it.
Jason:“You cannot use a term “suppose” three time only to conclude an “actual” afterwords.”