Reasonable Doubts About Overload Objections

http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2012/02/09/episode-97-presuppositional-apologetics-part-1

Keith says:

February 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Great podcast, guys.

One possible approach to presuppositionalism is to make your own, conflicting presupposition using your own invented God.

Imagine how taken aback a presuppositionalist would be in a debate if you said the following:

“I have a confession to make: I am not an atheist. I believe in the god Drusba*. And he inspired me to write down his only gospel. This gospel says that everyone knows deep down inside who Drusba is, and that no understanding of the world is possible without him. Drusba is the giver of logic and knowledge. Drusba also says that no other gods are real, including the Christian God.”

The only response available to the presuppositionalist would be to explain why his biblical gospels are more trustworthy than those of Drusba. But this would require him to abandon his presuppositionalist stance.


* “Absurd” spelled backwards.

Atheists are particularly bad at arguendo, proposing something for the sake of argument, or working with a hypothetical. Hence they falter in their attempts at making an overload objection in response to transcendental argumentation. So I would not be “taken aback” at all by the suggestion quoted above.

If the atheist actually converted from atheism to the gospel of Drusba in order to defend oneself then so much for atheism.

If the atheist actually lied about converting from atheism to the gospel of Drusba in order to defend oneself then so much for atheism.

What the atheist is trying to do above, albeit poorly, is to launch an overload objection against the presuppositionalist. If the atheist has to convert from atheism or lie about his atheism in order to defend his atheism then atheism has been defeated. But the atheist does not need to do either. Instead, he may produce a deliberately absurd notion of deity as a hypothetical defeater for the presuppositional argument. The atheist may remain an atheist, and even make his atheism known, without giving up the alleged counter argument quoted above.

Rather than taking the presuppositional argument head on, the atheist points out that if that argument was in fact successful, then it would prove too much. Namely, the transcendental argument can establish the existence of Drusba just as easily as it establishes the existence of the Christian God. And Drusba is a deliberately absurd, invented concept of deity. Hence there must be something wrong with the presuppositional argument, even if it is not readily apparent. But is this claim true?

If the claim in question is true then it is not clear why it is true. For one thing, there are many relevant differences between Drusba and the Christian God encapsulated by the short description of Drusba alone. For example, there is only one gospel of Drusba, whereas there are four Gospel accounts in Scripture, and the Gospel itself refers to the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All of these tenets of the latter system have been demonstrated throughout the centuries to be a crucial part of the Christian worldview properly understood. There is no Christianity without the resurrection of Christ, for example, and without Christianity, there is no intelligible experience. Efforts have been made elsewhere to explain why this is the case. Christianity has a history and thus is a well-developed system of thought, whereas the gospel of Drusba is obscure. There is only one author of the gospel of Drusba, but many authors of the Christian Gospels and Scripture. The gospel of Drusba claims that everyone knows deep inside who Drusba is, but this is not a part of the claim of the Gospel of Christ, nor is a book like Romans, where the universal knowledge of God is most explicitly described, counted as a “Gospel” in the Christian tradition. The list can go on. The point is that there are differences between Drusba and the Christian God, and they are differences which will radically affect all other claims of the two competing views in question, given their systematic nature.

Not only has Christianity been worked out as a theological and philosophical system, but apologists have worked to show how it is exactly that it provides, for example, the preconditions of intelligible experience. Not so when it comes to Drusba. We are merely given claims that Drusba accomplishes these few tasks, but no precise explanation of how it does so. Once the proponent of Drusba begins to work through answering the tough questions concerning how exactly Drusba accomplishes the feat set before it, the Drusba advocate will undoubtedly have to modify Drusba to be more and more like the Christian God. But a mirror-image will just be the same God by another name, and that will constitute a concession to the presuppositionalist. In any event, the atheist here has not given us anything remotely close to this deep of an explanation.

Of course, Drusba is stipulated as a counter in the form of an overload objection to the presuppositional argument for the Christian God. “Drusba” is even “absurd” spelled backward. That is, Drusba is knowingly invented, and Drusba is deliberately absurd. So Drusba can be rejected out of hand. Not so with respect to the Christian God, for whether or not the Christian God is absurd is one among many questions that are the very subject of debate. The atheist must be careful not to beg the question against the Christian here.

So far, so good, but how is the presuppositionalist to take a stronger shot at the Drusba advocate? First, it is not the case that the only response available to the presuppositionalist is to defend the Gospels as more trustworthy than the gospel of Drusba, but there is also nothing wrong with doing so. Presuppositionalists rely heavily upon evidences. They are in fact evidentialists. But they are not naïve evidentialists; they recognize the role that presuppositions play in the evaluation of evidence and argument, and they recognize that a lack of evidence is not the unbeliever’s problem. The evidence is abundant and plain. The unbeliever’s problem is the suppression of the truth due to sin. Hence the presuppositionalist is more evidential than the evidentialist. The gospel of Drusba does not have a leg to stand on in the debate over the reliability of its gospel, and refuting the story of Drusba through evidential considerations brings us right back to the atheist’s failure to account for things like logic, science, and morality that was already pointed out by the presuppositionalist.

Yet there is at least one much stronger objection to the Drusba counter. The atheist offers this overload objection from within the context of the atheist position. But the atheist still has not accounted for how he could even use the logic behind such an objection. The atheist is right back to where he began. He is in need of an account of such principles of intelligible experience as logic, science, and morality, and he has not provided one. Instead, he dodged the presuppositional challenge by offering a poorly thought out hypothetical counter to the Christian claims about God and His necessity for intelligible experience.

So the atheist must convert, lie, or account for intelligible experience from the position of atheism. Three dead ends await the atheist.

Finally, if Drusba really does provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, then either some sort of theism consisting of the alleged overlap between Drusba and the Christian God is necessary for intelligible experience or Drusba in particular is necessary for intelligible experience. Either way, atheism fails as a tenable position, either because it precludes the theistic elements involved in the mixed theism and Drusba, or because establishing the mixed theism or Drusba is establishing the one transcendentally necessary set of preconditions, thereby precluding atheism from fulfilling them.

Keith hasn’t gotten us anywhere.

6 thoughts on “Reasonable Doubts About Overload Objections

  1. I was looking forward to your comments on the podcast and I am disappointed.

    Now correct me if my understanding is askew but I am led to believe that the tenet “the impossibility of the contrary” is often used as part of your apologetic. Yet this is never demonstrated, only asserted. The point that Drusba is making, and that I make too, is that the apologetic can fail to either a real or to a hypothetical entity.

    The best response that you seem to have is that the truth of God is revealed in the Bible. However, that has the same problems that anyone asserting a real or hypothetical scripture of their own – evidence.

    Now if you going to assert that evaluating that evidence depends on the ‘grounding’ provided by your entity and I make the same claim for my entity then we will end up simply gainsaying each other. Noone wins. It’s a transcendental stalemate. It is one of the more intractable problems with supernaturalism.

    With regards to asserting that an atheist cannot use this as a line of argument because they are an atheist – it is fallacious. If we only ever argues positions that we actually held then discourse would be restricted to a large degree. It is the ability to argue a position that we do not hold (such as when I defend Christianity – which happens occasionally) that allows us to explore views and arguments that we might not otherwise do. Furthermore the tactic does have the feel of being a psychological move, an assertion of a thought-crime, and I think that you need to be aware of the damage done when you continue to employ it.

    That all said I would be interested in your views of the thread between Darrin and Sye at http://skepticalstudies.blogspot.com/2009/02/tag-refutation-and-account-for-laws-of.html

    I’ll listen to your podcast and maybe either you can be a guest on ours or I could be a guest on yours.

    Our latest one is at http://www.skepticule.co.uk/2012/02/skepextra-020-20120129.html

    All the best.

  2. Hey Paul,

    They did not let my comment out of moderation on the Reasonable Doubts blog, but I posted it on Choosing Hats in one of the links I gave you. My comments on the podcast are found there and in my podcast (where I rant a bit).

    A hypothetical can be used in attempting to refute the impossibility of the contrary claim. You are right about that. There need not be an actual worldview in play; only a possible one. Rather than a response to the impossibility of the contrary, I took Drusba to be an overload objection. You may be familiar with Guanilo’s perfect island response to Anselm’s ontological argument. The idea is to show that the argument just as easily proves the existence of some absurd concept like Drusba, and thus fails in that regard, whether other problems are pointed out or not.

    As far as I remember I did not merely respond by saying that the truth of God is revealed in the Bible. I don’t even think I mentioned the Bible, except where I was contrasting the two systems in question.

    One of my main concerns in the post was pointing out why an overload objection simply is not a move that the atheist can make with respect to TAG. It will involve the atheist converting, lying, or offering a counter argument upon the basis of atheism. But each of these options is problematic, and none of them addresses the brunt of the attack on atheism itself. That’s all. Of course the atheist can posit a hypothetical for the sake of argument. That’s just good philosophy. But my point here was that it does not really help the atheist out in terms of his or her own position. There are other difficulties as well that I alluded to in my post.

    I will try to look at the thread you linked me to. No promises on when I’ll get to it.
    Also, thanks for the invite. It would be better if I come onto your podcast, as my equipment is not exactly up to the task of having people on. I should say that right now I feel as though I am writing a lot of checks that I cannot cash in terms of what I want to do on the site. My schedule has become rather busy. But I would thoroughly enjoy being a guest with you guys, and I will remain civil, unlike how I might come across on my podcast when I am alone. Gotta keep people interested ya know.

    My podcast should be available on iTunes, but I do not mess with that end of it, so I’m afraid I can’t help you. If I see one of the administrators I will ask about it.

    Let me know about Skepticule and I will see what I can do with my schedule.

  3. Hi Chris – thanks for your response.

    “It will involve the atheist converting, lying, or offering a counter argument upon the basis of atheism. ”

    I’m not convinced that that is a fair reflection of the reason why the tactic is used. Nonetheless maybe it’s something we can discuss later.

    All the best.

  4. Hey Chris,

    I appreciate your response to our recent episode on Presuppositionalism and will include your main corrections in the next episode. I have no interest in misrepresenting your position and I hope my clarification/corrections in the next episode will help to demonstrate that.

    Regarding the comment, I sent an email to the other host who maintains the blog because I was sure we didn’t have any comment monitoring set up. He confirmed my suspicion and informed me that this automatic delay happens once in a while when people’s comments include several links. This posting delay has happened on our blog with a few folks before? Anyway, your comment is now displayed as number comment number 46.

    I won’t be responding to the 6-part review of the Sye debate because I don’t plan on using the majority of criticisms in response To presuppositionalists. I’d likely agree with your criticisms anyway.

    Thanks again,
    Justin

    • Thanks Justin.

      No worries at all concerning my comment over at your site. I am careful to note that sort of thing because I have had people try to use it to their advantage, but I did not suspect that you guys were doing anything dirty. For that matter, it’s your site, so you can do what you want.

      Looking forward to the rest of the podcast as well as the next one.

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