Chris Bolt: Atheists are just like Christians!

Romans 8:6-8, King James Version (KJV)
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Which leads us to the clear conclusion that college professors are personifications of Death. Somehow I don’t find that entirely implausible.

Bahnsen Burner runs a great blog at Incinerating Presuppositionalism, where he debunks presuppositionalist apologetics and the stupid Christians who push it. In this entry, he addresses one Chris Bolt, who wrote a rant against the principle that

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.

I find this fascinating because this principle is so obvious and so straightforward that the idea of someone arguing against it seems strange at best. I mean, it is so obvious as to seem almost tautological (if there’s not enough evidence to believe something, then there’s just not enough evidence to believe in it!).

I am not going to address his whole entry, because Bahnsen Burner already did that very well. I did however want to dwell on a couple of points, because they seem so common. The first is the belief that epistemic propositions do not fulfill their own standard:

A self-refuting statement is a statement with a self-referential problem. A self-refuting statement not only refers to itself, but actually proves itself false! Remember Clifford’s claim that, “It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”Clifford’s claim can be labeled with a “C,” so that C = “It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” Now, why should anyone believe C? Or more to the point, what evidence is there for believing that C is true at all? The claim is certainly not self-evident, and it is difficult to imagine what sort of evidence might be offered in its favor. So according to the requirements of C, C must be rejected. And that is something like the aforementioned idea of a self-refuting statement. God has implanted beliefs in human beings that are not obtained in virtue of evidentialism.

This is Chris Bolt’s whole reasoning: he personally doesn’t see any evidence for C (presumably because it’s too “difficult to imagine,” and Bolt has a very meager imagination), therefore C is false. Well then, I officially declare the theory of relativity false because I personally see no evidence for it (GPS? I don’t need no stinkin’ GPS!). At another point in his entry he says:

The point is that the background, experiences, evidences, inclinations, and the like that a person brings to the evidence actually serve to affect how one views the evidence.

How ironic.

Obviously C is self-evident, because evidence is already defined as that which tends to prove or disprove something. That’s not the difficult part, and it’s hard to see why Bolt strains at gnats in this fashion. The difficult part of epistemology is to determine what counts as evidence, and as evidence for what.

But let’s use his argument against him. Did God implant the belief in us that God implanted beliefs in our brain? Because I sure don’t believe that. So why should I think Bolt’s alternative principle that “God implants beliefs in us” is true?

Bolt’s reply seems to be to present many different lines of evidence in his entry. This is self-contradictory, since he’s made it clear that he doesn’t believe in evidence. So now we are treated to the bizarre spectacle of a Christians who doesn’t believe in preponderance of evidence trying to convince us of this by presenting a preponderance of evidence. Is this another Christian “do what I say not what I do”?

Many Christians try to do the whole “you can’t trust your senses” or “you can’t trust epistemology” routing, not realizing that they are cutting their own head. They resent human reasoning because it doesn’t lead to God-belief as they wish it would, but without human reasoning they have nothing. Even if God somehow beamed thoughts into people’s heads, we would still need human reasoning to distinguish between God-beamed thoughts and subconscious thoughts, so that leads us nowhere.

This sort of reasoning-against-reasoning is just spite. Christians know they are losing ground constantly, and as they continue to lose ground, we should expect more of this self-defeating bitterness. The more popular an ideology is, the more we should expect it to be conformist and optimistic; the less popular an ideology is, the more we should expect its adherents to be radicalized and pessimistic. And Christians have always been radicals against what they perceive as being secular or contrary to their dogmatic values, although they are almost always very bad at it because Christianity has always historically been (and still is) the antithesis and bitter enemy of political radicalism.

Here is the other interesting passage:

Truth be known, there are all sorts of beliefs that the unbeliever accepts on his or her own and apart from evidence anyway. For example, most people accept that other minds exist, yet there is zero evidence that this is the case. The same is true with respect to the principle of the uniformity of nature, or the premise that things will tend to go on the way that they have in the past. Such beliefs are just taken for granted, and are assumed to be rational, but they do not admit of any evidence in favor of their acceptance. So the unbeliever is a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to demanding evidence for the existence of God. Knowing God is every bit as basic as knowing oneself.

This may explain why Bolt doesn’t like “evidence,” he simply doesn’t understand it. It’s the only way I can explain why he thinks there is “zero evidence” for other minds or the uniformity of nature. Obviously there is plenty of evidence for other minds. We know for a fact that other people were made like we were, have brains like ours, and we have the technology to detect the brain activity that accompanies mental activity. We can also clearly differentiate between bodies with minds and bodies without minds (remember Terri Schiavo?).

We also have plenty of evidence for the uniformity of nature. The most direct and obvious evidence for the uniformity of nature is that we are alive, as any change in any fundamental parameter of the universe (such as the speed of light, as many Creationists posit) changes all the others, and our bodies function on the basis of the laws discovered by chemistry and physics. So the fact that life was able to evolve and survive for almost four billion years is proof that the laws of nature are pretty damn stable.

Another powerful line of evidence for the uniformity of nature is the resounding success of scientific inquiry; if nature was not uniform, then we would have no laws to discover.

But the most important reason to believe in the uniformity of nature is not the evidence, but the fact that it is prior to evidence. In order to accept anything as true, no matter how trivial, we naturally assume that we can trust our senses and that we can trust the natural resources in which our senses operate such as photons and sound waves, that the operation of these things will not change and muddle our interpretations. To take away the uniformity of nature means to take away our confidence in our senses and in their input. But the only possible outcome of this is either madness or massive self-delusion.

The only alternative to the uniformity of nature is Christianity, with its cartoon universe where donkeys and snakes talk, where a human being can rocket into the sky, and where the Sun stops in its tracks at a moment’s notice.

The cartoon universe idea was first developed by Bahnsen Burner, and it’s very useful in describing the make-believe world that Christians inhabit. Only in cartoons can the laws of nature suspend themselves on a whim (the Sun stops so the Israelites can massacre their enemies, gravity doesn’t kick in until Wile E. Coyote realizes he’s walking on thin air, a person can live in the belly of a whale or corked up in a bottle). Only in cartoons can you see superheroes coming down to Earth to save entire populations against a terrible supervillain.

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