PZ Meyers and Sye Bruggencate video

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Below is a bit of my book "Believing Bullshit" that refers specifically to Sye Bruggencate's notorious argumentative strategy with which PZ Meyers (Pharyngula) has to cope above at 10 mins onwards... interesting follow up discussion on the video. This is not Myers's finest hour. Sye's approach is an example of one that scientist atheists such as Myers tend to struggle with. You really need some philosophical knowledge and skill to cope at all well with Sye (and even then he is an extremely slippery customer)....

Linked to with thanks to Myers's site here. [if you want to know what "Going Nuclear" is, go here.]

Beyond Going Nuclear

There is an interesting twist on Going Nuclear popular in certain religious circles – a twist that involves combining Going Nuclear with “I Just Know!” It runs as follows.

God, some theists maintain, has provided them direct and certain knowledge of his existence. So, they suppose, they don’t have to assume God exists. They know he does (see “I Just Know!”). And, armed with this certain knowledge that God exists, she can then justify her reliance on logic and her senses. The God she knows exists would not allow her to be deceived in her use of logic and her senses. But the atheist, she thinks, has no such justification. So the atheist remains mired in skepticism.

Such a theist might be tempted to respond to her atheist critics by saying, “Ah, you are attempting to using logic against me, but of course, unlike me, you are not entitled to are you?” In fact this is one of the main argumentative strategies of one well-known commenter on various religious and atheist blogs who, in response to any rational criticism of his extreme, Bible-literalist brand of theism, typically ignores it, saying something like this:

I submit, that your worldview cannot justify the universal, abstract, invariant, laws of logic, which YOU presuppose in all of YOUR arguments, whereas mine can, and does.

Notice that, though this theist is playing the skeptical card, he is not, strictly speaking, Going Nuclear. Going Nuclear involves bringing all positions down to the same level of rationality. The claim made here is that only the atheist ends up mired in skepticism. Our theist plays the skeptical card in order to undermine the arguments of his atheist critics. However, our theist (he supposes) achieves a literally miraculous escape from skepticism himself. With one bound he is free – saved by the grace of God, whom, he supposes, provides him infallible knowledge of God’s existence, knowledge that can then be used to justify his own reliance on logic.

This way of dealing with criticisms of theism also fails. Whether or not our theist is right to claim the atheist is mired in skepticism, he’s still obliged to deal with the atheist’s arguments and objections. Suppose an atheist appears to have provided what looks like a cogent argument that our theist’s God does not exist, or good evidence that our theist is deluded in supposing that he “just knows” his God exists. For the theist to ignore such arguments and say, “But you are using the principles of logic which you can’t justify whereas I can!” is pure evasion. Whether or not atheists can ultimately justify the principles of logic is entirely beside the point. If the atheist’s argument is cogent according to the principles of logic, then our theist’s beliefs are, by his own lights, refuted. So the onus is still on the theist to show that what he has been presented with isn’t a cogent argument. And of course, if the theist can’t do that, then he’s dumped back in the skeptical swamp himself.

P.S. For my parody "proof" that Sye has been hit on the head with a rock and his brain addled, go here.