Last night on the Dogma Debate podcast, I had to endure another tedious round of verbal tennis with Sye Ten Bruggencate. His sole notoriety is that he actually endorses what has to be the least logical of all possible positions with regard to truth and knowledge. It is the fallacy of the circular argument routing back to the assumed conclusion: He is convinced that he is right because he assumes that he is right, and he refuses to admit that he could be wrong, because he says he’s right, simply because he says he is. Assume your conclusion -> Affirm your conviction -> repeat.
His many erroneous assumptions begin with the assertion that anyone who does not believe in God actually does believe in God, and that non-believers don’t just believe, we know.
Now I say that if you can’t show it, you don’t know it; regardless how strongly you might believe it. Pig-headed unreasonable obstinance does not imply a truthful position, and usually indicates the opposite. But Sye Ten seems to think that if you can’t disprove an unwarranted assertion, that is the same thing as proving it to be true. So that all of us who -for good reason- are unconvinced of God’s existence, are really convinced that he is there, and that we are all convinced by the least compelling evidence in existence. Bare in mind the most popular reason given by former Christians for why they became atheist is reading the Bible.
According to what Sye Ten said last night, whether we read the Bible or not, the Bible still forms the basis for all our knowledge claims; we merely deny God’s existence because we love our sin. Of course if we really believed in the Christian god and knew the associated mythos, we would know that that the only thing that he really damns anyone for is disbelief. So if you love sin, believe in God, and all your sins will be forgiven. It is only when we love truth that belief in God becomes a problem.
If truth is paramount, then it doesn’t matter how convinced you are; all that matters is whether you can prove that your conviction is justified, and how accurate you can show your conclusions to be. You can’t just make up shit and call it truth; there has to be a degree of accountability. That’s why scientists cannot make a positive claim that is not already implied by evidence. They can’t even say that something is ‘probably’ true unless they have the data indicating that probability. They can’t say that “anything is possible” either, because some things are impossible according to physical laws. So before we can even say whether something is possible we have to have a precedent or parallel to show how it is, or we would have to verify that a particular phenomenon actually happens anyway, regardless whether we can yet explain it. Gravity is a good example of this, because we still don’t know how it works.
Sye Ten disregards all of this, and every other element of relevant logic, claiming that all atheists secretly know that God exists. He labels his lies as truth on the assumed ‘authority’ of a man-made compilation of factless folklore which he thinks is the “word of God”, -although it clearly cannot be. Even if God exists, the Bible still could not be ‘his word’. There is just too much wrong with it.
Amusingly however, while many creationists worship the BIble *as* God, (being unable to distinguish doctrine from deity) Sye Ten admitted yesterday that he takes the Bible *over* God! He says that any revelation that comes directly from God can be ignored and dismissed, if it was not already in the Bible. So God himself could not reveal to Sye Ten any new thing that wasn’t already in the Bible 1800 years ago, because Sye Ten would dismiss God’s own voice as being “extra-Biblical”. If God wants to talk to Sye Ten Bruggencate, God had better limit his comments to citations from the Bible.
Sye Ten was unable to address the fact that [he says] the Bible was composed by revelation from a god that existed before the Bible, and that the Bible itself is ‘extra-Biblical’ in its own origin.
The question put to Sye Ten was this: Sir Isaac Newton, (arguably one of the most brilliant men who ever lived) was -embarrassingly enough- a deeply religious Christian and a creationist, even by the modern definition. Newton declared that he had been specially chosen by God to have a personal divine revelation leading to a greater understanding of the scriptures than that of any other man. Sye Ten claims much the same thing, albeit not quite so lofty, and without near as much credence. Both men said that their beliefs were revealed by God in such a way that they could each know it for certain. Of course there’s no way to show that, and thus no way either man can honestly claim to actually ‘know’ that, but that’s only part of the problem. The trouble is, these men disagree on a critical tenet of their shared religion.
Sir Isaac Newton said that Jesus is *not* the same person as God, and that this was revealed to him in divine revelation of scripture. Sye Ten believes that Jesus *is* God, and that this was revealed to him in divine revelation of scripture too. So the issue is, how could we determine which of these two men is correct, (assuming either one even could be). Sye Ten said he determines that the same way in which [he says] atheists do -according to scripture. He will not admit that we DON’T do that, nor can he admit that Newton DID. Newton uses the same book Sye Ten does -even though both men use the same scriptures to prove opposite points -which cannot both be true at the same time.
The real way to settle the disputes of two men arguing the contradictions of two mutually-exclusive conclusions is with evidence. In this case, since both conclusions are baseless assertions, the only evidence is the context of the man-made mythologies they’re based on, and which both men revere. It *could* come down to the fact that Newton was WAY smarter than Sye Ten is, but even if that were not the case, I have already seen scriptural citations to support Newton’s point, and that does seem to be the correct interpretation, showing that Sye Ten is wrong again -even according to his own source. But it still comes down to interpretation and the assertion of conviction -which are both frankly meaningless -as any deity worth his frankincense could tell you.
So how does Sye Ten determine which of them is right? By simply refusing to admit that he can be wrong. Like many apologists, Sye Ten’s belief is so unjustified, so indefensible that it requires an evocation of complete insanity to argue for it at all. He says that we can’t know who is right or wrong, because we can’t even know whether we ourselves are sane enough to make such judgements.
Sye Ten likes to say that rational people use their reason to justify their reasoning. He uses that phrase to pretend that we rely on circular arguments, and that this should indicate that we’re crazy. However he openly admits that his is a circular argument, and that it is bolstered by confirmation bias, prohibiting him from admitting that he could be crazy.
Obviously we don’t rely on our reasoning to justify our reasoning; Instead we rely on a consensus of independent observers analyzing measurable evidence and well-defined criteria, people who consistently demonstrate the ability to communicate rationally and evaluate objectively, things which Sye Ten refuses to do.
At a minimum, a ‘sane’ person is rational, meaning that he has reason, can reason, is amenable to reason, is reasonable, and can be reasoned with. None of this applies to Sye Ten Bruggencate. To the arm-chair psychiatrist relying only on the dictionary for diagnostic traits, Sye Ten is insane by [colloquial] definition.
Worse still, in an actual demonstration of their own insanity, these apologists would sooner assume that reality itself is wrong rather than admit that their assertions could be. For example, Sye Ten’s first attack is to challenge whether reality is reliably real. I confirmed that it must be, and that to imagine otherwise would reduce everything we do, think, or believe to foolish nonsense. So he concluded that I don’t know whether anything is real, or whether I myself am sane enough to acknowledge my own existence. He repeated this despite many corrections over the last couple years, but finally conceded this one error last night, though he would not also accept the implication.
Then (as if to prove his own insanity) he asked me, “how do you know the laws of physics won’t change five seconds from now?” That question can be effectively paraphrased to inquire how we can know that reality is really real, and will remain so. Again, the answer is that reality is real by definition, and that to imagine otherwise is foolish nonsense. But foolish nonsense is what presuppositional apologetics depends on, and foolish nonsense is what it is.