Myself and Alex Botten just got done recording a podcast with Eric Hovind and Sye Ten Bruggencate — a name which might be familiar to some of you who remember the days when I posted here far more regularly than I do now.
Sye advocates a pseudo-elaborate argument which claims to demonstrates the existence of the Christian God, while (conveniently enough) disproving the existence of any other gods, which rises and falls on a strain of Presuppositional Apologetics known as TAG, or the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God.
Eric, despite being an extremely polite, courteous and even handed host, is a young earth creationist and a prominent figure in scientific fact denial circles, partly thanks to being the son of Kent Hovind, the self-styled creationist Dinosaur expert and founder of the Creation Science Evangelism ministry, who was jailed in 2007 for failing to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.
Sye did most of the talking and, as will be familiar to readers who followed his contributions here some time back, most of it was the same brand of circular reasoning we’ve heard a billion times before; which essentially revolves around an appeal to authority fallacy, in order to make a hypothetical question about the nature of logic itself sound like a more sophisticated question than it actually is.
As you might expect, pointing this fact out to him is merely “proof” that “all atheists” (all of them mind you) dodge the question of whether or not the Christian God might exist because secretly they know the answer is “Yes” and they don’t want to look bad in front of Richard Dawkins.
TAG poses a series of questions which are worded to sound simple, but which don’t have a Yes or No answer. It employs some extremely disingenuous phraseology and semantic slight of hand, so that explaining why the questioner can’t apply his own question to his own worldview without hitting upon the same problem, is seen as a dodging of the issue. The most obvious of TAG’s flaws arise when you give either a Yes or a No answer to the question, because regardless of whether you answer in the positive or the negative it allows the questioner to go to the next stage of their pre-rehearsed script.
Sye’s argument (as far as I can work out) is that because you can’t say for certain that something exists by experience and empiricism alone, therefore — and I’m not making this up — logic itself is based upon a presupposition that logic is logical and is just as much of a circular argument as saying the bible is true because it says so in the bible; or “You can’t account for my misunderstanding, therefore my argument is valid”.
By the way, did I mention that if you don’t believe this is the way in which the creator of the universe chooses to demonstrate his basic existence to people who already believe he exists, but not to those who don’t, you’re going to be tortured for eternity in a place you can only go to if an all loving God sends you there? It might seem a little harsh, I admit, but trust me it’s in the bible so it must be true.
To be fair, Sye and Eric sound like nice people. It’s a shame sometimes that the only point of contact we have with those who we disagree with is in conversation over the very things upon which we disagree, rather than the many things I’m sure we do agree upon. But that wouldn’t make a very interesting podcast.
I should also say, that the fact that they seem like such personable folks, makes it all the more disappointing that all the reasoning and rational argument in the world, isn’t going to save them from living the rest of their lives believing in things which aren’t true. I think at one point I made the observation that the universe is an incredibly beautiful place to be as it is, without having to get all greedy about it and demand there must be something more “out there”. I’m fairly sure it whooshed right over their heads. But, for me, it’s enough that I was given the space to say it. From tiny acorns do giant oak trees grow and you just never know when something you say to someone, which might seem like a small point at the time, might one day cause them to realise there’s more to life than lying to yourself about something, on the belief that if you wish hard enough it will eventually become true.