My final word on Sye Ten Bruggencate’s Transcendental argument for the existence of God

Alex has recorded a one-on-one mini-podcast with Sye Ten Bruggencate, to give him a chance to reply to some of the things which were raised on the previous podcast, after the point in the conversation with Dustin Segers where Sye got himself kicked off air, for talking absolute incoherent nonsense — and wasn’t, therefore, able to reply to a few things he felt entitled to come back to. Can I get a ‘fair and balanced’? Hmm, thought not.

Listen here

A quick summary of how the conversation went should hopefully help a few other podcasters and bloggers out there, who have yet to encounter Sye, avoid a few of the carefully crafted pitfalls which are built into the particular kind of TAG apologetics he employs. In other words, don’t worry; he really is that transparent.

Sye: How do you avoid being viciously circular if you judge the reliability of your senses and your reasoning against your senses and your reasoning?

Alex: Because senses are an emergent property of physical phenomena. We have multiple, self-correcting means by which we independently adjudicate the difference between something which is imagined and something which is objectively real — which includes, but is by no means limited to, whether or not certain experiences and phenomena are described by other human beings in the same way we also happen to subjectively described those same phenomena.

Sye: How is that not viciously circular?

Alex: Because [as has been explained to Sye many MANY times already (not least being in the previous answer to which he did not actually listen)] the difference between something which is viciously circular and something which is objectively verifiable is as well defined as the difference between something which exists and something which does not exist.

Sye: How do you know your senses are not lying to you?

Alex: I don't. But if they are, then everyone else's senses are also lying to them in exactly the same way as mine are lying to me.

Sye: That's not what I'm saying [even though he is]. You're assuming that your senses are valid. How is that not viciously circular?

Repeat ad nausea.

Sye is no-doubt extremely sincere in his beliefs, and I celebrate his right to ask these questions in a free exchange of ideas despite that I completely disagree with his assumption that, merely because they require some degree of intellectual honesty, they must therefore represent the sort of “evidence for the existence of Yahweh and the non-existence of every other god” which Sye and others have repeatedly asserted they do.

Where I feel genuinely bad for Sye, is that he seems to legitimately believe this is the sort gap into which his particular version of the Yahweh myth fits so completely, that he is utterly incapable of realising how small the argument actually is. To him, it’s important; therefore it has to be important to everyone else — and if they don’t like it, that’s only because they don’t want to get it. To Sye, the TAG is giving voice to what everyone secretly knows to be true, but don’t want to admit to themselves or anyone else.

The supreme irony of this kind of apologetics, is that it correctly identifies the very game of semantics upon which it is itself based. Moreover, it is proof positive that you can dress up any half baked, pseudo-philosophical ideas in whatever outfit you like, and expect them to be taken seriously so long as you nod in the general direction of biblical scripture.

As far as it goes, what’s particularly neat about this approach, is that exactly the same thing could be said of some of the most important ideas in science — and since a scientific understanding of the universe is advocated by the vast majority of atheists, TAG apologetics rises and falls on the appearance of their being an element of guilt by association between scientific axioms and positive atheism.

But what Sye, Dustin, Eric, Rhology and their mentor William Lane Craig COMPLETELY FAIL TO UNDERSTAND about how deeply flawed this non-sequitur actually is, is that the scientific method is not about establishing absolutes. It is about establishing a framework of understanding, which has yet to be proven false. It does this within margins of error, and on the explicit understanding that in order to prove something false, certain well established criteria must be met.

So to use the analogy of the scientific method, as if it is also an analogy for the unreliability of our senses, is to completely fail to take into account that our inner knowing of the difference between right and wrong, is an emergent property of our evolutionary heritage, as opposed to being the result of supernatural intervention. And if that sounds like anything less than a proof, that the TAG is based upon false notions about where ethics in fact originate, one need only glance at the sorts of ideas TAG adherents also have about evolutionary biology, and hence how easily confused they are about the inherent value of scientific evidence.

And before any accusations of copping out start flying around, please note that with some degree of certainty I can say, that the only quote from this essay Sye and others will pay any real attention to, is the above paragraph in which, for purposes of brevity, I accepted that science makes assumptions based upon previous observations. The following paragraphs, which qualify this statement, however, stand an extremely low chance of surviving the cut and paste. This too is a tactic of Christian apologetics, on-line and elsewhere, which has become so familiar, one could almost be tempted to say it speaks more of their true desire to understand the flaws in their own argument, than could ever be said with mere words.

Moreover, note that no such criteria for establishing the falsity of the TAG have ever been defined. Indeed, in Sye’s own words, there would be no way for that criteria to be defined, even if TAG apologists wanted to do so, because, quote, “God will not be put on trial”.

By way of analogy, consider the following statement:

Cheese comes in many different shapes and sizes.
The moon is a sphere.
One of the shapes in which cheese is available, is spherical.
Therefore the moon is made of cheese.

You can describe why the logical validity of the above statement is false in myriad different ways. But what TAG apologists are doing – whether they like being reminded of it or not – is confusing the very tautology of their argument in favour of the statement, for proof that the statement is valid. The very size and weight which they themselves place upon their own argument, is mistaken for proof that their argument is true; when, in reality, it is multi-self-refuting.

You cannot explain the importance of reason, to someone who doesn’t understand the value of evidence. However, the best that can emerge from nevertheless trying to do so, is an even clearer picture of how utterly convinced fundamentalist Christians are, that their subjective opinion is one and the same as the will of a god only they believe exists in the first place.

So I am genuinely pleased to have been given a greater understanding of the TAG by the very people who espouse it, despite that those making the argument would have preferred it if I had arrived at exactly the opposite view of it, than I actually have.

Q.E.D., the modus operandi of TAG apologetics, is an appeal to the externalised ego of its individual adherents. When codified into a pseudoscientific set of self-corroborating, theologically based confirmation biases, which demonstrably fail to meet their own burden of proof, the TAG hence represents the very definition of the circular reasoning it falsly claims to have circumvented.

“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” – Matt 7:5