Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Rhology: A New Beginning

Well, I have gone back on my own words, returning to a never-ending spiral of a debate with Rhology. Below, find my most recent rebuttal. For clarity’s sake, note the distinctive format: After a short introductory paragraph, there will be a quoted snippet from one of my previous responses, followed by Rhology’s reply to it, followed by my rebuttal to his reply. Enjoy!—Ed.

Rhology, I have perused your most recent posting and, to me, it seems like just another flawed pseudo-philosophical argument for the existence of god. It has been hashed out and rehashed on the internet for years. I do not intend to respond to some guy’s opening statement; I hope you noticed I never directed you to respond to anybody but me. Therefore, the following reply has been written from the perspective that you still have not presented evidence for your presuppositions (because another person’s opening statement in a debate does not constitute substantiation for your specific stance). I want explanations in your own words.

“I think your most recent posting is unhelpful”

This is entirely due to the question-begging way in which you responded to me. If I ask you a question and then you beg it twice, and then I point that out twice, the direction of blame is clear.

You asked that I provide evidence that could substantiate the value of evidence. I did precisely that. My first principle, as I repeatedly have said, can be summarized as “The road to truth is paved with evidence.” That is, in order for human primates to happen upon truth (or its close approximation), the most reliable route is that of evidence (or, alternately phrased, “the relevant facts”). My first principle only would be self-defeating if it, itself, could not be substantiated through evidence. After all, presumably, a first principle is judged true by its holder, and I have said humans reliably discover truth through evidence. That is why, in my post entitled, “Refuting Rhology: A Defense of Rationality and Reason,” I used evidence to substantiate evidence. Indeed, this exercise comprised a great deal of that lengthy post. You have refused to consider my evidences.

“only serves to obscure the issues upon which we have hit.”

I disagree 100%. The questions I've asked are easy for a theist and impossible for you. Which is what I wanted to make clear.

Perhaps your questions are “easy” for the theist because they are designed presupposing the theistic worldview. For example, you asked me something along the lines of, “In an atheistic universe, what functions as the grounds for communication, reasoning and logic?” This question is fallacious because it presupposes that communication, reasoning and logic require “grounds” and presupposes that your god character represents sufficient grounds. Now, I know I am much more verbose than you are, but could you not devote a few paragraphs to explaining explicitly why those things require “grounds” and why your deity fulfills that requirement? It seems, when dealing with your own truth-claims, you too often fall into two-sentence sound bites of questionable worth.

“you repeatedly pluck single sentences from my composition and then demand they be justified or explained.”

And would it kill you to go ahead and justify/explain them?

Why even talk to me anymore? Oh wait, you're not. ;-)

I do not write in sound bites; I write in paragraphs. Generally speaking, my paragraphs are coherently organized and thematically unified. Plucking a single sentence is tantamount to handicapping my argument from the start. In the future, I would strongly encourage you to deal with my comments as they were written—a stringed together chain of thoughts connected by a central theme or argument. Sometimes, debating with you reminds me of film advertisements in the newspaper, where a critic is quoted as saying, “Fun.” Issues of this magnitude transcend single sentences, and I encourage you to recognize that.

“The problem, of course, is that you intentionally do not quote the very justification and explanation I already have provided in the composition to which you are ostensibly responding.”

1) Then point that out and make it obvious to me and the readers. Make me look like a fool.

2) All justification and explanation you have made are question-begging. In light of your accusations that I do so, I'm pointing out your inconsistencies.

Here is an extended quotation from my composition entitled “Refuting Rhology: A Defense of Rationality and Reason”:

“With that clarification in mind, I shall use evidence to prove that evidence is the single most reliable method by which fallible humans can discover larger truths. Let us consider the American criminal justice system as an example. Say a football star is charged with inflicting brutal, sadistic torture on innocent canines. The only reliable way to decide whether this football star is guilty or innocent is to examine the evidence in the case. Certainly, the jury arbitrarily could declare the person guilty or innocent based upon rhetorical flourishes and prosecutorial aggressiveness (or some other basis unrelated to evidence), but we surely would have many innocents rotting in jail and equally many thugs roaming the streets. ‘The truth’ exists apart from the examination, and presence, of evidence. However, for the best chance of finding that truth, evidence is the road on which one must travel. The reason? ‘Evidence’ is just another way of saying ‘the relevant facts’ as they pertain to a larger truth-claim, incident, phenomenon, event, etc.

“Quickly, let us consider another example. Say you (god forbid) have a relative who is gravely sick with cancer. Numerous types of treatment are available to be tried, but they must be done exclusively, rather than in combination. I have a feeling that, in this hypothetical instance, you would gladly accept that evidence (the relevant facts) is a damn good guide to reaching the larger truth about which method of treatment would have the best odds of saving your beloved relative’s life.

“Every day, we all operate according to evidence—that is, according to the relevant facts. We carry an umbrella when we see storm clouds or hear a negative weather report. We go to the doctor when we feel a strange, unfamiliar lump on our body. We call the police when we see a swarthy miscreant looming outside our house in the dead of night.

“Once again, to be obnoxiously repetitive and abundantly clear, ‘evidence’ is nothing more than ‘the relevant facts’ as they pertain to a larger, more complex truth. Through the collection and examination of the relevant facts, fallible humans grant themselves the best opportunity to capture truth—as imperfectly as we do so.”

In any event, I still agree with blacksun that this whole exercise is absurd. It is insanity to question the importance of relevant facts (evidence) as they pertain to a larger, more complex truth. Essentially every discovery humankind has achieved has been the result of gathering facts, analyzing those facts, comparing them to other facts and then reaching conclusions approximating larger truths. If anything is self-evident, it is the value of evidence.

“So, most of the answers to your questions can be easily found by reading my previous response.”

Well, they're "answers" in the sense that they are words on a page found directly after a point I made.

This, along with single-sentence plucking, illustrates the “intellectual bad will” on your part that provoked me to terminate debate. You asked for evidence of evidence’s validity; I provided it. I supported my first principle (“The road to truth is paved with evidence.”) by employing that very principle. And, luckily for me, the value of evidence is self-evident to everybody who is not already blinded by bias.

“Another problem with your most recent round of questions is that it presupposes your own worldview”

Precisely. Interestingly, insofar that you assume that communication, reason, and logic are in force in talking to me, you presuppose my worldview as well. You just won't admit it.

I refuse, however, to take on a worldview like yours, which is irrational and cannot even account for the questioning I'm engaging in, in a discussion. As you said, absurdity in, absurdity out. I want to presuppose a worldview that actually makes sense.

Once again, in your haste to be concise and respond quickly, you leave out all substantiation with respect to your truth-claims. Please explain, in your own words, the relationship between Christianity, on one hand, and communication, reason and logic on the other. Additionally, please explain, in your own words, why a universe lacking your god character necessarily also would lack communication, reason and logic. The connection is completely unclear and I am incapable of refuting what you staunchly refuse actually to explain.

Consider, for example, the statement “X cannot simultaneously be not-X.” This is a statement of logic, and a true one. Explain why, in a godless universe, a person could not comprehend that logical statement. I fail to see your connection. Additionally, explain why, in a godless universe, primates would be unable to string syllables together to pass along messages (the art of communication). Again, the connection is visible only to you, and your coyness with respect to your reasoning makes me feel as though you have spectacularly weak substantiation, if any.

“Go back to my 3636-word, three-part response a couple rounds back. Of all Rhology’s truth-claims that I called into question, which has he substantiated?”

1) All that is intentional. I wanted evidence that evidence is trustworthy 1st. Which you didn't provide. Why should I continue on a futile quest?

2) You keep trumpeting how long your post was. Do you want a gold star for the "Most Words Typed" category?

As I have already articulated, it is insanity to question the value of relevant facts (evidence) as they pertain to a larger, more complex truth. Every day, you utilize the relevant facts in making decisions. That is, every day, you utilize evidence. You cannot pervasively utilize evidence whilst simultaneously decrying evidence. I shall take any further questioning of the value of evidence as a sign of intellectual dishonesty. Please, Rhology … we need to break free from absurdity.

“OK, then explain what you mean by ‘grounds’ and explain why those things demand such a foundation.”

"Grounds" = a justification for the foundation of the thing in question.

I can trust evidence, logic, reason, induction, and communication b/c they reflect the character and attributes of a Creator God. W/o Him, they seem to me to be impossible. I'm asking you to justify them. I want you to explain your faith in empiricism.

How things “seem to you to be” is profoundly irrelevant. In your own words, explain why, in a godless universe, evidence, logic, reason, induction and communication would be either nonfunctional or nonexistent.

  • Explain why, in a godless universe, smoke pouring out an apartment window would not be evidence of fire.
  • Explain why, in a godless universe, a primate grasping his throat whilst turning blue would not be evidence of choking.
  • Explain why, in a godless universe, a primate could not figure out X cannot simultaneously be not-X.
  • Explain why, in a godless universe, a community of primates could not invent a language of guttural yelps to pass along messages.
  • Explain why all these things would disappear or become nonfunctional were god divorced from the cosmic equation.

Once again, your reasoning here is invisible to all but you. I have no idea of your argument’s basis and, thus, you have immunized it to the disproof I would readily offer.

“Explain why your god character represents sufficient ‘grounds’ while competing god characters (Vishnu, Enlil, Brahman, Ammon-Ra, Zeus) represent insufficient ‘grounds’.”

Sure. See how easy it is? Why couldn't you do the same?

1) None of those named are solely God; ie, there are other gods.

2) Several (maybe all) of them have not eternally been God.

3) None of them claim to be the grounds. Why should I think they are if they don't claim to be?

4) All of them exhibit characteristics of having been devised by human imagination. i.e., they are presented as being able to die in their own essence, have sex w/ humans, are gratuitously cruel, etc.

OK, I have an announcement to make. Last night, as I was half-asleep in my bed, I experienced a brush with the divine! God condescended Itself to me! The only thing is, this God was Hargazorn. Here is some information about Hargazorn, provided straight from the deity Itself:

1. It is solely God.

2. It has eternally been God.

3. It claims to be the grounds of evidence, logic, reason, induction and communication.

4. It is wholly unlike humans. For example, it cannot die in its own essence, cannot have sex with humans, is not gratuitously cruel, etc.

Why is your god character better “grounds” than the God who condescended Itself to me last night?

“What is more, you continue to presuppose the Bible is a perfect vessel of truth, which is another woefully unsupported truth-claim.”

Said he who can't provide any justification for using the phrase "unsupported truth-claim".

If you have not utilized relevant facts (evidence) to substantiate a given truth-claim, it generally stands as an unsupported truth-claim. You believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of god. That is fine; please substantiate this belief. If you cannot substantiate it, then you are wasting people’s time.

“Presenting the case against ‘unlimited attributes,’ which I convincingly argued represent an absurd contradiction of terms.”

1) Said he who can't provide any justification for using the phrase "absurd" or "contradiction".

2) "Infinite" is an attribute as well. Not limitable. Just give it up - human language is indeed inadequate for the task in all its enormity, but it is sufficiently useful in many ways to describe.

1. You have failed to demonstrate the necessity of the “justification” you request. You said something about logic, induction, communication, etc. “seeming to you” to be impossible in a universe lacking god. Answer my related questions, and I shall attempt to offer the “justification” you request.

2. You have alleged god is possessed of “infinite power” and “infinite knowledge.” To say either of those is to utter an absurdity. As already stated multiple times, those attributes are as absurd as saying a creature is possessed of “infinite weight,” “infinite height,” “infinite hairiness” or “infinite muscularity.” Attributes imply limitation; divorcing limitation from attributes is also to divorce meaningfulness from them. If you want to give god attributes, you necessarily must limit him.

“Getting you to admit (sans prodding, no less!) that god and the supernatural are beyond the bounds of knowledge (and, thus, nobody can offer any descriptor in relation to the deity or its native realm).”

Quite a non sequitur there. Just b/c God in His entirety is beyond the bounds of human knowledge does not mean that He remains totally incomprehensible given His condescension to reveal Himself to humanity. I've mentioned that quite a few times in our discussion; I don't know why you don't take it into acct. Trying to score cheap debate points?

You have failed to substantiate your claim that your god character condescended to reveal himself to humanity. Until you substantiate this point, you cannot build upon it; as any architect would tell you, one cannot build upon an illusory foundation.

“When human language is wrenched from the natural world and shoved into a supernatural one ceases to be meaningful because it ceases to be in its context.”

1) In your worldview, it's not even necessarily meaningful to describe natural or human attributes.

2) Once again you ignore the fact that God has revealed Himself.

Human language is meaningful in its context, that context being the natural world. Although a word has not been invented to describe every natural phenomenon, every such phenomenon could be potentially described with words. The only absurdity would be to shove natural language (language created by natural creatures) into a supernatural realm; such would be obliterating language’s context, thereby making it meaningless. And, for the fifty-eighth time, you have failed to substantiate your belief that god has revealed himself. If you wish to make progress, I implore you to offer convincing substantiation.

“no matter how many times you are asked, you refuse to provide evidence to substantiate your presuppositions.”

If evidence is not trustworthy (which I've been asking you to assure me of), then what would be the point?

You, personally, reveal evidence’s trustworthiness by utilizing relevant facts (evidence) every day in all areas of your life. One cannot utilize evidence pervasively and simultaneously decry the very evidence one utilizes. Such would be flagrant irrationalism.

“You cannot tear apart atheism’s worldview because atheism, in itself, presents no worldview to tear apart.”

That is manifestly untrue - it's why I kept noting the positive assertions you made. If you won't step up to the plate of your positive assertions, this is pointless.

You must distinguish The Jolly Nihilist, the human being, from atheism, the philosophical position indicating a lack of theistic belief. Your fevered attempts to tear apart my worldview have nothing at all to do with defeating atheism. Try as I might, I cannot excise my prejudices and views from my writings. Therefore, at best, you are attempting to slay my prejudices and views. The only way to defeat atheism—the philosophical position indicating a lack of theistic belief—would be to substantiate theism. Where theism remains unsubstantiated, atheism wins by default. Atheism is a wholly negative stance, proffering neither a positive foundation nor essential principles. You are attempting to slay a phantom, friend.

“Here is a systematic breakdown of an experiment that would transform me into a Christian:”

"If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.".

I don't believe this for one instant. You and they all know God exists; if this occurred, you'd just find some other explanation for it or slough it off into the "ok, well, that gives me some food for thought" category. But it wouldn't do anythg to incite you to believe in the God of the Bible. You are dead in sin and blind to goodness. Repent of your sin and ask God to forgive you, to help you believe. Those are the steps if you are interested in the truth.

Prithee, spare me the prideful, condescending, obnoxious preaching. I do not engage with Christians in order that they can preach at me. Put yourself into my shoes for a moment, and imagine an Islamic cleric blathering mindlessly about how "dead in sin" you are. Imagine that the cleric avers, "Abandon your false messiah and embrace Allah as revealed by the Prophet Mohammed, or else be damned to an eternity of agonizing torment!" Would you consider this cleric to be prideful? Obnoxious? Deluded? Dangerous?

Let us keep this objective, neutral and rational.

That said, I beg to differ with your conclusion. If the experiment were to be carried out systematically, with no compromises, and the result was positive, I surely would become a Christian. If you read the experimental protocol carefully, I built several safeguards into it to ensure scientific integrity. If the experiment were completed successfully, Dr. Carl Sagan’s handy “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” standard and Hume’s maxim would be fulfilled by your faith. As things stand, you have barely mustered weak evidence, let alone extraordinary evidence.

Now, more than ever before, I remain supremely unconvinced. Ah, the joy of heathendom!




Blogger John Morales said...

How Rhology perceives things.

Note I cannot hyperlink in the comments in his blog, as href tags not supported - this is informative.

11:17 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Hey again, John

Thanks for the link. Your interaction with Rhology was great fun to read.

One question, though. What did you mean by
"3. I’m glad we agree on what you said: his worldview is irrational"?

Where do I betray irrationality?


12:34 AM EDT  
Blogger John Morales said...

Apologies, I was unclear, and what I said might be interpreted to your detriment.

It should read "I’m glad we agree on what you said (that is, what your contention of his position is): his worldview is irrational?"*

I am attempting to engage him as well, and have no problem with you doing likewise.

This is all public, and I shan't attempt to entangle the two threads.

Furthermore, I have consciously chosen to let you speak for yourself; it should be clear to all that your claims are yours.

Have fun.

*verbose as I end up being, I still attempt terseness. Sometimes I cross the line into ambiguity.

12:48 AM EDT  
Blogger John Morales said...

PS. I am of the opinion that a discerning reader will note the relatively casual way with which I interact with you, and its concurrent higher density of information exchange, and the (ahem) more formal approach which Rhology's approach necessitates for such as I, which requires extensive error-correction failsafes.

I place you in that subset of readers.

1:06 AM EDT  
Blogger MothandRust said...


9:31 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...


I understand the diff in manner between the way you interact w/ JN and me. It makes sense, should be obvious to anyone.


Oh, I'm glad you're not too tired of talking to me. :-) I'll be responding to you soon. It'll be fun. Or "fun", depending.

Peace (or "peace"),

11:09 AM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

Jolly, there's a reason why my blog is titled "Exercise in Futility"!

What people like him just don't seem to get is that most of us atheists ONCE WERE BELIEVERS!

I was raised to believe in the Catholic Church, and I took it on faith that the Bible was the word of god. When I became more religious during my high school years, I operated under the assumption that it was. It never even occurred to me to scrutinize the Bible and ask "Could this really have happened like it says it did?" And like your debating nemesis here, I used to badger my friends that they needed to believe in order to be saved, which caused them some annoyance.

It was when I started going to college that it occurred to me to look at the Bible critically, and once I did, that is when I realized that the evidence did not support the claim that the Bible was inerrantly true.

Yeah, it was a bit of a letdown as the truth started to sink in, but I learned to accept it.

As has been pointed out by Victor Stenger and others, the universe and our world operate just as we would expect them to in the absence of a creator. Extreme weather phenomena, earthquakes, cancer, diseases, landslides, and other catastrophes and medical illnesses affect the virtuous as they do the wicked. When 20% of the children born in Zambia die from malaria before they reach the age of 5, I interpret it as evidence that we live in a world that is at best indifferent to us and at worse hostile rather than as evidence for a supreme being that is either benevolent or malevolent.

12:48 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Rhology's presentation of “The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God” suffers from the same weaknesses as Van Til and Bahnsen's presentations. I have vanishingly little confidence that Rhology can salvage this flimsy, fallacious argument.

Rhology argues that the Christian god is a necessary foundation for logic, reasoning, induction, morality, communication, et al. However, even in articulating such an argument, he is making unwarranted presuppositions. Specifically, he is presupposing things about god, his history and his nature. In his most recent response to me, he argued his god character (Yahweh) represents adequate “grounds," while other god characters do not, because his deity

• is solely god,
• has always been god,
• and is dissimilar to humankind.

However, Rhology has failed to prove any of those presuppositions about god, his history and his nature. Indeed, I am curious as to the method by which he ascertained information about god.

Any presuppositionalist needs to consider the following challenges thoughtfully:

1. Prove the Christian deity is solely god.

2. Prove the Christian deity has always been god.

3. Prove the Christian deity is dissimilar to humankind.

Finally--but perhaps most fundamentally--prove you have a method of ascertaining reliable information about god.

Presumably, in response to those challenges, the presuppositionalist would turn to the Bible. Then, however, he would be operating under the presupposition the Bible is the inerrant word of god. In order to appeal to the Bible, the presuppositionalist first would need to substantiate it, which has not been accomplished.

1:00 AM EDT  
Blogger John Morales said...

I fear I did, briefly, engage him.

"Rhology said...
Yes, John, clearly I have no conception of logic at all. It does stink to be me.

See you around."

It's pretty funny :)

6:25 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...


I'm very impressed. You actually succeeded in silencing Rhology, who, although probably a nice person, is as zealous a Christian as I ever have met. Congratulations! Clearly, your knowledge of the intricacies of philosophy exceeds my own, and I am glad you think my blog worthy of your attention.

Rhology constantly attacks me for "begging the question" and making presuppositions, such as the supposition that evidence is the single most reliable way to ascertain truth (or its close approximation). However, Rhology also makes many presuppositions. And, unlike him, I have gone to great lengths to substantiate my allegiance to evidence by presenting evidences to support it

Rhology baselessly presumes god is eternal.

Rhology baselessly presumes god is infinite.

Rhology baselessly presumes god is the sole deity.

Rhology baselessly presumes god is unlike humankind.

Rhology baselessly presumes god condescended to reveal himself to man.

Rhology baselessly presumes the Bible is the inerrant, perfect word of god.

Before moving forward with any of his more complicated arguments, I think Rhology needs to substantiate his litany of presuppositions. He hasn't had a chance to "beg the question," because he has not put forward arguments for any of the above.


7:19 PM EDT  
Blogger John Morales said...

It's sad, really.

He just doesn't "get it".

For a minute there, I felt he was on the verge of actually exchanging ideas with me - but he got scared he might reveal himself.

To wax poetic, his intellect is blinded by presuppositions, chained by dogma, barred by fear and untrained in formal logic.
And so, he dares not honestly engage with you.

It's so ironic he claims you are avoiding the issues.

8:20 PM EDT  
Blogger John Morales said...


It shouldn't need to be said (but perhaps R is lurking) that there is a difference between R's suppositions and JN's.

When JN presupposes, he uses that as an axiom, from whence to argue. When R presupposes, he uses that as a justification, from whence to disregard argument.

I'm not sure R realises this.

8:35 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

In my judgment, Rhology's great failing was attempting to call evidence itself into question, when evidence simply means "the relevant facts." If ever a logical axiom was valid, it is: Evidence is a reliable way for humans to discover truth, or its close approximation.

As I keep trying to tell Rhology, he cannot utilize evidence pervasively and then question its utility. Consider, for example, Rhology driving a car. He notices that the brake lights illuminate on the car in front of him. Using this piece of evidence, he draws the conclusion that the car in front of him is slowing down, so he also slows down. In this instance, Rhology has just demonstrated the usefulness of evidence (brake lights) in reaching a larger truth (car is slowing down, and so he also should slow).

Rhology might consider god's nature axiomatic. However, I do not see much difference between "Yahweh is infinite" and "Invisible garden banshees wear tennis shoes." They are invalid as axioms, falling into the category of unwarranted presupposition.


9:19 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

It's like I said, people like him cannot allow themselves to concede anything because their belief system does not allow for nuance. Either the Bible is literally 100% true or it is 100% false. Admit that Noah's Ark never happened and the entire edifice of belief begins to crumble and then these people don't know what to do with themselves.

10:12 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...


Your patience is much appreciated. I've posted my answer here.

9:35 AM EDT  

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