A case study in the inherent dishonesty of presuppositional tactics
Sye Ten Bruggencate is a Christian presuppositionalist. He does not think you have any basis for rationality other than his choice of a god. After centuries of emphasizing faith, Christianity was forced by the success of science to focus on its “evidences”, and having manifestly failed there, is now justifiably cowering in the face of scientific scrutiny, and is desperately employing increasingly absurd tactics in an attempt to destroy the utility of rationality in order to salvage a god who, most Christians admit, would eternally torture all those who follow a nature they neither requested nor can avoid. Sye is a prominent promoter of a new tactic that attempts to wrest the right to rationality away from those rational enough to reject the bible myth by irrationally suggesting that, in the very use of rationality, those promoting rationality must acknowledge the god of the bible as the author of rationality.
This essay will not deal with the illogic of this core argument. That will be addressed in another longer essay to be posted at a later date. This essay will deal primarily on the inherent dishonesty evidenced in my interactions with Sye and his pals. For the past two years, I have been intentionally exploring the arguments and tactics of presuppositionalists. I’ve concluded that the dishonesty encountered is neither isolated nor inadvertent, but is essential to the presuppositionalist project. Were it not for intentional straw-manning and connotative misdirection, their ideology would appear incoherent. This is because their ideology is incoherent. This incoherence of the ideology I will address later, while this particular essay will focus on the mendacious tactics of actual presuppositionalists.
The task of the reader will be to assess whether the degree of dishonesty found prevalent in the presuppositionalist community of those claiming to possess the the spirit of an honest god is evidence enough to dismiss presuppositionalism as self-evidently incoherent and absurd. I’m suggesting it is.
Let’s begin with the following hypothetical by Chris Wray in a Facebook discussion about objective morality involving a couple non-mythicists and several presuppositionalists including Sye.
“Let’s say a room full of kittens is killed for fun. It makes me happy. Am I wrong for being happy?”
After bantering a bit about the definition of the word ‘wrong’, I responded as follows.
“There is another sense of ‘wrong’ that is goal-oriented. If your goal is to be most happy, and your brain is structured as most humans, then I would suggest trying altruism for fun. But if you are indeed a psychopath, then go for it. Just keep in mind you’ll be facing the negative emotions of the community you live in.”
Here are the the facts.
- Chris clearly introduced a hypothetical.
- I clearly responded in the context of that hypothetical.
A few posts later someone named Jonathan Bradford advises Chris…
“…just point out to Phil that he’s willing to submit that there is no such thing as a moral domain, which by definition would make him a psychopath (one who can not or refuses to recognize moral behaviour), but instead of accepting that, he’s the one who calls you a psychopath.”
No one was called a psychopath. In the context of the hypothetical, I provided two options.
- “If your goal is to be most happy…”
- “If you are indeed a psychopath…”
I’ll let the readers decide whether this was an intentional dishonesty on the part of Jonathan Bradford, or whether he perhaps misread my comments.
I called Jonathan out on this. He responded that I had “conditionally” accused Chris of being a psychopath.
A “conditional” accusation? What could that possibly mean?
If you were to kill my mother, you would be a murderer.
Did I just call you a murderer?
If you were to rape my sister, you would be a rapist.
Did I just call you a rapist?
Jonathan is a liar. I find no credible way an adult could innocently go from the clear hypothetical to an accusation. He was therefore forced to introduce the incoherent concept of a “conditional” accusation, then hope the audience would miss the absurdity. We didn’t.
And it does not end there. Just a few posts later, he again writes…
“Why not admit it – you denied the existence of any type of moral domain, then you got caught making a moral judgement when you conditionally called Chris a psychopath.”
Does anyone actually think Jonathan is so ignorant to believe there there is no non-moral definition of psychopath? I certainly don’t. Instead I believe he is intentionally equivocating on a definition.
Jonathan does not ask me for clarification. He does not ask me for my definition of “psychopath”. He could. He doesn’t. And he is not the only one. The bulk of apologists do not want clarification. They do not want explanation. They instead want to follow a script that, in their minds, necessarily concludes with a validation of their ideology.
On several occasions in this Facebook thread I asked for clarification so I would not be straw-manning the presuppositionalist position. The presuppositionalists avoid requesting clarification since it would defeat their agenda; to data mine apparent contradictions in statements.
Because I believe Jonathan Bradford is of normal intelligence, I also believe he is a liar. He knows the classification of “psychopath” is made by psychologists instead of moralists, and that a clinical test of psychopathy is not an assessment of the subject’s position on morality.
The tactic Jonathan is using is most certainly not an isolated case. This tactic is the go-to tactic in nearly all exchanges with presuppositionalists I’ve experienced.
For example, the presuppositionalist knows that the term “wrong” can be used to imply both a theistic morality and a goal-based assessment of behavior. They are not idiots. They are intentionally supposing you mean theistic morality if you use the term “wrong” without a qualification. They will not ask you to clarify. They will instead tell you what you mean to say. This is the degree of dishonesty among the very persons who claim to be representing a god who tortures liars in eternal flames.
Another equally mendacious presuppositionalist is Sean Boatman who repeated claims that every time someone makes a statement, that statement is believed absolutely by the person making the statement. He does not ask for the degree of confidence in which the statement is held. He is compelled by his ideology to absurdly inform the person making the statement that they believe their statement absolutely.
A rational person knows that a statement made in absolute confidence (a “presupposition”) is inappropriate for subjective beings living in an inductively assessed world. Presuppositionalists irrationally believe inductively assessed propositions absolutely, so they would be delighted if they could demonstrate that non-believers also hold presuppositions. This drives their dishonesty. This prevents them from asking for clarity as is done in any good-faith discussion. They tell you what you believe. They ignore every other possible position on the continuum of certainty and tell you that your belief in your statement is at the pole of absolute certainty so you will appear as irrational as they are.
Upon being called out on their dishonest attribution of position to those who hold no such position, presuppositionalists such as Sean may ask “could you be wrong?”
If you reply “yes”, then they claim you don’t actually “know”. Their irrational position requires that there be only absolute belief or no knowledge for any give proposition. They know better. I believe they are not lying to themselves. The absurdity of demanding knowledge be bivalent is too salient for a normal adult to miss. They are instead liars, employing a dishonest tactic that is necessarily dishonest as they attempt to obfuscates the incoherency in their ideology.
Is it possible that those this dishonest can represent an actual god of honesty? You be the judge.
At the top (or bottom depending upon your perspective) of this irrationality and dishonesty is Sye Ten Bruggencate.
Sye writes in the same thread mentioned above…
“So, according to YOUR definition Phil, must a thing known to ANY degree be true?”
I responded that, if to “know” something is simply rational belief in that thing given the balance of evidence, then…
“Based on this definition (non-absolute rational belief), a thing rationally believed to any degree need not be true.”
Incredibly, Sye, one of the leading figures in the presupppositionalist movement writes…
“Great, so a person can know that God exists QED”
No joke. This is one of the prominent figures of the presuppositionalist movement who has appeared on television shows promoting the ideology. Yet here he is attempting to equivocate on the meaning of “know” to justify his stance that we can know there is a god even though the clearly understands 1) that my knowledge is never absolute as is his, and, more incredibly, 2) admitting that “knowledge” of his god does not require his god be true. Really.
Lest that got by you, I stated that “a thing rationally believed to any degree (“known”) need not be true” to which responds based on my definition of “knowledge”, “Great, so a person can know that God exists QED.”
Sye’s god, by his own admission, can be both “known” and non-existent.
If Sye had been only dishonest. Here he is both dishonest and clearly destroys his own position. But we’ll save the elaboration of this irrationality and many others emergent of presuppositionalist rhetoric for another essay. This brief essay was to give you a feel for the degree of dishonesty found among presuppositionalists.
Would a god of honesty be found anywhere in the vicinity of such liars?
Another site featuring Sye