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July 12th, 2008

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01:49 am - Response to Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Presuppositionalist
From: http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa001.htm

It is one of those embarrassing historical ironies that modern science could not have arisen except in the atmosphere of a Christian world-and-life view. Nevertheless, the scientific community today persists in playing the prodigal by assuming an antagonistic stance against the Christianity of divine revelation. Hypnotized by Darwin's evolutionary scheme and enchanted with the products of scientific technology, modern man has granted science a secularized godship and bows before it in fetish idolatry.

Fallacy: Because the world was Christian, Christianity caused science.

Fallacy: Even if religion was fertile ground for the development of the scientific method, it in no way demonstrates that religion and science are compatible.

Fallacy: Equating religious worship with scientific inquiry. How many times has this been addressed on the site? A hundred?

The pitting of science against revelation is certainly odd. For, a certain state of affairs is needed for the scientific endeavor to be meaningful or fruitful. The scientist must believe that the state of affairs is conducive to science, or he would not venture into the scientific enterprise. He must believe that there is a world of things and processes that can be known, and that he himself sustains a relationship to this world that allows him to know these objects and events. But then, what reason can the scientist give for his belief that the state of affairs is actually conducive to science? Why is the world such as it is and not otherwise?

Oh, wow. Imagine that! A presuppositionalist drumming up the same tired old argument: Science relies on faith just as much as religion. Nevermind that The Problem of Induction is Not Really A Problem. This argument falls under its own weight. In maintaining that reason and faith are on equal footing, Dr. Bahnsen has implicitly sneaked a fallacy into his argument. If two things are both possible, they are both equally possible.

In examining faith and reason, we can come from two sides. In retrospect, we can observe that EVERY SINGLE TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCE EVER came from the scientific method, while exactly ZERO technological advances came from revealed knowledge. From a strictly philosophical point of view, we can observe that the axiom of identity, which is fundamentally necessary for the existence of any knowledge whatsoever, leads irrevocably to deductive logic, which is 100% certain. Since probability is math, which is also certain, we have a way to link inductive observations to deductive probability. When probabilities begin to approach one divided by a number larger than the number of atoms in the universe, it becomes rather nonsensical to suggest that two possibilities are equally rational to believe.

Of course, there is always the brain in a vat argument. It's true that any one of us can never be sure that we are not a brain in a vat, and that everything we perceive is an illusion. However, this doesn't negate the ridiculous nature of the proposition that we ought to believe that we're a brain in a vat. There's simply no evidence. Even if it's true, we are trapped in the illusion just as irrevocably as we are trapped by the laws of nature if indeed this reality is true. Furthermore, if we are a brain in a vat, all of our supposed knowledge of God (through revelation or otherwise) would be just as false as our supposed knowledge of the material universe.

In short, whether we assume the reality of nature or not, God belief stands on the flimsiest of legs, if it stands at all. Science, according to all standards that appear to be monumentally probable, is the only way to obtain knowledge of the only thing that has any remote probability of being real.

To those who still insist on the faith argument, I say, enjoy your solipsism. Every time that you disregard it (which is to say, in every case except when you're trying to justify your god) I will laugh at your hypocrisy.

Here the scientist, who depends on the self-sufficiency of his logico-empirical procedures, is in a predicament. His response is usually to make various hypotheses about the world and then point to the beneficial results that flow from such hypotheses; he gives, can give, no reason for those hypotheses -- they just are, because they work. If pressed, or if he is philosophically inclined, he may even go so far as to say that his "working hypotheses" have no reason unless it be "chance."

Um... that isn't anything like what I said, is it? I said that there are two choices: Solipsism vs. Empiricism. What I didn't mention is that it's strange that a person with Doctor before their name could miss the obvious difference between axiomatic truth and derived truth. Axioms precede proof because they are proved by retortion. This is not to say that they are without justification. It is to say that their justification is that it can be no other way.

In other words, the consistent naturalistic scientist seems to hold to an irrational set of beliefs about the state of affairs simply in order that his "rational" scientific endeavor may get off the ground. It is rather obvious that prior to any scientific endeavor we must begin either from speculation (about "chance" hypotheses) or from revelation. The Scriptures (of the one Person who knows) reveal how it is that this world, and man in it, are such as to make scientific endeavor meaningful. The state of affairs that exists is due to the creation and providence of the sovereign God. If science (so-called) could actually refute the truths of Scripture, then there would be no actual basis for science at all. The desire of the scientific community to pit its enterprise and conclusions against Christian revelation is ultimately suicidal.

Talk about jumping to conclusions! First, this doctor is bafflingly ignorant of basic ontology. Science is not something that man invented. It is something he discovered. The difference is crucial, for the correct use of the word destroys his argument out of the gate. Science is nothing more and nothing less than the description of how we learn about the material universe. It is like logic in this sense. Man did not invent logic. He identified it.

I know... Someone's going to say, "But you're just saying that. You're not justifying it."

I am justifying it, but you're not seeing it because you don't understand what I said a minute ago about axiomatic truth. Since axioms must be true -- because there's no other alternative -- science must be the only way to gain knowledge of the material universe. Science follows from axioms. That is, deductive logic follows from axioms, and the process of science is nothing more and nothing less than using deductive truth applied to empirical observations.

Consider an experiment in which a scientist studies a particular species of bird, attempting to discover its place in the phylogenic tree. He takes a random sample of all of the known populations of the bird, and takes DNA samples from each. According to the laws of probability (deductive!!) the chances that a false conclusion will be derived (assuming that his protocols are correct and his math accurate) are 1:10^10. This is very certain, indeed, but he will not be the only scientist examining his work. Hundreds of scientists from his discipline, and probably from other related ones, will pore over his work, searching for errors. Many of them will attempt to reproduce the same results by running the exact same test. If two tests come up with a 1:10^10 probability of being in error, how dense do you have to be to realize that science has discovered an objective truth?

Again, it is deductively true that given a number of alternatives, if we eliminate all but one, the one that is left must be true. Science is the practice of trying to achieve this state. Granted, it doesn't always achieve such a happy state, but often it does. When it does not, it is not grasping in the dark. It is making its best educated guess based on all the available data. This guess has a statistical probability of being correct, even taking into account the possibility of incomplete data.

The antagonism between science and Scripture historically came to a head in the question of origins. The Christian asserts that the world is conducive to the scientific task precisely because God created it that way. (And this creation is revealed to be "nature," a completed work of God not subject to the continuing progressive development posited by evolutionary theory). Even within the Christian community, remnants of this bitter confrontation are still evident in the dispute between those who hold to a "mature" (completed) creation, and those well-meaning scientists and theologians who would accommodate to the "science-in-vogue" by holding to "theistic evolution." Yet, it must be remembered, the non-Christian naturalistic scientist considers the "fact" of evolution as the supreme case against the Bible.

Wow. As usual, I'm feeling very let down by this so-called "Master Debater." Any second now, he's going to assert that even though the OVERWHELMING PROBABILITY is that science is true, his unproven claim about an undefined being who, in some undefined way, did everything that science has explained, only in a different way... one that defies scientific explanation... is true.

Despite the enthusiasms of modern science in pursuing study and research on the "origin of life," it must be recognized that all questions of origins fall outside the realm of empirical science! The methodology of science is simply not equipped to deal with events that are neither recurring or repeatable under experimental control. In the matter of origins, where the scientist can neither observe nor experiment, one is left to depend either on guesswork speculation or infallible revelation. The choice should be simple; for the Christian, it is.


Science is wrong because there's an outside chance that it might be. Christianity is right because... um...

For a doctor, this guy knows very little about science. The whole reason that science requires years of schooling is that it usually requires more knowledge than what the naked eye can provide. Apparently, Dr. Bahnsen would have us believe that anything which cannot be directly observed is completely unknown. That being the case, I would encourage him to never take an antibiotic when he is sick, for antibiotics are designed through the manipulation of genes, which, I'm afraid, are far too small to see with the naked eye.

If Dr. Bahnsen is willing to admit that antibiotics work, I will hold him to the admission that the same process of inference which allows us to create the medicine that keeps him alive through a staph infection also allows us to be equally certain about the common descent of all life on earth.

Naturalistic science will usually retort that examination of present materials and processes enables us to extrapolate backwards so as to determine what must have occurred. But here again, forsaking his own basic methods, the scientist is speculating (not observing) on the course of historical development; he assumes (but cannot show experimentally) that not only is nature uniform now but always has been, that processes seen today have always worked as they do now. (The "theistic evolutionist" likewise assumes that today's processes must be basically similar to God's creative activities. This, in effect, is to say that creation was "immature," that God did not finish his creative work at a point in the past.) To pretend to answer questions about origins by extrapolating the observable present into the unobservable past is to reason in a circle; it is to forsake the proper descriptive role of science and to make it an arbitrary determiner of the past instead.

We're starting to repeat ourselves now. Dr. Bahnsen is free to assume that things are not as they have always been. That assumption stands beside every other assumption for which there is ZERO evidence. We might as well say that the universe was created by celestial teapots or flying spaghetti monsters -- or for that matter, a God who killed himself in the process of creating the universe. If all hypotheses are equal, than believing in the Christian God is just as foolhardy as believing in science.

Still... I suspect Dr. Bahnsen will disagree...

The origin and nature of the universe depend upon the Triune God. The scientist cannot proceed without a prior belief (acknowledged or not) in the sovereign Creator. Obviously also, the doctrines of creation and providence as found in Scripture are mutually necessary; to believe the one is to believe the other. The scientist too must believe in the controlling providence of God over the processes of the creation, or else he wouldn't be a scientist.

Years ago, David Hume noted that the scientists proceed on a scientifically unfounded, yet critically essential belief in the uniformity of observable nature. Yet, he pointed out, there is no reason (beyond psychological habit) for the naturalistic scientist to expect the sun to come up tomorrow. Science as an autonomous self-contained discipline has no honest answer to Hume. But if science, properly conceived, subordinates itself to God's revelation, then it knows why the sun will come up for it knows that God providentially controls all the operations of his created universe in a regular and dependable fashion.

The scientist must presuppose a regulated universe, and in so doing he presupposes an ordered creation. Every scientist makes certain basic assumptions about reality and knowledge, consciously or otherwise; and these thoughts are religiously motivated: "That which is known of God is plainly seen in them, for God has revealed it to them. For since the creation of the world His unseen attributes, not only His infinite power but also His divine nature, have been perceived, being understood by the things created" (Romans 1:19-20).

What did I tell you? It's the Christian God. He's certain of it. You know how he's certain? Cause he is. Cause it's true.

First, why are providence and creation necessarily codependent? I just postulated that the act of creation might have killed God. Why is this not possible?

Second, if the scriptures are evidence for this Triune God, what justification does Dr. Bahnsen have for TRUSTING in inductive logic now, when he just threw it under the bus?

Third, there is a HUGE difference between a presupposition and an induction. A presupposition, as the name implies, presumes a fact to be true, and then fits the evidence to that fact. An induction results from an observation of the evidence and a probabilistic determination of the most likely conclusion. The reason scientists assume the uniformity of nature is that ALL EVIDENCE EVER SEEN SAYS THAT'S THE WAY IT IS. Based on the number of times that nature has not been uniform, we have a 100% certainty that our guess, based on the mathematical likelihood of the conclusion, is correct.

Wait... did I just say that we have 100% certainty that nature is uniform? No, I did not. I said that based on all of our evidence, we are 100% certain that the uniformity of nature is our best conclusion. Consider ten cookie jars, each containing fifty chocolate chip cookies. We open all ten, count the cookies, and then set about discovering what the likelihood is that all of the jars contain fifty chocolate chip cookies.

Does this sound ridiculous? Of course it is! That's because there is no evidence whatsoever that any conclusion is warranted except for the obvious conclusion -- they all contain fifty cookies. Based on the fact that we have first hand, empirical, falsifiable, testable, repeatable evidence of the fact, we can say that given all the known information, we are certain -- 100% certain -- that the best answer to the question is that there are fifty cookies in each jar.

The same is true of the uniformity of nature. Until we see any evidence whatsoever that there's even an outside chance of non-uniformity, we can be 100% certain that based on deductive probability, the uniformity of nature is the best guess.

It should be clear at this point what the relationship between science and Scripture properly is. The presupposition of any meaningful scientific endeavor is the truth of Christian theism as given in God's Word; if the world is not what Scripture says it is then science is not possible. The sovereign God controls all the operations of his creation, thus providing the uniformity we see in nature, a connection between the mind and the material world, a union of logic and facts, and standards of absolute truth.

The relation between science and Scripture is not one of synthesis between two tentative theories; rather, it must be one of subordination. If science is not subordinate of Scripture, then Scripture must be subordinate to science and science itself will be autonomous. If science is independent of revelation, then nature must be assumed to be self-sufficient and containing in itself the principles for its own interpretation. Thus God is either identified with nature (the error of pantheism) or is shoved out of the picture altogether (the practical result of deism). Either God is God, or science deifies itself.

The activity of science is never impartial; there is always a substructure of metaphysical or religiously motivated belief. If there were not, science would be futile, its feet firmly planted in mid-air. The naturalistic scientist claims to work with "the facts." Yet even to speak of "facts" is to make some metaphysical declaration concerning the existence of factuality itself. The only "honest" metaphysics for the philosopher who rejects God's revelation is an agnostic solipsism, an "I-don't-know-and-it-can't-be-known-ism." Yet, if there is one metaphysics besides Christianity that the scientist abhors, it is solipsism. But, on what basis can he discredit this "logical" position? What source of information can refute it?

Oh, to hell with it. We're rolling downhill. We're trampling anything in our path. We've decided to believe what we're going to believe, because we believe it, because it's true, because if it wasn't, then it wouldn't be, and it is, so damn the evidence. Praise be to Jesus.

The only basis, the only presupposition, that allows for factuality and the scientific enterprise is the truth of Scripture. Without the Bible, science has no order in nature to expect, and the scientist finds himself adrift between abstract timeless logic and pure ultimate potentiality - or "pure chance." The world of actuality is only an accident, and the "universe" (if there is such a thing) cannot be known since there is no known connection between sense experience and analytic thinking, no reason why irrational dreams are not as true as rational thought.

The scientist must believe that he confronts a system when he does his work, or else the work would be futile. That system is either the result of the purposeful plan of the sovereign God, or it is the reflection into the unknowable "universe" of the ordering mind of man - which in its turn is equally unknowable. If the scientist refuses to presuppose the truth of Scripture (which is actually an epistemological impossibility), he will have neither a true universe to investigate or any reason to suppose he has the ability to do so. The Bible provides the only possible presupposition for all thought and science.

We turn down a dark alley if we do not submit every discipline, every thought, to God's absolute authority. We must begin with Scripture and let it interpret the scientific enterprise. The Word of Christ the Lord must be given first place in everything. If we neglect to let Scripture govern every academic pursuit, we have fallen prey to the shifting sands of human opinion.

Are you getting this? Scripture is 100% true, because we can't be certain of anything, because we have to take everything on faith, because science is definitely not possible unless we can know things through revelation which aren't scientific because if they were they wouldn't be true since science doesn't, because just because the universe might not be uniform, it isn't, because that way what I'm saying is definitely true, even though since the universe isn't uniform, I might be living in a time warp in which everything I say comes out sounding like "A Very Special Charlie Brown Christmas."

Adam and Eve took the "modern" approach; they wanted to interpret the world apart from supernatural revelation. The question of what were the qualities and nature of a particular fruit and what effects from eating it might result, were "scientific" questions to be answered by independent research apart from the Word of an authoritative Lord. Why should we repeat their error? It should be obvious that if man, before his disabling fall into sin, needed God's supernatural revelation to interpret his world properly, how much more do we who live under the effects of sin! The methodology of Adam and Eve, being inspired by Satan, has come to be exalted and followed by all unrepentant sinners and is the substance of "science" as commonly conceived.

The only true science, the only science worthy of the name, proceeds from the truth of God's supernatural revelation to fulfill its divinely given task of subduing God's creation (Genesis 1:28). To attempt science apart from God's Word and authority is spiritual suicide for the effort itself and the scientist who attempts it. Man is never autonomous; he is always a creature dependent upon his Creator God. In science, as in philosophy, culture, or politics, "except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that built it" (Psalm 127:1).

Oh... and this snake talked to this naked woman once...

Greg Bahnsen, a junior at Westminster Theological Seminary is a graduate in philosophy from Westmont College(Santa Barbara), [1970-1971].

Remind me never to go to Westmont College.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:July 12th, 2008 06:37 am (UTC)
Don’t go to Westmont College.
[User Picture]
Date:December 18th, 2008 05:14 pm (UTC)


Would you say monkeys are your forefathers?
Date:December 23rd, 2008 08:53 am (UTC)

Re: hi

No. Monkeys are on the opposite side of the primate tree from humans. We and the chimps split from a common ancestor, but monkeys... no.

Response to Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Presuppositionalist - Ask An Atheist — LiveJournal

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