XFiles Friday: In over their heads

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 5)

I really should try not to get too bogged down in Chapter 5, but there’s one last paragraph or two in the section “Materialism Makes Reason Impossible” that really highlights just how out of their depth Geisler and Turek really are.

Not only is reason impossible in a Darwinian world, but the Darwinist’s assertion that we should rely on reason alone cannot be justified. Why not? Because reason actually requires faith. As J. Budziszewski points out, “The motto ‘Reason Alone!’ is nonsense anyway. Reason itself presupposes faith. Why? Because a defense of reason by reason is circular, therefore worthless. Our only guarantee that human reason works is God who made it.”

You probably noticed that Geisler and Turek never quote any “Darwinists” who actually say or believe in “Reason Alone!” “Reason Alone” is like a computer with no keyboard, no mouse, no peripherals, and no network connection. The most sophisticated analytical machine in the world is useless without some way to input data, and even then the results will only be as good as the data you put into it. The scientific method is not “reason alone,” but observation first, then reason, then more observation. In other words, the reason we know that reason is reliable is not because we’ve constructed some sort of logical syllogism based on the assumption that reason is reliable, but because we’ve derived our knowledge of Reason by observing what works and what doesn’t work in the real world.

Contrast this with the declaration by Budziszewski that “Our only guarantee that human reason works is God who made it.” According to Geisler and Turek (and Budziszewski), reason cannot lead to the conclusion “reason works.” If, therefore, they are going to reach the conclusion that reason is reliable, they must do so on some unreasonable basis. If it were reasonable to take God’s word for it, then they’d be wrong when they said you can’t use reason to show that reason works. Their conclusion, therefore, must be unreasonable, by their own definitions. Once again, they’ve put themselves into the Road Runner cartoon, in the role of the Coyote gloating and licking his lips, not realizing that they’re standing on thin air.

What’s even more ironic is that God does not, in fact, guarantee that reason works, or that anything else does for that matter. God does not show up in real life, either to agree or to disagree with the proposition that reason works. He’s consistently and universally absent, which means that Geisler and Turek and Budziszewski have no choice but to put their trust in what men have said and are saying about God. Just like the Coyote, they’ve taken their stand on a bit of “solid ground” that isn’t actually there.

On the other hand, it’s not hard to see why Geisler and Turek feel the need to make this argument. Though the whole premise of their book is that it takes more faith to be an atheist, and that reason and evidence are on their side, that’s a conclusion you can’t get to unless you begin by assuming their beliefs are true. They have no choice but to defend the idea that you must first pick a faith to believe in, and then interpret everything in the light of that faith. In essence, this is the part of the book where they admit that the whole thing is a sham, that their apologetic is not an honest look at the evidence, but a deliberate attempt to wrest the evidence into a shape that fits their preconceived ideas.

And notice, it’s not just science that they present as being properly “enslaved” to faith, but reason itself, i.e. the very act of thinking clearly and analytically. According to Geisler and Turek, you can’t even think properly unless you begin by assuming that their dogmas are true, as they explain in the next section of Chapter 5.

The very fact that Darwinists think they have reasons to be atheists actually presupposes that God exists. How so? Because reasons require that this universe be a reasonable one that presupposes there is order, logic, design, and truth. But order, logic, design and truth can only exist and be known if there is an unchangeable objective source and standard of such things.

And there is: objective reality. But no, that’s not what Geisler and Turek mean.

To say something is unreasonable, Darwinists must know what reasonable is. To say something is not designed, Darwinists must know what designed is. To say something is not true, Darwinists must know what truth is, and so forth. Like all nontheistic worldviews, Darwinism borrows from the theistic worldview in order to make its own view intelligible.

In other words, if we’re going to think logically and objectively, we must first assume a theistic worldview, or we must assume a worldview that borrows all its meaningful definitions from a theistic worldview. Our two choices are to assume that G & T’s worldview is correct, or to assume that G & T’s worldview is correct. Though they claim that they don’t have enough faith to be atheists, for Geisler and Turek everything must be based on their faith—even the thoughts and reasonings of unbelievers!

It’s a most ironic argument, because the real world is out there whether people believe or not. Objective reality is not the exclusive province of believers, but a shared experience that gives both believers and unbelievers a common frame of reference for communication. Even the things that believers claim to “know by faith” about the “unseen, spiritual world,” turn out to be concepts and experiences borrowed from the material, objective reality in which we all live our daily lives.

What is life after death? The believer can only describe a continuation of those same experiences that arose through his material interactions with the real world. What is God like? The believer must borrow analogies from our earthly, physical experience (of fathers or kings, for example). What defines “good” and “evil”? Though he gives credit to God, the believer still decides good and evil based on the things that make him happy or upset in this material existence. The unbeliever can describe everything he believes in, and can cite real-world examples that anyone can confirm for themselves; the believer takes his worldview by borrowing from materialistic experience, and projecting onto an imaginary, unverifiable “spiritual reality” that varies from believer to believer. Even the term “worldview” derives from the material experience of viewing (seeing) the (physical) world and objective experiences that happen there.

In short, Geisler and Turek have dug themselves in so deeply that they no longer know which way is up. They forgot the basic, fundamental principle that truth is consistent with itself; had they remembered that, they would have realized that we are surrounded by real-world truth and that all we have to do is observe it and understand it—which is (or should be) a suprizingly easy task, because truth is self-consistent, and therefore the correct understanding is virtually guaranteed to be the simplest.

But people fail to understand the truth, precisely because they take Geisler and Turek’s approach: they assume that the “proper” way to understand the truth is to begin by first deciding what you think the truth should be, and then looking for evidence that supports your conclusions. Geisler and Turek argue that everyone does that, but they only reach that conclusion because they begin by assuming that it must be so.

One Response to “XFiles Friday: In over their heads”

  1. ebonmuse Says:

    Ethan Allen didn’t write these words about Geisler and Turek, but they’re still remarkably apropos:

    “Those who invalidate reason, ought seriously to consider, whether they argue against reason with or without reason; if with reason, then they establish the principle, that they are laboring to dethrone, but if they argue without reason, (which, in order to be consistent with themselves, they must do) they are out of the reach of rational conviction, nor do they deserve a rational argument.”

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