I don't know, but I know you don't know!

by Brian 20. June 2018 06:10

If I've heard the phrase "I don't know, but I know you don't know" once, I've heard it dozens of times over the years in my apologetics conversations. This assertion is usually followed by an accusation of arrogance and a rebuke to walk me back to a proper agnostic posture. It's as if one's claim to know is an affront to another's uncertainty. Why is that? It's hard to say exactly, but I suspect the underlying motivations are mostly emotional since it is rarely a tenable philosophical position. Let's take a look at why this phrase ought to be avoided.

What does it mean to know and what kind of knowledge are we talking about? When discussing a controversial topic, it is propositional-knowledge that leads to the above accusation. No one has ever said to me: "I don't know, but I know you don't know your wife, or how to ride a bike." Instead, we are interested here in claims about things taking the form of person S knows that proposition P. So what does it mean for S to know that P? Traditional views of knowledge vary around the notion of justified true belief (JTB.)  In order for S to know that P: S must have justification for their belief, P must be true, and S must believe that P.

The latter two aspects of the tripartite view are relatively clear; you do not know that P if P is false or if you don't believe it. It is the aspect of justification that is somewhat controversial. What does justification mean? Mostly it is good reasoning for believing something. What does good reasoning look like? A minimalist response called the deontological view (DV) gives us a place to start by placing a low burden on the knower:

S is justified in believing that P if and only if S believes that P while it is not the case that S is obliged to refrain from believing that P.

Given this view of justification: I know my keys are hanging downstairs if it is the case they are hanging downstairs, I believe it, and I am not obliged to refrain from believing it. What would obligate me to not believe you might wonder? Some other knowledge acting as a defeater would be an example. Say my wife says she sees my keys in the car and not where they usually are. If I trust her assessment more than my recollection, then I am obliged not to believe the keys are where I initially thought they were.

On the other hand, I would not know it's raining tomorrow in Tallahassee, even if I believe this proposition and it turns out to rain tomorrow if my sole justification for believing is the prediction of a fortune cookie. I'm obliged to refrain from believing the printed prophecies in fortune cookies. Fortune cookies confer no justification in this case, and if it's my only justification, I don't have any.

There are more rigorous approaches to justification than DV. In our current culture of scientism, some form of evidence is often a requirement. Does S have evidence for believing that P? Is it good evidence? These controversial criteria are debatable within the discipline of epistemology and not something I want to get into here. Giving the modern skeptic the benefit of the doubt; I'll concede justification for the kind of knowledge we are discussing requires more than a lack of defeaters obligating me to refrain from believing. I'll go as far here to say justification requires some positive external grounding -- a sound argument based on evidence being a good example. Now that we have set some terms on what knowledge is, let's move on to the problem.

So how could S', who doesn't know that P, know S doesn't know that P? The short answer from the JTB-perspective of knowledge is uncomplicated. Leaving out the question of the sincerity of S by assuming S believes that P: S' would have to know that P is false or that S has no justification. Take my example of the car keys. Let's say S' tells S: "I don't know if your car keys are hanging downstairs or not, I just know you don't know that they are hanging downstairs." How could S' know this if she doesn't know whether or not they are hanging downstairs?  She can't solely on the truth-value of P because she doesn't know whether P is true or false. This truth-value angle is a dead end for S'.

But let's imagine S' took an epistemology class and challenged the justification-claims of S. "Why do you think your keys are hanging downstairs," she asks? Now S may have all sorts of justification for believing that P (I won't bore you with examples.) Suffice it to say, S might be justified in believing that P. Therefore, S' has a burden here because she is making the claim to know S is unjustified in believing that P. That burden is not just difficult to satisfy in the car-keys example, but in your typical real-world discussion of complex and controversial topics as well. Let's take a look at something more representative to see what I mean.

S claims the universe has a cause of its existence (P). S' says: "I've seen the evidence and arguments and on balance, I don't know, maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. I just know you don't know that it does." S' freely admits she doesn't know if P is true or false. S' is agnostic on P. After S tries to persuade S' with arguments Q...Qn, S' says: "I find all of your arguments unpersuasive." Now does S' remaining agnostic and unpersuaded mean S has no justification for believing that P? Not necessarily, and in many cases, not likely.

Say S gives the following argument Q as justification for P:

P1 - Things that begin to exist have a cause.
P2 - The universe began to exist.
P (conclusion) - Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The above deductive argument is valid -- that is, if the premises are true, the conclusion follows logically and inescapably. Therefore, if S' knows S has no justification for believing that P, she must know (at least) Q provides no justification for believing that P. But how could she possibly know this without knowing either P1 or P2 is false or unjustified? She can't. She cannot logically infer P1 or P2 is false merely because she is unconvinced P1 and P2 are true. Nor can she know the belief of S in P1 or P2 is unjustified unless she knows all of the justification-claims of S for the premises.

What typically transpires while discussing a valid argument like Q is S' says: "I'm not convinced P1 or P2 is true. So your argument is unpersuasive." That's fine; how persuasive Q is to S' is partly up to S', but that hardly means Q is unsound, thereby providing no justification for S. With a deductive argument, justification is conferred as follows:

Q provides justification for S if Q is valid and upon S performing their epistemic duty (considering the arguments and evidence) for P1 and P2 find both premises more plausible than their negation. 

Of course, this doesn't mean P1 and P2 are true! Nor does it say the conclusion (P) is true. Keep in mind we are talking about justification, not the truth-values. Of course, S' being agnostic on P1 and P2 may enter into a regress and attack the justification for believing the premises. But this rarely happens and when it does, the problem is merely pushed to the next level down. When S' fails to ask for the justification from S for P1 and P2, then we know S' doesn't know S is unjustified. What about the arguments supporting P1, and the arguments supporting those arguments? Few interlocutors go to that depth.

I've given a somewhat technical explanation as to why the phrase "I don't know, but I know you don't know" is usually philosophically untenable. The person who levels this claim doesn't know if the proposition in question is true or not. Nor do they likely know all of the possible ways you justify your belief. They don't know if you know or not. Perhaps a more straightforward way to address this kind of unreasonableness would be to respond: How do you know I don't know? But that approach leaves me little to write on. As for humility, some have it backward. If one honestly doesn't know if something is true or not, then perhaps it should be left at that. The truly humble attitude is: Maybe you do know; I'm just not sure. This response is not only a more reasonable position; it is more likely to get the other person to consider your position.

New Atheism Epistemology

by Brian 10. March 2012 19:26
New Atheism is not unlike the old except its members tolerate religion less and ridicule it more. The movement has been popularized by The Four Horsemen: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens. I have observed an expedient trait in the new atheists where they strategically shift position between strong and weak atheism. Weak, implicit or negative atheism emphasizes a lack of evidence for the existence of God rather than positively asserting the nonexistence of God. Strong, explicit or positive atheism requires good reason to make the claim God does not exist. I use the words “good reason” as a placeholder for that which provides warrant or justification for one’s belief.[i] In this post I will argue an element of duplicitousness exists in the new atheist movement. But first let’s look at the difference between strong and weak atheism. The following diagram should clarify the two positions:
 
 

The expressions on the right of the diagram provide examples of where one approximately falls in the spectrum using a statement of belief. On the left side of the bar are numbers (from 0 to 1) showing the epistemic probability for the proposition “I believe God exists (G).” On the far left of the diagram you will note a few popular positions including their approximate range in the spectrum. At this point you may be wondering: What is epistemic probability?
 
Epistemic probability (EP) provides a means to measure one’s confidence in the truth-value of a proposition. A value of 1 indicates certainty in a proposition (say P). Certainty in ~P (that is ‘not-P’ or the negation of P) is represented by 0. In the middle at 0.5 is equal confidence, or lack thereof, in that P and in that ~P.  We refer to this middle region as agnosticism, a word derived from the Greek a-gnosis meaning without knowledge. Being without knowledge in this context is not referring to background knowledge (though that may be lacking too) but rather knowledge of the truth-value of that P. Finally, EP is not to be confused with statistical probability:
 

On the one side it [probability] is statistical, concerning itself with stochastic laws of chance processes. On the other side it is epistemological; dedicated to assessing reasonable degrees of belief in propositions quite devoid of statistical background. Hacking (1975):
 

EP comes in at least two flavors: subjective and logical. Subjective EP is primarily based on one’s personal inductive standards and can lead to epistemological relativism. One may feel entirely certain about a matter, but their position may be merely subjective if it lacks an independent standard to ground it. The logical version of EP takes a more objective approach. Something independent of the knower provides warrant or “good reason” for their position. Now you may be wondering: What does this have to do with new-atheism? Here is my answer:
 

A duplicitous pattern exists in the new atheism movement where adherents display strong atheism based on a subjective EP in most areas of discourse. But when it comes time to rationally defend their position, they are compelled to retreat to agnosticism based on a logical EP.

In the April 2009 debate between Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig an exchange took place where Craig asked whether Hitchens’ position was one of strong atheism or agnosticism. Hitchens replied: “Once I’ve said I’ve never seen any persuasive evidence for the existence of something…I will go as far to say, have the nerve to say, that He therefore does not exist.” When Craig then asked for arguments for the nonexistence of God, Hitchens continues: “I find all of the arguments in favor fallacious and unconvincing.” Hitchens’ attempt to evade the question is challenged again by Craig, but to no avail. Hitchens simply refuses to provide an argument. Craig finally asks him if he agrees “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” to which Hitchens replies, “I can’t say that I do.”[ii] This was one of the few candid exchanges I’ve witnessed by a prominent new atheist on this subject. In the absence of evidence for atheism, rationality pulls Hitchens relentlessly towards agnosticism. Yet Hitchens remained incorrigible and asserts a strong subjective atheism throughout the debate.

Hitchens is not alone. Recently Dawkins spoke at a debate at Oxford University with the Archbishop of Canterbury.The chairperson said to Dawkins “…you, Richard, believe you have a disproof of God’s existence” to which Dawkins emphatically responds “You were wrong when you said that.” Dawkins goes on to say that in the God Delusion he rates himself a six out of seven where seven is absolute certainty God does not exist. This would be equivalent to a 0.14 EP. Here Dawkins is suggesting that if he had a disproof he’d be a seven, but without it, he is just a six. The chairperson then suggests to Dawkins that he ought to call himself an agnostic, which is odd given someone claiming an EP of 0.14. Yet Dawkins astonishingly replies “I do!” When the chairperson seems unsatisfied with anything less than perfect certainty for such a prominent atheist, Dawkins half-jokingly relents “okay, I’m a 6.9.” Now that’s a very strong atheist position with an EP of 0.014. Quite frankly, I’m not even that certain of what I had for breakfast this morning! But then Dawkins says something extraordinary I think cuts to the chase:

“When you talk about agnosticism it’s very important to make a distinction between ‘I don’t know whether x is true or not’ therefore it is 50-50 likely or unlikely…and that’s the kind of agnostic in which I’m definitely not. I think one can place estimates of probability on these things and I think the probability of any supernatural creator existing is very very low.”
 
Yes, very, very low indeed with his brazen claim of strong atheism at 0.014. On the one hand Dawkins says emphatically he is an agnostic when asked about a disproof, but then he quickly distinguishes himself from a “50-50” agnostic. But here’s the problem with Dawkins thinking - he misconstrues EP with statistical probability. An agnostic does not hold there is a “50-50” chance God exists. An agnostic doesn’t know if God exists. The following thought experiment should help to clarify where Dawkins went wrong:
 

I tell you I have a box full of paper slips with numbers on them and later ask you to draw slips at random. But just prior to drawing, I ask you to assess the epistemic probability in the proposition "You will draw a seven" (P). Of course you have no idea. You do not believe you will draw a seven any more than you won't. I might have put all sevens in the box, or none. The correct EP is 0.5 because you have no justification for moving up or down without additional knowledge. However, this does not mean as you draw numbers from the box, the number of "sevens" drawn will approach 50%. The statistical odds in drawing a “seven” are not 50-50 just because you are agnostic and your EP is 0.5.

 
So why would Dawkins try to obfuscate and redefine agnosticism? Why was Hitchens so reluctant to be labeled an agnostic? The answer is obvious. You cannot legitimately speak, rally, write, argue and debate relentlessly about one of the most profound subjects if you simply don’t know. You cannot have integrity and be bent on the destruction of theism if you don’t know. You certainly cannot be one of the four horsemen of atheism if you don’t know. What recourse do they have other than to weasel out? Agnosticism, properly understood, is not a category any prominent new atheist is comfortable with.

If these new atheists have good reason to avoid agnosticism, why not just boldly claim strong atheism at all times? Why even leave the door cracked open on agnosticism? Again the answer is fairly obvious. Without good reason for atheism, the best one can rationally and honestly proclaim is agnosticism. Referring again to the above diagram, in the absence of good reason for G one is moved downward to 0.5. But in the absence of good reason for ~G, one is moved upward to 0.5. Merely on the basis of finding arguments for theism wanting, one cannot rationally infer strong atheism. A rational person ought not to believe a proposition is false just because they feel there is no compelling good reason to believe it is true, unless of course they also have good reason to believe it is false. [iii]

But if sound arguments are available for atheism, if good reasons can be shown, then the new atheists ought to articulate them. Hitchens should have presented his arguments at his debate with Craig. Dawkins should have presented arguments for atheism to the chairperson at Oxford. But as mere agnostics, perhaps new atheists should take down their signs and close up their shops in the marketplace of ideas. If they do not know, they simply have no business competing with those who claim to know.
[i] For more information see Alvin Plantinga’s Warrant trilogy.
 
[ii] Approximately 1:22:00 into the debate
 
[iii] The following from basic propositional logic demonstrates why in the absence of a good reason for P simpliciter, one cannot infer ~P. Assume the following statement is true: “If Annie goes to the movie, Connie goes to the movie.” (A->C). If the antecedent “Annie goes to the movie” is true, the consequent “Connie goes to the movie” is true. This is a very simple inference pattern called modus ponens. The antecedent A, if true, provides definitively good reason to believe the consequent C is true, given the conditional statement is true which we assumed at the beginning. But what if I said: “Annie does not go to the movie.” What should you infer? Well, if you infer, therefore, “Connie does not go to the movie” – you would be in error. This form of inference is fallacious and is called denying the antecedent. If Annie doesn’t go to the movie, it may be Connie goes with another friend, or perhaps she stays home. You simply do not know. On this proposition alone, if the antecedent is false, you ought to be agnostic on the consequent.
 
 

Dogmatism

by Brian 30. August 2009 18:59

One notion seems to stand out amongst the web of freethought philosophy today: Traditional Christian belief is held dogmatically and it is irrational to accept such ideas without empirical evidence. My response to this...being dogmatic is sometimes a good thing! According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th edition 2000) Dogmatic means:

1) Relating to, characteristic of, or resulting from dogma
2) Characterized by an authoritative, arrogant assertion of unproved or unprovable principles

In a popular college text on logic[1], Copi et al writes:

One who accepts an unscientific explanation is dogmatic; the account is regarded as being absolutely true and not capable of improvement; An unscientific explanation is taken simply as true, revealed from on high, perhaps, or because 'everyone knows it is so.' An unscientific belief is held independently of anything we should regard as evidence in its favor.

The word dogma has its origin in:

Dogma - 1541 (implied in dogmatist), from L. dogma "philosophical tenet," from Gk. dogma (gen. dogmatos) "opinion, tenet," lit. "that which one thinks is true," from dokein "to seem good, think."

Three schools of thought have existed for over two millennia: those who claim to know the truth (dogmatists); those who are doubtful and suspend judgment regarding truth (skeptics) and those who believe truth is unobtainable (dogmatic skeptics.) Formerly, one holding a firm position on a matter or a philosophical tenet was called a dogmatist. Now it refers to those who authoritatively proclaim their view without evidence - especially, scientific or empirical evidence. Copi takes it a step further and suggests the perceived origin of an unscientific belief is from 'on high' or from what we sometimes call 'common knowledge.' Some freethought writings broaden the meaning to include 'irrational' and 'uncritical' thinking. In all fairness, others are using the term to describe those who rampantly assert philosophical naturalism and neo-Darwinism. So this is not to criticize any particular group for their use of the word. Instead I want to look at dogmatic thinking and how it relates to the Christian worldview and worldview in general. When used to stereotype the Christian thought process, dogmatism often implies one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. Uncritical Thinking - forming a set of belief by an epistemically unsatisfactory means excluding anything we should regard as evidence
  1. Inflexibility - holding a set of belief with an unwillingness to change his or her view in light of contrary evidence
  1. Pontification - prescribing a set of belief in an authoritative or arrogant manner

Now at face value, uncritical, inflexible and pontificated assertion is clearly not attuned to what most of us view as rational. We tend to disdain the inveterate individual who refuses to consider the so-called 'facts' as we see them. Inflexibility in the face of contrary evidence potentially leaves one mired in false belief. The problem however is Christians are often stereotyped as dogmatic without much thought being given to the matter at all.

Uncritical Thinking:
What we see is a double play against the dogmatist where belief is formed without evidence and stubbornly held in light of contrary evidence - although what is contrary to one is often disputed by another. And the sort of evidence we are talking about is the empirical or scientific kind. Empirical evidence is obtained by means of observation and sense experience. Whereas scientific evidence goes further by employing such methods as the hypothetico-deductive and tests for falsification - keeping in mind there is no universally adopted methodology of science. It seems the general consensus among the freethinkers is one ought to take an evidentialist construal of rationality. According to this view, a belief is epistemically permissible or justified if and only if it is derived from other justified belief, supported by evidence or is properly basic. Otherwise, one is flaunting their epistemic duty, behaving irrationally and not thinking critically.

In "The Ethics of Belief," William Clifford claims it is: "wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." Is Clifford right in saying this? Do I need evidence, perhaps even scientific evidence, to fulfill my epistemic duty as a rational thinker? It seems the obvious answer is no. First of all, to say one either forms belief based on scientific evidence or one forms belief uncritically is a false dichotomy. There are many things rational people believe without scientific evidence. In fact the philosophical presuppositions of science itself are not founded on scientific evidence, yet scientists are not labeled dogmatic for believing them:

  • The uniformity of nature where science presupposes physical laws apply beyond the range of direct observation and verification
  • The existence of a theory-independent external world where science presupposes it to be objectively real and not an illusion fitting the theories we devise
  • The orderly nature of the external world where science presupposes future like-causes will result in similar effects
  • That 'nothing' cannot cause 'something'
  • That simple and elegant scientific theories are preferable and more apt to reflect reality [2]
  • That scientific activity ought to be practiced with integrity and honesty

Although these presuppositions are widely accepted and reasonable enough, they are not derived from scientific evidence but are formed on the basis of induction and experience. And of course rational people believe all sorts of things without empirical evidence as well: 

  • Belief formed by our memory of past experiences
  • Belief formed through introspection
  • Belief formed by the testimony of reliable people
  • Moral beliefs such as honesty being a virtue; racism a vice, etc.
  • Belief about other's minds, feelings, and thoughts
  • Belief about the future based on induction

Whether or not any of the above classifications are epistemically justifiable is independent of the veracity of any particular instance. That is to say; simply because you may have a false belief does not necessarily mean an epistemically unacceptable means was used to arrive at it. Even those who apply scientific methods make mistakes! As strict verificationism is widely rejected in contemporary philosophy,[3] the evidentialist will likely argue justified belief does not require evidence if it is properly basic or derived from other justified belief. Since Christian faith at its foundation is not derived from other beliefs, and according to the freethinker is not supported by evidence, then it must be either properly basic or unjustified. Although I believe there is in fact a good deal of evidence supporting theism in general and Christianity in particular, we may omit this facet of the argument for the sake of simplicity as it is not necessary to justify Christian belief.

So what is a properly basic belief? One strict interpretation says: A properly basic belief is one that is self-evident, evident to the senses or incorrigible. It is known in an immediate way or where one cannot be mistaken (for example: '2+2=4' or 'I feel pain!') Most would agree with these qualifiers for proper basicality including the epistemologist Alvin Plantinga who developed his three-volume series on warranted belief. In his third volume "Warranted Christian Belief" Plantinga expands on the strict interpretation which he sees as insufficient and untenable. First off, the strict interpretation is itself not properly basic, nor is it derived from evidence, therefore, why should we believe it! Second, the strict interpretation does not accommodate the various ways rational people regularly form belief such as those listed above. Plantinga offers a definition for proper basicality with respect to performing your epistemic duty along these lines:

A belief P is properly basic with respect to justification for person S if P is the result of S having fulfilled his epistemic obligation and not produced in S on the evidential basis of other propositions.[4]

Fulfilling your epistemic obligation has to do with S honestly deliberating on P taking into account any known defeaters[5]. In other words, you do your level best to assess the veracity of P based on your background knowledge, experience, etc. along with an honest consideration of known counter beliefs. Say for example; of sound mind I consider the proposition "God created the universe." I do this in light of my experience and background knowledge; the untenable position of a universe beginning to exist without cause or reason; the weaknesses of philosophical naturalism; the awe inspired by my observation of the diversity and grandeur of life, etc. If after taking all of this into account I conclude the proposition "God created the universe" to be true, then I have fulfilled my epistemic obligation and this belief is justified for me. This is so even if empirical evidence is unavailable to me at the time. I may also be wrong in this case, but it is irrelevant to the issue of epistemic justification and the criticism of uncritical thinking. And of course I'm not trying to argue Christians (myself included) come to every belief via this route. Although God does reveal himself in nature [Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20], "no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit." [1 Corinthians 12:3]...this is a topic for another post. What I am saying is Christian worldview develops and evolves over time and there is ample opportunity for one to fulfill epistemic obligation and avoid the criticism of uncritical thinking.

Now the freethinker will likely take issue with this and say something like: "Given this model one might be justified in believing just about anything." And in fact with respect to epistemic justification this is true as there is an endless sea of scenarios one might conceive where beliefs are justified. Therefore we might consider going further into the concept of warrant. Warrant is that which turns mere true belief into knowledge. In fact Plantinga's project goes on to show not only is Christian belief justified (which is trivial) but that it is also warranted. Yet such further refinement is probably unnecessary for our purposes. The real challenge herein is best delineated by what Plantinga calls the de jure and de facto objections. The de jure objection has to do with the criticism of uncritical thinking; being irrational; flaunting epistemic duty, etc. The de facto objection has to do with veracity of a belief; arguments for and against the truth of a proposition, etc. The bottom line: the de jure objection against Christian belief does not hold as we have seen. As Plantinga argues; there is no valid de jure objection to the Christian faith apart from a de facto objection. In other words, those who level a de jure charge against Christian belief do so irrationally or they smuggle in a de facto element in the process.

Finally there is what is known as the presumption of atheism. This view attempts to trump justified Christian belief by asserting the burden of proof is on the theist and one's epistemic duty is to presume atheism in the absence of evidence. The idea is often expressed by the statement: "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." If theism is an extraordinary claim founded on something other than evidence, then presumably we are to reject it in favor of atheism. Again, granting the false assumption there is no evidence, this tactic fails on several fronts. First of all, the atheist claim to know God does not exist is an extraordinary claim requiring more justification than the claim to know God exists.[6] Given this sort of reasoning we should perhaps presume theism! Furthermore the evidentialist needs evidence to assert the atheist-claim according to their own standard for epistemic justification. Given the lack thereof, the atheist must rely on proper basicality to justify their foundational position on God's nonexistence. Finally, absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. For example, if you suddenly found yourself without a wallet in a busy public area, you would not likely rule out the existence of a thief merely due to a lack of evidence. There may not be a thief in this case (you may find later you had misplaced your wallet) but you would not initially rule out the possibility of theft on philosophical grounds. Absence of evidence is only evidence of absence where one can show a reasonable correlation between the absence of specific evidence and nonexistence.

In an attempt to overcome the weaknesses in the presumption of atheism position, there are those like Anthony Flew who have redefined themselves to be more akin to the nontheist. The new atheist no longer positively asserts the nonexistence of God but rather claims simply to not be a theist (a-theist meaning not-theist.) But this position is hardly a position at all and such a redefinition now qualifies babies as atheists. If the new mantra is: "I'm not making an extraordinary claim, I simply do not believe," then why would these nontheists prescribe their view to others; why all of the books, websites, debates and arguing? If one honestly has no belief in P and no belief in ~P, one is really an agnostic. And if you truly have no belief on a matter then you in fact have no knowledge on the matter[7]. "Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!" was Bertrand Russell's famous reply, when asked what he would say if he found himself in the presence of God after dying. Yet when asked what evidence would be sufficient, he was unable to give a sustainable answer[8]. You have to wonder if it is a desire for evidence or an obstinate heart holding the nontheist in its grip.

Next time I will tackle the criticism of inflexibility.

[1] Introduction To Logic, Irving M. Copi, Carl Cohen, 11th edition, Pearson Education, �2002 (pg 494-495)
[2] Paul Dirac was vocal regarding the superiority of parsimonious, simple and elegant theories.
[3] Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, Moreland, Craig, InterVarsity Press 2003, pg 368
[4] See Warranted Christian Belief, Plantinga, Oxford University Press, �2000, summarized from chapters 3 and 6
[5] Defeater: is that which undermines the positive epistemic of a belief (e.g. evidence, counter-argument, experience, etc.)
[6] A non-tautological universal negative is unprovable whereas an existential affirmative is provable (ontologically speaking).
[7] As wild as this claim may seem it is true based on knowledge being warranted true belief � you have to at least have some belief or disbelief in proposition P in order to have knowledge of P.
[8]  In an interview in Look Magazine Russell was asked "Under what condition would you believe in God" to which he essentially replied, "Well, if I heard a voice from heaven and it predicted a series of things and they came to pass, then I guess I'd have to believe there's some kind of supernatural being." Yet later he retracted his statement and said the supernatural being might only be a superior being - in effect leaving the question unanswered.

About the author

I am a Christian, husband, father of two daughters, an owner of ISC, lead architect of MapDotNet, armchair apologist and philosopher, writer of hand-crafted electronic music, and a kid around anything that flies (rockets, planes, copters, boomerangs, hot air baloons, lawn furniture)

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