One of the more sophisticated (although flawed) arguments I had encountered during my protest of the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania “Circle the Square with Prayer” event commemorating the National Day of Prayer was an attempt to argue that God exists because God is the foundation for inductive reasoning and can be the only explanation justifying inductive reasoning.
This line of argumentation, taken from presuppositional Christian apologetics, seems attractive and perhaps difficult to refute, but is not as ironclad as theists may believe. Some basic understanding of epistemology and argumentation will equip atheists to refute this line of reasoning and throw presuppositional apologetics into the dustbin of failed Christian arguments.
Students of epistemology ought to know what is referred to as the problem of induction – popularized by philosopher David Hume. Hume noted a fundamental problem within the belief that the future will generally resemble the past – this line of reasoning is circular. After observing — for instance — ice melting at a particular temperature, although we seem justified in believing that ice will melt when exposed to a particular temperature in the future, we argue in a circle – believing that ice will melt…because ice will melt.
Theists and atheists, regardless of the problem of induction, believe the future will generally resemble the past. It seems to be the case that — regardless of the problem of induction or any belief (or lack thereof) in gods — theists and atheists are forced into believing induction is a reliable — although perhaps logically unjustified — means to attaining and justifying truth. Without induction, or with belief that the future will not generally resemble the past, humans would live life in a destructive, reckless, and extremely confused manner.
May people touch hot stoves with doubt concerning whether high temperature would burn flesh?
Would people not rely on public transportation which, on weekdays, arrives at regular intervals?
Shall the husband of an abusive wife return home with agnosticism concerning her abusive nature?
Should people not believe cashiers will return change when given sums of money larger than cost of purchases?
Ought people not believe lightswitches will cause bulbs to brighten?
Our past mundane experiences — many of which uncontroversially inform our expectations — are generally reliable means to truth. Regardless of what undergirds our belief in induction, the problem of induction is both a problem for a theist and an atheist.
Does an appeal to God allow theists to ‘escape’ or ‘solve’ the problem of induction? Does a lack of justification pertaining to induction provide a theist with a justifiable leap to assert God merely because the atheist (or the theist) lacks an answer? Appealing to God simply because this is the only viable option (for the theist) is not an appropriate step to take. How ought one bridge the gap, anyway, from ‘I don’t know’ to ‘God is responsible?’
Whyshould Christians privilege their particular god as the justification for induction? Why not suppose the source of induction is Allah, Zeus, Amon-Ra, a time traveler, sufficiently advanced technology, or entities from another planet? Why is the Christian god a better explanation for the source of induction than the Muslim god or a Greek god?
The Christian, in asserting the Christian god as an explanation for induction, unfairly privileges his/her particular god without any justification or explanation — at least from presuppositial apologetics — about how the properties of god are known. How does the Christian know that a particular god — one which is active in human affairs, sent his son to die on a cross, and is concerned about the actions of humans — is responsible for or the explanation for induction?
Presuppositional apologetics is yet another failed attempt to demonstrate the Christian god exists. The Christian, drawing upon a philosophical problem, unjustifiably states that — because atheists lack non-circular explanations — the Christian god in particular is responsible or otherwise the justification for induction without explaining how they know God’s nature – at least within the context of presuppositional apologetics. The Christian god is privileged over other gods when, for all we know, other explanations of gods or beings may account for induction.
As always, feel free to leave your comments below – especially if you find presuppositional apologetics alluring and/or advocate for presuppositional apologetics.