The article we’re writing about is probably the all-time worst. Really. No exaggeration. It’s found at the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG), one of the major sources of young-earth creationist wisdom. AIG is the online ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the creationist Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia. He also brought you the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum.
AIG’s mind-warping essay is titled Circular Reasoning. Forewarning: They like circular reasoning. They use it. They recommend it. Their article begins with what they say is a question someone sent in to them:
[I]n a recent discussion with a non-Christian, where I was using presuppositional apologetics, I was accused of using circular reasoning to argue my case. He claims that it is invalid to assume God exists to argue that God exists. On the surface, this seems to make sense. But I still firmly believe that it’s valid to presuppose that God exists.
How should I respond to his claims that my arguments are invalid due to circular reasoning?
The questioner said he was relying on this article at AIG: What Is “Presuppositional” Apologetics? You can read that if you like, but in a nutshell, this is what it says:
[P]resuppositional apologetics is a reasoned defense of Christian beliefs based on recognizing our presuppositions. For instance, my presupposition is that God exists and He has given us His Word (the Bible) that is absolute truth. … If we start off believing the Bible is the Word of God [scripture omitted], then we use it as our axiom. An axiom (often used in logic) is a proposition that is not susceptible to proof or disproof; its truth is assumed. … The battle is not over evidence but over philosophical starting points: presuppositions.
So the question put to AIG is whether their “presuppositional apologetics” amounts to nothing more than circular reasoning. Good question. Your Curmudgeon’s answer is that presupposing the existence of God can be taken on faith and used as an axiom in one’s religion. But although the religion is based on the assumption of God’s existence, it doesn’t prove God’s existence — claiming otherwise would be circular reasoning. This is simple stuff.
But you didn’t come here for our thinking on the question. Here are some excerpts from AIG’s answer, with bold font added by us:
The common accusation that the presuppositionalist uses circular reasoning is actually true. In fact, everyone uses some degree of circular reasoning when defending his ultimate standard (though not everyone realizes this fact). Yet if used properly, this use of circular reasoning is not arbitrary and, therefore, not fallacious.
Aaaargh!! Circular reasoning is always fallacious, in the sense of starting with an axiom and then basing an argument upon it to “prove” that the axiom is true. Let’s read on:
Contrary to what your non-Christian friend said, circular reasoning is surprisingly a valid argument. The conclusion does follow from the premises.
Aaaargh!! Yes, the conclusion “follows from” the premises, but it doesn’t prove the premises. We continue:
Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy only when it is arbitrary, proving nothing beyond what it assumes.
Well, okay. But that’s a sloppy definition of circular reasoning. Here’s more:
However, not all circular reasoning is fallacious. Certain standards must be assumed. Dr. Jason Lisle gave this example of a non-arbitrary use of circular reasoning:
Without laws of logic, we could not make an argument.
We can make an argument.
Therefore, there must be laws of logic.
Aaaargh!! That is nothing more than a demonstration (clumsily worded) that logic is an essential axiom, which must be posited (without proof) in order to proceed with any argument.
That ghastly syllogism has a footnote to something written by Jason. We’ve posted about a couple of his articles in which he describes his scriptural logic, and from those posts you’ll get the full flavor of how he thinks — if you really want to know. See Creationist Wisdom — Example 56 and also Creationism and Logic. Moving along, the article comments — erroneously — on Jason’s brilliant syllogism:
While this argument is circular, it is a non-fallacious use of circular reasoning. Since we couldn’t prove anything apart from the laws of logic, we must presuppose the laws of logic even to prove they exist. In fact, if someone were trying to disprove that laws of logic exist, he’d have to use the laws of logic in his attempt, thereby refuting himself. Your non-Christian friend must agree there are certain standards that can be proven with circular reasoning.
That’s just flat-out stupid. It’s entirely true that the laws of logic are an essential axiom (if they were not, they nevertheless would be, because only logic rules out contradictions). But logic is not self-proving via circular reasoning. Logic is an essential axiom (there are a few others) but it is not an example of “good” circular reasoning. There aren’t any of those. Another excerpt:
Your basic presupposition — God exists and has revealed Himself in His inerrant, authoritative Word — is the ultimate standard.
The ultimate standard for Christian theology he should say. One could just as arbitrarily posit the existence of the Olympian gods and proceed from there. On with the article:
Presupposing God exists to argue that God exists is a reasonable circular argument because without the God of the Bible, we have no basis for assuming the laws of logic and their properties, let alone absolute morality or the uniformity of nature.
Aaaargh!! The article goes on and on (building on that shaky foundation) so we’ll give you just one more excerpt as a sample of what awaits you when you click over there to read it all for yourself, without our benevolent guidance:
Science itself requires the biblical God. Without the uniformity of nature, which can only be explained by God consistently upholding the universe, science would be a guessing game.
We’ve got to stop. Besides, we discussed that sort of thing in the second of our two earlier posts on Jason’s logic, to which we linked above. We don’t want to go through that again. Creationists should never lecture us on logic. It’s utterly alien to their nature.
Okay now, if you decide to read the whole AIG essay, you do so at your own risk. We’ll close with a bit of our own circular reasoning:
Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.