an atheist viewpoint

thoughts from a non-theist

On Presup

Seems that here would be a good place to reproduce the bulk of a lengthy email I’ve just written. In it I explain the basic points of presubullshit, and why it is nonsense.
Hopefully this will be helpful for some –
If you’re unfamiliar with Presup, it’s simply a variation on the Transcendental Argument for God (TAG) which goes as follows –
P1. For logic to exist the Christian god must exist
P2. Logic exists
C. The Christian god exists
Obviously, as you can see, the TAG is entirely circular, and rests on an unproved assertion
Eric (Hovind) has taken hold of the even dafter version that Sye (Ten Bruggencate) peddles, which goes a bit like this -Sye/Eric: I can prove that god exists. To do this I begin by presuming that he does.
Seriously – that’s the whole argument!
They usually use the question ‘is it possible you could be wrong about everything you know?’ as an ‘in’ when discussing this with non-believers. Faced with this for the first time, most unbelievers will be entirely honest and reply that it IS possible that they may be wrong about everything they know – despite the fact that they’re not. Eric and Sye will then say ‘if you don’t know everything how do you know there isn’t something that will disprove everything else?’, following up with ‘you have no certainty in your worldview, so your worldview is absurd!’. This is usually attached to ‘if you could be wrong about everything you know, then how can you know anything??’. They then claim that THEY have certainty because they have a ‘revelation’ from their particular version of their particular god. To get to that they will ask ‘Is it possible that an omnipotent being could reveal things to us in such a way that we may be certain of them?’ – the unwary may answer ‘yes’, at which point Eric/Sye have made their hit and they smugly baffle the unbeliever into submission.
Then they’ll acknowledge that, clearly, the atheist DOES know things, and that this is proof that god exists……even though it isn’t, and no matter how much they nakedly assert this it does not become true.
They will also chuck in a load of bullshit along the lines of ‘do you reason your reasoning is valid’, and ‘how do you know your reasoning is valid? Your reasoning? That’s viciously circular!’. They’ll finish by stating that the atheist actually DOES believe in the Christian god, citing Roman 1:18-21 (“18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Now, the argument they present fails on several levels –

1. It is NOT possible that we’re wrong about everything we think we know – we can know with absolute certainty that we are thinking, as the very act of considering it self verifies. Once we have identified that we can know at least one thing for certain we can use this to confirm the Primacy of Existence, recognising that a thing has to first exist before it can consider the existence of itself or other things. The Primacy of Existence (basically ‘reality is real’) is the bedrock for all subsequent knowledge, allowing us to measure and describe the Universe, and leading us to ever increasing understanding…..all without the need for ‘absolute certainty’ that Eric/Sye claim we need
2. The Presupper claims that they are also unable to gain certainty, but that they have access to a being with perfect knowledge which has revealed himself to them. However, they face a major and insurmountable problem – by the very argument they present they CANNOT know ANYTHING for certain BEFORE they receive this ‘revelation’, including whether the source of the revelation is genuine – they have to accept the ‘revelation’ BEFORE they have the knowledge they claim they need to be able to confirm its accuracy. The ONLY way they could possibly be able to confirm they weren’t just hallucinating, or being misled by a ‘being of sufficient power’ (the ‘Evil God’ hypothesis) would be if they too were omniscient and were able to fact check the source of the revelation to verify that it’s genuine. When asked about this both Sye and Eric have floundered, whilst their fellow pressupper, Dustin Seger, mumbled out some nonsense about the revelation not being bounded by temporality! I think he was trying to say that the knowledge of the validity of the ‘revelation’ could be projected back in time or something, so that you could be certain of it before you were certain.
3. even if the presupper was able to make a valid point, it would bring them no closer to WHICH god had given the ‘revelation’, proving that it is their particular version of the Christian god is still entirely impossible – in short they are still stuck at step one.


Hopefully that’ll help if you’re faced with presubullshitters.

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3 thoughts on “On Presup

  1. Ydemoc on said:


    Great to see that you’ve reentered the fray! — even if it ends up being only a temporary reemergence.

    Maybe we’ll see you over at Dawson’s some time. It sure would have been interesting to see your take over there on what Michael Rawlings’ had to say. It got pretty crazy.


  2. Nice, I think that one really needs to push them on the whole ‘knowledge must ultimately be justified by reference to an external source’. As a premise it only takes a single example to break it & as you noted, one can know one exists without having to reference anything but the fact that one can think about the idea that one exists.

  3. Justin Hall on said:

    Hi there Alex, I too am glad to see you back in action. I put a link back on my blog linking here as a blog of interest. Hope is well with you.

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