Conversation With An Atheist – Part 2

Posted: August 17, 2011 by Brett Kunkle in God is Real
  1. Marcus says:

    Okay, I already gave an analysis of part one of this video, here are my thoughts on part 2. In this video the unbeliever makes a huge mistake that gives Christians all the rope they need to hang him with. He says this “I really believe that the sun will come up tomorrow”. This is a key apologetical moment because my question to him would be why?  Why do you believe that the sun will rise tomorrow given your worldview? I would argue that he does not have any rational reason at all, for believing that the sun will rise tomorrow, unless he assumes the Christian worldview to be true.

    His answer to this would have been something to the effect of: I believe this because of my past experience. In the past the sun has always risen, and we have never observed anything to the contrary. In other words, there is uniformity in this world, and all of the universe operates in a law-like predictable fashion, and thus we can make predictions in this world based on past experience. But, is it true that we can know that the sun will rise tomorrow based on past experience. The answer is no. You cannot justify your expectations about the future based on past experience. If the unbeliever attempts to argue that because in his past experience the sun has always risen, and; therefore, in the future the sun will rise, he is begging the question. He is already assuming that his past experience is a reliable  guide to what is going to happen in the future, which is the very question at hand. In other words he is assuming uniformity to prove uniformity. He has no rational basis for expecting the sun to rise tomorrow.

    Now he might respond, well I don’t know for certain that the sun will rise tomorrow, but very probably it will. This still misses the point, and begs the question because I am not asking about the certainty of the sun rising tomorrow, I am asking why he has the expectation at all  that the sun will rise tomorrow. Moreover, probability assumes uniformity. When someone says something is very probable to happen, what they are really saying is based on the experiences I have had in the past, I can predict this or that is likely to happen in the future, and when that is done you are assuming uniformity, thus begging the question. Even the atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russell, who hated Christianity, and wrote all sorts of attacks on it points out in one of his books that there is no rational basis for for believing in uniformity. Here is a quote from Bertrand Russell:

    “Do any number of cases of a law being fulfilled in the past afford evidence that it will be fulfilled in the future? If not, it becomes plain that we have no ground whatever for expecting the sun to rise to-morrow, or for expecting the bread we shall eat at our next meal not to poison us, or for any of the other scarcely conscious expectations that control our daily lives….The business of science is to find uniformities, such as the laws of motion and the law of gravitation, to which, so far as our experience extends, there are no exceptions. In this search science has been remarkably successful, and it may be conceded that such uniformities have held hitherto. This brings us back to the question: Have we any reason, assuming that they have always held in the past, to suppose that they will hold in the future?”

    Bertrand Russell later responds to the person who makes an argument from past experience.

    “The inductive principle, however, is equally incapable of being proved by an appeal to experience. Experience might conceivably confirm the inductive principle as regards the cases that have been already examined; but as regards unexamined cases, it is the inductive principle alone that can justify any inference from what has been examined to what has not been examined. All arguments which, on the basis of experience, argue as to the future or the unexperienced parts of the past or present, assume the inductive principle; hence we can never use experience to prove the inductive principle without begging the question.Thus we must either accept the inductive principle on the ground of its intrinsic evidence, or forgo all justification of our expectations about the future. ”

    Notice Bertrand Russell says the principle of uniformity or induction must be accepted on it’s “intrinsic evidence” , which is another way of saying we don’t have any evidence at all, we just have to take it for granted, and as I believe I pointed out in my response to part 1 of this video rational people don’t just take things for granted. The belief in uniformity is a critical belief that everyone assumes, and yet only the Christian can account for it. The Christian has a good reason for believing in the uniformity of nature because we believe in a sovereign God who controls this world, and has promised to keep it uniform. 

    As I conclude, I would like to point out that when you reject uniformity, you have no basis for taking any information from your past experience and assuming that it is usable in the future. The late great Christian philosopher Dr. Greg Bahnsen pointed out that the unbeliever cannot even make sense out of brushing  his teeth without assuming uniformity because if he squeezes the tube of toothpaste and expects the paste to come out, he is assuming uniformity, which  he or she cannot account for. Here you have the unbeliever denying the Christian worldview while at the same time borrowing from it.  If you cannot account for uniformity then science becomes impossible, and you can’t make sense out of your experience.

     The proof of the Christian worldview is that without it, you could not prove anything.


  2. Sam Harper says:

    Marcus, why does anybody need to account for why they believe in the uniformity of nature before they can be rational in believing in the uniformity of nature? Isn’t it enough that the uniformity of nature is obvious or that it can be known by intuition?

    If we have to give reasons for everything we believe, how can we possibly avoid an infinite regress? If you have to have a reason to believe whatever you believe, and if you believe in the uniformity of nature, then you have to have a reason for why you believe in the uniformity of nature. You believe in the uniformity of nature because of God. But that just moves the process back one step. If you believe in God, you’ve got to have a reason for why you believe in God, in keeping with your view that you must have a reason to believe something before you’re rational in believing in it. And whatever reason you give for believing in God, you’ve got to have reason for believing that as well. This line of thinking gets you into an infinite regress of reasons to justify any believe that you have. Since it’s not possible to complete an infinite series of reasons for your belief, you couldn’t be rational in believing anything at all if it’s true that we have to have a reason for everything we believe. Your view seems to lead logically to a radical skepticism in which none of our beliefs can be justified.