Thursday, 24 May 2012

Wayne Jackson: Christian apologist. A refutation - Part One

Bertrand Russell's "Teapot" Argument :

Christians cannot afford to make bogus arguments to the embarrassment of the cause of Christ. Atheists will pick up these “broken swords” and whack us over the head with them.
I am glad Wayne Jackson made this clear from the outset of his article. It makes it so much easier for him to admit - when refuted - his arguments are bogus.

Let's take an analytical look at his claims.
Occasionally a demand by sincere believers is this: “You cannot prove God does not exist.” This statement involves a logical fallacy — the challenge to prove a universal negative. Logically, one cannot prove a universal negative; in order to do so he would have to be everywhere, and know everything — which is an impossibility.
Really? Great! Mr Jackson has refuted God's omnipresence and omniscience in one succinct sentence.

I have to admit, I don't really understand why Jackson even introduces this argument. It appears to be somewhat out of kilter with the tone of the rest of his article. Nevertheless, I admire his honesty. So far.

Atheism, by definition, is itself negative — from the negative prefix, a (no) and theos (God). It is a baseless assertion without the support of logical argumentation.
Whilst I agree that atheism - for all intents and purposes - is a negative position (I have met very few 'positive' atheists that make the positive claim that there are no gods), he conflates this non-belief of negative atheism with a belief. As such, he creates a straw man which he then proceeds to smash by calling his definition of atheism baseless and without logical standing. Jackson has succeeded in refuting a claim only he and his ilk seem to think exists.

So is there a basis for negative atheism, and can it be logically argued? I think it can. Theists make a claim that some sort of god exists, atheists don't believe that their claims have any truth or knowledge value. The basis for atheism is that the theist has not presented any compelling arguments or evidence for the existence of their claimed god, and very often don't even have a consistent idea of what it is they are claiming does exist. This is abundantly clear to even the most dishonest apologist, and yet here I am defending both a basis and a logical standing for that which Jackson claims has no basis or logical standing. If my basis is incorrect, let him refute it. If my logical standing is in question, let him refute that too. Perhaps then, he would like to establish his compelling arguments, proofs and evidence for the existence of his specific claim, rather than taking cheap and indefensible shots at those that simply don't believe him.
But atheists themselves are not immune to making illogical arguments. They believe that life, at the beginning, spontaneously generated itself. When asked for evidence of this thesis, an atheist might say: “Prove to me it didn’t happen that way.” No one could; that’s the sort of negative that cannot be subjected to testing. The issue is: show me the evidence that life “jump-started” itself.
Off he goes again with the straw man. Atheists do not believe that life spontaneously generated itself. The only thing atheists do not believe in, are  the theistic claims that a god or gods exist. Nothing else. An atheist may believe that life spontaneously generated itself, but it is by no means a requirement of his atheism. Indeed, it would be a very weak claim in and of itself.

'Spontaneous generation' - as Jackson describes it - was refuted in 1668, by Francesco Redi, who proved that no maggots appeared in meat when flies were prevented from laying eggs.

Now, if Jackson meant to use the term 'abiogenesis', he may have found that - whilst there is no direct evidence for this hypothesis - there are a number of possible explanations for how life could have come from non-life (Most currently accepted models draw at least some elements from the framework laid out by the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis). And whilst here is a lack of evidence for abiogenesis, this does not mean that speculation on the matter is baseless or illogical. The whole idea of hypotheses is that one isolates a particular problem and searches for possible explanations through rigourous testing. To date, there has been little success in this field, but we don't dismiss the hypothesis simply because it hasn't been proven. It is merely the first step in trying to elucidate a functional and coherent explanation for the problem that has been presented.

Not one of the hypotheses for abiogenesis is as far-fetched as being created from dust into a fully formed (sans navel) adult man, from which a rib was extracted to make the female of the species. One wonders how the females of other species came into being?

As for the claim that atheists respond to requests for evidence with the 'prove to me it didn't happen that way' evasion, this leads me to suspect that Jackson has formed his argument by conversing with himself in a mirror. Never, in my twenty-plus years of counter-apologetics have I encountered such an argument (Edit - so I did a Google search which returned one partial page on the entire Internets where three people have used it), leading me to believe that Jackson simply made this up.
The Christian does not challenge: “Prove to me that God does not exist.” Rather, the legitimate approach is this. Here is the evidence for God’s existence. If my case is valid, one is logically driven (by default) to the conclusion that there is compelling evidence for God’s existence. In legal jargon, this is called a prima facie case; if there is nothing to refute it, it reasonably may be accepted as true, and atheism — its opposite — fails.
It is all well and good for Jackson to say that theists should present the evidence for God's existence, rather than blithely stating 'prove to me that God doesn't exist', but no evidence is presented beyond a god of the gaps argument. And not a very compelling one at that. But I shall come to that in part two. For now, let's take a closer look at Jackson's prima facie example.

Jackson makes a case for the existence of God in a court of law. He provides no evidence for this claim, and concludes that there is compelling evidence for God's existence. In refutation of this claim, an atheist states that there is no evidence for the veracity of his claim, and that it should be dismissed. In any right-minded court, his claim would be thrown out for lacking any evidence prima facie (on the face of things).

In stating that atheism is the opposite to theism, if feel there is something a little sneaky about how he has portrayed it. Atheism is not so much the opposite of theism, it is more the counter to it. If theism were proved to be true, atheism doesn't fail, it is just incorrect, but the same is true in reverse.

In part two, I shall approach Jackson's five proofs or evidence for the existence of God, and how he utterly fails in doing so. 


  1. When my reply started threatening to paginate, I figured an actual blog post would be better.

    1. TLDR; I think there is support for positive atheism, that absence of evidence is evidence of absence when you would reasonably expect to find evidence. That theists have spent thousands of years insisting they do have evidence leads me to conclude that that's a reasonable expectation.

  2. You're a pompous, godless fool, destined for the lake of fire. Enjoy yourself while in this body. When you enter your fiery eternity it will be too late to acknowledge the Jesus Christ is Lord.


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