I've been challenged by a friend of a friend to read the book, "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist." Within the first chapter of the book, the authors are already giving the reader (as Sarah Palin would say) "got cha questions" that they think will "quickly and clearly identify the false statement and false philosophies that permeate our culture" (38).
First, the authors assume that religion/Christianity holds absolute truth while atheists maintain that there is no absolute truth. They haven't given any examples of this notion and so far, it seems like semantics are the only 'evidence' that is presented.
One of the tactics that they recommend using against the non-believers in what they called the "Road Runner Tactic" This tactic is meant to end the discussion without actually discussing the topic. For example, if one was to say there is not such thing as truth. The person could use the RRT and say "Is that true?" It becomes a self-defeating statement.
The book goes on to make several accusations before giving another example of the RRT. One false accusation is that "many of our university professors [will] tell you that there is no truth" (40). I'm not sure about you guys but I've never heard this claim from any of my college professors.
The next "example" is a personal scenario from one of the authors. He was taking a course on Logical Positivism. They were asked to give a presentation based on a chapter in a book by A.J Ayer. He chose the chapter titled "The principle of Empirical Verifiability" Instead of giving a meaningful presentation as asked, he stands up to class and says:
"The principle of empirical verifiability states that there are only two kinds of meaningful propositions: 1)Those that are true by definition and 2) those that are empirically verifiable. Since the principle of empirical verifiability itself is neither true by definition nor empirically verifiable, it cannot be meaningful"
He sits down and according to his account of the event, the class was shocked due to his "undoing" of the teacher's philosophy. (Though, I'm curious to know the author's grade for the presentation LOL)
It seems to me that this is just a play on words. It's meant to defeat the conversation without discussion, thinking, or learning. Have any of you encountered this tactic (or even used it)? I'm interested to know if anyone had ever had this used "against" them during a debate and what sort of responses to give back to them.
(By the way, I could write an entire book just on the lies and false assumptions in this book. It's actually really insulting to atheists)
"...if you don't respond within the space of a few seconds, they declare victory."
Yes, they do!! I'm so glad I have the opportunity to dissect this book before talking about it.
This is an argument style that (I am ashamed to admit) I used often when I was a deluded christian youth leader. It does not address a particular issue, but rather tries to make the logic used to address the issue seem false. You could debate the logic, but you sideline the real issue.
If you can't easily persuade the person that the argument is invalid then move on by saying something like I don't accept that argument. It proves nothing lets move on.
Sometimes you will need the logic to make your point and there is an approach to get back on track quickly. An easy way to defeat this type of argument is to ask the person to name just one instance where the logic fails
Another approach was used against me very effectively. Force the person to agree to the important part of the argument by forcing them to admit that they can't agree with the implications of what they are proposing. In this case it could look something like this.
"So you believe that if a proposition is true by definition it can be false, in which case a triangle, which by definition has three sides, can have four sides...
and you believe that if a proposition is empirically verifiable it can be false in which case you can believe that I don't exist even though you and everyone around you can see me, touch me, hear me and smell me...
If that were the case then I would have to say that you are deluded".
Thanks for keeping us informed, It's interesting :)
Thanks! This really helped me understand more about what they're trying to do.
& I plan on writing a few more discussions/blogs about this book. Some of it is making me angry so I can't wait to discuss it with a Christian and see their point of view.
Regarding this particular argument. Encyclopedia Britanicca has a good summary.
The very last paragraph is relevant.
"The principal criticism of the verifiability principle has been that, because it is not an empirical proposition, it is itself on its own terms either meaningless or else tautologically true as an arbitrary definition of meaningfulness. In response, it has been argued both that the principle is indeed a tautology, though a nonarbitrary one in that it reflects actual usage and that it is strictly meaningless but to be taken as a recommendation for the conduct of scientific inquiry. "
You can't win this argument because this is something that we all know through experience (sounds just like religious argument) but the key here is that the other person in reality should agree with this principle. If all agree then there is no reason to argue.
As regards the 'truth' stuff. The assertion is false. Atheists as a group do not claim anything about truth. The real point that they are arguing is philosophy regarding a definition "absolute or divine truth" which certain atheist philosophers have argued against and certain christian apologists have rebutted with semantics that confuse boolean truth (true/false logic) with the relative truth of a particular reality. Reference article from the apologists perspective
The RRT example 'is that true?' is semantics confusing boolean logic with relative truth. The question means 'is that correct' not 'is that the the divine truth'.
This issue can be a huge time waster. It cannot prove that there is a god or absolute morality, nor can it prove that there are no gods. In short it is irrelevant.