This argument is known as the Epistemological Argument against Atheism. It focuses on the self-contradictory nature of the atheist’s foundation for knowledge. For those that are unaware, epistemology is a tenet of a worldview that deals with your foundation for knowledge. I will be posting another article soon that will build a positive case for a logically coherent epistemology in the Christian worldview. This article will only focus on the atheist’s epistemology and not the Christian’s epistemology. Please note that this article will be watered down compared to the chapter in my book which presents this argument.
First, we need to take a look at inductive reasoning.
1. Inductive Reasoning:
Inductive reasoning evaluates general propositions in order to come up with a probable conclusion.
Here are some important things to note:
A.) Inductive reasoning is basically “bottom up” logic.
B.) In an inductive argument, even if all of the premises are true, the conclusion can still be false.
C.) Inductive reasoning does not deal with absolutes; it only deals with probability and possibility.
D.) Inductive Arguments are generally considered to be “strong” or “weak.”
A very brief explanation on the laws of logic:
1. The Law of Identity-For example, A=A, B=B but A can’t equal B. This means that two completely different objects, concepts, propositions, can’t occupy the same identity. For instance, atheism can’t be equal to Christianity because both propositions are contrary to each other.
2. The law of non contradiction-This states that any proposition that contradicts itself can not be true. For example, it is not possible for the universe to exist and not exist at the same time. It is also not possible to be a married bachelor, because bachelors are by definition not married. A self contradictory proposition would be a proposition that is both true and not true within the same context. For example, a married bachelor. Bachelors are by definition not married; it is impossible to be married and single at the same time. Two propositions in which are contrary to each other can not both be true in the same description of reality.
3. The law of the excluded middle-This entails that a statement or proposition is either true or false, it can’t be both. For instance, it is not possible for 2+2=4 to neither be true or false.
It is important to note that the laws of logic are considered to exist in every possible description of reality.(1)
A possible world is a description of how the world might have been. It is important to note that a “possible world” is not a planet, universe, or any type of tangible object. A “possible world” is just a description. For example, Joe Biden became president in 2009.(Note that this is something that “might” have been true or could have “possibly” been true. This would be considered “possibly” true because Joe Biden was Vice President in 2009. Because it was possible in 2009 for Joe Biden to become president this is considered to be a true proposition in a “possible world.”) Please note that possible worlds MUST be logically coherent and thus can not violate the laws of logic.
Actual World: A description of a world that is true. For example, Barack Obama won the 2008 Presidential Election.
There are some other terms we need to bare in mind as well:
False propositions are propositions that are false in the actual world.
For example: George W. Bush won the 2012 presidential election.(This is not true because in the actual world there are term limits.)
True propositions are propositions that are true in the actual world.
For example: George W. Bush is a former president of the United States.(This is true because George W. Bush was at one time the president of the United States.)
Impossible propositions (or necessarily false propositions) are propositions that are true in no possible world.
Example: The Universe both exists and doesn’t exist at the same time.(This is false in all possible worlds because in every possible world the proposition is self contradictory.)
Possible propositions are propositions that are true in at least one possible world
Example: Hillary Clinton won the 2008 election.(This is possible because Hillary Clinton was eligible to become president of the United States in 2008. In the 2008 election it was possible for Hillary Clinton to win the election. Remember, a possible world is a description of what MIGHT have been.)
Necessarily true propositions (often simply called necessary propositions) are propositions that are true in all possible worlds.
Example: All bachelors are not married.(In order to be a bachelor you must be unmarried. Self contradictory propositions can’t be true in any possible world. Any proposition that violates the laws of logic such as the law of non contradiction or the law of identity in a possible world can not exist in any possible world. )
Contingent propositions are propositions that are true in some possible worlds and false in others.
Example: George Bush won the 2004 presidential election. This is true in the actual world and also in some possible worlds. For instance, there is a possible world where George Bush became president but had to step down due to a scandal. There is a possible world where George Bush became President but was unfortunately killed by a heart attack, etc. However, George Bush winning the election in 2004 would be false in a possible world where John Kerry won the 2004 Presidential Election.)
The Atheist’s Self Contradictory Epistemology
The atheist’s foundation for reasoning must be inductive. The reason being is because in the atheist worldview there is no ultimate starting point for knowledge. It has to be induced. If atheism is true, there can be no universal values nature is all there is. But nature itself provides no benefit for knowledge. Nature itself is not knowledge. Thus, because there would be no ultimate universal standard for reasoning , there would be no starting point for knowledge. When humans came into existence in an atheist worldview, there wasn’t an embodiment of knowledge in which they could deduce the possibilities, rather, they had to build possible inferences while starting from nothing.
Most atheists agree that their foundation for reasoning is inductive. However, what a lot of people are unaware of is that inductive reasoning does NOT deal in absolutes. It only deals with what is possible or what is probable. This means that given that all of the premises in an inductive argument are true, the conclusion can still be false.
If an atheist agrees that their foundation for knowledge is inductive, then they must live consistently with that implication in order to have a self consistent foundation for knowledge. But if the foundation of knowledge is no more than induction, then it entails that one can not be ultimately certain about anything. If the atheists say that their foundation for knowledge is inductive, but yet they make absolute claims, then the atheist is contradicting their own epistemology. This is because the atheist, who uses inductive reasoning as their foundation for knowledge, has limited themselves to what they believe is probable, but they can’t make absolute claims due to the limitations of inductive reasoning.
If an atheist appeals to absolutes in an epistemology that can only be founded within inductive reasoning, then they have contradicted their own foundation for epistemology. Thus, the atheist’s epistemology can not be true in any possible world. Since epistemology is a major tenet in any worldview and the atheist’s epistemology is self contradictory then the atheist worldview is falsified on the basis of a self contradictory epistemology. Thus, we can form the following argument:
P1: A worldview that violates the laws of logic can’t be true in any possible world.
P2: The atheist worldview violates the laws of logic.
P3: If the atheist worldview violates the laws of logic then the atheist worldview can not be true in any possible world.
P4: If the atheist worldview can not be true in any possible world then it must also be false in the actual world.
P5: Therefore, the atheist worldview is false in the actual world.
Conclusion: Therefore the atheist worldview is false.