Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Logic and Child Development: a response to Paul Baird

After my initial RESPONSE to Paul's criticism of my VIDEO, I was expecting something equally thoughtful to what he first WROTE.  But I must say I was quite disappointed with his NON-RESPONSE, which could be summed up as, "You're stupid and i'm smarter than you."  And if you think i'm exaggerating, read it for yourself.

I suppose it was that "made in the image of God" thing (which Paul directly denies but indirectly affirms) that made Paul realize that such a response was disrespectful.  Therefore, Paul decided to not "give up" on what did not "warrant a response" (per his own words) by taking a STAB at my rebuttal.  Though Paul didn't respond to all of what I said, he at least provided some insights on his "expertise" in the matter since he's, "been a single father, taking a two year sabbatical, raising children from under 5 into their teens, so I know just a little bit about child development, and Mike's analysis is so naive as to not warrant a response."

I'm going to ignore some of his insulting words and respond only to what he said of substance.  But feel free to read his response for YOURSELF to get the full context.

First Paul cites from a PAPER to highlight the following:
Deductive reasoning involves making inferences on the basis of some given premises. Making logical inferences is one of the key components of advanced thinking in humans. In fact, it could be argued that the ability to make inferences whose truth value depends entirely on the supposed truth of given, and possibly arbitrary, premises is one of the clearest examples of a cognitive capacity that differentiates human from nonhuman species. The distinctiveness of the processes involved in logical reasoning is sufficiently striking to have prompted some researchers to suppose that inference rules may have been biologically built into the human cognitive architecture (Braine, 1978; Cohen, 1981; MacNamara, 1986). However, while human reasoners often show the ability to make logical deductions in the classic sense, studies on reasoning also clearly show that inferential performance can also be highly variable and subject to a variety of influences. One of the major challenges of any theory of reasoning is to account for both the capacity to make inferences that are logically valid and at the same time to explain variation in reasoning performance due to both developmental and situational variables. While many forms of reasoning exist, one in particular, conditional reasoning, has been studied enough both in adults and developmentally to provide a set of empirical results substantial enough to provide a serious test for any theory of reasoning.
Paul cites this portion in order to ask the following:
"How does Presuppositional Apologetics deal with that variation?"
If I understand the cited portion correctly, the author is asking why some people reason in an underdeveloped manner verses one who is mature in their reasoning capabilities?  The first problem is that of sin and how it darkens the mind to think sinfully and irrationally:
“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” (Ephesians 4:17-18)
While it is true that humans who come into this world are made in the image of God and able to think as God thinks, their minds are darkened by sin because they are a son of Adam.  So only in this sense is there a need for child development.  When Adam and Eve came into the world, they weren't provided with courses in philosophy and formal logic.  Instead, they were without sin and held the fullest potential in thinking rationally.

But how do Christians deal with variation?  We, "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4) by teaching them that in Christ, "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," and, "YHWH gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." (Proverbs 2:6)  Thus, the Christian has a reason for expecting his or her children to reason logically:
1. They are made in God's image
2. Having trustworthy reasoning faculties requires the truth of God's Word.
Can Paul provide a basis by which children should be expected to reason logically?  On what basis could Paul tell his kids, "Let me show you why X is logical and Y is not."  Is it because Paul says so?  What if his kids ask, "Daddy, how do I know that your reasoning process is right?  Why can't I just come up with my own reasoning process?"  Would Paul answer, "Well, its because this is what your daddy learned in school and its what my dad taught me to do as well, just as I am teaching you."  But this assumes that Paul's Father as well as his school system reasons logically.  The regress could be pushed as far back as one could go, to the very first humans who began to reason about reality.

If proper reasoning is dependent upon what one's father or school system has taught them, then it would have to assume the proper reasoning abilities of the one who first decided to reason and impart his knowledge to others.

Another problem would be in the development of logic itself.  Were those first humans able to develop a perfectly valid logical system from the outset?  Or did logic develop?  And how does Paul know that the logic he uses is in the correct stage of development?  If Paul thinks that such is absurd to suggest, would not the first proponents of reason think that their stage of logical development is the correct and final stage?  And this is the problem; every human who reasoned assumed the reliability of his reasoning faculties.  But they did so without basis, just as Paul does and teaches his kids to do the same.

One could go on and on with the problems in Paul's child development epistemology, but the conclusion is this: neither Paul or his kids know that their reasoning faculties are truthful and produce reliable results about reality.  Instead, they arbitrarily assume these things.  Even Paul's children; though Paul may think that they are ignorant about all things philosophical in early stages of development, they have to assume their own reasoning faculties in order to interpret their Father's epistemological conclusions about reality.  And the question I have for Paul is this: how and why do children assume their reasoning faculties from the outset? 
My point was that reasoning does have situational and developmental influences, as well as logic, and to move on from there to state that this shows that the absence of logic from some decision making and reasoning processes highlighted an issue with the Presuppositional Apologetic in that if logic was evidence of, or a gift from, God then why did humans not use it all of the time?
I've already answered this, and Paul should know better anyway if he has had so many discussions with Sye.  Humans do not use logic all the time because of their sinful state, as the Bible clearly articulates.  As I highlighted above, the idea of developmental logic is an epistemological mess for the atheist.
Piaget's theory of cognitive development also undermines the Presuppositional Apologetic in that it confirms the sceptics view of the justification for the basis of logic in humans.
But what is it that is actually justified? That humans will reason in accordance with what their parents teach them as well as their schools? Such says absolutely nothing as to whether one's reasoning is truthful.  In addition, such is arbitrary in that Paul would have no basis in disagreeing with the system of learning that one would have in being raised and educated in a Christian home.  After all, its what their parents have taught.  And if what parents and educated determines truth, then why would Paul be disagreeing with it? Its as if Paul thinks that this developmental theory actually determines the truthfulness of one's reasoning process.
Logic is not a God given set of laws that a human intuitively knows because they were created in God's image.
And Paul knows this how? Again, i'm amazed at the closed-mindedness and assurance of a self-proclaimed "free thinker." I'd like to ask Paul the following: is it possible that, if God exists, he can enable man to reason like Him in virtue of being created in His image? If its not possible, then i'd like to hear how Paul knows this.
Logic and reasoning are learned as the baby grows into a child and then an adult. Indeed there are recognised developmental stages.
This is certainly true as far as it goes (since man is sinful and must be pointed to Christ to have a trustworthy epistemology), but it doesn't answer the question: how does Paul know that the logic and reasoning he has learned is correct and trustworthy?  And how can Paul explain the phenomena that children all around the world, even in societies separated from modern philosophical thought, able to reason like everyone else?  Why is it that those in a secluded country like North Korea reason like those in the U.S.?  And if they did live consistently with a hopelessly irrational worldview, then on what basis could Paul call their reasoning process right or wrong?  At the most, he could only describe them as "different."  They would simply be the product of a particular stage of evolutionary development.
I'd recommend anyone advocating that logic and reasoning is not developed in this fashion goes and spends some prolonged time at any pre-school parent and toddler groups and tries to guess the age of the child by their reasoning ability through play and social interaction.

Has the pre-school toddler had a revelation from God to justify their logic and reasoning? Really?

I'd suggest not, and I'd also suggest that the absence of such a revelation does not mean that the worldview of the toddler is absurd. I'd like to see the Presuppositional Apologetic arguments about Child Development that suggest otherwise.
Yes, really.  And in the absence of revelation, its not that one could say with certainty that their worldview is "absurd."  Only the Christian can do that.  I can call another's worldview absurd on the objective basis of God's Word.  The atheist would have no grounds to refer to another as "absurd" or "perfectly logical."  They could only do so with an objective standard.  The most Paul could say is, "I don't know whether this child is absurd or perfectly rational.  All I can say is that I reason like X and he reasons like Y.  To each his own."


Paul Baird said...

Mike - my response

If you are going to post further then I'd be grateful if you'd consult a child development expert or a child psychologist before doing so, and also spend a couple of mornings at a parent and toddler group.

I didn't just do that by the way - I did a fair bit of reading too, it came with the territory. It's amazing what you read when you're fed up with daytime tv.

The Apologetic Front said...

Paul, i'm afraid you have completely missed the primary objective of my blog: to question your epistemology. I claim no expertise in child development and is essentially irrelevant to my arguments. And i'll show you exactly why this is the case when I respond.

Vas said...

The point: "My magical book says X, therefore I have a basis for believing in X".

The Apologetic Front said...

Vas, are you suggesting that revelational epistemology is impossible?

vasquez said...

I have no reason to believe that your magical book that makes very specific claims that have no evidence for them e.g. noah's ark, age of the earth, exodus (well at least if I accept a literal interpretation of the bible) is anything more than a man-made, man-inspired book written by men who obviously didn't understand the world around them.

The Apologetic Front said...

Vasquez, do you believe that revelational epistemology is impossible?

vasquez said...

Irregardless of wether I do or do not, how would a person know that what's written in their holy book is a revelation from a deity?

The Apologetic Front said...

Vasquez, there is no "irregardless" in this. How I answer your question fully depends on your epistemology. Is it or is it not revelational epistemology possible? In other words, is it possible that God, if He exists, can reveal some things to us such that we can know them for certain?

vasquez said...

No I personally do not and I'm not convinced that a personal God can exist.

The Apologetic Front said...

I don't mean to press this unnecessarily, but i'm not sure if your statement is one of absoluteness. That is, is it a true description of your position to say the following: Revelational epistemology is false.

If this is the case, then I want to know how you know this? That is, if God exists, how do you know that he *cannot* reveal some things to us such that we can know them for certain?

vasquez said...

I am not claiming to "know". You asked me for my position and I've given it, and that could very well change through experience, i'm certainly not denying that.

How do you know that God can reveal himself?

I personally think in order for me to adopt your position I would have to reject things I feel can be adequately explained i.e., i'd have to forcibly reject various evidences because they would conflict with such a worldview e.g, age of the earth, evolution which would include a good chunk of biology, cosmology and physics .. i'd have to pretend the best I can that the vast amount of evidence conflicting with my worldview didn't exist .. I personally do not think any of those things contradict Christianity (only a literal interpretation of Christianity).

The Apologetic Front said...

I understand your point about evidences. And its not that you'd have to reject any specific evidence, but the interpretation of that evidence. But you are correct in saying that one must be a YEC in order to be a Christian. I know plenty of Christians that aren't.

I know that God can reveal Himself because He has revealed Himself both through general and special revelation. And it was the work of the Spirit that opened my eyes to the acceptance of that special revelation in repenting and accepting Christ as Lord. From this I know that if I had not done so, I would have absolutely no grounds for an epistemology whereby I could even begin to think that I could correctly interpret evidence at all, much less account for evidence in the first place.

vasquez said...

[1] So the evidence that supposedly supports evolution and the age of the earth is just a difference in interpretation, right? Now that's a bunch of bologna. That's exactly what I'm talking about.

Calling the existing evidence a different interpretation without providing one of your own that explains the evidence is just .. what's the term use to describe this .. oh yes, cognitive dissonance.

How does a YEC explain the evidence in favor of evolution (i.e, how is the evidence interpreted)

How does a YEC explain the old earth model; how does a YEC go about interpreting cosmology, geology and physics? I know that Lisle was working on something, but I doubt that'll ever see the light.

How does a YEC explain the lack of evidence (none that I know of) for a global flood?

[2] I do not think that I said or even came close to implying that those who take The Bible literally are true Christians.

So all of this supernatural revelation talk is nothing but a personal experience?

I'm sorry, but you already came to the conclusion that you could use logic and reason to some degree the moment you didn't have to question wether or not this reality is true i.e., solipsism is false

The Apologetic Front said...

Vas, the problem in your entire range of questions is that you must presuppose the truth of the Bible in order to argue against it. That is, until you can account for the truthfulness of your reasoning faculties without using Scripture, you are essentially borrowing from my worldview in order to argue against it.

vasquez said...

If you cannot come to the assumption that you're able to use logic and reason how can you even presuppose that the scripture you're reading (or read) exist?

The Apologetic Front said...

I'm not saying that you can't assume logic and reason. What i'm saying is that in order for one's logic and reason to be valid and trustworthy, the Bible must be true and presupposed.

vasquez said...

I'm not saying that you can't assume logic and reason. What i'm saying is that in order for one's logic and reason to be valid and trustworthy, the Bible must be true and presupposed.


If you couldn't come to the conclusion that you were able to use logic and reason how could you presuppose anything without accepting that [1] you exist [2] the physical book of the bible also exists?

The Apologetic Front said...

You couldn't. But the question in the end is, on what basis can you trust the reliability of your reasoning faculties?

This is where the bible comes in. Once the Bible is presupposed, you now have a basis for doing such, in addition to an explanation as to how God's image bearers will come into this world "hard-wired" to think rationally. But in order for any of this to be the case, the Bible must be true. Its all based upon the truth of the Bible; even the very presuppositions of reason and logic.

Paul Baird said...

Mike wrote:
"I know that God can reveal Himself because He has revealed Himself both through general and special revelation. And it was the work of the Spirit that opened my eyes to the acceptance of that special revelation in repenting and accepting Christ as Lord."

and how do you know that the source of your revelations were not Satan, Zeus, Loki, drink, drugs, mental aberration caused by injury, disease or just a common or garden delusion.

You don't. Even Sye could not dodge that one, the best he came up with was that "it doesn't matter".

The Apologetic Front said...

Paul, is revelational epistemology impossible?

Paul Baird said...

Mike wrote:
"Paul, i'm afraid you have completely missed the primary objective of my blog: to question your epistemology. I claim no expertise in child development and is essentially irrelevant to my arguments. And i'll show you exactly why this is the case when I respond."

I'm looking forward to that - the child development response is nothing more than a dodge by you I'm afraid.

One more thing - I'm going to post a more serious philosophical problem for Presuppositional Apologetics on my blog - it's developed from the absolute morality line.

Paul Baird said...

Mike wrote:
"Paul, is revelational epistemology impossible?"

Let me turn the question around
"is revelational epistemology" unquestionable ?

The answer is "no".

The Apologetic Front said...


Christian revelational epistemology is unquestionable on the grounds that without it, one cannot have grounds for even asking such a question.

Now, can you please answer my question? Is revelational epistemology possible?

Paul Baird said...

Mike wrote:
"Christian revelational epistemology is unquestionable on the grounds that without it, one cannot have grounds for even asking such a question."

Do you actually understand what you're posting ?

You seem to be posting dogmatically without understanding the underlying themes. This was clear on your Youtube videos too.

You need to establish that your revelation was ONLY from the Christian God. Without that even the most basic line of your whole argument has no basis. It's just unwarranted assertion.

If you want to set up a debate (my debate with Sye has been pushed back a couple of weeks) then let me know.

The Apologetic Front said...

@Paul, you didn't answer my question.

Once my traveling schedule frees me up I would love to set up a debate with you.

Paul Baird said...

@ Mike
I think until you are able to disprove the other possible sources of your 'revelation' then you're answering your own question ie no.

The Apologetic Front said...

Since you are answering the question as "no," i'd like to know how you know that God cannot do this apart from deception?

Paul Baird said...

@ Mike, hmm, 'know' is an interesting concept in this context.

I don't, and I do not profess to.

What I am doing is raising the prospect that your revelation can have other sources. That is a major bar for your revelational epistemology to overcome. As an advocate of that epistemology the burden falls on you to show that the other proposed causes of your revelation can be dismissed.

Aside from that the other problem for revelational epistemology is exclusivity ie how do you justify your claim that your revelation enables you to dismiss the revelational epistemology of a non-Christian.

Whatever grounds you come up with can also be applied to your own as the source is allegedly the same.

The Apologetic Front said...

@Paul, so at first your answer was "no" that God can't reveal some things such that we can know them for certain. No you are saying you don't know?

What i'm asking for at this point is what is possible, not whether there are potential problems in such notions.

So if revelational epistemology is possible, i'd like to know how you know its possible?

Paul Baird said...

@ Mike - you did say 'aside from deception'.

If there are alternative possible causes and you cannot discount those alternatives then I can state that you cannot be certain that your revelation was from the Christian God.

Is is possible ?

Heck why not. It's also possible that you are Elvis.

Is it certain that your revelation, on which you base your certainty and the whole of your worldview, could only come from the Christian God ?


If you want to make some claim that you do have that certainty then I'll look forward to seeing you in concert - I like 'Blue Suede Shoes'.

The Apologetic Front said...

@Paul, great, let me add that to the question:

Is it possible that God could reveal some things to us such that we can know them for certain aside from deception?

Of course, "aside from deception" was already implied within the original question. That is, if revelational epistemology is possible, then that possibility would assume that one is not being deceived.

So is it possible or is it not that revelational epistemology can be true apart from deception? If its possible then how would you know its possible?

Paul Baird said...

@ Mike - how can you be certain aside from deception ?

That seems to be a contradiction in terms.

"Hey we're the greatest football team in whole world, aside from that team over there."

I can see what you're trying to do and I applaud your effort.

The Apologetic Front said...

@Paul, to claim certainty comes with the assumption that one is not being deceived. Otherwise, one couldn't call it certainty.

And to claim that revelational epistemology is possibly true also carries this assumption; otherwise it wouldn't be revelational epistemology.

I hope that clarifies.

Paul Baird said...

@ Mike
"to claim certainty comes with the assumption that one is not being deceived. Otherwise, one couldn't call it certainty."

There is a difference between an assertion
"I think I know X." and
"I know that I know X."

What you seem to be advocating is that it is possible to move from the assertion

"Is it possible for me to know X ?" to
"I know that I know X." without a bridging line of argument.

If you want to assert the former then please be my guest, but if you want to assert the latter then you need to be able to refute the possibility of deception.

If you are going to state the latter, but with a qualifier then it is self-defeating. Any counter argument simply has to invoke the qualifier.

Paul Baird said...

@ Mike (2)

After a little more thought - remember that you are (as a Presuppositionalist) advocating that my worldview MUST borrow from your worldview, otherwise it is absurd. However if your worldview is predicated on a conditional certainty then how can you continue to make that assertion without yourself becoming absurd ?

1)Your worldview is based on revelation.
2) That revelation is based on the condition that you are not being deceived.
3) Therefore my worldview is only absurd if you can prove that you have not been deceived.
4) You cannot prove that you have not been deceived
5) Therefore it is not certain that my worldview is absurd.

I hope that you could follow that.

Paul Baird said...

Hi Mike - the Second Debate on Presuppositional Apologetics between Sye Tenbruggencate and myself was recorded yesterday (Tuesday 1st March) and will be broadcast on Saturday 19th March or Saturday 26th March.


Innerbling said...

1. if knowledge is possible I know X
2. knowledge is possible
3. I know I know X

The Apologetic Front said...


But the question is: is knowledge possible?