Vic Reppert's "Argument From Reason" is Against a Strawman

Yep, he does not deal with what scientifically minded skeptics actually think. Reppert said this:
If you were to meet a person, call him Steve, who could argue with great cogency for every position he held, you might be inclined to consider him a very rational person. However, suppose that on all disputed questions Steve rolled dice to fix his positions permanently and then used his reasoning abilities only to generate the best-available arguments for those beliefs selected in the above-mentioned random method. I think that such a discovery would prompt you to withdraw from him the honorific title “rational.” Clearly, we cannot answer the question of whether or not a person is rational in a manner that leaves entirely out of account the question of how his or her beliefs are produced and sustained.

That's not what we think at all. And his argument is most emphatically ignorant about evolution.

Because of this I really don't understand why he believes it's a good argument at all. One must first understand our position.

Let's say you have a tool that is damaged to some degree. Let’s say it’s a circular saw and the blade is in need of sharpening, or even worse, needs thrown away.

Can you still cut timber? Yes or no?

Now let’s say you have no other tool that will do the job better.

What to to?

I find it to be an impossible argument to say that our brains are completely and utterly untrustworthy given evolution. THAT'S the argument he has to make, and it simply cannot be made.

What to do? Use it.

Given that we know from all scientific studies that we are not all that rational, then we can know this much, that we are not all that rational! Get the point. Yet this is the only tool in our toolbox. So we must use it to find our way. Since this is the case we can only trust the sciences to light our path.

What am I missing?


His only recourse, should he actually deal with what evolution commits us to, is to deny evolution--to denigrate the sciences--which is typical.

Jerry Coyne wrote:
Every day, hundreds of observations and experiments pour into the hopper of the scientific literature. Many of them don't have much to do with evolution - they're observations about he details of physiology, biochemistry, development, and so on - but many of them do. And every fact that has something to do with evolution confirms its truth. Every fossil that we find, every DNA molecule that we sequence, every organ system that we dissect, supports the idea that species evolved from common ancestors. Despite innumerable possible observations that could prove evolution untrue, we don't have a single one. We don't find mammals in Precambrian rocks, humans in the same layers as dinosaurs, or any other fossils out of evolutionary order. DNA sequencing supports the evolutionary relationships of species originally deduced from the fossil record. And, as natural selection predicts, we find no species with adaptations that only benefit a different species. We do find dead genes and vestigial organs, incomprehensible under the idea of special creation. Despite a million chances to be wrong, evolution always comes up right. That is as close as we can get to a scientific truth. -Why Evolution Is True.
Richard Dawkins wrote:
Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eyewitnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips...continue the list as long as desired...It didn't have to be true, but it is. We know this because a rising flood of evidence supports it. Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it. No reputable scientist disputes it, and no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it." - Greatest Show on Earth (pp. 8-9).
I have written a a lot of material on the topic of rationality, including what the authors said in the first few chapters in "The Christian Delusion."

See here. If nothing else skim through the titles of these posts. I've reviewed books and listed further books to read.

The fact that none of us is entirely rational is a fact, except that those of us who know this about ourselves are more likely not to trust our whims or any anecdotal evidence or that which we prefer to be true. We would demand hard cold evidence whenever we can. And this data should make us all skeptical--all of us. Skepticism is a filter we use to strain out good ideas from the bad so we cannot dispense with it or become skeptical of that filter.

What to do?

Trust the sciences.

The alternative?

Denigrate them.

His argument doesn't really deal with what scientifically minded skeptics think. So why bother engaging it? There is no reason to do so. That's my position. The best response is to inform theists what we know from the sciences. I'm not hopeful even that will work.

Until philosophers deal with the sciences there is nothing to do but remind them what the sciences have shown us.

My point is that if evolution is the case we can still trust our reasoning abilities even though they are sometimes inadequate. In fact, this is what we would expect to find given that we have an evolved three tiered brain built on top of each other. That we do reason adequately enough is no reason to think we need a god for what we do with our brains.

Does this disprove Vic's argument?

NO, not at all.

But then before a believer will consider his faith to be improbable I must show him that it's impossible, and THAT is an utterly unreasonable request.

Ed Babinski has also responded seen here.

[First posted 3/23/11]