You Can't Prove It
Sometimes I marvel at the clever and creative ways theists come up with arguments to prove their cases in support of theistic beliefs or against naturalist beliefs. They always find ways to disguise logical fallacies in such a way that they are easy to overlook, and so present an argument that appears valid.
Take, for example, the point that Victor has been trying to make about evidentialism.
He seems to be saying that evidentialism is incoherent because in the final analysis, it requires proof, and at the same time rejects proof without proof of the proof. Twice recently he has made posts that emphasize this point. First, he cited an article by Maverick Christian that discusses the "regress problem" for evidentialism, and then he cited a comment to one of his own earlier posts by Gregory that also makes the claim that evidentialism is incoherent because of the fact that "first principles" can't be proven. Because of the manner in which Victor presents these statements, I assume that he agrees with what they say.
In my previous post regarding the first of these articles on the "regress problem", I pointed out that the need for absolute proof is a red herring. There are foundational beliefs that provide a basis of epistemic justification for an evidentialist. But without some foundational information that is known to be absolutely true, there is no ability to prove anything, regardless of what your epistemology is. I think that it is generally agreed that there is no such foundational information, and therefore, there is no ability to absolutely prove anything. And Victor has acknowledged this.
Why then, do many theists think that evidentialism is incoherent, when all kinds of epistemology suffer from the same problem? The fact is that there is no absolute proof of anything, and this is independent of any epistemology. But one thing I noticed about both of these objections to evidentialism is that they rely on a confusion between the terms "sufficient evidence" and "proof" in order to make their cases.
I criticized Maverick Christian for dismissing the possibility of an evidentialist having foundational beliefs, but I overlooked his apparent reason for doing so. He defined a foundational belief as
something that is not believed on the basis of “sufficient” evidence.In so doing, he excludes the possibility of an evidentialist having such beliefs. But is that true? I think (and most people would agree) a foundational belief is something that is believed without proof, not something that is believed without sufficient evidence. In fact, we do believe that there is sufficient justification to accept foundational beliefs in the absence of proof - otherwise, they wouldn't be foundational beliefs. So what Maverick Christian has done is to use the term "sufficient evidence" in an equivocal manner. In one case, he uses it to mean what an evidentialist means as justification for belief. In the other case, he uses it as a substitute for "proof". And in citing this article in his post, titled Why the Prove-It Game can't be won,Victor conflates the terms (perhaps without realizing it).
In a similar manner, in the other citation that Victor makes, Gregory uses the terms "proof" and "sufficient evidence" interchangeably.
Whatever criterion is used to measure the sufficiency or insufficiency of "evidence", by the very nature of the case, it is not something that is susceptible to evidential verification. Rather, such criterion are "brute" principles by which we must assess the adequacy or inadequacy of evidence. It [first principles] cannot be "proven". Therefore, Clifford's approach is self-stultifying and/or incoherent.In this way, he concludes that Clifford's evidentialism is incoherent. But in fact he is conflating two terms have different meanings. So here again, there is a logical fallacy Gregory's argument. It is worth noting that evidentialism does not require proof for belief. Evidentialism is about having justification for belief.
By cleverly concealing these fallacies in their arguments, theists can manage to take a statement that is practically self-evident and turn it into an apparent logical absurdity. The question in my mind is whether they do this deliberately, or whether their cognitive bias blinds them to the fallacy they are making. I think it's the former, but I can't prove it.