The Dillahunty Dodge


In an online debate with Christian apologist Matt Slick, atheist Matt Dillahunty was challenged to account for immaterial (non-physical), immutable, universal, transcendent laws of logic in his atheistic worldview. Slick argued that because these laws of logic are conceptual, they necessarily originate from a mind. Given this, Slick reasoned that the laws of logic derive from an immaterial, immutable, universal, transcendent.mind - i.e., the mind of God.

To dodge this conclusion, Dillahunty argued that while the laws of logic are indeed not physical, they're also not conceptual. I.e., he argued that they're not a product of 'mind'. I
n response to this, Slick challenged Dillahunty to furnish a third option as to the essence of the laws of logic. Dillahunty was unable to furnish any viable third option (credit to Matt Slick for completely stumping him on the very topic of their debate), but argued that 'there may be another option beyond physical and conceptual that we just don't know about'.This is where our article picks up...

The laws of logic are synonymously (and perhaps more appropriately) referred to as the laws of thought, because they refer to the way that human beings think about the world around us.

In fact, it is Aristotle who stated that the laws of thought are necessary for all human thinking, meaning that we could not think coherently (if at all) without them.

The laws of thought are prescriptive; they exemplify (and enable) the way that we ought to think about the world around us...

For example: the logical 'law of identity' is a truth statement which states that something is what it is (and is not what it is not). This is loosely represented as A=A.
When we think of an object, we intuitively employ this law of thought (whether we know the 'law' by name, or not). We know that the way we ought to think of any given object is such that the object is what it is and cannot be what it's not. E.g., a car cannot be both a car and also not a car.

Next, the laws of thought are universal. They apply in all places and at all times, and we know this despite that we don't have 'universal' experiences but instead only experience 'particular' things. For example, we only experience certain cars, but we innately know that all cars everywhere are what they are, and are not what they are not.

The laws are also transcendent. They transcend human thought, in the sense that they'd remain true even if all humanity were to deny their truth. For example, if every person on earth were to suddenly claim that cars are also trees, the truth that cars are not also trees would remain - despite everybody's claim to the contrary.

The laws of thought embody the perfect way to think about our world. As we think via the laws we are able to make sense of our surroundings. We are able to discover novel facts and truths. We are able to
engage in scientific exploration and gain knowledge.


To assert that the laws of thought are 'not conceptual' is to argue that perfect, transcendent, universal truths which exemplify the way that we ought to think about our world came about mindlessly - apart from any mind.

In other words, Dillahunty's assertion is synonymous with claiming that 'something like a rock' with no mind and absolutely no mental concept of truth could provide the perfect way for all humanity to think. Even upon cursory examination, the notion of 'mindlessly enabled knowledge' is hardly plausible.
If the laws of thought derive from mindlessness, humanity has no epistemic basis to trust them. ...Would you trust somebody who knows absolutely nothing? If, however, the laws derive from a rational and dependable mind, then certainly we have reason to trust them.

Ultimately, as the following argument demonstrates, it is logically impossible for human beings to derive truth from a mindless environment (even granting our own mental faculties)...

Truth And Logic Cannot Derive From Mindlessness

Premise 1. If truth and logic (including the laws of logic) derive from mindlessness, then human beings cannot know truth and logic.

Premise 2. According to Matt Dillahunty, truth and logic derive from mindlessness.

Conclusion 3. Therefore, according to his argument, Matt Dillahunty cannot know truth and logic.

Support For Premise 1

i. Thought experiment: Imagine a possible world where human beings have no concept of truth or logic... One day, a man bends over to pick up a rock, and discovers the 'law of identity' (A=A) etched by random chance on the bottom of the rock. Because this man has absolutely no concept of truth or logic, the law of identity is utterly meaningless to him. Thus, he drops the rock and continues about his 'oblivious' way...

While it is true that only minds know about things, it is equally true that humanity alone could not have 'discovered' truth and logic via mindless origins... Even if we could somehow access universal laws of thought that 'just so happen' to exist apart from any mind, in an atheistic existence we'd be still left to our own devices to determine their truth value. I.e., we'd still be left to answer the question, 'How do we know that these laws are true and reliable?' This poses numerous problems...

Firstly, because the laws of thought are what enable human reasoning and coherent thought, we'd have no way to initially 'discover' their truth value without a priori knowledge of them. In other words, we'd need to know their truth order to determine their truth value. Clearly, this presents a logical conundrum (i.e., a logical impossibility). Imagine trying to think while lacking an 'innate' awareness of the law of non contradiction, which states: a statement cannot be both true and false at the same time and in the same way. Without already knowing the law of non contradiction, we'd not be able to recognize whether the law itself is true and not simultaneously false (resulting in incoherent thought).

Secondly, one could simply ask: how do you account for knowing that mindlessly derived laws of thought are indeed true? Without access to a perfect, transcendent, universal mind that knows all and can reveal certain foundational truths to humanity in such a way that we can also know them a priori, one (again) has no other recourse but to appeal to his own mental faculties.
Thus, one is forced to beg the question by assuming that his mental faculties (e.g., perception, reasoning, etc.) lead him to true conclusions, in order to conclude, 'It is true that my mental faculties lead me to true conclusions'. The conclusion cannot possibly be known by this means because it can only be reached by presupposing the very thing in question. (Truth that is revealed by God a priori negates this problem.)

(and similar to the above) even if the laws of thought were not conceptual in the sense of being a product of mind, we still have to know about them (apprehend them) via mind. In an atheistic existence we'd still have to determine their absolute truth value. We'd still have to discover that they're universal. We're still have to learn that they're transcendent, etc. And indeed we do know that the laws of thought are absolute, universal, and transcendent. Without this knowledge the laws of thought would not be useful to us. For example, if we didn't know that the laws of thought are absolutely true, we could not come to true and reliable conclusions about anything. However, human beings do not have absolute minds. We do not have universal minds. And we do not have transcendent minds. Thus, it logically follows that such knowledge of and about the laws of thought can only derive via an absolute mind; the mind of God.

To reject that the laws of thought are conceptual (which is to reject their very nature) leads nowhere. The fact remains that a rational account must still be given for how we know the laws to be perfectly true, universal, transcendent, immutable, prescriptive, immaterial, etc. A rational account must be given for how we know them to be true at all. The Biblical worldview offers such an account. But such an account is logically impossible via atheistic worldviews which necessitate that human truth, logic, and knowledge ultimately arose via mindlessness.

Fourthly, if all known truth were based on a complete lack thereof (i.e., based on mindlessness), then the basis of 'truth' would necessarily be arbitrary (based entirely on unknowns) - meaning truth could not in actuality be known. All truth claims would ultimately reduce to arbitrary claims - no better than claims pulled out of a hat.

Now, though we have just shown that it is logically impossible for humanity to apprehend laws of thought via an atheistic worldview, we should not neglect the argument from inductive inference...

To assert that laws (which are indeed concepts and therefore a product of mind) derive apart from mind is to defy virtually all known human experience. The only means by which we're aware of concepts is via thought. I.e., concepts are known to derive solely from the 'realm of thought'. To argue that laws of thought can derive from 'something like a rock' is absurd....

Dillahunty exposes his inconsistency by appealing to Hume's problem of induction when denying arguments for God, but subjectively dismisses the problem when supporting naturalism, evolution, etc. He thereby routinely commits the fallacy of special pleading...

His ultimate objection to virtually all arguments for the Biblical worldview is 'the third option appeal' (aka 'The Dillahunty Dodge'), which goes something like this: 'There could be another explanation we're not aware of; I don't know'. Thus, he will deny everything we do know and jump to nonsensical appeals to the unknown. This is a self defeating approach to knowledge as a whole, as it can just as easily be applied to virtually everything that Dillahunty himself claims to know. E.g., if and when Dillahunty asserts that 'evolution is true' we can dismiss all (supposed) evidence for it, not with rational arguments, but instead with the third option appeal:
'There could be another explanation for what you believe is explained by evolution that we're not aware of; I don't know'. We could (ultimately) postulate a third option for virtually any truth claim, ad infinitum. If and when Dillahunty objects by stating that we know of nothing else that is better supported by the evidence, we can call his objection an 'argument from ignorance' (vs. an argument based upon what he does claim knowledge of) - just as he objects to the statement that we know of no other means by which logic could be derived apart from mind. If Dillahunty appeals to inductive inference to support naturalism and evolution, then in the interest of consistency and rationality he must agree that inductive inference points to conceptual laws of thought.

Thus, the irrationality,
hypocrisy (special pleading) and indeed impossibility of Matt Dillahunty's atheistic worldview is reasonably demonstrated.

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