The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it: Albert Mohler’s circular reasoning Ferris Wheel rolls over Richard Dawkins

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological seminary, and the man Time magazine once (weirdly) called America’s “reigning intellectual in the evangelical movement”, is a young earth creationist who recently wrote at his blog the following about Richard Dawkins:

Dawkins claims to be driven only by reason and “reality” in his worldview, but the actual arguments he makes show only the limits of autonomous reason when it comes to understanding ultimate reality.

But here are three questions about this curious (and circularly reasoned) statement:

  • How could Albert Mohler possibly know whether Richard Dawkins’s autonomous reasoning accords with ultimate reality unless Mohler himself engaged in some process of autonomous reasoning in evaluating Dawkins’s arguments for himself?
  • Can one reason in any other way than in one’s own head (that is, autonomously)?
  • How can one ever know that one’s autonomous reasoning has brought you to an “understanding of ultimate reality”? 

Further, if Albert Mohler discovered Richard Dawkins’s arguments are ultimately flawed (based on Mohler’s own efforts at autonomous reasoning), then it follows that autonomous reasoning is, indeed, efficacious (at least in the way that Albert Mohler uses it).

But we all know what Mohler meant to say: the Bible says it’s the ultimate reality, I believe it, that settles it. You need the Bible to reach ultimate reality. You can’t reach it unaided.

But how does he know this? 

Well, you gotta have faith. If you go through a process of autonomous reasoning that brings you to a different conclusion than the Bible’s, it just shows the poverty of your epistemic method. The correct epistemic method is just to believe what the Bible says based on your inner witness and for no other particular reason at all (or for ad hoc reasons contrived by you after you’ve already decided to believe it).

Or, to put it bluntly, unaided reasoning is folly. Apart from the Bible’s guidance, reasoning is ultimately strident, leading one to sterile and empty conclusions. Here’s Albert Mohler again:

Let his [Dawkins’s] stridency sink in, along with the sterile and empty “grandeur” Dawkins sees in evolution.

It’s very bad to be strident and to assert the conclusions of your autonomous reason. It’s insolent. And unlike Bible belief (which ends in eternal life and meaning), autonomous reasoning ends in death and nihilism.

Contra Richard Dawkins, that’s Albert Mohler’s position (arrived at by various whirls of his circular reasoning wheel).

What’s yours?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it: Albert Mohler’s circular reasoning Ferris Wheel rolls over Richard Dawkins

  1. Cody Deitz says:

    It boggles me that men like Mohler could EVER be known as a reigning intellectual, or any other kind of intellectual, for that matter.

    If anything, his attitude seems one of anti-intellectualism. Coincidentally enough (or not), anti-intellectualism seems to run rampant in the conservative, religious regions of our country. It’s a little depressing.

  2. Longtooth says:

    I cannot help but believe that people like Mohler are educated enough to be aware of how profound some of their intellectual errors are. I think they sometime decided that a better life and living could be made by slinging it for the old holystone verses being on the level about matters of fact and reason. Evidently far better to be loved and admired (and paid) down in the pews for telling the ignorant faithful what they want to hear rather than abide by a reasonable standard of intellectual honesty. It’s called sophistry in the name of social status and rice bowl.

    • santitafarella says:

      Longtooth,

      I don’t often think of people being blatently insincere, but you have a point. When otherwise intelligent people, as Mohler clearly is, foist blatent logical fallacies onto their audiences, you can’t help but wonder if there is an element of conning involved.

      But in Mohler’s case, I think he has genuinely hunkered down in a Bible-submission position that simply distorts his ability to think (because it is a cultish thing to do, and cultism is very hard to think clearly about when you’re in the midst of it).

      If you don’t reality test—or can’t give yourself permission to reality test—it has to have an effect on how you process information.

      He thinks, after all, that the Flintstones is how it really was ten thousand years ago! You have to be pretty disengaged from reality to think that.

      —Santi

  3. The Flintstones aren’t real?!? :0

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