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Michael Martin Zens New Defense Of Tag

Zens’ New Defense of TAG (2001)

Michael Martin



In an Internet paper entitled “A Christian Response to atheist thinker, Michael Martin on TAG and the foundation of induction,” Adam Spurgeon Zens attempted to defend Greg Bahnsen’s inductive form of the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG). As I showed in my Internet paper "Zens’ Defense of TAG (ZDTAG)" Zens did not seem to understand the challenges to inductive skepticism that I cited in my paper “Does Induction Presume the Existence Of The Christian God? (DIPCG),” and completely ignored my argument there that Christian theism does not answer the inductive skeptic. Indeed, Zens simply assumed without argument that belief in God provides a justification of induction. As a result he provided no defense of Bahnsen’s inductive form of TAG. Moreover, he completely misrepresented atheism by wrongly assuming atheists were materialists.

Now Zens is back with a more elaborate defense. Admitting in his first paper he "threw" several arguments together in a "hodgepodge" but failing to admit that his arguments were question begging and confused, Zens has written no less than three Internet articles that attempt to answer my argument. The first entitled "Reichenbach on the Problem of Induction," is an explication and critique of Hans Reichenbach’s approach to induction, a philosopher that I mention in my paper. The second is an examination of J.L. Mackie’s response to Hume’s inductive skepticism. The last is a discussion of the problems which beset a Christian defense of induction against inductive skeptics and an argument to show the Christian worldview is better equipped to handle philosophical opposition to human induction and inductive regularity in nature.

Before I begin my evaluation of Zens’ arguments two points should be noted. First, even if Zens successfully refutes Reichenbach and Mackie, this is hardly adequate for his purpose. These two thinkers are merely a tiny sample of thinkers who have criticized inductive skepticism. Let us make no mistake: The problem of induction is an enormous problem and the literature concerning it is vast and subtle. As I said in my paper ZDTAG: "The difficulty of this task [of defending inductive skepticism] cannot be exaggerated for it involves refuting the complex and subtle philosophical arguments that appear in dozens of books, and philosophical articles, and papers." That Zens believes he has come close to accomplishing this task by refuting Reichenbach and Mackie betrays an astonishing level of philosophical naiveté. The second point is that Zens’ conclusion that the Christian worldview is better able to handle philosophical opposition to inductive knowledge and inductive regularity in nature is obviously weaker than the Bahsen’s thesis that induction presupposes the Christian worldview. On this weaker interpretation, even if Zens were correct, nothing would follow about whether one should prefer the Christian worldview to a secular one. Although if Zens is right a secular worldview may not be able to handle inductive skepticism as well as Christian worldview, it may be still be able to handle it well enough and be superior to the Christian worldview in every other respect. All things considered, it may well be, that atheism and not Christianity is to be preferred. However, as I will show, Zens provides no reasons to believe that Christian worldview is superior to a secular worldview even with respect to the problem of induction skepticism.

Reichenbach’s Vindication of Induction

Zens misunderstands my use of Reichenbach’s approach in ZDTAG and more importantly he misunderstands Reichenbach’s approach. Despite my statement:

In DIPCG I did not endorse these or other anti-skeptical arguments (as Zens seems to imply). Rather I only maintained that they must be refuted in order to establish TAG and that Bahnsen, who seemed unaware of them, made no attempt to answer them.

Zens seems to suppose that I am somehow committed to Reichenbach’s approach. But I brought up Reichenbach’s approach in ZDTAG only because Zens’ confused and irrelevant mention of a pragmatic justification of Hitler’s immoral medical practice that has nothing to do with Reichenbach’s vindication of induction. Now that Zens has actually read Reichenbach and sees that Reichenbach rejects some of approaches to the problem of induction I mention in DIPCG, for example that induction is based on linguistic confusion, he suppose that I must accept Reichenbach’s rejection. But I neither endorse Reichenbach’s approach nor endorse his rejection of alternative approaches. It is up to Zens to refute Reichenbach’s approach and these alternative approaches.

In order to refute Reichenbach’s approach one first must understand it. Unfortunately, Zens does not and this despite my brief but accurate statement in ZDTAG:

The practice of basing one’s action on inductive arguments can be pragmatically vindicated. On this view, if there are any true inductive generalizations, the consistent use of induction will discover them in the long run. To be sure, this approach does not justify induction, but it does provide a practical reason for continuing to use this mode of reasoning.

Unfortunately, despite pages of explication and numerous quotes Zens does not grasp the fundamental point of Reichenbach’s position. He seems to assume that Reichenbach implicitly assumes the uniformity of nature, that the future will resemble the past and so on. But Reichenbach accepted Hume’s skepticism and attempted to show that one still had a pragmatic reason for using induction. His argument was hypothetical and a priori: if nature had uniformities, then the consistent use of induction would in the long run discover them. This was not an empirical generalization but true by definition. Moreover, it provides a rationale for inductive action — not inductive belief. It was a vindication, not a justification. It is true by definition that if a statistical generalization has a stable make up, then by using induction–taking larger and larger samples and revising one’s estimate in the light of the evidence–one’s estimate will eventually be accurate and become more and more accurate as one proceeds. Of course, if nature does not have stable uniformities, the use of induction will not achieve this even in the long run.

Of course, there may be problems with this approach but they have nothing to do with Zens’ critique.

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