Dustin Segers’ Failed Attempt to Refute the Primacy of Existence

by Dawson Bethrick

 

 

This article is broken up in the following four sections:

 

Background Comments

Segers’ Post

Comments to Segers’ Post

Fundamentally Flawed Follow-Up

 

 

BACKGROUND COMMENTS

 

Below is Dustin “DusmanSegers’ original blog posting, including comments, which was posted to the Grace in the Triad blog on Monday October 24, 2011 at 02:27:00 PM. After I had posted two comments to the blog notifying Segers that he had made a major mistake, he decided to remove the blog entirely from the internet. I discovered this when Segers posted a comment that showed up in my email inbox stating that he had decided to remove the blog. Luckily I still had the blog open in one of my browsers, so I copied the entirety to MS Word (something I often do anyway) since it was such a keeper! The original URL for the blog was: http://graceinthetriad.blogspot.com/2011/10/brief-refutation-of-objectivisms.html.

 

In his blog, Segers posted what was for the most part the four criticisms of what he mistakenly took to the primacy of existence in a recent podcast on Fundamentally Flawed.  I have already posted my own interaction with the refutation Segers presented in that podcast on my own blog. It can be found here: Has the Primacy of Existence Been Refuted?

 

Since, however, Segers’ blog entry contained some additional statements intended to bolster his criticisms of Objectivism, I have posted an additional blog to address these. This blog can be found here: A Reply to Dustin Segers' Dismantled Blog Entry on Objectivism.

 

Also, since Segers took down the blog with which the second of my two blog entries referenced here interacts, and since I kept a copy of Segers blog and am interacting with portions of it, I am reposting it on my website as a reference.

 

In his final comment to the blog (see below), Segers gave his initial explanation for his decision to take down his blog post, stating that he was doing so “for now since it apparently isn't accurate.” In a subsequent blog posting of his, Segers was challenged on this in the comments section of that blog and defended his decision to remove the offending blog post as follows:

 

As already noted, I took the post down out of intellectual honesty because I learned that the information probably wasn't true. If you want to rag a guy for being truthful, then that says a lot about your character; i.e., that you are into the "gotcha!" games and that you relish in others' mistakes, especially those that you think are frauds. At least I have the integrity of character to admit when I'm wrong in a public forum. 

 

If intellectual honesty were a consistent motivating factor in Segers’ online blogging activity, it seems that he should not stop with dismantling just one post from his blog, but in fact carry this action to its logical conclusion and shut the whole thing down altogether. But I predict this won’t happen.

 

I tend to agree with another commenter who stated: “the intellectually honest thing to do is leave the post up, and add a header pointing out that you've since learned that the information in it is wrong. It is NOT intellectually honest to delete your mistakes as if they'd never existed.” By removing his post from his blog entirely as he has done, Segers gives those who know about the affair the impression that he’s trying to hide something. Frankly, I can’t say I blame Segers for wanting to cover up his mistake, given its enormity: he not only failed to accomplish what he set out to do, but also showed himself to have confused two different fundamental principles at the same time.

 

As for Segers’ reference to “’gotcha!’ games,” it seems that this is really what presuppositionalism is after. Listen to any section of the podcast where either Segers or Sye Ten Bruggencate seek to overwhelm the crew at Fundamentally Flawed with a barrage of questions which require fairly complex explanations to answer. It seems that their debating tactics are geared precisely for the “gotcha!” effect to which Segers alludes to here as though it were a vicious practice. In fact, it almost seems as if the presuppositionalists’ interrogatory tactics were specifically designed to compel non-Christians to throw up their hands in ignorance and exclaim, “Duh, I donno, must be God did it!” Why else are the kinds of questions which presuppositionalists routinely pose to non-Christians such a vital part of their apologetic? Blank out.

 

 

SEGERS’ POST

MONDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2011

A Brief Refutation of Objectivism's Primacy of Existence Argument

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INTRODUCTION:  The Primacy of Existence is the fundamental axiom of a brand of atheism called Objectivism.  It is the primary and strongest Objectivist argument against religion, especially against the Bible’s claims of a creator God. According to the atheistic Objectivist, the notion that the only thing in existence before the universe was a conscious entity is contradicted and easily disproved by the axiom, since a consciousness could not be aware without an existence to be aware of.  Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivist philosophy put it like this,

If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness:  a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms.  A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms:  before it (the “I”) could identify itself as a consciousness, it (the “I”) had to be conscious of something.  If that which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you possess is not consciousness.  Ayn Rand  [Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 124. http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/existence.html]

Philosophical Refutation:  Rand said,

“A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms:  before it (the “I”) could identify itself as a consciousness, it (the “I”) had to be conscious of something.”

 

Biblical Refutation God existed logically and temporally prior to the existence of the material world as a non-material, personal entity (cf. John 17:5).  This is possible because God’s own nature possesses the attribute of aseity; i.e., God is sufficient in His own being and so needs nothing external to Himself God is eternally triune and eternally interpersonal (cf. John 17:5), thus, the three persons of God enjoyed eternal consciousness of each other within the community of the Trinity.

 

IN CONCLUSION, the assumption that there must be a dichotomy between the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness and that because of this dichotomy God must necessarily not exist is a self-refuting argument that is easily answered by Scripture and reason. 

Posted by Dusman at 10/24/2011 02:27:00 PM http://www.blogger.com/img/icon18_email.gif

Labels: AtheismDusman , Objectivism

 

COMMENTS TO SEGERS’ POST:

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Alex B said...

Hilarious! You actually believe all this, don't you!?

Mon Oct 24, 03:01:00 PM EST

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Dusman said...

Alex,

Look at the comment rules to the right. Please interact by either refuting my material or asking serious questions. Otherwise, you'll get deleted per the rules since you're trolling.

Mon Oct 24, 03:10:00 PM EST

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Paul Baird said...

In order to be aware of oneself one would also have to be aware that there can be something that is not of oneself, otherwise how can one define oneself ?

A is defined not simply as A but also as not 'not A'. There has to be a 'not A'. This is the Law of Identity that you guys seem to like quoting, alot.

I think that is the point that Rand is making and that you are (a) misunderstanding and therefore (b) failing to refute.

Hope that helps.

Mon Oct 24, 03:17:00 PM EST

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Dusman said...

Paul,

False, one of the first things a conscious mind is conscious of is itself. Thus, this argument fails to show a contradiction.

Self-Refuting: Rand refutes her own “primacy of existence” argument by presupposing the primacy of her own consciousness in order to argue against the primacy of consciousness! In other words, if you claim you need something to be conscious of to be conscious, then you have to first presuppose that the conscious “I” or “self” is the one doing the conscious observing in order to claim that existence is primary over consciousness.

Mon Oct 24, 03:20:00 PM EST

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Peter said...

Paul,

Can you explain why the existence of non-A is an absolute necessity in order to be able to define A? Give me an example relative to how an non-material God couldn't possibly exist if there isn't any material existence?

Mon Oct 24, 09:34:00 PM EST

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JC said...

Dusman,

I must say, I'm not a big fan of Objectivism but I do have some questions for you.
 

First, are you suggesting that consciousness comes before existence?

Second, you said "one of the first things a conscious mind is conscious of is itself". How do you know this? Does all consciousness need to be self aware to be conscious? If so please explain.

Thanks

Tue Oct 25, 08:46:00 AM EST

 

Paul Baird said...

Dusman, how can the self define itself if not with reference to something else ? 

This is me requires a this is not me.

To simply assert that a god can just become conscious of itself begs the question - why ? What is the requirement to become self aware if all that there is, is the self ?

Tue Oct 25, 02:37:00 PM EST

 

Alex B said...

"Self-Refuting: Rand refutes her own “primacy of existence” argument by presupposing the primacy of her own consciousness in order to argue against the primacy of consciousness! In other words, if you claim you need something to be conscious of to be conscious, then you have to first presuppose that the conscious “I” or “self” is the one doing the conscious observing in order to claim that existence is primary over consciousness."

Nonsense. Juat because it is a consciousness recognising that existence came first that does not alter the fact that existence DID come first!
 

Tell me, with what is a conscious mind to recognise that existence came before it but itself? For a conscious mind to exist the physical form has to exist FIRST - the consciousness of an individual isn't flying around waiting to fill a brain, rather it is the product of that physical brain!

The Primacy of Existence holds, because it is the way things are. Now I fully expect you to argue the contrary, and I am willing to bet that you will employ circular reasoning and special pleading to do so, but it won't change the facts of the matter.

Tue Oct 25, 05:53:00 PM EST

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Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Dustin,

Remember me? If you don't, check out the following page on my website:
 

Contra Dusman


I listened to the broadcast hosted by Fundamentally Flawed and was immediately "smitten" (if I can use this expression) by your four points against the primacy of existence. Unfortunately, you've confused Rand's principle of the secondary objectivity of consciousness with her principle of the primacy of existence, and have offered criticisms against the former while mistakenly labeling it as the latter (and unwittingly leaving the latter, the primacy of existence, completely untouched). Quite an error, I must say, one giving away the fact that you've not really done your homework here.
 

I've been working on a blog entry which interacts with and, most importantly, *corrects* many of the errors you make in your attempt to rebut Rand. Once I have posted it to
 my blog, would you mind if I posted a link to it here?

Yes, I'll leave no question that you don't know what you're talking about here.

Regards,
Dawson

Thu Oct 27, 11:46:00 AM EST

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JP said...

Before time existed, there was the Father, the Spirit and the Son; uniquely as three, yet complete in/as one - fully conscious of one another: "Then God said, "Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness." Genesis 1:26.

To Alex B:
"the consciousness of an individual isn't flying around waiting to fill a brain, rather it is the product of that physical brain!"

Did this thread suddenly switch subjects from God to MAN consciousness? Sorry, I'm just not as edumacated as you, so I must have missed that...

"God is not a MAN who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and not act,
or promise and not fulfill?" Numbers 23:19

John 4:24 states "God is Spirit..."

Boiling it down:
"We speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.
But the natural man does not welcome what comes from God's Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For: who has known the Lord's mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corint. 2:13-16
 

Thanks for the post Dusman.

Thu Oct 27, 01:33:00 PM EST

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Dusman said...

Dawson,

"Unfortunately, you've confused Rand's principle of the secondary objectivity of consciousness with her principle of the primacy of existence, and have offered criticisms against the former while mistakenly labeling it as the latter . . ."

As noted in my blog article, I got the quote from an Objectivist website under an explanation of existence. I was directed to this quote by some Objectivists as the basis for their supposed strong argument against God, so any error on my part is the result of responding to their own mistaken knowledge of their own "faith".
 

You go on to note,

". . . you've confused Rand's principle of the secondary objectivity of consciousness with her principle of the primacy of existence . . ."

(1) I was responding to the arguments put forth by the Objectivists who didn't know their own "faith", and (2) I guess there's not much left then to Rand's "principle of the secondary objectivity".

Thu Oct 27, 07:43:00 PM EST

 

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Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Dustin,

I wrote: “Unfortunately, you've confused Rand's principle of the secondary objectivity of consciousness with her principle of the primacy of existence, and have offered criticisms against the former while mistakenly labeling it as the latter . . ."

Dustin responded: “As noted in my blog article, I got the quote from an Objectivist website under an explanation of existence.”

I’m not questioning the quote or the website you got it from. What I’m pointing out is that you’ve mistaken one principle for another. In fact, the statement which you quoted from the online Ayn Rand Lexicon nowhere identifies the principle it’s discussing as the primacy of existence. You say you’re interacting with the primacy of existence when in fact you’re trying to refute the principle of the secondary objectivity of consciousness. Whether you are the originator of this error or simply carrying forward someone’s previous error, really doesn’t matter. Either way it’s still an error. I will correct this in an upcoming entry on my blog.

Dustin: “I was directed to this quote by some Objectivists as the basis for their supposed strong argument against God, so any error on my part is the result of responding to their own mistaken knowledge of their own ‘faith’.”

Without knowing what was said in your dialogue, I can’t know where the mistake originated. But had you done some additional background research before launching into your critique, I’m confident that you could have spotted the error before acting on it.

I wrote: ". . . you've confused Rand's principle of the secondary objectivity of consciousness with her principle of the primacy of existence . . ."

Dustin responded: “(1) I was responding to the arguments put forth by the Objectivists who didn't know their own ‘faith’,”

Really, if you’re going to try to critique a position, it’s *your* responsibility to know what you’re critiquing. There are many people who think they know what they’re talking about, but don’t. I’d think you’d take care not to be one of them.

Dustin also wrote: “(2) I guess there's not much left then to Rand's ‘principle of the secondary objectivity’.”

In the blog entry I’m preparing now, I will leave no question that your four objections against the secondary objectivity of consciousness fail. In fact, I’d think even you should see through them, and frankly I’m a bit surprised that you don’t.

Anyway, I would like to post a link to my treatment of your remarks on your blog once it’s up. Is that okay with you?

Regards,
Dawson

(Timestamp unavailable: Comment was withheld by blog moderator and never published.)

 

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Dusman said...

Dawson,

I'm taking this blog article down for now since it apparently isn't accurate.

Thu Oct 27, 09:40:00 PM EST (Timestamp per date and time of email sent automatically by the blog.)

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post

 

 

FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED FOLLOW-UP

 

Now since this happened, Segers appeared on another podcast hosted by the folks at Fundamentally Flawed. The podcast can be accessed here: Fundamentally Flawed Podcast #18 – Eric Hovind and Dustin Segers Special

 

In that podcast, Segers’ decision to withdraw his post critiquing what he mistakenly thought was the primacy of existence came up in discussion. The back-and-forth is rather interesting to listen to. Below I post my own transcription of the dialogue between Segers and the FF crew (I apologize – I do not know whose voice is whose of the two gentlemen at Fundamentally Flawed, so I cannot with any accuracy report who is speaking on their side).

 

 

Begin 1:21:28

 

FF: You’re incapable of breaking out of your own circular reasoning. Therefore you impose it upon us as well.

 

Segers: But you’re borrowing from our circular reasoning to substantiate your own.

 

FF (Alex or Jim): But you’re borrowing from our primacy of existence to even stop doubting your circular reasoning.

 

Segers: I’d like to hear this argument. I wanna hear you lay this argument out, especially since I refuted it last time.

 

FF: Is that the refution [sic] that you put on your blog and actually had to delete today because a chap called I think Dawson came along and thoroughly debunked you.

 

Segers: Well, first of all, I got some information from some Randroids who said that the primacy of existence was the fundamental axiom of brand called Objectivism, and then they pointed me to the Ayn Rand Lexicon and said this is the definition of the primacy of existence, and I refuted it, and Dawson came in and basically said no you responded to another supposition of Ayn Rand’s. Yes he did, he did. So out of intellectual honesty I took the article down so that I could do further research.

 

FF: Out of intellectual honesty you self-censored yourself ‘cuz you realized you’d been proven wrong.

 

Segers: Well, n.. well, what I did is…

 

FF: Now be intellectually honest here, Dustin.

 

FF: Be intellectually honest, Dustin, because the…

 

Segers: Are you going to let me answer…?

 

FF: …the blog entry and all the comments went out in the RSS feed and people who had subscribed to it read exactly what umm.. Dawson said and then read exactly what your rebut… read your article and then read what Dawson’s reply to it was.

 

Segers: Are you going to let me…

 

FF: …and then you chose to take it down because it had shown that you were wrong.

 

Segers: Are you going to let me answer your question?

 

FF: Go on, Dustin.

 

Segers: Am I going to be able to answer uninterrupted please?

 

FF: Go ahead.

 

Segers: The reason that I took it down was because I got that information from followers of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. Bethrick comes in and says the material is wrong. You actually argued against another principle that Rand taught. I said hey thanks, I’m going to take the article down and do further research out of intellectual honesty, and that’s why the article’s not there. Because if it’s not true…

 

FF: (inaudible)

 

Segers: Hold on, let me finish…

 

FF: I’m gonna come to your defense, I’m gonna I…I…

 

Segers: …if it’s not true, I don’t want it on my blog.

 

FF: Right. But I’ve had situations in the past before where I put things in the blog where I’ve realized later on that I didn’t have the full picture. And the only thing you should do there out of intellectual honesty is insert a tag at the top of the thing saying ‘Edit. I’ve now realized that blah blah blah…,’ and make an apology…

 

FF: Yep.

 

FF: You should leave it live because it makes it look like you’re trying to hide something.

 

Segers: No, I’m not, I’m not trying to hide anything. I don’t want to mislead anybody that’s gonna read it. The purpose is not hiding. I’ve told you exactly what I…

 

FF: See, you just, you just put a disclaimer at the top, and everybody knows that you’ve changed your mind about it.

 

Segers: Right, but I’ve done that here… I’ve done that here now in this podcast and everybody who’s interested in this can hear what I’ve just said about it. I’m not hiding anything. I just…

 

Hovind: Yeah, I think you’re….I think we’re straining at a gnat there.

 

Segers: Yeah, just straining at a gnat.

 

Hovind: Oh, hey, you’re really trying to hide something!

 

 

In response to this, I had many thoughts, but I will present only these:

 

1) If you examine the record in the comments, particularly Segers’ last posted comment where he announces his decision to take his blog entry down, he (a) nowhere expresses any gratitude for correcting him, and (2) he nowhere announces that he’s going to do “further research” on the matter. He simply states: “I'm taking this blog article down for now since it apparently isn't accurate.” This is contrary to what he says he did in the podcast conversation above.

 

2) Suppose what would happen if the roles were reversed here. Suppose an atheist took down an entry from his own blog after a Christian apologist came along in the comments to that blog entry and pointed out that the author of the blog had made some fundamental blunders. Do you think it would go over well in a follow-up podcast discussion for his partner to say something to the effect, “We’re straining at gnats here!” Rather, I suspect the news of such an event would reverberate throughout all Christian blogdom, with Christian bloggers proudly proclaiming something like “Atheist blogger takes down blog post after being summarily defeated!”

 

3) Segers’ explanation for taking his blog entry down instead of leaving it up with a disclaimer acknowledging that he’s been corrected on the topic he sought to address in that blog, sounds like an attempt to spin something vicious into something noble. He says he doesn’t want to “mislead anybody,”

 

4) One would not need to take down a blog entry in order to do “further research” on a topic. So when Segers states that he “took the article down so that [he] could do further research,” it sounds like he’s suggesting that the presence of his entry on his blog was somehow preventing him from doing further research, which would be, to say the least, quite a stretch. Indeed, it seems that the time he needed to take the blog entry down could have been devoted to that “further research.” At any rate, I hope that “further research” is going well.

 

5) Segers says, in regard to the primacy of existence and its fatal implications against god-belief: “I’d like to hear this argument. I wanna hear you lay this argument out, especially since I refuted it last time.” A couple things here: (a) When he stated this, I had already pointed out to him on his blog that his refutations failed to hit their mark. And yet he carries on here as though his refutations stood. This simply opened him up to being challenged on the matter, which is what happened. (b) If Segers is truly interested in learning more about the Objectivist critique of theism by means of the primacy of existence, here are links to some articles that he should check out:

 

6) In response to the FF crew’s suggestion to leave the blog entry posted on Grace in the Triad with  disclaimer at the top” which informs readers that he’s changed his mind on the content contained in that post, Segers expresses agreement (“Right”) and then says he’s “done that here now in this podcast and everybody who’s interested in this can hear what I’ve just said about it. I’m not hiding anything.” But stating his reasons why he’s taken down his blog post on the FF podcast is not the same as leaving the post on his blog with a disclaimer for anyone who comes along in the future to read. Contrary to his protests, Segers again comes across as though he were trying to hide something by taking measures which ensure that knowledge of the matter is confined only to those who already know about it, and that future readers will never catch wind of it, unless of course they happen to listen though a two-plus hour podcast that Segers links to in one of the blog entries which happens to still be posted on the web.

 

7) At the first mention of the primacy of existence, Segers tells the audience that he’s refuted it, when in fact it had already been shown to him that this is not the case, so much so that he decided to remove from his blog an entry which showcased his four objections against what he mistakenly thought was the primacy of existence. If Segers were in fact truly concerned about intellectual honesty, which he cites as the motivating factor for dismantling an entry from his blog which was postured as a refutation of the primacy of existence, the appropriate reaction at the first mention of the primacy of existence would have been something along the following:

 

You know, in our last discussion I recited four objections against the primacy of existence. Since then it’s come to my knowledge that I was mistaken on the matter, and in fact my objections did not even pertain to the primacy of existence. So I have to concede that the primacy of existence in fact stands until a challenge to it can be successfully defended.

 

But Segers’ reaction to the mere mention of the primacy of existence is nothing like this, and in fact he reaffirms that he’s refuted it. His actions do not indicate a devotion to intellectual honesty.

 

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