Critical Thinkin’ 101 with Robert Baty

logicI want to respond to this post.

It’s a “logical” syllogism that allegedly debunks presuppositionalism compiled by a guy named Robert Baty. I know next to nothing about the guy except to say that he has made chasing around Sye Ten Bruggencate on the internet his white whale.

Any blogger who may post something about Sye, and particularly Sye’s recent video adventure, How to Answer the Fool, will find Robert Baty stopping by and leaving a comment under the post loudly proclaiming that Sye (and Sye’s “surrogates” – I guess he means other presuppositional apologists like Sye) runs from him and refuses to debate him on the subject of presuppositional methodology.

I was intrigue by his claim, so I emailed Sye and asked him about this Robert guy who I see leaving comments under various posts reviewing his apologetic video.  Sye responded by telling me that basically Robert is a notorious gadfly. He had offered to debate Robert via Skype once, but Robert turned that down because the venue wasn’t to his liking but still insists Sye is running from him and dodging his challenges. Sye, to his credit, ignores him, which is probably best. And here I am posting about the guy and wondering if I will regret it.

Robert insists that presuppositionalism is flawed because contrary to the argument presuppositionalist make, that the proper justification for mankind making any sort of knowledge claim cannot be done apart from God, Robert believes there are things men can know apart from God. In other words, God’s sovereignty does not extend to the whole of the world and all that is created therein, and many “brute,” uninterpreted facts float around out in the universe. Or maybe I should say, Robert’s universe.

If what Robert says about himself on his Yahoo groups homepage, that he is of a Church of Christ background, I can understand why he believes such nonsense is true. Church of Christ folks are Arminian, near to being Pelagian, and would deny God’s absolute sovereignty in the area of salvation. I would only expect such a rejection of God’s sovereignty would also extend into the justification of man’s knowledge.

powerRobert believes he can easily trump Sye’s apologetic approach, so he has posted his “logical” premises challenging any presuppositionalist to answer them. I thought I would give it a shot. I already predict that Robert will say I failed and I am running from him if and when I choose to not debate him.

Robert begins by asking a question then breaking down the possible answers,

Question:

If it is possible in this world to know something without such knowledge being founded upon the existence of God, would you conclude that;

 (a) the Bible is wrong,
– or
 (b) the Presuppositional interpretation of the Bible is wrong?

Answers:

– Robert Baty: (b)
– Presuppositionalist: ??? 

I think I can expand upon that question a bit more. Let me frame it for you:

Question:If it is possible in this world to know something without such knowledge being founded upon the existence of God, would you conclude that;

(a) the Bible is wrong,
-or
(b) the Presuppositional interpretation of the Bible is wrong?
-or
(c) Robert Baty doesn’t understand presuppositionalism?

Answers:

– Robert Baty: (b)
– Presuppositionalist: Me: (c)

Robert continues,

There is a separate argument and exercise in critical thinking depending on which position the Sye Ten Bruggencate Presuppositionalist takes with reference to the above question.

Indeed there are separate arguments, and Robert supplies us with his arguments with their minor premises. However, since they are essentially repetitive in their expression as outlined in his argument #1, let’s have a look see at whether or not his argument is sound.

ARGUMENT #1:

Major Premise:

– IF (A) God’s Word says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, (B) is interpreted by some to mean that man would not be capable of knowing anything without God’s existence, and (C) there is empirical evidence that we can know some things without God’s existence,

– THEN (D) the interpretation of God’s word by some is wrong.

I’ll supply my own syllogism,

IF (A) God’s Word says plainly the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” (B) and can only be interpreted to mean that man is not capable of knowing anything without God’s existence, and (C) there is no empirical evidence, in spite of Robert Baty’s insistence to the contrary, that we humans who are God’s creatures can know that evidence without God’s existence,

THEN (D) those who deny this truth, like Robert Baty, are denying God’s Word and are teaching heresy.

After Robert repeats another similar argument, his major premises, and his minor premises following thereto, then he asks a series of questions. I’ll provide my answers.

(1) Do you think the argument is so constructed that if the premises are true its conclusion will follow as true therefrom?

– Robert Baty: Yes
– Presuppositionalist: Me: Yes. Because the argument is constructed to affirm Robert Baty’s muddled understanding of presuppositionalism.

(2) Do you think the major premise is, based on the stipulative definitions and the force and effect of sound, biblical, common-sense reasoning, true?

– Robert Baty: Yes
– Presuppositionalist: Me: Yes, if Robert Baty’s Church of Christ theology equals what one considers to be “sound,” “biblical” and “common-sense reasoning” is “true” to begin with.

(3) Do you think the Word of God is interpreted by some to mean that man is not capable of knowledge without God’s existence?

– Robert Baty: Yes
– Presuppositionalist: Me: Yes. This is exactly how Robert Baty’s muddled Church of Christ theology and bare ignorance of presuppositional apologetics is leading him to interpret the Word of God.

(4) Do you think the Bible means that man is incapable of knowledge without God’s existence?

– Robert Baty: No
– Presuppositionalist: Me: No, if I presuppose Robert Baty’s Church of Christ Pelagianism is true.

(5) Do you think we can know things without God’s existence and that there is empirical evidence from which we might properly conclude that such is the case?

– Robert Baty: Yes
– Presuppositionalist: Me:  Yes, If I presuppose Robert Baty’s Church of Christ Pelagianism is true and deny God is sovereign over all of His creation.

Now Robert makes the claim that there exists “empirical evidence” in the world that can be “known” apart from God’s existence. To put it in presuppositional lingo, there are brute facts out there floating around that can be known and understood without any meaningful interpretation given to them by their creator.

If this is what Robert believes, then according to his own definitions he sets forth at the end of his post, how exactly does he justify that claim?  He defines “knowledge” as “having a justified true belief” and “justified” as “having a basis for belief,” and then writes, “we can know things without God’s existence and we can so determine from evidence and its interpretation independent of God’s Word and/or the Bible.”

My questions: How exactly does Robert make those “determinations” regarding the empirical evidence? In other words, are there “rules of logic” applied to evaluating the empirical evidence under consideration that Robert claims can be known independent of God’s existence and the Bible? How does he “know” that empirical evidence can be known apart from God and the Bible?

Is Robert saying there are things in the known universe that stand apart from God in that they do not exist under His authority as the sovereign creator? That they exist, uncreated by God, along side Him? How does Robert justify this belief (assuming he affirms this assertion) as a Church of Christ Christian? It could be that Robert is an atheist for all I know.

Can Robert supply an example of empirical evidence known apart from God’s existence and the Bible?

I have a sneaking suspicion based upon logic and reason that he will probably stop by and attempt an answer.

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31 thoughts on “Critical Thinkin’ 101 with Robert Baty

  1. LOL!

    Very nicely done. I’m just disappointed that he didn’t stop by and bother me in the comments of my review. I’ll hang out and wait to read his reply to you.

    Or, he could just stop all the nonsense and challenge Sye to a video debate.

    Now that would be fun to see. ;-)

  2. I’m not by any means well-versed in the different apologetic schools, so maybe this doesn’t mean much, but I’m having a hard time grasping the concept of things being knowable apart from God. If there was no God, we could still know things… except that without God, there would be nothing to know, and nobody to know it. Seems kind of hard to know something if you don’t exist and neither does the thing you’re trying to know. I dunno, maybe I’m just completely missing the point.

    The master of logic that he is, you’d think he’d realize how worthless of a charge “he refuses to debate me” can be. Often it’s nothing but an ad hominem, and a particularly desperate one at that. Maybe he won’t debate you. Why should he? What is your ground for issuing the challenge? Nobody is obliged to debate anyone at all – and of those who choose to debate, don’t they have the right to limit their debates to those with sufficient ground to issue a worthwhile challenge?

    And no, “I think my idea is better” is not in itself sufficient standing. For example, I’m 100% certain I have better ideas than Obama, but would even my biggest fans think I should challenge him to a debate? Would anyone have any respect for me issuing the challenge, then whining that he was ‘dodging’ me? Now if he would have ducked a debate with Romney, that would be one thing. But nobody seriously expects the President to engage every debate challenge, even from other federal government officials (like House members) or even presidential ‘candidates’ from parties that get like 18 votes and brag about how they didn’t throw their votes away. Of course he shouldn’t. But if someone whines about the Pres dodging a debate with him, should we mock the chump? Of course we should.

    So basically, I don’t know this whiny chump at all. But he seems extremely whiny, self-absorbed, and excessively whiny.

  3. Only one point from me and that would be where you say that Baty is from the Church of Christ and Churches of Christ are Arminians. This is not true. For example, the Church of Christ denies original sin but Arminius affirmed it. The Church of Christ would deny sola fide but Arminius affirmed it. The Church of Christ denies imputation of Christ’s righteousness but Arminius affirmed it. The Church of Christ teaches that water baptism is absolutely essential to regeneration but Arminius would deny such a view of water baptism.

    However, the rest I appreciated. :)

  4. “If it is possible in this world to know something without such knowledge being founded upon the existence of God, would you conclude that he Bible is wrong?”

    Why would anyone conclude that? Does the Bible say that no knowledge can be had without it being “founded on the existence of God”?

    I’m not really sure what you mean by “founded on the existence of God” to begin with. Of course God exists because if he didn’t, nothing else would. So everything is “founded on the existence of God” in the sense that without his existence there wouldn’t be anything.

    But I suppose you just don’t know how to word your proposition, and what you really mean is “founded ona blief in the existence of God.” In other words, you are saying that unless you believe in God you can’t “know” anything, or worse that unless you find something written in the Bible you can’t “know” it. This would seem to mean that you must be playing some weird game with the word “know.” An atheist can know that he is alive without believing in God, for instance. He may be too stupid to acknowledge why his is alive, but he knows he is alive. We also know the sky is blue and clouds are white (or black as the case may be). Nobody has to believe in God to know these things, nor do they have to read them in the Bible.

    “Ah” you will say “but that is not the kind of knowledge I mean.” Really???? Do tell!

    “God’s Word says plainly the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…”

    Yes indeed. But the word wisdom has many different shades. There is the wisdom of understanding the functions of the natural world, like trees and animals and so on. That’s one shade. And there is moral wisdom, that’s another. Clearly in this case its moral wisdom being referred to. The fear of the Lord doesn’t make anyone understand that certain roots have medicinal properties: it does make them understand morality. What we have here, in fact, is you are turning the word “wisdom” into “knowledge.” Wisdom and knowledge don’t mean the same thing, although in Hebrew the term is occasionally used to mean knowledge about nature, as when Solomon is described as having “wisdom” about trees and so on, but usually “wisdom” means the prudence to apply moral truths, truths which are only known by those who fear the Lord.

  5. The church of Christ is “Arminian” but not classical Arminian. That is, they are Arminian in the sense that they are not Calvinist, not in the sense of following Arminius actual teachings. Rather than belief in individual election on the basis of foreseen faith, they believe in corporate election, i.e. that Jesus is the only one elected and if you get “in Christ” then you become elect by virtue of being “in Him.”

  6. …or worse that unless you find something written in the Bible you can’t “know” it

    Let’s reverse that statement. Unless you ‘know’, you cannot know the bible. The wisdom of God comes down, we don’t go up and that’s what the wise attempt to do. 1 Corinthians 3:19; 1 Corinthians 1:19

    An atheist can know that he is alive without believing in God…He may be too stupid to acknowledge why his is alive, but he knows he is alive

    By what faculty does he know that he alive? and where does that faculty come from?

    We also know the sky is blue and clouds are white (or black as the case may be)

    You know the sky is blue. The sky appears to be blue because air scatters blue sunlight more than it scatters red. Otherwise it would appear red. And it’s the absence of light that gives clouds the appearance of being dark in colour. Further, there are no ‘colours’ just different wave lengths of light that are received as signals in the retina and interpreted by your occipital lobes.

    Gödel’s incompleteness proof suggests that man’s knowledge has definite limits but more importantly Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us; “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

  7. J’s response is very good. I’d add that the anonymous commenter commits several errors, the fundamental one being misquotation. Though Prov. 9:10 does say that fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom, the better-known 1:7 actually says it is the beginning of knowledge. But would anyone imagine that either term is exclusive of the other sapiential terms in 1:2-6 (ESV renders as instruction, understanding, prudence, discretion, learning, wise counsel)?

    And if one comes up with word-study-forged definitions of every one of those terms to try to avoid Solomon’s obviously-intended conclusion (Want to know or understand anything, really? Start by fearing Yahweh), one must then ask: what term *would* indicate such knowledge?

    Absent an axe to grind, Solomon’s point remains: one doesn’t truly know or understand anything if he doesn’t do so on the foundation of the fear of God. Anyone proposing a different approach finds himself queued up behind Eve, and headed for the same destination.

  8. “You know the sky is blue. The sky appears to be blue because air scatters blue sunlight more than it scatters red. Otherwise it would appear red.”

    You read that in the Bible, did you? It sounds like atheist science to me, and I don’t believe in science, all those bits and particles that nobody’s ever seen. And I thought you were supposed to be the presuppositionalist!

    “Further, there are no ‘colours’ just different wave lengths of light”

    There’s a very interesting lie from Satan.

    “Gödel’s incompleteness proof suggests that man’s knowledge has definite limits but more importantly Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us; “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

    Definite limits. Cannot search out all of God’s works completely. I was never arguing that man could know everything or search out all of God’s works! I am only arguing that God has given people the capacity to know things even if they don’t believe in Him….not all things mind you, just some things.

  9. I just ran across a reference to the above. I apparently failed to indicate to notify me at such a time as there was a response at the other place that generated the above.

    Here’s my response to that response:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Maury_and_Baty/message/32224

    Here’s another venue where these things have been discussed and which is still open for such a time as Sye comes out of hiding and initiates a good faith negotiation with me regarding the proposed exchange:

    https://www.facebook.com/BruggencatevBaty

  10. Hey Robert Baty,
    I can say right now I really have no desire to debate you at all. Not because I want to dodge you, or afraid of you, or whatever. I just have a life and other things occupying my time. The challenge is not really worth it anyways.

    That said, rather than dodging me by cry babying about not being notified, answer the questions I raised at the end of my post. Very simple.

  11. To Dan & Fred (aka 5pointer),

    When you make up your minds and are ready to begin the negotiations, let me know.

    I think you know how to get in touch with me without having to worry about the website letting me know that a message has been posted.

    Fred, you made some false and/or misleading statements about me and my Presuppositionalism 101 Critical Thinking Exercise.

    Now trying to run off as if it is not worthy of your effort is quite disengenuous.

    I propose we start with trying to get you successfully through the exercise. Of course, we first have to agree on one or more venues in order to get started.

    As I said before, I am open to a concurrent exchange in a venue of my choosing and one of yours; assuming you will never agree to simply come out, come clean and engage the matter at my place. That’s how Jason Petersen and I did it.

    So, make up your mind and be explicit as to whether you wish to proceed in dealing with your problems with and false/misleading claims regarding me and my Exercise. If you wish to proceed, then we can negotiate how we might further agree on getting your successfully through the Exercise.

    Very simple!

  12. I guess you concede that what I said is correct since its been several days and no response.

  13. Baty writes,
    When you make up your minds and are ready to begin the negotiations, let me know.

    Like I stated, I have honestly no desire to debate you. Nor do I care that you think that is a dodge.

    I think you know how to get in touch with me without having to worry about the website letting me know that a message has been posted.

    You haven’t shown that you are worthy of our respect to send you a polite notification that you have been answered.

    Fred, you made some false and/or misleading statements about me and my Presuppositionalism 101 Critical Thinking Exercise.

    ….and those “false and/or misleading statements about you would be? Don’t run from me now.

    we first have to agree on one or more venues in order to get started.

    The comments here are completely satisfactory. Don’t get all disingenuous about venues and the like and use that as an excuse to run off. My questions are quite simple.

    assuming you will never agree to simply come out, come clean and engage the matter at my place.

    Yes, you assume correctly. I do not want to have to engage you at facebook or yahoo groups. IF you can’t defend the intellectual fortitude of your arguments in the comments of my blog, then I guess they ain’t worth defending.

    make up your mind and be explicit as to whether you wish to proceed in dealing with your problems with and false/misleading claims regarding me and my Exercise. If you wish to proceed, then we can negotiate how we might further agree on getting your successfully through the Exercise.

    I explicitly asked you to answer my questions in the comments. Stop running from me by invoking this “negotiation” non-sense. If you think I have made false/misleading statements about your claim, which I have yet to see, then show me in the comment below. If not, I’ll just take it that you are dodging my questions and running from me and you are not serious about individuals challenging your assertions.

  14. Fred,

    I see you are not open and honest enough to negotiate how we might best proceed in getting you successfully through my Exercise that you have misrepresented.

    I am, however, long-suffering and willing to patronize you further should you find a place in your heart for repentance regarding these important public issues.

    Since you are not inclined to negotiate in good faith as to how we might proceed in dealing with the real issues here (i.e., Sye Ten Bruggencate and his “proof God exists” claim), I will take you back to the beginning and see if you will openly and honestly repent and attempt to successfully complete the Exercise.

    Fred Butler
    v.
    Presupp 101 Critical Thinking Exercise

    Sye Ten Bruggencate says:

    – “The proof God exists is that
    – without Him you could not
    – know anything.”

    The Exercise contains two different arguments; one of which will apply to the student’s position as indicated in his/her response to the following question:

    – If it is possible in this world to
    – know something without such
    – knowledge being founded upon
    – the existence of God, would you
    – conclude that;

    — (a) the Bible is wrong,

    – or

    — (b) the Sye Ten Bruggencate
    — interpretation of the Bible
    — is wrong?

    Those are the only possible answers.

    Sye Ten Bruggencate claims that without God knowledge would not be possible.

    If Sye is wrong about that, the question above asks what conclusion you might draw from concluding Sye is wrong about that.

    Would you conclude the Bible is wrong?
    Would you conclude that Sye’s interpretation of the Bible is wrong?

    The Exercise is not about me.

    The Exercise is about Sye Ten Bruggencate and his “proof God exists” claim and why I have concluded that Sye’s claimed “proof” offers NO “proof”.

    ——————————-

  15. I guess you concede that what I said is correct

    No.

    It sounds like atheist science to me, and I don’t believe in science, all those bits and particles that nobody’s ever seen.

    You mean those invisible to the naked eye packets of data that are sent via the three way handshake so I can read what you said here in the comments section?

    I am only arguing that God has given people the capacity to know things even if they don’t believe in Him

    So your presupposition is that people can indeed be unbelieving.

    One preacher and I’m paraphrasing here, said that unbelief is really secret belief. I’m no great expositor, I’m more like a learner, I simply read GTY and Fred when I get the chance but Romans 2 where Paul talks about the law being written on people’s hearts would perhaps square with that. I don’t think it’s possible to truly not believe in God. So that would negate your question I would think.

    Further you have these verses in scripture
    They know nothing, they understand nothing – Isaiah 44:18
    Everyone is senseless and without knowledge – Jeremiah 51:17

  16. “They know nothing” — and you seriously think this has to do with knowledge in general rather than a specific kind of knowledge? I can’t believe you truly believe that, much as atheists don’t truly disbelieve God’s existence. I think much like them, you are just pretending.

  17. You’re wrong. There is a third option just like I stated: Robert Baty doesn’t understand presuppositionalism. Now you may want to say the exercise is not about you, but it most certainly is, particularly your muddled Church of Christ/Pelagian view of what it is Sye is arguing.

    Now here I am asking again for at least the third time: If I misrepresented you, then show those misrepresentations. While you are at it, answer those questions I pose to you. I am not gonna choose venues or negotiate. If you can’t answer me here in the comments of my blog, then I have no other choice but to conclude you are a phony.

  18. Why do you use “syllogisms”? The age of the syllogism was expended with Aquinas.

  19. Fred,

    We all will draw our own conclusions and agreement by all is not anticipated.

    I certainly understand yours quite well, Fred; now having dealt with such as you for several weeks now.

    Your problem is not my lack of understanding of Presuppositionalism but rather is the extent to which I do understand Presuppositionalism.

    You demonstrated a considerable level of interest in my Exercise, Fred, though you seemed determined to make false and/or misleading claims about it and me.

    Shame on you!

    The opening query is simple enough and I will not claim you do not understand it and the two possible answers; not three.

    You, Fred, simply refuse to give what you know is your (a) or (b) answer.

    I get that much, Fred!

    You, Fred, are just a reluctant, stiff-necked student who prefers to run to and fro instead of deal openly and honestly with your problems.

    I get that you won’t negotiate, though that is what is required if you wish to requite my love and cooperate in producing a proper exchange regarding the issue before us: Sye Ten Bruggencate’s “proof God exists” claim.

    Fred, if you want to claim you lack comprehension as to the first inquiry and the propriety of having only 2 possible answers, you can try to explain your problem with that and I will attempt to help you get over it so you can answer properly and we can continue the Exercise which you have already shown you have a great interest in.

    For ready reference, here’s the inquiry for your (a) or (b) response that will allow us to proceed:

    – If it is possible in this world to
    – know something without such
    – knowledge being founded upon
    – the existence of God, would you
    – conclude that;

    – (a) the Bible is wrong,

    – or

    – (b) the Sye Ten Bruggencate
    – interpretation of the Bible
    – is wrong?

    If you get through the Exercise successfully, Fred, we will have plenty of time to consider your other problems as they might have some relevance and we have the time and interest to pursue such additional secondary and tertiary matters.

    Sincerely,
    Robert Baty

  20. I am only arguing that God has given people the capacity to know things even if they don’t believe in Him

    Can you point me to where the bible tries to prove the existence of God? Apparently its nowhere to be found. Because Romans 1 says;

    since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

    Adding;

    Unbelief in the existence and revelation of Yahweh is inconceivable because one’s unbelief would destroy or “violate the conditions or presuppositions of rational inquiry,” thus destroying the very possibility of rationally affirming, rejecting, or even considering His existence. – Van Til.

  21. “Can you point me to where the bible tries to prove the existence of God?”

    I’ll readily admit that it does not, and we need not even appeal to Paul and Romans 1 to prove that it does not. Genesis 1 begins with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

    I am, of course, a limited presuppositionalist. I recognize that no rational thought can proceed without some presuppositions. However, for someone to be truly rational, those presuppositions must be few in number. I presuppose the existence of God, his creation of the world from nothing, and his revelation of the 10 commandments at Sinai. But nothing more than that, or not much more. The rest is arguable upon this foundation. Where we differ is that like all Calvinists you presuppose the whole Calvinist doctrinal system. This makes you extremely irrational.

  22. DescriptiveGrace writes,
    Where we differ is that like all Calvinists you presuppose the whole Calvinist doctrinal system. This makes you extremely irrational.

    Do you mean to say Calvinism, as in the five points, or Calvinism as expressed by Covenant Theology? I presuppose the doctrines of Grace because they are derived from the exegesis of Scripture. I do not, however, presuppose Covenant Theology.

  23. Could you elaborate on what you mean by saying you presuppose TULIP but not “Covenant Theology”? Is that just a fancy way of saying you are Calvinist Baptist rather than a Calvinist Presbyterian?

  24. Where we differ is that like all Calvinists you presuppose the whole Calvinist doctrinal system. This makes you extremely irrational.

    I’ll probably run myself into problems here but is one considered irrational because they are a Calvinist or a Calvinist because they are irrational? As I understand it one of Calvinism’s central tenets is one of Sola Fide. That isn’t to say it strays into Fideism though. In some contrast rationality would tell me Moses et al crossed the Red Sea at low tide or on a sandbar or something. Faith, which is irrational by all worldly standards would tell me he really parted the sea. My rationality alone cannot fathom that kind of thing.

  25. “Can you point me to where the bible tries to prove the existence of God?”
    gee maybe because character mentioned in the bible already believed in God so there was no need to do so?

  26. Pingback: Answering Survivor Bloggers and Other Sundry Theological Cranks | hipandthigh

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