Discussions with Atheistsp. 12
You keep writing things like:
>> On the other hand I have offered a deconstruction of the epistemology and ethics that must follow in an atheistic universe, and I am still waiting for any one of you to show how this is not the case. <<
>> But how can the irrational give rise to the rational. <<
Basically, you claim that atheistic assumptions cannot support a theory of knowledge. But this claim is based on one huge false assumption. You wrongly demand that knowledge _must_ be based on certainty. But this is an irrational demand. You presuppose the existence of God. I presuppose the existence of the physical world. I can rationally deny God. I can behave as if he does not exist and I will suffer no consequence in doing so. I will have no reason to doubt my assumption. You cannot rationally deny the physical world. If you behave as if it does not exist you will surely suffer consequences -- in this lifetime. You will eventually have reason to doubt your assumption. You will become fairly certain there are very hard things out there that are beyond your control. This is a painful knowledge system most of us learned as infants. Some misguided philosophers have tried to convince us we cannot be absolutely certain of this knowledge. Well, maybe so. But claims of certainty have nothing to do with knowledge. In fact, it is often its opposite. Obsessive quests for certainty lead to pathological self-doubt and irrationalism. Certainty is almost always irrational -- both claims of it and demands for it. If we waited for absolute certainty before we made everyday decisions we would be racked with indecision.
How could I know that Interstate 35 runs through Dallas today? It did yesterday but how can I be certain it does today? So if I cannot be certain of this, does it follow I have no knowledge of the highway system? Do I have nothing but "faith" that the highway system is still there? This is an absurd prerequisite for knowledge. It's a theological demand. Maybe this is why you obsess over it. The atheist is not concerned about your theological demands. They know those demands are irrational and lead to intellectual paralysis. Knowledge is not based on certainty. Presuppositionalists must get over the naive notion that what is not undeniably true is therefore utterly irrational. Knowledge is much more complex than that. It's not based on all evidence. It's based on the best possible evidence. It's not based on "beyond the shadow of a doubt" but rather on "beyond a reasonable doubt." Knowledge is based on what is most likely true. Once this is realized, the presuppositionalist complaints about atheistic epistemology crumble away. They are seen for what they are -- flawed arguments based on fear of the unknown.
Additionally, the tables are turned. Since the presuppositionalist
demands a foundation of certainty for the atheist, he must either
accept his own hypocrisy or admit it's a goal he can never achieve for himself.
Absolute certainty of the existence of God implies absolute knowledge. There
is no way a presuppositionalist can claim his Holy book came from God unless
he eliminates all other possible explanations. Claims of revelation are
ultimately irrational claims of personal omniscience. He is not claiming
to know God, he is claiming to be God. This I don't think he
is willing to do. Therefore he is left in the embarrassing position of holding
atheists to an
unrealistic standard to which he is unwilling to hold himself.
And it gets worse.
Since the Christian presuppositionalist is unwilling to challenge his original presuppositions, what he really has is a theory of dogma, not a theory of knowledge. This makes it hard for him to understand how an atheist can live in an undogmatic world. Since the atheist's presuppositions are not dogmatic, they can be challenged. Presuppositionalists see this as a weakness, but it is, in fact, a strength. It permits a true feedback system of knowledge such as gotten from the Scientific Method. Such a system is impossible under the presuppositionalist's theocratic system. Aberrations in the knowledge base could never force adjustment of "divine" presuppositions because those are assumed to be true to the end of time. Results are forced to conform to fixed presuppositions or they are explained away as miracles. OTOH, the atheist does not consider his presuppositions to be divine. Atheist presuppositions are forced to track the empirical evidence. This is the reverse of the presuppositionalist's world view. Presuppositionalists are supposition oriented. Atheists are result oriented. That's why the Christian presuppositionalist finds empiricism so repugnant. Ultimately, observations might challenge all presuppositions. This is very scary stuff. This fear causes the Christian presuppositionalist to stick his head in the sand. The universe is unfriendly. It's an impersonal place. It doesn't care a flip for his glorified presuppositions. He chooses instead to cling to a comfortable fiction. But he's really just floating alone in a warm shark infested sea. He's isolated. The non communicability of the religious experience tends to isolate the individual. There is no sharing of the subjective experience. Meaning is strictly personal. The Christian refuses to permit us to derive meaning from the only common ground among us -- nature. Meaning comes only from an invisible world they cannot be sure exists and cannot prove to anyone else. Meaning is based the subjective abstract, on personal revelation. But there is no medium in which to share this religious experience. There is no way to communicate ones revealed truth. True communication is impossible. If they have knowledge, they cannot share it, and we could never know it. There is no arbitration of Truth because I cannot really know my neighbor's arbitrator. Human problems cannot be discussed in any meaningful way. For all practical purposes, there is no foundation for true knowledge to exist at all in the theocratic system.
Therefore, religious experience as the basis of meaning and knowledge is doomed. It is inherently personal rather than universal. Truth is experienced from within, not from without. The relevancy of the real world is put into doubt. Sensual experience is questioned. Since Christian presuppositionalists question it themselves, they try to force their doubt onto the innocent bystanding atheist. When the only common ground among people is scorned, all hope of knowledge is put into jeopardy.
So religious man has no way to distinguish between what is real and what is only in his head. Fantasy and reality are fused into a confused personal mess. There is no objective standard with which to determine whose invented reality is true. Evidence and logic are corrupt from the start. No objective conclusion is possible. People talk at one another rather than to one another. Christians, for example, suppose their "truth" is based on the "certainty" of the Bible. Yet what has this "certainty" lead to? Factionalization. Christians agree on very little. Who is right? The Baptist? The Presbyterian? The Roman Catholic? The Latter Day Saint? How can "certainty" lead to both a true-blue Christian liberal and a ultra-conservative? A Neo-Nazi or a Mother Teresa? Shall we be a Pat Robertson materialist or should we reject possessions and imitate Jesus? Shall we dance? Shall we handle snakes? Shall we use modern medicine or pray for miracles? Shall we go to "R" rated movies or limit ourselves to Disney? Or shall we boycott Disney altogether? This chaos happens because Christian epistemology is inverted. They assume Truth and attempt to build knowledge like an upside down pyramid. It's balanced precariously. Truth is diffused, diluted and scattered away from reality rather than directed towards it. Knowledge about reality cannot be logically deduced from original abstract assumptions, be they God or anything else. There is no mystical jump from "certain" abstractions to "certain" reality. Abstractions can never prove realities. If knowledge is anything it must be subject to destruction. Attempts to base it on certainty deny this. The physical world must be the final arbitrator. Knowledge cannot arbitrate reality. But this is the Christian presuppositionalist demand. One cannot presume a root of Truth and claim knowledge is everything deduced from that. This gives Truth a status of reality it doesn't deserve, like some sort of supernatural entity. Knowledge is nothing more than an abstract tool used to track and forecast the physical. It has no reality of its own. It is not Truth. It is not true or false. Most knowledge (i.e., not definitional knowledge) is what is more true than false. When it stops tracking the physical or presumes to supersede the physical it ceases to be knowledge.
The Christian obsession for "certainty" inevitably leads to moral relativism. If one starts with the assumption that there is a supreme lawgiver who can be experienced only on a personal, subjective level, it inevitably leads to the conclusion that there are no morals except my morals. Written laws are useless because words must be understood and interpreted in the "spirit." Revealed laws cannot truly exist except as personal revelation. Of course there is no way to communicate my personal revelation of the meaning of the law to anybody else. The result is dogmatic chaos. Everybody is right so everybody is wrong. Morals are relative to me. This is no different than the accused relativism of the atheist. However it is usually expressed much differently. Christian relativism tends to value conformity. There is no arguing with "divinely" revealed truth, even if I am the only one who got it right. Atheist relativism tends to emphasize the value of diversity.
But is the atheistic world really that relativistic? It seems this Christian view of atheism is based on the old fashioned notion that we are born a blank slate. We are not. We are born with much of our moral wiring. We are by nature social animals. Our true presuppositions are not based upon logic, and are not logically deducible. They are based on evolution. Most of us are born with certain moral predispositions like we are born with two eyes. Philosophers could argue that logically we should have one eye or three eyes or no eyes. The fact that I have two eyes might be "proven" to be totally irrational. But this is an exercise in futility. It does not change the fact that I have two eyes. Much of our moral system is inherent in the same way. Morals are not truly relativistic. They are evolutionistic. Nature assumes some variation is much more useful in the dynamic real world. This is true even though some variations are actually dangerous.
Basically we are flesh wrapped around DNA. Our bodies are nothing more than a chemical vessel. Our brains are chemicals trying to understand chemistry. We are rational because chemistry is rational. We merely mimic our own components. This is the ultimate foundation of logic.
The ancients had it right when they worshipped the sun. We are the by-products of nuclear fusion. We feel like part of the universe because we are part of the universe. We love nature because we are nature. We imitate nature because we are nature. If anything is God, it is the collective us. We are the Universe trying to understand itself. All knowledge is derived from the physical we are all members of. We are the natural evolution of the godless creator.
From Alan to C.I.,
This is probably the most serious attempt to engage the issue from a philosophical standpoint that I have encountered so far in this discussion. Despite it's attempt to actually answer the central issue it fails to do so adequately. Before attacking it point by point I would make the general observation that you either misunderstand or misconstrue the nature of the epistemological failure that I have repeatedly raised and that in the end you dance around the central issue but fail establish that atheism is rational. I think this is because that in spite of your assertion that the atheist feels free to question his own presuppositions, you in fact, never open yours to any serious questioning, but quite the contrary everywhere take them for granted. You treat them as unquestionable. But let's get down to specifics.
>Basically, you claim that atheistic assumptions cannot support a theory of knowledge. But this claim is based on one huge false assumption. You wrongly demand that knowledge _must_ be based on certainty. But this is an irrational demand<<
Here is the first misconstrual of the argument. The failure of atheistic assumptions to deliver certainty of anything is a symptom of the more basic problem, one which I raised in my more lengthy response previously and which you do not address at any point in your discussion. It is not simply the demand for certainty that is the problem. The problem is that atheistic assumptions fail because they contain an inherent irrationalism -- they are self-contradictory. The ontology set forth by a materialist world view involves incompatible, yet necessary assumptions within the system. Irrationalism is built into philosophical naturalism right from the start, so the outcome is inevitable.
> I presuppose the existence of the physical world.<
The question is not so much in the presupposing of the existence of the physical world. I would agree that it exists. The problem arises in assuming that the physical world is ultimate, that there is nothing else, that there is no referent either in the realm of being or knowledge that is more ultimate. This assumption postulates that since the ultimate is impersonal, then from the impersonal no ultimate purpose, plan, or logic can be derived for the universe. Atheistic literature, both in philosophy and science is abundantly filled with affirmations that the universe is what it is by chance. This is not only a essential assumption of neo-Darwinism, it goes right down to the core of the materialist understanding of reality. Since there is no rational plan governing the universe due to the fact that the ultimate impersonal cannot produce such a plan, then the universe "just is" to put it in the words of Bertrand Russell. It is fundamentally undetermined (since there is no determiner) and processes of blind chance account for who we are and how we got here. This relates back to the One and Many problem which I discussed earlier and which you do not resolve here. Having chosen to give priority to the reality of the Many by denying rational purpose to the universe, the problem arises as to how to relate the disparate many, the individual facts of the universe (including the chance events and the individual particles of matter and energy) to each other in a coherent way that preserves the order of the universe which is observable all around us. Universals are necessary and you assume them throughout your own argument even while it appears that you deny them.
Modern materialism attempts to get at this unity by introducing concepts such as logic and the laws of nature as discovered by empirical science. It must do so, otherwise the result is chaos and the science that the materialist worships will fall to pieces. Yet, the fundamental challenge is not answered. Indeed, it is never even brought up lest the cover under which the entire materialist project is hiding be blown. It remains obscured by your response, but we will bring it out into the open again. The notion that chance processes govern the universe, including the process and results of human thought, and the notions that there are laws of logic that describe rationality as well as that there exists uniformity in nature (that can be reduced to scientific "laws") contradict each other. The notion of any type of correspondence of the chemically produced ideas in a human brain to an external world is logically incoherent, once the chemical processes are said to be ultimately the products of an impersonal origin governed by chance. Not only is there no rational connection that can be made between these ideas, they would seem to exclude each other. Your own response offers illustrations of this.
>I can rationally deny God. I can behave as if he does not exist and I will suffer no consequence in doing so. I will have no reason to doubt my assumption. You cannot rationally deny the physical world.<
First of all, outside of a few philosophical idealists, Christians do not deny the physical world. I certainly do not, so your point here is irrelevant to the discussion. What is at issue, as I have stated, is whether or not the physical universe is ultimate. That is another question.
Your assertion that you can rationally deny God is also what is at issue here. Before you can make such a claim, you have to establish that you can affirm or deny anything rationally. You have yet to do this. The next assertion is unwarranted and begs the question, simply being a dogmatic assertion whose validity depends on God actually not existing. If God exists, then the consequences will naturally be quite grave. They are in fact grave, and you have not escaped from them as will become evident.
>claims of certainty have nothing to do with knowledge. In fact, it is often its opposite. Obsessive quests for certainty lead to pathological self-doubt and irrationalism. Certainty is almost always irrational -- both claims of it and demands for it.<
Are you certain of this? I find it interesting, even humorous that your rebuttal attacks a notion that is inherent in the expression of the attack itself. In plain language you appear to be giving this as an absolute precept. If you are not certain that this is the case, then how can you be so sure that I am not correct? You seem to be very smug in your confidence that there are no consequences in not believing in God. But doesn't doubt at some point enter your mind? And if certainty has nothing to do with knowledge, then how do you know that it does not? And how can you say that you have no reason to doubt your assumption? Lack of certainty would seem to always leave room for some doubt.
Perhaps one problem here is that you have not given a definition of knowledge. That might help clarify things some. I am taking the classic definition that knowledge can be considered to be justified belief in a true proposition. Now I am willing to grant that there are degrees of certainty that fall short of being absolute on many questions. And I am not arguing for foundationalism in a Cartesian sense. Descarte erred in trying to base his foundation on a proposition derived from within the universe itself, falling into the same difficulty that finally destroys a materialist epistemology. But it remains true that the alternatives to foundationalism all point to relativism. And it remains true that relativism is self-contradictory and irrational.
The degree of confidence you have in your knowledge of what Interstate runs through Dallas may vary for many reasons. However, in relation to the discussion at hand it is an uninteresting issue. By bringing it up you have shown a confusion of categories. Metaphysical knowledge of ultimate principles and empirical knowledge of particulars are not the same thing. Using the latter as an example to attack the previous is both irrelevant and counterproductive to your own cause. In any case, you cannot have knowledge of the existence of I-35 in Dallas even while you are sitting on it in rush hour traffic. You can believe that you are and that belief might even be true, but you cannot rationally justify it. The problems of getting from your sense perceptions of things to any kind of external reality that is really there on the basis of empiricism still exist, regardless of your willingness to give up the ideal of certainty. Indeed, this is just an admission of the trouble you are already in. On the basis of materialist presuppositions there is no reason to suppose that there is any rational connection between your perceptions and what exists. Kant's noumenal still shrouds everything in the void. You can never penetrate it, not even to get to what is "likely" or "beyond a reasonable doubt". I do not need to demand certainty to demonstrate this. In fact, the most devastating arguments showing the vacuity of empiricism weren't even developed by Christians. Hume certainly wasn't. He himself was in the empiricist camp, yet he was unable to save it from self-destructing. Neither will you.
> It's a thelogical demand. Maybe this is why you obsess over it. The atheist is not concerned about your theological demands. They know those demands are irrational and lead to intellectual paralysis. Knowledge is not based on certainty.<
It is more correctly a metaphysical demand, and the atheist had better be concerned about that because there is no getting around metaphysics. Every postulate offered by the materialist has a metaphysical foundation somewhere. And despite your protests, it is evident that you both need and in fact, appeal to principles which you assume are certain in order to maintain your atheism. The assertion that knowledge is not based on certainty is an example.
But in any case, as I have just said, it is simply false that the critique of materialist empiricist epistemology is based on the demand for certainty. It is not. It is based on the inherent irrationality of materialist presuppositions and the inability of the empiricist to show how that which is irrational can produce rationality.
>Presuppostionalists must get over the naive notion that what is not undeniably true is therefore utterly irrational. Knowledge is much more complex than that.<
Knowledge is complex indeed, and I never said that what is not undeniably true is therefore utterly irrational. I don't know of other presuppositionalists who say that either, although that is beside the point. I am saying that what is self-contradictory is irrational and that therefore, believing something is true that is contradicted by the metaphysical assumptions of your own system is irrational. It may be rational to believe many things that are not undeniably true. But it is irrational to dogmatically hold to an entire world view, asserting that it is really true to what is, when the fundamental assumptions necessary to that world view contradict each other. Now what I perceive that you are doing here is not simply taking an agnostic view about the question of God's existence. You appear to be affirming that it is irrational to believe that God exists and that seems to me to be a claim for certainty. Yet you tell me that certainty is not possible. Does that mean that it is not undeniably true that God does not exist? So do you allow some degree of possibility that God could exist? You must if you are to be consistent with your own theory of knowledge.
>It's not based on all evidence. It's based on the best possible evidence. It's not based on "beyond the shadow of a doubt" but rather on "beyond a reasonable doubt." Knowledge is based on what is most likely true. Once this is realized, the presuppositionalist complaints about atheistic epistemology crumble away. They are seen for what they are -- flawed arguments based on fear of the unknown.<
Attributing psychological motives to one's opponent's beliefs is typically a means of explaining them away. It is to say, "since we know that his argument, beliefs, etc, have no rational support then they must have originated for some irrational reason." Such arguments used to be the staples of psychology and sociology of religion but current scholarship has largely abandoned them. They turned out to be falsified by the empirical research on why people believe. I could respond by saying that bringing them up here is more of an evasive tactic, designed to give an air of superiority to one who knows that his arguments are weak, but I will resist this temptation. In any case, they presuppose certain knowledge that the opponent's view is false. But no such certainty exists according to you. Therefore, on your own view of things it is not at all certain that presuppositionalist arguments are flawed and based on fear of the unknown.
However, the more interesting question raised here is that of, how do you determine what the "best" evidence is? How do you arrive at beyond a reasonable doubt? How do you know what is most likely true? Each of these presupposes the existence of some kind of a standard. Where does this standard come from? You will no doubt fall back on the scientific method and empiricism here. But that is exactly what is in dispute. I have argued that if the universe is what the atheist says it is then these methods are not valid. Your response is to assert that knowledge is arrived at on the basis of examining the best evidence. I assume that you mean to include in that, knowledge of whether or not my argument is correct. In that case, what you have offered is not an argument, it is just a dogmatic reassertion of your faith in empiricism. The readers of this discussion will perceive that to simply assert that empiricism is valid and use that as the standard is again just begging the question. It evades facing up to the argument. You cannot simply assume that empiricism is valid and then use it as the standard for evaluating the evidence as to whether or not empiricism is valid. Yet you offer no other epistemological base. When we face up to this question we discover that the validity of the empirical method itself depends on the truth of several metaphysical notions that are not empirically verifiable. In fact, these propositions contradict the reality that must be the case if atheism were in fact true. I have already covered this ground in these discussions, but it might be worthwhile to elaborate a bit more at this point.
Here are some of the basic metaphysical propositions presupposed in the
empirical methods used by science to evaluate evidence and discover what
is most likely to be true beyond a reasonable doubt.
1. Nature exists as a world external to the human mind.
2. Nature is intelligible. It can be known.
3. There exists an underlying necessary order in nature.
4. There is an interconnectedness and simplicity to the way nature works (nature's "laws").
5. The principle of cause and effect.
6. Nature behaves the same way whether observed or not.
7. Nature will continue to behave the same, rendering it possible to base predictions of future empirical results on present empirical observations.
8. The universal and necessary validity of the laws of logic.
9. There exists a correspondence between human sense perceptions and the events and elements of the physical universe.
10. Human sense perceptions and memory are trustworthy.
11. The necessity and validity of communication with other selves.
12. There is an objective moral obligation to accurately report the results of one's work and to not falsify data. (1)
What is noteworthy about these assumptions is that if they are false, if they do not describe how the universe is, then empiricism is dead and the scientific method, in particular, is useless as a source of true knowledge about what is. (2)
Empiricists face two issues here that must be resolve in order to preserve their claim to a rational basis for knowledge. The first is that none of these propositions can be proven by the empirical method itself. Knowledge of their truth depends on philosophical and metaphysical proofs. The second is that these propositions are inconsistent with the type of universe posited by the materialist. If the universe is what the atheist says it is, then the necessary conditions that make the scientific method capable of producing knowledge do not exist. Let's look at these in a little more detail.
First of all, the claim that the empirical method of science is either the only, the best, or most reliable means of gaining knowledge is rendered highly suspect if it is not capable of justifying its own necessary assumptions. Given that the assumptions that underlie empiricism cannot be proven empirically, it follows that if all knowledge rests on empiricism, then the assumptions of empiricism cannot be known to be true. If it is irrational to believe that which is not empirically verifiable, then it is irrational to believe that the necessary presuppositions of empiricism are true. Hence if empiricism is the basis of knowledge then there is no rational reason to believe that empiricism provides knowledge. Clearly the kind of epistemology propounded by the atheists in this forum is irrational. Its premises lead it into an irresolvable self-contradiction.
What gives rise to the first problem is the lack of an adequate metaphysical context for sustaining the rationality of the empirical method. The question that must be faced is from whence can such a base be derived? This question leads us to the second problem in that not only does the materialist conception of the universe lack such a base, it positively destroys it. It will not be necessary to examine each of the principles in the above list in order to establish this point. A few examples will suffice.
Regarding propositions 2, 3 and 7 above, it would seem that the intelligibility and orderliness of nature presuppose that nature is rational. We attribute rationality to processes that show evidence of purposefulness. It is not typically associated with randomness. Indeed, if a human being consistently produces random behaviors and responses to our interaction we soon begin to suspect that he or she is insane. Now it has already been noted that materialists accept as an axiom that there is an underlying randomness inherent in the universe. We are here as a result of blind chance they say. But what exactly is involved in the notion of pure blind chance. Chance events are essentially events that are not determined. Not being determined is tantamount to saying that they are uncaused. They are inherently unpredictable. But if this is the case, then upon what basis do we believe that nature is orderly? And how can we maintain that that which is indeterminate, that which happens for no cause, is intelligible. Intelligibility requires the presence of rational processes. Making generalizations based on observations is simply not possible if chance is what ultimately controls reality. Chance cannot produce orderliness and it makes predictability impossible.
Some materialists have responded by asserting that chance events, when looked at in the aggregate, can produce order as is proven by the mathematics of probability and statistics. While no one can predict a single chance event (say the tossing of a fair coin) using statistics we can successfully predict the probable outcome of tossing the coin 100 times. But the analogy fails, because the mathematics of probability still presuppose an order back of things. If I have a jar of 50 black and 50 white marbles and start pulling them out one at a time without looking we could say that this is a random process. However, it can be statistically analyzed because we already know the total of each color and we know that the marbles are not going to spontaneously change colors. The parameters of the procedure are not ruled by chance. They are predetermined. It is the knowledge of the determined aspects that makes prediction possible.
The kind of randomness presupposed by materialism is different. It is pure, operating for no predetermined reason.
As C.S. Lewis put it:
If all that exists is Nature, the great mindless interlocking event, if our own deepest convictions are merely the by-products of an irrational ,process then clearly there is not the slightest ground for supposing that our sense of fitness and our consequent faith in uniformity tell us anything about a reality external to ourselves. Our convictions are simply a fact about us -- like the colour of our hair. If Naturalism is true we have no reason to trust our conviction that Nature is uniform. (3)
>Additionally, the tables are turned. Since the presuppositionalist demands a foundation of certainty for the atheist, he must either accept his own hypocrisy or admit it's a goal he can never achieve for himself. Absolute certainty of the existence of God implies absolute knowledge. There is no way a presuppositionalist can claim his Holy book came from God unless he eliminates all other possible explanations. Claims of revelation are ultimately irrational claims of personal omniscience. He is not claiming to know God, he is claiming to be God. This I don't think he is willing to do. Therefore he is left in the embarrassing position of holding atheists to an unrealistic standard to which he is unwilling to hold himself.<
We are making a rather stronger claim here in one sense, and a much weaker one in another sense. I assume that by absolute knowledge you mean exhaustive knowledge of all things. However, your failure to add that clarification adds confusion to your argument that evaporates its force once the distinction is made. Absolute certainty does imply in one sense absolute and exhaustive knowledge, but it does not imply that the human knower be the repository of that knowledge. The necessity of God's existence is demonstrated in part by the necessity that somewhere, there exists absolute exhaustive knowledge. However, the Christian readily admits that he can never attain to such a thing. It is possible that knowledge of a particular proposition can be absolute (known to be certain) without entailing exhaustive knowledge of all things. All that is necessary is for that knowledge to be rooted in a point of reference that does have exhaustive knowledge. And in this sense the Christian believes that there is absolute knowledge. Now the heart of the Christian message is that no one attains to such knowledge, but rather that it is given as a free gift. If someone who knows all things absolutely tells you that proposition x is absolutely true, then it is rational to believe so.
You correctly observe that no Christian wants to claim to be God. However, he does not need to. He takes it as proof of God's existence that unless it is presupposed, then there is no rational basis for believing anything. It is not just that we are asserting that no absolute certainty exists. With the implosion of the empirical method as far as it is based on materialist presuppositions, we are claiming that you cannot even get to the probably true. There will always be a reasonable doubt that can be raised to anything that the atheist asserts since it is always reasonable to doubt what is derived from arbitrary methods that themselves cannot be made rationally credible given the atheist's own view of what reality is. We deny the charge of hypocrisy, but for the sake of argument we will be glad to make the much more modest demand that the atheist justify even the supposedly tentative knowledge that he claims. You have failed to do even that.
As for eliminating all other possible explanations, that is exactly the position that we hold. There are numerous lines of argument to support this. The one I am pursuing here is to demonstrate that non-Christian religions and philosophies, regardless of their differences, hold to certain common presuppositions that inevitably reduce them to irrationality. As I have said before, just any old God won't do. To quote myself from a previous post (in case you missed it). "But as for the matter of why this God, the Triune God of the Bible, instead of the other competitors, it is because there are no other competitors. That is, there is no other God who is distinct and prior to the universe and who is absolutely personal in his nature. He is both One and Many and is hence not dependent upon the universe for the experience of diversity or anything else for that matter. As Creator he is the source of the being of all particulars. Yet since ultimate reality is personal then universal abstractions do exist. Logic exists and is grounded in the character of God. He is rationality itself and since he created the universe according to his own rational plan, its order is perfectly accounted for. Universal abstractions such as moral absolutes reflect the character of God, and they also exist." The Bible eliminates all other revelations as false because of the nature of the God that it reveals. It reveals a God who is absolutely distinct from the universe, who is personal, and who is a Trinity. Only such a God, in the nature of the case, can be an adequate point of reference for resolving the problems of being, knowing, ethics and purpose that cause other world views to self-destruct. It is therefore, not necessary to engage in a detailed refutation of all non-Christian philosophies in order to establish the argument for God. As worthwhile as such a project may be, it is sufficient to show that the Christian presuppositions are absolutely unique among all other systems of thought and that those other systems all share a set of common basic flawed assumptions over against the Christian system.
What are those common assumptions? Basically these:
1) The universe is - there is no ultimate distinction between it and its creator. There exists something that we may call Being in general. All that exists has its existence by virtue of its participation in Being. This means that God or the gods, if they are allowed, also exists against the backdrop of this Being in general. Being is ultimately impersonal, or at best God represents a personal element against the more ultimate backdrop of impersonal Being. Hence, the being of God is correlative to the Being of the universe. In plain language what it means is that God is not independent of the universe. He depends on its existence for his own completeness of being. As such, Being itself becomes the ultimate reality. The atheist looks at this state of affairs and concludes (correctly) that in such a system God is superfluous. If Being is ultimate then it must be sufficient unto itself. Who needs to posit the existence of a God within it?
2) The universe (Being) is undetermined and has no overarching purpose . Since Being was not created or designed by any kind of intelligence for a purpose, the universe is what it is today as a result of chance processes. Human personality itself is a result of chance. If a god or gods exist in such a universe, then they are faced with the ever present threat of random flux and chaos. For such a god, creation is the act of trying to over come the chaos and bring about order. It is a never ending struggle and ultimately the god or gods are themselves caught up in the repetitive cycle of being as it moves from chaos to order and back again. (4)
3) The universe operates according to impersonal, deterministic "laws". Whether they are called the fates, destiny, karma, astrology, or the laws of nature as defined by science, whatever structure and regularity observable is due to impersonal forces that determine the future. Again, god or the gods are themselves subject to the impersonal laws of being. They must obey and employ these laws if they are to achieve their goals. Ultimately they are determined by them. This type of determinism inevitably threatens and eventually swallows up human freedom.
4) The principles for the interpretation of the universe are derived from within it. There can be no point of reference for knowledge outside of Being in general for that is all there is. Being is assumed to be adequate to interpret itself. Outside revelation is therefore impossible and unnecessary. Human reason is adequate to interpret reality and to determine what is true and what is the nature of good and evil. Humanity, individually and/or collectively is the ultimate reference point for knowledge. Human reason is the final arbiter of truth. It alone has the power to legislate what is possible or not. Yet, human reason is finite and limited. Being unable to ascend to an absolute point of reference, all human knowledge in the end is confronted with ultimate mystery.
5) Human beings are autonomous. Human beings have freewill and determine their own destiny and their own meaning in life. Not only are they autonomous as knowers, they are autonomous as actors. The create their own destiny. However, since the universe is determined by impersonal forces, humans are not free. They are subject to these forces and must conquer and manipulate them (whether by occult superstition or technological achievements) in order to control their own destiny.
Only Christianity negates each of these assumptions. Christianity is utterly unique as a world view in this respect. It is true that some of the principles of Christianity have made their way into aspects of non-Christian philosophies and religions. But such hybrids do not escape the central problems raised here. And this makes all the difference. Even the great monotheistic religions like Islam do not escape. Though they formally negate various of the propositions above, their denial of the Trinity renders God dependent upon the universe, for as an absolute unity he finds his correlation to diversity in the creation itself. He is incomplete without it and is thus subject to the larger Being in general. From this he logically becomes just another element within the larger impersonal universe of Being, whose properties logically include the other points above.
Irregardless of the other religions, atheism certainly holds to these assumptions. But as I have argued repeatedly, the assumptions of atheism contradict each other. Take propositions 3 and 5 for instance. Within non-Christian thought the persistent belief in freewill resides in tension with the implications of the existence of impersonal forces that determine reality. Proposition 3 implies that even human behavior is determined and that freewill is an illusion. But if this is the case, then human beings are not autonomous after all. They are just cogs in the giant wheel of fate that is grinding out the centuries towards the void of an unknown future. In order to hang on to the belief in freewill it is always possible to run for cover under proposition 2. If the universe is controlled by chance (undetermined) then perhaps, just perhaps, human freedom can be preserved. However, clinging to this escape hatch eventually brings about the dissolution of all structure and meaning as pure random chance swallows up purpose leaving only chaos in its wake. So to avoid being swallowed up in the abyss the atheist must make a dash for the structure provided by the "laws" of nature and it all starts over again.
I saw a beautiful example of this as an undergraduate in a psych
course on human personality. After a lecture in which the professor
brilliantly presented the case for the behaviorism of B.F. Skinner a student
raised his hand and asked, "But Dr._____ what about freewill?" The
professor responded, "Oh, I believe in freewill. When I'm at home
playing with my kids I have no doubt about freewill. But when I'm
in the lab doing research I leave that belief at the door."
>Since the Christian presuppositionalist is unwilling to challenge his original presuppositions, what he really has is a theory of dogma, not a theory of knowledge.<
What I have been saying all along is let's put our two sets of presuppositions
side by side, analyze them and see where they lead logically. Let's
see which ones better fit with and explain our experience in the world.
I have laid this challenge down repeatedly in these discussions. I
am perfectly willing to accept any challenge that you can bring. What
I have not seen is an honest attempt on your part to allow your presuppositions
to be challenged.
>Since the atheist's presuppositions are not dogmatic, they can be challenged. Presuppositionalists see this as a weakness, but it is, in fact, a strength. It permits a true feedback system of knowledge such as gotten from the Scientific Method. Such a system is impossible under the presuppositionalist's theocratic system. Aberrations in the knowledge base could never force adjustment of "divine" presuppositions because those are assumed to be true to the end of time. Results are forced to conform to fixed presuppositions or they are explained away as miracles. <
What I find most interesting about this part of your response is that it leaves me wondering just exactly which of your presuppositions you are willing to allow to be challenged? You say that your assumptions are not dogmatic, but tell me, which of your presuppositions you are willing to put to the test? Apparently not your empiricism. I think you really don't get it. The presuppositions that we are talking about are not features of the system that could be readjusted with shifts in the content of knowledge. They are the base of the system without which it would be something other than what it is. What we are talking about are the necessary preconditions for knowledge in the first place. You assume empiricism without facing up to what those preconditions might be and then force all results to conform to it or otherwise explain them away as impossible and .nonexistent
>OTOH, the atheist does not consider his presuppositions to be
divine. Atheist presuppositions are forced to track the empirical evidence.
This is the reverse of the presuppositionalist's world view. Presuppositionalists
are supposition oriented. Atheists are result oriented. That's why the
Christian presuppositionalist finds empiricism so repugnant. Ultimately,
observations might challenge all presuppositions. <
You say that atheist presuppositions are forced to track the empirical evidence. This presupposes that on the basis of an atheist world view empirical evidence could be tracked. But that is precisely the presupposition that I am challenging. You can't know that observations might challenge all presuppositions until you can have confidence that your observations are trustworthy. But that is the question. If the universe is what the atheist says it is then there is no reason whatever to trust any observations. That is why I find empiricism objectionable, because it is irrational. Yet you continue to hold to it dogmatically without answering the problems that it entails. As far as I can tell you have not allowed any observations to challenge your empiricist presuppositions. On the other hand, you accuse the Christian of being unwilling to challenge his presuppositions when my entire argument is just the contrary. In any case, it is inherently irrational to hold, as you clearly do, that your presuppositions must track the empirical evidence in order to be valid when your empiricism itself cannot do so in the nature of the case.
>This is very scary stuff. This fear causes the Christian presuppositionalist to stick his head in the sand. The universe is unfriendly. It's an impersonal place. It doesn't care a flip for his glorified presuppositions. ...... There is no sharing of the subjective experience. Meaning is strictly personal. The Christian refuses to permit us to derive meaning from the only common ground among us -- nature.<
Here you have articulated some of the basic non-Christian presuppositions
that I described above. The universe is impersonal (which assumes
that it is ultimate). Nature is our ultimate environment and thus
our only common ground. Meaning is personal (human autonomy). These
are your dogmas. I have yet to see you allow anything to challenge
these dogmas - empirical or otherwise. You accuse me of fear. But
what are you afraid of that you won't question these assumptions? You
said there is no such thing as certainty Again I ask you, how do
you know then that the universe is impersonal, that Nature is ultimate and
that meaning is personal? How can you even say that these are "likely"
or "beyond a reasonable doubt" if your method of knowing is itself built
on an inherent contradiction?
>Meaning is based on the subjective abstract, on personal revelation. But there is no medium in which to share this religious experience. There is no way to communicate one's revealed truth. True communication is impossible. If they have knowledge, they cannot share it, and we could never know it. There is no arbitration of Truth because I cannot really know my neighbor's arbitrator. Human problems cannot be discussed in any meaningful way. For all practical purposes, there is no foundation for true knowledge to exist at all in the theocratic system.<
Here we have what amounts to an imposition of the weaknesses of atheist
epistemology on the structure of the Christian world view. As becomes
apparent, you have slid into a post-modern subjectivist view of knowledge
that is really nothing more than veiled skepticism. It is in fact
an admission that the Christian critique of atheism is correct after all.
You say that on the basis of revelation true communication is impossible.
But it is exactly here that our different assumptions matter. On
the basis of the Christian assumption of the Triune God there is every reason
to believe that communication is not only possible, but that it reflects
what reality is at its deepest levels. The ultimate reality being
a personal intelligence who is sovereign over his creation, there is no
inherent reason why he could not create rational beings who could communicate
via rational propositions. Your criticism of religious knowledge might
have some force against mysticism and I would join you in making
this same criticism. However we are not talking about mysticism. We
are talking about the revelation of rational propositions about reality.
Since revealed truth consists of rational propositions then clearly
they can be communicated to other rational beings. Knowledge is propositional
and as such is communicable. The Christian revelation is neither
subjective nor personal in some mystical sense. It is a body of publicly
given propositions, rationally intelligible and subject to public scrutiny.
> Sensual experience is questioned. Since Christian presuppositionalists question it themselves, they try to force their doubt onto the innocent bystanding atheist. <
Here is more evidence that you have missed the point of the argument. Presuppositionalists do not question the reality of sense experience. We affirm the validity of empirical knowledge. What we are saying is that if the universe is what the atheist says it is, then empirical knowledge is not only questionable but impossible. But the universe is not what the atheist says it is. It is the ordered creation of a rational and personal Creator. He made the universe so that its structure does correspond to the rational human mind. We are not denying empirical knowledge at all. We are saying that empirical knowledge is neither autonomous nor primary. It depends for its validity on the truth of other propositions, which I outlined above, that can only be true if the state of affairs in the universe is what the Bible says it is. Empirical knowledge is only valid when it is freed from the burden of having to carry the metaphysical weight of all human knowledge on its shoulders. When set free at last it has rich possibilities. Science is free to flourish and the universe is open to our exploration.
What blind chance could never do, a personal God can. The universe
is knowable. Both the atheist and the Christian perceive this in
their encounter with the world. But the atheist's presuppositions
cannot explain it. Indeed, if atheism were true, then this correspondence
between the mind and reality ought not exist. But the atheist dogmatically
believes that empiricism is the foundation of all knowledge, stealing the
capital of the Christian heritage that produced modern science in the first
place and then using it to arrogantly assert that he or she can find no
evidence for God.
>So religious man has no way to distinguish between what is real and what is only in his head. .. There is no objective standard with which to determine whose invented reality is true.<
What objective standard are you willing to provide by which reality
can be judged? This seems like a rather strange complaint for you
to make since you seem to think that the absence of such a standard is a
>People talk at one another rather than to one another. Christians, for example, suppose their "truth" is based on the "certainty" of the Bible. Yet what has this "certainty" lead to? Factionalization. Christians agree on very little.<
This is simply a false statement and easily refuted by a simple survey of systematic theology texts from various Christian traditions. One of the best to look at would be the three volumes written by Drew University theologian Thomas Oden. 5 The premise of his work is to expound the consensus of Christian teaching through the centuries. There are a number of propositions that are essential to defining what Christianity is and on these things we agree. The Trinity of God, the creation, the fall into sin, the need for redemption, the divinity of Jesus Christ, his atoning death on the cross, his bodily resurrection and that salvation comes through him. I could go on. This kind of statement really reveals an ignorance of Christianity that is truly mind boggling.
>Who is right? The Baptist? The Presbyterian? The Roman Catholic? The Latter Day Saint? How can "certainty" lead to both a true-blue Christian liberal and a ultra-conservative?..... This chaos happens because Christian epistemology is inverted. They assume Truth and attempt to build knowledge like an upside down pyramid. It's balanced precariously. Truth is diffused, diluted and scattered away from reality rather than directed towards it. <
This I found to be rather amusing. It confuses what Christianity
is in its essence with its various cultural manifestations. It imagines
that what is essential to Christianity cannot be known and understood from
the Bible because there is divergence of interpretation of secondary, non-essential
questions that the Bible does not treat in such detail. Having denominational
divisions is our way of agreeing to disagree on secondary questions while
recognizing that our own community of Christian faith is not the only
one that is valid. Are you really unaware of the vast amount of
interdenominational cooperation that goes on everyday through the thousands
of parachurch groups that exist in the world? And as I said to F
earlier, I have not noticed that atheist epistemology has brought any
kind of unity of belief to them. Shall we be Freudians or Marxists?
Pragmatists a la John Dewey or deconstructionists like Derrida?
Humanists such as Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan or objectivists like
As for the Latter Day Saints, they are not Christians - since they have introduced their own holy books and prophetic pronouncements that propound a world view at odds with the Bible on every account. In fact, they are much closer to you atheists. They don't believe in any kind of an ultimate God over the universe. They believe in many finite gods who are just elements of the larger impersonal universe, like we are. So called liberal Christians are likewise practitioners of a different religion. They, in fact, are typically philosophical naturalists or sometimes pantheists who dress up their philosophy in Christian language. They don't believe the Christian revelation any more than you do. They take the Bible for a book of myths.
Sorry C. Your argument has no force here because it tries to make essential what is not.
And if truth is scattered away from reality rather than toward it am I to understand that your assertion that atheism is true is not intended to tell us anything about reality?
>Knowledge about reality cannot be logically deduced from original abstract assumptions, be they God or anything else. There is no mystical jump from "certain" abstractions to "certain" reality. Abstractions can never prove realities. If knowledge is anything it must be subject to destruction. Attempts to base it on certainty deny this. The physical world must be the final arbitrator. Knowledge cannot arbitrate reality. But this is the Christian presuppositionalist demand. One cannot presume a root of Truth and claim knowledge is everything deduced from that. This gives Truth a status of reality it doesn't deserve, like some sort of supernatural entity. <
This section again engages in question begging. The uncrossable breach between logic and fact that you propose here IS certainly inherent in the kind of reality posited by the atheist. But the objection only has force if atheism is true. And that is what is in dispute. You say you are willing to question your presuppositions so let's get to it. Let's suppose for the sake of argument that your presupposition that the universe is ultimate is not true. Let's question that assumption by assuming, again for the sake of argument, that God exists after all. What does that do to your objection? It gives us a scenario in which the original abstract assumption comes from a source, a mind, that has exhaustive knowledge of physical reality. He, in fact, created physical reality according to those abstract principles. Assuming for the sake of argument that this is the case then there is a connection beginning with the first step of logical deduction between the abstract and the concrete. Thus, any valid logical deductions made from this true abstract assumption that corresponds to physical reality will speak truly about that reality. Knowledge is not arbitrating reality. Only God does that. What knowledge does is tell us what reality IS. And of course, knowledge is not limited to what is deducible from first principles. It also includes what we discover through empirical research. That is, assuming that Christianity is true. If we decide not to question your assumptions after all then we are truly in the dilemma that you raise. And that should be quite disturbing to you, for if that is the case, then nothing that you deduce logically can be said to have any status as truth about reality. That would include, of course, any logical arguments you have against the existence of God. You cannot connect logic to physical reality so in spite of your best arguments God might be hiding out there somewhere after all.
>Knowledge is nothing more than an abstract tool used to track and forecast the physical. It has no reality of its own. It is not Truth. It is not true or false. Most knowledge (i.e., not definitional knowledge) is what is more true than false. <
Finally we have a definition of knowledge. Your definition seems to reduce knowledge to nothing more than pragmatism. I think that the experts in information theory would be quite interested in hearing that knowledge has no reality of its own, that it is neither true nor false. You reduce all of reality to the merely physical. But is this tenable? Do numbers exists? How about the number for pi? What about the information contained on this page? Is it reducible to the physical? What physical entity would that be? Would it be reducible to the printed letters on the page? The symbols of the English language? Que tal eu escrevo isso em português? What if I write this in Portuguese? Those last two sentences contain the same information - exactly. Yet they have very little if anything in common in a physical sense. Does the proposition represented by those two sets of symbols exist? If so then how so? To say that knowledge has no reality of its own is tantamount to saying that information can only exist in physical objects.
Any book, say The Hobbit, can be translated into many languages.
I have a copy in English and another in Portuguese. Both communicate
the same information. Its only physical form is in the symbols written
on the page (or the binary code on the computer disk) yet the very fact
that the information - the knowledge - could be contained in both English
and Portuguese, or better yet, Chinese and German - which have no common
physical symbols - is clear empirical proof that the information is
independent of any physical expression of it. Where does it exist
then? In human brains perhaps? But if it only exists there in
physical form, then its only existence is as it is encoded into brain cells.
Whatever process this involves it ultimately is done with physical
symbols. But that cannot be all that the information is because we
have already seen that it is independent of physical symbols. We could
say that it exists in human minds, but then we are considering the mind as
something that transcends the physical. And you don't want to go
there I'm sure. Besides, that also ignores the possibility that
a book could be written that no one has read in 200 years In that
case the knowledge contained in that book would not exist in any human
mind. Yet the book could be read tomorrow by someone and the knowledge
retrieved. So I ask again, where does the knowledge exist?
It clearly does exist. It is real. If The Hobbit
did not exist I would not have been able to read it. Yet it also
clearly is not reducible to the merely physical. It appears that
there is no way to avoid the conclusion that knowledge does exist independently
of the physical. This is a real problem for atheist, because he or
she asserts that only the physical exists. As I said before, what
atheism cannot account for empirically it simply explains away as non-existent.
But abstract knowledge and information are not going to go away.
For the Christian this poses no problem, since the most ultimate
reality is a rational, personal mind.
>When it stops tracking the physical or presumes to supersede the physical it ceases to be knowledge.<
Another dogmatic assertion that begs the question. This would
only be the case if you knew that the physical is all that there is. But
of course you can't be certain of this since nothing is certain. What
if you are wrong? My previous paragraph would strongly suggest that
>The Christian obsession for "certainty" inevitably leads to moral relativism. If one starts with the assumption that there is a supreme lawgiver who can be experienced only on a personal, subjective level, it inevitably leads to the conclusion that there are no morals except my morals.<
Perhaps, but then this is not the Christian presupposition. You
raise a straw man here C. We deny that the Supreme Lawgiver can
only be experienced on a personal subjective level. He can also
be experienced corporately and objectively. He can and has communicated
publicly through objective propositions. Thus HIS moral principles
are objectively knowable and transcend my morals.
>Written laws are useless because words must be understood and interpreted in the "spirit."<
The written words of the Biblical revelation are understood and interpreted according to the rules of grammar and syntax of their language just as any other written communication. This process is no different from the process of reading and interpreting what we have written in our posts. If you want to press this argument you will wind up denying the possibility of any communication through writing at all. Of course you will have done so by communicating your argument through writing.
>Revealed laws cannot truly exist except as personal revelation. Of course there is no way to communicate my personal revelation of the meaning of the law to anybody else. The result is dogmatic chaos. <
This first statement is not only false, it seems to me to be pretty
naive. Tell me, how is it that the proposition "You shall not steal"
only exists as some kind of private, unintelligible personal revelation?
A rational Creator, if we allow for the sake of argument that he
exists, could certainly reveal, i.e., communicate, such a proposition to
his rational creatures. Once that is done there is nothing to prevent
it from being communicated to others. And the proposition itself
is pretty straightforward. It is possible to squabble over some aspects
of its interpretation, such as whether or not cheating on your income tax
is stealing. But pretty much, most people understand what it means.
And such definitional squabbles are not very impressive when brought
up in court. The law assumes that people understand the basic concept
and holds them accountable for that. In fact, if you survey the history
of Christian ethics as a discipline it becomes clear, as in the case of
theology, that there is a massive area of agreement among Christian thinkers.
It is clear that the atheist knows this already. Otherwise he
would not be so terrified of the idea of Christians having an influence
on politics and legislation.
>But is the atheistic world really that relativistic? It seems this Christian view of atheism is based on the old fashioned notion that we are born a blank slate. We are not. We are born with much of our moral wiring. We are by nature social animals. Our true presuppositions are not based upon logic, and are not logically deducible. They are based on evolution. Most of us are born with certain moral predispositions like we are born with two eyes. Philosophers could argue that logically we should have one eye or three eyes or no eyes. The fact that I have two eyes might be "proven" to be totally irrational. But this is an exercise in futility. It does not change the fact that I have two eyes. Much of our moral system is inherent in the same way. Morals are not truly relativistic. They are evolutionistic. Nature assumes some variation is much more useful in the dynamic real world. This is true even though some variations are actually dangerous.<
Again you display you lack of knowledge of Christianity. Christians do not think that we are born a blank slate. We quite agree that we are already born with much of our moral wiring. Of course we believe that this is the case for different reasons. The Bible teaches that God wired us with certain moral precepts (Romans 1:18ff). That we all are created in God's image and share a common human nature explains the uniformity of this.
The problem with atheistic relativism is in its irrationality and your attempt to escape from this is based on the typical logical fallacy that atheists commit when addressing this question. You confuse the question of the supposed origin of morals with the question of whether or not there is in fact such a thing as good and evil. You confuse the sociology of morals with ethics. I addressed this question at length in my earliest posts. Let me give just a brief restatement of the point here.
The real bottom line question is, Is there such a thing as justice? Unless there is a transcendent moral truth, then there can be no such thing as justice in itself. There can be, as you state, ideas of justice that have evolved in different cultures. You admit that in such a scenario there will be variation. You say that some of these are dangerous. Why? Does that mean that they lead to undesirable consequences? But who says what consequences are undesirable? You already confessed that the impersonal universe does not give a flip about our aspirations. Now you say that Nature assumes some variation is more useful. Useful for what? Survival? So what if we don't survive? Why is that good? Because you were evolved to say so? And by the way, if nature is what you say it is, then it does not assume anything. It is simply dead matter and energy. It has no mind. Writing it with a capital "N" does not change that. You invoke an anthropomorphism in order to avoid the obvious implication of your world view that really, it was blind chance that barfed you up out of the abyss of Being. Hence, your aspirations are little more than cosmic vomit, spewed out into the world to contemplate itself for a brief period before rotting back into nothingness.
In addition, the analogy you use of the two or three eyes is irrelevant. Whether or not you have two or three eyes does not touch on questions of metaphysical importance. What we are discussing here is whether or not you can make a credible claim to have been treated unjustly when you are kidnapped and enslaved by an alien culture that evolved a different ethic than yours where slavery is held to be acceptable. You must deny the possibility that such treatment would be inherently unjust if you are to be consistent with your world view. Yet something tells me you would never accept this in real life. Especially if it were your wife or child.
Unlike the situation with physical characteristics such as eyes, people can and do radically change their morals. They do so when they become convinced that beliefs about good and evil are more than just physical statements about people. They become convinced that there are moral principles that truly represent what ought to be and that it is good and just that they conform their behavior to those principles. Thus a philosopher or theologian might demonstrate that certain practices (slavery for example) are irrational and immoral and ought to be abandoned. And it might very well result in the change of the behavior of an entire culture. That would not be an excersize in futility. That would be progress. Think of the abolitionist movement in England in the 1700s. The abolitionists faced what appeared to be insurmountable odds in a culture that took slavery for granted. Yet, because they were convinced that they had a revelation from God in the Bible that made slavery morally unacceptable they pressed on with their cause until they not only succeeded in getting the slave trade outlawed, they convinced Anglo culture that slavery is immoral. And that to the point that we can hardly comprehend today how it was ever approved of.
Atheistic relativism is truly the precursor to moral chaos and tyranny.
It allows people to do as they please and then blame it all on evolution
- or worse - justify it in the name of evolution like the Nazis did. And
if you are correct then there is indeed no rational reason why they could
be condemned for being immoral or unjust in their treatment of those whom
they considered to be their inferiors. Supposedly evolved characteristics
of behavior are irrelevant to deciding what is intrinsically good or evil
and leave us with no basis for arbitrating between conflicting claims
of different cultures, except for the use of brute force.
>Basically we are flesh wrapped around DNA. Our bodies are nothing more than a chemical vessel. Our brains are chemicals trying to understand chemistry. We are rational because chemistry is rational. We merely mimic our own components. This is the ultimate foundation of logic.<
This statement alone is an admission devastating enough to your position that it should put it to rest once and for all. Not that it will of course, because you will never allow the presuppositions articulated by it to be seriously questioned. But I will elaborate anyway. You confirm my observations that atheism reduces logic and rationality to purely physical processes. You say these processes are rational, yet they are grounded in pure random chance on the one hand and impersonal determinism on the other. Either way, there is no rationality behind them. Rationality requires the presence of purposeful thinking. The impersonal does not and cannot do so. If your thoughts are nothing more than the result of chemical reactions in your brain then these reactions are what they are as a result of either pure chance or blind determinism (or maybe some kind of combination of both). In neither case is there any rational reason to suppose that thoughts so produced have any rational connection with the empirical reality that you say exists outside of your brain and which is the source of all knowledge. Logic based on such a foundation would also be a product of chance and again have no connection to external reality. That being the case, there is no way that you could ever know or prove that we are only flesh wrapped around DNA. DNA itself is a system of highly complex information, coded in a language. Atheists have no explanation for how this information ever got into the impersonal universe, since information presupposes an intelligence in order to produce it.
As the philosopher J.B.S. Haldane stated it:
If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motion of the atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true...and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. (6)
The burden of proof is on you to show how impersonal chemicals,
combining themselves either by chance or impersonal deterministic "laws",
can produce knowledge and rationality capable of knowing that it is only
chemicals in the first place.
> The ancients had it right when they worshipped the sun. We are the by-products of nuclear fusion. We feel like part of the universe because we are part of the universe. We love nature because we are nature. We imitate nature because we are nature. If anything is God, it is the collective us. We are the Universe trying to understand itself. All knowledge is derived from the physical we are all members of. We are the natural evolution of the godless creator.<
I am not sure what to make of this except to say that it looks like a rather typical lapse into mysticism whose function is to disguise the fact that in the atheist universe there really is no meaning or purpose to anything. It is certainly quite a religious statement. Connecting yourself to something that is unimaginably larger than you are, like the universe as a whole, and giving it a capital letter, creates the illusion of being a part of something important and grand. It is awesome, even for the atheist, to look at the stars at night and contemplate the millions of galaxies out there. It sends chills up the back and makes you think that there is something important going on here. But really, let's be honest about this. The physical enormity of the universe adds not one whit to its ultimate significance and even less to yours. If it is only impersonal matter and energy that barfed you up by accident, subject to the whims of chance or the tyranny of impersonal determinist laws, then your existence doesn't mean squat. You are really no different than the cockroach I caught and flushed down the toilet. You are trapped in the whirlpool of impersonal forces that are taking you inexorably to the oblivion of the sewage dump of the universe. Products of nuclear fusion burn out in the end. And when entropy finally wins, then what?
No thanks C. Your arguments are fallacious and unconvincing.
The alternative you propose leads to chaos, despair and finally
the void. I think I'll stick with Jesus. And if you want to
escape from the chaos and futility of atheism you will come to him to.
It is only there that you will find the love that will truly fill
the void in your soul. He invites you to come to him today.
(1) see J. P. Moreland. Christianity and the Nature of Science: a philosophical investigation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. , Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954.
The atheist could respond by opting for operationalism in order
to try to save science without these assumptions. Operationalism
posits that science is valid as a series of operations that are performed
in experiments whose results are useful for creating technology and such,
but that do not claim to represent what the world is really like. This
will not help the atheist's case however. Since the argument of the
atheist demands that the Christian produce empirical evidence for God,
then he is assuming that his empiricism describes what really is. If
that be the case then opting for operationalism destroys his case, because
he admits that evidence has no bearing on describing what is. And
as I have argued, if it cannot be established that empirical evidence describes
what is, then it is irrational to demand that the Christian produce
empirical evidence to prove that God exists.
(3) C.S. Lewis. Miracles. New York: McMillan, 1947, 109.
This is exactly the kind of thing that is repeatedly encountered
in the creation myths of ancient cultures such as the Egyptians and the Babylonians.
The difference between their mythologies and the fiat creation depicted
in Genesis 1 is striking. Modern religions such as Mormonism and New
Age gnosticism also share in this difficulty.
Thomas C. Oden. Systematic Theology 3. vols.
The Living God. vol 1, The Word of Life. vol 2 Life
in the Spirit, vol 3. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986, 1989,
(6) quoted by Malcolm Jeeves in Psychology and Christianity: the view both ways. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1977, 120.
Alan Myatt, Ph.D.