Conversations with Atheistspage 3
From FZ to Alan M
>> The critical element, I think, of your statement is the notion that empiricism is connected with the nature of the universe or ultimate reality. <<
I get real antsy when people start using the word "ultimate" in that context. You'll have to define "ultimate reality" first. In the meantime, I'll settle for a "pretty good approximation of reality."
>> For you to be able to rationally use the argument of lack of empirical evidence to argue against belief in God, then you have to show that empirical evidence can tell you something about the nature of ultimate reality, about the universe as it is in itself. <<
Eh? There goes that "ultimate" stuff again. I'm not interested in "ultimate" anythings. I'm not even sure these "ultimates" exist. (1)
>> But can empiricism do this? If it cannot, then it simply has nothing whatever to say about the existence of God and can offer no claim against it. In such a case the atheist who refuses to believe for lack of empirical evidence would simply be acting irrationally. <<
What? You're saying that it's irrational to not believe that for which there is no evidence? In that case you should believe in the Invisible Pink Unicorn. No evidence for that, either. (2)
>> What are the basic claims of empiricism then? Basically, it is that all knowledge is in some form derived from sense experience and that these sensations become or contain data about the external world (the world outside our own minds) that we observe and that these sensations with their data then are transformed into ideas and knowledge. <<
Well, after sensation comes perception, where sensory experience is interpreted, but that's generally the sequence. However, the association of new experience with previous experiences may create combinations that give rise to new ideas. (3)
>> If empiricism is to provide real knowledge of the universe 'out there' then my senses must provide accurate information about an objective external reality. <<
Subject to several conditions, yes. However, it is in the process of interpretation that errors often arise.
>> There must be a true correspondence between what is out there and what I sense in my mind. <<
Well, at least fairly close correspondence, otherwise you're likely not to reproduce.<G> But you don't "sense" in your "mind." You do your sensing with modified neurons called sensory receptors.
BTW, what's a "mind?" You some kinda dualist?<G> I have no objection to "mind" as a metaphor for the operation of the brain -- at least the part of which we are "aware." (4)
>> Now, most of us intuitively accept that such a correspondence exists. Indeed, on a first reading it seems perverse that anyone would object to this. However, that is exactly what the ancient Greek skeptics did. They demolished empiricism. <<
Then why is it still around and going strong in the sciences?
>> He tasted something quite different. <<
Yeah, PTC paper tastes bitter to some people. This is an example of genetic variation.
>> But would it be accurate to say that I tasted nothing? <<
Sure. If you mean by "tasted nothing" that you didn't perceive a bitter taste. I'd have to go back and do some research on the precise mechanisms why, but for whatever reason, the sensation didn't get all the way up to the part of the cortex that does the interpreting.
>> I did feel the sensation of the stuff in my mouth, but it was rather bland and otherwise unremarkable. So I did taste it. And if someone asked me what it tasted like I could have said that it is bland, being neither bitter nor sweet. <<
I don't understand why this is a problem.
>> Can it be said that two people who taste something different are tasting the same thing? <<
Sure. You are ingesting the same chemical, PTC. But your perceptions of taste are different. Again, I don't see why you have a problem here.
>> So is there an objective definition of hot and cold that empiricism can reveal? <<
Well, lessee, we could go down to "absolute zero" or near enough as makes no difference. However, in the connection above, we can empirically study the perceptions of hot and cold.
>> It seems that the statement, "that is hot" is really a statement about me and my perception of the thing and not the thing in itself. <<
Exactly. But what's your point?
>> What about that sense of sight. I know someone who was turned down for flight training because he was color blind, even though he claims to see colors just fine. But according to the official test he does not perceive colors correctly, or the way the rest of us do (whatever that means) so he is not qualified by the air force definition. <<
Flunked the Ishihara plates, huh? Yeah, the armed services can get kinda picky about that.
>> So that leads us to something that I have often wondered about. Do you suppose that the sensation that I identify as red is the same as the sensation that others have when they say, "that is red." We could never know could we? <<
Yes, the introspectionists got kinda hung up on this around the turn of the century.
Almost got experimental psychology stuck in the mud.<G> But I think that's beside the point. It is unnecessary for me to know if some else sees the same "red" that I do. As long as we agree that light at a certain wavelength is red, then such consensus is good enough for communication purposes.
>> There are other problems with the sense of sight as well. Most of us, I think, can recount times when due to tiredness, chemicals ingested or smoked, darkness, stress and other factors, when we thought we saw something that turned out to not be there or did not see something that was there. <<
J. Allan Hobson (of the Hobson-McCarley activation-synthesis theory of dreams) has an interesting book about this. The title is The Chemistry of Consciousness. Unfortunately, it's in my office at school and I'd hate to quote from memory and be in error. I'll pick it up and bring it home today.
>> As soon as I get up and move away from the table its shape appears to change. At present it is extended in front of me and my mind organizes it into a rectangle, from where I am sitting the side closest to me appears to be longer than the one farthest away. From the other room it has the opposite appearance. <<
You're referring to "shape constancy." This seems to be learned quite early in life. We learn that that while the image on the retina may not always correspond to, say, the right angle corners of a door, for example (the image being one of a trapezoid rather than a rectangle), we have learned through experience that the angels are 90 degrees. Same deal for other constancies. In the case of vision, we seem to perceive color (including shades of gray) relative to the other colors surrounding it. Were it not for this mechanism, we'd see people as olive under most fluorescents, ruddy under incandescent, and yellow under the sun. You might also want to take a look at Edward Land's theory of color vision, too.
>> As the sun sets the colors red and yellow in the table cloth change, revealing different tints and shades. <<
Only partially. This is subject to many qualifications, including the physical nature of the reflecting surface we see "color" from. The extent to which this occurs will depend on the concentration of light at one particular wavelength. Dichroic glass may show different colors, depending on the angle at which light strikes it. The wavelength reflected depends on the size of the metallic oxides with which the glass has been coated.
>> So we assign particular wavelengths to particular sensations that we have. <<
You got it.<G>
>> What makes sense to me does not necessarily make sense to someone of another culture. <<
Uh-huh. Although there may be a general correspondence of what "makes sense," the details may differ.
>> It is the scientific view (empiricism) that tells us that our thoughts are indeed a function of the chemical state of our brains. Why then, do the majority of us who have one interpretation of reality based on our senses get to decide for folks like our would be messiah which one is normal and which one requires psychiatric treatment? <<
Ordinarily, deviation from cultural norms is the criterion. However, if our would-be messiah is sufficiently charismatic as to collect followers, then whether his divinity would be accepted would depend on whether his followers were in the majority and what sanctions there were for failure to believe in him.
>> The final result of empiricism is really the ultimate fragmentation of the individual and the world into an unrelated set of particulars. This fragmentation follows quite naturally due to the fact that philosophical materialism opts to resolve the One and Many problem by declaring that ultimate reality is found in the Many, the particulars. <<
Come now. Why should anyone chase after an ideal (and likely nonexistent) "One"? However, I think you're ignoring our ability to generalize.
>> For now suffice it to say, that the fundamental epistemological assumptions of atheistic naturalism/philosophical materialism degenerate into irrationalism, destroying the objective validity of the scientific method by which it supposedly has shown that God either does not exist or is not needed. <<
I fear this is merely an assertion. As Ralph A. Alpher once put it, "If physics has need of a god-concept, we'll just invent one." As I said, science "works," despite your opinion that it somehow "degenerates into irrationalism." (5)
>> The history of 20th century philosophy has thus headed farther and farther into irrationalism, with postmodernism now merrily deconstructing everything in its path. <<
Only if you buy into postmodernism. And it looks like only some sociologists and a bunch of lit-crits have done so.
>> I would respond, perhaps if we start with God and his revelation, then that revelation will give us the truth we need. <<
I'm sorry, Alan, but this is absurd. You have not brought a convincing
argument to the table, despite your otherwise excellent style. What
kind of "truth" would revelation bring? The contents of the CRC handbook?
From L to FZ
> I get real antsy when people start using the word
> "ultimate" in that context. You'll have to define
> "ultimate reality" first. In the meantime, I'll settle
> for a "pretty good approximation of reality."
I do agree!
It's like those who demand that their LPD be necessarily omniscient and omnipotent, which inevitably gets them into all sorts of difficulties that are pretty well indefensible without appealing to `faith', whilst an LPD who simply knows far more than they do, and can do far more than they can do, to a point where from where they sit they can't tell the difference between what their LPD actually knows and can do is indistinguishable from omniscience and omnipotence makes no substantive difference to them or their beliefs, and would ease them out of a number of difficult (impossible?) to defend circumstances!
From FZ to L
>> I do agree! <<
Somehow I thought you would.<G>
>> It's like those who demand that their LPD be necessarily omniscient and omnipotent, which inevitably gets them into all sorts of difficulties that are pretty well indefensible without appealing to `faith', whilst an LPD who simply knows far more than they do, and can do far more than they can do, to a point where from where they sit they can't tell the difference between what their LPD actually knows and can do is indistinguishable from omniscience and omnipotence makes no substantive difference to them or their beliefs, and would ease them out of a number of difficult (impossible?) to defend circumstances! <<
Yeah, well, it's pretty clear that those people just don't think things through to a logical conclusion. I think you've seen enough illogical attempts at reasoning around here to know that. In fact, in the ID thread in S1, my interlocutor seems to have just violated the law of non-contradiction, which is so basic to reasoning that the mind boggles. (6)
From LA to FZ
> I'm not interested in "ultimate" anythings. I'm not even sure these "ultimates" exist. <
Oh, I think they do. Problem is, you can't there from here. <g>
All we can ever do is create successive better models approximating whatever is really "out there." Our buddy here seems to think that since we can only approximate reality, we should discard the useful models for made up ones.
The reasoning in this baffles me.
> Then why is it still around and going strong in the sciences?
The philosophers need better unions?
> I fear this is merely an assertion. As Ralph A. Alpher once put it, "If physics has need of a god-concept, we'll just invent one." <
Heh. Exactly. Interesting thing about these debates is that, often, IMO, the "faith" proponent is actually operating on naturalistic principles they're just refusing to acknowledge. There are no physics equations I can think of that need "god" inserted somewhere in order to work. Yet our buddy here logs on to this service using the products of these godless (<g>) equations and expects them to work.
Computers boot up for atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, agnostics, Hindus, the products of empirical thought work whether you "believe" or not. If god is so relevant, why is he then so irrelevant?
From FZ to LA
>> All we can ever do is create successive better models approximating whatever is really "out there." Our buddy here seems to think that since we can only approximate reality, we should discard the useful models for made up ones. <<
That's sure what he seems to think. However, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt until he posts his reply.
>> The reasoning in this baffles me. <<
Oh, I know. It fairly boggles me.
>> The philosophers need better unions? <<
"Local 127, International Brotherhood of Philosophers, Smokeblowers and Logic Choppers."
>> There are no physics equations I can think of that need "god" inserted somewhere in order to work. Yet our buddy here logs on to this service using the products of these godless (<g>) equations and expects them to work. <<
This requires an almost watertight compartmentalization. Humans tend to be rather good at compartmentalizing in order to reduce dissonance.
From IL to Alan M:
Message text written by Alan Myatt
> I'll go one step further and include in that the basic assumption of empiricism, namely, that all knowledge begins in sense experience. That seems to represent the position of most atheists these days.<
All knowledge is proveable. Verifiable. Demonstrable.
What isn't may be theory is constructed to reflect current knowledge. Theories can be right, wrong, or whatever.
Now, then you have myth. Me, I believe in one set of myths, the ancient Greeks believed in another. I am comfortable enough with my belief that another person's does not bother me. When I die I will find out or I won't. Until then I'll just try to live a life worthy of emulation.
--I (I may convert some currency, but that'll be it)
From B to Alan M:
>>>>> I'll go one step further and include in that the basic assumption of empiricism, namely, that all knowledge begins in sense experience. That seems to represent the position of most atheists these days.<<<<
Ah, I get it. It's a crux between whether knowledge has some "divine" origin or is merely the accumulation of consistent observation. Got a reason why the latter isn't a viable consideration?
Oh yeah....what about that tree in the Garden of Eden? Seems like it had "knowledge" written all over it, and poor ol' dopey Adam wasn't supposed to goof around with that stuff. But he did. And look where that's brought us. To a day and age where God tries to kill off fags with AIDS but man and his "scientific knowledge" struggles against all odds to at first improve the quality of life for AIDS stricken patients, then eventually may go on to find a cure, just as he/she may for cancer, muscular distrophy, etc.
So that's why God's all in a knickerknot over this stuff! He wants to still prove he's the ultimate disciplinarian but mankind keeps cooking up these wild obstacles via that nasty little satanic thing known as "science"!
<sarc mode off....tentatively/tenuously>
>>>>> Since you think that there is nothing beyond the natural world/universe then it follows that what you mean is that empiricism provides truth about ultimate reality.<<<<
Kind of a no brainer, if you ask me. Since there's no reasonable way to demonstrate there is such a thing as "ultimate reality", then the best thing we have left is to take educated pot shots at the reality we can see.
So, if there's no way to be confident in any sliver of existence of an "ultimate reality", chances are not that many folks are all that consternated about using their educated pot shots at the reality they can sense to form a basis for what "ultimate reality" there may be. I mean, they may hack at it for a while, possibly a few years, even, given a healthy measure of fortitude, yet in the end realize they're spitting in the wind, or worse yet, experiencing situational incontinence inside a tornado.
>>>> Is the universe all there is?<<<<
What do you mean "all"?? Last time I peeked up into it, I failed to see a border. It just keeps going and going and going and going.....(but maybe God is the one trying to get the Energizer bunny...hey, I didn't think of that!) Isn't it a tad presumptuous to think that universe thingie over our heads has a limit? We may know a lot more about it than, say, just ten years ago, but there's no telling what's really out there, compared to what we now know. They're just now actually finding other planets to wonder about outside our own solar system. When I was in high school, they were saying nobody's ever found other planets, and they were still wondering and dickering over whether there was one more planet in our own solar system past Pluto.
>>>> For you to be able to rationally use the argument of lack of empirical evidence to argue against belief in God, then you have to show that empirical evidence can tell you something about the nature of ultimate reality, about the universe as it is in itself. <<<<
Well, to make that hypothesis hold, you in turn would have to build a case for a belief in a triune God based upon the same lack of "empirical evidence"; i.e. prove God with no proof. (7)
Understand something...."belief" and "faith" do not demand "proof" as prerequisites or foundations. Folks "believe" in stuff all the time that has no rational or empirical merit whatsoever. I even believed in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus when I was a tyke...I mean the "proof" was loot under the tree on Dec. 25 and a wicker basket full of sugar rush ecstacy on some sunny morning in the spring! What else did my little mind need? (Certainly not a bigger brother who caught mom and dad stuffing stockings one morning!) (8)
>>>>I remember when I was in ninth grade science class we did an experiment of sorts where we taste tested a chemical substance to determine who could sense it and who could not. I don't remember what the stuff was called but I do remember that I tasted nothing remarkable and my friend Chuck immediately reacted with a horrible facial expression. He tasted something quite different. But would it be accurate to say that I tasted nothing? I did feel the sensation of the stuff in my mouth, but it was rather bland and otherwise unremarkable. So I did taste it. And if someone asked me what it tasted like I could have said that it is bland, being neither bitter nor sweet. Putting the same question to Chuck, however, would reveal a completely different interpretation. What does x taste like? Chuck might use a word that I cannot print here, based on his reaction. No doubt he would say it was bitter and disgusting and try to warn folks against ingesting x. So who is correct? Is there an objective sensation called "the taste of x" that relates to an external world that our sense of taste can use to tell us something about what x, in itself, is? We could say that x is a substance that provokes behavior y (from whence we infer sensation y) in those who possess genetic trait a and that provokes behavior z (from whence we infer sensation z) among those who possess genetic trait b, but have we actually said anything about the objective state of the external world? Can it be said that two people who taste something different are tasting the same thing?<<<<
Did you and Chuck ever get together and talk about God? <g>
>>>> My Brazilian friends here in Rio find my complaints about the heat here to be amusing. For them 90 degrees is nothing as it often reaches above 100 for weeks at time. I think its funny when they start putting on jackets and coats when it gets down to 60 or so, which it does sometimes here in July. After living for many years in Colorado, I find that to be quite comfortable. <<<<
It's called "acclimation". A perfectly natural, biological, scientifically observable phenomena. Hey, I'd keep the a/c on 65 if it didn't turn my wife into an ice cube. It's not hard to spot us in the summer while we're driving. I got my shirt collar unbuttoned and short sleeves rolled up and the a/c on max and she's wearing a jacket and has all her vents shut off. Different bodies react differently to climate. No big deal.
>>>> Indeed, my wife and I often struggle at night over the fact that she likes a pile of cover on the bed at night, which makes me get too hot to sleep.<<<<
Have her pile on the covers while you hang a ceiling fan over your side and let the thing twirl as you snooze beneath a single sheet. Of course, then she'll still complain she's cold. <g>
>>> But according to the official test he does not perceive colors correctly, or the way the rest of us do (whatever that means) so he is not qualified by the air force definition. <<<<
Have you ever tried to describe a color to somebody? Find a blind person, blind from birth, and tell him what the color blue is like. How would you do it?
>>>>> I would respond, perhaps if we start with God and his revelation, then that revelation will give us the truth we need. And from there maybe we can get to the rest of the natural world/universe. At least it's worthy of consideration.<<<<
Yet this still avoids the crux of the matter....how do we, how can we know this "revelation" is from God and that this God, among countless other competitors, is the one we should trust as reliable? Ya see, it comes back to a bias thingie. If you start with a God/creator bias, it slants everything you see, just like you and your wife duking it out over covers vs. ten tons of air conditioning. She's right to want to be warm under a heap of steam heated blankets while asleep, you're right to want an iceberg suspended from the ceiling dripping on your bare chest so you can snooze. But who is ultimately right?
>>>>A lengthy response I know,<<<<<
You win the coveted loquacious award of the quarter!
From QO to Alan M:
>> So in answer, finally to the question >> Do you know any better way of gathering reliable information about the natural world/universe?<< I would respond, perhaps if we start with God and his revelation, then that revelation will give us the truth we need. And from there maybe we can get to the rest of the natural world/universe.
Whose God, Alan?
Yours or mine?
From Alan M to QO:
I already answered that one. The personal Triune God of the Bible. And of course the Bible is the revelation I am talking about. What would you suggest?
I intend to expand on this some as time allows.
From QO to AM:
>> I already answered that one. The personal Triune God of the Bible.
But why? You've strongly implied that your belief system is rational. But obviously the selection of the Biblical God is no more rational than the selection of Thor or Zeus.
In fact, the selection of Yahweh seems clearly irrational.
Why have you chosen such an irrational path? That's what I'm wondering.
>> And of course the Bible is the revelation I am talking about. What would you suggest?
My own revelation. Anyone who studies the situation objectively and rationally will see how corrupt is the revelation in the Bible compared to my own revelation.
I'm just wondering why you behave so irrationally while condemning the atheists, who are insufficiently gullible and irrational to make the same choice as you've made.
I'm just wondering.
From Alan M to QO:
Message text written by QO
But why? You've strongly implied that your belief system is rational. But obviously the selection of the Biblical God is no more rational than the selection of Thor or Zeus.
In fact, the selection of Yahweh seems clearly irrational.
Why have you chosen such an irrational path? That's what I'm wondering. <
You don't appear to understand the nature of the claim being made by Christians when they assert the existence of the Triune God of the Bible. Thor or Zeus (or any of the other gods for that matter) are simply other beings who are alleged to exist in the context of the larger Being that encompasses all things, i.e. the Universe, Nature, or whatever. The God of the Bible is a different sort of thing altogether. He does not exist as a part of a larger Being, rather he himself is the original uncreated Being. Before there was anything else, only the Triune God existed. The universe was created by him out of nothing and is utterly dependent upon him in every aspect of its own being. Thus, the Christian holds that the ultimate reality is personal, rational, and purposive. The universe is not ultimate and thus the ultimate reference point for rational interpretation and the discovery of truth does not lie within it. That is why all attempts by the atheist to find such a referent end in frustration.
In Greek mythology neither Thor nor Zeus are more than finite creatures, albeit with supernatural powers and immortality. The universe in which they live is much like the universe of the atheist -- impersonal matter is ultimate (although many Greeks held to hylozoism, which could be considered a form of pantheism, which is still impersonal) and all things are ordered by chance and/or deterministic forces which the Greeks called fate and the modern atheist calls the laws of nature. So it is the atheist who shares the presuppositions of the ancient Greeks (after Plato by the way, Greek philosophy did degenerate into irrationalism - skepticism on the one hand and finally the irrationality of Plotinus' mysticism, just as enlightenment atheism has degenerated into the skeptical irrationalism of the existentialists and post-modernists, as well as the mysticism that erupted in the 60s drug culture and now is thriving in the contemporary New Age movement). The atheists in this forum who hold to what may be called scientism (the belief that science is the key to all knowledge) are anachronistic in their faith in a naive empiricism that has been thoroughly refuted for over 200 years. They complain that the arguments of Hume and others are irrelevant, that nobody cares about the post-modernists, etc., but the one thing they do not offer are refutations of these positions and a justification for empiricism. In light of this I don't think it gullible to consider the possibility that theist presuppositions can resolve these problems.
So you tell me, how do you rationally justify knowledge? As for your revelation ... can you show that you have a revelation whose presuppositions are sufficient to sustain rational discourse?
From ZC to AM:
Are you working on a graduate school dissertation? It's been a while since I have read so many words that did not say anything.
Your attack on empiricism is misdirected toward a straw man. Science recognizes its limitations and potential pitfalls. Theory can influence observations. Observations can influence what is observed. The equipment used for measurement can limit the results. Psychological influences can permeate scientific study, such as a need for certainty or simplicity, seeing causation in coincidence, and reluctance to change the beliefs in which an investment of time and energy has been made. Good science recognizes these factors and attempts to account for them.
Contrary to your assertion, I have not seen anyone in this forum hold that science is the "key to all knowledge." Science seeks to explain the physical world, that which is observable, measurable, testable. Science does not purport to explain what may or may not exist in any "supernatural" world, which by definition is not observable, etc. There is no inherent incompatibility between science and the existence of God.
As for your point about what "knowledge" is or how anything can be "known," you are chasing your own tail.
Finally, even if all "science," "empiricism," and "knowledge" are thoroughly discredited, what does it get you? Science can't prove or disprove elves, therefore elves exist? Wherever you think you are going, your false assumptions, murky language and faulty logic are taking you somewhere else. Is it too late for you to pick a different thesis topic? Maybe Hume's Maxim would be good.
From Alan M to ZC:
You have jumped in late here. The atheists with whom I began interacting here were quite clear about defending empiricism as the basis of knowledge. If they had defended something like rationalism or something else then I would have discussed that. And the assertion that science is the best way of knowing and even the only reliable way, is quite common in both popular atheistic literature as well as among some of the more sophisticated defenders of atheism. Check out the Humanist magazine for instance.
I quite agree with your observations about science and I would say that science is completely compatible with Christianity as it was the Christian world view that produced modern science in the first place, a point that has been well documented by various historians of science.
As for the question of knowledge, the issue is whether or not atheistic presuppositions can sustain a rational epistemology. I and many others claim that they cannot. If we grant, for the sake of argument, the validity of the atheist's presuppositions then we have every right to work out the logical implications of them and see if they are consistent and if they can support a coherent world view. In fact, they collapse into irrationalism. So then the question arises as to whether or not the atheist's assumptions should be abandoned in favor of theistic axioms that are able to produce a rational epistemology and ethic.
All this ground has been covered previously. I am waiting for any atheist here to produce a rational epistemology that solves the problems posed by the skeptics.
(1) This is interesting since atheism (as they are using the term) necessarily means the making of a universally binding statement about the nature of ultimate reality - it is impersonal, and it is reducible to matter and energy from which are derived all other entities. Perhaps an agnostic would have better luck here but we will see that even the agnostic has certain irreducible presuppositions about ultimate reality.
(2) No, the question here is about whether lack of empirical evidence as defined by the empiricist is a valid basis for rejecting belief in God. There may be other lines of evidence that do not depend upon empiricism that could be consulted, but if empiricism cannot be shown to provide knowledge then the test of empirical evidence can make no claims, either positive or negative regarding the truth of anything.
(3) Here he opens an entirely different can of worms. The discussion never tackled this question, but to my knowledge, no empiricist has adequately explained how sense experiences can be transformed into ideas, particularly highly abstract ideas, unless the mind comes preprogrammed with some kind of interpretive structure or at least the ability to develop such, already in place. And it is difficult to see how such a structure could evolve from sense experience on the basis of natural selection because even the initial process of interpretation would seem to require the mechanism to be in place before it got started. The problem is, the admission of such a structure (say in the Kantian sense of the mind's categories) means that one is admitting that empiricism has limits, and possibly, following Kant, that reality as it actually is, cannot be known. Besides, if the human mind comes preprogrammed with innate ideas, then suddenly the spectre of idealism, Platonism, or some other kind of non-material reality looms very large on the philosophical-materialist horizon. In any case, if the atheist cannot show that empiricism can produce, then he cannot rule out the danger that God might be there after all.
(4) Here we see the common atheist or materialist postulate that the mind is reducible to a function of the brain. The brain secretes "mind" or thought like the liver secrets bile.
(5) Here we see a common tendency among philosophical materialist. It is the constant equating of empiricism with the scientific method. In fact, it involves the assumption of pure empiricism as an epistemology (which amounts to a metaphysical position) and then confusing this with the method of empirical testing that science uses. The consequence is that when the theist attacks empiricism as a metaphysical stance, the materialist thinks that science is being attacked. He never seems to imagine that the scientific method might actually be undermined by metaphysical naturalism and empiricist epistemology, He does not seem to understand what the founders of modern science knew all too clearly, that the reason that the scientific method works is because the universe was created by a rational Creator in the first place. Philip Johnson unravels this confusion in his very helpful book, Reason in the Balance: the case against NATURALISM in science, law and education. IVP, 1995.
(6) That the atheist believes in the law of non-contradiction is hopeful and will be useful later when we show that his presuppositions, once they are thought through to their logical conclusions, lead precisely to an irresolvable contradiction. Another question that could be posed here is why, if all is reducible to impersonal matter and energy which produced us and our rational thought by chance (that is non-purposively), should we imagine that there is any such thing as an abstract (non-material) reality as logic that must be universally binding on all minds, and hence, so basic to reasoning that without it no rational discourse is possible? In a materialist universe where do such universal non-material realities come from?
(7) Notice again the assumption that the only kind of proof that exists is empirical proof. There seems to be a blindness to any other possibility and this illustrates the power that presuppositions hold over those who are unaware of them.
(8) Usually the atheist defines faith as belief in something without any evidence (or proof which to him is the same thing). In his mind he understands such belief to be inherently irrational. I have already challenged this mistaken notion of the definition of faith and belief. Faith may be held either because of, without, or in spite of any kind of evidence (empirical or otherwise). The question here is about presuppositions, which everyone has and all of which are faith beliefs that are held without previous proof.
Alan Myatt, Ph.D.