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Evidentialism and Reformed Epistemology

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John Leonard

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Atheism Cannot Justify Reason and Truth
« on: December 06, 2010, 11:17:34 pm »
Another video I edited with Dr. Craig and Frank Zindler:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaqmGGOZbeY

http://drcraigvideos.blogspot.com

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bruce culver

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Atheism Cannot Justify Reason and Truth
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2011, 06:57:13 am »
I think Dr.Craig's criticism is valid to a point, and gets close to some of my reasons for being an agnostic believer in panentheism rather than an atheist.

   

   I think we can look at human thought and behavior and see that it is often irrational and that natural evolution alone certainly hasn't endowed humans with perfect reason, but rather one adapted to group survival. That is why, for instance, a man may be willing to die for his country and would not kill one of his own, but thinks it is perfectly acceptable to kill his enemy. This is rational on a group survival rationale, but it violates that rational principle of seeking objectivity.

   

   The progress of human reason is dependent on geniuses who's imaginative and reasoning abilities exceeds those of the average person.

   

   That said, we have by learning from geniuses developed a tool called science

   that has proven to be very reliable at finding knowledge about the physical world we live in. I fail to see any reason to throw it away as the best method for discovering physical truths just because it may not lead to absolute truth. It is also at least possible that it could lead to a theory of everything, and this is the faith of scientism, which I do not share, but personally I find more reasonable than Christian faith.

   

   I'm afraid the absolute truth about metaphysical subjects may be unknowable. I am quite certain that I don't know. That is why I am an agnostic. I do have my own beliefs about metaphysical truth, but belief is not knowledge. My belief is

   that the reason human understanding may emerge towards an understanding of ultimate truths is that there is a God, but not the God of much of the Bible which mistakes the superego as God, but rather the God of panentheism.

   

   I realized that I was a panentheist before I did any reading on modern panentheist thought, but I wasn't all that surprised to find that there are Christian panentheists.

   

   I can easily show you verse after verse of NT scripture that is wide open to panentheistic interpretation. Of course, those interpretations are open to criticism and not being a Biblical inerrantist nor a literalist, I don't really care if they were original to Jesus or meant in the sense that I understand them, Nor do I really care. I think it is quite possible that Jesus may have taught a kind or at least some of the very early Christians such as Paul may have taught a kind of panentheism that is reflected in verse such as...

   

   56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.

   

   Acts 17:28

   for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

   

   And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

   

   

   

   
"The world is my country and my religion is to do good."

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Atheism Cannot Justify Reason and Truth
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2011, 07:32:00 am »
Sounds like a bunch of BS peddled in some pseudo-intelligent 'philosophical' argument.. Wait a minute, so a Zeus, or Allah, or God-man MUST exist.. otherwise our brains would lack the ability to deduce truth through reasoning powers? Even if the brain developed due to reasons solely concerned with survival, who's to suggest that an understanding of the environment surrounding us isn't in some way equally important to our sustained existence? Hence, the ability to reason and seek truth IS a by-product of survival-- the survival of self-aware, highly intelligent beings who evolved according to the laws of natural selection. See no problem here.

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bruce culver

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Atheism Cannot Justify Reason and Truth
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2011, 09:31:35 am »
Sean

   

   Are you responding to Craig or me?If me, I actually agree with what you say. The atheists argument is correct, but I find Craig's comment correct also, but not as a proof of God. I don't believe there is any logical proof of God. Of course, there is no logical proof God doesn't exist. I think there are reasonable people on both sides. Einstein was not an atheist, though he was no orthodox theist either. That said, I do find many of Craig's arguments highly specious.
"The world is my country and my religion is to do good."

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Atheism Cannot Justify Reason and Truth
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2011, 01:32:34 pm »
So using reasoning shows God exists? I still don't understand why it is so difficult for people to understand that the function of the brain is to reason. That question sounds like wondering why humans have brains.

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Atheism Cannot Justify Reason and Truth
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2011, 03:25:18 pm »

tompaine wrote: Sean

Are you responding to Craig or me?If me, I actually agree with what you say. The atheists argument is correct, but I find Craig's comment correct also, but not as a proof of God. I don't believe there is any logical proof of God. Of course, there is no logical proof God doesn't exist. I think there are reasonable people on both sides. Einstein was not an atheist, though he was no orthodox theist either. That said, I do find many of Craig's arguments highly specious.

I was responding to Dr. Craig's point, tom.

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bruce culver

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« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2011, 09:50:27 am »
So using reasoning shows God exists? I still don't understand why it is so difficult for people to understand that the function of the brain is to reason. That question sounds like wondering why humans have brains.  

   

   I don't think that the function of the brain is to reason per se. Originally in lower animals it was simply to respond to stimuli, and that this function is imperfect is evidence against it being instilled by God. It makes sense a result of evolution as evolution only has to provide a creature with a better response than it's competitors to work. It would not be expected to be perfect as it should be if endowed by a perfect creator. Of course, the argument will go that you can't prove God didn't have some morally sufficient reason for making it imperfect. And that is true, but just one of the zillions of retreats to the possible that they will need to employ to try an justify the belief that reason is not a product of evolution. I'm somewhat sympathetic to that as a belief, but not as a fact.

   

   In man, we see that the brain has evolved to a level of complexity where we are able to abstract ideas from our sense perception. I think the evidence points to these ideas being fairly reliable in regards to things that are easily perceived by the senses, but increasingly unreliable as we move away. For example because germs were imperceptible until the invention of the microscope theories on the causes of disease were highly unreliable until the discovery of germs.

   

   Due to the influence of geniuses whose reasoning powers greatly exceed those of the average person, the spread of knowledge through the medium of print and modern mass education, the breaking of authoritarian monopoly on truth,

   modern education, etc., cultural evolution has brought us to the point where I think that mankind as a whole possesses a greta deal of highly reliable information about the physical world, and the thought technology of the scientific method is obviously largely responsible for this mental evolution.

   

   The denigration by theists of man's powers of reason when guided by the scientific method  is IMO a thinly veiled attempt to discredit it because of it's  bias against supernatural explanations of the world. When one sees the retreat of the need for supernatural explanations in the face of science, it is not hard to

   understand why some people embrace scientism, which I define as the idea that

   naturalistic explanations of everything will eventually be available as long as we continue to eschew supernatural explanations. This is, however, to my mind, an unwarranted belief. Nevertheless, it is far more reasonable a belief than that there is a God who has revealed himself in some sort of infallible way through the collected stories of a primitive nation.
"The world is my country and my religion is to do good."

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Atheism Cannot Justify Reason and Truth
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2011, 01:28:39 pm »
tompaine wrote:
So using reasoning shows God exists? I still don't understand why it is so difficult for people to understand that the function of the brain is to reason. That question sounds like wondering why humans have brains.  


I don't think that the function of the brain is to reason per se. Originally in lower animals it was simply to respond to stimuli, and that this function is imperfect is evidence against it being instilled by God. It makes sense a result of evolution as evolution only has to provide a creature with a better response than it's competitors to work. It would not be expected to be perfect as it should be if endowed by a perfect creator. Of course, the argument will go that you can't prove God didn't have some morally sufficient reason for making it imperfect. And that is true, but just one of the zillions of retreats to the possible that they will need to employ to try an justify the belief that reason is not a product of evolution. I'm somewhat sympathetic to that as a belief, but not as a fact.


I said it that way to be catchy. To be more mundane, the brain's function is to process information which it receives as electrical stimuli.

tompaine wrote:
In man, we see that the brain has evolved to a level of complexity where we are able to abstract ideas from our sense perception. I think the evidence points to these ideas being fairly reliable in regards to things that are easily perceived by the senses, but increasingly unreliable as we move away. For example because germs were imperceptible until the invention of the microscope theories on the causes of disease were highly unreliable until the discovery of germs.


This simply shows reasoning at work.

tompaine wrote:
Due to the influence of geniuses whose reasoning powers greatly exceed those of the average person, the spread of knowledge through the medium of print and modern mass education, the breaking of authoritarian monopoly on truth,
modern education, etc., cultural evolution has brought us to the point where I think that mankind as a whole possesses a greta deal of highly reliable information about the physical world, and the thought technology of the scientific method is obviously largely responsible for this mental evolution.


This simply demonstrates my point.

tompaine wrote:
The denigration by theists of man's powers of reason when guided by the scientific method  is IMO a thinly veiled attempt to discredit it because of it's  bias against supernatural explanations of the world. When one sees the retreat of the need for supernatural explanations in the face of science, it is not hard to
understand why some people embrace scientism, which I define as the idea that
naturalistic explanations of everything will eventually be available as long as we continue to eschew supernatural explanations.


This is interesting. I really wonder if there are people that have this view or is this a sort of straw man that some simply whip out in a bid to silence certain inquiries.

tompaine wrote:
This is, however, to my mind, an unwarranted belief. Nevertheless, it is far more reasonable a belief than that there is a God who has revealed himself in some sort of infallible way through the collected stories of a primitive nation.


I disagree that it is reasonable that a God revealed himself to a primitive people when it is clearly obvious that he could do a better job by revealing himself to people who are better able to reason with him. I think it is more likely that those primitive people like many others were simply wrong due to their lack of information like that which you presented above of microorganisms killing them. They couldn't see it so attributed it to all sorts of entities whose powers kept on growing till we were able through reason to vanquish them.

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bruce culver

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Atheism Cannot Justify Reason and Truth
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2011, 07:00:12 pm »
The denigration by theists of man's powers of reason when guided by the scientific method  is IMO a thinly veiled attempt to discredit it because of it's  bias against supernatural explanations of the world. When one sees the retreat of the need for supernatural explanations in the face of science, it is not hard to understand why some people embrace scientism, which I define as the idea that naturalistic explanations of everything will eventually be available as long as we continue to eschew supernatural explanations.


This is interesting. I really wonder if there are people that have this view or
is this a sort of straw man that some simply whip out in a bid to silence
certain inquiries. 


I think we are pretty much on the same "team". I'm not sure what you mean here though. Is what a straw man? A straw man is where you mischaracterize an opponents argument so as to make it easier to shoot down. Is that what you meant, and what is the strawman.


   

   Oh, I see what you are saying now. You wonder if what I am calling scientism is

   a belief actually held bt anyone. Well, it's an idea I've seriously considered and I'm sure I 've heard atheists affirm that belief when questioned on it. I think it is a perfectly rational belief, but I choose, or something has compelled me to believe differently. I will admit it is probably emotional, and I am not ashamed. It may be circular thinking, but if Panentheos has endowed me with both heart and mind, perhaps I need both to lead me to the truth. But I won't argue that it is some absolute truth. I don't know. I just believe it.

   

   Belief isn't knowledge of a lower degree of certainty. It is not knowledge at all, but it is meaningful. It may be as meaningful to human survival and happiness even as knowledge.

   

   I think there is a great lesson in philosophical Taoism. That is that the pairs of

   opposites are ultimately complimentary not antagonistic. Heart and mind must work together. As Einstein said,"Science without Religion Is Lame, Religion

   without Science Is Blind."
"The world is my country and my religion is to do good."

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troyjs

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Atheism Cannot Justify Reason and Truth
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2011, 10:34:14 pm »
The evolutionary argument against naturalism, is much more complicated than it is being presented here.  It involves probalility theory as to why it is unlikely that true belief is more beneficial than false belief. The most sophisticated  rebuttals would most expectedly come from those working in evolutionary epistemology, as originally espoused by W.V.O Quine, and successors.

Even so, a descriptive epistemology may be able to explain how our thoughts eventually converge on truth, but it does not provide a means as to how we can know whether any particular proposition is true or not -- including whether naturalism is true or not.
“Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christ” -- John Calvin.
“I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels” -- John Calvin

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bruce culver

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Atheism Cannot Justify Reason and Truth
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2011, 07:29:08 am »
I tried actually reading some of Plantinga's work,but when arguments start involving what a perfectly rational being would believe in all possible worlds, I start to suspect sophistry. Then again, the effort may be sincere, but I give it little chance of success. In my opinion, figuring the probability of whether true beliefs will be more beneficial than false ones is bound to contain assumptions that are likely to be off at least a bit, and just a small error in the inputs could lead to huge errors in the final analysis. That's why I don't believe anyone who says they have figured out the probability of life evolving by chance. First of all, life didn't evolve by random processes, it evolved according to the laws of nature which are anything but random and I'm pretty sure are not even yet understood at a level that would allow a reliable estimation of this type of thing.

   

   I still maintain that the power of the scientific method is plenty of justification for it as a way to produce reliable knowledge of the physical world. On the other hand I think without the aid of the scientific method, yeah, the human mind is probably more likely to produce false than accurate beliefs. or at the very least it cannot be denied that it has produced plenty of inaccurate beliefs.

   

   But then if this premise is true, how are we supposed to trust Plantinga's reasoning on warranted Christian belief.  I must admit I have only heard Dr. Craig's explanation of it and found the little of what I read of Plantinga's argument to be suspiciously sophisticated and unintelligible by me. Dr. Craig's explanation struck me decidedly circular.

   

   If it were true, why isn't all religious conviction warranted? In my survey of religious convictions I found the convictions of the mystical sects to be the most consistent from one religion to another, and I also found these convictions to be supportive of panentheism as is the thinking of a number of religious philosophers, especially eastern philosophers unfettered by the dogmas of corporate religion. I still wouldn't call that belief warranted, if by warranted one

   means equal to absolutely certain knowledge.

   
"The world is my country and my religion is to do good."

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« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2011, 04:48:03 pm »
tompaine wrote:
The denigration by theists of man's powers of reason when guided by the scientific method  is IMO a thinly veiled attempt to discredit it because of it's  bias against supernatural explanations of the world. When one sees the retreat of the need for supernatural explanations in the face of science, it is not hard to understand why some people embrace scientism, which I define as the idea that naturalistic explanations of everything will eventually be available as long as we continue to eschew supernatural explanations.


This is interesting. I really wonder if there are people that have this view or
is this a sort of straw man that some simply whip out in a bid to silence
certain inquiries.


I think we are pretty much on the same "team". I'm not sure what you mean here though. Is what a straw man? A straw man is where you mischaracterize an opponents argument so as to make it easier to shoot down. Is that what you meant, and what is the strawman.


Sure we may be on the same team but hey I'm an equal opportunity commenter.

tompaine wrote:
Oh, I see what you are saying now. You wonder if what I am calling scientism is
a belief actually held bt anyone. Well, it's an idea I've seriously considered and I'm sure I 've heard atheists affirm that belief when questioned on it. I think it is a perfectly rational belief, but I choose, or something has compelled me to believe differently. I will admit it is probably emotional, and I am not ashamed. It may be circular thinking, but if Panentheos has endowed me with both heart and mind, perhaps I need both to lead me to the truth. But I won't argue that it is some absolute truth. I don't know. I just believe it.


The problem is that I haven't heard atheists affirm that sort of belief. But I have heard lots of religious people claim that atheists are of that view. I'm willing to reconsider if you could present me with one person who accepts a view like that.

tompaine wrote:
Belief isn't knowledge of a lower degree of certainty. It is not knowledge at all, but it is meaningful. It may be as meaningful to human survival and happiness even as knowledge.

I think there is a great lesson in philosophical Taoism. That is that the pairs of
opposites are ultimately complimentary not antagonistic. Heart and mind must work together. As Einstein said,"Science without Religion Is Lame, Religion
without Science Is Blind."


I simply disagree with that quote of Einstein's. Science is simply better off without religion. Consider what would have happened if our current scientific tools were available to the deeply religious people of the 13th century. I'm yet to actually see the important or beneficial relevance of religion to science. Though we sure can see that religion without science is even worse than blind.

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bruce culver

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« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2011, 05:51:47 pm »
The problem is that I haven't heard atheists affirm that sort of belief. But I have heard lots of religious people claim that atheists are of that view. I'm willing to reconsider if you could present me with one person who accepts a view like that.


I'm sure I have. I wish that I could remember who now. I do remember one guy who had to be the worst atheist debater I ever heard claim that science already could explain everything.

It seems from this article that there used to be many more, such as Hawking, who believed in such a thing (not that science can explain but will someday explain everything), but since the advent of Godell's incompleteness theorem, the number has dwindled. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_everything

simply disagree with that quote of Einstein's. Science is simply better off without religion. Consider what would have happened if our current scientific tools were available to the deeply religious people of the 13th century. I'm yet to actually see the important or beneficial relevance of religion to science. Though we sure can see that religion without science is even worse than blind.


I'm just saying that scientific thinking doesn't rule out religious thinking. But you could make a case that Einstein was blinded by his religion because he couldn't accept quantum theory because "God wouldn't play dice." Also, Einstein's idea of religion was mainly the sense of wonder one feels when contemplating the greatness of the universe and the harmony of physical laws. He was not a traditional theist for sure.


"The world is my country and my religion is to do good."

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« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2011, 03:29:32 pm »
tompaine wrote:

simply disagree with that quote of Einstein's. Science is simply better off without religion. Consider what would have happened if our current scientific tools were available to the deeply religious people of the 13th century. I'm yet to actually see the important or beneficial relevance of religion to science. Though we sure can see that religion without science is even worse than blind.


I'm just saying that scientific thinking doesn't rule out religious thinking. But you could make a case that Einstein was blinded by his religion because he couldn't accept quantum theory because "God wouldn't play dice." Also, Einstein's idea of religion was mainly the sense of wonder one feels when contemplating the greatness of the universe and the harmony of physical laws. He was not a traditional theist for sure.


The problem is that nothing rules out religious thinking.

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bruce culver

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« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2011, 01:27:22 am »
The problem is that nothing rules out religious thinking.

   

   I don't see that as a problem. To me the problem is in not knowing the differences between the two. Science uses pure reason and leads to truths concerning the physical world. Those truths are submissable as knowledge. Religious thinking is based on beliefs that are influenced by emotional and social needs, it serves to provide meaning and hope and cultivate compassion. That is the true value of faith and one reason why I strongly recommend humility in the search for truths beyond those of science. To think one has got absolute truth nailed and that everyone needs to believe as you do leads to spiritual pride, factionalism, defensiveness, not things conducive to cultivating compassion.  That is why faith and belief are not submissable as knowledge.
"The world is my country and my religion is to do good."