Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jousting With the Wintery Knight

Point one: Facts might be neutral, but only until humans get their hands on them.

All scientists, creationist or evolutionist, have the same evidence; the difference is the presuppositions that are used to interpret that evidence. All reasoning is based on presuppositions.

As a teacher, I found that whenever I taught the students what I thought were the ‘facts’ for creation, then their other teacher would just re-interpret the facts. The students would then come back to me saying, ‘Well sir, you need to try again.’
However, when I learned to teach my students how we interpret facts, and how interpretations are based on our presuppositions, then when the other teacher tried to reinterpret the facts, the students would challenge the teacher’s basic assumptions. Then it wasn’t the students who came back to me, but the other teacher! - Ken Ham

There is no such thing as uninterpreted reality. I understand this to mean that when it comes to any particular fact we are not allowed to assign just any meaning we will. It’s not as if the unbeliever gets to say what he wants and we get to say what we want about “facts” and the one with the most facts wins — when it comes to ultimate issues. If we point to the empty tomb, the irrationalist says, “Weird things happen.” He autonomously assigns a false meaning to the empty tomb. The irrationalist’s refusal to submit to the divine interpretation of the tomb is no reason, however, for denying the existence of facts - R. Scott Clark

The reality that facts must be interpreted and those interpretations are not neutral is a reality that we all see in our everyday life. If Mom looks at dirt on the floor and says "Boy did it" and Boy looks at the floor and says "Dog did it" they are both dealing with the same fact, the state of the floor, but they interpret it differently. Now there is a truth behind the fact that is not relative. If Boy did it, boy did it. The fact that he doesn't think he did it is irrelevant to the world. However because of boy's bias he may not accept Mom's interpretation and he may come up with his own reasons why her interpretation is incorrect.

Point Two: Every person will have beliefs which they consider non-negotiable. These may be beliefs in logic, morality, materialism, Christianity, history, or many other categories. Ultimately these beliefs are not infinite regressions of causes. There must be an ultimate foundation which is self-verifying. This may be belief in God, our senses, logic, or something else but it must depend on itself otherwise it is not the ultimate foundation of our belief. (i.e. If someone says that they believe in God because of logic then logic is their ultimate standard. However logic is not self-verifying so they need to believe in God to have a reason to trust logic. In the end either God or logic will be their ultimate standard of proof.) These non-negotiables can also include materialism and atheism. This helps to explain why committed scientists can be bombarded with scientific facts for intelligent design and yet reject it out of hand.

"An alternative way of understanding what it is for a belief to be rational is in terms of what Plantinga calls a person’s “noetic structure.” A noetic structure is a person’s system of beliefs. Some beliefs will be based on other beliefs and so be higher up in the structure. But at the foundation of the structure will be a collection of basic beliefs which are not inferred from other beliefs but are taken immediately to be true in various circumstances in which a person exists. A person is rational insofar as he exhibits no flaw in his noetic structure. An example of a flawed system of beliefs would be one in which a person believed A on the basis of B and believed B on the basis of A, thus exhibiting circularity in his belief structure. Or a person might take a belief to be basic even though that belief is not properly basic for him (say, belief in the Great Pumpkin on no grounds at all); or he might deny a belief which really ought to be basic for him (Plantinga thinks belief in God should be properly basic for most people). A person who has a flawed noetic structure is irrational with regard to the flawed belief. A person who holds a belief without any sort of flaw with regard to it is rational in holding that belief.

Now it’s important to notice how extremely modest it is to say that a belief is rational or reasonable for someone to hold. In order for a belief to be rational for someone, that belief needn’t even be true, much less proven to be true, not to speak of known with certainty to be true. The person just needs to be within his epistemic rights or to exhibit no flaw in his noetic structure in holding to that belief. But the belief could turn out to be false. Isaac Newton, for example, was clearly within his rights in holding to the truth of the physics he founded, even though 300 years later it was discovered by physicists that Newtonian physics would have to be abandoned when it came to dealing with objects traveling at velocities near the speed of light. No one would say that Newton was irrational even though he turned out to be mistaken." William Lane Craig

Point Three: These basic or foundational beliefs are the grid through which facts are interpreted. They are therefore highly immune to attack from brute facts.

"Ultimately, the problem with man is not the absence of evidence, it is the suppression of it."- Ravi Zacharias

Point Four: This is not a purely intellectual issue. Otherwise one would expect all or almost all educated people to be on one side of the issue.

There is intellectual material available for both sides on the issue, and anyone who thinks that he has either avowed it or disavowed it purely for intellectual reasons betrays a prejudice and a lack of understanding of the subject. There have been giants in their thinking capacities who have been sceptics, there have been giants who have been believers - Ravi Zacharias, Why I am Not an Atheist

"A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God." - Ravi Zacharias

Point Five: The easiest way to destroy this "noetic structure" is to exploit weaknesses or tensions within that structure. This process can, and usually would, involve facts but primarily to illustrate pre-existing flaws and contradictions in their thinking and beliefs. Thus Newton was not irrational to believe in his physics but he would have been irrational to continue believing in his physics if new evidence was brought forward. This is not because of the evidence itself but because one of his noetic beliefs was that evidence procured in such and such a manner was rationally compelling.

There are three tests for truth according to Ravi Zacharias. Logical consistency, empirical adequacy (they must correspond with reality), and experiential relevance.

Point Six: In order to defeat someone's noetic structure we must consider the nature of that structure. Some people find scientific evidence most compelling and for them it is the most poignant means of argument. Some people find philosophical arguments best. Some prefer arguments from morality, experience, logic, or other considerations. To hammer someone with scientific arguments when their foundations are not based on science is a waste of both time and energy.

Point Seven: Not all facts and compelling evidences are scientific. To most people the sorrow they feel at the death of a child or the anger they experience when they are betrayed is more compelling and more real than abstract arguments about the movements of atoms. Therefore using Christianity to interpret the human condition and give answers for the questions that they are really asking as well as giving a rationality for their pre-existing beliefs (or showing that there is a contradiction within their pre-existing beliefs) can be a legitimate form of argument. This is not meant to give undue legitimacy to the automatic trueness of any given person's "felt needs" because such arguments can be used as easily to show how a person's "felt needs" are inconsistent. This does not depend on whether or not someone likes something. We are showing them that in order to believe A they must rationally believe B. We are saying that in order for them to feel outrage at C they must affirm D. It is a logic more than a fact based approach.

Point Eight: About Miracles

In the Bible, I see Jesus constantly providing physical evidence for this claims by employing miracles. We can do something similar to Jesus today, by leveraging past miracles, such as the fine-tuning of the gravitational force, in our public debates. We don’t need to invent new ways of evangelizing based on intuitions and experiences. - Wintery Knight

Jesus did not just rely on miracles. They verified his authority but it was his words that changed the world. The Christian worldview and it's reality. The answers it holds for guilt, sin, death, good, beauty, government, reason, logic, emotion, love, hate, are as profound proofs as evidences from creation.

Point Nine: Our defence of Christianity is not just that it is right about this fact or that fact. We defend it as a system. A system that encompasses the mind, heart, and soul and answers the deepest questions of each.

    "This, therefore, is, in conclusion, my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion.  I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophies say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true.  Alone of all creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; it turns out to be right, like my father in the garden.  Theosophists for instance will preach an obviously attractive idea like re-incarnation; but if we wait for its logical results, they are spiritual superciliousness and the cruelty of caste.  For if a man is a beggar by his own pre-natal sins, people will tend to despise the beggar.  But Christianity preaches an obviously unattractive idea, such as original sin; but when we wait for its results, they are pathos and brotherhood, and a thunder of laughter and pity; for only with original sin we can at once pity the beggar and distrust the king.  Men of science offer us health, an obvious benefit; it is only afterwards that we discover that by health, they mean bodily slavery and spiritual tedium. Orthodoxy makes us jump by the sudden brink of hell; it is only afterwards that we realise that jumping was an athletic exercise highly beneficial to our health.  It is only afterwards that we realise that this danger is the root of all drama and romance. The strongest argument for the divine grace is simply its ungraciousness. The unpopular parts of Christianity turn out when examined to be the very props of the people.  The outer ring of Christianity is a rigid guard of ethical abnegations and professional priests; but inside that inhuman guard you will find the old human life dancing like children, and drinking wine like men; for Christianity is the only frame for pagan freedom.  But in the modern philosophy the case is opposite; it is its outer ring that is obviously artistic and emancipated; its despair is within." - G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

1 comment:

  1. I like your comments widget.

    It's pretty easy to use. Thanks for writing this wonderful post. Any of them individually would have been interesting, but all NINE together is just marvelous!