RCSaunders wrote: ↑
Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:31 pm
I hope you don't mean this as a general principle. If you do, it is a very bad mistake, probably based on the belief that science is, "inductive," in nature, a huge lie put over originally by Hume.
Mathematics can be deductive, once the basic mathematical axioms are taken for granted, RC. But empirical science is not deductive but inductive. And it's not Hume we can blame for this observation; it just happens to be true.
You mention evidence as though it were some unreliable thing.
No, I don't mean that. "Unreliable" is not the right word.
Rather, I would suggest that evidence is grounds for estimating a higher probability of something being true or false. To believe something that has 99.99% probability is way better than to venture a conclusion on something that has 30% probability. But all physical science is probabilistic, not absolute. It deals with the empirical world; and in the empirical world, we never have more than probability calculations.
It is not evidence that is unreliable but human interpretation or reasoning about the evidence.
To call any phenomenon "evidence" is already to say that the phenomenon has been processed by human interpretation. A rock falling off a cliff is not "evidence" for anything, in and of itself. But to a geologist, it may be "evidence" of shale. To a physicist, it may be "evidence" of gravity. To a climber, it may be "evidence" of danger. "Evidence" is a human attribution made upon
the phenomenon; it is not the phenomenon itself.
You accept the Bible as evidence and believe there are some things that could not be known without it. As you said, "Well, that's the necessity of divine revelation. There's no way we'd know if God didn't tell us, would we?" So your suggestion that something cannot be known with certainty because it, "depends on evidence," is just not true.
All I was saying is this: it seems improbable to me that any particular person has privileged knowledge of the purposes of God unless God Himself made them known to him. I'm not saying such a person would be guaranteed to be truthful; I'm saying that the only way he could
be truthful (if he is) is if God had revealed the truth to him -- in other words, I'm saying that he could not get divine truth any other way -- assuming he had it at all.
If you were to think otherwise, then you would have to explain to me how a mere human came to "know" something truthful about God that God Himself had NOT made known to him. And if you have that, I'm listening. But Romans 1: 18-19 says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them."
I suspect your idea of "cause" is also not correct, but the one commonly accepted and frequently referred to as, "same cause, same effect."
I have no idea where you got this idea, RC. It certainly wasn't from me. In fact, the axiom you offer there looks manifestly incorrect to me. You would have to explain it.
The reason a chemist can say with certainty that sulfur burning in air will produce sulfur dioxide is not because he has seen it happen so often (inductively), but because the nature of sulfur and the nature of oxygen as described in the periodic table explain why those two elements combine to form sulfur dioxide.
Flesh that point out for me, if you would. I don't think it's right either. Most scientific work is experimental, and the scientific method starts with a hypothesis, not a certainty, and then attempts to prove it probabilistically through testing and trials under laboratory conditions, and then eventually, afield.
Your suggested method seems to suggest a chemist just looks at the periodic table and says, "sulphur, saltpetre and charcoal, in the right proportions and compressed, will explode." But that's not how gunpowder was, in fact, discovered by the ancient Chinese, long before there was a "chemistry" or a scientific method.
It was the concept of revelation that originally convinced me there was no sound basis for the mystical or supernatural in any form.
That wouldn't make sense. Your supposition would have to be either a) there is no God (or gods) to reveal anything, or b) there is a God (or gods), but He (or they) can't reveal themselves.
The first postulate is gratuitous, and can't meet any scientific test; and the second is just nonsensical. What kind of God couldn't do something so simple that we mere humans do it all the time -- communicate? So neither seems to me any kind of reason to balk at the idea of revelation. One can choose to believe it hasn't
happened, though I can't see justification for that choice; but one has no reason at all to suppose that if there were a God
, it would be the slightest problem.
Religion combined two so-called sources of knowledge which I knew could not be true. By the time I began serious inquiry into religion, I had discovered that no authority or expert could be trusted merely on the basis of their so-called authority or expertise.
Well, in the case of revelation, the "authority" is said to be God. Now, you can say, "I don't think it is;" but there's no justification for thinking, "If God spoke and revealed his nature, there's no way He's a reliable authority."
The main problem of relying on authority for knowledge is how does one decide which authority to accept. Every religion and ideology has it's own preferred authority or authorities, whether individuals or writings, and they are all certain there authority is the only true one.
The problem you're identifying is a problem only if "revelation" means "man imagining that on his own he discovered things about God." And we've both conceded so far that that is improbable to us. But it's not a problem if God does the revealing. God would be a reliable and ultimate authority on what the truth about himself would be. The human problem would only be sorting between the false accounts, those accounts in which mere men claim to know about God without revelation, and that which represents the true revelation.
But that's a problem on our side, not on God's. And it doesn't for a moment suggest revelation is impossible. It just suggests there might be counterfeits to deal with.
The main problem with revelation is there is no way to distinguish illusion, delusion, or simply imagination, from what is supposed to be revelation.
You mean that you don't know
the way? Fair enough. But there are ways. One of the first steps is reading the different things that are offered as "revelation" by different traditions. They are decidedly not equal, by any fair estimate, you will find. But there are other steps as well: coherence, morality, integrity, consistency, predictive power, truthfulness to reality, and so on would be good criteria. But ultimately, God Himself might open one's eyes to the truth, if one were serious about seeking it.
Finally, you have made the argument that finally convinced me religion is a mistake. If moral right and wrong are determined by the pronouncements of an agent (God or man), there can be no principle of right and wrong.
I have made the opposite claim. That if we live in a godless universe, then we live in an accidental one. There's no third alternative, really: either there is purpose in our origin, or nothing "purposed" anything by our being here. Atheism has to believe the second. But for that reason, Atheism is inherently amoral. For an Atheist, giving ice cream to orphans, on the one hand, and pushing live children into a wood chipper, on the other are morally equal acts. That is to say that neither has any objective moral dimension at all. A "good" Atheist could do either, and do them equally, because there's no such thing as "good" or "evil."
The dictator may declare just anything moral, and it is. When a Christian says God is righteous, or moral, or good, he has said nothing at all, because anyone who gets to say what is good, or bad, is going to say what he does is good.
This assumes God is a human being. However, analytically and by concept, the Supreme Being is not.
Human beings act in self-interested ways, and contrary to objective morality, it's true. But if God exists, it's not just the case that God chooses
to be moral; it's the case that whatever "moral" actually is, it's based on the character of the Creator Himself
To put this another way, "God is good," and "Good is what God is." Both are true. Trying to separate the terms "good" and "God" is like trying to say, "Is RC his wife's husband, or is he his child's father," and thinking it's an either-or. It's not. It's a both-and.
The God of Christians is not bound by any principle of right and wrong because there are no such principles in the Christian religion, there are only what their God, at any moment chooses to say is good or bad.
Really, what you have here is a version of the old "Euthyphro Dilemma" that dates back to Socrates. It is sometimes taken by skeptics of religion as if it poses some sort of serious challenge; but it's been well-answered by Christian philosophers, and I think I can do a credible job of doing the same, if you like.
These are my views, and nothing more. I hope you are not offended,
No, not a bit, RC. Please don't worry about that at all. You are polite and rational; how could I possibly be offended? Rather, I'm pleased.
I also hope nothing I have said sounds offensive, though I have on some points challenged what you suggest. I'm happy to explain further or to try again if something here doesn't strike you as right, and feel no unkindness toward you, nor am I upset at your views. You're an honest man. I value that highly.
And same back, RC.