Intelligent Design Religion Science

“Is Belief in Divine Creation Rational?”

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I just received this by email. Check out the link given. Some time back, David Anderson provided UD with high-quality amusement here.

Dear friend,

I’m contacting you with this because you’ve given me some previous encouragement, posted a link, or been in contact in some other way in the debate over Darwinism, creation, intelligent design, etc. Many of you will know me as the author of “Does Richard Dawkins exist?”

I have just put online a major new audio-visual presentation: “Is belief in divine creation rational? (responding to atheist claims).”

The talk is 77 minutes long, accompanied by slides (combined courtesy of Google video), and goes over quite a wide field – rationality, morality, laws (or not?) of logic, Richard Dawkins, the scientific method, world views, the definition of the mind, etc. It’s meant to be popular level but stimulating for anyone.

Would you consider publicising it, if you think it is worthwhile? On your blog, website, on mailing lists – whatever and wherever you can. My previous parable got linked on sites all round the web, with the reads or listens going into six figures. This is more heavyweight material, but hopefully to have a deeper impact. Thanks for your time!

Kind regards,
David Anderson


The “British Centre for Science Education”: Revealed
http://bcse-revealed.blogspot.com

44 Replies to ““Is Belief in Divine Creation Rational?”

  1. 1

    Thank you!

    Let the nit-pickers now descend. I freely conceded to them all the infelicitous turns of phrase, ad-libs that didn’t come out right, etcetera, etcetera. You win all those bits, 100%. If I concede all those in advance, will you deal with the meat of it instead, please? Thanks! 🙂

    David

  2. 2
    BarryA says:

    The question asked is: “Is Belief in Divine Creation Rational?”

    I have to run to catch a plane, so I do not have time to watch the video today, and if what I’m about to say is covered, I apologize in advance.

    The answer to the question is “It depends on what you mean by ‘rational.’”

    A strict philosophical definition of a “rational conclusion” is “those conclusions that are produced purely by reason.” So if you are asking whether we can conclude that God exists (and by extension that He is the Creator) on the basis of “pure reason” with no element of faith, the answer is “no.” God requires us to approach Him in faith. See Hebrews 11:6.

    On the other hand, if you are using the term “rational” more loosely to mean “not crazy,” then the answer is an unqualified “yes.” God has given us many evidences and proofs of his existence that are sufficient to satisfy any observer beyond a reasonable doubt that He exists. The faith element comes in when we finally realize that we will never know the answer to this question with absolute (“apodictic”) assurance. Our faith is a reasonable faith, a faith based upon a measured consideration of the evidence, the opposite of a blind faith, but it is faith nevertheless.

    As Pascal said (I paraphrase), “God has revealed himself to those who are willing to see Him; and He has hidden Himself from those who are not.”

  3. 3
    mike1962 says:

    To further what Barry said, even reason requires faith. Can you prove that reason is reliable? But in order to do that you would to use reason to prove reason, which is nonsense, like a proof that proofs exists.

    Reason is the starting point. It’s validity must be assumed, which is itself not rational.

    I know, we’ve heard it all before. 🙂

  4. 4
    Rude says:

    Look forward to hearing this when I can snatch the time. But just now I’d like to put in a word for “rational”–meaning not pure reason alone but reason rooted in and tempered by fact–the best explanation given what we know–etc.

    Not all of us are privy to special signs and revelations, chills up and down the spine, faith sans reason, and if you are it’s yours alone–you cannot transfer that to the world. The rest of us require reason.

  5. 5
    kairos says:

    A strict philosophical definition of a “rational conclusion” … So if you are asking whether we can conclude that God exists (and by extension that He is the Creator) on the basis of “pure reason” with no element of faith, the answer is “no.”

    On the other hand, if you are using the term “rational” more loosely to mean “not crazy,” then the answer is an unqualified “yes.”

    I am unconvinced on this distinction and in my opinion the answer is yes in both cases. After all, what you have mentioned can be the source for inferring the existence of God in nature can actually be used in our philosophical reasoning (for example let us consider Thomas Aquinas)

  6. 6
    Carl Sachs says:

    I only looked at the PDF of the slide-show but I imagine I got the jist of it.

    It reminds me of an exercise I do with my students when I teach 17th-century philosophy — I ask them to imagine what it would be like to be a “Cartesian atheist.”

    The B students are the ones who see that a “Cartesian atheist” must be a solipsist. The A students are the ones who see that the “Cartesian atheist” has no justified alternative to solipsism but at the same time does not live as a solipsist, since the intellect and will of the Cartesian atheist are no different from those of the true Cartesian.

    I’m teaching Kant in the spring, and I might ask my students what it be would like to be a “Kantian atheist”. Perhaps such a person would recognize the justification of the moral law but would nevertheless lack the motivation to act morally?

    As for the rest of the talk, however, it strikes me as being about as informed and fair about atheism as Dawkins is about religion, which to say, not very at all.

  7. 7

    […] is a lecture by David Anderson. I’m piggybacking on a post by William Dembski at Uncommon Descent. I  listened to about the first 15 minutes online then downloaded it to my mp3. So far, I’m […]

  8. 8
    GilDodgen says:

    Dear David,

    I enjoyed your message immensely. The bottom line is that the atheist cannot live consistently in the world of his imaginings. It is ultimately a self-refuting worldview.

    This is not hard to figure out, which is one of many reasons I abandoned my atheism.

    Gil

  9. 9

    Responses:

    Thanks to all for the interest. Some brief comments:

    BarryAm, mike1962, Rude etc.: The title is really just introducing where the talk goes – the talk goes a lot deeper. I argue that the very meaning of rationality etcetera is what is at stake – a consistent theist and consistent atheist would have a very different dictionary to define it and associated concepts. mike1962’s points get a full discussion. I start asking the question, “given that we have to assume this, what set of presuppositions best coheres with this assumption?”. I argue that atheism, analysed as a whole system, cannot give a coherent explanation of the phenomena of rationality etc.

    CarlSachs: Not much I can say to this; I’ll be interested on how your impression is modified if you get time to listen the talk. Obviously the slides are a very compressed summary and provide bald statements rather than much indication of the lines of argument I use to justify them. If you can get into the discussion of the presuppositions and the concept of the divine image then I’ll be interested to know how you react then.

    GilDodgen: Thanks for the kind words and personal testimony. Your summary is spot on.

    David

  10. 10
    Borne says:

    BarryA : “So if you are asking whether we can conclude that God exists (and by extension that He is the Creator) on the basis of “pure reason” with no element of faith, the answer is “no.” God requires us to approach Him in faith.”

    I must agree with kairos on this.

    Indeed one can and ought to conclude the existence of a supreme being based solely upon reason in light of the natural creation.

    Indeed logic alone ought to lead one to belief seeing that the existence of logical absolutes is inexplicable without a supreme mind.

    And if you want to use scripture you only need examine Rom 1

    For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
    For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

    Clearly the creation itself (including ourselves) is to be viewed as evidence sufficient to lead anyone with a reasonable mind to belief in a deity.

    All cultures in all history have held beliefs in a deity or deities.
    That alone should reveal power of intuitive and reasonable belief.

    “Theology is so related to psychology, that the successful study of the former without a knowledge of the latter, is impossible. Every theological system, and every theological opinion, assumes something as true in psychology.

    God convinces and produces faith, not by the overthrow of, but in accordance with, the fixed laws of mind.
    It is therefore absurd and ridiculous to dogmatize and assert, when explanation, illustration, and proof are possible, and demanded by the laws of the intellect.”

    CG Finney in his Systematic Theology of 1851 (28 years before Wilhelm Wundt’s lab)

    Yes God requires approach to him on a faith or more lucidly ‘trust’. But then how could one approach him in whom he does not first believe?

    The light of nature is sufficient to bring man to the most reasonable, rational conclusion of all – ‘there is a God’.

    But the light of nature cannot bring man to belief in a specific God or Christ – that requires revelation which must be responded to in faith.

    But even revelation truth must be shown to be ‘reasonable’. Christ is God’s revelation of himself to the world. But Christ must be shown to be the son of God with proofs. Proofs that are rational and fully reasonable.

    Nothing God does is ever unreasonable. Nothing God requires of man is unreasonable. He works “all things according to the counsel of his will”

    God is necessarily the most reasonable, rational, logical being of all. And nothing is more rational than belief in a supreme being. All evidence based!

  11. 11
    Michaels7 says:

    Carl,

    “The B students are the ones who see that a “Cartesian atheist” must be a solipsist. The A students are the ones who see that the “Cartesian atheist” has no justified alternative to solipsism but at the same time does not live as a solipsist, since the intellect and will of the Cartesian atheist are no different from those of the true Cartesian.”

    I disagree, the true A student would say simply, “there is no such being.”

    I give each of your students an F. And as a parent would question the money I just spent for you to teach them simple logic.

    Why all the complex rigor of philosophical faux conundrums when not required? This does not expand the mind at all, it simply confuses the real issues and makes murky the waters of reason.

    Its why evolutionist are in trouble today, each time their theory fails, another false path is created, another exception added, another puzzle remade, another hole drilled only to find the best they can do is create an endless maze of swiss cheese. Except the swiss cheese is not real and the cost is astronomic in wasteful spending.

    OT: Jellyfish fossil, 500myo pushes back oldest known fossil by 200my to Cambrian explosion.

    http://creationsafaris.com/cre.....#20071102a

    This is sillyness of todays science. I have no faith in their time estimates or their science anymore. In the medical profession this is called quakery. Either way, everything was created at once 500 million years ago, or 5,000 years ago it truly does not matter anymore and should destroy the foundations of gradualism upon which evolution has rested.

    Time as a reference frame to life is no longer important to the equation.

    Likewise, neither is asking questions about “cartesian atheist.” It makes for fun, but hardly determines who is an A or B student in reality.

  12. 12
    StephenB says:

    For my part, the Scriptural reference, “they are without excuse,” is a philosophical rather than a theological exhortation. That means that we can reason our way to the existence of God through the use of unaided (no revelation necessary) reason. Thus, “the things that are not seen” are made “evident” by the “things that are not seen.” Consistent with that assertion, we have Aquinas” five proofs for the existence of God, which rest on the logical notion of “infinite regress.”

    Now the question is, what does “evident” mean? Borne and Kairos may mean, “logically necessary.” Barry A may mean, “most probably.” Evidently, faith would not be required in the first instance, but would certainly necessary in the second instance. If we allow ourselves both definitions of the word “evidence,” there may be a bridge between Barry A and Borne/ Kairos. To me, though, the five proofs indicate that God is logically necessary, which would constitute a stronger kind of proof. At the same time, even the most positive interpretation will admit that only God’s existence can be proven, and nothing can be said about God’s attributes.

    Now I am going to say something that will prompt Carl Sachs to take serious issue with me. Kant was a great moral philosopher, but I am not enthusiastic about his approach to metaphysics. This notion that universals are categorized, formalized, and finalized in the mind has wreaked havoc in the minds of philosophers and scientists alike. I wished Kant had just allowed this subjectivism to die with Descartes, because it has caused so many to doubt things that ought not to be doubted. I suspect that some of this explains why, even today, scientists can’t acknowledge the possibility of detecting intelligent innovation. As I asked on another thread, “If design is nothing more than a mental construct, then why look for it in nature? I am definitely in trouble now.

  13. 13
    Carl Sachs says:

    In re: (11). The point of the exercise, Michael, is to get my students to see the structure of Descartes’ argument in the Meditations. I happen to think that helping students to understand the relations of premises and inferences in philosophical texts is what I’m paid to teach. Or do you disagree?

    In one important sense, you’re right that no true Cartesian could be an atheist, because Descartes explicitly acknowledges that his own mind is not only created by, but also maintained in existence from moment to moment through, God’s power, wisdom, and grace.

    In re: (12). In fact, I don’t disagree with you — not as much as you might think. I’m not a fan of Kant’s subjectivism. On the other hand, I think that his criticisms of dogmatism and objectivism are spot-on in spirit, if not in letter. So where does that leave us?

    For me, it leads to John Dewey and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, because I read them as showing how “subjects” and “objects” are conceptually inter-dependent — one cannot identify one without implicitly invoking the other. I take this to mean that to identify something as a world is to specify it as a world-view held by some subject, and to identify something as a subject is to specify some world in terms of which it comes to regard itself as a subject.

    The problem with Aquinas’ proofs is that they rest on the assumption that infinite regress is inconceivable, and so there must be a God. Infinite regress is simply nonsense. He thought this, I suspect, because 12th-century mathematics simply didn’t have any good tools for conceptualizing infinite sets. Whereas we today have some very powerful tools for thinking carefully and rigorously about infinite sets. And I suspect — though this is only a suspicion! — that this work can be used to motivate a substantial challenge to previous attempts to prove the existence of God.

    Though why anyone would want to prove the existence of God, and what such proofs are supposed to do, remains an utter mystery to me.

  14. 14
    StephenB says:

    “Though why anyone would want to prove the existence of God, and what such proofs are supposed to do, remains an utter mystery to me.”

    Well, I would say it provides a rational foundation for religious belief, especially Christianity. Most in that camp would hold that their religious faith is grounded in reason. If you can prove, either logically or beyond a reasonable doubt, that God exists, then the next step is to explore revelation. Did he reveal himself in nature and through revelation? If he did reveal himself in ways other than nature, which major religion provides the best explanation for that revelation? In other words, who speaks for God? More precisely, what are the tests to decide which claimants deserve to be called God’s prophets?

    Christian apologetics, for example, proposes these three tests for the “true” prophet:

    1) Was he foretold? If God was going to send someone to speak for him, the least he could do is let us know in advance. That way no one would just show up and say, “I am the one, trust me.”

    2) Did he perform miracles, such as commanding nature and raising the dead? Indeed, did he rise from the dead himself?

    3) Did he say or do anything contrary to right reason? He might propose certain mysteries above reason, but he would never violate the principle itself.

    So, According to this standard, all the other claimants Buddha, Socrates, and Mohammed must step back; Jesus Christ steps forward. So—are you ready for your altar call?

  15. 15
    Carl Sachs says:

    You gave a very fine — and very expected — response, Stephen. But it’s worth taking the time to notice what you assume, without much inquiry.

    a) a specific conception of religion as fundamentally concerned with the belief that God exists;

    b) a specific conception of rationality as fundamentally concerned with argument and proof;

    c) a specific conception of the relation between religion and reason as one of “foundation” or “grounding.”

    Taking them in order:

    (1) the emphasis on religion as essentially belief in the existence of God misses much of the point of the experience of religious life. It doesn’t capture, for example, the importance of reverence and awe, joy in the simple experience of being alive, or how we use religious language to voice to our deepest hopes, confront our deepest fears, and be healed from our darkest despairs.

    The picture of religion in (a) is, if you will, too ‘epistemologized’ for it to work as a picture of what religion is and what needs it serves. And it also distorts the discussion between atheists and people of faith, esp. Christians. Many Christians assume that if one rejects the belief in God, then one will be deprived of the ability to express joy and awe, confront fears and despairs, etc.

    (2) the dominant picture of rationality as concerned largely or exclusively with rigorous proof is an a-historical and disembodied conception. By contrast, there are very good reasons for thinking of rationality as embedded in, and dependent on, human embodiment and history. While there could be good reasons for accepting a ‘Platonist’ theory of rationality — in which rationality is precisely what allows us to transcend the limits of flesh and history — there is nothing necessary to that conception. I myself tend to urge more ‘Aristotelian’ conception of rationality as what Aristotle calls ‘phronesis,’ skillful judgment, which depends on responsiveness to particular situations by drawing on tradition, culture, language, etc.

    (3) Finally, I simply don’t see why religion — or anything else — needs ‘foundations’ in this metaphorical sense. Why, would religion just topple over without ‘foundations’? How so?

    The whole picture here is one in which one occupies a position outside of religion and then somehow, by means of argument alone, gets somehow inside religion. I don’t think that human life is like that. I’m more inclined to think that as one learns how to function within a society, one internalizes and comes to identify with a whole host of assumptions, traditions, habits, techniques, (etc.).

    Thus, while one can and should, as an adolescent and adult, engage in a process of un-weaving and re-weaving one’s moral and religious and ethnic identities, guided by conceptions of rationality which are themselves evolving, one is never “on the outside looking in.” And that seems to vitiate the need for “proofs of the existence of God” in the first place.

    I don’t dispute that a rational person could accept divine creation — nor do I dispute that a rational person could reject divine creation.

    If two rational people, one who accepts divine creation and one who does not, engage in a conversation on the matter, their rationality is evident not by what they believe but in how they behave towards one another — a willingness to examine presuppositions and to explore implications, a willingness to yield to “the unforced force of the better argument” (as Jurgen Habermas calls it).

    Whereas if two irrational people engage in the same discussion, their irrationality is manifest in how they behave — in being dogmatic, in demonizing the other person, in refusing to consider matters from any perspective other than their own.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm:

    Without trying to follow up all the rabbit trails in this thread, maybe the perspective on proof put forth by Simon Greenleaf of Harvard, in his Testimony of the Evangelists, is a good point to stir the pot:

    [26] . . . It should be observed that the subject of inquiry [i.e. evidence relating to the credibility of the New Testament accounts] is a matter of fact, and not of abstract mathematical proof. The latter alone is susceptible of that high degree of proof, usually termed demonstration, which excludes the possibility of error [of course he here shows him self to be nearly 100 years pre-Godel . . .] . . . In the ordinary affairs of life we do not require nor expect demonstrative evidence, because it is inconsistent with the nature of matters of fact, and to insist on its production would be unreasonable and absurd . . . The error of the skeptic consists in pretending or supposing that there is a difference in the nature of things to be proved; and in demanding demonstrative evidence concerning things which are not susceptible of any other than moral evidence alone, and of which the utmost that can be said is, that there is no reasonable doubt about their truth . . . .

    [27] . . . . In proceeding to weigh the evidence of any proposition of fact, the previous question to be determined is, when may it be said to be proved? The answer to this question is furnished by another rule of municipal law, which may be thus stated:

    A proposition of fact is proved, when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence.

    By competent evidence, is meant such as the nature of the thing to be proved requires; and by satisfactory evidence, is meant that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond any reasonable doubt. . . . . If, therefore, the subject is a problem in mathematics, its truth is to be shown by the certainty of demonstrative evidence. But if it is a question of fact in human affairs, nothing more than moral evidence can be required, for this is the best evidence which, from the nature of the case, is attainable. Now as the facts, stated in Scripture History, are not of the former kind, but are cognizable by the senses, they may be said to be proved when they are established by that kind and degree of evidence which, as we have just observed, would, in the affairs of human life, satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man. [Testimony, Sections 26, 27, emphases added.]

    Of course, this is the kick-off to my discussion of the fallacy of selective hyperskepticism, as I have descriptively labelled what SG herein aptly describes.

    IMHCO, what Paul was getting at in Rom 1 is that we have enough in us that we can see clearly enough on pain of the absurdities of selective hyperskepticism, that the best explanation of our cosmos relative to factual adequacy, coherence [dynamical and logical] and explanatory elegance [vs ad hocness or simplisticness] is God.

    Indeed, this is the very same sort of point that the US Founders made in the 2nd paragraph of the US DOI, on our Creation and endowment with moral values being self-evident. That is, reject this sheet anchor, and you end in absurdities. The clearly self-referentially inincoherent fate of evolutionary materialism in its multiple forms — as we have seen over several months now at UD since the Aug 20 Charles Darwin thread — is an excellent case in point.

    One last issue. I see where CS claims in 15 supra: Many Christians assume that if one rejects the belief in God, then one will be deprived of the ability to express joy and awe, confront fears and despairs, etc.

    Maybe he has met such people, but that sounds uncommonly like a strawman to this observer.

    I would rather observe that the Judaeo-Christian position has always been that the human condition is tragic and can easily spin utterly out of our ability to cope [cf. here Job etc], but is potentially redemptive through the intervention of, reconciliation to and relationship with God.

    When one is comparatively wealthy, healthy, comfortable and in a relatively stable society like the US [a stability that owes more to the influence of the said Judaeo-Christian tradition than many will like to accept], one can all too easily take the blessings of liberty for granted.

    But as say the 9/11 events showed, that can change overnight. THEN, come back on coping with chaos and sustained crisis.

    Having just passed through the 12th anniversary of the suddenly onset and then steadily worsening, ands now plainly ongoing volcano disaster in Montserrat — and with a just released Scientific committeee report that this thing has a significant probability of going on for 33 or more years — I tend to have a bit of a different view on such matters.

    Trust that helps

    GEM of TKI

  17. 17

    Proofs of the existence of God: if you listen the talk right through, you’ll find this dealt with in the conclusion, in particular the “transcendental” argument.

    David

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: On foundations as a framework for rationality.

    The key issue is to ask why — why should we accept that something is so, since (by common consent) we are ever so prone to error?

    We start with some A.

    To support it, we get back to evidence, claims and assumptions, etc, B.

    But why accept B? Thence C, D . . .

    So also we face either [1] infinite sequential regress [impossible for the finite and fallible] or [2] undue circularity [writing what should plainly be conclusions into assumptions] or [3] stopping off at a set of core first plausibles, F; defining the heart of your worldview.

    This is one’s faith-point.

    Such can be tested for whether they fall under 2 or 3 by looking at [a] factual adequacy, being able to cover the material facts we must address in life and thought. It can be tested for [b] coherence [core belief web fits together, dynamically and logically], and for [c] elegance vs ad hocness or simplisticness — on its own two feet and vs other alternative views. [Cf my discussion here. I need not stop off long at debates over narrow vs broad foundationalism, coherentism, inference to best explanation, brain in vat scenarios [or Plato’s Cave for that matter — complete with the apparatus of manipulation and intimidation that somehow seldom gets into the phil discussions . . . etc; the above brings up enough of these issues and pulls them together well enough to show how they can all hang together.]

    But in all cases, it is a reasonable view that F, the foundation of your worldview, is just that: the basis on which your way of operating in the world is built.

    And, as a certain very wise One once ended a justly famous sermon, you had better make very sure that your foundation is able to stand the storms of life.

    In short, just because “foundation” is a metaphor doesn’t make it meaningless or unsound.

  19. 19
    Carl Sachs says:

    I think that a better metaphor than “foundations” can be found in the metaphor of a boat at sea. If there’s a leak in the boat, we can take apart parts of it and repair it. But we cannot dismantle the entire boat all at once. Likewise, we can repair any part of our system of beliefs by critically examining it — but we cannot take it down to the foundations all at once.

    Though coherentism doesn’t solve all problems, I think that the point at which one simply says, “this is what one does!” is the point at which one turns attention from the framework of beliefs to something else — habit, pre-reflective lived experience, the implicit background against which inquiry is even intelligible in the first place.

    So while I’m generally friendly towards transcendental argument, I think they are most interesting when they reveal the limits of what is available as belief in the first place. Perhaps they reveal the necessity of having beliefs at all.

    I don’t think that one can arrive at one’s world-view by razing it down to the foundations, a la Descartes. Although that can be a helpful exercise in some circumstances, it’s important to notice that that’s not how most of us function.

    Instead we function by un-building some parts of our world-views in light of new discoveries or theories, re-building other parts, adjusting here and there — and we do this using the materials handed down from those who have come down before us, the world-views that they tweaked and modified, and that our children and all those who come after us will carry on long this process of un-building and rebuilding after we are gone.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    Carl:

    I am not surprised to see you wanting to substitute a boat metaphor [a version of the classic raft metaphor].

    However, I recently had occasion to read a study on Royal Navy boat-building [towards constructing Models] in the Nelsonian era, with special emphasis on the famous HMS Victory.

    Such a boat is built based on a strong keel made of select, carefully joined timbers and a carefully calculated, integrated further framework of timbers, which are then “skinned,” to make them sound and sea-worthy. Otherwise, the keel or framework would break in the first serious storm, and the boat would sink. [Last time I checked my materials science, ships breaking at sea was still a problem tied to crack origination and propagation (vs stopping) issues, fatigue failure, etc.]

    In short, the same “foundational” design, materials-selection and construction issues obtain for a boat as for a house. Cf. here, the issue of successive whys discussed in 18 above.

    As for repairing an in-use structure a part at a time while using or living in it, I do believe we often have to make minor or major repairs to houses while we live in them — e.g. after a hurricane.

    [I will never forget my uncle who built his own home and the day before hurricane Gilbert hit in Jamaica went on his roof to tighten the special, screw-in bolts that held on his roof. Come Tuesday morning Sept 13, 1988, his was the ONLY house with its roof intact in the whole neighbourhood. And the neighbours had to repair their houses while living in them. So, incremental repair and even make-over (several of the roofs had to be significantly steepened — the shallow roof fashion failed the test of the storm!), even under adverse circumstances also relates to houses.]

    You champion coherentism and the boat metaphor, on the claim that incremental repair is the normal process we go through. Well, it plainly holds for houses too.

    More to the point — and speaking form a more storm- and disaster- prone environment than you are evidently accustomed to [cf here again the issue of Job] — BOTH ships and houses can and too often do undergo catastrophic collapse if their sustaining framework’s strength factor is exceeded by storm, mudslide or earthquake etc.

    Nor is that a point where the analogy to our interior lives fails.

    Gene Denham of Jamaica, a Christian counsellor and student worker of fragrant memory, often taught us about belief and value-system collapse as a common enough challenge when poorly prepared College students first meet the sort of secularist- sensualist- skepticalist- radicalist [another “foundation”- word, with a tree metaphor] environment, rhetoric, pressures and agendas that were and are ever so common on campus.

    In some cases I have seen, people have almost gone mad, or have gone into almost zombie- like semi- catatonic states.

    One or two have gone mad [we used to make jokes about Ward 21, the psychiatric ward of our campus’ teaching hospital, just across the fence; but sometimes some of us ended up there for a time . . .], and I believe suicide is not unknown.

    But, what is more usual is the sort of “paradigm shift” and socio-psychologically induced conversion to what “works” in the new environment that in cases of low integrity and manipulation, shades over into “brainwashing.” The shift in lifestyle, dress, speech, behaviour and beliefs can be dramatic, and too often is not very well thought through; especially on the issue of “whose report will you believe?”

    Sadly, that in turn leads on to sexual exploitation [often calculated — I recall here the senior who on observing such a “freshette” in a strangely excited state, said, “she ready,” then headed for her room; returning some minutes later looking like the cat who got the cream], cult recruitment, other abuses, and secondary belief and value system collapse.

    I have had to try to pick up the pieces in more cases than I want to remember: it takes years, and such people are often extraordinarily doubtful, confused and concerned about their perceptions, insights, judgements and decisions.

    So, sorry, the incrementalist, multigenerational repair story is only part of the picture.

    Indeed, in science, revolutions with theory replacement are more common than we like to imagine, relative to the imagined incrementalist story of “progress.” (I find it amusing to see how often, for instance, utterly transformed interpretations are shoe-horned into terms that have become outdated. Physics, my home discipline, is the capital case in point.)

    I further contend, on millions of cases in point, that a well thought-through, wholehearted Judaeo-Christian, Creation-anchored worldview is solid in the face of the storms and vicissitudes of life. That is, it is very rational indeed in the sense that ultimately counts.

    This, too, I have personally had to think-through and test not only in the campus and vicious office follytricks and national follytricks environments in at least two countries, but also in the face of catastrophe and massive loss and dislocation.

    My report: It works. Works when nothing else will. It is utterly factually adequate and coherent, not to mention elegantly powerful as an explaining system, without the manifold problems of ad hoc-ery or simplistic-ness.

    And, it is evident that the major alternative in Western Culture, evolutionary materialism- anchored secular humanism is [by sharpest contrast] self- referentially incoherent and increasingly suicidally self-deluded in the face of the rising threats of C21.

    As a matter of fact, I am now looking to the Celtic monastic movement for historical exemplars on how to survive and sustain key learning and capacities in the face of massive collapse of the prevailing world order.

    In short, the evidence points to a fatal malaise for our Civilisation, and the vultures are already circling and waiting to pounce.

    GEM of TKI

  21. 21
    Carl Sachs says:

    In re: (20)

    I very much enjoyed what you had to say about how boats are actually built, but it seems to take the metaphor so literally as to miss the point of the contrast. But if you’re willing to see that I’m making a plea for coherentism, we can happily dispense with the metaphors. (I don’t know how much philosophical background most commenters here have, and I didn’t want to assume too much.)

    In fact I’m not entirely comfortable with coherentism . . . though I’m anti-foundationalist, coherentism doesn’t solve all the problems. I’m not yet sure what would, though I have some vague intimations.

    As for radical self-transformation, it seems to me that this is sometimes a bad thing, and sometimes a good thing. Clearly it’s a bad thing when it leads to someone’s becoming vulnerable in ways that they can’t expect or control, and the door is open to various kinds of exploitation (including sexual, as you emphasize).

    On the other hand, I know that I changed enormously as a result of college — some of my beliefs changed as a result of talking with professors and other students, and my personality underwent some pretty significant changes. These changes are not at all unwelcome, though I dealt with a lot of depression at the time.

    But I wonder if this story really indicates what you think it does — the problems of going into life without a strong ‘foundation’ for ones beliefs and practices. It strikes me that one could just as easily re-tell these stories by looking at the mind itself as a web — or raft — of beliefs and desires, with no ‘center’ or ‘foundation’. If change happens too rapidly, or if the person lacks the tools with which to re-weave themselves, then they can be “de-selfed” — too much damage is done too quickly the mind.

    (I say “de-selfed” rather than “un-selfed” because Iris Murdoch uses the latter term to describe what it is like to fall in love, to be moved by a work of art, to care for another person, or to come into the presence of God. I rather like that!)

    For my part, it’s taken me a long time to develop the habits and techniques I need in order to be able to function properly — I’ve learned that I need a lot of quiet time with which to write in my journal, to meditate, and to exercise. Is this about discovering myself, or about creating myself? And how much does it matter which metaphor — discovery or creation — we use?

    The point here is that a consistent coherentism can be worked out for the individual person as for knowledge as a whole. Given more time, I’d also like to argue that coherentism is a threat to foundationalism, but it need not be a threat to religious practice, experience, and belief. There’s nothing in religious life which requires a commitment to foundationalist epistemology.

  22. 22
    StephenB says:

    Carl Sachs:

    As the one who introduced the concept of “foundation,” about which Kairos Focus has written well, I will simply say this:
    I believe ultimate reality to consist in single personal entity that I call God, who represents TRUTH, GOODNESS, UNITY, BEAUTY, AND LIFE. These things do not come in parts, indeed, all refer to the same person, who is unified in three inseperable persons that represent the same kind of unity.

    To me, that means that the five attributes I mentioned earlier, which are not really attributes exept from a human perspective, are equally inseperable. So anything which affects the human manifestaions of any one element will affect the other four. Thus, to violate truth, is to violate goodness, unity, beauty, and life. The same may be said about any violation of the other four.
    Your first question suggested a intellectual need to provide a rational justfication for this God and a way of knowing which expression of that God is legitimate

    Your second question seems to convey this message: “So, how does that proof console us? I would answer that question with another question. How can I receive instruction, consolation, and life from a man-made God, who isn’t real and whose existence cannot be verified through the use of unaided reason? If I mindlessly accept a religious perspective without putting it to the test of reason, as most people seem to do, down deep I will know that the whole thing is nothing but a figment of my imagination and whatever consolation I do recieve is nothing more than an exercies in self delusion.

  23. 23
    Carl Sachs says:

    StephenB, I think you might have misunderstood what I was trying to say. Let me try again.

    We’re in full-throated agreement that one’s “existential faith,” whatever that is, should be carefully and critically examined. Mindless acceptance is never recommended.

    However, you and I might disagree as to how critical self-consciousness should be understood and practiced. Where I take issue with what you and GEM have said is this: I don’t think it makes any sense to pretend that one can step outside of one’s existential faith and then get back into it through unaided reason.

    One may seek to reassure oneself that one’s existential faith is a rational one, and proofs may play a role in such reassurance — if one is inclined to give much credence to proofs in the first place.

    More generally, however, I’m suspicious of the thought that one can step outside of all existential faiths, engage in a process of reasoning, and use such a method to select a world-view as if one were comparison shopping for a new car.

    I’m much more inclined to think that the use of rational criticism is itself internal to the existential faith itself. For example, suppose one wants evidence for one’s beliefs. All well and good — perhaps. But what kind of evidence? What areas of evidence are required? And how does one tell when the evidence is good enough or not?

    It seems clear to me that one cannot generate, from any evidence, what the criteria for evidence should be. (Otherwise there’s a vicious circle.) Likewise, whether one is interested in, or convinced by, proofs depends on one’s understanding of what it means to be rational, and rationality itself cannot tell us what the correct conception of rationality is — if there is a single correct conception.

    Then there’s a question of what sorts of logical tools one thinks are appropriate. If one uses the resources of modern symbolic logic, one can show that the traditional “five proofs” rest on a logical fallacy called the permutation of quantifiers. They are invalid. This was shown, if I’ve been correctly informed, by Peter Geach, a formidable philosopher, a Catholic, and the founder of what is now known as “analytical Thomism.”

    So here too everything depends on what one is prepared to accept as relevant or irrelevant.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    Carl and Stephen:

    I have to be very brief [this is borrowed time], having focussed in 20 on the existential import of foundations in one’s worldview.

    It is in 18 that I pointed out that all worldviews rest on foundations, implicit or explicit. Namely, A traces to B to C . . . to F, the core — often, implicit or even never seriously thought about or “owned” — plausibles that answer to a succession of whys. F is one’s faith-point (as I have used in teaching and training contexts as a descriptive term).

    At that level issues of factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power [elegance vs ad hocness or simplisticness] obtain, as duly discussed in my previously linked intro lecture note on the topic. (In short, coherence is a consideration, and correspondence to reality across the matrix of life is a consideration, and the comparative effectiveness of empirically equivalent systems is a consideration etc.)

    In addressing the metaphor of a boat, I pointed out that boats too are structured relative to the functional equivalent of a foundation, as are rafts; the elements of which have to be adequate and properly joined together to function in the face of storms and other stresses. Also, while indeed there are cases where we can maintain a going concern [use part as a base to repair another part], there are others where catastrophic breakdown leads to a need for radical reconstruction.

    Carl, why not address the linked article as an amplifying context for the remarks in 18 above, in 20 and here?

    You don’t like foundations, but is it reasonable that a traces to B, C, D . . F?

    That at F, factual adequacy [here: truth is what says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not], coherence [dynamical as well as logical] and explanatory power are vital issues within and across worldviews as we address difficulties?

    GEM of TKI

  25. 25
    Daniel King says:

    And, it is evident that the major alternative in Western Culture, evolutionary materialism- anchored secular humanism is [by sharpest contrast] self- referentially incoherent and increasingly suicidally self-deluded in the face of the rising threats of C21.

    The rising threats of C21? Please explain.

  26. 26
    getawitness says:

    Daniel, I think “C21” refers to the twenty-first century. So maybe read “the rising threats of our current era.” But I may be wrong.

  27. 27
    getawitness says:

    Catching up: kairosfocus, you wrote above (5) that “I am unconvinced on this distinction and in my opinion the answer is yes in both cases.” Are you saying that we can prove the existence of God through reason alone? This is a bold statement. I’ll read your posts and try to see if this is really what you’re saying.

  28. 28
    StephenB says:

    Carl, Kairosfocus:

    Tell me if I have it right. Carl, are you hearkening back to the interdependence of subject and object and, if so, does this “reflexive” relationship tie in to the idea that one cannot break free of one’s existential reality to conduct a truly “objective” inquiry? Are we talking about a philosophical equivalent to say, social construction theory?

    If I am way off, here, then the following comments will be meaaningless. But is seems that you are all but abandoning the traditional idea that metaphysical truth takes logical precedence over intellectual truth. I would interpret that abandonment as a misguided “solution” to Kant’s unnecessary skepticism.

    To me, we are the subject and the truth is the object, therefore the subject should move in the direction of the object. What I take you to be saying is that reality consists in subject and object, as it were, interacting to create “truth.” If that is the case, then we are arguing over assumptions and nothing more. Or are all my examples totally removed from your points and objections.

    If my examples are sound, then my only response would be that we should return to an Aristotelian/Thomistic realism. Further, the Thomist philosopher you alluded to does not in any way sound like a neo-Thomaist to me. Because it is only in the context of an objectively rational universe that the 5 proofs, or, for that matter, anything at all would make sense.

    Yes, I think that this world view is the one we should all embrace, because 1) it is sound and 2) it best explains our role in the universe. Indeed, if the purpose of our rationality is anything other than to comprehend a rational universe designed by someone else to be comprehended ,then ther is no reason to investigate anything. How’s that for indulging in a didactic impulse.

    Also, I hope Kairos Focus could weigh in on this.

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    Stephen:

    First of all, note that Kairos and Kairosfocus are different persons.

    Next, on quick points of note:

    1] Re DK on Current era and issues:

    C21 is the current era indeed. The self-referential incoherence of the relevant worldview, DK, was extensively discussed with you and others in the Aug 20 Darwin thread. The balance on the merits is plain to all.

    2] Stephen, on truth and inquiry

    On truth and inquiry, my comment is really simple: truth says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not. [Aristotle, I believe. Clear, simple and gets it right, right at the outset of philosophy!]

    Now, equally, we are finite, fallible, too often ill-willed (and on my worldview, fallen as well), so our ability to unaided access such truth is humblingly limited. But, plainly, it is real, as follows art once from the Josiah Royce start-point truth: error exists [so truth exists, and the ability to know truth and duty to it exists].

    Radical skepticism becomes self-referentially incoherent, as one cannot live consistent with that. And, so is selective hyper-skepticism whereby one applies radical doubt to what one is inclined to reject, but not to what one is inclined to accept.

    On “proof” my remark is that I wholeheartedly support the point made by Simon Greenleaf as excerpted in 16 supra. I would however, use a more current term: warrant. Thus, in practical terms, objective knowledge is well-warranted, credibly true belief; provisionality [thus faith . . .] entering on the point that we are liable to error and so should be open-minded but critically aware.

    3] Theistic “proofs”:

    These, I discussed along with anti-theistic “proofs” here.

    My opening remarks there are on the limitations of “proof” and objections to “proofs”:

    In looking at the philosophers toolkit, we saw that sound arguments – those that are based on true facts and valid logic — result in true conclusions. However, there is little consensus on what facts can be used as the foundation of arguments, due to the ever-present potential for an infinite regress: to demonstrate A requires B, but B requires C . . .

    In short, there is the tendency: if you don’t like the conclusions and the logic is valid, challenge the assumptions. Consequently, there are no proofs that cannot be challenged, if one is sufficiently motivated to do so. But, this comes at a price: the alternative start-points are often at least as problematic as the one being challenged.

    (Therefore, one should call “foul” when one sees a claim that the mere existence of serious difficulties means that we can reject a given worldview out of hand. Rather, it is far better to ask: what are the alternatives, and what are their difficulties? For, “the rest of the story” can make a big difference!)

    You will see that the cluster of arguments presented, in light of comparative difficulties, are in effect a cumulative inference to proposed best explanation.

    God, the Creator, thus appears as the best — most factually adequate, coherent and elegant — explanation for the universe and our interior lives as we experience it. If you reject this, why, and how can you show your explanation superior?

    That is, I am rejecting radical and selective hyper-skepticism, and am levelling the playing field: put forth your worldview and its key warranting argument, then let’s look at yours and ours together and see which is left standing after comparative difficulties analysis has had a fair chance at both.

    This makes no pretence to coolly examine “all” worldviews on some imagined rationalism that is independent of worldviews.

    Rather, one looks at live options and major issues, since on the big questions — as Francis Schaeffer was fond of observing — there are few people in the room. And, one must entertain the possibility that one just may be able to meet The Ultimate Reality Himself, who knows beyond all doubt or possibility of error, and is the greatest of all teachers.

    4] Permutation of Quantifiers:

    This gets us into the technicalities of set theory and propositional calculus (as does the bringing up of Ms Elizabeth Anscome’s husband).

    In effect: AxEy P(x,y) and EyAx P(x,y) are not equivalent, though they may be confused. [I use E and A instead of the harder to find symbols for existential and universal quantifiers. So — cf panel 15 here — “Everyone has [a] mother” is not the same as “There is the person who is the mother for everyone.” Note, only Ez makes the claim that there is at least one z; i.e Az can refer to a null set. Thence, the big difference between classical and modern approaches to logic.]

    I think a glance at the linked cluster of arguments will, IMHCO, show that there is no basic confusion like that in it.

    5] Faith and Reason:

    In light of 16, 18 etc, how can it be inferred that I claim anything like that one can step outside of one’s existential faith and then get back into it through unaided reason? [Cf 23.]

    Instead, I put forth a framework for thinking about “reasonable faith” [v close to the idea and hope “that one’s existential faith is a rational one”] as an achievable position at the core of one’s worldview, on a comparative difficulties basis in light of the sort of limitations on our reasoning and believing — and doubting for that matter — that I outlined above.

    We may indeed know the truth and the truth [Himself!] can set us free, but we cannot set out to do so without taking the risk of trust in certain core things [and even Persons!] and the risks of error and failure.

    So, Carl we may not be as far apart in our views as you think.

    Finally, in this light, I contend [re the theme for the thread] that belief in the Creator whom one existentially knows or even just infers as the best explanation for the cosmos and our interior lives, is most reasonable and rational!

    Okay, I trust his helps.

    GEM of TKI

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    Back to the old mod pile . . .

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    Patrick & Co:

    Thanks ever so much — again! 🙂

    GEM of TKI

  32. 32
    BarryA says:

    I want to congratulate the commenters here on a truly excellent thread. By contrast I went over to Panda’s Thumb a couple of days ago. The threads over there seem to always go like this.

    “I think X.”

    “Only poopyheads think X.”

    “I’m not a poopyhead. You’re a poopyhead.”

    Thanks for the high level of discussion here. Also, for those who invoke philosophy, I very much appreciate the fact that you strive to keep the jargon to a minimum and explain your views lucidly to the non-specialist.

  33. 33
    StephenB says:

    Although it is getting late on this thread, I must tie something together that I don’t feel that anyone has addressed in an explicit way, although KF and I have hinted at it. By coherent, I understand both CS and KF to mean, if effect, that my life and my belief system “hang together.” For example, can my religion (or lack of it), philosophy, science, moral sensibilities, life style, goals, etc. all be reconciled, one to another? In other words, is it internally consistent?

    That is a very different question than the one which asks: Is my internally coherent belief system consistent with reality, which, for want of a better term, I will call the test of “soundness.” I understand CS to be suggesting that coherence will suffice when soundness may not be accessible or even desirable. It is very easy, for example, to reconcile 1) Kantian skepticism (no comprehensible design) with Darwinism 2 (no detectable design), and 3) relativism (no moral design). With this view, either there is no objective truth or else it is unattainable. It is also easy to reconcile Thomistic realism, intelligent design, and Christianity. With this view, truth becomes manifest both in Scripture and in nature.

    Given these two options (is there a third?), I don’t think that consistency alone will provide a well-ordered life, especially since only one of those two coherent world views is sound. If we live in a moral universe, we need to be moral. Otherwise, we will pay a dear price. If we live in a mechanistic universe, we had better learn how to survive, or again, we will pay a price. Coherence tools us up for the journey, but soundness provides the destination.

    I would sum up coherence in the absence of soundness as follows: “he doesn’t know where he is going but he is certainly on his way.” All the pieces of HIS puzzle fit together but they do not harmonize with THE bigger puzzle. If we are made for something, we need to know what that something is. Having an integrated gestalt will not suffice.

  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    Stephen

    You have raised an important point on coherence.

    In addressing it above, I spoke of dynamical and logical coherence, conjoined to factual adequacy [congruence with reality] and explanatory elegance.

    1] Dynamical coherence

    Dynamical coherence means that the forces and factors accepted to be at work in the worldview must be capable of working together with sufficient harmony and capacity to generate and sustain the reality we face in our interior and exterior worlds.

    In absence of such, the worldview cannot be a successful model of reality — its elements work against and undermine each other, frustrating the ability to account for the world we experience. Also, they may simply be impotent, thus having a “soft failure” to be coherent.

    Such a worldview is in effect physically absurd, thus, impossible or so close to this as makes no difference.

    2] Logical coherence

    Logical coherence means that the key components of the worldview must be logically compatible rather than mutually contradictory. For such a self-contradictory, absurd worldview cuts its own throat; it is logically impossible.

    3] Consequences of incoherence

    An incoherent worldview cannot work in either life or thought and leads to cognitive dissonance and to suppression of inconvenient truth, to keep the absurdities form surfacing.

    That’s bad enough within a person, but when it gets tot he scale of a socially powerful but absurd worldview, we arte looking at tyranny. [Resemblance to certain commonly seen patterns with evolutionary materialism-anchored secular humanism today is not coincidental.]

    4] Factual adequacy

    You speak to the next step, whether the worldview in question corresponds to reality.

    That is what the factual adequacy prong of the three pronged test is about. A worldview must not only be logically coherent but it must match tthe external world in all material aspects. (Prong no 3: It should also be powerful, and simple but not simplistic.)

    Making up and trying to live in a little cloud-cuckooland fantasy interior world that does not match the real world in which we live has a name: insanity. (That’s how some of my fellow students wound up in Ward 21.)

    Worse, if the gap between expectations and experience is painful enough, self-induced death may seem a tempting escape.

    4] The fallacy of relativism

    As to the assertion “either there is no objective truth or else it is unattainable,” this is a claim to accessible, objective truth.

    That is it is self-referentially inconsistent and fails the coherence prong.

    That is even before we get to the problem that say evolutionary materialism [which incorporates Darwinian-style or modified Macroevolution] is incapable of credibly accounting for the trustworthy minds we must use to think about even materialism, and also therefore morality. Cf link in 16.

    5] Comparative difficulties

    Your concluding paragraphs underscore the need for full comparative difficulties analysis, as I discuss here.

    GEM of TKI

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    M-Pile again . . .

  36. 36
    StephenB says:

    kairosfocus: Excellent!
    Your analytical description surpasses my rhetorical summation.

  37. 37
    Carl Sachs says:

    I’d like to make one quick, off-the-cuff remark: I think it’s a mistake to treat world-views as theories. Hence I think its a mistake to take the sorts of criteria we use to adjudicating between theories as criteria we could use for adjudicating between world-views.

    So what is a world-view, if not a theory or something like a theory? I’m not entirely sure. One answer that I find very tempting is that world-views are stories. Certainly there is, and ought to be, plenty of room within one’s overall sense of reality for metaphor, imagery, dramatic narrative, allegory, etc. — all of which are important, even indispensable, uses of language.

    Whereas a good theory aims, insofar as possible, to provide an unequivocal language for describing the results of particular experiments or inferences from particular observations.

    I also tend to think that theories are limited in scope and explanatory power. There are theories of cosmology, of psychology, of economics, and most everything in between. And for each theory, there are phenomena which are explained by the theory and phenomena which aren’t. There’s no universal or absolute or total theory. Even a so-called “theory of everything,” which would unify quantum mechanics and general relativity, wouldn’t explain what caused the Civil War.

    By contrast, world-views do seem to be universal or absolute in the sense that they provide a framework for guiding one’s life, allowing one to make sense of experiences. They are hermeneutic, structures of interpretation, and they are lived. One’s world-view is found in one’s relationships, in one’s diet, in choice of vocation and how one relates to colleagues, in what one finds significant, valuable, meaningful, etc. In all these respects world-views seem importantly different from theories.

    One issue that concerns me very much is whether, having said all this, I’m thereby committed to relativism. I’d rather not be. But nor do I think that there is, or could be, a single correct world-view. I would like to have enough “wiggle room” for the thought that there are better and worse world-views, that is, more or less rational world-views — even if none of them are true or false (in the sense that a theory is true).

    Looks like my “quick remark” wasn’t so quick! But hopefully this indicates how far I am from the position indicated by GEM — since, if I read him correctly, he does think that the criteria used to adjudicate between theories are the same as, or very similar to, those that he recommends for use in adjudicating between world-views.

  38. 38
    StephenB says:

    Carl:

    I was hoping that you would comment on #33 and #34. Both KF and I, in our own way, distinguish between a “coherent world view and a “sound” world view. What is your take on the difference? To be sure, your distinction between a world view and a theory is not unimportant, and it serves as a reminder that these things should not be oversimplfied.

    Still, I am assuming, without any empirical evidence to be sure, that everyone has some kind of global world view, even if it has not been made explicit or given a name. From what you have written, you seem to have taken a position, which I would describe as neo-Darwinism subsumed into a kind of skepticism/agnosticism. Is that a fair account, and if, so, how confident are you abut the soundness of that posture? Does the Darwinism support the skepticism or vice versa?

    What I am getting at is that you seem so confident about the Darwinism, and yet so tentative about the intellectual umbrella under which its moral context might be understood.

  39. 39
    Carl Sachs says:

    I was using “coherence” above in narrower sense. I was using it to indicate how beliefs are justified. Allow me to explain.

    A “coherentist,” in technical parlance, is someone who thinks that a belief is justified only by another belief, and the whole system of beliefs is ‘floating,’ if you will. A “foundationalist,” also in technical parlance, is someone who thinks that there must be some beliefs that are justified by something else — something that itself requires no further justification. (Examples: innate ideas, sense-impressions.)

    I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool coherentist, but I don’t want to take up more space on the Uncommon Descent server with my own meanderings. I can do that on my own blog. Let it suffice to say, for now, that the technical debate between foundationalism and coherentism has run aground due to an inadequate understanding of experience, and one of the big projects I have in mind for the next few years is to work out a better theory of experience.

    As for ‘coherence’ vs. ‘soundness’ as distinguished above: that seems to rest on an assumption, which I am not willing to grant, that there is a single truth about reality, and that one can either arrive at that truth or fail to do so.

    StephenB asked about how I would identify my world-view. I would regard it, if I had to pin a label on it, as “metaphysical pluralism”: which is to say, there is no single correct way of describing everything all at once. There is no “God’s-eye view,” as it were.

    The hard part, obviously, is to show how to prevent pluralism of this sort from becoming mere relativism. But I think — I am not sure — that I can do so. In rough form, I think that one can distinguish between better and worse forms of life, more and less rational world-views, without assuming that an absolute standard.

    My interest in neo-Darwinism plays a different role in my overall thinking. I regard it as a theory, not a world-view, one which makes a good deal of sense, but which leaves open many important questions. I am not sympathetic to Dawkins, as may have been made clear from other things I’ve said here. Among evolutionary theorists, I like Gould, but also the “evo-devo” people (Brian Goodwin, Sean Carroll) and the autopoeisis approach of Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. I have a copy of The Plausibility of Life but haven’t read it yet; when I do, I suspect I’ll find much in there that’s congenial with what I already suspect, and also much that’s surprising.

    Whether all of these diverse influences can be folded into the umbrella of “neo-Darwinism” is itself an open question. I don’t see why they can’t be, but I don’t really know — or care — one way or the other. I can only get exercised about labels for so long.

  40. 40
    StephenB says:

    Carl, you wrote, “One issue that concerns me very much is whether, having said all this, I’m thereby committed to relativism. I’d rather not be. But nor do I think that there is, or could be, a single correct world-view. I would like to have enough “wiggle room” for the thought that there are better and worse world-views, that is, more or less rational world-views — even if none of them are true or false (in the sense that a theory is true).”

    What if there was one correct world view that was nuanced enough to contain the fullness of truth, while providing a standard by which the other world views could be placed in rank order? What if, for example Christianity was the standard? If that was the case a clear hierarchy would assert itself.

    Christianity–whichever sectarian conception best reflects Scripture. (I won’t touch that one right now!)

    Generic Christianity—which expresses God as a paradox: TRANSCENDENT (above creation and perfect enough to worship)= (God has authority)
    and IMMANENT (in nature and close enough for a relationship)=(Humans have dignity)

    Judaism———-
    God Has Authority /YES
    Humans have inherent dignity/YES

    Islam————–
    God has authority/YES
    Humans have inherent dignity/NO

    Eastern religions-
    God has authority/NO
    Humans have inherent dignity/conditional

    Atheism—No God. God has no authority; humans have no dignity.

    In such a case, truth and error would come in degrees. Further, the pathway to truth would appear become evident from any philosophical vantage point.

    Nor is it an arbitrary standard. Indeed, our very freedoms are grounded in 1) The authority of God and 2) the dignity of the human person. That is the essence of the Declaration of Independence. Notice that no other world view can provide a rational justification for liberty the way it was originally conceived by US founding fathers.

  41. 41
    kairosfocus says:

    Hi Carl, Steve and onlookers:

    I spent an inordinate fraction of today sorting out Vista headaches. [I didn’t like it to begin with, and my opinion has sunk like a stone . . . I PREFER Windows ME!]

    I will note on points:

    1] Theories and stories:

    Worldviews are indeed not scientific theories, but as such theories serve as a belt around the worldview core of research programmes in the Lakatosian sense, the issues raised overlap. (And, the ID debate is over competing research programmes and associated worldview issues are germane.)

    For, in the end, worldviews — however presented — are explanations.

    Plainly, such explanations should have adequate scope — factual adequacy relative to facts that make a difference. They should be coherent — fit together logically and dynamically. [I am using “dynamics” in a broader sense than Newtonian: explanations of change and how it happens.] They should be elegantly simple as opposed to ad hoc or simplistic. (And, I still would like to see a discussion of the points I raised in 18 on grounding of beliefs and the resulting frameworks of core beliefs at the heart of worldviews. Note the challenge of undue circularity and the importance of comparative difficulties in addressing this.)

    These three criteria do appear for scientific theories, but they also apply to much wider explanatory constructs; including worldviews.

    2] CS: One’s world-view is found in one’s relationships, in one’s diet, in choice of vocation and how one relates to colleagues, in what one finds significant, valuable, meaningful, etc.

    But, theories and models also apply to each and every one of these . . .

    I’d say your worldview characteristically bubbles up into your decision-making, on both the sense of the mechanics of how the world works in cause-effect chains and associated forces and retarding inertias, but also especially in the ethics and the underlying value-assignments that guide decisions.

    3] One issue that concerns me very much is whether, having said all this, I’m thereby committed to relativism. I’d rather not be. But nor do I think that there is, or could be, a single correct world-view.

    I am a soft-form objectivist: we can know reliably and confidently, but on our own strength, not beyond all reasonable dispute or possibility of correction.

    However, following Josiah Royce, since error exists, then truth exists and the possibility of knowing it exists.

    Worldviews may be more or less correct on points, but on core issues, some views can be shown to be very definitely in deep trouble. For instance, evolutionary materialism has deep trouble accounting for the credibility of our minds and the significance of morality. Thus, it self-undermines at its core. That’s not a matter of minor corrections, that is self-defeat at the heart of the system.

    Similarly, relativism — if taken in the sense that truth in the sense of saying of what is that it is and of what is not that it is not, does not exist — is fatally self-referential and self-defeating. For relativism is claiming that one truth is so: the truth that denies truth.

    4] “metaphysical pluralism”: which is to say, there is no single correct way of describing everything all at once. There is no “God’s-eye view,” as it were.

    Including this universal claim, too?

    5] I think that one can distinguish between better and worse forms of life, more and less rational world-views, without assuming that an absolute standard.

    This is a process of comparative difficulties analysis, and it rests on the assumption that there is such a thing as “better” and “worse” beyond mere perceptions and socio-cultural forces that enforce certain preferred perceptions.

    6] I regard it [darwinian evolution] as a theory, not a world-view

    It is a family of related theories across time and scope. It is addressed to one extent or another across all sorts of worldviews. E.g. Young Earth Creationists often advert to micro-scale evolution to explain a certain level of biodiversity.

    But, evolutionary materialism holds that this and the related chain of evolutions from hydrogen to humans are the core of how we should understand our world, our selves and how we come to be what we are. It is at that level that it IMHCO runs into serious trouble.

    Okay, enough for now . .

    GEM of TKI

  42. 42
    Jack Krebs says:

    Get a Mac! 🙂

  43. 43
    kairosfocus says:

    Jack:

    BOY, have I got a case of Mac-lust! [My first serious computer was a Mac Classic . . .]

    But I have to be realistic about what is supportable out here in the boonies — though the shift to Intel hardware is shifting that.

    My compromise is to think on going Linux. That is becoming important as I am working towards founding a virtual college (part of my involvement here is to see how people interact and learn in this sort of interactive online env’t) and the supportive technology is a key issue. I think Vista is going to trigger a big change away from Wintel.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I am seriously looking at Moodle, Patrick and co, as it allows integration of a cluster of interesting technologies: blogs, wikis, conventional web pages, etc etc.

  44. 44
    tribune7 says:

    KF– Macs rock and take a fraction of the time and aggravation than XP

    (I haven’t even seen Vista yet).

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