. . . given what it takes for us to be here as credibly responsible, rational, morally governed creatures.
This is of course my response to UD News’ recent articles on the challenge to “prove” the existence of God, as was recently issued by the President of the Philippines, His Excellency Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
Of course, much hinges on the meaning of “proof,” and so I first pause to note a point made by Simon Greenleaf in his treatise on Evidence:
>>Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [–> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction. [–> that is, his focus is on the logic of good support for in principle uncertain conclusions, i.e. in the modern sense, inductive logic and reasoning in real world, momentous contexts with potentially serious consequences.]
Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. [–> the issue of warrant to moral certainty, beyond reasonable doubt; and the contrasted absurdity of selective hyperskepticism.]
The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. [–> moral certainty standard, and this is for the proverbial man in the Clapham bus stop, not some clever determined advocate or skeptic motivated not to see or assent to what is warranted.]
The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved. [–> pistis enters; we might as well learn the underlying classical Greek word that addresses the three levers of persuasion, pathos- ethos- logos and its extension to address worldview level warranted faith-commitment and confident trust on good grounding, through the impact of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in C1 as was energised by the 500 key witnesses.]
By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind [–> in British usage, the man in the Clapham bus stop], beyond reasonable doubt.
The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal [–> and responsible] test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [= definition of moral certainty as a balanced unprejudiced judgement beyond reasonable, responsible doubt. Obviously, i/l/o wider concerns, while scientific facts as actually observed may meet this standard, scientific explanatory frameworks such as hypotheses, models, laws and theories cannot as they are necessarily provisional and in many cases have had to be materially modified, substantially re-interpreted to the point of implied modification, or outright replaced; so a modicum of prudent caution is warranted in such contexts — explanatory frameworks are empirically reliable so far on various tests, not utterly certain. ] [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]>>
In short, “proof” is a sometimes slippery word and so credibly adequate and appropriate warrant better describes what we need. Especially, in a context where moral certainty is relevant; that is, on the merits of the case, one would be ill-advised or outright irresponsible to act as though some claim X were false, being aware of the warrant for it.
Let me now headline a first clip from the Resignation thread:
KF, 59: >> . . . Worldviews first.
I have long observed (echoing many others) that if an argument or conclusion A is challenged, it leads to B that supports it in some way. In turn B leads to C and so forth. This forces three alternatives: impossible infinite regress [we are finite and error-prone], question-begging circularity, finitely remote first plausibles defining a faith point at the core of a worldview.
The first being impossible, the real issue is circularity and thus how start-points are warranted or at least made plausible. I follow others in arguing that comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power are key factors. I also see that crooked yardsticks used as standards for straightness, accuracy and uprightness would lock out what is genuinely so. Therefore, plumbline, self-evident truths are key tests for worldview start-points; never mind, that such cannot suffice to frame a worldview.
For instance, Josiah Royce’s error exists is undeniably true and thus warranted to be known to undeniable certainty.
This decisively undermines many ideological commitments and views in our day. Such as, views that deny that we can know beyond the inner life of conscious ideas, perceptions and opinions. Or, those that would turn truth and knowledge into relativised opinion, e.g. “your/my truth is . . . ”
Likewise, we can consider it undeniable that we are morally governed, starting with duties of care to truth, sound reasoning, etc. If we deny such, we instantly imply grand delusion and radically undermine the credibility of responsible rationality. Amorality and nihilism crouch at the door.
This already frames our worldview core challenge: we must account for a world inhabited by responsible, rational, morally governed, significantly free creatures — us. And denying or implying denial of that status directly undermines the point of a discussion. With might and/or manipulation make right nihilism crouching at the door.
Okay, a first step.>>
I then continued:
KF, 62 :>>The Philippines President’s challenge pivots on the concept of proof. As in, what degree of warrant constitutes reasonable, relevant and adequate reason to conclude that the God of ethical theism (and beyond, of the Judaeo-Christian faith tradition) credibly is?
In an era of scientism, evolutionary materialism and selective hyperskepticism, that is a pivotal matter.
Especially, given that post Godel, we know that not even Mathematics can provide utterly certain, guaranteed coherent frames of knowledge for domains comparably complex to Arithmetic. Similarly, science can provide provisional support for the empirical reliability of theories, but not proof beyond reasonable, responsible doubt. Where, also, it can be shown that claims or implications that science delimits knowledge or at least serious knowledge are philosophical or ideological impositions and collapse in self-referential incoherence as a direct result. Such notions also run afoul of the failure of demarcation arguments: there are no methods of investigation, analysis and reasoning that apply across the span of the generally accepted sciences which are unique to said domain and produce a body of uniquely reliable or credible knowledge. Sound methods of inductive and deductive reasoning, observation, description and classification, analysis, mathematical modelling, record and chain of custody etc are common across domains of interest, and there is far too much diversity across the sciences once one moves beyond the school level to impose a one size fits all method or definition. Worse, to do science, one crucially needs mathematics (and these days its extension in computing) which is precisely not an empirical science, but instead an abstract, introspective field of study that addresses the logic of structure and quantity, creating model logic worlds that often intersect powerfully with empirical domains of endeavour.
So, we must be very careful in handling warrant in addressing the reality of God.
In that context, we need to ponder who are doing the warranting, and how we may do so with any confidence. That is, we ourselves, and especially our inner introspective lives as reasonable, responsible, morally governed creatures are a major part of the evidence to hand.
For, in order to be free to reason and in order for us to have the credibility to be trusted in alleged conclusions, we must rise far above the level of blindly mechanical and/or stochastic, gigo-limited computational substrates blindly grinding out whatever their inputs and stored data will lead to given the causal chains imposed by hardware organisation, noise, signals and software. Such devices are at best calculating up to the limits of noise, inputs and flaws, they are not free enough to reason rationally and responsibly under the binding moral government of duties of care to truth, sound and prudent reasoning, justice etc.
Where, for certain, a purely material world governed by blind mechanical necessity and equally blind chance allegedly evolving purposelessly from hydrogen to humans simply cannot account for us. That is why, long ago now, J B S Haldane observed:
“It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays , Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (NB: DI Fellow, Nancy Pearcey brings this right up to date (HT: ENV) in a current book, Finding Truth.)]
So, we look for reasonable, responsible warrant for world roots adequate to account for a domain spanning hydrogen to humans, and know that it is not credibly a wholly material order. There must be room for mind, moral government and the human spirit. Where, too, we must adequately account for the one and the many, including good vs. evil.
Cutting to the chase scene, we are looking for a grand, worldviews level inference to the best explanation of a world that spans from hydrogen to humans.
The candidate to beat is: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and of the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.
That is, it is a reasonable and responsible view to hold to ethical theism. In that context, we can account for ourselves as created to be in the image of God, able to sufficiently sense, understand and act into the world responsibly and freely. Where also, it then makes excellent sense to see a world that is full of signs of design of the cosmos, and of the world of biological life. Where also moral government and significant, responsible, rational freedom make sense as endowments by our creator.
Further to this, the history of C1 Palestine on the further track record of the history of the Hebraic nation and of its prophetic tradition will make it clear that the Judaeo-Christian tradition is also reasonable and responsible.
But, in the end, God is personal and persons are known in relationship. That is why the testimony of millions in light of the above and onward is further evidence that should not be lightly discarded.
And, the principle here is that humble, penitent, even tentatively trusting prayer and stumbling in the way of the good, true, pure and loving will open up a world of encounter with God that is such that one may justly claim to know God.
In the end, Mr President, the challenge is intensely personal.>>
I then added a video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abLATf6Q9Ls (It seems, a longstanding clip at Vimeo is no more. The Internet is anything but a permanent repository. By contrast, a significant fraction of the first Gutenberg Bible printing still exists, coming on six hundred years later. Bet on good print over digitally stored text! )
Food for thought. END