Sunday, January 27, 2008

Worldviews in Conflict: A Second Rebuttal to Samuel Skinner.

When I refer to a "worldview" I am referring to a person's basic or foundational assumptions about life/reality. I suppose it doesn't necessarily have to be termed "worldview." You could also call it one's "basic ideology" or "theory of reality" or "philosophy of life." A worldview is a network of presuppositions concerning metaphysics (what is real? what is possible? what is existence?), ethics (what is right? how do we know what is right or wrong?), and epistemology (what is knowledge? how do we know? how is truth determined?). Related to this are a person's beliefs about where we came from, who we are, what our purpose is, and where we are headed. A worldview is a set of assumptions or presuppositions by which we reason and interpret our experiences.

Some people haven't given a whole of thought to their worldview or tried much to articulate it; some have. Some don't even care much to think about it; some do. But everyone operates according to a worldview. For example, if someone says something like, "Stealing is wrong," the reasons they give for upholding that statement begin to reveal something about their worldview as is pertains to ethics. Or if I say something like, "A truth proposition has the opposite value from its negation," my explanation for believing that begins to reveal something about my worldview as is pertains to epistemology.

A person's worldview is most poignantly revealed when the issue of God's existence arises. This is because one's belief about God is at the centre ("center" for my American friends) of one's worldview. In fact, what a person believes about God conditions his beliefs about metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology. One's beliefs about God have a significant bearing upon what one's worldview will be. This is the case for the Christian theist like myself and for the atheist. But when the theist and the atheist debate the existence of God, they do so in accordance with their worldviews. Both regiment their worldview when they reason about and debate God. This means, therefore, that the debate over God's existence isn't just a debate over isolated claims (e.g. God exists, Jesus rose from the dead), rather, it is actually a clash of entire worldviews.

Recall what I just said, that our worldviews are determined by what we believe about God. And yet, we use our worldviews as a basis on which to reason about everything, including God's existence. Both the atheist and the theist can be found reasoning in a circle. What the theist deems acceptable evidence and argumentation for God's existence will not always be found compelling by atheist because the atheist operates according a different epsitemology informed by his rejection of God. The only way to solve the dispute between the theist and the atheist is to place the one worldview beside the other and reason about them on their own terms to see which one can provide the necessary outlook on life to know or prove anything whatsoever.

The problem for the non-Christian, then, is that if you're going to reject God, if you're going to write off the Bible and Jesus Christ as superstition, can you come up with a worldview that makes sense out of reality? Can you account for right and wrong, truth and falsehood, possible and impossible, given your rejection of the God who created you and calls you to repentance for your sin? The problem for the atheist is that, if he's consistent with his atheism, it's not possible to come up with a workable worldview that offers a foundation for knowing or proving anything.

The reason that the atheist has successes in acquiring knowledge, making predictions, and accomplishing various tasks is only because reality is what God created it to be. The extent to which the atheist has any successes in his reasoning is only to the extent that he assumes the truth of the Christian worldview. In fact, even the attempt to prove atheism assumes the truth of theism. Both the attempt to prove and disprove Christian theism proves Christian theism because of the impossibility of the contrary. The atheist can't come up with a consistent, workable worldview. They can't account for the preconditions of intelligibility that make proving or knowing anything possible, in which case they can't prove atheism, and even the attempt to prove atheism ends up proving the truth of the Christian worldview.

(Wow, I've used alot of space and I haven't even replied to your comments about science or logic yet. But I'm more than willing to discuss these things if you want. In fact I'd like that because I still don't think you gave an adequate answer to the last paragraph in the previous post about gaps in knowledge. I'll even buy you the next cup of coffee, so to speak. Or perhaps a beer. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about how the laws of logic require God's existence, see this post here.)

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
First just because something is useful doesn't mean it is true.

Second people's worldviews don't entirely control their mind- there are plenty of cases where people have changed their worldview.

The "necesary" of theism isn't stated here, so I will draw it out if there are any other readers out there. In philosphy there are certain questions that a simply incapable of being answered, not because of lack of evidence, but because they cannot be answered by evidence. They boil down to "Is the universe real? Do our senses adaquately recieve what is out there? How do we know it isn't all in our minds?

Peter answers this with God. If there is an almighty than we can be perfectly certain the universe exists (requires a God that is not so hidiously evil as to make reality collapse inward, and powerful enough to set up everything consistantly; the Christian God fits the bill). The problem with this is that Peter uses evidence to arrive at this conclusion- the bible or personal eperience or logic. The fact is these are evidence (or in the case of logic, properties of the universe that we have deduced and hence evidence) and fall under things that can't be used.

What is my position? What is the atheistic position? I don't know what all atheists believe, but for me such questions are irrelevant. I work on a set of baseline assumptions that are unprovable, but are falsible. And that is the basis of theories. You can never prove that they are absolutely true, but you can show that it is inconcievable that they aren't true.

So, no I don't require theism to stand on my claims. What Peter is claiming is that you need theism to answer the unanswerable questions in philosophy which concern the very nature of reality. However you don't have to- you can either deal with them like any other proposition about the world or ignore them as irrelevant. It doesn't require believing in a divine law giver.

Peter said...

Hello Sam.

I think that some clarification is needed before we proceed further.

You wrote: "In philosphy there are certain questions that are simply incapable of being answered, not because of lack of evidence, but because they cannot be answered by evidence." I wonder, can this quote itself be proven by evidence? If it can't be proven by evidence, is there another way it can be proven? The reason I ask is because if that quote can't be proven, then why do you believe it?

In your last sentence you wrote about your position that: "It doesn't require believing in a divine law giver." Can this quote be proven? If not, why do you believe it? If it can be proven, doesn't that contradict your other statement: "I work on a set of baseline assumptions that are unprovable ... ."

What I'm getting at is that you seem to be saying that certainty is not achievable, and yet you seem to assume that certainty is achievable when you say: "So, no I don't require theism to stand on my claims." Are you, then, really certain about that? Or do you believe it's possible to be certain about things that can't be proven?

Cheers.

AnoNick said...

Wow, that is a nice viewpoint: We can't judge atheism or theism from the opposing viewpoint, so the least we can demand is that they be self-consistent.

I believe my atheistic-scientific worldview (which is still forming... I'm a young chap) is self-consistent. I think theism doesn't meet the basic requirements of science, as it's theories are unfalsifiable. A scientific worldview requires atheism to be self-consistent. Either it assumes we cannot know what "made" the initial conditions and the fundamental natural laws, or that we'll know it, given enough time.

Right and Wrong follow from the necessity of living peacefully in a society. I don't know if it has been worked out/disproven, but I hope that social structure explains our concepts of right and wrong, and how they vary over space/time.

People also have different definitions of "God", and if you let God stand for the initial conditions themselves, then I'm a theist. But it is still a matter of ongoing research if the laws of physics were a necessary product of the laws of logic.

About theism, I'm not sure it "explains" Right and Wrong, because there are several unproven assumptions made there: that there is a hell for the sinful, that what is said in religious books is the true nature of Right and Wrong. But why need those two assumptions be true.

A rather long comment, but I want to insert a final word about self-consistency: self-consistency itself isn't the only requirement for a worldview. I can form a worldview that nothing actually exists and we're all living in a virtual simulation, etc. But that worldview, however consistent it is, has no real explanatory power for reality. Why don't I float in the air? Because the rules of the virtual simulation ordain that. One might object science says the same thing, but then science discards the unnecessary (and unfalsifiable) hypothesis of being in a virtual simulation.

Sorry for the length of the comment (and, if you find it to be so) for posting crap. :)

Peter said...

Hello AnoNick.

Just a couple of questions before I proceed any further in discussing this with you.

You wrote: A scientific worldview requires atheism to be self-consistent. Either it assumes we cannot know what "made" the initial conditions and the fundamental natural laws, or that we'll know it, given enough time.

If you cannot know "what 'made' the initial conditions" then how can you know that God does not exist? If you don't know, then what basis do you have for arguing against Christianity? If you believe that someday you will know "what 'made' the initial conditions" then what basis do you have for that belief? Or is it reasonable for an atheist to believe things without proof?

AnoNick said...

I've been a little liberal in the use of "belief", I suppose. I think a belief that something may be discovered in the future is not on the same level as a belief in the existence of God. It's more like hope that we may come up with more knowledge.

Fact is, science currently cannot say why the initial conditions and natural laws are the way they are. So it starts with those laws and derives the properties of th world from them. It does not require, and therefore does not use an unfalsifiable concept like "God". The fact about starting with axioms is that they can be disproved. A concept like God cannot be disproved because of the number of arbitrary parameters involved (If God chooses the laws himself, why did he choose these?)

Matt said...

Top work Peter, nice blog. Good to see some critical thinking going on in the blogosphere.

vincit omnia veritas said...

It was truly amusing reading the comments of Skinner and AnoNick.

Question for the classical foundationalist and deontologist:

Why couldn't a belief in the theist's God be a properly basic belief?

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Mr Skinner (Dr?)

Skinner writes, "I don't know what all atheists believe, but for me such questions are irrelevant. I work on a set of baseline assumptions that are unprovable, but are falsible."

In his previous comment, he said, "God contradicts logic."

Is your proposition, ""God contradicts logic" falsifiable?

Show me first how "God contradicts logic." I'm sure this is an easy question for you since through your intensive study and research you had concluded that "God contradicts logic."

Then show me how this proposition - "God contradicts logic" - is falsifiable according to Popper's Falsification Principle.

Otherwise, I would have to say, "Skinner contradicts logic."

Many thanks, Mr Skinner the anonymous.

Vin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vin said...

" The problem for the non-Christian, then, is that if you're going to reject God, if you're going to write off the Bible and Jesus Christ as superstition, can you come up with a worldview that makes sense out of reality? "

Islam, Judaism, Zorastrianism, Hinduism and even Scientology - these are all options for the non-christian to form her worldviews. Actually I have always thought the sheer multiplicity of religions, demi-gods and goddesses is proof enough for the fallaciousness of all religions. How can there be so many irrefutable truths that contradict each other? And there seems nothing that one religion seems to have over another in terms of seeming closer to the truth. There are only the nutty religious types or the less nutty. Those that don't strictly adhere to religion are the less nutty, and atheists are just those who have rid themselves of the malaise altogether.

Christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrea Felton said...

By logic: having a lack of proof does not equate to there being a God. That is like saying I can't find the gold at the end of the rainbow so now leprechaun's must exist.