I was all set to comment, but….

When I was all ready to comment on the Way of the Master v. Rational Response Squad debate, somebody beat me to the punch. The above link will take you there.

That said, I would like to accent that “science” is not itself a neutral term, especially as the claims of modern science are themselves based on a series of worldviews and one major fallacy (the fallacy being highly useful in science, but not so useful in day to day life). The worldview is that the universe is pretty much as we perceive it to be. Of course, 15 minutes reading a Kant primer, or a work of most epistemologists shows this to be a radically simplistic statement (the truth is that we can only talk about the the universe as we experience it, whether that has any relation to reality or not cannot be objectively tested, and even that is debated).

The fallacy is that if something cannot be proven to be true (or at least fit with the evidence that we can prove as true), one must assume it not to be. Of course, this would wreak havoc on modern society as people sought to test every contractual transaction (how do you KNOW that the bank is holding your money for you and will give it back when you ask? How do you KNOW that your wife or husband will remain faithful? How do you KNOW that there was a real moon landing or that the twin towers fell because of a terrorist attack?). So something that is eminently useful (solid skepticism) in science becomes a great deal more problematic in general life. Indeed, as anyone who has seen “the Matrix” (or read Rene Descartes) can tell you, there are possible reasons to disbelieve the “real” world.

God comes through tacit knowledge, that which you know because you know, and provides a basis for other knowledge. We can seek understanding and respect of one another, but conviction of a differing point of view comes through a different channel (whether of Atheism or Christian Theism). There must be an epiphany, or as I would say, revelation.

Next time, after this excursis into the realms of unbelief, I will talk about a Christian heirarchy of love (yes, there is one).

Author: Stephen Dawe

Steve is a part-time vocational elder Calvary Baptist Church, St. John's as well as a full-time student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in the Religious Studies Department.

9 thoughts on “I was all set to comment, but….”

  1. Sorry, but you’re wrong.

    (So THERE!) :)

    Testable scientific theories like gravity and germ theory (and yes, evolution) are in a completely different league, but I’d suggest that you DO know the things you’ve listed.

    You know the bank will give your money back because you sign a contract with them. That contract is enforceable in court. If the bank refuses to give your money back, you can go to court to get it back.

    You never know that your spouse is going to be faithful. You can only make him terrified of the consequences for being unfaithful. A child or two and some common property should do the trick nicely.

    You know the moon landing was real because there is video evidence and you can talk to the people who were there. Claims to the contrary haven’t checked out. Same with the twin towers.

    For no particular reason, I’m certain that I am at risk of being abducted by aliens during the night. I believe this despite all available evidence, including the fact that I have never yet been abducted by aliens. For no good reason, I’ve decided that I am safe in certain situations, such as when my husband and I are both awake. However, if he falls asleep, I’m suddenly in danger of being abducted. It’s not scientific. I just KNOW it.

    Is this significantly different from what you’ve said? There’s just as much evidence for my ridiculous claim.

  2. Contracts are broken frequently, and courts do not always enforce contracts, especially if, say the bank went bankrupt due to malfeasance (we end up low on the totem pole of bankruptcy), and only get money back up to 50,000 dollars due to independant insurance (which too can fail in large cases).

    As to the risk of your spouse being unfaithful…. I’m really glad I’m not your spouse.

    On the moon landing and the twin towers, it depends on the burden of proof I place on the claims. How skeptical am I willing to be? I know that people lie, and that in both cases the evidence to the contrary can easilly be faked, and people can easilly be duped into believing falsehoods.

    As for your last statement, of a sense yes, and of a sense no. I’m not saying that your belief makes truth, but that the only thing undergirding truth is your willingness to believe it.

  3. And how does your belief in space aliens base the rest of your knowledge? Tacit knowledge, of the sense I refer to is what I believe that I can know (rather like you believe the universe to be as it is). Does your impending abduction by aliens make sense of your experience in any way?

    Tacit knowledge is not the same as “knowledge for no reason”.

  4. Sorry, and as I took a shower, I realized another thing. We have no-fault divorce in Canada. As long as your spouse was reasonably sure he’d be the better home for your children, he’d probably also get custody, and if you made more money, you’d even pay him support.

  5. You are deluding yourself if you think you are not being selectively skeptical.

    Custody is not awarded based on one parent’s belief that he or she would provide a better home. Child support is really irrelevant, since both parents are required to support their children. The noncustodial parent just has a single monthly bill to pay.

    In any case, fear is the motivation for many things we do. It’s the reason I walk on the sidewalk.

    And what’s up with the comment moderation? Are you trying to silence your critics? Come now!

  6. St. Augustine in his book Confessions gives an example for why he thinks it is acceptable for a person of reason and intellect to accept things on belief/faith. He discusses how he believes his parents are in fact his parents despite lack of evidence and proof. Sure there may be papers but they could be forged (This wasn’t a rarity in antiquity). Sure he was raised by them. But that only shows that they raised him. Sure he was there at his birth (I should hope he was) yet he had no recollection.
    I think St. Augustine’s point is a good one. Similar to part of what you are saying, Stephen?

  7. Sure fear is a basis for much action, though fear is not normally a reason to say you “know” something (after all, your spouse may not share our fears).

    And no, parental opinions as to the ability of a parent do not award custody, the beliefs of a spouse may alter what they fear. If they do not fear the loss of custody then that will not be a motivator for their fidelity.

    Yes, I am being selectively skeptical, hat’s the point. Skepticism is a good tool, but only when used selectively.

    Finally, I have yet to actually reject a comment, but I do not allow several things on my blog (like swearing, or preaching hate) so I control what is published. If a critic wants to circumvent my control of comments, they can disagree with me on their own blog.

  8. My understanding of science has changed recently, as I now see it as more of model making and validation, than theory/expermentation. By its very nature, a model is a simplified view of the real world. A model is only as useful as its accuracy based on the context in which it is being used. So for example, the Newtonian theory of gravity is wrong… but it is still used and still quite useful. The ‘solar system’ model of the atom is also wrong, but again it is useful in visualizing how molecules fit together and continues to be taught to students.

    In both cases, the models aren’t really wrong. But there are limits to where they can be accurately used.

    At least one basic belief that a scientist must have is that the universe operates in a consistent way – that the ‘rules’ such as they are do not change over time, and that the same rules apply everywhere. This is a framework within which science must operate, using observed facts. Experiments are great, as they allow scientists to hold certain variables constant and thus see the effects changing other variables. But simple observations can be used as well.

    Doh, it’s 12:30 AM and I’ve forgotten where I was going with this comment. I think I’ll stop now.

  9. Hey Chuck,

    If I’m following you, you are saying that scientific models themselves are not completely true or false so much as they are useful or unuseful simplistic methods of understandings of the world.

    Does this mean that science itself is not really a field of skepticism and truth as much as it is a system of understanding. A limited testable model, testable in usefulness not truth value.

    That way of thinking about it seems to have some serious implications I’d have to think about.

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