Continuing from last time, Justin apparently was able to carve out a bit more time and sent me a lengthy reply.
He asked me about:
-my statement about how my epistemology is not rooted in human reason; what kind of reason is it?
-where the Bible says our cognitive faculties are generally reliable
-where the Bible says that God generally holds the universe together and provides for cycles of seasons, etc
-how God does seem to flinch in His promises; for example, see Exodus 32:9-14
-why if only the Bible justifies induction and science relies on induction, science's findings do not match the biblical timeline.
He went on to let me know that absolute certainty is not important to him; he can have practical certainty.
That he holds most of his beliefs tentatively.
That we can overcome the tiny amount of experiences we've actually had via corroboration with others.
That we should not expect certainty, and if one expects it, one is asking too much of reality.
Finally, that we must assume induction b/c we have no choice.
I'm happy to clarify. Thank you for your reply.
1. That is a really good question w.r.t. whether God's reason is quantitatively higher or qualitatively higher than human reason. Never asked myself that particular question before.
So let me say this: Based on what we do know, God's reason is at minimum quantitatively higher, to the point that He knows all that there is to know, and with all possible certainty. Contrast that with any given human, who knows an infinitesimally small % of all that there is to know, and knows virtually nothing with all possible certainty. Perhaps the only things he can know with all possible certainty are that he exists and that God exists, and that might be it.
God has made man in His image, and part of that image is volition and rational thinking, so we think like God in the way that a shadow is like the object casting the shadow.
Whether God's reasoning is a different kind of reasoning is perhaps impossible to know at this point, for He has not really revealed it. So it may be, but it may simply be that His reasoning is as I mentioned - fully certain and all-knowing.
2. That one's cognitive faculties are generally reliable is presupposed by the biblical text. If they were not reliable, God would not communicate in the way that He does - through a book, textual revelation, spoken revelation, etc.
I invite you to consider the many times the Bible uses the word "know" - http://bible.cc/search.php?q=know
Further, this is again a part of being made in the image of God. We are not mere bags of protoplasm, atoms banging around. We are volitional, intelligent beings created in the image of a higher volitional, intelligent being, who decided to create and then communicate with His creation.
A discrepancy appears in Scripture, especially 1 Cor 2, for example:
14But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.
And Romans 8:
5For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
This refers to the noetic effect of sin - the deleterious effect of sin on the mind. It's in this vein that Psalm 53:1 says: The fool has said in his heart, "there is no God".
Rejection of God and His salvation from sin, which is the same as willful acceptance of sin, renders one a fool, a moron. It is not separate from the mind, but guarantees foolishness, which is one reason we see atheists cling stubbornly to their dogma (of Darwinism, for example) while refusing to call it dogma, refuse to deal with crippling worldview problems such as the One and the Many, the naturalistic fallacy, and the problem of induction, all the while accusing Christians of intellectual lack, and make confident assertions about things about which they in fact know nothing, such as the deep past.
And then the turnabout - when someone is transformed and regenerated by Christ, "we have the mind of Christ" - it changes. Now the greatest and most certain source of truth - God's revelation - is unveiled and we can know much more about reality than previously.
3. Colossians 1: 15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Genesis 8:18So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by their families from the ark.
20Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.
22“While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
And cold and heat,
And summer and winter,
And day and night
Shall not cease.”
9: 8Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9“Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 11“I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14“It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, 15and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16“When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
For Gen 8-9, the context is helpful - God has just finished covering Earth with a flood. God lets the animals and humans out of the ark and makes a covenant with "you, and your descendants after you, and...every living creature that is with you" - that covers all living things from that point on.
Note the daily-seasonal cyclical language of God in 8:22. That's the basis for believing what I said.
We have no control over any of this, but God does and He has made certain promises. Thus we acknowledge and understand what He promised, and we hold to it, while we have no particular expectation for things He has not promised, such as full healing of all amputees and sick people during this life.
I know that God is being truthful with me at this moment b/c God can not lie.
If He could lie, then everything is literally absurd and believing that God lies (or doesn't lie) is meaningless. In short, I'd be in the same position as the atheist. I'm willing, however, to be consistent on that point, more than any atheist I've ever met, none of whom are willing to embrace the nihilism to which their position logically reduces. More briefly, I know it through the impossibility of the contrary. Knowing truth in a nihilistic universe is itself self-defeating and incoherent.
--"Because there are almost an infinite number of ways nature could proceed and still be 'uniform' given how a particular language has grown to refer to these particulars"
Yes, I should think you're right. What you forget, however, is that language can express lots of things that are in fact impossible in reality, such as "square circle". It's not as if God couldn't have made the world differently, but we live in the world we live in, and God has communicated with us in the world we live in. Gotta deal with what we have.
4. Stop for a moment and pretend that you believe in the Christian God. Now ask yourself: Which is more likely? A puny man reminding God of a promise that he himself had never heard, and God saying "Oh yeah, duh!"? Or God foreshadowing the intercession and mediation of Christ through Moses, for the benefit of millions reading later, having known about the conversation from eternity ago and indeed having decreed that it come to pass?
I don't know what you'll say, but the latter is consistent biblically, whereas the other reflects a more pagan approach. I have plenty of reason to believe, however, that God revealed the whole Bible and not just 6 verses in Ex 32.
Let me stop here and get to the rest of your stuff later.
Thank you for your reply. I will happily respond to it, but I haven't finished with your last email so I'd like to finish it before moving on, so that I make sure to get to everything.
--"science bases much of its framework upon inductive inferences"
Yes, that is a serious problem.
You don't know that your specific observations, of which you can make a few hundred on a given topic per year out of quintillions of actual events, reliably lead you to understand the universal, the way the world is. You ASSUME it. Similarly, you ASSUME that your senses accurately observe the outside world, then you ASSUME that the senses properly report that data to your brain, then you ASSUME that the data arrives correctly, then you ASSUME that your brain properly interprets the data, then you ASSUME that you then act properly on that data. But why assume it? B/c the alternative is distasteful - solipsism - but not b/c you have an argument or evidence that your assumptions are true. You HOPE they are, and hey, you ASSUME they are, but you can give no reason for me to think they actually are true.
Further, you have no reason to think that the natural processes you think you observe around you are in operation everywhere. You have no reason to think they have always, or at least since a very long time ago, been in operation. You ASSUME these things are true, but you can't even start to prove it.
This is the massive problem with any naturalistic worldview.
I don't have that problem, since my fundamental basis of knowing things is not observation at all. Nor is it human reason or thought. I can know anything b/c God has spoken and He has assured me that my cognitive faculties are generally reliable though certainly not infallible, since I am made in the image of God. He has promised that in general He holds the universe together, and cycles of seedtime and harvest will remain, the Earth will remain in orbit around the sun, life on Earth will continue and my responsibility is to live for Jesus and proclaim the Good News of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name to everyone, until the Eschaton. I have the unflinching and unchanging promise of the omnipotent Creator God. You have nothing, since you have chosen to distrust Him. But you can always turn back.
Notice that to overturn my argument, you're going to need to give me some argument that your senses and cognitive faculties are in fact reliable AND how you can know that with certainty. Don't assume it, prove it. You're then going to need to solve the problem of induction and let me know how you can know that your pitifully small numerator of things you think you've observed and experienced add up to some meaningful amount given the vastly huge denominator of total events in the universe, and how that ratio informs you with any degree of certainty as to the truth of the universal law you think your observations inform you of.
Notice, finally, that even if you were able to give some reason to think you're right, besides your bare assumptions, you still haven't gotten anywhere with respect to the actual question of your overlaying your story over the geological "record". Even if the strata came with labels, that doesn't tell you anything about the labellor, and it doesn't tell you anything about the environment at the time, but merely what was deposited, but you don't know the rate of deposit, what was there before the depositing began, the circumstances surrounding the depositing, whether it was a more or less closed system at the time, what the weather was like, what animals pooped there, nothing.
--"the best methodology we have that brings about countless accurate predictions"
I am very sorry, but this is extremely inaccurate and displays a level of acolyte-like faith on your part. Science is constantly getting things WRONG. Behind the much-ballyhooed "self-correcting process" of science lies the uncomfortable fact that self-correction means it was wrong in the first place. More self-correction has historically yielded yet more self-correction. Since the failure rate is quite high, one would have to be a bit of a naïf to base so much on such a thing. Fortunately, atheists generally tend toward that side of things.
Also, I agree with Bertrand Russell when he said: "All inductive arguments in the last resort reduce themselves to the following form: "If this is true, that is true: now that is true, therefore this is true." This argument is, of course, formally fallacious. Suppose I were to say: "If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me; now this bread does nourish me; therefore it is a stone, and stones are nourishing." If I were to advance such an argument, I should certainly be thought foolish, yet it would not be fundamentally different from the argument upon which all scientific laws are based."
"The great scandals in the philosophy of science ever since the time of Hume have been causality and induction....Hume made it appear that our belief is a blind faith for which no rational ground can be assigned....This state of affairs is profoundly unsatisfactory...We must hope that an answer will be found; but I am quite unable to believe that it has been found."
Piling fallacy upon fallacy, as science does, inspires no confidence in me, and it is because of sin that it inspires confidence in you, because you hate Jesus and do not want to serve Him, so instead of going with what is rational, you have chosen to serve what is irrational.
Inductive inferences are always fallacious. "But we compare and contrast", you may say. Wonderful - are 1000 fallacies better than one?
--"I tentatively assume induction because I don't really have a choice."
Yes, you do. Repent and trust the Savior. He'll save your soul from sin and your mind from foolish fallacious thinking.
That's the meat of it. A few other small emails transpired between us, and he sent me a longish reply but I don't feel like paraphrasing that whole thing as well, and most of it is based on poor biblical exegesis (which is a consistent hallmark of atheists).