What is Faith?

Posted: May 11, 2006 in Theo/Philo

 schaeffer1[1].jpgHere's one of my favourite explanations of faith as given by Francis Schaeffer:

Talking on other blogs I am accused of baseing my beliefs on Blind Faith.Here Schaeffer says it better than any I have read, so here's his reply to those accusers :

'Suppose we are climbing in the Alps and are very high on the bare rock and suddenly the fog shuts down.The guide turns to us and says that the ice is forming and that there is no hope;before morning we will all freeze to death here on the shoulder of the mountain……After an hour or so,someone says to the guide,"Suppose I dropped and hit a ledge ten feet down in the fog.What would happen then?"

The guide would say that you might make it till the morning and thus live.So,with absolutely no knowledge or any reason to support his action,one of the group hangs and drops into the fog.This would be one kind of faith,a leap of faith

Suppose,however….we heard a voice that said,"You cannot see me,but I know exactly where you are from your voices.I am on another ridge.I have lived in these mountains ,man and boy for over sixty years,and I know every foot of them.I assure you that ten feet below you there is a ledge.If you hang and drop,you can make it through the night and I will get you in the morning."

I would not hang and drop at once but would ask questions to try and ascertain if the man knew what he was talking about and if he was not my enemy….Once I became convinced of his answers I would hang and drop.'

This is Faith based on our experience and the statements God gives in the Bible .Its not a blind leap.

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Comments
  1. Corkscrew says:

    Some of God’s claims relate to morality (for example, His claim that He is good). As such, it’s appropriate that I ask Him questions to see if He really is good. However, if I inquire of Him (via the Bible) whether wiping out entire towns to the last child is acceptable, I get what I’d consider the wrong answer. Thus, it’s probably not appropriate for me to trust Him in this respect.

  2. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Corkscrew,
    I think we had a similar thread on Pauls blog in the comments of ‘Old Testament Ethnic Cleansing’.
    The first problem is in defining what the ‘right answer’ is… you say you would get the wrong answer from God -the answer that would lead you to not trust him.
    Without a universal,external,unchanging, timeless origin -‘good’ or morality is whatever the particluar person says it is ,so its difficult from a purely philosophic viewpoint to define good,or moral behaviour.For instance some people think ‘Big Brother ‘ is good!?!
    I know however that you’d be hard pressed to find people who would say the actions in Numbers 31 or Deuteronomy 13 are good or moral ..but my point is that without God, morality is personal and subject to the tastes of the times we live in.
    It could be argued that if God commands something then it cannot be evil no matter what it is -What God created, he has a right to do what he wants with -to some extent we can be accused of trying to remake God in our image and to accomadate to our times.
    A case of the pot telling the potter what to do an imposing of our morality on God.
    If we calim that the Bible is the word of God then we can’t choose which bits to concentrate on and which bits to ignore, we must wrestle with the whole Bible,including these difficlut bits.
    In the post in Pauls Blog I mention where Schaeffer says that as we become Christians we have to metaphorically bow before God in several ways one of which is in recognition of our creatorhood and in him being our creator.This means trusting him even with the fact that not everything is immediatly understandable.
    Our notion of ‘Good’ is subject to our specific circumstances and the time period we live in, Morality must be seen in the context of those.
    I agree with you that the actions sanctioned by God in the old testament are morally wrong as judged through the filter of 2006 and if they were commnaded by anyone but God.I see through a ‘glass darkly’ right now and so I trust God due to his actions both in my Life personally and through the Bible such as the sacrifice of Jesus.

  3. themaiden says:

    Mike,

    In your original post you make the case that– I suppose more accurately you quote someone who is making the case that– faith is a kind of reasoned judgment rather than a completely blind leap. Faith is like the climber who listens to the voice and comes to some judgment about it before leaping. Yet in your reply to Corkscrew, you essentially gut that position. By arguing that we humans can’t really analyze God– the voice in the fog– you argue that God’s purported commands do, in fact, have to be taken on pure blind faith.

  4. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Maiden,
    thanks for visitng and posting.
    Taking the metaphore of the climber on the ridge -the climber does not have exhaustive knowledge of the voice in the fog, yet the information the voice has passed on is enough to be able to make a decision for jumping onto the ledge.
    In the same way there is enough information via general and special revelation to belive that God is who he says he is and that he can be trusted.Blind faith would be faith without any reason to belive whatsoever, exccept that you have decided to.
    Thanks,
    Mike

  5. themaiden says:

    Mike,

    True, the climber does not have exhaustive knowledge of the voice in the fog. Humans don’t have exhaustive knowledge of anything, so that is no exceptional problem. Its just the way things are. But information “via general and special revelation” has itself to be taken on faith. Blind faith one step removed is no better than blind faith first hand.

    Consider the kinds of things one might ask the voice. “Can you describe some landmarks that are close enough that I can see them or touch them through the fog without endangering myself?” (I’m ignoring such reasoning as “Well, I’m going to freeze to death anyway, so why not jump and get it over with.”) What equivalent questions can one ask of the supernatural? There aren’t many, and those who claim to have some answers fail miserably when tested. Note the pitiful performances of psychics and the like. And note that prayer, according to the apologists, doesn’t work if one tries to test it.

    Others who claim to have answers– religions, essentially– give answers that are completely unverifiable, as they concern, for the most part, things of which no one has any first hand knowledge. Some religions give answers that are actually contradicted by large collections of other evidence. For example, much of what is related in the Bible is simply unverifiable. However, the parts that are verifiable– like the flood, like the Israelites in Egypt and the associated plagues– are contradicted by mountains of evidence, so I can’t see such could build much faith in the “voice”. Also consider that these various religions who claim to have the answer, do not agree the one with the other, meaning that “Which one?” becomes a serious consideration.

    Now some people do claim to have heard the voice of God or to have “felt God’s presence” or some such similar thing. Well, quite a number of people see or hear things. Most, to be kind, of those people are crazy, or are charlatans. I’m sure you’ll agree or you’d have to accept every cult leader you encounter. As for people who “feel God’s presence”, lots of people feel lots of things. Spinning such feeling as evidence is a bit of a stretch. People “feel” their dead Grandmother steer the car away from danger, for example. People feel bad “energy” and see auras. It isn’t very convincing.

    To get back to the analogy, the voice in the fog, if it were honest, would have to admit that “I’ve never been on this mountain before nor has anyone I’ve ever known, though I’ve heard descriptions from some people claim to have a good “feeling” for it nonetheless, and I’ve got a Book that was written thousands of years ago by an unknown number of people none of whom had ever been on the mountain either but who claim to have gotten the information in the book from someone who had, in fact, been on the mountain. Oh, and the book has been through innumerable editors and translators, none of whom have ever been on the mountian. Oh… and the guy next to me has a different book and different friends, and the description he has of the mountain is completely different too.” That sounds a lot like “taking it on blind faith to me”.

    Now, I suppose, you know the story of My Fall From Grace.

    Take care.

  6. […] I’ve gotten myself into a discussion of faith with Mike at God3’s Blog. I thought I’d bump that conversation here. Below is a copy of my last comment in the thread, but I’ve closed comments on this one. To contribute, follow the link to God3’s. Mike, […]

  7. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Hells Maiden,
    thanks for posting,
    Your right about knowledge, there is no object anywhere about which we can say we have exhaustive knowledge. This extends to knowledge about ourselves, we don’t truly know ourselves and knowledge about each other, what I appear to be on the outside is often in contrast to what I am on the inside, so how can we truly exhaustively know another person?
    For me Christianity (to paraphrase Schaeffer) is the arch under which everything fits, I will say more about this further on.
    Hells maiden you said:’ But information “via general and special revelation” has itself to be taken on faith’ Yep I agree, in fact I’d go further than that and say all information has to be taken on faith, either faith in a method or faith in revelation general and specific combined in the case of Christianity.
    As Michael Polanyi showed non empirical processes are part of the process of discovery within Science .An example I used elsewhere was Fredrich August Kekule von Stradonitz the discoverer of the structure of the Benzene ring, he came about this structure after falling asleep by the fire and dreaming about a snake biting its own tail. Imagination plays a large part in Science as evidence by all the models we have to construct in order to visualise the very small or the very large. I’m rambling I think. So getting back to Polanyi, data acquisition is biased and not truly objective as acquisition is influenced by imagination, the models we design select what data we look for, which is also influenced by political temporal geographical economic and linguistic factors there are others but I cant think of em, except for the presuppositions of the investigator.
    Science uses the inductive method, which means we can never know anything with certainty, we have a high degree of confidence about the conclusions we make but that’s it.
    We will never have exhaustive knowledge of anything until we acquire the attribute of omniscience, the only way to prove the non-existence of anything.
    What I’m trying to say badly is that any knowledge is to some degree taken on faith.
    Blind faith would as far as I can see mean that a decision to believe X has been taken with no external support for that belief, with the guys on the ledge there’s data coming from the voice –blind faith would be jumping with no voice and believing the ledge is there for no reason except that you have decided to believe it.
    Although I’m from a Charismatic background I don’t take what I feel as an indication of anything in terms of affirming a position. (Please see ‘why is more interesting than How’ post). As Scrooge said of Marleys ghost “you could be a bit of under done beef “.
    You say:’ much of what is related in the Bible is simply unverifiable.’
    Again your right, but how much verification is verification is; to some degree a personal thing, remembering Thomas wanting more verification than the other apostles.
    The whole of the Bible is littered with extra detail which is not integral to the story, this extra detail is used to ground events in reality. Moses said, “You saw you heard” to the Israelites confirming the importance of witness not blind acceptance.
    The extra detail would be things like the description of the 5 porticoed pool in Bethsaida something which was only unearthed recently (1997).Those that read the gospel accounts closer to the time of the events, knew the places mentioned and this anchored the events to place and time for them –we don’t have that luxury. Elsewhere the bible encourages debate not blind acceptance from Isaiah 1:18 ‘. Come now, let us reason together, say the Lord’.
    You say:’ Consider the kinds of things one might ask the voice. “Can you describe some landmarks that are close enough……… What equivalent questions can one ask of the supernatural?’
    The place of the Bible as Special revelation would be analogous to asking questions of the climber…The bible tells me what I should expect to ‘see’ in regards to human nature, History, Science ,Sociology ,etc .
    For example; the distinction between man and non-man originally was based on tool-use, now Anthropologists use the area of language as the distinction. We communicate propositionally to each other either through spoken or written form. This is what the Bible says we are to expect as we are made in the image of God. When we talk we reflect Gods character, when we fall in love we reflect the Trinity. When we create we reflect Gods character. Personality has meaning it is not an emergent property but a reflected facet of Gods character.
    The bottom line is that God does require faith, this means as the Bible states: that the rain will fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous. What?Bear with me… If I was a farmer who didn’t believe in God and had no desire to do so, but then I saw the Christian farmers had clouds of rain over there farms –increasing there yield while the rest of us farmers had dry unfertile soil I would believe reluctantly but I’d believe. Why doesn’t it happen like that? The reason is  God wants us to choose freely – but not blindly.

  8. themaiden says:

    “…remembering Thomas wanting more verification than the other apostles.”

    Yeah… he’s my favorite. 🙂

    I don’t have any objections to the first half, or so, of what you write except for your definition of “blind faith”, and that isn’t so much an objection as it is a question.

    “Blind faith would as far as I can see mean that a decision to believe X has been taken with no external support for that belief, with the guys on the ledge there’s data coming from the voice –blind faith would be jumping with no voice and believing the ledge is there for no reason except that you have decided to believe it.”

    You define “blind faith” so loosely that the presense of any external information at all takes the issue out of the realm of “blind”. A person could believe the crazy man on the street corner and that belief wouldn’t be ‘blind’ because somebody told you to believe it. Are you really comfortable with that? I’m not, and it seems that careful consideration of the implication would cause serious theological difficulties. It seems, also, that the definition is so loose as to make the phrase close to meaningless.

    The Bible is littered with extra detail. Unfortunately, where we can verify it, most of that detail– extra or significant to the stories told– is wrong and where we cannot verify it, it doesn’t really count. You seem to suggest that the ancient people could have verified it, though we can’t, and that this fact is a kind of confirmation. It isn’t. Perhaps these things could have been verified by readers in the 4th century BC, but perhaps not. Perhaps these details were and are as wrong as some of the other details we can verify. Claiming that “we don’t know but they did” is not convincing.

    You mention “human nature, History, Science ,Sociology ,etc”. If I may take these one at a time…

    Humans are all basically the same, having the same needs for food, water, shelter, sex, and such. Consequently, humans are likely to come up with the same kinds of ideas about each other and about human nature, even in the absense of divine inspiration. And that is what we see. There isn’t a great deal of difference between human cultures around the world, be the culture Hindu, Islamic, Christian, or one of countless local faiths. Consequently, I find the appeal to “the Bible describes human nature” to be especially weak. Pretty much every culture describes, molds, and adapts to human nature with approximately the same degree of success. If a culture failed to do so, it would very shortly fail to exist.

    The same basic line of reasoning applies to Sociology, which is a collective human nature. It doesn’t strike me as much of an argument.

    Now history could perhaps be a much better case, except that the history related in the Bible is so terribly bad. Most of the history in the Bible is either complete fabrication or extremely exagerated. Arguably the world’s leading expert on ancient Israel, Israel Finklestein, has gone on record saying as much.

    The Bible’s science is much worse. It describes such patent non-sense as the Sun stopping in the sky, water being commanded by a stick, a planetary age that makes no sense, day and night existing before the Sun, and magic as medicine, or medicine as divination— Num 5:25. The list is a long one. You can believe these things on faith, if you will, or argue the stories are allegorical, but either way it does not support a claim that the Bible’s science is somehow born out by the conclusions of modern science.

    As for your specific example, I’d argue 1)with the proposition that language defines humanity and I wouldn’t be alone in the objection, 2)that language is the exclusive domain of our species as it seems you believe the Bible to suggest– this is a big topic but it is reasonable, not conclusive, that speech existed among pre-homo-sapien homo species and monkeys and apes have been annoying linguists for decades by violating all the careful rules that are supposed to distinguish our ‘speech’ from their ‘communication/vocalization’–, and 3)that this is a ‘prediction’ at all, as whoever wrote what “we are to expect” already had plenty of experience with people. The ‘prediction’ therefore becomes more of a description that is easily come by without divine intervention. Additionally, it does follow that this is what one would expect if humans were made in Gods image, it also follows that this is what one would expect if God were made– imagined– in humanity’s image. This last point also addresses your examples of love, the Trinity, God’s character, and personality. These can be explained via other means so you need a stronger case for your version of the story than you’ve provided.

    “The reason is God wants us to choose freely – but not blindly.”

    Now come on! God wants us to chose freely, so he makes it so that we can’t have any evidence– it rains on good and bad alike? How is it then that we can believe in any way but blindly? You’ve contradicted yourself. You can’t have it both ways, here.

    Finally, you’ve told a story. Now I’ll tell one. A friend tells me of a gathering of Wiccans. The event was in danger of being rained out, but some of these witches worked their spell and low and behold, the rain went around the campsite. Wow! That looks like evidence, and evidence your God won’t provide. Why not believe in that Wiccan Magic then? This is a sincere question. I’ll give you my answer. Well, these stories are amazingly common, and many Christians like to use them– medical miracles, etc.– but they never seem to hold up when actually put to the test. Anecdote isn’t evidence. It might be a starting point for an investigation, but it isn’t evidence in itself. You, on the other hand, are in a very real sense, with your “God wants us to chose freely example”, trying to avoid “putting this stuff to the test” and so by the standards of evidence you’ve argued I’d say you’ll have a hard time rejecting this Wiccan magic, so long as you stay consistent. Belief in Wicca wouldn’t be blind– someone has vouched for it. Wiccan sociology, etc., is virtually indistinguishable from any other sociology. Its ‘science’ is equivalent to Biblical science. Its ‘history’ is, at worst, equivalently bad. I challenge you to distinguish between the two faiths in some no-trivial way. I also remind you that if you decide to test a wiccan spell, you also have to test the Christian equivalent– prayer.

    Take care.

  9. […] I am again going to bump the discussion I’m having at God3’s Blog. I’m having fun with the debate and Mike is giving plenty of honest effort. What more could I ask? As before, comments here are closed. Visit God3’s to contribute. “…remembering Thomas wanting more verification than the other apostles.” […]

  10. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi HellsMaiden,
    re my definition of Blind Faith, it is correct but not exhaustive.Your right, any external support even from a dubious source would be seen as no longer Blind Faith.
    Ah more purifying of my argument -cheers .What I should of added is akin to this definition I found somewhere :
    ‘Blind faith suggests unwillingness to question or doubt. It is acceptance of a concept or belief despite evidence to the contrary, or in some cases, no evidence at all. Blind faith requires suspension of rational thought.The caveat to this is as G.K.Chesteron said, (here im paraphrasing) :An open mouth is like an open mind only any good if you close it on something solid’ By this he means ,much like our guys on the moutains,they will have to put there money where there mouth is and jump or decide not too, knowing death awaits.Blind faith would by like trusting in your dog to save your soul. You have no reason for this belief, no written records, no writings dated thousands of years back, no lives changed, nothing. Christianity is hardly blind.
    You said:’The Bible is littered with extra detail. Unfortunately, where we can verify it, most of that detail– extra or significant to the stories told– is wrong and where we cannot verify it, it doesn’t really count.’Can you provide details?
    I’ve looked but I can’t see where I suggested that the ancients could verify stuff that we can no longer do,what I was saying is that the events were written in such a way as to be anchored into familiar places with familiar people,familiar to those who lived at the time,for instance people would know who Pontus Pilate was and where Golgotha is,they would know some of the people involved in the accounts in the Bible. This anchoring was to avoid the notion of mysticism,God is involved in the everyday is not ‘other worldly’.The familiarity with these places is lost to us.
    You said:’I find the appeal to “the Bible describes human nature” to be especially weak.’
    Thats strange, I find the appeal to human nature to be particularly strong, I guess that’s gotta do with our presupossitions.Other faith’s describe humanity in differing ways,for instance Buddhism cannot explain the presence of personality -Buddhism is concerned with a return to a unifying force,personality is something to be transcended.Personality has no place in Buddism.Some atheists (I haven’t asked them all) would describe Personality as an illusion and emergent property, Pantheistic Hinduism leaves no real reason for drawing any distinction between cruelty and non-cruelty. Cruelty is just as much a part of what exists as non-cruelty.Schaeffer once demonstrated this to a Hindu by boiling a kettle and holding it above the guys head in an attempt to show that actually in real life we make distinctions between Cruelty and noncruelty,cruelty hurts! There is ultimately no real basis for morals if one holds to a pantheistic world view. Materialistic evolutionists describe human nature as conditioned by the need to survive and reproduce,yet also by implication as purposeless -that sounds like a contradiction to me.
    You said ‘Pretty much every culture describes, molds, and adapts to human nature with approximately the same degree of success’
    A minor point, but if Pretty much every culture describes human nature with the same degree of success, how can these descriptions of personality be different, such as with Buddhism and the Atheism, yet have the same outcome in terms of success ?
    The Bible describes why we have personalities,why we are moral, why we are creative and appreciate art,the bible explains why we love ,the bible explains why we are imperfect, why we communicate.
    Regarding Israel Finklestein I haven’t read his book so can’t comment.I do know that there is increasing not decreasing evidence to verify the Biblical account.No archaeological find has contradicted NT history. Rather they have affirmed its reliability. For instance, many experts had previously thought that the Hittite nation (Gn 10:15, 23:9, Jdg 1:26, 1Sa 26:6, Ezk 16:3) was mere biblical fiction. Whole rooms now dedicated to their artifacts in the Topkapi Museum suggest otherwise!
    You said : ‘As for your specific example, I’d argue 1)with the proposition that language defines humanity and I wouldn’t be alone in the objection, 2)that language is the exclusive domain of our species as it seems you believe the Bible to suggest’
    I don’t think I said that language is the exclusive domain of our species,What I said was that ‘Anthropologists use the area of language as the distinction…’
    I then went on to show how language and communication horizontally follows the pattern of the Trinity,this is not a prediction just a correlation.
    You said:’Now come on! God wants us to chose freely, so he makes it so that we can’t have any evidence– it rains on good and bad alike? How is it then that we can believe in any way but blindly? You’ve contradicted yourself. You can’t have it both ways, here.’
    I disagree I have not contradicted myself at all, the Bible represents a proposition,the lives of people changed through trusting the Bible represent a vindication of those propositions , if the proposition was backed up by supernatural evidence 100% of the time in 100% of situations then the choice is gone.Of course, the evidence isn’t coercive. But why should it be?
    Finally ,its 04:20 am (im working nights) so this is it for now, regarding the Wiccan magic story ,God does provide evidence remember Thomas? God wants us to trust however -Jesus said ‘Blessed are those who believe but have not seen’ by seen he means seen him and his ministry first hand,So God wants us to trust and yet on Occasion provides moments of ‘seeing’.Its impossible to prove that the clouds did not move in response to the wiccan magic,presuppositon informs our opinion of what caused the clouds to move,more than any evidence.
    In regard to the distinctions between Wiccan magic and Christianity ,I know nothing of Wiccan magic so its alittle difficult to impossible to make distinctions.I will say the clouds moving away from the camp(there’s always a naturalistic spin to place on any event) would not convince me about the truth of either Christianity or Wiccan Magic.What distinguishes the two for me (considering that Wiccan Magic is little more than a black box for me),the main reason I believe Christianity(and so distinguish it from other worldviews) is that it has a unity of explanation about my nature and the nature of existence that I have not seen anywhere else.Of course I haven’t tried every other belief -no one has exhaustive knowledge).The other factor is that putting God to the test happens as we trust him,not by checking out the number of heart attacks among a certain group on a double blind trial.
    Knowledge of God is unique in that it is conditioned by moral and spiritual factors. A spiritually indifferent person can have a profound knowledge of physics, or literature, or history, or sociology, or even of theology. But a spiritually indifferent person cannot know God. According to the Bible, the knowledge of God is promised to those who honestly seek him.
    Jeremiah: ‘And you shall seek me and you shall find me, if you seek for me with all your heart.’

  11. themaiden says:

    Hi,

    I’ll try to get this done before I head to work. Forgive me if I am somewhat too brief.

    “Blind faith would by like trusting in your dog to save your soul. You have no reason for this belief, no written records, no writings dated thousands of years back, no lives changed, nothing. Christianity is hardly blind.”

    True, Christianity has more documentation than does my dog, though there is some anecdotal evidence for god-like pet power. However, numerous other faiths can and do make the same claim. Numerous other faiths have written records dating back thousands of years. Some ancient Hindu texts have everyone beat in this regard. So the presence of these documents alone is insufficient, though it seems to be a very popular appeal. Without a means of sorting from among these options, you are still chosing blindly. Now, granted, you have suggested some means by which to do the sorting. We’ll get to that in a bit.

    “You said:’The Bible is littered with extra detail. Unfortunately, where we can verify it, most of that detail– extra or significant to the stories told– is wrong and where we cannot verify it, it doesn’t really count.’Can you provide details?”

    Do you mean, “Details as to why it doesn’t count?” or “What specific things are wrong, or unverifiable?” The answer to the first question, I hope is obvious and I have given a few example of the kind of things that are wrong– the Flood, for example. Chinese scholars were writing prior to the time of the Flood, and kept writing right through this worldwide catastrophe and never mentioned it. Egyptian records never mention the plagues or the loss of an enormous portion of thier work-force. The Israelites fled Egypt to wander in the desert, even though they ‘escaped’ into a region littered with Egyptian garrisons? And millions subsisted in the desert– yes, yes, magic food– without leaving a trace? The Israelites, despite having a recorded history supposedly from the dawn of time, seem not to have existed until sometime around the maybe 1200 or 1300 bc. There is a good collection of these archeaological problems at ReligiousTolerance.

    “You said:’I find the appeal to “the Bible describes human nature” to be especially weak.’
    Thats strange, I find the appeal to human nature to be particularly strong…”

    Other cultures, other faiths, do describe people differently in some details, but those difference are pretty small. They are more a matter of emphasis than of substance and the various incarnations all produce a viable social structure. They are all variations on the same theme, not grossly disparate entities. I think you are focusing too much on detail and missing the overarching similarities, and, if I may suggest it, you are taking your own culture and and using it, a priori, as the standard. This is special pleading, and is fallacious. Also, don’t confuse ‘creating a mythology’ with ‘explaining’ as I suggest you do when you state that “The Bible describes why we have personalities,why we are moral, why we are creative and appreciate art,the bible explains why we love ,the bible explains why we are imperfect, why we communicate.” There are innumerable ways to answer those questions– every human culture has done it in one way or another–, but which answer is correct, which is a true explaination, is a much different question.

    You ask, “if Pretty much every culture describes human nature with the same degree of success, how can these descriptions of personality be different, such as with Buddhism and the Atheism, yet have the same outcome in terms of success ?” The answer is that the description of personality is a pretty minor issue.

    “There is ultimately no real basis for morals if one holds to a pantheistic world view.”

    This is silly. Most of the world for most of the history of the world, has been pan-theistic, yet nowhere will you find a dearth of moral ideals. You are arguing that what is the case, can’t be the case. That is nonsense.

    “Materialistic evolutionists describe human nature as conditioned by the need to survive and reproduce,yet also by implication as purposeless -that sounds like a contradiction to me.”

    It sounds contradictory because the formulation isn’t really accurate. Survival is or isn’t, and those who survive, reproduce. That process isn’t teleological. However, if a kind of bull-dog attitude– a survival instinct– happens to be a trait of those who survive, then that trait may become ingrained in the species, so on an individual level you could argue a kind of teleology, just like you could argue that cooking diner has teleological components.

    “I do know that there is increasing not decreasing evidence to verify the Biblical account.”

    There is a difference between verifing certain elements and verifing the account. Most novelists incorporate common landmarks– buildings, cities, etc.– into their stories, and archeaologist a thousand years from now can verify some of those things. That doesn’t constitute verification of the novel’s story line. I am certain the writers of the Bible mentioned items that were around them. Those will be verified. What you don’t find is verification of the stories. The timelines are wrong, or critical events are missing, for example.

    Well… I am out of time.

    Take care.

  12. themaiden says:

    Hello,

    I was in a hurry before. There are a couple of messy points I’d like to clear up. The messiest is the point I was trying to make about cultures and societies. I’ll go back to your example of personalities. The way I see your argument, it runs like this. 1)The Bible/Christian religion describes personality accurately, or more accurately. 2)Other religions don’t. 3)Thus, the Bible scores better than they do. The problem, which I previously wiggled around sloppily, is that pretty much everyone in the west, yourself included (obviously), has already been heavily influence by the concepts in the Bible. The ‘correct’ definition, in other words, is biased, by the Bible, toward the Bible. Now, with that bias in mind, it is possible to step back and see that other cultures/religions do deal with such things as personality. Perhaps personality is dealt with differently, but that doesn’t matter so long as it is 1) dealt with, 2)dealt with effectively enough for a social system to function 3)and dealt with to a degree of accuracy comparable to other systems. I don’t see that any religious/cultural system fails these criteria (not that I am a relativist– I argue from different premises, but that is another story.) Coming from a background in cultural ecology, I’d say that in a very real sense, religious/cultural systems have to meet these criteria or they cease to exist rather rapidly. That too, is probably another story.

    I’d also like to add something to the short piece I wrote responding to your statements about pan-theism, since I find it to be such a common and such an unbelievably unsupportable claim. Christianity, arguably, owes more to Greek and Roman moral philosophy– stoicism, cynicism, etc– both directly and via hellenized Judaism than it owes to the any other source, including the Old Testament. If you can, I recommend The Greco-Roman Moralists, by Luke Johnson– a former benedictine monk, by the way.

    Now, that’s better.

  13. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Hellsmaiden,
    I might have to pass on pet power for now at least,I never owned a horse, is that a prerequisite of pet power enabled salvation ?

    You said: ‘However, numerous other faiths can and do make the same claim. Numerous other faiths have written records dating back thousands of years. Some ancient Hindu texts have everyone beat in this regard. So the presence of these documents alone is insufficient, though it seems to be a very popular appeal.’

    I am not saying or have said that any one proof is sufficient, sufficient for what ? Sufficient to banish doubt or sufficient to make someone a believer. The culmination of several arguments for God point towards a high probability of Gods existence. There are proofs; other than those that are empirically couched ,both negative and positive proofs.

    Regarding the archaeological evidence of the OT events, I’m not worried about those, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence .Any available data would be very old ,plus we have an academia that is materialist in orientation, my implication is that like any dominating worldview, expecting data to be interpreted without bias especially with regard to the nature of this data is possibly naïve.
    But in all honesty my knowledge of this area is limited, plus I don’t want to ‘do battle’ via url.

    You said:’ Egyptian records never mention the plagues or the loss of an enormous portion of their work-force. The Israelites fled Egypt to wander in the desert, even though they ‘escaped’ into a region littered with Egyptian garrisons?’
    There is mention that plagues of the type described in Scripture occurred, plus a slave revolt, this is found in the Ipuwer papyrus.Also what sort of evidence would be left after an exodus in the desert plus the time elapsed,the desert is a large place to start digging in ?

    You said : ‘The Israelites, despite having a recorded history supposedly from the dawn of time, seem not to have existed until sometime around the maybe 1200 or 1300 bc.’
    The Israelites became Semitic at the point of Abraham rather than the dawn of time. Evidence of the Israelites existence is partially based on the Merneptah Stela which indicates that Israel was a: ‘significant socioethnic entity that needed to be reckoned with’ that was during the 13th Century BC consistent with Biblical accounts.
    You said:
    ‘Other cultures, other faiths, do describe people differently in some details, but those difference are pretty small.’
    Your right, other faith’s do describe people differently ,one of the examples I used was personality. Pantheistic belief’s have no place for personality ,this in not a pretty small matter, the presence of personality describes why we are not Borg, The presence of personality underlines our uniqueness and individuality.
    Its not just describing people differently in regards to a different emphasis, other beliefs are inconsistent with experience. For instance, as stated before, within the Hindu belief ,one of the manifestations of god, with fangs and skulls hanging down her neck Kali is shown in this way because Hindus believe that everything that exists now, is a part of what has always been ,that is god, so cruelty as shown in the Kali image is equal to non-cruelty. My experience tells me that is not true.

    You said:.’ The Bible describes why we have personalities, why we are moral, why we are creative and appreciate art, the bible explains why we love ,the bible explains why we are imperfect, why we communicate.” There are innumerable ways to answer those questions– every human culture has done it in one way or another–, but which answer is correct, which is a true explanation, is a much different question.’
    How do you answer that question except through comparing what a worldview says about reality with what our experience tells us. How else could you answer that question?
    You said:
    “There is ultimately no real basis for morals if one holds to a pantheistic world view.” This is silly. Most of the world for most of the history of the world, has been pan-theistic, yet nowhere will you find a dearth of moral ideals. You are arguing that what is the case, can’t be the case. That is nonsense.’
    What I am arguing for here is that there are logical inconsistencies, those with a pantheistic world view are living as if there is a basis for moral values, when in fact none according to pantheism exist. That’s why you don’t find a dearth of moral ideals.
    You said:
    ‘It sounds contradictory because the formulation isn’t really accurate. Survival is or isn’t, and those who survive, reproduce. That process isn’t teleological. However, if a kind of bull-dog attitude– a survival instinct– happens to be a trait of those who survive, then that trait may become ingrained in the species, so on an individual level you could argue a kind of teleology, just like you could argue that cooking diner has teleological components.’
    So survival instinct is not equivalent to purpose ?I’m not understanding why that is the case?-(its 04:30 again, more nights –so maybe that’s it).

    You said:’… pretty much everyone in the west, yourself included (obviously), has already been heavily influence by the concepts in the Bible. The ‘correct’ definition, in other words, is biased, by the Bible, toward the Bible.’
    Of course as Michael Polanyi has described all men presuppose certain things, have biases and a particular tacit way of knowing, such that no knowledge is truly objective, or without bias.
    Also the west is really no longer a Christian society (I’m part of a minority)so your statements would have been true before say the 50’s but no longer. As a side issue regarding societal beliefs and success, it seems that the reformation countries are still the most successful ones in the world, successful in terms not just of economy, technology but most importantly in terms of human rights, not that any are perfect or still professing to be Christian any more, but the memory of those institutions lingers.
    Well I can detect that have begun to ramble –so I’m off for some zzzzz’s.

  14. themaiden says:

    Hi Mike,

    I think you misunderstood my point about other religions also having texts, traditions and anecdote dating back thousands of years. You presented these things as evidence for the Christian faith. I pointed out that they also serve as evidence for all of your major faiths, at least. Evidence that points to multiple conclusions equally isn’t really evidence for any one of those conclusions. At best you’ve got “Christianity, of Hinduism, of Buddhism, or …” It is a point of elementary logic. Even if you are right that “several arguments … point towards a high probability of Gods existence” you’ve got to sort among the options. You’ve got to ask, “Which God?”, in other words.

    What would be a proof not empirically couched, Mike? The ideas of ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’ make no sense divorced from data. That is the conversation we started at Hell’s Handmaiden and never finished.

    You are correct that absense of evidence is not evidence of absense. It is, however, absense of evidence. That is, in the absense of evidence belief does become a matter of faith, which is the theme of this thread. Besides, it is a bit unfair for you to hide behind “absense of evidence is not evidence of absense” since at least part of your argument that faith is not blind– the ‘extra detail’ to which you appeal– rests upon this archeological evidence.

    I am not sure you are correct about the materialistic academia. Having spent quite a bit of time in that world, I’d argue that it is rather filled with religious sentiment and motivation. Take Plantinga, for an example. It is also important to note that Biblical Archeology has, since its inception, been dominated by persons whose primary motivation is the proving of the Biblical accounts– hence such ‘finds’ as the Ipuwer papyrus you mention, which seems to be held as significant primarily by Biblical apologists (I’ve read the thing, and personally, one has to want to see Exodus in it, to see Exodus in it. The dates are hotly debated and besides, it describes common enough events, given humanity’s propensity for exageration and hyperbole, that it doesn’t really point to the kind of magic printed in the Bible.)–, so complaining about the motives of the archeologists rings a little hollow.

    What academia does have, though, is a bit of fetish for evidence, and evidence has driven Biblical archeology from its happy just-look-where-the-Bible-says heyday to its desparate “just find something, anything!!!” present condition. Evidence has forced those biased toward the Bible to draw conclusions that contradict it.

    Now, the Sinai Peninsula is not a large place and even today has a population of only a few million. Depending upon whose numbers one accepts, the Israelites leaving Egypt numbered from 600,000 or so to several million, and that number, presumably, would have increased over time as children were born. That many people leave a huge footprint. Not to be crude but, among other things, human scat should litter the place like popcorn on a movie theater floor after a Rocky Horror screening. Then there is the livestock and the tools and the jewelry… The numbers in this case are so large that absense of evidence is a strong indication that the event never happened.

    You mention the Merneptah Stele, dating from about 1300bc– about when I suggested that Israel first arrived on the scene– and claim it indicates that “Israel was a: ‘significant socioethnic entity that needed to be reckoned with’” How do you figure that since the only line in the stela that mentions Israel reads, “Israel is wasted, bare of seed”?

    You are still arguing that what has happened, can’t happen; and reading through this latest response of yours, I have to wonder if you aren’t basing your analysis of how Hinduism, for example, deals with personality on some questionable sources. Your synopsis of Kali and of the Hindu approach to cruelty is fantastically simplistic. I’m not convinced, and I say this with all possible gentleness, that where this subject is concerned, I am dealing with anything beyond stubborn ignorance, so I am tempted to leave it alone. I’m not quite sure you even know how Hinduism, or any other -ism or -anity besides Christianity, deals with personality or with anything else– except perhaps as the information has been filtered through christian thought– so I don’t see much hope for productive debate.

    On the subject of logical consistency though, it is worth noting that Christianity has a healthy set of contradictions as well. The field, the rich and very old field, of Theology is essentially a field devoted to wrestling with these problems, so this need not be taken on my word. If consistency is a requisite, you’ve no reason to put christianity on a pedestal.

    I did not mean that a “survival instinct is not equivalent to purpose”– I am perfectly happy with the idea that individual creatures act with purposefully. Acquiring that instinct, though, need not be a goal driven process, need not be teleological.

    Yes, biases are everywhere– you yourself have pointed out the ‘materialistic’ bias a time or two. We have no choice but to deal with them. Recognizing them is step one.

    While the modern world may not be a devout orthodox Christian community, I still argue that everyone in it has been influenced by Christianity. The operative term is ‘influenced’. Christianity is pervasive. Its concepts are common even where they are no longer recognized as such. Its ideas are buried in law, and psychology, in philosophy, in politics…

    Take care.

  15. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Hells maiden,
    Regarding:
    ’I think you misunderstood my point about other religions also having texts, traditions and anecdote dating back thousands of years. You presented these things as evidence for the Christian faith. I pointed out that they also serve as evidence for all of your major faiths, at least. Evidence that points to multiple conclusions equally isn’t really evidence for any one of those conclusions. At best you’ve got “Christianity, of Hinduism, of Buddhism, or …” It is a point of elementary logic.’

    As it stands you are correct (except these aren’t my ‘major faiths’?)‘Evidence that points to multiple conclusions equally isn’t really evidence for any one of those conclusions.’ Your right.
    As I said in my previous post’ I am not saying or have said that any one proof is sufficient, sufficient for what? Sufficient to banish doubt or sufficient to make someone a believer. The culmination of several arguments for God point towards a high probability of Gods existence.’ The biblical propositions are not taken on there own-otherwise your correct-what’s to distinguishes them from one another?
    It’s the other evidence plus personal experience that convinces me that Christianity is truth. This is the difference between blind faith and faith, it seems so long ago that we were talking about that analogy.
    You said:’ what would be a proof not empirically couched, Mike? The ideas of ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’ make no sense divorced from data.’
    There are many proofs that don’t lean on empirical data such as mathematical proofs, logical proofs. Evidence likewise is defined in ‘Wiki’ without recourse to data:
    ’ Evidence in its broadest sense, refers to anything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion’
    Any worldview must be tested against how easy it is to live out the truth of that worldview in practice, here is why I discount beliefs such as atheism, they have no logical adequate basis for morality, or love or imagination or inference to name a few. This doesn’t mean atheists are not moral or do not love or do not have inferences it’s just that there worldview does not adequately support them. For instance Freud who believed in determinism asked his mistress to love him irrationally because there was no place for love in his materialistic worldview.
    From a materialistic viewpoint inference is difficult to understand-how can one physical state be about another?
    Regarding archaeology you said:’ That is, in the absence of evidence belief does become a matter of faith, which is the theme of this thread.’ Again your right this is a matter of faith, on both sides of the debate: I believe further evidences will arise possibly (although its not crucial), whereas if your arguing against the Biblical account one would believe further evidence will arise to confound that account or no further evidence will float to the surface.
    My faith does not really rest on archaeological evidence –if none existed I would not cease being a Christian. My faith rests, mostly on personal experience, the logic of Biblical proposition and lives changed through Christ mostly.
    You said:’ I am not sure you are correct about the materialistic academia. Having spent quite a bit of time in that world, I’d argue that it is rather filled with religious sentiment and motivation.’
    I have also spent time in academia and my experience is one where beliefs are kept outside of any debate –also academia underpin’s the dominate worldview rather than going against it-ask Sophie & Hans Scholl.
    With regard to your favourite Philosopher, Plantinga he is in a Catholic University so it doesn’t really rate as an example of bias in academia, the vast majority of academics are not in Christian universities, the ones I met were all reductionists.
    Archaeology is so open to debate in terms of dating that I’m not concerned about the current theories, you said:’ Now, the Sinai Peninsula is not a large place and even today has a population of only a few million. Depending upon whose numbers one accepts, the Israelites leaving Egypt numbered from 600,000 or so to several million, and that number, presumably, would have increased over time as children were born. That many people leave a huge footprint.’

    Firstly the Sinai Peninsula is not so small, at least I wouldn’t want to be digging about in it looking for Biblical poo, it’s 61,000 square kilometres large!
    William Dever a University of Arizona archaeologist notes’ What type of material evidence, after all would one expect to find that could corroborate the biblical story? Slaves, serfs, and nomads leave few traces in the archaeological record’.
    Nahum Sarna, professor emeritus of biblical studies at Brandeis University, argues that the Exodus story, tracing as it does, a nation’s origins to slavery and oppression.” Cannot possibly be fictional. No nation would be likely to invent for itself…an inglorious and inconvenient tradition of this nature”
    People like Peter James, who published a book called Centuries of Darkness, counter Finkelstiens account as does British archaeologist David Rohl, who published A Test of Time, marketed in America as Pharaohs and Kings. Both of these books argue, convincingly, that the traditional dating of much of ancient history before 1000 BC in most history books is flawed. The point being that the jury is out with regard to Biblical archaeology-the arguments rumble on –I can’t wait for them to be settled before I decide where to place my faith, I’ll be dead.
    You said:
    ‘Your synopsis of Kali and of the Hindu approach to cruelty is fantastically simplistic. I’m not convinced, and I say this with all possible gentleness, that where this subject is concerned, I am dealing with anything beyond stubborn ignorance, so I am tempted to leave it alone. I’m not quite sure you even know how Hinduism, or any other -ism or -anity besides Christianity, deals with personality or with anything else– except perhaps as the information has been filtered through Christian thought– so I don’t see much hope for productive debate.’
    I am booked in for counselling after that last comment .You of course are partly right, my characterisation of Kali was simplistic, but yet true. There is more to Kali than skulls round the neck for sure; Hinduism is largely a pantheistic, mystical belief, which means two things: regarding pantheism everything that is returns to a impersonal source, no distinction is made or has any basis for being made, regarding cruelty and non cruelty-all are part of nature.
    Regarding mystical belief Hindus gain their knowledge through not through rationalism but through an inner mystical experience (I assume this means that because its mystical it cannot be vocalised).
    You said:’ While the modern world may not be a devout orthodox Christian community, I still argue that everyone in it has been influenced by Christianity. The operative term is ‘influenced’. Christianity is pervasive. Its concepts are common even where they are no longer recognized as such. Its ideas are buried in law, and psychology, in philosophy, in politics…’
    Again I agree, we live with the ‘memory’ of Christianity but if anything this could be argued to place bias against Christianity and the bible rather than for it. Is it more important what ‘direction’ society is headed in rather than where it’s been in relation to bias?
    Well that’s me done for now off to counselling!
    Cheers,
    Mike

  16. themaiden says:

    Mike,

    It has been a long time since we spoke directly about the distinction between Faith and Blind Faith, but I argue that it all ties into that theme. I am challenging, or attempting to challenge at any rate, the methods you use to distinguish the two. I think those methods are flawed. I further think that people, perhaps you especially, like to have reasons to back belief. By questioning those reasons, I hope to provoke a questioning of that belief, which, honestly, is the role of any good philosopher. While this may sound like a shocking confession, but I suggest that your aim, at least in part, is to provoke, in me, a questioning of my beliefs. You are dealing with the devil; so am I. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Mathematical and logical proofs are meaningless unless tied to data. For example:

    If A then B,
    If B then C,
    Therefore, if A then C.

    This is valid. What does it mean? Completely nothing. It has no relevance to anyone.

    Now,

    If cow then horse,
    If horse then chicken,
    Therefore, if cow then chicken.

    This is also valid, and it has a meaning of sorts. It is also competely and obviously wrong. Why? Well, the premises are silly. The reference to data is flawed.

    The same kind of thing can be done with algebra, for example. And no one cares what a ‘proof’ proves if the results conflict with observation.

    But more critically, logic and mathematics are abstractions from data. Why define as 1 plus 1 as 2 except by observing that one thing thrown into a basket with another thing means that what is then in the basket is a count of two? That is the essense of mathematics. It is the observing of what happens when things– rocks, paper, scissors– are mixed together.

    So I still contend that the idea of ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ makes no sense when divorced from data.

    When you state that “Any worldview must be tested against how easy it is to live out the truth of that worldview in practice…” you are dangerously close to committing a fallacy called Appeal to Consequences, which occurs when on rejects a belief for reasons which have nothing to do with the veracity of that belief. Whether or not atheism provides a moral compass is rather immaterial to whether or not God exists. One consequence of Einstein’s relativity was the development of the atomic bomb. That is certainly arguably a negative consequence, but does it mean that Relativity is flawed? Nope.

    From another perspective, your statement makes more sense. That is why I said “dangerously close” and not “positively committing” the fallacy. If one assumes that ethics, for example, have to follow from first principles you might be able to make a case, but one has to make that assumption. I personally see no compelling reason for it. Ethics and morality are the dynamics of human interaction, of cooperation, of co-existence. I don’t see that they derive from anything other than experience.

    Freud, by the way, was wrong about quite a lot.

    The Sinai Peninsula is a few thousand miles larger than the State of Georgia in the US. That is not a terribly large area, no matter how large the numbers may seem. While I wouldn’t want to do it, archeologists can and do search such areas, but more importantly, there are further clues available to narrow the search areas. My point is two-fold. Millions of people would leave a mark on an area that size. Yes, nomads leave few traces, but they do leave traces. Millions of people would leave a great many fire sites, for example. And this bunch of millions supposedly left with livestock and jewels and such. Evidence of this stuff should be in that desert. It isn’t.

    Sarna’s argument is pretty weak. First, it isn’t archeology. It is psychology. Second, the Exodus isn’t a creation myth– that myth occurs with the stories of the patriarchs or even of Adam– and in those myths the Israelites are God’s Gift to the Universe. Third, slavery and exile are punishment from the gods. Such myths are common throughout the world.

    James and Rohl, if I am not mistaken, both revise the dates upwards. That is, they consider events to be more recent that other scholars. Revising the dates upwards as they do, creates even more problems than it solves.

    I must go now. I may add some more later.

  17. Holopupenko says:

    Hi Mike:
         I’m popping in for a few brief comments. My general observation is that there is much antecedent baggage brought into the discussion by those who are arguing against, say, religious faith, objects not accessible to the senses (“justice” or the “Verification Principle” to note just a few), and in general anything that is not somehow accessible to the modern empirical sciences.
         Consider the following categorical claim: “[religion] give[s] answers that are completely unverifiable, as they concern, for the most part, things of which no one has any first hand knowledge…” Really? Doesn’t that beg the question of what counts as being verifiable? If, as I suspect is the case, verification is a priori limited to that data which is accessible directly to the five primary senses, then the principle itself fails its own test. Since the commenter made such a categorical assertion, the onus is on them to demonstrate its soundness (as opposed to merely proving its validity). All you have to do is show that verification per the modern empirical sciences can’t verify itself (what’s there to observe or measure and predict?). In doing so, you show that verification is not as simple a thing as is usually promoted by those seeking “scientific” verification. (Can the sciences validate themselves, i.e., can one claim science works because science works? Of course not: that’s a self-referential (circular) argument.) What this implies is that something must precede the sciences to justify their observational efficacy and methodologies. But if that’s the case, then the claim itself falls flat. A more pithy way of saying this is: follow the evidence, and don’t limit the evidence to merely material entities and physical phenomena. Another comment claims “logic and mathematics are abstractions from data.” Maybe. But how does anyone “verify” what an abstraction is and its mode of existence? What, pray tell, is observable about an “abstraction”? What is predictable about an “abstraction”? What modern empirical science can point to an abstraction and say: “there it is, it will behave thusly”? None, of course. (Which, by the way, is why Richard Dawkins and his weird idea of memes is so ridiculous: show us a meme, Mr. Dawkins!)
         Also, there was a comment about logic with examples of syllogism provided. This person needs to go back to logic class and do some homework because there are several things not being clearly distinguished (formal vs. material logic, or why logic works in the first place, etc.). The howler, after providing a formally valid syllogism, was to claim that it meant nothing. Really? Formal validity is the framework upon which sound arguments are built. Indeed, the syllogism does have very great methodological meaning and relevance. To claim otherwise is very, very sloppy.
         There are several posts I’ve provided on these topics at my blog, which you may be interested in visiting here and here and hereas well as ones prior to these.

  18. themaiden says:

    Holopupenko,

    Pretty much the whole of what you wrote up until you mention ‘memes’ is fluff, and it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of some basic epistemology. The core elements of any epistemological system cannot be proven from within that system, just as the core assumption of logic cannot be proven logically and just as the axioms of euclidian geometry cannot be proven from within the system. They are assumed. That is why they are called axioms. Mike and I have actually discussed this issue at my site.

    And surely you realize that your criticism of my logic is confusing structure with meaning. I can string together a series of words in their proper order– in English, subject, verb, predicate– but still “The eyeball flies tapioca” is utterly meaningless, however hard you try to pretend otherwise.

  19. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Hells Maiden & Holopupenko,
    Just a quick reply.
    you said:’ I further think that people, perhaps you especially, like to have reasons to back belief.’
    Yes, hats me, I do like reasons to back belief, Belief with out reason to back it, begs the question why have a reasoning capacity? Belief should engage the whole of a persons experience.
    I believe in truth, that A is not nonA. the universe is rational, I have a belief that explains why the universe is rational .Any belief I accept has to have a correlation with what I experience, with what capacities I have. If there is no correlation with my experience then it amounts to blind faith, worse than that, it is logically inconsistent-just think new age movement and its pick and mix belief profile.
    I have reasons for my belief, that are coherent with it’s self and with the external world, such that there is no inconsistency, philosophically. This faith is not blind, or part of wish fulfillment.
    You said:’ Mathematical and logical proofs are meaningless unless tied to data.’ more importantly you said: ‘So I still contend that the idea of ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ makes no sense when divorced from data.’
    I agree but of course the problem is what is excluded from the term data?
    Re Mathematical proofs are meaningless unless tied to the data -your right with a proviso that Mathematical proofs often lead to meaningful data, they not only describe events but point to new sources of data, so its the correlation between the mathematical model and the real world that gives Math’s its meaning, your right. But what do you mean by data? Numbers would be considered as representing data surely ?
    The problem with an ’empirical data only’ assumption for truth, apart from a lack of authority for that assumption is that data has to be interpreted and represented by something ,represented by something that is not empirical in nature, such as numbers, or the word ‘red’ for a certain wavelength of light.
    An inference has to be made-as said previously how can one physical entity be about another? Just as there has to be imagination in the discovery process (remember Benzene),it sloppy but it seems that empiricism needs non-empiricism in order to describe the world and manipulate it, therefore empiricism is not the sole gatekeeper to truth.
    Data is meaningless unless tied to logical proofs and Mathematics-(which before I end up disappearing up my own rear end in confusion)brings me back to ,what I see as the most important part of this thread -The data that tells us that only data is the source of what is … is what?
    I know we have spoken about this on Hells handmaiden http://www.hells-handmaiden.com/?p=1096#comments.
    I know that you have said: ‘And I’d argue that it isn’t possible to provide empirical evidence that empiricism is true.’
    If its not possible to provide data to prove a ‘data exclusive’ filter is catching all the truth there is out there to be had ,then this assumption is based on faith, the authority for this faith is..what?Experience,pragmatism? What is the basis for your faith in this methodology?
    You said:’ Ethics and morality are the dynamics of human interaction, of cooperation, of co-existence. I don’t see that they derive from anything other than experience. ‘
    If ethics is derived from experience-whose experience? Sorry but im going to be a bit controversial with my examples here. The guy raping or the girl being raped? The culture that aborts Girls or the Girl being aborted.
    Female circumcision is a cultural practice -is that moral if so why? Moral relativism doesn’t work, as we have so many different experiences to glean our moral relativism from, the guys who flew into the world trade centre towers -they were doing that not because they thought they were immoral but because they were resisting what they saw as a immoral ant Islamic power-does that make it right ?
    Gotta go, my works profile is being reimaged so I have to scoot,
    Thanks guys for your comments .
    I haven’t commented on Holopupenko update as I haven’t time right now, plus im too busy reading all those links:)
    Cheers,
    Mike

  20. themaiden says:

    Hi again,

    I’ve made the point a few times that human cultural differences are fairly small, in general. It occurred to me that CS Lewis agrees. He bases a primary argument on it.

    “But this is not true. There have been differences between their
    moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like total
    difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching
    of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and
    Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each
    other and to our own.”

    Mere Christianity, chapter one.

  21. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi The maiden,
    I guess cultural differences are generally slight -when you look at these difference in low resolution.For instance do not kill /do not covet your neighbours Ox/do not bear false witness etc these will be found across creeds in some form or other,and make up part of the culture in laws and behaviour.
    In fact the Bible states that the law will be written on our hearts-now I know that doesn’t mean literally written :)-but you know what I mean -we all have an innate sense whats right and wrong,the point Lewis is possibly trying to make in your quote?
    Yet at a higher resolution there are differences in cultural practice if not in moral guidance.For instance a friend of mine was born into a Hindu family from Pakistan she became a Christian during her time at University -she was cut off from her family and her Mother tried to Kill her with a knife.she is now approaching her late 30’s and still remains cut off from her family.
    I became a christian during my teens into a non christian family I wasn’t cut off or attacked.The two different reactions are indicative of different cultures rather than diferent moral teaching.Again moral teaching may have little to say on the difference in value between bearing a son and a daughter,but the culture takes on attitudes according to its experience.As an example the Chinese biase against Baby girls results in them placed in dying rooms and left.cultural differences point to a problem for moral relatvists.
    Cheers,
    Mike

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