I know we’re all biased, but I’m getting so tired or people who insist on how right they must be and how absurd their opposition is. I truly think that these people believe that what they believe is correct. It’s just bizarre though how they are completely unable to see the other possibility. When I say that something is “credible” or “believable” I mean that it appears to be a possible truth. The credibility of some article, story, or book has nothing to do with what I currently believe or hold to. In addition when I say that something is “compelling” or “convincing” I mean that the article or story, drives one to believe the conclusion. It makes conclusions based on credible presuppositions that if true, propel the reader to adopt the position or opinion of the author. Now, if I believe that the facts are wrong, it doesn’t mean that the book isn’t compelling. I find the conclusion to be false but only because I feel confident in the correctness and validity of my facts over the credible facts presented in the argument. However, if I later find that I was wrong, then I would be inclined to adopt the position advocated.

This seems to make sense to me but not to anyone else. Practically everyone I talk to will make statements about an argument as if the argument is absurd. Some of the time, I feel that the argument was excellent. The flaw was the presupposed facts. Granted, there are some flakey, illogical arguments that are commonly advocated today, but these relatively easy to spot. They simply don’t stand up to scrutiny and can be shown to be wrong through internal confusion or contradiction. But to simply attack the argument as “bad” when one means that one simply disagrees with the underlying presuppositions seems to be most unhelpful. For example, when a person states that the 9/11 plane crashes were a government conspiracy, the facts are credible (it’s actually quite amazing what evidence can be provided) and the argument is consistent and logical. I don’t know what happened on September 11, but I feel that I’m in the minority because I don’t rabidly reject one or the other possibility. I’m somewhat inclined to doubt that the U.S. government could do such a thing (have you seen how efficient they are at other tasks?) but there is credible evidence to support the conspiracy.

I don’t agree with athiests. However, I find it silly to refer to their arguments as “bad” simply because they start with different facts. Their underlying faith in certain facts and truths is what I believe to be faulty. It all comes down to what a person starts with. If you believe that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners you start with a very different perspective than someone who believes that the universe has always existed and that the sum of what we observe in the physical universe is all that really is. From these two extremely different springboards, we can easily construct logical and “good” argument. But the athiest and Christian will never agree despite how logical and excellent these arguments may be.

It seems like an insane amount of time is spent disproving the validity of an atheist’s argument when the problem isn’t in the argument, it’s in the facts that are presented as fact in the argument. If someone tells me that the world is supported on the back of a giant turtle I have reason to doubt. I have never seen said turtle and have no reason to believe that it exists. However, if I suspend my disbelief and assume that it may be true, a compelling conclusion may follow. It’s still not very credible but this is because I have much evidence to support the fact that the reptile in question is fictitious and little evidence to the contrary. Facts and truths underly the validity of arguments but not their logical conclusion. I could still conclude, for example, that if I was to be convinced of the existence of the turtle, I would also agree with the conclusion drawn from this fact. I think most people though would say that the argument was absurd. It isn’t though — the fact is absurd. It’s absurd because it’s not supported by evidence.

In scientific circles, observation of physical phenomena is what establishes “fact”. If one scientist believes he has seen a giant, 27-foot long gerbil, he is challenged. He is challenged because he is alone in his observation and his peers suspect him of hitting the Wild Turkey too hard. However, when more evidence presents itself (“New York City residents flee before enormous rodent!”), scientists are willing to accept this as fact. If an event or object is observed only once, it’s credibility is considered dubious. Repeatability is important. If 26-foot long gerbils were observed to exist, a scientist reporting a 27-foot gerbil would be believed perhaps without any verification by other scientists. Here we see also that “facts” established already are the impetus for the adoption of similar facts. If, after the 27-foot gerbil is recorded as actually in existence, a new discovery shows that the observation of the first 26-foot gerbil was inaccurate (The scientist was looking at the gerbil the wrong way through his binoculars) then the 27-foot gerbil “fact” will again be challenged. Fact builds on fact.

The issue with “science” vs. “religion” is fundamentally that science is about believing what we sense with our five senses and religion is about believing what we sense within our minds. Our five senses indicate the orientation of the physical world around us. Our minds indicate the orientation of something else entirely. We feel guilt and shame, we feel that there is a problem with the way the world is, we feel that certain things are “wrong” and others are “right”. Using language like this is using constructs to describe experiences of thought just as “blue” and “yellow” are constructs that describe experiences of vision. Psychology attempts to explain the mind as if it were simply yet another thing to be understood with our five senses. However, understanding it eludes us. Yes, chemical reactions are observed that trigger complex mental activity and behavior but what causes us to ask the questions of existence and meaning? Is it simply more chemical interactions and hormonal responses? Are we simply exerting energy like a an imperfect artificial intelligence, clogging the binary gateways of its unknown progenitory motherboard in an attempt to describe a feeling that is in fact nothing more than the complex arrangement and interaction of the selfsame binary gateways? This is the fundamental question. Are we wasting our time trying to find order and meaning and purpose when we were random and chaotic? Is it possible for random and chaotic systems to search for order and patterns? Where does the order come from?

The answers to these questions lay down the most basic of all facts and are therefore the basis of all “high-level” beliefs. I think more books should be written concerning these answers and the arguments and supporting evidence for them, with an attempt at showing evidence for these presuppositions than merely bashing high-level arguments that clearly aren’t resting on the same foundation. The rest is unimportant — the most logical argument in the world is useless if the facts are wrong. So why start there?

  1. #1 by Bill on August 2, 2007 - 8:57 pm

    Andrew, great post. I posted a response on my new blog!

  2. #2 by Your Youngest sis on August 6, 2007 - 2:38 pm

    *blink blink* how do you find enough time to think of all that?!?!

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