Truth and Truth

BirchSama @BreakingSunday
Only an idiot believes that things which cannot be/aren’t proved to exist are facts.”

This is a statement that was recently posted on Kotaku regarding the Cristian Game Developers Conference.  The above person first stated that Christians have an imaginary friend, and then went on to make this philosophical statement about epistemology.  It is not a new statement, but one clearly defined as Logical Positivism.  Things are either tautological, like math and logic, or they are verifiable by scientific evidence.

One even mildly acquainted with logic will see a fundamental problem with this statement of course.  It is neither a tautology nor verifiable through scientific evidence that “only an idiot believes that things which cannot be/aren’t proved to exist are facts.”  This critique of Logical Positivism is not new, it is as old as the first logical mind to encounter this flawed point of view and subject it to its own rigors.  When put up to its own test, it fails.  However, if such a point of view can be shown to be so easily defeated, what is it still hanging around?

Our culture has undergone a mass transformation in values in the last few centuries.  Here I am not speaking about family or social values, about values of sex or economics, but instead about values of knowledge.  Before the enlightenment, a thing was said to be true if it bore the weight of authority, or if it showed itself through deductive argument to be necessarily true.  With less weight it was considered to be true through inductive argument, i.e. experience.   In the olden days, it was the church who stood as the great authority, and against whom the enlightenment railed.

This is not especially bad in my oppinion, as the church’s main task is to be the body of Christ in the world, spreading the good news that God has come close, tending to the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the needy, and the imprisoned.  Insofar as we ignore those tasks and instead attempt to become authorities on the composition of the cosmos, we are quite wrong.  In fact, the enlightenment still has much work to do I think in undermining the hubris of Christians who speak beyond their means.  The Christians statement, as a Christian, should be “God has come close, let us rejoice and obey His good teachings to love each other.”  All else is outside of the realm of Christian authority.

Part of loving each other, however, is telling each other the truth.  And part of that truth is logical truth.  And it is here that the enlightenment has aimed its other guns.  For the modern day shaman who says “not I, but my honest, reasonable, and mighty god” when asked about his authority, is no longer a man of logic or faith, but a man of science.  For the scientific mind is less concerned with arguments and more concerned with the evidence.  Well and good, for that is his or her job.  The scientist must not, if the evidence shows otherwise, bow to the argument of a man who can show that the sun is made of banana pudding.  The Scientist must in fact keep on with the good work of examining evidence, and leave it to the logician to show the pudding-man to be a fool on logical grounds.

Yet the work of science seems to have a tangent which is rather disturbing.  In the work of people like Hawking, knowledge is reduced to scientific knowledge in the popular mind.  I say reduced, not because scientific knowledge is a poor or paltry thing, but because it is only one of a number of kinds of knowledge.  Notice that in the expression Scientific Knowledge,  “Scientific” here is an adjective, meaning that it is only a type of knowledge, not the thing itself.

The danger here is that we begin to downplay the importance of other kinds of knowledge.  The human being is not a creature merely of evidence, but of multivalent epistemologies.  We stride through this world with knowledge gleaned from evidence, intuition, experience, and logical deduction.  In fact, the central apparatus for all knowledge is deductive knowledge, as we naturally do basic deductive logic with even the smallest experiences.

The central problem with a general feeling that scientific knowledge being the only kind of knowledge that is useful is that the idea itself is not a piece of scientific knowledge.  You cannot show, through scientific evidence, that all other information is in fact useless.  You can show that for scientific measurement, human observation is far less useful than experiments, but you cannot show that the kind of knowledge that comes from experiments is the only kind of knowledge worth having.

Thus the work of the church, as a body meant to love humanity into life through and by Jesus Christ, is in the modern age partially involved in stemming the tide of the logical positivist view.  It is not to try to usurp scientific knowledge from real scientists and stuff that into a book that is supposed to reveal the Character of God.  It is not to try to say that science is not science, but to insist that the human condition is more than empirical evidence.  If it is not, why are we bothering with science in the first place?

This is elementary argumentation for elementary difficulties.  However these elementary difficulties are rampant throughout a society which is poorly trained in clear thinking on both sides of the belief line.  Some clearer thinking will, I think, present better skeptical arguments which will in turn encourage better answers by people of faith.


4 thoughts on “Truth and Truth

  1. This is not Logical Positivism, it’s scientific realism and naturalism. You state however that Positivism has flaws, yet you state no actual flaw. It’s just a list of why you think scientists do a poor job on collecting knowledge and how the Christian Church teachings are more than what it seems.

  2. I’m afraid that the logic might not have come through.

    Let’s look at it this way:

    Proposition 1: The Only facts that are knowable are those shown by science to be true.
    Proposition 2: Proposition 1 is not shown by Science to be true.
    Conclusion A: Proposition 1 is self contradictory.

    Or, if you admit that logic is allowable as a source of sure knowledge.
    Proposition 3: The Only facts that are knowable are those shown by science and those shown through sure logical deduction to be true.
    Proposition 4: Proposition 3 is neither shown by science or by logical deduction to be true.
    Conclusion B: Proposition 3 is self contradictory.

    As well, I made no statement about how well scientists collect information, but instead critiqued our social acceptance of only one kind of information to the detriment of the others. Scientists are both good and bad at doing science, as all people in all fields are both good and bad at their jobs. When a good scientist makes solid scientific statements, then religion has nothing to say except about how those statements might be best applied in interpersonal relationships.

    Also, I said that the Church should in fact refrain from making statements about the validity of science as a religious body.

    Your response leads me to believe that you did not, in fact, read my post, but merely responded to a brief survey of the text, which is a shame because, instead of making real arguments all you’ve done is required me to repeat myself in another form.

    As well, since the term “scientific realism” is often defined in different ways, could you explain your definition of it?

  3. Pingback: Contradicted and Closed « A Christian Mind

  4. Pingback: Closed and Contradicted « A Christian Mind

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