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Friday, January 27, 2006

How simple is religious language ?

In my previous entry, I explained why the argument "you can't prove a negative" is extremely irrational, and how Occam's Razor is one of the fundamental epistemic principles that go against it.

The illusion of Reformed Epistemology - that "God exists" is a simple proposition - is a powerful illusion. It is such a powerful illusion that no one even cares to justify it. And yet it is very easily disproven. Take the most direct of claims about God, the claim that God is taking to you. Many people are claimed to have done so, including Moses and the burning bush. But for Moses to believe that God spoke to him from the burning bush, he would first need to affirm the following :

1. I believe that God exists.
2. I believe that God can, and does, intervene in the universe.
3. I believe that God can speak to human beings.
4. I believe that God would appear or manifest itself as a burning bush.
5. I believe that I can understand God.
6. I believe that I am communicating with God, and not Satan, devils, angels, etc.
7. I believe that it is meaningful for me to claim divine intervention (which in itself is a claim of omniscience, as we have seen).
etc.

Call this the "God spoke" position. It is very simple to write but takes a long time to unpack conceptually.

Now think of a more reasonable position, that the story of the burning bush is a myth. The notion of a myth is pretty complex and requires an interpretative framework. So it is nowhere as direct as "God spoke to me". For someone who holds the truth of the Bible as an arbitrary a priori, a reasonable position would be to believe that Moses was schizophrenic and reported what he thought he saw and heard. Once again, this involves concepts which are far less direct than "God spoke to me".

The problem is that Occam's Razor is not based on subjective simplicity or directness. Occam's Razor is based on the objective ontologies of each position. "God spoke to Moses" is fairly simple in and of itself, but it demands us to accept a completely secondary and fabricated ontology which has no relation to the one we know, and which we can't even describe. This is a case of emotional simplicity hiding impossible objective complexity.

The ultimate simple idea, that only I exist, is the most ontologically complex, because I must still explain the existence of everything that I observe by referring only to myself. Try as they might, subjectivists cannot explain this away regardless of how many objective constructs they build (which according to them should not even exist).

The simplicity of religious language is a utilitarian construct. Complicated, loaded semantics serves one main purpose : to mentally isolate the believer from the rest of society. It is profitable for a cult to adopt this approach. However, a major religion cannot work by isolating people from society, since it wants to become an integral part of society (speaking metaphorically of course). Christian language is not extremely simplistic because Christianity is widespread, but rather the reverse.

This extreme simplicity comes at a heavy intellectual cost. Your semantics is your worldview - they are one and the same. An extremely and artificially simple semantics necessarily entails an extremely and artificially simple worldview. It's nice to have a narrow view of the world, but, as the solipsist problem demonstrates, such a position is not tenable in the long term.

Christianity is not a sustainable state. That is why Christians deconvert as the cognitive dissonance between their beliefs and the observed reality grows. Atheists, on the other hand, don't convert to Christianity as their gain more observations, because no observation can possibly prove to an atheist that God exists.

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1 Comments:

At 1/27/2006 11:01 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Excellent. Looks like a really attractive double-submission to a carnival.

 

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