Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Friday, October 21, 2005

"Proof" : What is it Exactly ? part 2

What does this abstract notion mean in regards to Christianity and theism ? Well, it is often said that Christianity, or Creationism, is not falsifiable. This is not correct, insofar as there are many pieces of evidence which show probability or knowledge of non-existence, such as the Problem of Evil, or theological noncognitivism. In the same way, when we observe speciation we don't also see lifeforms popping out of thin air, but rather a process of genetic change as predicted by Neo-Darwinism. The fact that our science is able to explain things more simply than theism is the most obvious proof of the falsify of the latter.

But Christianity and its assorted pseudo-scientific doctrines are still not considered scientific, because they break the principle of naturalism. That is to say, they are based on supernatural entities and processes ("God", "Creation") which cannot be accounted for, and to substract them from an explanation does not remove any substance from it at all.

Adding the label "God" to our experiences, or to a natural process, or a human thought or feeling, says absolutely nothing new about it. Likewise, saying "God did it" is the equivalent of saying "it". Such a phrase ("God did") can only have meaning in a religious context, where causal identification and measurement is completely irrelevant. We cannot identify or measure "God", and neither can we identify or measure "Creation", and, due to their non-natural nature, neither of these can be causally relevant unless we eliminate all natural causes, which is to say, unless we assume that it cannot be found scientifically.

Otherwise, there is no reason to assume that one has an experience "of God", when one can simply posit that it is an experience, and then look for a real, concrete explanation. Or one need not assume that genetic change comes "from God", when we can simply posit that genetic change happens, and then look for a real, concrete explanation. For these reasons, Christianity is trivially proven wrong by Occam's Razor, if anything else.

But it is the moral aspect of things which tends to interest me more. And there is a moral aspect to the concept of proof : if one does not value open discussion and persuasion as means to deal with differences of opinion, then one will not try to prove anything. Rather, the only alternative to persuasion, is some form of coercion. When people cannot solve issues by persuasion, then they have no other recourse than state coercion or individual coercion.

Likewise, to eschew rationality leaves only coercion as our means to resolve conflicts. The correlation here is not coincidence. To reason is to deliberate within oneself, and to hold a faith is to do violence to our own mind, conceptually of course. At the interpersonal level, persuasion is only possible if one has something of value to the other, but if no one accepts reason, then no amount of evidence can be of any value. The only means left in one's arsenal are state coercion, threats, violence and war. In a lecture called "Faith and Force : The Destroyers of the Modern World", Ayn Rand explained it in this way :

[F]aith and force are corollaries, and (...) mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, (...) persuasion, communication or understanding are impossible.

Christianity is firmly planted in the mystic camp, insofar as it holds non-empirical beliefs as fundamental, and rejects the validity of human experience. Also, there is nothing in Christianity about the value of honest discussion and persuasion, although there is more than plenty about warfare, genocide, executions and coercion in general. Christian doctrines are not to be discussed, debated or questioned : they are to be believed and obeyed. The characters of "God" and "Jesus" are not philosophers, they are violent, repulsive tyrants, who brook no disagreement. In view of this, we can say that the concept of "proof", as a process of persuasion or demonstration, is alien to Christianity.

I would in fact contend that the concept of "proof" is not only incompatible with Christianity, but necessarily assumes the falsity of Christianity. Both definitions rely on evidence, and the notion of evidence presumes that we are part of the causal chains from which this evidence comes. All evidence is reducible to sensory data, and we know we are seeing something because light rays bounce off it and enter our eye, and so on for all other senses. But Christianity demands us to believe, through the doctrine of the soul, that the human mind is somehow disconnected from the material world and its causal chains. If this is true, then there is no possible way to get from the light ray entering the eye to the realization of seeing, and so on for all other senses. For the materialist, proving is a process that ultimately reduces itself to pointing out observed facts. But this is not available to the Christian worldview, which is centered around non-empirical epistemic assumptions. There are many ways to defeat such assumptions, which I discuss in "Refuting Theistic Epistemic Standards".

I haven't wasted much time answering the secular opposition to "proof", but it comes back to the same basic issues : should we deal with each other by persuasion, or by force ? Whether secular or religious, the motives of anyone who claim that proof is beyond man, although they may deny it, ultimately come down to "force". Any individual who agrees that truth is grounded in objective reality must understand that proof is the expression of free minds and free societies.

Post a Comment


At 10/21/2005 2:25 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Thats awesome. Evidence stands on its own merit, but faith is a threat or demand.

Evidence = freedom
Faith = coercion

At 10/21/2005 3:16 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Excellent points, Franc. For example, the Christian explanation for human disease (corruption of genome by sin) is accompanied by no mechanistic explanation. The only detail given is that "God did it" by proxy, through cultivating the conditions that allow sin to enter the world. But when pressed with specific questions, e.g., "how does sin interact with DNA?" there is no response.

Faith is what keeps you afloat after you've walked off the edge of the cliff of Reason.

At 11/07/2005 6:47 PM, Blogger LJ declaimed...


At 8/16/2010 3:21 AM, Blogger ming declaimed...

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