Is It Faith? The Demon, Dream, and Matrix Conjectures

I've initially examined Timothy Keller’s argument with regard to faith. But there's more.

Again, Keller argues skeptics should “doubt your doubts.” He claims: “All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternative beliefs. You cannot doubt Belief A except from a position of faith in Belief B.” Writing to skeptics he claims that “The reason you doubt Christianity’s Belief A is because you hold unprovable Belief B. Every doubt, therefore, is based on a leap of faith.” [The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008), p. xviii]. We have faith, he opines, whenever we accept something that is “unprovable,” and all of us “have fundamental, unprovable faith commitments that we think are superior to those of others.” [Ibid., p. 20]. So he argues skeptics likewise “must doubt your doubts.” [Ibid., p. xix].

As I said, I do not accept Keller’s definition of faith. He’s manipulating the debate by using a language game in his favor. I reject his game and his conclusion. Here is why, based on something David Eller argues: “knowing is not believing.” He argues that if believers “can drag down real knowledge to their level and erase any distinctions between the true and the false, the known and the merely felt or believed or guessed, they can rest comfortably in their own undeserved self-certainty.” He defends the view that “knowledge is about reason and that belief is about faith, and the two are logically and psychologically utterly different and even incompatible.” [David Eller, Natural Atheism, pp, 132-33]. The word faith (and belief) must be reserved to apply in this context to beliefs about that which cannot be empirically sensed or tested, like ghosts, angels, demons and gods.

Dr. Craig responds as Keller does when it comes to questions I've raised about his claim that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit "trumps all other evidence" in his Q & A.

Dr. Craig wrote:
...most of our beliefs cannot be evidentially justified. Take, for example, the belief that the world was not created five minutes ago with built-in memory traces, food in our stomachs from meals we never really ate, and other appearances of age. Or the belief that the external world around us is real rather than a computer-generated virtual reality. Anyone who has seen a film like The Matrix realizes that the person living in such a virtual reality has no evidence that he is not in such an illusory world. But surely we're rational in believing that the world around us is real and has existed longer than five minutes, even though we have no evidence for this.
I find these examples to be strange ones, very strange. So let’s see if I can put this into perspective. He's arguing that since it’s rational to believe we’re not in The Matrix or that we have not been created five minutes ago, it’s also rational to believe in God without evidence. Is there truly no evidence against our beliefs that we were not created five minutes ago or that we're not living in The Matrix? These examples are bandied about among philosophers as if they are self-evident, including the evil demon and dream conjectures of Rene Descartes. We are told there is no evidence for what we believe about such things AND we are told by Reformed Epistemologists like Plantinga and Craig that these examples parallel their belief in the “great truths of the gospel.” Let’s look at these things in turn.

First, I think there is evidence to suggest we were not created five minutes ago, depending on what we mean by evidence. Evidence in its broadest conception includes anything and everything used to demonstrate the truth of a claim, which includes our arguments based on the things we’ve experienced. What we believe will be based on the probability of the evidence, all of it, as broadly defined. As such, I think there is evidence against the existence of a creator God. The arguments for the existence of God are not persuasive. I do not think such a God could create the first moment in time if he is somehow “outside of time.” And I do not think a spiritual Supreme Being could create a material world. Even if a creator God exists I find no evidence that he would create us into such a massively deceptive world five minutes ago anyway. Therefore there is evidence against our having been created five minutes ago. All they have left is a mere remote possibility, not anything like a probability.

As far the existence of an external world goes G. E. Moore offered a good enough argument in his "Proof of an External World"

The demon hypothesis of Rene Descartes, in which there might be a demon who is deceiving me right now, fails because of the same evidence just mentioned above with regard to God creating us five minutes ago. Descartes uses his extreme method of hypothetical doubt like a massive sword. The mere possibility that there is such a demon was enough to cast doubt on his knowledge about the external world. But why must we base what we accept as the case on a mere possibility?

When it comes to the question of whether I’m dreaming right now a good case has been made by Norman Malcom [in his book Dreaming and Skepticism], and Bernard Williams [in his book Descartes], that there is a difference between dreams and our waking experience. The fact that we can distinguish between them presupposes we are aware of them both and of their differences. It’s only from the perspective of being awake that we can explain our dreams. Hence we can only make sense of this distinction if we are sometimes awake. And since this is the case, all of our experiences throughout our entire lives cannot be made up merely of a sequence of dreams.

What about the world depicted in The Matrix film? There are several responses to such a radical scenario which would upstage most everything we accept as true about our existence in this world. Such a scenario is a mere possibility, if it is possible at all, and a very unlikely one at that. The story is just implausible. I see no reason why there would be any human resistance or knowledge of the Matrix at all by people living in the Matrix, since it determines all of their experiences…all of them. I also see no reason why a pill or a decision by Neo could make any difference at all while inside the Matrix. Apart from the story line itself I see no reason for the Matrix in the first place, and I see no reason why our bodies are better at fueling it than other sources.

As David Mitsuo Nixon argued, “The proper response to someone’s telling me that my belief could be false is, “So what?” It’s not possibility that matters, it’s probability, So until you give me a good reason to think that my belief is not just possibly false, but probably false, I’m not changing anything about what I believe or what I think I know.” [“The Matrix Possibility” in The Matrix and Philosophy, ed. William Irwin (p. 30)]

So even if the Matrix is a possibility, it too is an extremely unlikely one. To overturn nearly everything we think in order to accept it would be to go against the overwhelming evidence (as defined above) about that which we claim to know. In fact, it would be self-defeating to accept it, for if we did then how do we know that THAT world isn't just another kind of Matrix? That is, if we accept the claim about the Matrix then it would cause us to distrust everything we experience. And since this is the case, then Neo would have no reason for trusting the experiences he had while supposedly outside the Matrix in the so-called “real world?” When it comes to Neo knowing the real world in distinction from the Matrix he has been given no reason to think one world is real and the other is illusionary. The red pill could have been nothing more than a hallucinogenic drug, for instance. So Neo would have no basis for trusting those experiences supposedly outside the Matrix in the real world, and as such he would end up as an “epistemological solipsist,” not having any reason for trusting there is a world outside his mind.

Craig also wrote…
Many of the things we know are not based on evidence. So why must belief in God be so based? Belief in God and the great truths of the Gospel is not a blind exercise of faith, a groundless leap in the dark. Rather, as Plantinga emphasizes, Christian belief is part of the deliverances of reason, grounded in the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, which is an objective reality mediated to me from God.
Notice the impossibly huge leap Craig makes here. From the fact that we cannot be absolutely certain

(a) that we were not created five minutes ago, or

(b) that we are not living in a Matrix,

Craig claims,

(c) we can know with some real assurance that the Christian God exists and that the gospel is true.

I think a proper conclusion from what he’s argued can only lead him to conclude that since it’s a remote possibility that (a) and (b) obtains, it’s therefore a remote possibility that (c) obtains. What Craig argues is therefore extremely problematic. As I’ve argued in my book, Christians repeatedly retreat to the position that what they believe is “possible,” or “not impossible,” rather than what is probable. When they do this they are admitting the evidence is not on their side. They’re trying to explain the evidence away. Just because all of these things are possible he cannot conclude that what he believes is probable. A possibility is not a probability. How he slips in a probability because of a possibility is beyond me. The inference does not follow. It's a huge non-sequitur.

[First posted 10/9/09]

36 comments:

mkyd1917 said...

I don't see how appealing to "plausibility" adds anything to a discussion of matrix-type situations. But clearly, even if a matrix-type situation were true, it would be highly implausible. Why? Because all of our experiences that were generated by the matrix would lead us to believe that what we were experience was real and not some sort of simulation. Of course its implausible from our experience, but that's the whole point of the dilemma. It shows that the logical and rational justifications we use to support beliefs have very real limits. In this case, it shows that they cannot demonstrate that what we take to be the world is not a clever simulation.

You claim that such situations represent a "remote possibility" rather than something that is merely plausible, but such an answer makes no sense because on what basis are you reckoning something as "remote" or "plausible?" The things we would use to justify those terms like our experience or trusted authorities are precisely the things that would be simulated. Should a person in the matrix then believe that he is in the matrix? Clearly no, since all of the resources he has for establishing his understanding of reality point away from it, which is why you stated: "As David Mitsuo Nixon argued, “The proper response to someone’s telling me that my belief could be false is, “So what?” It’s not possibility that matters, it’s probability, So until you give me a good reason to think that my belief is not just possibly true, but probably false, I’m not changing anything about what I believe or what I think I know.” But what matrix-type examples do is undermine the capacities of logic and reason, and therefore undermine any usefulness we might assign to plausibility and probability. The result to me is that I still don’t see how “plausibility” adds anything to the discussion.

ZombieNation said...

To accept Keller's argument is to take a ride on the hamster wheel of semantic subterfuge and circular reasoning. To doubt doubt is an absurd double-negative proposition. Doubt in this context basically refers to the filter or intellectual attributes people use to distinguish reality from fantasy, truth from fiction, and Keller's argument demands that we obliterate them by inserting the filter through itself, an absurd proposition if there ever was one.

He is essentially arguing that it is impossible to be certain of anything and therefore every idea or assertion must be granted on faith. Maybe the contradiction was so large that he just didn't notice it, but how can he be certain that it is impossible to be certain of anything? Oops, it looks like Keller needs to file for Chapter 11 Intellectual Bankruptcy.

Rev. Ouabache said...

It appears that Pastor Keller has gone past Christian post-modernism and veered straight into Christian Solipsism. A place where reality doesn't exist, evidence means nothing, and humans can never know anything. However, he quickly runs into a Catch-22. If accurate evidence can never be obtained then why should we believe his brand of mythology over any other? How can anyone ever decide which "version of truth" is better than another?

As I commented in the post, it's the apologetics Bait-and-Switch: You beliefs might be wrong, therefore mine are right. He knows that he has no evidence, so he has chosen to be an epistemological anarchist.

FourTwenty said...

Inherent in his argument is the validity of the senses, logic, reasoning and empiricism. If using these methods can not be considered a valid way of determining the truth, than surely he realizes the absurdity of appealing to them to convince people that he's correct.
Since he accepts these values himself, he's essentially saying "In order to convince you that logic, reason and empiricism are false, I'll attempt to appeal to logic, reason and empiricism."

Rob R said...

post 1 of 3



As I said, I do not accept Keller’s definition of faith. He’s manipulating the debate by using a language game in his favor.

He's not manipulating the language. it is a fitting and well used definition of faith to say it is when something is believed without absolute proof and even without evidence.

I reject his game and his conclusion. Here is why, based on something David Eller argues: “knowing is not believing.”

If you don't believe it, you don't know it.

Knowledge (at least propositional knowledge) should at the very least be true warranted belief.

This distinction between knowledge and belief asserted here is more of a word game than the recognition that faith is at the root of all knowledge.

I find these examples to be strange ones, very strange. So let’s see if I can put this into perspective. He's arguing that since it’s rational to believe we’re not in The Matrix or that we have not been created five minutes ago, it’s also rational to believe in God without evidence.

I don't know what Craig is trying to prove, but since we require faith for such basic beliefs, Christianity is not irrational to require us faith in interpreting the evidence. This observation that knowledge requires faith doesn't justify Chrisianity and it doesn't open the crack wide for everything else. This isn't a full apologetic or theology. What it is is a damaging critique of certain types of criticisms of Christianity. Of course there is much work to be done on other grounds.

He defends the view that “knowledge is about reason and that belief is about faith, and the two are logically and psychologically utterly different and even incompatible.”

That's not a defense. That's an unsupported dogmatic claim that ignores the flexibility of language and how the words faith, knowledge and belief are functionally used and how our understanding of them can develop and improve.

The word faith (and belief) must be reserved to apply in this context to beliefs about that which cannot be empirically sensed or tested, like ghosts, angels, demons and gods.

you say you don't play the game, and yet here you do.

by your definition, we have faith in the belief in an external world, the idea that we didn't just come into existence five minutes ago and so on. These aren't empirically testable. John, the problem with these claims isn't that they are strange or even absurd. The problem is that your requirement of empiricism cannot defend against them and cannot defend itself. If your requirments cannot defend against these beliefs, then these requirements do not stand as ultimate arbiters of truth.

These beleifs of ghosts, angels or gods are not of beliefs for which there is no empirical evidence. There is no universally available evidence for them. But that is not the same as a lack of empirical evidence. To say there is no empirical evidence for them is to say that only empirical claims verified by the individual can count. Well, count science out by that measure.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 3


What we believe will be based on the probability of the evidence, all of it, as broadly defined. As such, I think there is evidence against the existence of a creator God.

So just what are the statistics on that belief in an external world. This is not something that can be objectively weighed.

As such, I think there is evidence against the existence of a creator God. The arguments for the existence of God are not persuasive. I do not think such a God could create the first moment in time if he is somehow “outside of time.”

To this one overly specific claim, that a god created us 5 minutes ago with all our memories, that you don't have evidence for it is irrelevant to whether it happened or not. It's possible that you were created five minutes ago with all your memories including your lack of knowledge that a god exists to do such a thing and your lack of reasons to believe in him. Empricism is still inept against this picture.

whether he creates time or not is an unnecessary feature of the scenario.

Therefore there is evidence against our having been created five minutes ago.

I didn't catch the evidence. A lack of evidence isn't the same as evidence. I certainly didn't catch it on empirical grounds. I grant that there's evidence to the contrary, and it takes at least a small ounce of faith to trust that evidence. But without faith, there is nothing to believe.

The demon hypothesis of Rene Descartes... ...But why must we base what we accept as the case on a mere possibility?

cause we'd want knowledge to be founded on an absolutely undeniable foundation. Cause we'd want knowledge to involve absolutely no faith. Those are the grounds on which this possibility is damaging.

It's not a problem for those of us who recognize the validity of the role of faith in knowledge.

When it comes to the question of whether I’m dreaming right now a good case has been made by Norman Malcom [in his book Dreaming and Skepticism], and Bernard Williams [in his book Descartes], that there is a difference between dreams and our waking experience.


yes, a difference that is only subjectively avaliable, and not all the time.

The fact that we can distinguish between them presupposes we are aware of them both and of their differences. It’s only from the perspective of being awake that we can explain our dreams. Hence we can only make sense of this distinction if we are sometimes awake. And since this is the case, all of our experiences throughout our entire lives cannot be made up merely of a sequence of dreams.

if you often can't tell that you are dreaming when you are, there's no empirical reason to think that now is any different. I don't see an objective reason here at all to think that when we are awake thinking about how we aren't dreaming that this isn't yet another dream of which we are unaware. There is no objective reason. Good thing that subjectivity doesn't mean a lack of authentic or even universal truth.

Rob R said...

post 3 of 3



Apart from the story line itself I see no reason for the Matrix in the first place, and I see no reason why our bodies are better at fueling it than other sources.

you're taking too much from the specifics. The idea of the matrix as a philosophical thought experiment really doesn't need all the ins and outs of the narrative that made box office success. it's just a regurgitation of the many scenarios where empiricism cannot weigh in decisively to establish knowledge.

So until you give me a good reason to think that my belief is not just possibly true, but probably false, I’m not changing anything about what I believe or what I think I know.”

What probability can be assigned to individualistic empiricism as an exclusive means to truth? How do you calculate that?

To overturn nearly everything we think in order to accept it would be to go against the overwhelming evidence (as defined above) about that which we claim to know.

it's not about embracing belief in the matrix or any of these other far out ideas. It's about skepticism swallowing all certainty for the presence of some uncertainty (aka an area where faith is needed, confidence despite a lack of absolute proof).


Notice the impossibly huge leap Craig makes here. From the fact that we cannot be absolutely certain

You could interpret his comment that way. perhaps that's what he meant. I just see that the necessity of some faith doesn't make a view unreasonable. Craig gives the inner witness of the Holy spirit which is as subjective of an event as our intuition that there is an external reality. But it is evidence. Is that the last word? surely not. Surely there is much more that needs to be said. Of course the evidence needs to be dealt with and interpreted consistently with and elegantly by Christianity.


I’ve argued in my book, Christians repeatedly retreat to the position that what they believe is “possible,” or “not impossible,” rather than what is probable.

And how do you square that with your criticism of the ID theorists use of probability? How do you square that with the fact that there is no objective calculation of the probability of an external world as opposed to a solipsism that perfectly mimics an external world?

John W. Loftus said...

Rob, the definitions of words are indeed language games. I reject Keller's game and I give good reasons for doing so. You don't have to accept my language games but then you'll need to do better than what I just read.

Let's see what others think.

Cheers.

libresansdieu said...

If the hypothetical world W was created 5 minutes ago and is exactly the same as world W' that is "real real", then there is no difference between W and W'. (Leibniz would say that W and W' are actually the same thing!)

Then parcimony is a valid criterion the determine if you are going for the omphalos-matrix-deamon-whatever explanation or not. Since they do not contribute anything to the explanation they can be eliminated altogether.

We know that W and W' are exactly the same because that is what is required by the thought experiment. If there was a difference we could rely on empirical data to distinguish W from W', rendering the whole thought experiment useless.

TLDR: there is no point in Matrix conjectures besides drunk talk so any arguments derived from them is a FAIL.

Rob R said...

Then parcimony is a valid criterion the determine

parsimony is an unprovable philosophical assumption (another faith claim).

And I'll tell you what, if you want real parsimony while sticking just to observation, solipsism is your bag. mere sensations alone are much simpler than sensations plus an external world. There could be an external world, but the empirical data alone can't prove it.

there is no point in Matrix conjectures besides drunk talk so any arguments derived from them is a FAIL.

All of these hypothetical anti-realistic ideas are drunk talk. That's not william lane craig's problem. That's the problem for anyone who's epistemology cannot rule them out, and that is the case for so many claims made by skeptics who wish to constrain the limits so narrowly that it would in fact rule out too much.

Rob R said...

John, language is determined by usage and the servant of conceptualization. There is nothing wrong with the way keller and I use the term faith and our observations are exactly true about knowledge. If you critisize our view, you can only do so by dealing with our concepts as they are. Anything less, including an insistence on the meaning of faith seems to me to be a straw man.

Gandolf said...

Rob R ..."(another faith claim)."

What if somebody have no faith in faith claims.

Which one trumps?

Gandolf said...

Quote .."The reason you doubt Christianity’s Belief A is because you hold unprovable Belief B. Every doubt, therefore, is based on a leap of faith.” "

My opinion.

I say christianity should be belief B because it take the "leap"-> to get there. Because theres no easy earthly evidence available to prove it.So you need to leap in faithful belief.

Where as non belief is mostly like Belief A because 1, babies are mostly born as non believers.Because their brains havent developed to even think much.People dont need much faith to be non believers,its a proven fact there is plenty of them.A their proven belief works because it expects nothing from the supernatural.

Hence belief A rightly belongs to non belief which comes first.As does A in the alphabet.

Plus A stands for atheist agnostic anachist

They gotta choice of the B or the C

About time we got first pick for a change anyway isnt it?

Rob R said...

Rob R ..."(another faith claim)."

What if somebody have no faith in faith claims.


If someone claims faith and they claim to know things, they just don't know what they take for granted.

If they truely don't have any faith claims, then they don't claim to know anything.

You see, the skepticism boat is not intellectually superior for the claim of lack of faith. It is only an impoverished true skepticism that claims no knowledge or it is naive about it's own faith.

FourTwenty said...

There's absolutely no point in arguing with people who say faith is greater than reason. If faith is greater than reason, then why aren't you trying to convince us using your faith rather than using reason, logic and evidence? If you didn't talk at all and just wished for us to believe you, I'd have more respect for your process. Right now, you're equivalent to a person shouting that sound doesn't exist.

Any argument you can make is again, going to appeal to logic, reason and evidence to try and say faith is better than these three. Stop posting, and instead, just have faith that we'll understand, and we'll see how powerful faith actually is.

Rob R said...

There's absolutely no point in arguing with people who say faith is greater than reason.

Hmm, I just might agree with that. maybe not, but the thing is, I don't know that any one here including the people John quoted asserted that.

The argument isn't that faith is greater than reason. The argument is that faith (like reason) is a necessary piece of human knowledge given given the unprovable assumptions behind so much of human knowledge.

Rob R said...

Gandolf, just a botch here of mine that I missed.



If someone claims faith and they claim to know things, they just don't know what they take for granted.

I meant to say if someone claims that they have no faith and yet they claim to know things.

Gandolf said...

"Rob R said...
Gandolf, just a botch here of mine that I missed"

No worrys Rob ,i make plenty of botches myself...I made a botch when i had a long discussion with Harvey the other day.My big botch was i thought it might be worthwhile :)

The first person in this discussion made the best point of the whole conversation... He said "Serriously, whats the point".

L.o.L ..Took much of the rest of the discussion for me to understand how mostly very true that first statement was.

But Rob i dont see how you need faith to know nothing.I dont know much about Space Rockets,do i know what i dont know about rockets, or am i just using faith in thinking i know nothing.

Ie ..Could i think/have faith i know nothing about space rockets,when infact im wrong and subconciously i happen to be a rocket scientist even though i dont realize?.

If so then there must be heaps of people in this world who say "look im no bloody rocket science" when they are wrong because they really are rocket scientists! and just had to much faith that they wasnt?

I suggest as children we are born with no faith beliefs.I cant see it as a faith when you happen to have no faith of a faith.
With faiths we need to think of sometime out there in the supernatural type realm.To do that you go from A to B

No faith simply means you see feel experience nothing of the supernatural realm.How do you need faith to realize you are actually not feeling seeing or experiencing nothing?.

Sure it maybe could be argued ...And heaps do...And i enjoy watching it happening ...And sometimes i have a go myself...Often only giving myself a
headache...It can be fun sometimes though.

I too feel many of these ideas ammount to word games,and mostly they can be twisted either way.So maybe they just cancel each other out.

Piero said...

Just a link I found interesting:
http://www.simulation-argument.com/

FourTwenty said...

"The argument isn't that faith is greater than reason. The argument is that faith (like reason) is a necessary piece of human knowledge given given the unprovable assumptions behind so much of human knowledge."

and previously you said

"by your definition, we have faith in the belief in an external world, the idea that we didn't just come into existence five minutes ago and so on. These aren't empirically testable. John, the problem with these claims isn't that they are strange or The problem is that your requirement of empiricism cannot defend against them and cannot defend itself."

No one has to lift a finger to defend empiricism, because the opponents or questioners of it use it in their arguments against it. Do you see the contradiction when you say that empiricism can't defend itself, while appealing to empirical values?

I don't have faith in empiricism. If you do have or need that faith, you certainly aren't communicating it. So - to clarify - do you believe it takes faith to communicate with someone over the internet, or do you accept that it happens empirically?

Gandolf said...

"The argument isn't that faith is greater than reason. The argument is that faith (like reason) is a necessary piece of human knowledge given given the unprovable assumptions behind so much of human knowledge."

Ok we have a problem with unprovable assumptions.Fair enough Rob R i agree, they are not always such a great idea really.These nasty naughty assumptions people often make.

Assumptions lacking in evidence tend to make many people come up with many many wrong ideas.This can be very dangerious ,specially with matters that effect many many peoples lives.

Faith and Religion .Are they most often based on many religious faith assumptions,or mostly based on evidence and fact?

Rob R said...

post 1 of 3


gandolf,

The first person in this discussion made the best point of the whole conversation... He said "Serriously, whats the point".

The point is that skepticism, doubting anything and everything, will never lead you anywhere and will leave you nothing to believe especially if any faith is rejected for an answer to the doubts. The point is, that some explanations as to why we shouldn't accept religious knowledge end up denying too much including some things that are just absurd and nutty to deny.

But Rob i dont see how you need faith to know nothing.

If I implied that you need faith to know nothing, than it was a typo. You don't need faith to know nothing and nothing is exactly what you can know with absolutely zero faith. If that's the price you want to pay for an insistance on skepticism on all things, you are welcome to it. I myself would rather stand with those from religious scholars to scientists who do actually believe that we know things even though many of the latter may be unaware of the faith that that entails.

I suggest as children we are born with no faith beliefs.

Yes, and then we gain them from our experience, parents, churches, schools, colleges, grad schools, and atheistic blogs. We virtually have them at all levels though most of us are oblivious about them and though faith comes in all sorts of degrees. I agree for example that it takes a very small amount of faith to believe that our experiences reliably tell us of a real world. So small is that faith that it is reasonable that people think it is a silly absurd suggestion. But as small as that faith is, it is necessary and it is real.

With faiths we need to think of sometime out there in the supernatural type realm.

you don't need that. there are other things to have faith in. I have a very sound faith that I stake my life on reinforced time and time again that traffic lights will function such that the green will not lead me into traffic that is going perpendicular to me. I generally don't look both ways, I don't bother to have it proven to me. I see green, I go. And yet my sister once came upon a green light and she realized there was a malfunction when the traffic in the other direction was just zooming by. There were greens going both ways. So it's possible that that red light you can't see when you have a green light is in fact green, and it can kill you. This possibility that we generally don't bother to test every time we come to a light means that we have confidence without absolute proof, in other words, we have faith. This takes a very small amount of faith, but it is real nonetheless and it has nothing to do with the supernatural.

No faith simply means you see feel experience nothing of the supernatural realm.

Well, that's not what I'm talking about. It wasn't what keller was talking about and it isn't what craig was talking about. You can insist that faith is only of the supernatural, but that has no relevance to this discussion because our use of the term is what it is and it sets the agenda for those who would criticize our our thoughts on the subject.

And by your definition, many traditional Christians who do not experience the supernatural do not have faith. Or if you want to insist that all of us who are Christians see, feel and experience the supernatural realm, that's fine by me. You couldn't fault us as so many athiests do then that we aren't basing our beliefs on empirical data. And many including John Loftus would disagree with you.

(Then again, I insist that we do base our beliefs on much empirical data, but that data isn't universally available to all individuals and it seems to me that is what so many atheists expect, and yet that insistance would falsify science itself)

Rob R said...

post 2 of 3


I too feel many of these ideas ammount to word games,and mostly they can be twisted either way.So maybe they just cancel each other out.

we are not twisting our own words and we are straightforward with how we use them. It's when you twist someone's words to mean what they didn't mean by them that becomes the problem. You and john can have your own definition of faith, but criticizing that has little to no bearing on what we are talking about.

Ok we have a problem with unprovable assumptions.Fair enough Rob R i agree, they are not always such a great idea really.These nasty naughty assumptions people often make.

no, they are only a problem if you make them a problem. Demanding that all our beliefs arise from empirical experience or is judged primarily and essentially by that experience creates a problem. We who do not have a problem with faith do not have that problem.

Assumptions lacking in evidence tend to make many people come up with many many wrong ideas.This can be very dangerious ,specially with matters that effect many many peoples lives.

That's right. But not all assumptions are equal lest we commit the fallacy of generalizing from the specific. Assuming for example that you won't get into a car wreck and don't need to wear a seat belt could get you killed. Assuming the validity of the improvable interpretation of cause and effect on events in the world (which David Hume pointed out was observably indistinguishable from a mere sequence of events with no causal relation though these sequences may occur with great consistency), is just a natural aspect of knowledge and a necessary faith commitment. (We owe much of this knowledge about the impossibility of knowledge without faith to David Hume by the way, though it never occurred to him that we could have knowledge with faith.)

Faith and Religion .Are they most often based on many religious faith assumptions,or mostly based on evidence and fact?

that's a false dichotomy. we have faith in our interpretation of the facts from scripture, tradition, history, and reason.

We very well can site good reasons for what we believe, but it still takes faith to consent and have confidence in that belief since it is conceivable that they are false.

Rob R said...

post 3 of 3



Four Twenty

No one has to lift a finger to defend empiricism, because the opponents or questioners of it use it in their arguments against it. Do you see the contradiction when you say that empiricism can't defend itself, while appealing to empirical values?

I don't see the contradiction in what I'm doing. you'll have to explain that.

I don't know that you know to what end I explain the problem of empiricism. The problem with empiricism isn't that it can't lead us to some knowledge. It can be at least known that sensations are being experienced. But the problem is that we want to say more than that. We want to say that there is a real external world that those experiences actually reflect that. the sensations alone cannot tell you that that is true and not a perfectly narrated solipsistic internal world as there would be no empirically detectable difference. And if that idea is absurd to you (as it is to me), that there is no external world beyond the sensations, then you will have to abandon empiricism, the idea that all truth claims can be judged on the basis of or come strictly from "objective" experience.

to clarify - do you believe it takes faith to communicate with someone over the internet, or do you accept that it happens empirically?

I do have faith for example that everyone else on this blog aren't just sock puppets of John or AI programs. That doesn't take a lot of faith because I wouldn't think that was consistant with his character nor do I believe that AI has advanced far enough to carry on conversations at the level we have been doing it. While I am confidant in these beliefs and have good reason to believe them, it requires faith nonetheless because I have confidence in spite of the fact that I could be wrong and I am not in a place to absolutely prove my beliefs. I believe that my interpretation of the empirical data is good, but that interpretation did not come from the experiential facts themselves. I actively applied it.

Note, there are two claims here. not one. ONe is tht faith is involved whether I'm right or wrong about the limits of empiricism. 2, these reasonable beliefs are not completely within the bounds of empiricism. If I'm wrong about this second item, and I don't think I am, it's not like I deny that there is empirical knowledge. I deny that it is enough to explain all knowing, even much of the kind of knowing that empiricists (that is normal people who want to think that experience is enough) would like to claim.

FourTwenty said...

"I don't see the contradiction in what I'm doing. you'll have to explain that.

I don't know that you know to what end I explain the problem of empiricism."

If there are truths that are "beyond empiricism" that's fine. Communicate these truths that are "beyond empiricism" in a way that doesn't appeal to my senses. Be consistent, that's all I'm asking.

"While I am confidant in these beliefs and have good reason to believe them, it requires faith nonetheless because I have confidence in spite of the fact that I could be wrong and I am not in a place to absolutely prove my beliefs."

It seems that you're saying that empiricism requires faith, but faith means uncertainty, the opposite of empiricism. If you're uncertain that a conversation is taking place, just say so. But what doesn't make sense is to say "I'm not sure that a conversation is taking place, or that there's actually another person that I'm speaking to, but you should accept that faith is needed for truth."

So it's not an absolute that we exist, but it is an absolute that faith is a necessary for human knowledge. If you're not sure of human existence, how can you be sure what is required for their knowledge? To take a sillier example for clarification, it's kind of like saying "I'm not sure if leprechauns exist, but I'm certain that they need more fruit in their diet."

Gandolf said...

Hi Rob R hey didnt mean to sound like i had a personal grudge against you or something by things i said,if you happen to have thought i dislike you or something maybe its more about the fact we only have use of words here to try and explain ourselves.

Sorry if i offended,its not what i intended.

Rob its only a discussion im not here (expecting) you to (accept) anything i say or feel, if it happens to differ to your thoughts thats fine.People without faith beliefs dont all turn into little dictators,if that idea was really very valid surely seeing non belief around quite a lot today we should be seeing many Hitlers and such people everywhere.Absolutism is far more comparable to faith belief in (my opinion),for instance it is faithful folk who tend to claim we will meet hell should we not agree to agree.It is mostly folks of faith who want to create laws to stop everyone from doing certain things,instead of just deciding not to do these things they happen to dislike themselves.Im saying this above only because your reply seem to me to infer that maybe i felt you (had to) accept things i said,though i admit i may have interpreted you wrong.Its so easy to do on blogs.

Anyway Rob i think i best not discuss this stuff too much more,as even the discussion to me seems to offend you.Im really not here to offend people Rob.

But i will just simply say though (i do) understand a little more where you are coming from.(Personally) i still find it hard to compare faith in such things as green traffic lights etc,because even though we have a type of faith in that hopefully they will work we can still check them as they are things that are still of this world and able to be verified by this available evidence.

Please Rob im still fine with you accepting the type evidence you argue for,but i see no reason (i) personally should (have to) accept it is really so good a idea thats all.

And i just felt Rob that if as children we have no faith,i couldnt see this as really being a faith of non belief as such.Because we simply just dont believe, because we see and feel no earthly evidence available to suggest we need to have faith and believe in any god/s etc.I will however except maybe there is some faith involved,if we delibrately choose not to want to see or experience etc, if evidence for existance of these god/s is actually available.That then would be putting faith in hope that they dont exist at all,something i suggest is not so likely many people really dare to try.

And i personally felt it is really only when try to sense or see the unseen etc,that any (real) use of faith is actually needed and being used.I admit and understand folks of faith claim to have these (experiences) and i understand that,but dont feel other people should need to accept the real truth of it thats all.

But (no need) to agree with me at all on (any) of this Rob,all the above is simply only my (own opinion) thats all it is.

:) p.S ...I dont think im sceptical of (everything) either personally,as i always mostly seem to be pretty sure when i feel i need to take a crap each morning.Along with much much more.

Peace out Rob.we can still be friends even if we disagree.

Rob R said...

post 1 of 4

Four Twenty,


If there are truths that are "beyond empiricism" that's fine. Communicate these truths that are "beyond empiricism" in a way that doesn't appeal to my senses. Be consistent, that's all I'm asking.

I already did. again, there is no empirical evidence that can rule out a solipsistic narrative that perfectly immitates an external reality. There is no empirical evidence that can support cause and effect vs. series of events that just happen to be very consistant in how they follow each other.

And while I didn't discuss this, while this takes the least amount of faith of any knowledge, it's barely controversial that the laws of logic are demonstrable regardless of sensory experience. We may use the sensory experience of a chalk board to demonstrate these laws, but that medium is irrelevant since nothing about chalks and boards, the experience of them in themselves leads us to logic.

But it is a faith claim that logic applies to the universe. If it were not true, then we need not worry about the conflicts within science such as between quantum mechanics and relativity. There is no empirical reason not to say, "look, these two ideas are contradictory and yet they describe many patterns in the usniverse, obviously we need not try to reconcile them because logic is false." It is only by our belief in logic do we recognize the need to reconcile them by altering one or both of them.

It seems that you're saying that empiricism requires faith,

I explained it in the very thing you quoted. We believe things in spite of the fact that we do not prove them, in spite of the fact that what we believe could very well be wrong. appealing to definitions of faith and empiricism is not the same as effectively responding to what I said.

but faith means uncertainty, the opposite of empiricism.

then I have demonstrated empiricism to be false and you haven't responded to those demonstrations. I would point out that though faith involves uncertainty, if by that you mean the recognition that what is believed to be true is on some level conceivably false even though we have confidence in it. (but usually when someone says that they are uncertain, they mean they don't have confidance... this is not the use of uncertainty that is relevant here.) Faith isn't just that recognition that what is believed could be false. It is also the confidance in spite of the presence of that recognition. And the main idea in empiricism isn't certainty. It's that knowledge comes through the senses and is to be judged primarily and essentially on the basis of the senses.

But what doesn't make sense is to say "I'm not sure that a conversation is taking place, or that there's actually another person that I'm speaking to, but you should accept that faith is needed for truth."

I suppose that might not make sense. It's a good thing I didn't say that nor did I imply it. Empirically speaking, I would say that a conversation is taking place whether it's with robots, sock puppets or sincere persons. The non-empirical part is not the conversation. it's my belief that the people are real and sincere in their presentation of themselves as discrete individuals. And I'm very sure, with no doubt in my mind that I am speaking to real people. That's the part that empiricism does not prove, that's the belief that I recognize could be wrong. But recognition that I could be wrong is not the same as saying that I'm not sure that I'm right. I have confidance in spite of these other remote possibilities. My recognition that these alternate possibilities are remote also points out that the degree of faith required is very small.

Rob R said...

post 2 of 4


So it's not an absolute that we exist, but it is an absolute that faith is a necessary for human knowledge.

I didn't say that. I don't see the point in saying in this context that there is any middle ground between absolutely existing and absolutely not existing. As far as this discussion is concerned, you either exist or you don't. You are conflating epistemology with metaphysics.

It's not absolutely provable that there is an external reality. That is why faith is necessary for knowledge that presumes an external reality (such as the belief that other people exist and most if not all scientific claims).

To take a sillier example for clarification, it's kind of like saying "I'm not sure if leprechauns exist, but I'm certain that they need more fruit in their diet."

Well, I don't believe that leprachaun's exist, but I don't know that John Loftus doesn't believe in them (he emphasizes empiricism, but he can still hallucinate). So what John loftus could say is that "though I don't have proof that leprechauns exist, I believe that they do and I believe that they need to eat more fruit". There's nothing incoherent about that and that is more in line with what I'm saying with the nature of faith. Course he would be wrong. Faith entails that possibility. You of course can have faith without having knowledge because you are deceived or mistaken. but you can't have a significant amount of knowledge without faith.

Rob R said...

post 3 of 4


Gandolf,

Hi Rob R hey didnt mean to sound like i had a personal grudge against you or something by things i said,if you happen to have thought i dislike you or something maybe its more about the fact we only have use of words here to try and explain ourselves.

I'm sorry if you thought I was responding to what I perceived to be an offense. I'll admit that what I wrote may have been emphatic in some places and business like and not warm and fuzzy. But chalk it up to the ambiguity of the written text without tone of voice and facial expression if you think I was offended.

People without faith beliefs don't all turn into little dictators,

I didn't say they did. What I'm saying is that they don't exist unless they are solipsists or nihilists. I'm not saying you are really religious. If what you mean by faith is religion, that's not the definition we are working with. You said it was about the supernatural. Belief in the supernatural involves faith, but again, we are talking about something much more broad.


But i will just simply say though (i do) understand a little more where you are coming from.(Personally) i still find it hard to compare faith in such things as green traffic lights etc,because even though we have a type of faith in that hopefully they will work we can still check them as they are things that are still of this world and able to be verified by this available evidence.

I fully recognize that this is not the same sort of knowledge as many religious beliefs. The point is not to fully equate all beliefs. virtually all knowledge requires faith, but they require different degrees of faith. The function of traffic lights comes right out of our everyday experience for just about anyone living in industrialized nations. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not apart of that experience (though it does have closer analogs with so many scientific claims which are not apart of our everyday experience for which we depend on very few individuals for our trust in them). The point is, you can't fault belief in the resurrection because it requires faith. As was said to John, this is not a full apologetic or theology that would excuse any other beliefs. It is a criticism of a criticism.

I will however except maybe there is some faith involved,if we delibrately choose not to want to see or experience etc, if evidence for existance of these god/s is actually available.

There's loads of evidence that fits the belief in God. we haven't been discussing it here. We've been discussing the need of faith for knowledge. But faith is required for interpreting evidence and of course, there are no non-controversial reasons to believe in God.

And i personally felt it is really only when try to sense or see the unseen etc,that any (real) use of faith is actually needed and being used.

But to return to the examples of the need of faith for knowledge, we can't see that our senses actually connect to an external world. We must trust them. We can see that they are very consistent, but that is not proof.

Rob R said...

post 4 of 4

I admit and understand folks of faith claim to have these (experiences) and i understand that,but dont feel other people should need to accept the real truth of it thats all.

I admit that very few people (far far less than those with religious experiences) have experiences in super colliders with the highly trained skills to interpret those experiences. I can't have those experiences. I don't have the skill. I don't have the access. But I'm going to have faith in their claims about the patterns of the universe that they are revealing.

:) p.S ...I dont think im sceptical of (everything) either personally,as i always mostly seem to be pretty sure when i feel i need to take a crap each morning.Along with much much more.

right, where we should apply skepticism and where we have faith is a subjective opinion. It is not the neutral plainly obvious default position of reason that John Loftus thinks it is.


Peace out Rob.we can still be friends even if we disagree.

That sounds good to me.

Rob R said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FourTwenty said...

"I already did. again, there is no empirical evidence that can rule out a solipsistic narrative that perfectly immitates an external reality."

You communicated this to me in a way that didn't appeal to my empiricism? I've only read arguments from you, nothing has affected me beyond my senses.

Right now it's like you're telling me "language doesn't exist". I don't have to argue that. Clearly, if you're typing with letters in English, language exists.

"... There is no empirical evidence that can support cause and effect vs. series of events that just happen to be very consistant in how they follow each other."

Is that a fact or an opinion? How do you distinguish facts from opinions?

"then I have demonstrated empiricism to be false and you haven't responded to those demonstrations"

If empiricism is false, stop appealing to my empiricism.

"I suppose that might not make sense. It's a good thing I didn't say that nor did I imply it"

You did imply it. You state that faith is needed for empirical claims, it's an empirical claim that this conversation is taking place, and faith means uncertainty, therefore you can't be certain that this conversation is taking place.

"That's the part that empiricism does not prove, that's the belief that I recognize could be wrong."

The only way you would know you were wrong, again, is with evidence.

"It's not absolutely provable that there is an external reality."

>>>So it's not an absolute that we exist, but it is an absolute that faith is a necessary for human knowledge.

"I didn't say that. I don't see the point in saying in this context that there is any middle ground between absolutely existing and absolutely not existing.... That is why faith is necessary for knowledge that presumes an external reality (such as the belief that other people exist and most if not all scientific claims)"

You very first reply to me was

"The argument is that faith (like reason) is a necessary piece of human knowledge given the unprovable assumptions behind so much of human knowledge"

Notice you didn't say "if human knowledge exists..." you said "faith is a necessary piece of human knowledge". Again, from your own words, you've stated that you don't know if external reality exists, you've admitted it may not, but you've asserted that faith is real, and required for human knowledge.

"but you can't have a significant amount of knowledge without faith."

More of those dog-gone absolutes again. If you don't know that external reality is an absolute, you can't make absolute statements about things that reside in reality.

If you do reply, let know know whether or not reality is an absolute at the beginning of your post so I don't waste any more time. You keep making absolute statements, and when I make them you tell me that I need faith.

Rob R said...

You communicated this to me in a way that didn't appeal to my empiricism? I've only read arguments from you, nothing has affected me beyond my senses... If empiricism is false, stop appealing to my empiricism.


I discussed the empirical data and important beliefs that we believe about it that cannot be proven from that data alone.

Do you want me to discuss the limits of the empirical data (aka the falsity of empiricism) without discussing the empirical data? That just strikes me as silly.

Is that a fact or an opinion? How do you distinguish facts from opinions?

I don't see the point in leaving the topic for this.

You did imply it. You state that faith is needed for empirical claims, it's an empirical claim that this conversation is taking place, and faith means uncertainty, therefore you can't be certain that this conversation is taking place.

If you can't interact with my ideas dealing with the terms as I use them, then you can't advance the discussion. I explained what I meant by faith, I explained the limited (yet normal) use of the term of uncertainty that would apply to my view of faith. If you think I implied that I don't believe things such as that this conversation is taking place, then I can't help you except to do what I've already done, to explain my position. But why should I do that again?

from me on the existence of others:
"That's the part that empiricism does not prove, that's the belief that I recognize could be wrong."

From you:
The only way you would know you were wrong, again, is with evidence.

Of course. RElevance?

from me: "It's not absolutely provable that there is an external reality."

from you:
>>>So it's not an absolute that we exist, but it is an absolute that faith is a necessary for human knowledge.


Yes. the one follows the other in this line of thinking. If you can't PROVE something absolutely, it takes some degree of faith to believe it and to know it. That doesn't mean you don't have good reason to believe it. And generally, reasons are required for knowledge accept when we are dealing with ideas are self evident (which by the way is apart from empiricism, apart from experience)

Again, from your own words, you've stated that you don't know if external reality exists, you've admitted it may not, but you've asserted that faith is real, and required for human knowledge.

I've explained that you can't prove an external reality from empirical data. That doesn't mean that you can't know that there is an external reality. The only reason you'd draw the conclusion about what I said is because you assume the very thing we are debating, empiricism.

If you don't know that external reality is an absolute, you can't make absolute statements about things that reside in reality.

ergo abandon empiricism since it can't lead you to that knowledge.

If you do reply, let know know whether or not reality is an absolute at the beginning of your post so I don't waste any more time.

if that's your litmus test for time well spent, I can't say you've tracked the discussion well.

FourTwenty said...

"Yes. the one follows the other in this line of thinking. If you can't PROVE something absolutely, it takes some degree of faith to believe it and to know it."

Does this statement also take faith to believe? And if it does, you can't tell me I'm wrong if - I mean when - I disregard it.

"ergo abandon empiricism since it can't lead you to that knowledge."

And yet you still appeal to empiricism to communicate the fact that empiricism can't lead you to knowledge. If empiricism can't lead me - or anyone - to knowledge, ALL of your statements are null and void.

Have a fun one.

Rob R said...

Does this statement also take faith to believe? And if it does, you can't tell me I'm wrong if - I mean when - I disregard it.

Does it take faith? Yes, it takes the optimism to believe that humans can know things beyond the fact that thinking is taking place, from scientific facts to religious doctrines, they are all enabled by some degree of faith. Is it blind faith. Nope, I've supported this with plenty of reasoning.

Of course I can tell you you are wrong to disregard it. Why shouldn't I? I can't prove you are wrong if you want embrace the consequence that we can't know much of anything at all. But I've given you excellent reasons for what I've stated and you can't seem to deal with them on the terms that they are given.

And yet you still appeal to empiricism to communicate the fact that empiricism can't lead you to knowledge.

I've already addressed this. Since you can't deal with my response to this, you don't have the ability to advance the discussion.

I don't even think you know what empiricism is.

good day to you. If you respond and If the only things to say to you have already been said, I think I don't see the need to answer further.

Anonymous said...

words, words, words!!! they fall all over each other in attempts to describe or debunk eternity. so, here's a question for you "thinkers, expounders" of faith/non-faith, belief/non-belief in an after life...where do you stand on ghosts?