Monday, November 10, 2014

5 Threats Of Demanding Certainty To Change Your Beliefs

With the continual exposure to scientific, historical, and philosophical evidence for God's existence, I am continually reminded of just how strong the case for God is, in general, and the truth of Christianity specifically. Often times I wonder how someone can have enough faith to be an atheist. It is often claimed by skeptics of God's existence, and specifically the intelligent design argument, that it is best to not conclude the necessity of a designer until all naturalistic possibilities have been exhausted. This seems to provide a safe, reasonable haven for the skeptic faced with the evidence. But is it really reasonable and thus, safe? What are the implications of this claim? I want to take a few minutes to examine the reasonableness of this escape route.

There exists three possible explanations for natural phenomena: chance, necessity, and design. If chance and necessity are eliminated, then there is no other option except design. The skeptic's claim reacts to the design proponents' attempts to rule out chance. As long as humanity does not reach omniscience and research continues, the appeal to what we do not yet know prevents us from being certain that the decision to remove chance from the table of options is correct. While this does seem to make sense, five threatening implications do come to mind that should make us question its reasonableness.

The Threat to Everyday Decisions
First, certainty of the accuracy of our decisions is rarely obtained prior to the decision and less often demanded before making a decision. Most decisions that we will make affect the future in some way. Because we do not know all the current events that will intersect with our decision, we cannot be certain that our decision is the right one. However, it is rare that the lack of certainty will prevent us from making a decision. Most of the time we will base our decision on evidence of what may be the best option. We do not allow the lack of certainty of the correct option to prevent us from disregarding the others and acting upon the most reasonable of the options.

The Threat to Sincerity of Requests for Evidence
Second, skeptics often request "extraordinary" evidence for the existence of a designer. An example that comes to mind is "if it were written in the stars 'Christianity is true,' then I'd believe." While this particular request to be demonstrated by playing "connect the dots" on a high resolution image of the galaxy, one could easily escape their commitment if more difficult requests were met by simply saying, "we cannot rule out chance because not all natural explanations have been investigated." Thus the demand for certainty to remove chance makes the request for extraordinary evidence more of an insincere demand. All evidence presented for God's existence, no matter how strong, could be disregarded.

The Threat to Reason
Third (almost), the implication of the second does not only apply to evidence for God's existence, but it can be applied to anything, reinforcing the implication of the first. Not only would this prevent us from making a decision, it would also prevent us from changing our minds about anything. We could overcome any objection to any belief we have by merely observing that no one is omniscient and that the lack of certainty does not mean that our view has necessarily been shown to be wrong, thus we are justified in maintaining it. The less evidentially-supported belief is maintained despite the evidence against it and/or the more evidence for an alternative view, and this is praised as being more reasonable than changing the mind.

The Threat to Scientific Research
The lack of certainty and reason are used to make the skeptic's view practically indubitable, which (fourth) implies that all investigation and research is merely for confirmation of current beliefs, with no real interest in discovering what is true or changing one's beliefs and practices to reflect reality. Included in that is the understanding that one already has all the correct beliefs (practical omniscience), making investigation and research actually a waste of time, money, energy, and other valuable resources.

The Threat to Itself
Finally, the practice of using the lack of certainty to avoid the more evidentially-supported option or to affirm the less evidentially-supported option necessarily removes the idea of NOT doing so from the table of reason...but THAT cannot be valid on this view, for we are not omniscient and do not have certainty that this practice is the better one. Anyone who says that they are reasonably holding to a view, because the lack of certainty allows it to remain on the table despite the evidence, has not applied that same reasoning to the reason they made the decision. For if they did, they would no longer have a reasonable reason to do so. Ultimately, this reasoning self-destructs. If an idea self-destructs, it cannot be true, and any idea that is not true is not wise to act upon.

The evidence for God's existence and the truth of Christianity piles up day after day. Yet skeptics still believe that they can reasonably escape the conclusion by exploiting the fact that no challenger knows everything, thus cannot possess certainty to remove all options from the table of possibility except the one they wish to convince the skeptic is true. However, this reasoning necessarily implies five threats that cannot be ignored. If this reasoning is practiced, then these five implications must be accepted to remain logically consistent. However, the implications are too great to accept (not to mention the impossible one), thus it is best to refrain from using the lack of certainty to avoid unpalatable conclusions.

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