God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

Showing posts with label Knowledge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Knowledge. Show all posts

Monday, July 29, 2019

Should Public Schools Promote "In God We Trust"?

Introduction

"In God We Trust" has increasingly become a debated motto for Americans as the country becomes more secularized. However, in recent days, the State of South Dakota passed a law stating that all public schools must prominently display that motto on their campuses. Many will challenge the constitutionality and wisdom of such a law while others will debate the practicality of it (such as money to fund the creation of the displays). Neither of those is the focus of this post, though. Today, I want to discuss the reasonableness of an educational institution recognizing God's existence and its dependence on Him.

Many things that the educational system depends upon actually requires God to find its roots in reality. It is quite common for the distinction between knowing something and justifying something to be confused. We can know that something is true without being able to justify its being true. In philosophy, this is known as the distinction between ontology (what is true) and epistemology (how we know what is true). People can know things to be true, and even act properly according to that knowledge, yet not hold a worldview that can justify its being true (this will be explained more, in the section on morality below). Many of the things that are foundational to education (e.g. knowledge, progress, intrinsic human value, diversitydesign, history, and science) are often known yet cannot be justified by those who know them to be true. Of those many things, knowledge is the most foundational.

Knowledge, The Education System, and God

Knowledge is at the foundation of the entire education system. If we cannot find some way to ground our claims of knowledge to reality, we are merely communicating opinions. Because of this, if knowledge of reality is not even possible, then all knowledge disciplines (the subjects taught in school), are not rightly called "knowledge" but rather "opinion" disciplines. The connection of knowledge to God is required in two ways: first, the justification of what is true must be something that is chiefly concerned with what is true. Second, the agents who are attempting to discover what is true must possess faculties that are concerned with chiefly with what is true. 

We know from evolutionary biology that organisms and all their components are only "concerned" with survival (I place quotes around "concerned" because naturalistic evolution is neither forward-thinking nor purpose-driven). This means that our brains are not programmed by nature to believe what is true but rather to believe what will keep us alive. In a world that is "red in tooth and claw" it is better to be safe than sorry, so our brains register (believe) many false positives about dangers, for instance. This is just one example of "useful fictions" that our brains must believe, according to naturalistic evolution. Because they are chiefly concerned with believing what will keep us safe even if it is false, our brains are not reliable tools for apprehending truth. 

However, if our brains are created by a God who is concerned with our ability to believe what is true, then He would have created our brains (and sense organs, as well) with the ability to not only distinguish between what is true and what is safe, but it will also prefer the former (free will does have an effect on this, though). So, from the very foundation of the educational system, for it to even be called such, God is required. On this ground, alone, it is reasonable that an education system would recognize God's existence and its dependence upon Him for its very purpose in society (to educate).

Without proper justification, there is no objective standard by which to judge what is true or false about not just knowledge, but the things that we will continue to discuss in this post, and what is taught by the system about these things comes at the whim of whoever is currently controlling the system. The education system ultimately reduces to "might makes right," an exercise in epistemology anarchy. If the education system were to affirm any worldview that cannot justify knowledge, it is admitting its uselessness for imparting knowledge to the next generation and admitting that its only purpose is to propagandize our children into blindly believing that their purpose in life is to serve an elite class of people with money and power. 

For more on the necessity of God to justify knowledge, I highly recommend that you read the book "Where The Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism" by philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Also, see this short video explaining his argument:


Conclusion

It is only if God exists that what we believe can be justified. Without God, all claims to knowledge are merely opinions and do not actually reflect reality. If they do not actually reflect reality, then the "education" system is not imparting knowledge of what is true but rather indoctrinating opinions that are preferred by a few people in power. Since the public school system claims to impart knowledge of the world in which we live, it is only reasonable that our schools recognize the foundation and justification of knowledge: God. Students and parents are free to disagree; however, if they wish to do so, they need to defend an alternative justification.

For more on this topic and to see how several other foundations to the education system are justified only by God's existence, see the links throughout this post and these additional ones:



Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Norman Geisler- 10 Quotes on Logic and Christianity

Introduction

Over the years Dr. Norman Geisler has had a profound effect on the way that I think philosophically and theologically. Through his defenses of the Christian worldview (the essentials and nonessentials) in his numerous books and lectures I have been better equipped analyze views, defend the Gospel, and "worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4)

One of the early books that set my path to being able to logically evaluate arguments was "Come, Let Us Reason" (click or tap the title for my full chapter-by-chapter review). In the book, he provides Christians with an introduction to logical thinking that will help them in identifying false claims (that may sound correct on the surface) and in defending true claims. I have compiled a few of my favorite quotes from that excellent book in this post. If you have not picked up a copy yet, I highly recommend that you do.


Why Do Christians Need Logic?- Logic and God

"Logic is a way to think so that we can come to correct conclusions by understanding implications and the mistakes people often make in thinking."

"From the standpoint of reality, we understand that God is the basis of all logic. As the ultimate reality, all truth is ultimately found in him. He has created the reality that we know and in which we have discovered the laws of logic. Even Jesus said, 'I am...the truth' (John 14:6). He has structured the world in such a way that these laws cannot be denied; however, we did not know God first and then learn logic from him. He exists as the basis of all logic (in reality), but we discovered logic first and came to know God through it. This is true even if we came to know God through his revelation, because we understand the revelation through logic. In the order of being. God is first; but in the order of knowing, logic leads us to all knowledge of God. God is the basis of all logic (in the order of being), but logic is the basis of all knowledge of God (in the order of knowing)."

Quote from book "Come Let Us Reason" by Norman Geisler: "From the standpoint of reality, we understand that God is the basis of all logic. As the ultimate reality, all truth is ultimately found in him. He has created the reality that we know and in which we have discovered the laws of logic. Even Jesus said, 'I am...the truth' (John 14:6). He has structured the world in such a way that these laws cannot be denied; however, we did not know God first and then learn logic from him. He exists as the basis of all logic (in reality), but we discovered logic first and came to know God through it. This is true even if we came to know God through his revelation, because we understand the revelation through logic. In the order of being. God is first; but in the order of knowing, logic leads us to all knowledge of God. God is the basis of all logic (in the order of being), but logic is the basis of all knowledge of God (in the order of knowing)." #Logic #Reason #Epistemology #Philosophy


"We use logic in the process of knowing God, but that does not mean that God came after logic in reality. without God, nothing could have existence. God is the basis of all logic in reality and he is in no way inferior to logic. Logic comes from God, not God from logic. But when it comes to how we know things, logic is the basis of all thought, and it must come before any thought about anything, including God. For example, I need a map before I can get to Washington, D.C. But Washington must exist before the map can help me get there. Even so, we use logic first to come to know God, but God exists first before we can know him."

"Unless valid inferences can be made from what is known to what is unknown, there can be no theological argumentation. Whether in a discussion between Christians on a matter of interpretation or in a debate with a non-Christian, no one could prove any point without the laws of rational inference."

How Do You Think Correctly?- Using Logic

"Using syllogisms is called deductive logic because it involves deducing particular conclusions from general statements. In inductive logic, we start with the particulars and reason to general principles. Deductive logic starts with the cause and reasons to the effect, while inductive logic starts with the effects and attempts to find the cause. That is why deductive reasoning is called a prior (prior to looking at the facts) and inductive reasoning is called a posteriori (after seeing the evidence). Syllogisms are more philosophical, and inductive arguments are more scientific. The biggest difference, though, is that deductive arguments yield necessary conclusions (that is, the conclusions are necessarily true if the premises are true and the inferences are valid), but inductive reasoning yields only probable conclusions. The conclusions might have a high degree of probability, but they are still not as certain as deductive conclusions."

"You may not know what the significance of some piece of information is, but you must note it in case it becomes important later. Even the smallest clue may change the whole direction of your understanding."

"Analogies can be used to present very strong and effective arguments, but analogies are good only when there are strong similarities and only nonessential differences between the things being compared."

Quote from "Come Let Us Reason" by Norman Geisler: "Analogies can be used to present very strong and effective arguments, but analogies are good only when there are strong similarities and only nonessential differences between the things being compared." #Logic #Reason #Analogy #Philosophy


How Can Thinking Go Wrong?- Fallacies In Logic

"Whenever there is controversy over an issue, the appeal to authority is weakened in direct proportion to the strength of the controversy...All appeals to authority ultimately rest on the evidence that the authority has. The only reason to quote an authority is that he knows the evidence better than we do. The letters after his name don't mean a thing without the evidence to back up his position."

"[Special pleading] is [a] way to make certain the opposing view doesn't get a fair shake. Here only the evidence that supports one view is cited, and the rest is left out...If there are ten studies that show your view to be false, ignore them and make a big point about the one that confirms your conclusion. Really, this argument counts on the listener to be ignorant of the facts. That way anything can be claimed, and no objection can be raised. However, if someone knows about the other ten studies, you're in trouble. This kind of argument can be torn apart easily if all the facts are made known."

Quote from "Come Let Us Reason" by Norman Geisler: "[Special pleading] is [a] way to make certain the opposing view doesn't get a fair shake. Here only the evidence that supports one view is cited, and the rest is left out...If there are ten studies that show your view to be false, ignore them and make a big point about the one that confirms your conclusion. Really, this argument counts on the listener to be ignorant of the facts. That way anything can be claimed, and no objection can be raised. However, if someone knows about the other ten studies, you're in trouble. This kind of argument can be torn apart easily if all the facts are made known." #Logic #Fallacy #SpecialPleading #Philosophy #Reason


"[No] view should be accepted on the basis of ignorance. That is no way to find truth! Let positive evidence be presented and evaluated for both sides, and the truth can be known...If a conclusion is false, it is only a matter of finding the fallacy or the untrue premises (or both)."

For more great quotes from Dr. Geisler on various other topics, see these posts:


Here are my chapter-by-chapter reviews of other books he (co)authored:

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Is Education Overrated?

Introduction

A couple months ago I read an interesting article about a professor who made the case that today's education system is grossly overrated. If the article's author represented him correctly, his contention is that because a large portion of educational resources focus on credentials and self-esteem ("vanity" in the words of the author), the system is overrated and needs a major overhaul. You can read the article here: "Professor: 'Education is Grossly Overrated'." The last couple of lines are particularly what caught my attention:

"Is our quest to give students ever-higher levels of education and credentialing based more in vanity hits than in true knowledge and understanding of the world?"

That alone warrants this article for reasons that I will discuss shortly. But also happening in my home state of Oklahoma, as I write this blog post, is a dispute between public school teachers and law-makers regarding funding (you can check out any of our local media for the stories). As I have been involved in discussions at work and on Facebook about this local situation I recalled the content of the article above, that I believe may help explain how our education system got to producing the disrespectful display we have witnessed on both sides of the dispute. Let me get straight to my point.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: Where the Conflict Really Lies

Where The Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism by Alvin Plantinga

Introduction

This review has been a long time coming. I first heard of Alvin Plantinga and his "evolutionary argument against naturalism" several years ago. I was impressed by the original paper, and when I heard that he wrote a whole book on it, I was quite excited. As a defender of the Christian worldview, I constantly come across skeptics who believe that there is a glaring conflict between science and faith. I have defended the complete compatibility of modern science with the claims of Christianity using the sciences and some philosophy. My reading "Where the Conflict Really Lies" by Alvin Plantinga is an attempt to expand my philosophical defense. Is it successful? This review will provide a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book that will conclude with my thoughts.


Part 1: Alleged Conflict


Chapter 1: Evolution and Christian Belief (1)

Plantinga begins by explaining that over the centuries many people have claimed there is conflict between science and Christianity. The only thing that has changed is the source of the claimed conflict- biology not astronomy. He explains it is important to define our terms in order to properly identify any conflict. He uses common affirmations of the historic Christian creeds regarding creation as a source for the minimum necessary claims of Christianity: God is the creator. As for science, he takes the current scientific theory and breaks it into its mere components: an ancient earth, rise in complexity of life over time, descent with modification, common ancestry, naturalistic mechanisms, and naturalistic origin of life. He explains that conflict has been alleged between the first scientific thesis (an ancient earth) and the interpretation of the Bible by some Christians, but since age is not part of the Christian creeds, he concludes that the conflict is merely superficial and not actual.

Richard Dawkins is one scientist who also alleges great conflict between science and the Bible. Plantinga addresses Dawkins' argument that modern evolutionary theory has revealed a universe without design. He shows that while Dawkins may be able to envision a general naturalistic mechanism to get complex systems, he has not proposed a detailed map from the simple to the complex, nor has he provided any scientific evidence of the details of a mechanism that would produce the specific points on the map. Plantinga also addresses Dawkins' appeals to probability and the claim that God, Himself, would require a designer. He concludes that Dawkins has not demonstrated that evolution (even if it is correct) can take place independent of an intelligent agent guiding the process.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Multiverse Instead of God?: Four Philosophical Problems

Introduction

A few weeks ago a skeptic asked me about my concerns with the multiverse as an explanation for the beginning and fine-tuning of the universe. He stated that he did not want a scientific critique, though, because he believes that the multiverse is outside the ability of science to test. He was more interested in my philosophical concerns. Four issues come to mind. None of them remove the possibility of a multiverse in a theistic world; however, two make the multiverse unpalatable in a naturalistic world, and the other two do remove it from possibility in a naturalistic world.

I will start by showing the power of the multiverse as an explanation, and at the same time, I will show how two of the issues make a naturalistic multiverse impossible as a naturalistic explanation (but do not necessarily rule it out). I will then describe the two issues that make the naturalistic multiverse even less desirable as an explanation. Finally, I will conclude by demonstrating how all these issues are consistently and comfortably resolved by a theistic worldview (with or without a multiverse).

Monday, August 25, 2014

Is Your View Falsifiable?

Introduction
It is quite common to be in discussions about worldviews and scientific evidence and the issue of falsifiability comes up. Usually, one side offers several pieces of evidence that they believe shows the other worldview to be false, but the other person has a logical answer to rebut their claims of incompatibility. The skeptic, in frustration, often claims that the opposing view is therefore "unfalsifiable" on the adherent's view. The skeptic believes that the other person is somehow cheating and denying the possibility that their worldview could be falsified. For if something is not falsifiable, then it cannot be considered scientific (and is often labeled as "pseudoscience"). The term "unfalsifiable" is tossed around a lot, but it is unclear whether those hurling it at their "opponents" actually know what it means or how to properly apply it to the opposing worldview (or their own). So today I want to take some time to examine falsifiability to clear up some misconceptions.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dangers of Requiring Complete Knowledge

The Lack of Knowledge
A while back I wrote a post regarding our lack of complete knowledge and how, rather than being a bad thing, it is actually a good thing. I've also written regarding the fact that our knowledge will never be complete, which is something that we must get used to and be comfortable with.

This is true regardless of which worldview that one holds. However, many people act as if they require complete knowledge and understanding of a worldview before they decide to accept it as true. They argue that since they do not want to blindly accept a worldview that may be false, they must not accept a worldview unless they have certainty that it does not contain any falsehoods. On the surface, this is being quite careful. But we must remember that while we are investigating one worldview, we are holding another- that we are not investigating (maybe we haven't ever, maybe we have in the past). I have heard it commonly put that "the skeptic must be skeptical of his skepticism" to avoid being dishonest. Even skepticism must be investigated and justified, though.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Morality, Knowledge, and X-Men

X-Men Set The Stage
I was watching X-Men: First Class the other day and something stood out that I thought might help in our discussions of morality. The two main characters (Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr) are mutants- humans with special abilities. Charles can read and control minds. Erik can manipulate metal via magnetism. Both of these are very powerful abilities demonstrated throughout the series. In the series, the X-Men series story goes that there is a growing fear of mutants among the normal populace and an effort by some government officials to eliminate them. Ultimately it ends up in a war between normal humans and mutants. However, Erik and Charles end up on opposite sides. Erik (as Magneto) wishes to eliminate the lesser evolved humans (ones without mutations), while Charles (as Professor X) fights to preserve humanity.

But what caught my attention was something very subtle: a miscommunication between Erik and Charles is actually responsible for them being on opposite sides of the war, yet both believing that they are right and the other is wrong.


Monday, October 1, 2012

You Don't Know Jack, But Its Okay

I Don't Know Jack!
Something that I've learned as I learn more is just how little I really do know when compared to the vast body of knowledge available at my fingertips. Today we have access to so much knowledge that it would be impossible to consume it all. More knowledge is constantly being discovered, so I'd be fighting a losing battle if I tried to consume it all. When we look at the numerous disciplines that one may earn a degree in at the local university and all the research required to master the material, it is overwhelming. And when we realize that people in every one of these fields are gathering more, we realize that the knowledge base is growing not additionally but exponentially.

I have mixed feelings when I reflect on all the knowledge that I don't possess when compared to what I do have. There is a certain level of humility that is experienced that is so great that even that word doesn't do the feeling justice. If I were to ever claim that I understand a subject, its indistinguishably guaranteed that someone else understands it better. And since there are so many disciplines of knowledge, it is important for me to understand that even though I may think I'm a master of my field, I am an ignoramus when it comes to practically every other field of knowledge. Due to this reality of my lack of knowledge, my pride must stay in check, lest I be made the fool in discussion or debate.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Multiverse and Rationality

Something that I was thinking about the other day: some people are familiar with Alvin Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism. Basically it states that because people believe false things that help survivability (such as "god", from the naturalist's perspective), evolution does not favor minds that recognize truth, but minds that recognize how to survive- if a belief just happens to be true, it is pure coincidence.

However, I was contemplating the multiverse (or multiple worlds) hypothesis, and it seems that this only compounds the problem. For those uninitiated, multiverse theory states that our universe is not the only universe there is. There are many other universes that do exist; however, our instruments cannot detect them because they are outside our universe. This theory comes in several flavors, but the one I am talking about is the one that is capable of explaining the fine-tuning and design in the universe, along with being an alternative to God as the "banger" that the cosmological argument requires. In order to account for the fine-tuning of the physical constants of the universe, some naturalists posit that there are an infinite (or near infinite) number of universes, each possessing different constants of physics. Ours just happens to be the one that is amenable to advanced life, and that is why we exist to observe the "fine-tuning".

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Responsibility to Know and Act


Can God hold us accountable for what we are supposed to know is true?

I have two thoughts on this subject:

1. Analogy from speed limits. You have a duty to know where the speed limit changes, especially if you live in the general area. If a speed limit sign is temporarily obscured from view, you are expected to have seen it in the past, or know by other means what the speed limit is (such as from friends familiar with the area or context [neighborhood, school zone, highway, gravel road, etc...], even if the context may include multiple limits, acting upon the lower possibility will eliminate the possibility of being pulled over, while acting on a higher one puts you at risk of being pulled over). You are expected to use these other means until you know for sure.. If you are caught above the speed limit (regardless of reason), you are guilty of acting against the law and should be punished according to the law. If the cop wishes to show mercy, he may by issuing a warning. If the judge wishes to show mercy, he may either cancel the ticket or reduce the fine. Either way, it still stands that you broke the law; however, it is within the power of those who enforce the law to show mercy.