Mar 25, 2008

Analogy to Science and the Value of Belief

A quick recap:

If God exists as defined by theists, then He is fully capable of unequivocally proving His existence. Why does He not? Because there must be something in our learning to believe that is important to Him. I hope to have later posts that expound on the importance of that cultivation.

I have stated that belief is the tool by which we can start to know God and that it is the tool used by those who have claimed to have known Him. Therefore, knowing God cannot be refuted until that person uses the same tool in the way that God would have it be used. And the fact that the results may be immeasurable (like the Being that they are trying to discover) makes our scientific standardizations inadequate, no matter how rigorous we apply scientific methods. All who believe in God would claim that if He didn’t want to be measurable or known in an indisputably objective way, there would be nothing we could do to discover Him empirically or scientifically. He has the power to keep Himself known only to individuals who seek Him.

Analogous to science, an experiment can be refuted in three ways a) proving the method wrong, b) the underlying principles wrong, or c) by duplicating the method and finding definitively opposing results.

I have already suggested that the method of believing cannot be proved unsound intrinsically, because the assumptions made to make a claim that belief is automatically unsound contain either circular arguments or unfounded claims, such as, “I don’t think that beliefs are adequate proof, hence your beliefs aren’t adequate proof, therefore there is no God” or “You can’t use belief because I don’t think it’s valid.” We also recognize that even a scientist believes his/her experiments will produce results, and that belief, in its various forms will often lead to events with productive results.

I have already suggested that the underlying principles, the facts that God exists and that He can manifest Himself as He chooses, cannot be refuted by our available scientific methodology. In theory, if we found some proof, the best we knew how, that God didn’t exist, He could still exist.

So we’re left with the third: we need to duplicate the exact method. Without having tried the experiment of belief, we have no ability to refute claims on God. I recognize that there are many who have tried this experiment and have received a variety of results. There are various explanations, some of which are because this is solely an analogy. Other reasons for these differences will be given in later posts.

I recognize that there are many brilliant scholars and philosophers who have made it a point to show why God cannot exist. Scottish philosopher of the Enlightenment David Hume, for example, might say that all of this talk of the requirement of believing first is irrational. In Hume’s thought tradition anything that was not empirical was considered irrational. But the problem is that there has been few, if any, meaningful claims to know God without having first believed. Despite the powerful intellects of some of those who wish to make belief in God a logical impossibility, we cannot reason Him into or out of existence. We cannot find him through science alone, nor can we show that He does not exist with a litmus test. Believing, no matter how unappealing this is for the scientists in all of us, is a requirement that precedes knowledge. I am familiar with much of the work of these great minds. A man who claimed to have a knowledge of the existence of God, taught, “God is known only by revelation; he stands revealed or remains forever unknown. He cannot be discovered in the laboratory, or by viewing all immensity through giant telescopes, or by cataloging all the laws of nature that do or have existed.” Just as it is an experiment of belief that anyone can try, by “revelation” this man of God means that the results of the endeavor will only be manifested only to the experimenter, the individual who took the opportunity to believe.

There are many believing scholars who have tried to prove, both from science and philosophy, the existence of God. They have irrefutably, in my opinion, argued the possibility of God’s existence, they but have not proved His existence. Indeed, if God would not have it so, it would not be provable. Belief must be something He values in us. I stated in a recent comment that I feel that God can be knowable unempirically and empirically, if He so desired. I have had no experience with empirical knowledge of God, meaning I haven’t seen or touched God or another heavenly entity in some measurable way. However, just because I haven’t experienced such a thing does not make it impossible. I have to leave those things which I have not experienced as still possible. Therefore, I will focus on knowledge coming unempirically, something that may seem oxymoronic for some.

As for me, though I feel that I have received a worthwhile education, I feel that my philosophical statements may reflect my intermediacy in the field. I am not afraid to speak my mind in philosophy, but perhaps sheer epistemology is not the best use of my efforts. I am somewhat of a pragmatist and an experientialist. My points will be comparatively simple, but I will expect the reader to care about the argument enough to consider trying suggestions.


Diogenes said...

In your post, you make the claim "that the method of believing cannot be proved unsound intrinsically, because the assumptions made to make a claim that belief is automatically unsound contain either circular arguments or unfounded claims." The example argument you cite is, indeed, circular: "I don't think that beliefs are adequate proof, hence your beliefs aren't adequate proof, therefore there is no God."

However, as you have stated, our believing in God or not believing in God cannot change the reality or falsity of His existence. One might choose to believe, another to disbelieve. Belief, then, is independent of truth. The argument against belief as "adequate proof" might be more correctly rendered, "Belief is independent of truth, therefore belief alone is not enough to know the truth."

Mikha'el said...

Excellent point. And yes, belief is independent of truth. (More on that later!) Thank you for clarifying my ambiguity.
I was attempting to make the point that belief cannot be shown as an intrinsically faulty method. Nor can it be proved or disproved to be sound. There are philosophical reasons for that, but as I mentioned before, I'll probably bore readers who are interested in deep-philosophical material with my intermediacy in the subject, and those who aren't interested I'll bore with the philosophy itself. So I leave it to the interested reader to read responsive philosophers on the matter.