Unjustified Skepticism

The roots of skepticism are well known. Arising from the common Neo-Platonism of the early church (with the allegorical interpretation of Alexandria, Egypt) and moving through the Renaissance and on through the Enlightenment, skepticism began to foster and grow. The emergence and growth of radical biblical skepticism is simply untenable, especially when it comes to historiography as a whole. Its roots are based more in radical empiricism then honest historical investigations. Its refusal to leave open the mere possibility of miracles is skepticism’s, Achilles’ heel. Moreover, radical biblical skepticism is also a reactionary movement to religion, no less so then with Christianity. The failure of certainty in historical matters (no doubt a Platonic influence) has led many biblical critics (unjustified Kantian epistemological agnosticism) to dismiss evidences for the Christianity. No matter what the evidence is for the empty tomb, for example, it will always be insufficient because of its impossible task; the Platonic task at absolute certainty. This is an historical blunder on the radical skeptic's part. By riding biblical scholarship of its unjustified skeptical tendencies, Christianity is given a fair hearing. The evidence will then be able to speak for itself. For this reason a major historical assessment concerning skepticism's flimsy foundations has been given. Expect this major project to be published on the CADRE website in the coming days. The skeptical (and even atheistic) people out there may just get a better understanding of their philosophical roots and how they originated. It is the hope of the author, yours truly, that this project will delineate skepticism's unjustified assumptions. This isn't to say that those assumptions are wrong, but rather, its philosophical and historical foundations are contrived.


Steven Carr said…
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians '5So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.'

Why is it wrong for sceptics to demand evidence that life-giving spirits can exist?
BK said…
I don't think he said there is anything wrong with asking for evidence. What he is pointing to as erroneous is the hyper-skepticism that many anti-religious people use when examining religious claims.
The Bible assumes that there is more to reality then simple material objections. Rather, the Bible assumes that there is a reality beyond the natural order. In this biblical theistic context is where the skepticism meets its doom. However, your comment misses the point in that Paul is not trying to prove the existence of any spirits, much less life giving spirits. That is assumed. He is using metaphorical and symbolic language to denote the effects of Christ's triumph over sin. Thus, your comment simply misses the point.

But even if (but he's not) Paul was trying to prove the existence of spirits (or whatever), your comment still seems untenable. It's clearly laced with Platonic thought in its task at accomplishing absolute certainty. However, historical matters aren't capable of reaching this Platonic bar. No matter what the evidence is for something, it is doomed to fail, at least as far as the Platonic dialectic is concerned. Historical evidence, such as the empty tomb or post resurrection appearances, is based on probabilities, not certainties. It is simply bad historiography to dismiss the whole (the cumulative evidence for the resurrection) because the parts (any particular piece of evidence) don’t give historical proof.
Steven Carr said…
I wonder if there is any historical proof that the Angel Gabriel visited Muhammad.

Still, we sceptics must not let things like that stop us believing, must we?
I would concur that skepticism is not a bad thing (my forthcoming paper deals with this). But radical skepticism, such as naturalism, is either self-defeating (skeptical of skepticism) or incoherent (consistency, livability, etc...). For somebody to be justified in their skepticism towards something they must have a foundational belief from which to anchor their skepticism, less self-refutation trumps. In a Christian theistic context there is philosophical worldview (both internally consistent and livable) from which to doubt certain things. For example, if Christianity is true then anything that contradicts it (like Muhammad being a prophet, the Koran denying the crucifixion, etc...) must necessarily be false. Neither metaphysical nor methodological naturalism gets this privilege. Indeed, its radical skepticism does not pertain to logic. Moreover, the naturalist isn't skeptical that the universe exists or even that other minds exist. For this see Planting.
BK said…
The difference between you and those who accept some religious claims is that we don't reject some claims simply because they require an acceptance of the supernatural which it seems obvious to many people exist. I believe it is possible that the Angel Gabriel visited Muhammed. You, on the other hand, reject the concept out of hand because it involves things beyond the purely naturalistic.
Steven Carr said…
Christian Apologist complains about the presuppositions of sceptics, many of whom were believers before they examined the eveidence (such as Bart Ehrman) Many sceptics are people certainly do not reject the supernatural out of hand. They used to believe firmly in it, and went on missionary work to tell other people to believe in the supernatural (see Farrell Till, for example)

Meanwhile , he reveals that he works on the principle that if he is right, then other people must, by definition, be wrong.....

The trouble with Christian Apologists attack on sceptics is that sceptics simply do not recognise the people being attacked. They will think 'He must be talking about somebody else' and just ignore what is being said. It is a waste of time, from a point of view of persuading sceptics that they are wrong. But apologetics is not about reaching out to the lost, but about stopping the saved turning into the lost.

Maany sceptics are willing to admit the existence of black holes, 11 dimensional space, quarks, superstrings and all sorts of things.

Why? Because people make out a case for them that the sceptic finds coherent (rightly or wrongly)

You can see why Christians want Christianity to be exempt from the demand to produce a coherent case for Christianity.

Plantinga for example, claims that God really has created beings with free will that have never chosen evil, yet other Christians say that it is logically impossible for God to create beings with free will that never choose evil.

So much for consistency....
BK said…
No offense, Steven, but that is a ridiculous comment. While there are some Christians who throw out the "just believe" card when they have no knowledge as to how to properly defend their faith, there are Christians who are, daily, seeking to make the very case for Christianity that you reject. The claims of Christianity are both coherent and backed by arguments from history, philosophy, ethics and logic. Simply because you choose to reject them for reasons of your own does not mean the arguments are not being made and are not compelling to many people.

The fact that there are some Christians who may say that it is logically impossible for God to create beings with free will that never choose evil (I have never met any such Christian, but I will take your word that they exist) does not somehow show that Christian thought is incoherent. If disagreement on some matters means that the basis ideas are incoherent, then you may as well admit right now that the claim that life arose on earth naturalistically is incoherenet because there is a great deal of disagreement on how it could possibly have happened.
Steven Carr said…
So you think it is perfectly possible for God to create beings with free will that never do evil?

And with God's foreknowledge, he knows in advance that they will never choose evil.
Steven Carr said…
I take it Christian Apologist will concede that, as somebody who believes there are evil demons, highly motivated to attack his senses, and perfectly capable od deceiving both his senses and his reason, then , if his belief in evil demons is true, he cannot trust anything he sees.

Naturalism does not suffer from the inherent self-contradiction of people who believe both that their senses are reliable and that their senses might well be under constant attack by evil demons.

Only a foundation of naturalism removes the possibility of a deceiving creator who has hoodwinked Christians for his own malicious amusement.
BK said…
William Lane Craig has given a perfectly sensible answer to your question about God's foreknowledge and ability to create beings with free will who choose not to do evil and why God may not choose to take that course of action. I suggest you look it up.

As far as your effort to take the Des Cartes approach, I suggest you consider how Occam's Razor may affect that logic.
On the contrary, Steven, I think I can trust my sense experience to give me reliable knowledge about the external world and so forth. In a theistic context, there is a God who has created a knowable and logical world, a world that corresponds to sense data. The radical skepticism of some (Descartes, Berkley, Hume) is either unwarranted (in dismissing causal connections, as in Hume; or denying the external world as in Berkley) or unnecessary (as in Descartes). Indeed, taking a realist outlook doesn't require me to take a (as you imply) naturalistic methodological outlook. Rather, I am justified in taking a philosophical realistic (realism) dialectic in doubting that evil demons are confusing my sense and reason facalities because of my epistemolgical foundation. Sadly, naturalism (or radical skepticism or even reductionalism) does not, as I said before, get this privilege. Indeed, the naturalist can only find justification in his radical skepticism by borrowing a foundation (and concepts) from other worldviews. No doubt the various critiques over the resurrection (or anything that doesn't fit in your naturalistic worldview) of Jesus, for example, are infiltrated with this unjustified skepticism. Michael Martin, for example, feels quite at ease dismissing all types of evidences for the resurrection of Jesus without giving a sufficient, naturalistic alternative explanation (such things as the empty tomb or the appearances of Jesus). Of course no theistic explanation in which God raising Jesus from the dead would be possible because no single piece of evidence (the empty tomb) would meet the Platonic bar (which I discussed earlier) of absolute certainty (no historical event could ever meet this bar). Thus, since history is simply a mere and imperfect representation of the actual event that occurred, no definitive conclusions can be made about historical matters, much less the resurrection of Jesus. This radical Platonism (and Neo-Platonism) has led to radical skepticism concerning miracles. However, this skepticism (including your skepticism) is completely unjustified. In closing, I have no problem in doubting that demons are constantly deceiving me about the reality of the external world (or other minds, etc…) because it’s not in accordance with my theistic worldview. Certainly God would not allow demons to constantly do this less God’s justice be called into question. But again, you might call this mere tautology into question (even the logical positivists might accept this). However, this objection is unjustified (because you have no basis from which to launch your skepticism) and surely carries with it Hiedeggerian influence, which itself is unjustified (Descartes’ ‘I’). Less a vacuous type of skepticism (which is emotional driven and arbitrarily put forth) emerges, radical skepticism into such things as demons and the resurrection of Jesus needs a diving board (so to speak) from which to launch its skeptical views. If and until this is done, radical skepticism is bound to remain unwarranted.
Steven Carr said…
Christian Apologist writes 'In a theistic context, there is a God who has created a knowable and logical world, a world that corresponds to sense data.'

He is, of course, begging the question of whether demons are affecting his reasoning. His worldview is clear - demons exist which attack his reasoning and sense.

Why then should we believe somebody who cannot even show that his reasoning is correct?

BK supposedly refutes me by giving a link which says 'I also think Descartes is wrong because by positing a evil, malignant demon, he is violating Occam's Razor.'

Positing the existence of Satan is not a Christian thing to do? What nonsense is this?

As for BK's claim that Craig has shown that God can create beings with free will that never choose evil, his inability to give a link to where Craig says that God can create beings with free will that have never chosen evil is telling.
Steven Carr said…
Christian Apologist writes that God would not allow demons to corrupt his mind.

Certainly that would be an evil.

But how does CA know that God does not allow evil?

Can CA say that God allows some evils , but not others?

Why would God allow a Holocaust, but not demon-possession?
Weekend Fisher said…
I hope BK and CA don't mind if I get some of the fun too.

As far as pure logic and the reliability of the mind, both sides acknowledge the reality of irrationality (particularly when you get to bio-psych evaluations of insanity, misperception, & kin). Both sides have to acknowledge that the mind can be led astray; both sides still have to trust the basic reliability of the mind in general.

The two cents that I'd throw in are:

1) God certainly tolerates evil. Let's go ahead and make the Holocaust and the latest natural disasters show for the small potatoes that they are: everybody dies. Not just 6 million Jews, but 6 billion of everybody that are drawing breath at the moment, plus forefathers and descendants while we're on the subject. Why isn't that a problem for trusting that God is good? Because God raises the dead. (Logical next next move: judgment day. I've responded before about the supposed unfairness of heaven.)

2) As far as the "which religion shuffle", I'd invite anybody to lay the founding documents of the major players side by side and make up their own minds. Lots of worthwhile "wisdom" insights from most of the major players, but only one who healed the sick, raised the dead, and rose from the dead.
Lurchling said…
I have always been a firm believer in the doctrines of inquiry. To find truth in life, the tools we have to use are science, history, logic, and personal experience. Each has their limits. Knowledge of our universe and our planet has big gaps and any scientific theory is not for sure "proved" in the sense that there is no way it could be false. Any evidence found countering a theory could demolish or call for a change in that theory. There is no way to be 100% sure of anything. One must go on probabilities. Science tells us that hydrogen atoms have come together over 13.7 billion years and achieved the ability to love, care, and think. I accept this, even though I cannot be shown it for sure. History tells us that Jesus existed, he had followers who witnessed him perform miracles, rise from the dead, and they spent the rest of their lives spreading the word. I accept this, even though I cannot know it for 100% certainty. It is probability. Then comes logic.....one thing one of my philosophy teachers taught me was that you can reason anything depending on your assumptions. I decided long ago I would not place barriers on existence or reality, and especially God. My ape brain (not trying to offend my fellow Christians who do not accept evolution as I do) couldn't possibly claim superiority or understanding of the infinite unknown. Skeptical arrogance assumes the reality they perceive is the truth, that nothing outside their own experience is possible, except something that dovetails their own skepticism. I accept a great many things are possible, and reason my way from there. Personal experience, hmmm... I cannot prove to anyone of you I once had a music teacher who told me I could do anything in life I set my mind to. He's been dead several years now, but the things he taught me about not just music, but life were just between him and I. I cannot prove to you all that this man told me this. I know it for sure, and you should all except it as probability. I accept it as probability that the personal experiences of Jesus' followers seeing him resurrected and performing miracles are widespread and trustworthy, even coming from an unscientific culture. They weren't idiots, that's for sure. Every human has/had the ability to think, reason and inquire. All ways of knowing have their shortcomings, but one must live life based on probabilities which evidence leads us to. That will always be something skeptical inquiry into the life of Jesus will suffer at, a lack of evidence and a disregard for the abundant historical/contextual evidence we do have.

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