Logic and Certainty

“I proceed with confidence in consistent logic on the basis of experience and precedent.”

Question from Dan, apparently paraphrased from his own blog (I added the numbers for easy reference):
1. How do you account for the universal, abstract, invariant laws of logic,
2. on what basis do you proceed with the assumption that they will not change, and
3. how is it possible to know anything for certain according to YOUR worldview?

Answer:
Before I start, atheism is not my worldview. It’s my position on a specific issue, and it has very little to do with how I view anything else.

1. I cannot account for the laws of logic, yet, and neither can you. You as a Christian have been supplied with an answer to this tremendous mystery whereas I have not, but you have no substantive evidence to support or verify your answer. Its power to explain anything satisfactorily is therefore extremely limited. If you think you do have evidence, please present it or link to it.

2. I proceed with confidence in consistent logic on the basis of experience and precedent. I expect the laws of logic not to change because they have apparently never changed. All my life, and as far back as I’ve delved into history, there isn’t a single confirmed instance when the laws of logic changed. (Contrast that with the Christian idea that God temporarily circumvents these laws to cause miracles.)

If the laws do suddenly change at some point in my lifetime I will be mighty surprised (as will those who think a god is keeping them constant) but I do not expect this to happen and I live as if it won’t. Chances are, I’ll be right.

3. Knowing things for certain depends on just how certain you want to be. Since I can’t be absolutely certain this life is not merely a dream, for example, I can’t be any more certain about a single specific aspect of my life as it’s all potentially within that dream.

Once I have enough evidence of something, for example that my fiancee both exists and loves me, I develop a certain confidence that it is true. In the given case I am so confident that I will happily say in everyday life that I am certain.

Sure, there is a possibility that my fiancee is putting on an act, or that she is my schizophrenic delusion, or again that my whole life since meeting her was a dream. I simply think the probability of any of these scenarios is so low that it’s negligible. If I’m wrong and one of them is the case, I will be heartbroken and again very surprised, and that will be that.

I do not pursue absolute certainty in anything, because I don’t think it’s attainable. I don’t need it, because in most matters I can attain a level of confidence where I can happily act as if I am certain. Sometimes I’m wrong. It happens.

SmartLX

2 thoughts on “Logic and Certainty”

  1. >>Before I start, atheism is not my worldview.

    Said the person running “Ask the Atheist.” You’re kidding right?

    >> It’s my position on a specific issue, and it has very little to do with how I view anything else.

    O’rly? So as far as the afterlife is concerned your worldview unjustifiably asserts “No God” but as far as the rest of your life you believe that the universe was created and evolution is a farce? That you believe that we have purpose and meaning in this world that we live in? That we are not merely matter? Do tell us your worldview.

    >>I cannot account for the laws of logic, yet, and neither can you

    First, thanks for answering and second that is not true. I can, so speak for yourself.

    >>You as a Christian have been supplied with an answer to this tremendous mystery whereas I have not, but you have no substantive evidence to support or verify your answer.

    While the Bible is my ultimate authority, it is not the only means by which God has revealed Himself to us. It is through God’s collective natural and special revelation that I know for certain my senses are reliable and can account for absolute, immaterial, universal laws of logic and reason.

    In contrast, you are stuck in an absurd worldview where you claim to sense the validity of your senses and reason the validity of your reasoning and are certain that we can’t know things for certain.

    Proof requires logic. One must be able to account for the laws of logic, or the proof ends in an infinite regress of ‘and how do you know that?’ You have not accounted for the laws of logic, and are therefore unable to prove anything.

    Since we cannot finalize an argument engaged in infinite regress, we must stop at some self-validating, self-attesting authority. You have none. Bahnsen says that the Christian system has a self-attesting authority. My epistemology is grounded in the all-interpreting presupposition of the personal, infinite, eternal, self-contained, self-revealing Creator of all facts and laws.

    God is my ultimate reference point, and He alone is self-validating.

    Now all systems must ultimately involve some circularity in reasoning. For instance, again from Bahnsen, when you argue for the legitimacy of the laws of logic, you must employ the laws of logic. How else can you justify the laws of logic? This is a transcendental issue, an issue that lies outside of the temporal, changing realm of sense experience.

    >>2. I proceed with confidence in consistent logic on the basis of experience and precedent.

    According to cosmic evolutionary theory all is ultimately subject to random change and is in a constant state of flux. Our very rationality requires laws so things can be distinguished, classified, organized, and explained. Rational comprehension and explanation demand principles of order and unity in order to relate truths and events to one another. According to your worldview, rationality itself has no foundation.

    >>3. Knowing things for certain depends on just how certain you want to be. Since I can’t be absolutely certain this life is not merely a dream, for example, I can’t be any more certain about a single specific aspect of my life as it’s all potentially within that dream.

    If someone rejects Christianity they will end up, if they’re honest and consistent, at the bottom with radical skepticism, just like you have. Completely arbitrary moral system; it’s going to be pick and choose. People don’t live like that though, we go to school and turn in papers on time so you can get the grade. With the Atheistic worldview, school doesn’t matter; grades don’t matter; education doesn’t matter; nothing matters with that worldview.

    >>Since I can’t be absolutely certain this life is not merely a dream, for example, I can’t be any more certain about a single specific aspect of my life as it’s all potentially within that dream.

    Mere logical possibility of (x) is not the same as adequate justification for (x). Mere assertion of a mere logical possibility. If we accept mere assertions of bare logical possibilities as grounds for truth we should believe all mere assertions.

    >>I do not pursue absolute certainty in anything, because I don’t think it’s attainable.

    Christianity has all the answers and everything you need to live life, not just practically but rationally. To the contrary an atheists rational is founded on the irrational and uncertainty.

  2. Blimey, that’s a salvo and a half.

    – I don’t assert No God, I just don’t assert God.

    I accept evolution because there’s a mountain of evidence for it; religion is the only reason anyone rejects it in spite of this. That’s why there are religious evolutionists like Ken Miller, Francis Collins and the Archbishop of Canterbury, but there are no atheist proponents of Intelligent Design “theory”, let alone explicit creationism.

    The universe could have been created, or at least emerged from something else, but even if it was or did the progenitor didn’t have to be a god. Another universe is a good candidate, either a stable mother universe or the previous universe in a chain or network. This may require infinite time, in some sense, but so does God.

    We are not merely matter. Physically, we are both matter and energy. The energy within the matter contains our thoughts, our voices and much of our personality. That’s before even considering a third, undetectable component like a soul. Beyond that, a great deal of what we are exists in our achievements: what we’ve written and built, the memories of us in other people and so on. Matter is a part of us, but not the entirety.

    – Your perceived revelations are not evidence to anyone but you, because you can call anything a revelation no matter where it’s actually come from. Think otherwise? Describe one.

    – Your approach to logic is closely related to the Transcendental Argument, which I’ve been over. On a broader note, telling people what you think their own presuppositions are (the second part of presuppositional apologetics) never serves any attempt at persuasion. Trust me.

    – We need not fully account for the laws of logic; that’s your assertion. Nor do I seek to prove anything about them in an absolutist sense; that’s your department.

    If you are able to terminate the regress at God without explaining Him, why not simply terminate at the laws themselves without explaining them, and assume they were always in place? You do not solve the regress by invoking God, you merely extend it one step and then give up because you’re where you want to be. You even make it worse; a God capable of making the laws of the universe is a bigger thing to leave unexplained than those laws.

    The laws of logic, at least, demonstrate themselves unambiguously day to day. We can all be confident that they are there in some sense. We’re not all so confident about gods.

    Cosmic evolution theory does not suppose that the laws of logic, or the fundamental physical laws of the universe, have changed one iota since the Big Bang or shortly afterwards. It merely shifts its perspective over time to apply the word “evolution” to different systems, until it reaches its present-day biological meaning.

    – “…school doesn’t matter; grades don’t matter; education doesn’t matter; nothing matters…”…to whom? Obviously it doesn’t matter to God if He’s not there. It still matters to us though.

    School and grades can improve the quality of a student’s life. This is one major criterion on which atheists, who think there IS only one life, decide what “matters”. If something doesn’t also matter to the whole universe, who cares? It’s important to the people on this planet, and they are really here with us. Chasing absolutism in value judgements does no good if the only possible absolute authority is invisible and silent.

    – What “mere logical possibility” do you think I’m trying to justify as fact? I don’t actually think my life is a dream, and I don’t live as if it is one, I just can’t absolutely rule it out. Nor can I rule out the possibility of a god, which similarly is not adequate justification for the existence of one.

    – Christianity has answers to just about everything, it’s true. It’s just that they might be wrong answers. If you need answers to everything regardless of their accuracy, you’re in hog heaven. I don’t, so I take the time to look for the right answers.

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