I started this out as a long comment, but I decided it would make for a good post, as I’ve been seeking an educated atheist to debate for a while now. Writer Cameron Gaunt is an atheist who has studied philosophy and took issue with some points I made in my last post, “Atheism and Total Vindication.” Cameron’s comments are in that post and I want to thank him and welcome him to the blog. From the outset, I would like to clarify things. I am an adherent of transcendental philosophy and apologetics. Once we’ve established that things like the scientific method aren’t self-justifying, we can move to the question of metaphysics. I specifically make the argument that after this, we can ask the question of meta-logic, meta-ethics, meta-physics and meta-epistemology (if you will), all of which require some unifying principle or means by which the various fields or sciences may be related and harmonized.
In faithfulness to apophatic theology, I believe the only solution to this question lies in the theology of a God that possesses all the omnis and is immanent as well as transcendent. If that is the case, we can see how all the particulars of our experience can be related and unified with the universals of our experience. So, for example, if we ask the question of induction – how do we believe the future will be like the past?, we can posit a rational justification for that, which is divine Providence, and because God is an infinitely Personal God (and not just an abstract force or impersonal principle), history and all reality, ultimately, are inherently rational and meaningful.
You state as follows:
“As an atheist with a scientifically informed worldview, I understand the epistemic limits of empiricism and logical positivism. While these philosophies are flawed in the pursuit of “ultimate truth”, I consider the concept of “ultimate truth” to be unattainable/made up and thus value post-positivism as a “good enough” metric.”
You have definitely seen through what a lot of atheists I’ve discussed with have not. I applaud you for admitting this. My philosophy of science professor was very good on this point, and was himself a hardcore atheist/materialist. On a personal level, I welcome anyone who is willing to look objectively at the issues. The ad hominems were more tongue in cheek than anything. I mock quite a bit of religion and “Christianity” here, as well.
First, in response, I would say that ultimate truth, or objective truth is absolutely necessary and unavoidable. I think this can be shown in a similar fashion to the argumentation I presented above. I think it can be shown in many forms, but logic is a great way to present it. As I said above, I am an advocate of transcendental philosophy as found in thinkers like Maximos Confessor, Van Til, Husserl, P.F. Strawson, and (hesitantly) Kant, etc. The insights from that trend in philosophy, I believe, give answers to these dilemmas. Aristotle is the first to present a transcendental argument regarding the principle of non-contradiction like redoves mentioned. It is, I argue, the strongest possible form of argument, since it’s denial involves its affirmation. So to deny the PNC is also to simultaneously negate it, resulting in an unavoidable contradiction. When we contradict ourselves at a fundamental level, I argue that we are involved in a completely faulty system. A simple version of this you are probably familiar with is the classic refutation of skepticism as follows:
“All knowledge is uncertain.”
This phrase itself makes a universal claim, claiming to go beyond the limits laid down by the claim itself. It also makes a host of universal assumptions about language, metaphysics, etc., like I listed in the article above, but for the sake of argumentation here, just on a logical level, this claim makes an attempt at universal knowledge and simultaneously denies it. So rather than objective truth being the great unattainable, it is rather the presupposition of any interaction or knowledge act, period.
“99% certainty with the flexibility to be face-on-the-floor wrong and come out okay is pragmatic to me, and thus as you say, an aesthetic. Secular humanism is the idea that as helpless heaps of conscious matter in an uncaring universe with more similarities than differences, we can at least act to minimize suffering and maximize enjoyment (dopamine in the brain, whatever).”
In response here, I would argue that on an atheist *worldview* there is no certainty at all because notions like “99″ or language or causality or identity over time or the “self” are nonsensical and impossible. So there is not even a 99% certainty in an atheistic worldview, but the idea of numbers, symbols, mind, relations of objects, connections between events (causality), and no ethics, etc., are impossible. Granted, you as an individual may feel that it is noble to want to minimize suffering, but that is a subjective impulse with no greater reason or telos for so doing. There is no objective or logical reason for why one should prefer minimizing suffering over maximizing it, beyond personal preference. Yet in every act of knowledge or contained within every object itself is telos, or purpose – meaning. The way this relates to God is that the ultimate principle in the universe is not a wholly irrational immaterial, impersonal, determined force (chance and chaos), but omniscient rationality. I hesitate to advocate Plato exactly, but the universe, I argue, is vastly different from what modernity and atheism present. It is closer to the view of Plato than the view of Darwin, and I give an overview of that argumentation here, if you are interested:
In regard to linguistic and numeric versions of the transcendental argument, I give a couple here:
“We will probably never actually know what an electron is actually is. But we can figure out how to manipulate the thing enough to power our other things which we think add value to our existences whose “meanings” and the like are largely self-determined.”
That is precisely the problem with all monistic and reductionist views of metaphysics. When all reality is one kind of thing, difference and meaning thus become illusory. When difference and particularity are illusory and subjective, then they are impossible, finite, subjective chemical bubblings that at once pass out of existence as quick as they appeared to come into existence. If meaning is subjective and self-determined, then your above sentences are irrelevant and have no meaning. Infinitude is ever-present, at every point of our experience. As I argue in my Numbers Prove God article, if the infinite is merely a token symbol and unreal or unexperienced (which it cannot be in the positivist perspective), then you cannot even predicate, period. You cannot say “that object,” because to say that object presupposes unity, or 1, and one presupposed a real connection to all other objects, as well as assuming infinite divisions and relations itself.
“I reject their assertion because i don’t think the logical arguments that necessitate the existence of an anthropomorphic God are compelling. Cosmological arguments are made of special pleading. Since i see no reason to believe that the specific gods of the world’s religions are real, I resent it when people assert the authority of their fiction over me.”
I agree the classical “proofs” are no good. I am not presenting a classical Thomistic proof, but a transcendental argument with much greater force than the sloppy, faulty arguments that sufficed for medieval minds. Philosophy took a much more questioning approach than it did in the middle ages, and so the response requires a much more in-depth analysis and response on the part of Theists. The ancient and medieval worlds were epistemic foundationalists (simply put) and didn’t encounter post-Enlightenment thinkers like Vico that brought up language and later thinkers that brought up semiotics. Since the Theist and the atheist are operating on very different views of the world, the only possible apologetic route is one of worldview comparison, or transcendental argumentation where the basic presuppositions of both worldviews are compared and examination is done in regard to which is the only rational position.
So rather than present the flawed, tired old cosmological argument, I’d argue a transcendental version: causality is a necessary category for human knowledge to be possible, particularly in science. On an atheistic view, causality is not a real phenomena, as Hume showed, and must be jettisoned to the dustbin of metaphysics. In my worldview, causality and the principle of induction make perfect sense, given that the world is guided by divine providence and thus we can expect regularity in nature – that the future will be like the past. Such a notion as providential guidance also requires a Personal God, by which objects obtain an eternal, uncreated meaning in their logoi, and are not confined to the immediate, materialistic monist realm of endless, meaningless, successive, unrelated phenomena.
“I don’t think apotheosis is a scientific objective, but since science and technology are inextricably linked, and technology often reduces suffering while adding enjoyment, we tend to be biased towards equating technology with good and thus science as progress.”
The dominant trend in “science,” or the modern dominant version of this very vague, elastic term, is certainly transhumanist, as redoves mentioned. From St. Simon to H.G. Wells to Bertrand Russell to Ray Kurzweil and Microsoft/Google and DARPA, there is no doubt that the technocratic aims of these individuals/groups is towards “post-human progress.” As redoves mentioned, these groups are very open in their plans, and I would again add that what one considers “progress” assumes some normative scale of value judgments. But in the materialist/monist scheme, value judgments are relative and subjective, so what progress is, is always also illusory or subjective. Is the elimination of all human life and the omega point of human-tech merger progress or regress? There is an assumption on the part of the tech-minded atheist that complexity somehow equals progress. How? Says whom? In what way? These are merely holdover assumptions from the older Darwinian evolutionary models from those like Wells, Darwin, and Haldane that assume the rise of the machines is “progress.”
“I am also open to the idea that evidence for God(s) could emerge tomorrow, and I would have to change my mind. That’s fine. I just currently don’t see a lot of evidence for the supernatural in the natural. There are unanswered questions, sure, and I am okay with a degree of uncertainty in my life (which is a common to us all anywho).”
The view here assumes the approach and justification for theism would be like the discovery of a quark or the “finding” of some natural principle. God is, at least as I’m arguing,” not that type of being. The evidence for non-material entities is, in fact, quite simple, and is argued at length in my numbers and Platonism articles. Infinity, for example, is assumed in all predication and in mathematics, but is not empirically verifiable. Laws of logic are necessary, but not empirically verifiable. To argue these things are not “real” or are merely social constructs or token pragmatic symbols is to argue they are variant, time-bound principles subject to flux. But they are clearly not.
They are invariant, cross-cultural, non-material logical entities that are not immediately perceivable, yet are assumed in every act of knowledge or predication. In the transcendental argument for God, it is not that evidence is lacking, it is rather that all there is is evidence, and humans, being fallen, have forgotten God and do not see the natural world in their ‘nous’ as they should – as a revelation of God and His uncreated, eternal logoi. The basis of reality is therefore eternal and uncreated, not temporal and based in ever-changing flux. Change and alteration are good things that add depth and complexity to beings, instead of the materialist’s temporal ever-present, where the “meaning” of what passed five minutes ago is gone forever into the void, while the present simply churns out more meaninglessness, destined for the void. On the contrary, every molecule, every atom, every thought, every relation, is impressed with the stamp of eternity and infinity.
“Also, making homophobic comments doesn’t make you more of a man; you reveal yourself as one who was bought into the gender-normative myth or is just plain bigoted. If you didn’t mean it like that, whatever, but that’s how it looks to others.”
I believe reality is stamped with a certain meaning and being is normative. That said, gender is not a cultural or social myth, anymore than numbers are a social construct. Those who adhere to such ideas are products of an engineered corporate modernity that is hellbent on wrecking gender, not freeing it. The state educational system’s view of gender and sexuality as social constructs is designed to wreck your manhood and future, producing infertility and social chaos. That social chaos brings about evolutionary progress is, of course, the classical Darwinian mythos as married to cultural Marxism. For evidence of this in a more lengthy treatment, see my Darwinism Deconstructed discussion. In this regard, homosexuality is designed to destroy.
“Also, redoves: no scientist thinks science is hard or impenetrable, or there would be no scientists. Quit projecting the notion, that may not be yours but you accept it, that there’s ivory tower bullshit going on. Science is unintuitive, yes, but not opaque.
Which reminds me of that awful “priests in white coats” sentiment expressed above. Science is based on relative certainties. The days of science clergy are limited to 1950s instructional videos and Marvel Comics readership.”
I think most scientists that deal with complex subject matter would say the fields are in some sense difficult. I believe, with redoves, that there is an abundance of conspiracy going on with those in white lab coats, particularly in regard to the names and works of the men and organizations mentioned above. Tracking this trend, we are concerned primarily with the Anglo Establishment’s scientistic thinkers that emerged from the British Fabian Society and Nazi Germany, as well as plenty of western psychiatric hierarchs that were involved in the founding of the APA, Tavistock, SRI, etc., not to mention a large portion of the pharmaceutical industry, such as Sandoz Pharmaceuticals that Huxley writes about. These entities are open about their plans, and Huxley gave public lectures about the Anglo technocratic socialist plans, of which Brave New World is admitted to be the real battle plan:
Like redoves, I recommend an investigation of the philosophy of science. Philosophy of science was one of my favorite topics in undergrad and graduate classes. One of the best places to start is, like redoves recommends, Thomas Kuhn, whose Structures of Scientific Revolutions shows how scientific paradigms actually operate in practice. In fact, they are very much intuitive transformations as can be seen in figures like Descartes, Newton or Watson, that seem to arise from inspiration and complex semiotic relationships that involve looking at old problems in a radically new way. They operate in many ways like political revolutions because the human psychology involved in both is very similar. I treat that here, as well as Kuhn. As a side note, another great example of how amazing scientific discoveries often come from esoteric notions and inspiration is the case of Wolfgang Pauli, who rivals Einstein in the last century. This article of mine, as well as these two articles demonstrate this point lucidly:
The Hidden Pauli By: Harald Atmanspacher
Atom and Archetype Reviewed By: Dennis Slaherty