False dichotomy: faith vs. fact


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Everyone has a worldview, and every worldview consists of an underlying network of unprovable presuppositions. 

By unprovable, I mean that they cannot be tested by the methods of science because the very methods of science rely on these presuppositions. In our modern era, which is pervaded by a universal contempt for all discussions about the nature of reality (metaphysics) among the educated elite, the debate over who’s right and who’s stupid shifts to criticisms of our various methods for gathering knowledge — the limits of what we can know, and how we know what we know. This field of study is called epistemology.

This emphasis on epistemology that’s championed by the intellectual leaders (usually academics) of our day has setup numerous false dichotomies — logical fallacies designed to control the direction of the debate by violating logical rules and forcing us into pitting two choices against each other when, in reality, they are not at odds with each other. One of them is faith versus fact.

FAITH VS FACT

Liberals and other members of the modern media Establishment lose their marbles when trying to understand people who aren’t liberals. Lacking strong arguments to convince their readers of the merit of their position, they change tactics and shift towards employing ridicule that’s thinly disguised beneath a veneer of earnest inquiry. Here is how a New York Times author begins her article “Faith vs. Facts”:

Most of us find it mind-boggling that some people seem willing to ignore the facts — on climate change, on vaccines, on health care — if the facts conflict with their sense of what someone like them believes. “But those are the facts,” you want to say. “It seems weird to deny them.”

In this article, the author, when trying to explain one kind of belief over another, gives an example of looking at a dog: “You do not say, ‘I believe that my dog is alive.’ The fact is so obvious it is not worth stating. You simply talk in ways that presume the dog’s aliveness — you say she’s adorable or hungry or in need of a walk.” That people simply “presume” and brush over what appears to be obvious speaks more about the uncritical nature of their thought process than anything. This author, by making these statements, has revealed an underlying commitment to a particular epistemological view: empiricism, otherwise known as “seeing is believing.” Empiricism is a view that values experience and evidence in the form of sense perception over other forms of evidence. Rationalism, in contrast, regards reason as the ultimate test of what defines knowledge and requires clear and distinct ideas linked in logical ways.

But your method of gaining knowledge (epistemology) and your belief about the nature of reality (metaphysics) are linked. You cannot separate them from each other. Even apparently harmless statements are packed full of presuppotional content that reveals a great deal more than we may realize.

This New York Times author has stated what she believes to be an obvious fact: seeing (looking at) your dog and saying that she is alive (or hungry or adorable or whatever). She contrasts that with saying “I believe my dog is alive,” as if speaking that way reveals a faith commitment that saying “My dog is alive” does not. In truth, she is only examining a person’s faith commitment at different levels in their worldview. If you were to press her, she would, at some point, be forced into revealing her faith commitment by using the words “I believe” or something similar.

PRYING APART THE SEAMS

You could begin your critical examination of her worldview by asking her “Is it really obvious? You must trust your senses: you trust that your eyes are accurately portraying the physical object to your brain. You trust that your brain is correctly interpreting the optical signals from your eyes. How do you know these things to be true?”

If scientists in a lab in a location different from your own do some experiments that give them confidence that a human brain accurately translates optical signals from the eye, then how do you know that their experiments can be trusted by you, in a different location? How do you know that all human brains generally interpret the same information identically? Can you see what they see? If they draw a picture of what they see, and it agrees with what you see, how do you know it is really what they see? Maybe in their minds they see a brick, but with their hands they draw a tree?

Furthermore, do you have access to all brains, or are you making a simplifying assumption to generalize? On what basis is your justification rational?

You could press harder: “How do you know that you are the same person today that you were yesterday? How do you know your memory is reliable?”

Maybe the response would be: Because I remember myself from yesterday. But using your memory to justify the validity of your memory is circular, a logical fallacy. To believe something on the basis of a logical fallacy is irrational.

These questions back her up against the nature of reality by asking questions like “What is man?” If you gain knowledge through your senses — seeing is believing — but you cannot see your memory or the thoughts of other people, then how do you know anything about your memory? Going beyond even that, you hold a belief: seeing is believing. That is a principle. Principles are invisible things. Can you see invisible things, like principles? If not, then how do you reconcile your belief that empiricism is the way to gain knowledge when your method of gaining knowledge cannot actually be observed?

In other words, if you say “I only believe things that can be scientifically tested, repeated, and independently verified,” then the next question is “How do you know that?”

These are metaphysical questions that demand an understanding of reality that comport with your epistemology. What needs to be true about the nature of reality to make your epistemology possible? Well, that raises another question: how do you gain knowledge about the nature of reality? If you gain knowledge through your senses, how do you gain knowledge about invisible things that your natural senses cannot detect?

Maybe you don’t think invisible things exist. But again, how do you know?

THE MODERN FORFEIT

There are no modern philosophical answers to these questions, especially when most intellectuals today assume that the only thing that exists in this universe is matter. This view of reality rules out the existence of unchanging universals like the laws of logic, a view which, if it were true, obliterates our ability to actually learn anything. Nevertheless, they proceed onward, wielding tools like “reason” which would be rendered useless if their metaphysical beliefs were actually true.

It is much easier to assume away the metaphysical problems without talking about them. This way, they can be swept under a rug without first having to be openly discussed, defended, and justified. Hopefully, no one asks these kinds of critical questions. Because the elite control the public school systems, they also control the content of the education. Serious examinations of these fundamental problems are not included in that content — they might raise doubts in the minds of millions of children about the prevailing worldview. So, students are not trained to think critically about such matters.

The truth is that faith is inseparable from fact. How the facts are interpreted is ultimately a question of what you have faith in: the mind of man, or God. Regarding Augustine’s correct understanding of the relationship between the two, Greg Bahnsen wrote:

David’s testimony was that “The Lord my God illumines my darkness” (Ps. 18:28). Into the darkness of man’s ignorance, the ignorance which results from attempted self-sufficiency, come the words of God, bringing light and understanding (Ps. 119:130). Thus Augustine correctly said, “I believe in order to understand.” Understanding and knowledge of the truth are the promised results when man makes God’s word (reflecting God’s primary knowledge) his presuppositional starting point for all thinking. “Attend unto my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding in order that you may preserve discretion and in order that your lips may keep knowledge” (Prov. 5:1-2).

Having a misplaced faith ensures that your reasoning will always be faulty. Modern children, indoctrinated into the prevailing Establishment worldview in public schools, are trained to misplace their faith. They are trained not to ask hard questions. But, if for some reason their educational conditioning fails and they do ask these questions, well, they can be ridiculed as being stupid enough to ask about something so obvious. With the mainstream media and most of the academic journals under Establishment control, they don’t have to worry too much about suffering mainstream criticism for committing basic logical fallacies — as well-dressed and academically presented as they may be.

This is changing, though. The Internet has broken the old media and information monopoly. It has gradually eroded the Establishment’s ability to control the message. As test scores continue to fall and costs continue to soar, homeschooling will increase. Parents will pull their children out of the public schools, and as they do this will seriously hamper the elite’s access to the young, impressionable minds of upcoming generations.

This process will only accelerate after the coming of the Great Default, when the unfunded liabilities of welfare state programs like Social Security and Medicare finally overwhelm the ability of central governments all across the Western world to fund them. This will lead to a great loss of faith in the prevailing Establishment order. We will see a willingness of people to return to the hard questions: what is the nature of man and what is the proper role of government? At bottom, these questions require commitments to certain presuppositions about the nature of reality, how we know what we know, and how we should live our lives. When the prevailing worldview consisting of materialistic reality, scientific method, and secular humanism is re-evaluated by hundreds of millions of people, so will the fundamental presuppositions that produce those ideas.

We had better be ready to provide the answers.

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3 responses to “False dichotomy: faith vs. fact

  1. Pingback: Early January 2016 Presuppositional Apologetics’ Links | The Domain for Truth

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