Creationism and Logic, Part 2

THIS is about an article we found at the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG) titled Can We Understand God’s Ways?

We’re treating this as the second installment of an earlier post on this subject. See: Creationism and Logic. As with Part 1, today’s AIG article was written by Jason Lisle, whose creationist writings are familiar to our readers. He’s described at AIG’s website as a Creationist Astrophysicist — whatever that is.

As we’ve noted before, AIG has an entire page devoted to information about this amazing man: Jason Lisle, Ph.D. Until recently, that page had a reference to his doctorate appearing both before and after his name, so we always referred to him as “Dr. Jason Lisle, Ph.D.” Now that they’ve cleaned it up (perhaps due to our prodding), we’ll drop it. Instead, we’ll call him Jason.

The AIG article is in the form of an answer to a letter they received from a preacher, saying:

[Answers in Genesis] should not tell people that God’s ways are always understandable to the natural rebellious mind.

Here are some excerpts from Jason’s response, with bold added by us:

First, allow me to clarify what we mean by “autonomous human reason.” By this phrase we mean how some people attempt to rely on the conclusions of the mind without using biblical presuppositions.

Where is Jason going with this? Let’s read on:

Biblical presuppositions include such things as laws of logic, induction, the basic reliability of memory, and the basic reliability of our senses. Such things are only meaningful in a Christian worldview …

Aaaargh!! In such situations, we must consult scripture. The site we use for our online searches is BibleGateway. This picture shows the result of our search.

So much for bible logic. What of sensory evidence? For that, we continue:

So, are people able to have knowledge about the universe without these biblical presuppositions? No, they cannot. Knowledge of the universe absolutely requires using things like laws of logic, memory, induction, and sensory experience. I cannot really “know” that the sun is shining unless I also know that my eyes are basically reliable — that what I see is real and not illusion. But if the eyes are merely the accidental product of evolution, there is no fundamental reason to trust their sensations, nor the brain’s interpretation of those sensations.

We find this exceedingly odd. Jason is — correctly — extolling the virtue of logic and sensory evidence — but are those things theological? We thought they were part of the scientific method. As Galileo wrote at the start of his unfortunate controversy over the very un-scriptural solar system, in his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany:

They [the churchmen opposed to Galileo’s solar system theory] go about invoking the Bible, which they would have minister to their deceitful purposes. Contrary to the sense of the Bible and the intention of the holy Fathers, if I am not mistaken, they would extend such authorities until even in purely physical matters – where faith is not involved – they would have us altogether abandon reason and the evidence of our senses in favor of some biblical passage, though under the surface meaning of its words this passage may contain a different sense.

[…]

This being granted, I think that in discussions of physical problems we ought to begin not from the authority of scriptural passages but from sense­-experiences and necessary demonstrations … . But Nature, on the other hand, is inexorable and immutable; she never transgresses the laws imposed upon her, or cares a whit whether her abstruse reasons and methods of operation are understandable to men. For that reason it appears that nothing physical which sense­-experience sets before our eyes, or which necessary demonstrations prove to us, ought to be called in question (much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages which may have some different meaning beneath their words.

And that, in our humble opinion, should be contrasted with:

[Hebrews 11-1:] Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Moving along with Jason’s article:

Evolutionists, of course, do believe that their senses are reliable, that there are laws of logic, etc. But in doing so, they are relying upon biblical presuppositions. They are being inconsistent: tacitly relying upon God’s Word while verbally rejecting that same Word.

Well, okay. We’re only at the beginning of what Jason has to say in his article, but we’ve seen enough. If you want to explore his thoughts further, by all means click over to AIG and indulge yourself. Your Curmudgeon’s capacity to deal with such material is sometimes limited.

See also: Creationism and Logic, Part 3.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

23 responses to “Creationism and Logic, Part 2

  1. One of the more reasonable verses in the Bible also undermines it. From Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, 5:21 (New King James Version) “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” Unfortunately it follows the exhortation: “Do not despise prophecies.”!

  2. I find it somewhat amusing that Lisle’s argument is heavily indebted to Descartes’ argument in the Meditations: I can only know that my cognitive faculties are reliable, when I use them correctly, because God is the creator of those faculties and He is not a deceiver. If I didn’t know that God exists and created my mind, my faculties would still be reliable, but I wouldn’t be able to know that they are.

    Good stuff, Curmudgeon! Keep it up!

  3. Adrian Thysse says: “One of the more reasonable verses in the Bible also undermines it.”

    There’s always the ever-popular 1 Timothy 6:19-20:

    O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:

    Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.

  4. Actually, not trusting your sense is a pretty good idea if you get down to it. Our brain and senses are littered with short cuts and kludges that frequently cause us to incorrectly process sensory inputs. Magicians and hucksters have been taking advantage of this for all of history. This is pretty much why multiple lines of evidence, repeatable experiments, and the like are necessary for science and looked down on for religion.

  5. “I cannot really “know” that the sun is shining unless I also know that my eyes are basically reliable — that what I see is real and not illusion. But if the eyes are merely the accidental product of evolution, there is no fundamental reason to trust their sensations, nor the brain’s interpretation of those sensations.”

    This is utterly bizarre. If anything, the core concepts of evolution *demand* that an organism have accurate knowledge of the environment around it. It has to find food and avoid things that want to eat *it.* So it has to be able to identify that which is good to eat and to sense predators coming. An organism that didn’t have a good awareness of the environment would either have trouble eating or would be quickly eaten itself. This would tend to weed out organisms whose perceptions were deceptive. How much more evolutionary can you get?

  6. Deklane says:

    If anything, the core concepts of evolution *demand* that an organism have accurate knowledge of the environment around it.

    That’s true, as far as it goes. Our sensory equipment is sufficient for survival, finding a mate, etc. But our senses are no better than that. This is why we didn’t know diddly about the universe until we started building telescopes, microscopes, etc. We’re blind to most of the spectrum, but we only recently learned that. Of course, none of this newly available data was mentioned in scripture either.

  7. But our senses are no better than that. This is why we didn’t know diddly about the universe until we started building telescopes, microscopes, etc. We’re blind to most of the spectrum, but we only recently learned that.

    Ahhh, but all our instruments ultimately rely on human senses to make sense of their output; the telescope is only as accurate as the eyeball behind the eyepiece, or looking at the photographic plate made with it.

    In a very real way, our senses are tested every time we interact with reality; the ultimate visual falsification being determined by whether or not we end up with venison on the table after putting the cross-hairs on the deer and pulling the trigger.

    If our senses were not reasonably reliable, we would never be able to make sense out to the universe around us, and observe the lawful regularity by which it operates. Every test of scientific predictions ultimately is a potential falsification of our human senses that were used to observe the data from which the theory and its subsequent predictions were created.

    Without reliable senses, there is no means to determine the outcome of observations or tests, and ultimately there would be no science. That we are able to construct scientific theories that make testable, repeatable predictions about the natural world around us that are borne out is prima facia evidence that our senses are reliable and based on reality.

    No Deity is needed to assure us of this; reality alone suffices.

  8. ohioobserver

    Wasn’t this whole business about sensory reliability settled in the Bishop Berkeley flap a few hundred years ago? Or is my memory of philosophy faulty?

  9. ohioobserver says:

    Wasn’t this whole business about sensory reliability settled in the Bishop Berkeley flap a few hundred years ago? Or is my memory of philosophy faulty?

    I have no idea if Berkley’s ideas make sense. The world seems to function very nicely even if I ignore him, so that’s what I do.

  10. If one accepts Berkeley’s rather peculiar (to put it mildly) metaphysics and epistemology, then it falls out as a consequence that the senses are completely reliable. The infamous response to Berkeley by Samuel Johnson — who kicked a stone and cried, “I refute it thus!” — only testifies to how difficult Berkeley’s theory is to accept, not that the theory is wrong, unless the incredulity that a theory meets with is itself a symptom of something basically wrong with the theory.

  11. Creationist “logic”: “Such things are only meaningful in a Christian worldview …”

    I’d just love to hear Michael Medved’s spin on that.

  12. When doing a thorough search of the Bible, nothing beats bible.cc, which will go through many translations simultaneously. In the case of “logic”, it turned up:

    Job 32:14
    New Living Translation (©2007)
    If Job had been arguing with me, I would not answer with your kind of logic!

  13. Frank: Not to mention all of those various mathematicians, logicians, and observers of nature from the pre-Christian era.

  14. In John 1:1, the original Greek for “Word,” is “Logos,” so the Lord is the creator of logic. Also, a Latin word for knowledge is “scientia.” ( science ) Adam and Eve, in taking of the Tree of Science, began trusting in their interpretation of knowledge, rather than God’s interpretation. The Bible identifies the whole problem with mankind in the third chapter of the first book.

  15. Adrian Thysse: “From Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, 5:21 (New King James Version) ‘Test all things; hold fast what is good’.”

    IOW, “Be a scientist, not a creationist.” BTW, wasn’t it also Paul who said “the letter killeth but the spirit giveth life”?

  16. From Lisle’s “argument”:

    But if the eyes are merely the accidental product of evolution, there is no fundamental reason to trust their sensations, nor the brain’s interpretation of those sensations.

    Carl Sachs identified it as a descendant of Descarte. More recently, it is channelling Alvin Plantinga’s argument (PDF) that evolution is a “self defeater” for naturalism.

    Deklane wrote

    This is utterly bizarre. If anything, the core concepts of evolution *demand* that an organism have accurate knowledge of the environment around it. It has to find food and avoid things that want to eat *it.* So it has to be able to identify that which is good to eat and to sense predators coming.

    As I’ve put it several times in response to Plantinga’s argument, critters whose sensory apparatus gives them a false and distorted representation of relevant aspects of their environment end up as lunch for critters whose apparatus is more reliable.

  17. RBH says:

    … critters whose sensory apparatus gives them a false and distorted representation of relevant aspects of their environment end up as lunch for critters whose apparatus is more reliable.

    But Richard, that’s only because they were designed to be lunch.

  18. Isaiah 11:6-9, talks about [Deleted. Scripture spamming is discouraged here.]

  19. Dear themysteryof, if you want to use an old book of myths, you aren’t going to convince anyone here that it has any scientific basis.

  20. RBH,

    Clearly something like that has got to be the right response to Plantinga. But there are some problems, still.

    In order for the truth-value of beliefs to be tied up with adaptive behaviors — such that organisms with generally reliable belief-forming mechanisms will tend to have a higher probability of reproductive success — we need an account of what beliefs are — and how beliefs don’t swing free from behavior in the way that Plantinga imagines that they do — but without lapsing into full-blown behaviorism on the other hand.

    And, I think we need to give some account of how (i) generally reliable doesn’t mean always reliable, such that (ii) general reliability is consistent with fallibilism, but also — more importantly — we need (iii) an account of how naturalistic processes gave rise to an organism capable of recognizing its cognitive errors, correcting them, and — even more so — capable of inventing increasingly more powerful techniques for detecting and correcting cognitive errors.

    In other words, what’s still needed, it seems to me, despite the massive contributions of Hume and Dewey, is a naturalistic account of the possibility of science itself. I don’t think anything short of that will be a decisive refutation of the Descartes-Plantinga-Lisle objection.

  21. Carl remarked

    Clearly something like that has got to be the right response to Plantinga. But there are some problems, still.

    Sure there are. But as short-hand I like it.

    Carl wrote

    In order for the truth-value of beliefs to be tied up with adaptive behaviors — such that organisms with generally reliable belief-forming mechanisms will tend to have a higher probability of reproductive success — we need an account of what beliefs are — and how beliefs don’t swing free from behavior in the way that Plantinga imagines that they do — but without lapsing into full-blown behaviorism on the other hand.

    There’s a cart-horse question there, and I think that needs explication first. The presupposition of that sentence seems to be that beliefs–consciously held (verbalizable?) claims about the world–are the causal agency, with behavior (in part, at least) caused by beliefs. I think that’s at least arguable. A metaphor I think about is consciousness as a public relations agent hovering outside the door of a closed room in which the real decisions are made, hearing disconnected fragmens of the debate inside the room and then making up a story from those fragments to explain the decision that comes out of the room.

    In addition, even given the proposition that beliefs (in part) cause behavior, there’s a whole lot of slippage between the notion of the truth value of beliefs and the degree to which a given belief is a reliable model of reality, where “reality” is “what bites you on the ass if your belief(s) is(are) unreliable representations of what’s outside your skin.”

    I’m perfectly willing to concede that we can never know with certainty whether a given belief is “true” in the sense of being an absolutely accurate representation of the reality known only to Omniscient Jones, but we can know something about the relative reliability of beliefs with respect to their ability map the portions of that reality to which we have access via our sensory/perceptual apparatus and the various instruments we have invented to augment that apparatus.

  22. RogerE,
    One thing that convinced me there is something more to what you call “that old book of myths,” is that here and there within it, are these strange statements that are confirmed by modern science. Things that were ridiculed by atheists, and others in the past are beginning to make sense. I’ve read the rules of comments of this site, and don’t wish to offend anyone here. I hope this reply isn’t out of bounds.

  23. themysteryof says: “I hope this reply isn’t out of bounds.”

    Definitely borderline. We don’t argue about religion or atheism here, and we don’t debate about whether the bible is a science book.