Monday, December 28, 2009

International Hot Tub: Round 4 part 4

(For newcomers, this is a debate between myself, a Christian, and my best friend Andy Snyder, a former Christian who is now an atheist. For a fuller introduction to the intent and explanation of the name of this series, please see the introduction. Though this is presented as a two party debate on one level, comments and responses are still fully welcomed to all posts in the comments section as a way to help extend the debate and bring other voices into it.)

I realize that by this point I've pretty much totally killed this discussion by cutting up my response to Andy's last argument into a bunch of pieces, making responding to me a laborious task. Let me here briefly respond to the last two paragraphs of Andy's last post, and then make a proposal for how to go forward.

First I'll deal with Andy's second to last paragraph:
“Of course there are other ostensibly plausible interpretations of these events. You've offered a common and compelling one, the one of the linear evolution of human understanding where we go from mythology, to religion, to naturalistic science. This story is forceful and persuasive, except for the fact that it offers no proof of itself. It is just as liable to the charge of total fabrication as is any meta-narrative of human or cosmic history.” So what do you make of the microwave background, Hubble’s constant, the fossil record (the Neanderthal, Lucy), spontaneous mutation, etc? These things certainly seem to be proof or at least evidence that the development of the universe proposed through the modern scientific worldview is valid.
I make no comment on any evidence for any theory of the development of the universe - that isn't really our topic. I'm fairly open minded and willing to listen to arguments for either young earth creationism (which I am admittedly not inclined toward for some of the reasons you've mentioned) or evolution over the course of billions of years, either through stable progression or intermittent leaps of mutation. However, the gradual evolution of the human species (which, again, I'm not married to) does not necessarily imply the evolution of world views from primitive (less true) to advanced (more true) states. Plenty of people are able to understand the universe scientifically on both the theist and atheist presuppositions, clearly debunking the idea that a scientific mind is an evolutionary step beyond the religious mind. Getting back to the issue at hand in this paragraph, your interpretation of people's claims of experiences of God along the lines of the human impulse to find patterns, and this evolving through mythology, to religion, to science, remains at rest on an untested presupposition of God's non-existence. The evidence for natural evolution offers no evidence for God's non-existence. Approaches to dealing with the question of God's existence by looking at theories of human biological evolution or psychology or sociology are all radically unscientific - they assume their conclusion, analyse totally irrelevant data according to this assumed conclusion, and then announce their victory. Its all a dodge. The validity of Christianity's claim that God reveals himself cannot be tested by appeals to any data outside of God (which is rather like testing Hubble's law by conducting Rorschach tests); God can only be known through God, and this only through repentance and faith in Christ by the power of his Spirit.

And, Andy's final paragraph:
On the final issue of worldviews being neutral, I propose there is a common underpinning in all cultural perspectives. Although it’s not neutral, it’s at the foundation of the human experience and is therefore a universal beginning point to evaluate any and all worldviews we might hold: humans are pattern-seeking. Whether it is Native Americans noticing the migration routes of the buffalo, ancient Athenian astrologers noticing the same shapes in the heavens reoccur year after year, or even a modern theologian looking for patterns in TF Torrance’s thought, our species universally takes notice of phenomena reoccurring and gives explanations for them. I propose that a worldview should be judged on how internally consistent its patterns to understand the world are. I not going to post my criticisms on the Christian perspective, but only want to offer this as a beginning point for comparative discussion of worldviews.
Indeed, humans are pattern seeking. As a Christian, however, I have to say that this pattern seeking activity is one of the many ways humanity seeks to evade God. The world views we construct are ways of keeping God at arms length, to be dealt with conceptually rather than personally. The more internally consistent my world view, the better insulated I am from God. This is the problem. There are several world views that are entirely internally consistent - how are we to measure them against each other? World views can really only be understood internally, so how are you, a proponent of scientific/naturalistic world view which values world views according to their utilitarian function of organizing data, going to evaluate the Buddhist world view? It too can only be understood internally and has its own set of values for world views (or so it appears from the outside). I fully grant that the "Christian world view", if such a thing there be, has the same problem - it insulates us from other ways of thinking and even from God. The answer must come from beyond humanity and all its pattern seeking; it must come from God, and it has. The cross of Jesus Christ is the final judgement on all insulating pattern seeking, revealing humanity's final inability to understand God through its own intellectual efforts and exposing all such efforts as fraught with ignorance and hostility toward God. To this end I do not propose any real or imagined "Christian world view" but only Jesus Christ as the total revelation of God, complete with patterns of thought that do not need to be sought, but are freely given by Christ in his teaching ministry as recorded in the Gospels. I am thus not interested in comparing world views but only in proclaiming Christ.

Now, as to how to go forward in this series, feeling that I might have killed it with the length of these last several arguments, let me propose the following options:

1) We consider these first 4 rounds (everything we've done so far) as our opening arguments and now proceed to pester each other with direct questions, one at a time. For instance, you pose a question briefly and succinctly; I answer it as briefly and succinctly as I can; you respond to my answer, commenting on whether or not I have adequately dealt with the question from your point of view; and then its my turn to ask you one.

2) We continue on as we have and you deal with everything I've said in my last four part response in whatever way you see fit and we just see if anyone keeps reading.

3) We proceed to final arguments.

I favour option 1 myself, but I'm open to any further suggestion you might have.


  1. Let's do #1, and I want you to ask me the first question. Go.

  2. Even granting Andy's pattern seeking thesis assumes His worldview, it is simply petitio principii to engage in Andy's methodology. That's what always amazes me about the metaphysical materialists, they just can't see Adam for themselves; and instead see themselves as God --- ironically, both.

    If that's the best your friend has, Adam, I give you the "win."