An Informal Introduction to Covenantal Apologetics: Part 24 – Memory, senses, reason, and beliefs.

By C.L. Bolt

Earlier we only very briefly alluded to the question of why we should take our senses to be reliable if they are merely the product of matter in motion through time. It is sometimes argued that we know our memory, senses, and reason are reliable for producing mostly true beliefs about the world since we are survivors in the evolutionary scheme. This explanation assumes that our beliefs affect our behavior in some way. A popular and perhaps common sense view of the relationship between beliefs and behavior is that beliefs affect our behavior by their presence and content. We do not merely act because we have a belief present, but act upon the basis of the content of that belief as well.

We need not say that beliefs are the only entities which affect our behavior. Desires affect our behavior as well. Merely believing something may not move us to behave in accordance with that belief, though the addition of a desire might very well help to this end.

Some have suggested that we imagine that our evolutionary ancestor believes that the best way to pet a sabre tooth tiger is to run away from it. Our ancestor also desires to pet a sabre tooth tiger. It just so happens that while he is gathering food one day he sees a sabre tooth tiger crouched down low and moving slowly toward him. Desiring to pet the tiger, and believing that the best way to do so is to run away from it, our ancestor takes off running and in the process saves his own life perhaps without even realizing it. Very roughly speaking, the parts of his brain that produce beliefs in him – senses, memories, and reason – are passed down to his children. His children possess senses, memories, and reason which produce beliefs that are every bit as false as his belief that the best way to pet a sabre tooth tiger is to run away from it.

The story demonstrates that we need not assume with the evolutionist that our survival entails that our senses, memory, and reason are such that they produce mostly true beliefs about the world. If we are not created in the image of God but rather came about through some evolutionary or otherwise unknown process then it is unlikely or at the least unknowable that our memory, senses, and reason are reliable in the sense that they produce mostly true beliefs about the world.

All of our beliefs are produced by our senses, memory, and reason. If we cannot know that they are reliable then we cannot know whether or not any of our beliefs are true. If we do not believe that God created us, then we cannot rationally believe anything at all.

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3 Comments

Introduction to Covenantal (Presuppositional) Apologetics by Chris Bolt « The Domain for Truth

[…] An Informal Introduction to Covenantal Apologetics: Part 24 – Memory, senses, reason, and beliefs. […]

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Pat

How would you respond to an atheist who says that it is circular to argue that we know that God exists because without Him we would not know whether our senses, memory and reasoning are reliable and we know that those are reliable because God is their guarantor?

defectivebit

Though I am not sure I would state TAG like you have, I’d take them back to how a transcendental argument operates as that tends to be the issue when people make that charge.


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