Praxis Presup: Episode 18 – Brian Knapp and Matt Oxley

Informal debate between our own Brian Knapp and Matt Oxley, of Ragingrev.com; hosted, of course, by Chris Bolt.


38 Comments

Chris

After all was said it seems that Matt was not able to account for the Uniformity of Nature and that he didn’t see that as a problem. He has faith that the future will continue to be like the past based on the past but if it did happen to change he didn’t see how that would be a problem. So I guess on his worldview it wouldn’t be a problem that science would only be possible for the time being? The general UON could change and that wouldn’t be a problem? Am I misunderstanding him at this point? If not I don’t see how that would not be a problem for an empiricist! It would seem like a gigantic problem!

Regarding morality he did give some reasons why ethics may be beneficial in a scocity to survive and grow but when all is said and done when the universe is concerned why does it matter? Why is that a good or a bad thing? I didn’t hear an answer to that? I did hear because of empathy, but again as far as the universe in concerned why is it good or bad, right or wrong to have or not have empathy?

It seems to me that the Christian worldview fills those voids along with a host of others and does so consistently.
berean1

Matt Oxley

Hi Chris,

I account for the uniformity of nature through the laws of physics as they stand, they don’t have to be eternal constants in order to be contributors to uniformity – they only have to be constant between point A and point B – not making the assumption that the laws of physics will stay the way they are eternally doesn’t mean that the assumption can’t safely be made that they will remain constant through the next day…again allowing for the fact that my assumption may be incorrect.

This isn’t a problem for this empiricist because this empiricist only relates to the laws as they stand. Were I to attempt science outside of the current laws I’d be making assumptions about what those laws could potentially be as opposed to the way those laws currently are – this isn’t an issue because it doesn’t assume eternal constants and doesn’t need to. If the laws of physics change, and they could, then the way we approach those laws and science must also change – until such a time we should stick with the current methods.

On morality:

The universe doesn’t care whether or not something is good or bad – all that matters in terms of evolution is whether or not an adaptation is beneficial to the survival of the bearer of the adaptation – the Pre-frontal Cortex (the Empathy Zone) becoming more active and replacing in large part the medula oblongata (sp) held considerable benefit in early man’s ability to communicate and commune within it’s clans and even work out understandings in trade and movement. The universe doesn’t give two cents about that – as if that would matter.

RazorsKiss

The laws of physics presuppose a nature that is uniform. It seems as if you are offering us a circular argument, Matt. Take it that P presupposes U. If we are then told that nature is uniform because the of the laws of physics (If P, then U), isn’t this circularity? If it is not the case that P presupposes U; then why are we to consider P to be a “law”?

Steven S.

Because you’re confusing “Law” as “regulation” with “Law” as “description”, for one thing.

Now, part of this is because we use the same word for two different things, which is an unfortunate aspect of English, but, try this:

The laws of physics describe the way things are. If (as has happened in the past, to different laws), they are found to be inaccurate descriptions, they’re changed.

There are also consistencies within nature. These consistencies give rise to the descriptions of the consistencies, which are refined as the consistencies are better understood.

The laws of physics aren’t used to prove the uniformity of nature; they’re used to make predictions that, so far, have been very accurate, and are consistently refined to be more accurate. That’s not circular reasoning — that’s experimental feedback and refinement. It also moves in a loop, but not all things that go in circles are bad arguments. 😉

RazorsKiss

Because you’re confusing “Law” as “regulation” with “Law” as “description”, for one thing.

I don’t think so. I don’t think they’re merely descriptive. As Bahnsen points out to Stein, they are universal, invariant, and immaterial. In a sense are they descriptive? Sure. However, (and to my view, more importantly) they are also prescriptive, in that they are the prescriptions of God upon His creation. They are, in fact, ordinances. There is a usage in which they describe what those ordinances are, but they are very definitely prescriptive.

The laws of physics describe the way things are. If (as has happened in the past, to different laws), they are found to be inaccurate descriptions, they’re changed.

I’m not talking about our understanding of the laws. I’m taking about the laws themselves. This is where the signals tend to get crossed. The Christian and non-Christian are rarely talking about the same thing in discussions such as this.

Steven S.

As Bahnsen points out to Stein, they are universal, invariant, and immaterial.

OK. Let’s try this again, with good old-fashioned Koryzbskian indices:

There are laws(1) of physics, is the presupposition: descriptions of how all matter and energy behave.

There are also laws(2) of physics, that we as humans know, and which provide us mathematical and structural ways of interpreting the world.

Laws(2) aim to approximate laws(1) as closely as possible.

In a sense are they descriptive? Sure. However, (and to my view, more importantly) they are also prescriptive, in that they are the prescriptions of God upon His creation.

But to even contemplate a prescriptive law, you are presupposing (there’s that word again) something outside the objects themselves prescribing the law. We’re going to get into things and their natures here any second now, and Plato and Aristotle will raise their heads. 😉

I’m not talking about our understanding of the laws. I’m taking about the laws themselves. This is where the signals tend to get crossed.

Apparently so. Because when you talk about knowledge, and what people can and do know, it’s their understanding of the laws, often expressed as Laws, that matters.

So, to handle your original question:

Take it that P presupposes U. If we are then told that nature is uniform because the of the laws of physics (If P, then U), isn’t this circularity? If it is not the case that P presupposes U; then why are we to consider P to be a “law”?

P is a part of U; whether you choose to call this “presupposing” is an interesting question in and of itself. Does red “presuppose” wavelengths of light?

There, I think, is your primary problem: Laws(2) are derived *from* U, and are held up as laws insofar as U does not provide a contradiction to them; they are an approximation of laws(1), which may or may not be knowable to ideal precision; we have known many sets of laws(2) that have been improved to make better laws(2) over time.

I really think, however, the big difference here is, as you pointed out in the last paragraph, that Matt’s “laws” and your “laws” aren’t the same thing; his are descriptions emergent from experiment and observation, yours are principles imposed by some outside entity. Look back at this:

This isn’t a problem for this empiricist because this empiricist only relates to the laws as they stand.

He’s not arguing he’s got laws(1), or some external validation. He’s arguing that his laws(2) keep working.

Matt Oxley

The thing you guys don’t seem to be understanding is that the laws are X now, but may later be X^-.133 or Y or anything – I only assume that they will remain as they are in the short term and use empiricism based on that premise – a premise that I well admit may be decidedly wrong at some point in the past or future but has, in my limited experience, been correct thus far.

C.L. Bolt

Just a note that as much as I would love to jump in on this, I will not be doing so, since I am the moderator of the debate being commented upon. 🙂

The “Chris” above is not me.

Chris

Hello Matt,

Thank you for your response. You said:

“I account for the uniformity of nature through the laws of physics as they stand, they don’t have to be eternal constants in order to be contributors to uniformity – they only have to be constant between point A and point B”

I’ll give you give you “constant between point A and point B” but why do you assume that “they only have to be” that way? The point in question concerns point C. Just because the laws of physics act a certain way in that past (point A) and continue to “stand” that way in the present (point B) how do you know they will continue that way into the future (point C)? At this point since you have not experienced the future you have to move out of the realm of empiricism and into the realm of faith. This is where your atheistic empiricism is inconsistent and has problems.

“not making the assumption that the laws of physics will stay the way they are eternally doesn’t mean that the assumption can’t safely be made that they will remain constant through the next day…again allowing for the fact that my assumption may be incorrect.”

The question is not necessarily about the laws being eternal but applies for any future event even ten minutes from now and by you making an assumption that they will remain constant and call it safe does not change the fact that you are making an assumption. There is an inconsistency here with empiricy vs assuming things by you allowing for the fact that you “may be incorrect” actually reveals the point regarding this.

” This isn’t a problem for this empiricist because this empiricist only relates to the laws as they stand”

If thats true then you don’t know how they will stand in the future because you have not experienced it yet and when assume that it will you must abandon empiricism.

“Were I to attempt science outside of the current laws I’d be making assumptions about what those laws could potentially be as opposed to the way those laws currently are”

No one asking you to move away from current laws were asking you from an empicist worldview how do you know that the current laws will continue as they are in the future (Point C).

“this isn’t an issue because it doesn’t assume eternal constants and doesn’t need to. If the laws of physics change, and they could, then the way we approach those laws and science must also change – until such a time we should stick with the current methods.”

As I said I don’t need necessarily need eternal constants ten minutes from now will do. I would agrue that if the laws of physics can change which you said they could, forget about the approach, science would no longer be possible. Christians have no problem sticking with the current methods, which is a different question than how do you know that the laws of physics will continue as they stand now verses the future.

Regarding morality:

The reason I brought up as far as the universe being concerned was to bring out the fact that you do not have objective morals. From your atheist worldview why must the morals continue to be the way you say they are? They came into practice so why assume that the practice won’t self destruct? I’ve heard it said that if Hitler would of won the war everyone would be Germans. I assume you believe what Hitler was trying to do was wrong, assuming he did win the war and all they people that thought that Hitler was wrong were put to death and only those that agreed with Hitler were around, would the wrong that you believed he was doing still exsist?

berean1

Audience Question and Answer Period in Next Debate Between Brian Knapp and Matt Oxley

[…] 1. Listen to the first recording of the debate here – http://www.choosinghats.org/2011/11/praxis-presup-episode-18-brian-knapp-and-matt-oxley/ […]

BK

Matt – you say “I only assume that they will remain as they are in the short term and use empiricism based on that premise”. The question is … why? Why assume they will remain the same in the short term?

Matt Oxley

because they already have and because the bet is a safe one on the timescale of your life and my own.

BK

Matt – What bearing does the fact that they *have* remained the same in the past have on the assumption that they will continue to remain the same? That is, on what basis are you assuming that events in the past have any bearing on the future?

BK

Steven S.

I know I’m answering for Matt, but let me try:

Because they have, as far as we can tell, stayed the same.

Because every interaction we as individuals have had tells us they’re still working, in addition to all the carefully-generated experiments to test them.

That’s what you call a well-founded, or reasonable assumption. It’s not a certainty; but moving your finger to type a letter on a keyboard doesn’t require philosophical certainty. It requires the assumption that it’ll work the same way it did the last several thousand times you did that.

BK

“I know I’m answering for Matt, but let me try:”

Thats’ fine – we allow that here 🙂

“Because they have, as far as we can tell, stayed the same.”

OK, so (like Matt) you seem to be saying that the past has some bearing on the future; that is, because they have stayed the same in the past, it is safe to assume they will be the same in the future. Is that essentially your answer here?

“Because every interaction we as individuals have had tells us they’re still working, in addition to all the carefully-generated experiments to test them.”

Well, we can really only speak about what has happened … past tense, right? In other words, any analysis that leads us to conclude “they’re still working” is an analysis on past experience, even if that “past” is only a second or so. This includes the carefully-generated experiments to test them – all analysis of the results of said experiments rely on *past* experience.

“That’s what you call a well-founded, or reasonable assumption.”

That “well-founded assumption” is assuming something much more basic – that things which happened in the past will continue to happen in the (not-yet-experienced) future.

“It’s not a certainty”

Agreed.

“but moving your finger to type a letter on a keyboard doesn’t require philosophical certainty.”

Agreed as well.

“It requires the assumption that it’ll work the same way it did the last several thousand times you did that.”

Realize that none of us here are claiming that kind of certainty is required; that’s not the basis for the line of questions being asked. We do realize that it does require the assumption that it will work the same way it did in the past – the question is, why assume this? Most (well many) people will say “because it has worked that way in the past”, but past experience is only relevant to the future if … wait for it … the future is like that past. But of course that’s the very thing we are asking you to offer a reason for assuming.

BK

Steven S.

I answered this in part below, but since you put it so succinctly:

Most (well many) people will say “because it has worked that way in the past”, but past experience is only relevant to the future if … wait for it … the future is like that past. But of course that’s the very thing we are asking you to offer a reason for assuming.

Because every time I’ve assumed that in the past, it’s been true, as far as I can tell. I make a series of predictions about the future every time I act; and so far, save for situations where I can see which factor invalidated my reasoning, those predictions have come true. So it’s not just the past I’m talking about — it’s a set of repeated assertions of what *will be* that have come true.

To quote the great Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant, who was accused of “not winning the big ones”: “Tell me what the big one is before the game, and we’ll see how I do.” I constantly, essentially unconsciously make predictions — and they keep being right. That’s the reason for the assumption.

BK

Steven – you said “So it’s not just the past I’m talking about — it’s a set of repeated assertions of what *will be* that have come true.”

Yes, it most definitely *is* only the past you are talking about. Even though you may have example after example of successfully predicting that the future will be like the past … in the past … none of this has any bearing on the future *at all* if you don’t appeal to induction.

BK

Chris

Matt and Steve,

The questions that we are asking pertain to future events not the past or as they stand as of now which both of your replies do not deal with.

berean1

Steven S.

The questions that we are asking pertain to future events not the past or as they stand as of now which both of your replies do not deal with.

I believe, and have reason to believe, that the future has some relation to the present and the past. 😉 I’ll explain below.

If thats true then you don’t know how they will stand in the future because you have not experienced it yet and when assume that it will you must abandon empiricism.

No. Because I have experienced many futures; they’re just all now in my past. 😉

To be slightly less flip, every moment of my life I’ve been running an experiment; “What will happen next, based on what I know and what I’m about to do?” I don’t think of it that way all the time, because it includes things like “What will happen next when I flip this lightswitch?” — it’s just part of how life works. It’s how kids learn.

And every moment of my life, so far, I’ve either got the result I expected, or I could understand why I didn’t — the bright flash of the dying lightbulb, say; or my inability to run fast enough to catch an opposing soccer player.

So, when I talk about the present and the past, I’m talking about them as previous futures, all of which have justified my belief.

Is that sufficiently clear?

Chris

Steve,

Thank you for the response.

Is that sufficiently clear?

You are being clear, but ostensibly I’m not. You said:

“I have experienced many futures; they’re just all now in my past.”

At this point all I need to do is rephrase the same question. I understand that you have experienced futures that are now in the past and that you have even made predections about the future and that they have come true, with that being said how do you know that future futures will be like the past futures?

Every answer you give to the question like the one quoted above is viciously circular. We are asking how do you know that the future will be like the past. And the answer you just gave is tantamount to answering; because it has always been that way in the past or because all the futures that I’ve experienced that are now in my past have always been that way.

So to qualify the question for clairity when we are asking the question we are not asking about something that was once future but is not past, we are asking about something that is a future future if you will.

How do you know that future futures will be like the past futures? This is the unexperienced territory for the empiricist.

berean1

Steven S.

How do you know that future futures will be like the past futures? This is the unexperienced territory for the empiricist.

Well, we can go around again and say “Because the future futures of my past were always the same as the future future predictions” 😉 Really, I can’t explain it any more clearly. I’m using an inductive principle. If you don’t accept it, you won’t accept my reasoning. If you do, I fail to see how you’re confused.

This isn’t circular reasoning; if you wish to employ a geometric model, it’s *spiral* — each iteration of the process increases the level of certainty; so instead of A->B->A->B, as you seem to think, it’s A->B->A’->B’->A”->B”…

Does that make sense?

I’d like to ask, then, how you think you know what the future will be like? And by “the future” I mean, for example, “how do you know that when you move your finger towards the “I” key, you’re going to hit it, and then get an “I” on the screen.” That level of future is what I’m talking about here.

Chris

Steve,

You said:

“I’m using an inductive principle.”

Are you familiar with the “problem of induction?”

“This isn’t circular reasoning”

When you are asked how do you know that the future will be like the past, you say “I have experienced many futures; they’re just all now in my *past*”! All those futures that you experienced are no longer futures but are now *past*. I don’t see a spiral here, but what I have seen is you say “we can go around again ” which I see as the completion of the circle and then going around it again. I am happy to leave it at this point because we’ve been around the circle a number of times now, and let the readers come to there own conclusion.

“I’d like to ask, then, how you think you know what the future will be like”

As a Christian I believe the inductive principle works in relation to the future because God is the creator and *sustainer* of this creation:

“For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him *ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER*” Col 1:16-17

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,
in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and *UPHOLDS ALL THINGS* by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” Heb 1:1-3

He created it with a general uniformity or a regular course if you will. He has assured us that it will continue to be that way at least until the return of Jesus:

“Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:
Jer 31:36 “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.” Jer 31:35-36

This is what makes science and the inductive principle possible.

berean1

Steven S.

Out of idle curiosity, if one believed it, would the citation from Jeremiah be sufficient basis for belief in induction?

Matt Oxley

Wow, it looks as if I’ve missed a lot here – thanks Steven, I think you’ve well explained my position already but I’ll take another crack at it.

“How do you know that future futures will be like the past futures? This is the unexperienced territory for the empiricist.”

I don’t KNOW this, I don’t claim to know this – there is a difference between what one knows (a fact) and what one believes (in this case what one expects, a prediction of the future based on what I’ve experienced in the past). I’m making an assumption, I’ve never denied that, as to what the future will look like based on the futures I’ve previously experienced (that I now call Past).

This previous experience is my reason for assuming, it’s the safe bet against the probability that were I to stop breathing my life would stop also…I might be wrong and my next breath may kill me but I’m not willing to hold my breath to test the hypothesis that the laws of my own biology have changed today because a: I have no reason to believe they have and b: because the risk of testing this theory is far too great.

This is why I made the claim of false dilemma during the debate; you are making giant sweeping assumptions about the way things are and will be based on your belief in the God of the Bible – you call those assumptions and beliefs facts even though you’ve consistently failed to demonstrate how (BK). I’m making giant sweeping assumptions about the way things will be based on my limited experience with the way things are and the way they have been in the past – my only evidence would be those events but because you also make the same inductive assumptions (while adding a god twist to confirm those assumptions) we agree on how we know things in large part – so: There is no dilemma, lets take the debate to a dilemma.

BK

Matt – first let me say I am not claiming that either you or I *know* that future pasts will be like they were in the past. I definitely realize that you are not claiming this.

However, there is still the nagging issue of offering a reason for *believing* it will be like the past – something which we all do. You address this issue directly when you say “This previous experience is my reason for assuming.” That is, you appeal to past experience in support of your belief that future will be like the past.

But this is the heart of the question. In appealing to past experience in support of a belief about the future, you are relying on induction, because it is induction which “allows” us to take past experiences and draw conclusions about the future. But since induction is the very thing you are being challenged to offer a reason for accepting, any logical appeal to it is simply begging the question.

“it’s the safe bet against the probability that were I to stop breathing my life would stop also”

Why is it the safe bet? It may be the case that in the past, people who have stopped breathing have died. But what reason is there to believe that in the future (even in the next moment) that you would die if you stopped breathing? If you say that the *reason* you believe this is because this is the way it has been in the past, then you are drawing an inductive conclusion.

“I might be wrong and my next breath may kill me”

Yes, that’s exactly correct – it might. The issue we are discussing is important because it is one of life and death.

“but I’m not willing to hold my breath to test the hypothesis that the laws of my own biology have changed today”

I understand that – the question is why?

“because a: I have no reason to believe they have and b: because the risk of testing this theory is far too great.”

But Matt, you have no reason to believe that the laws of biology have *not* changed, either. You have no reason to believe either way. You can’t appeal to the fact that they have not changed in the past, because then you are drawing an inductive conclusion which is, once again, the very issue at hand. In addition, realize that every time you draw your next breath, you are in fact “testing this theory”, and if you have no reason to expect one outcome over the other, then that act of breathing (as opposed to not breathing) is completely arbitrary.

“This is why I made the claim of false dilemma during the debate; you are making giant sweeping assumptions about the way things are and will be based on your belief in the God of the Bible – you call those assumptions and beliefs facts even though you’ve consistently failed to demonstrate how (BK).”

My conclusion about the likelihood that the future will continue to be like the past is a conclusion drawn based on what I find in the Bible. That is, I am grounding my use of induction in something other than induction, which is why my “solution” is not circular.

“I’m making giant sweeping assumptions about the way things will be based on my limited experience with the way things are and the way they have been in the past – my only evidence would be those events”

It isn’t an issue of evidence, though – it is an issue of taking the evidence of what has happened in the past and applying it to the future. The question of induction is not something that can be answered *merely* by appealing to evidence, because past evidence only has bearing on future events if in fact the future *will continue* to be like the past.

“but because you also make the same inductive assumptions (while adding a god twist to confirm those assumptions)”

My “inductive assumption” is grounded on something more basic – belief in God’s revelation. Yours is based on … what?

“we agree on how we know things in large part – so: There is no dilemma, lets take the debate to a dilemma.”

No, we do not, Matt. We have completely different epistemologies in play here.

BK

Steven S.

My conclusion about the likelihood that the future will continue to be like the past is a conclusion drawn based on what I find in the Bible. That is, I am grounding my use of induction in something other than induction, which is why my “solution” is not circular

Two observations, one somewhat flippant, but both critical:

1) How do you know the Bible will say tomorrow what it says today?

2 I ground, and I suspect that Matt also grounds (though I’ll certainly let him speak for himself, and hope he doesn’t mind my repeated interruptions) my belief in induction with a comparison to reality. Whether or not I predict the sun will rise tomorrow, I can observe that it has risen every day. So I have both a means of making predictions (induction) and a means of verifying previous (or current) predictions that lies *outside* my means of making the predictions.

In many ways, you’re relying on authority — a pre-existing justification, albeit an unverifiable, untestable one. I’m relying upon repeated verification.

BK

Steven – what you have offered here is a means to “vindicate” your use of induction by determining *after the fact* that an inductively-derived conclusion was “correct”. That’s not addressing the *problem* of induction, which is a request of justify your belief that induction will *continue* to hold.

The question at hand is why you believe *right here and now* that the very next inductively-based conclusion you draw is likely to be correct. Saying that you will be able to determine *afterwards* whether your conclusion was true misses the challenge. Saying that you have a means of making predictions (induction) simply affirms you are using the very thing you are being asked to provide a reason for using.

I know that the Bible will continue to “say” tomorrow what it says today because that is part and parcel of the Christian Theistic worldview – unchanging revelation. It is the Christian Theistic worldview (including unchanging revelation) that makes experience intelligible in the first place.

And yes, I most definitely am relying on authority – we have no other choice as subjective, fallible creatures.

BK

Steven S.

Saying that you have a means of making predictions (induction) simply affirms you are using the very thing you are being asked to provide a reason for using.

And the answer is “Because it has worked before, in precisely the same situation — and when my predictions are inaccurate, there is a mechanism to fix the problem”.

I know that the Bible will continue to “say” tomorrow what it says today because that is part and parcel of the Christian Theistic worldview – unchanging revelation.

In other words, you assert it. Just as someone who doesn’t believe in that worldview can assert an external universe to which their inductions can be compared.

There’s nothing special about your assertion of a bedrock; you’ve just chosen one that claims exclusivity.

we have no other choice as subjective, fallible creatures.

And yet you fail to see how our fallibility undermines any assertion of infallibility in our judgment about which authority to follow?

This is why I repeatedly state that what you’re after is not knowledge, but certainty; I cannot reach 100% certainty, but I’m willing to function at 99.999% (or more) as workable.

So, you *do* have a choice, unless what you need is that last 0.0001%, and are willing to risk that you’re 100% wrong.

BK

BK: “Saying that you have a means of making predictions (induction) simply affirms you are using the very thing you are being asked to provide a reason for using.”

SS: “And the answer is “Because it has worked before, in precisely the same situation — and when my predictions are inaccurate, there is a mechanism to fix the problem”.”

And the response is … you’re begging the question since you are appealing to the past to support the use of induction in the future, and past experience only has bearing on the future *if* you assume induction will continue to hold.

BK: “I know that the Bible will continue to “say” tomorrow what it says today because that is part and parcel of the Christian Theistic worldview – unchanging revelation.”

SS: “In other words, you assert it. Just as someone who doesn’t believe in that worldview can assert an external universe to which their inductions can be compared.”

I assert it based on something more basic that I hold to – the Christian worldview, and so the assertion is justified based on something more foundational, as opposed to being based on *itself*.

This is the difference between our positions. I base induction on something more foundational, something that we can go ahead and look into and determine whether or not it is true. So at this point in the discussion, we have a “tentative” conclusion about my usage of induction. You, however, base induction on induction, so at this point in the discussion, we have a “final” conclusion about *your* usage of induction – namely, that it is being justified in a circular manner, meaning it isn’t justified at all.

If you want to get into why I believe the Christian worldview is true, then just say so. Since I’ve already started the process of showing why it is true, I’m more than happy to go there.

SS: “There’s nothing special about your assertion of a bedrock; you’ve just chosen one that claims exclusivity.”

Since we are comparing one bedrock against another, what makes one “special” is the fact that it can operate as an actual bedrock. If Christian Theism is true, then there is a reason to believe that induction will continue to hold as it has. If Christian Theism is not true, what reason is there that is non-circular in nature? That’s what you are being challenged to offer – that (non-circular) reason.

BK: “we have no other choice as subjective, fallible creatures.”

SS: “And yet you fail to see how our fallibility undermines any assertion of infallibility in our judgment about which authority to follow?”

You fail to understand the details of Christian Theism sufficiently, I think 🙂 My basis for believing in Christian Theism is not based on my ability to determine what is and is not true – it is based on the ability of the infallible creator of the universe to reveal himself in such a way as to overcome my fallibility.

SS: “This is why I repeatedly state that what you’re after is not knowledge, but certainty; I cannot reach 100% certainty, but I’m willing to function at 99.999% (or more) as workable.”

At this point, you don’t even have bedrock that makes the use of percentages intelligible. 😉

BK

Steven S.

And the response is … you’re begging the question since you are appealing to the past to support the use of induction in the future, and past experience only has bearing on the future *if* you assume induction will continue to hold.

I’m not “assuming” it. I’m operating in a position of (by now slowly) increasing certainty.

But we’ll get to more of this later:

I assert it based on something more basic that I hold to – the Christian worldview, and so the assertion is justified based on something more foundational, as opposed to being based on *itself*.

And I am basing mine on the material world, which is more foundational than my belief in induction. 😉 Indeed, it will continue irrespective of whether I believe in induction, or not.

This is the difference between our positions. I base induction on something more foundational, something that we can go ahead and look into and determine whether or not it is true.

Well, actually, you seem intent on presuming it’s true. And I’m basing mine, as I said above, on something more foundational, and against which I can verify my predictions about the future.

. You, however, base induction on induction, so at this point in the discussion, we have a “final” conclusion about *your* usage of induction – namely, that it is being justified in a circular manner, meaning it isn’t justified at all.

My induction is justified in the same way yours is — appeal to an outside reference point for verification. The improvement in mine is that I can accept outside correction.

You fail to understand the details of Christian Theism sufficiently, I think My basis for believing in Christian Theism is not based on my ability to determine what is and is not true – it is based on the ability of the infallible creator of the universe to reveal himself in such a way as to overcome my fallibility.

I grant you precisely as much leeway in terms of your infallible creator as you grant me in terms of induction. Which appears to be none.

Your basis for believing in this infallible creator to reveal himself is based on what? This seems even more circular than an appeal to induction.

“How do you know he’s infallible? He told me, and he’s infallible. ”

(We shall not even go into the fact that any outside force claiming infallibility would fulfill your premise.)
At this point, you don’t even have bedrock that makes the use of percentages intelligible.

Ah — now here you’re wrong.

And I’ll tell you why.

I can’t establish with utter certainty that my reasoning positions will continue to hold. But I can establish, based on all prior tests, the *likelihood* that they will hold, to the best of my ability.

They’re percentages. They’re not certainties. So they might be wrong. But I’d rather have an accurate sense of the world than a false certainty about it.

You, on the other hand, are content to rely on an external validating force that, by your own admission — “My basis for believing in Christian Theism is not based on my ability to determine what is and is not true” — you can’t be sure of, logically speaking. You need to make an external appeal to authority to gain your certainty.

I apologize for wasting your time, thinking that there was an actual argument here; I should have realized that, indeed, your argument was contained entirely within your presumptions.

Chris

Matt,

You said:

“I don’t KNOW this, I don’t claim to know this – there is a difference between what one knows (a fact) and what one believes (in this case what one expects, a prediction of the future based on what I’ve experienced in the past). I’m making an assumption, I’ve never denied that, as to what the future will look like based on the futures I’ve previously experienced (that I now call Past).”

I just want to point out a few things. What one thinks they may know may be false and may not necessarily be a fact. One may believe in something that is factual as well.

I understand that you “never denied” “making an assumption” and thats fine but, when you *believe* because you experienced something in the past that it will be that way in the future you are no longer being a consistent empiricist.

“This previous experience is my reason for assuming, it’s the safe bet against the probability that were I to stop breathing my life would stop also”

I think we understand your reason for assmuing but I want to make sure that you understand that that was what the question was in relation to, and you just re-stated the statement. This is the question but in another form:

Why do you assume and believe that because of your *previous experience* in the past that it will continue to be that way in the future?

Your answer is: because of your *previous experience* in the past you *believe* this.

Will you at least admit that this is circular?

“but I’m not willing to hold my breath to test the hypothesis that the laws of my own biology have changed today because a: I have no reason to believe they have and b: because the risk of testing this theory is far too great.”

I don’t think that anyone is asking you to test the hypothesis as stated, and that is not the point either. When you say you have no reason to believe that the laws of you own biology will change when considering the question we are asking you have no reason to believe that they will not change as well, that is unless you are fine with reasoning in a circle.

“This is why I made the claim of false dilemma during the debate; you are making giant sweeping assumptions about the way things are and will be based on your belief in the God of the Bible”

Jesus said that one is either for Him of against Him. There is no sitting on the fence with Him. Brain pointed out that this debate is seen as the Christian worldview against *all* other worldviews. From our worldview we do not see it as a false dilemma.

The atheist worldviews that are out there have several types of circles like the one mentioned above and belief in the God of the Bible ties all of them together solving the problem of the “one and the many.”

berean1

Steven S.

Are you familiar with the “problem of induction?”

As I mentioned to your fellow-Chris on the other thread, yes. 😉

But what I think is missing here, and I realized this upon doing a bit of research, is which model of “induction” is perhaps primary in your mind.

You see, I was trained as a mathematician before I did any real digging into philosophy, and so I think of induction first and foremost in those terms; proofs of the form:

Premises:

0 has the property F.
For every number n, if n has the property F then n+1 has the property F.

Conclusion:

Every number has the property F.

(Astute readers will note that this is a deductive property.)

Now; while it is not strictly true that one can treat an individual’s time-line as a sequence of natural numbers 😉 — one can build probabilities based upon previous events; *that* appears to be the link you’re missing. Whether you’re missing it deliberately or not, I do not know.

But when one has trials N(1), N(2), N(3)….N(10,000,000)….N(billions), it is not a circle to suspect that N(billions+1) is going to follow the same rule as all the previous iterations. You are building a tower, not pacing on the same patch of ground.

As a Christian I believe the inductive principle works in relation to the future because God is the creator and *sustainer* of this creation:

Ah; in other words, rather than rely upon the consistency of your own experience, and the experience of the world around you, you prefer to rely upon a singular entity, revealed sporadically, and incapable of verification.

You’ll forgive me if I fail to see how this is in any way, shape, or form an improvement in terms of a solid foundation.

This is what makes science and the inductive principle possible.

Actually, I submit that relying upon an outside maintaining force, with the capability (and, in fact demonstrated intent and history) of violating natural law would make science, as we know it, *impossible*, and the inductive principle pointless; the idea that there is an entity capable of invalidating all inductions at a swoop, even if it has claimed not to do so, gives no reason to suspect that any induction is likely to be correct; there is no way to know if the future will resemble the past.

Chris

Steve,

You said:

“Now; while it is not strictly true that one can treat an individual’s time-line as a sequence of natural numbers — one can build probabilities based upon previous events; *that* appears to be the link you’re missing. Whether you’re missing it deliberately or not, I do not know.”

I don’t think I’m missing the point. I think we disagree on this point though. When you say “one can build probabilities based upon previous events” you are still *assuming* that the past predicts the future. To say that if millions of apples fell off tree’s in the past, that it is probable that they will continue to fall in the future *assumses* that the future will be like the past. If you disagree I suppose we will have to agree to disagree at this point and let the readers make up there own minds.

“Ah; in other words, rather than rely upon the consistency of your own experience, and the experience of the world around you, you prefer to rely upon a singular entity, revealed sporadically, and incapable of verification.”

No I do rely on the consistency of my own experience and the experience of the world around me but not merely that. What you call the singular entity is the One which grounds my experience in orderto be consistent and gounds the world around me as well. He is the be all and the end all. He has revealed Himself in His word and continues to reveal Himself to those who believe in Him. He also reveals Himself through His creation everyday. His revealed word and His creation are verificaions which Christians believe are supressed by those who disbelieve.

“You’ll forgive me if I fail to see how this is in any way, shape, or form an improvement in terms of a solid foundation.”

Of course after all forgiveness is consistent with the Christian worldview 🙂

“Actually, I submit that relying upon an outside maintaining force, with the capability (and, in fact demonstrated intent and history) of violating natural law would make science, as we know it, *impossible*, and the inductive principle pointless; ”

I disagree with many of the assumptions made here. Concluding that God having the *capability* of violating His own created natural laws would make science impossible is a non sequitur. By God having the capacity to do so does not mean that God will continually break natural law in such a way that would make science impossible. Of course He has intervened with miracles at times which assume natural laws in the first place. And they are rare when they have happened. And when they did happen things went back to the way they were generally. For God to continually break natural law in such a way to make science impossile would assume some sort of a trickster god which is not the God of the bible.

“the idea that there is an entity capable of invalidating all inductions at a swoop, even if it has claimed not to do so, gives no reason to suspect that any induction is likely to be correct; there is no way to know if the future will resemble the past.”

This is a mere assertion. You are assuming that if God claimed not to invalidate inductions that He still might do it therefore there is no way to know. This would not be consistent with the Christian God and assumes a god that would lie and would be some sort of a trickster god in order for your agruement to work.

berean1

Pat

when is the next debate?

MrBsPapa

Good debate and discussion. I’ve learned a few things and am now beginning to see the problem of induction. Looking forward to more informal discussions and debates. I really do like the informal debate format. I seem to learn more from informal interactions between participants in debate. I heard a debate challenge has been made. Will it follow an informal format and have any dates been set?

pat

agreed, informal debates are much more engaging and informative. Formal debates…never again.

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