Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why I am a Christian Part 1: A Question Worth Asking


Probably the most important question that any of us will have to face.
-Oxford Professor of Philosophy and atheist Arif Ahmed on the existence of God

Intellectually fascinating, as well as potentially vital, to how we see life, the universe, and everything. 

-Atheist philosopher Peter Millican



Most articles of this sort, where the author is trying to explain why they are a Christian, Hindu, Atheist or Green Bay Packers fan seem to be written by people who have experienced a dramatic shift of opinion. It seems to me that having previously occupied a different position adds weight to your current position and an impetus to write about it. Then again, perhaps it is just that articles with such opinion shifts are more interesting to read, more popular, and thus more likely to be read by someone like me. Whatever the case, I do not have such a dramatic shift of opinion to detail but I hope to make up for that by fairly addressing current objections to Christianity, currently the English language objections garnering the most ink are those made by evangelical atheists in the tradition of David Hume, Bertrand Russell and Antony Flew. These men were all naturalists and so much of this series of posts will explain why I find naturalism to provide a deeply incomplete description of reality.
But before really starting to answer the above question I think an objection that was raised most directly by Antony Flew, the world's leading atheist for part of the twentieth century, needs to be answered. Flew presented a now famous paper, Theology and Falsification to the Oxford Socratic Club (then chaired by CS Lewis) in 1950 and in it he attempts to end the discussion before it begins by objecting that words such as "Christian" are meaningless as they refer to something which cannot be falsified because we have no basis for proving or disproving anything that is not a part of the material universe. This sort of reductionist logic can also be applied to other words in the title so this first post will address Flew's assertion and explain why I think it is reasonable to believe that the statement "Why I am a Christian" is meaningful. If you think Flew's objection was dead boring or you simply haven't heard of it I'm afraid that this post will also strike you as quite boring.

All actions that are taken by human beings have a cause. I drink because I'm thirsty, or perhaps because milkshakes are delicious and I lack self-control. I eat because I'm hungry, or perhaps because Conan the Cannibal is trying to fatten me up and he shocks me with a cattle prod when I stop eating. Even the college-chic ideal of doing something that's... like, totally random! is not random but determined by the social and physical context of the day. This principal, if taken even further, can be re-stated: "true randomness does not exist." For instance the outcome of a thrown die is not random, the outcome of the "generate random number" function that most programming languages have is not random. Even the strange world of quantum mechanics does not experience total randomness (at least in my understanding) but rather an adherence to a sort of probability curve where the outcome cannot be determined with certainty but nevertheless some outcomes are more likely than others. The stock market is often described as a "random walk" but it is not random either, just very complicated. If the stock market were truly random it would fluctuate randomly between positive infinity and negative infinity but it doesn't do anything of the sort and, like quantum mechanics, it can be accurately described by probability curves and possibly by fractal geometry as well. Before you mistake me for a reductionist let me clarify that I don't think that all causes are physical causes. I don't, for instance, think that my writing this document was pre-destined to happen 13.7 billion years ago by the initial conditions of the big bang and subsequent pseudo-random quantum outcomes, I think that there are identifiable reasons why I am writing this post but I don't think that they can be fully explained by physical causation. I believe the human exercise of free will is cognizant of, but independent from, the natural realm. I believe that my decision to write this post was a real decision. These last two statements are more controversial than most people probably imagine, the average person assumes that they have free will but the informed naturalist is forced to disagree. To explore this a little more lets go back to the thrown die. The reason that a thrown die is not random is because it follows exact laws, as soon as it leaves the thrower's hand it's exact rest state is predictable with 100% accuracy. Now in order to make this 100% prediction you must know the following things:

1. The exact properties of the die
2. The exact state of the die with respect to motion and position at some point after it leaves the hand
3. The exact properties of the medium it falls through
4. The exact properties of the surface(s) it strikes before coming to a rest

Once you know these four things, computational fluid dynamics and some other sweet math will give you a perfect prediction. Now to better represent the naturalist's position lets take a second look at the statement as soon as [the die] leaves the thrower's hand it's exact rest state is predictable with 100% accuracy. The naturalist will remove the condition as soon as [the die] leaves the throwers hand because he believes that the actions of the thrower's hand are also predictable with 100% accuracy because they are governed by the exact same laws as the dice so the statement simply becomes [the die's] exact rest state is predictable with 100% accuracy. Notice that there are no conditions placed on this statement, though it is implied that there is some requisite knowledge that the predictor must have. But assuming the requisite knowledge is in place (and assuming naturalism) the naked statement [the die's] exact rest state is predictable with 100% accuracy... is true everywhere, and true always. A person in Greece could do it and an alien in the Andromeda galaxy could do it. Even though we are assuming that the die is thrown today the perfect prediction could be made in the year 1992 and it could also be made in the year 2300. Now in order to make these latter 100%-accurate-predictions the list of requisite knowledge would encompass a truly staggering amount of information... but let's take this even further. If you knew absolutely everything about the universe at any one point in time you could perfectly predict absolutely everything about the universe at any other point in time past or present. If you believe this last statement you are a determinist. Before continuing lets take a look at how the above could render the statement "Why I am a Christian" meaningless.

In order for that statement to have meaning not only must "Christian" have accessible meaning, but we must have free will and there must be something truly meaningful about life. If those criteria are not met then the title of this post is meaningless on several levels. First because asking "why?" is pointless if the answer is always "physics and chemistry" but even more fundamentally the very meaning of "why" is lost when the only thing that is going on anywhere in the universe is existing, under naturalism everything simply is and there are no "oughts," "decisions" or "whys." Indeed all of our thoughts, beliefs and actions are simply facts about us, rather like the color of our eyes or the length of our big toes - they are physical attributes corresponding to some physical arrangement or action in our brain that was determined by previous actions that was determined by previous actions etc. etc. all the way back to the big bang. "Christian" becomes just such an attribute, not a belief, but a descriptive fact no different than red, loud or "twenty two kilograms in mass." If this is the case, if we are just "bags of mostly water" whose molecules do nothing but follow the physical laws that govern all other matter, then it is clear that we can not have free will or do things that matter any more than all the other matter can. Thus it can be said that nothing, including Theology and Falsification, can be said to matter according to the criteria set forth in that paper... though I don't think that this necessarily means that Flew was wrong, I don't think that this proves that words referring to apparently unfalsifiable non-empirical things can have real meaning that corresponds to reality, for that I think we need to show that naturalistic determinism is incapable of explaining everything. Notice I'm not saying we just need to show some things that it currently can't explain, I'm saying we need to find something that is in principle impossible to explain under naturalistic determinism. Fortunately we now have the tools to do this, one of the great things about science is that it can not only prove things to be true, it can prove things to be unsolvable. For example in mathematics the Halting Problem and the Tiling Problem have been proven to be unsolvable. This kind of negative proof allows science to begin defining naturalism's boundaries and allows us to poke holes in determinism.

There are a number of serious holes in determinism, I'm going to pick on one of them which stems from the human brain. The world's leading mathematician, Roger Penrose, highlighted this problem in his book "Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness." In his book Penrose refer's to the late, great, mathematician Kurt Godel and his proof that mathematics could not be formalized. The word "formalized" is used in a very technical sense here, one that I think warrants explanation. Complete formalization means that any expression in a certain body of knowledge or discipline can be reduced to a known set of axioms (statements that are held to be obviously true) such as a = a. The game of checkers, for instance, can be completely formalized because it is defined by a known set of moves in a known context (the board), all of these moves can be calculated using the "axioms" of the game such as: "chips must move diagonally." The reason that this cannot be done with math is that the axioms are not all known, and axioms cannot themselves contain the information about the symbols that they are composed of. To restate this, in order for a system to extrapolate beyond itself and generate new data, it must first understand itself or there is nothing to extrapolate from; math cannot do this, it cannot define the symbols which it is composed of and thus cannot understand itself. For instance in the example a = a, the expression a = a does not contain any information about what "a" means or about what "=" means and thus cannot understand itself. In effect what Godel proved is that for any mathematical expression (not just the expression a = a) it is actually impossible for the expression itself to define the symbols that it is composed of. If it were possible, then it would be possible to construct an equation that yielded all possible other equations, math would be self-powered and self-discovering... But this self-powering, self-understanding, self-discovering is exactly what we humans do, we are able to objectively understand both the mechanics of the structure and the symbols of which that structure is composed and so we are able to reason about the structure and symbols from an outside-the-system viewpoint which allows us to "understand" things and synthesize new information. Penrose expresses the issue like this:

The very understanding that underlies computational rules is itself something that is beyond computation... ...One might imagine that it would be possible to list all possible obvious steps of reasoning once and for all, so that from then on everything could be reduced to computation-i.e., the mere mechanical manipulation of these obvious steps. What Godel's argument shows is that this is not possible.

But Penrose, unlike Godel, is an atheist who believes that man cannot be more than matter and so he believes that our brain must operate according to laws that have not yet been discovered, far more startling however is that he concludes that these laws cannot be based on mathematical computation, because math has been proven to be incapable of doing what our brains do (though later in the book he offers some possible places to start looking for solutions). All physical laws, however, are based on mathematical computation and it is extremely difficult if not impossible to imagine a physical law that is not based on such math. It is much easier, however, to imagine a non-physical law that is not based on mathematical computation, for instance George Aku's first law of peace is: Love. He who has it, has peace; he who gives it, gives peace; he who kills it, kills peace. The obvious objection to this last point is that Aku's "law" is actually not a law ...but why would it not qualify as a law? The only reason to suppose that it fails to meet the definition of "law" is because it is not based on mathematical computation (or perhaps that it is not provable with something resembling mathematical certainty) but this is precisely the definition of "law" that Penrose says we must reject because math cannot explain itself like we can ourselves. Let's digress for a second here because this whole issue of a system being unable to explain itself looks eerily similar to another issue. The Universe' inability to explain itself, which is another example of something that naturalistic determinism can certainly not explain. It was assumed for many years that the universe had always existed but scientific advances in the last fifty years revealed this to be an impossibility under the standard model of physics (actually even if the standard model were overthrown the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem would stand), currently physicists are probing exotic theories to see if it might be possible to model a universe that avoids the problem of a beginning but none have produced theories that are mathematically consistent and solve the problem of a beginning. The current "it-definitely-had-a-beginning" universe is unsatisfactory to many because of the "theistic implications" of a beginning; if the space-time universe (and thus time itself) had a beginning, then it must have been started by something that is both timeless (because time is a part of the universe) and spaceless (because space is a part of the universe) and has the power to create universes... which sounds suspiciously like God. There is at root a great mystery about the universe, why is there something rather than nothing? If something has always been here, why was it always here? There seems to be no possibility of a satisfactory answer to these questions under the assumption of naturalism because nature is necessarily a part of the universe and there was a "time" when the universe didn't exist. I'll come back to these issues in Part 3 but back to Penrose and Godel, this incompatibility of math+naturalism+humans seems to confirm my Christian belief that a non-material aspect of a human, namely the soul, is responsible for certain functions including our observed free will. If this is true, then it is not only reasonable to make statements about non-material things (e.g. "Why I am a Christian") but our ability to reason itself is only possible because of them.

Now I don't think that this is a knock down "proof" of anything, but proof in that sense is only available in logic and pure math (if anywhere) and I think Godel's Incompleteness Theorem is a strong example of why we can be reasonably confident that a non-material component of reality is required to make sense of what we observe in life. Antony Flew himself later recognized this, renounced atheism, and died in 2010 after publishing the book "There is a God" in 2004.

As an aside there's one other criticism of Christianity that attempts to end the discussion before it begins, an online community has emerged claiming that Jesus of Nazareth never actually existed; but given that, with one possible exception, there is no one on the planet that holds both a PhD in ancient history and the view that Jesus did not exist I don't think it warrants much discussion. The emergence of the so-called "Christ Myther" movement has been in the face of professional historians of all stripes, here's the only record I'm aware of, of a serious agnostic historian (one that frequently debates against the truth of Christianity no less) engaging in conversation with an online Christ-Myther persona.


Part 2

9 comments:

  1. Nate, by way of introduction, I am Patrick. I have a few questions and comments.

    First, given the ample evidence that human consciousness interacts with perceived reality on a quantum scale, outside of the known or postulated laws of physics, do you consider that a measure of free will may be possible absent a divine or supernatural source?

    In that same vein, is there an effective difference between the supernatural and quantum mechanics? If human consciousness does exist free from naturalistic determinism, would it matter for our perceptions if that was by divine design or due to some other natural phenomena?

    How exactly do the incompleteness theorems preclude naturalistic determinism? I understand the inability of formalization for math, but I fail to make the extrapolation to existence in its entirety. Math, like the study of physics, is simply an explanation for our (woefully small percentage of) observable/experiential reality. It cannot explain itself because it is not real. It does not exist, but is rather our simple understanding of allocation; a human conceptualization of our surrounding environment.

    Toward the end of the post, how do you countenance your claim of "observed free-will" against neurobiological data that seems to indicate otherwise such as the "free wont experiments?

    Lastly, it seems that you arrive at the traditional (by unconventional means) binary position of God or something similar as the only possible explanation if non-theistic interpretations of existence can be demonstrably disproved. Is it conceivable that there may exist more than the bi-polar options presented?

    The post is a tremendously provocative and enjoyable read.

    Cheers.

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  2. Hey Patrick thanks for the response to this somewhat old post. When I initially posted this I was really hoping to attract this sort of intelligent criticism - it's difficult to know if your ideas are worth anything if they haven't been critically evaluated.

    At the cost of multiplying text I'm going to quote each of your paragraphs before responding to make things easier to follow.

    First, given the ample evidence that human consciousness interacts with perceived reality on a quantum scale, outside of the known or postulated laws of physics, do you consider that a measure of free will may be possible absent a divine or supernatural source?"

    Great question, it seems to me that for us to have free will, humans must reduce to a rational agent, it cannot be a law of some sort that is causally prime, or our actions will reduce to that non-conscious, non-rational law rather than to a rational agent. Now it could be that such an agent can exist as an emergent property of some combination of natural entities, but this seems implausible to me and I’m unaware of any reasons to think this might be the case.

    In that same vein, is there an effective difference between the supernatural and quantum mechanics?

    Certainly as I use these terms there is, I know a mathematician who believes that God uses qm as a gateway to the classic realm, but it seems to me that qm is capable of operating without “outside intervention” and it is this “outside intervention” or, “causal action that originates outside of the natural realm” that is the defining characteristic of the supernatural, at least as I use the term.

    If human consciousness does exist free from naturalistic determinism, would it matter for our perceptions if that was by divine design or due to some other natural phenomena?

    Your question here is a bit confusing, you’re first asking me to assume that human consciousness exists “free from naturalistic determinism” but then, after giving this condition, you ask if “it would matter for our perceptions … [if it] was due to some other natural phenomena.” It seems to me that if it were “free from naturalistic determinism” then it could not be due to any natural phenomena. I’m guessing that you’re assuming an expanded definition of “natural” the second time you use the term, assuming this is the case I’d like to make a distinction between “what we perceive” and “what our perceptions ‘look’ like to our consciousness.” When it comes to “what we perceive” I would answer yes to your question, I don’t think for example that a preponderance of humans would perceive (or think they perceive) a supernatural realm if there was no supernatural realm (and thus no supernatural designer). Now when it comes to whether or not these two options would affect “what our perceptions look like to our consciousness” ...I’m really not sure, this is an interesting question and I’ll have to think about it more.

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  3. How exactly do the incompleteness theorems preclude naturalistic determinism? I understand the inability of formalization for math, but I fail to make the extrapolation to existence in its entirety.

    I’m not claiming that they fully preclude it, but I do think that they render it improbable, just off the cuff here’s how I’d present a formal argument from the incompleteness theorems to the conclusion that naturalism/determinism is false.

    1. All natural entities are governed by natural laws
    2. All natural laws are described by computational rules
    3. Incompleteness Theorems show that the understanding that underlies computational rules is beyond computation (Penrose)
    4. The understanding that underlies computational rules is therefore beyond natural laws
    5. The understanding that underlies computational rules is therefore beyond natural entities.

    This argument could be defeated by a single counterexample to premise 2, but I don’t believe there are any such counterexamples.

    Math, like the study of physics, is simply an explanation for our (woefully small percentage of) observable/experiential reality. It cannot explain itself because it is not real. It does not exist, but is rather our simple understanding of allocation; a human conceptualization of our surrounding environment.

    Oooo now we’re coming to a very fundamental disagreement, I think that math, unlike physics (where I’m tentatively a constructive empiricist), is real. I think that when we apprehend mathematical truths we apprehend objective facts that have an existence of their own. If nobody existed to think about it, it would still be true that the square root of 4 is 2. If this is correct, then mathematical entities have an objective (and therefore real) existence. But let’s say they’re not real, I don’t see how it would follow from their being unreal to their being unable to explain themselves, they do a great job of explaining other things.

    Toward the end of the post, how do you countenance your claim of "observed free-will" against neurobiological data that seems to indicate otherwise such as the "free wont experiments?

    Good question, when I say “observed” I don’t mean “observed in a lab” I mean “observed directly by you and I whenever we act.” In any case I would like to know what “neurobiological data” you’re referring to. In my estimation the free won’t experiments don’t provide us with much relevant data. They cannot (even in principle) show that we don’t have free will but only that our decisions, be they free or not, can be predicted. Though it’s certainly true that predictability is consistent with determinism it is not indicative of determinism. Furthermore these experiments have also produced evidence that our consciousness can act to overrule our subconscious, this is (again) not directly indicative of anything but it is consistent with free will. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-delay/201106/free-wont-it-may-be-all-we-have-or-need

    Lastly, it seems that you arrive at the traditional (by unconventional means) binary position of God or something similar as the only possible explanation if non-theistic interpretations of existence can be demonstrably disproved. Is it conceivable that there may exist more than the bi-polar options presented?

    Not as you present them here, if “non-theistic interpretations of existence can be demonstrably disproved” then it is necessarily true that some theistic interpretation must be correct. Though it seems maybe you’re hinting at an “unknown unknown” as a possible best answer?

    The post is a tremendously provocative and enjoyable read.

    Well thank you! I intended to provoke some discussion and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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  4. Nate, thank you for the very thoughtful responses. If you don't mind, I have a few rejoinders.

    First, I believe I can tighten my question; is the supernatural different, effectively, from all of the reality posited to exist beyond our perceptive capability? You seem to think that a rational agent must be responsible for free-will, if it exists. But given our dreadfully limited perception of the universe, it seems equally plausible to me that a non-intentional mechanism that exists in a quantum or quantum like state that is well beyond our ability to notice could provide a similar or the exact same result.

    Similarly, I wonder if you think that your very sophisticated and scientific arguments against naturalism, or more broadly a non-theistic explanation of existence, ask too much of a nascent field of study. Something like determining that because NASA (or what's left of it) hasn't achieved interstellar human travel, that it is impossible.

    You're correct, I apologize for that confusing dual use of naturalism/natural. Based on your response to that ill-worded question; may I infer that you consider the plurality of persons who perceive or think they perceive a supernatural component to life constitute evidence of something like a supernatural element present?

    Thank you for explaining your process to use Incompleteness Theorems. And, I agree that the second condition is the weak point in the continuum. It's that second condition that leads me to our fundamental disagreement on math. Leaving aside that quantum physics indicates that without someone around to think about it, math, and most everything else, would not exist; you say that natural laws are described by computational functions. It seems to stand to reason that our limited ability to describe natural laws might result in our use imperfect means of description that are open to such criticism.

    To put it more succinctly and clearly, how do you know that what you experience is "free-will" rather that a purely naturalistic electro-chemical reaction that was pre-determined at the beginning of the universe?

    Finally, you are right in part. I am saying there may be, and statistically very likely is, an unknown, unknown. I've repeatedly referenced our distinctly infantile understanding of reality. So, while I don't intend to put forth the proposition that the unknown, unknown is the possible best answer, but a number of unknowable unknowns must be considered before definitively deciding on the binary theistic/non-theistic paradigm. Simply, in the roughly 90% of reality we don't have the ability to perceive, it seems likely that there could be things that would dramatically change how we understand everything.

    Thanks once again for the response, I appreciate it.

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  5. Nate, thank you for the very thoughtful responses. If you don't mind, I have a few rejoinders.

    First, I believe I can tighten my question; is the supernatural different, effectively, from all of the reality posited to exist beyond our perceptive capability?


    Again I would answer yes, and I’m going to give two distinctions between the supernatural and “other realities beyond our perceptive capability,” though I think there are likely others. First, the supernatural is able to take direct causal action in the natural realm, but the natural realm can only indirectly affect the supernatural realm. For example lets say the devil supernaturally and directly chooses to knock the ice cream off the cone of a small child. The devil directly caused an event to occur in the natural realm (moving the ice cream) but it was an event in the natural realm (some specific circumstance around the holding of an ice-cream cone by a small child) that caused the devil to take action. Now the devil was not directly acted on by the natural realm, he observed an event and chose to take action. But the natural realm was directly acted on by the devil. Secondly I would say the supernatural realm stands outside of what would be described by a hypothetical perfected physics, whereas natural events that are now beyond our “perceptive capability” would be described by a hypothetical perfected physics.

    You seem to think that a rational agent must be responsible for free-will, if it exists. But given our dreadfully limited perception of the universe, it seems equally plausible to me that a non-intentional mechanism that exists in a quantum or quantum like state that is well beyond our ability to notice could provide a similar or the exact same result.

    I do think that if free will exists it must reduce to a rational agent, if it reduces to a natural law, I don’t see how it could be free. But it could be the case that some non-rational entity could perfectly simulate the actions of a free agent. Would this perfect simulation necessarily then be free-will? I think John Searle’s Chinese room argument (http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/docview/616536763/1370F1577127C9B3340/1?accountid=27203 I don’t think you can access that, here’s a good overview: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-room/) rigorously answers this question in the negative, in addition if this were the case, there’s no reason why these machines couldn’t have human rights equal to or even greater than our own (assuming we do have them) but this seems implausible to me.

    Similarly, I wonder if you think that your very sophisticated and scientific arguments against naturalism, or more broadly a non-theistic explanation of existence, ask too much of a nascent field of study.

    Well I hope arguments are very sophisticated ;) but anyway... is this asking “too much of a nascent field of study?” It may be. It may be that future discoveries render my argument absurd, it may also be that future discoveries make my argument certain. But right now all we can do is work with the information that we do have and live accordingly.

    Something like determining that because NASA (or what's left of it) hasn't achieved interstellar human travel, that it is impossible.

    Well I think this analogy is a little biased. As presented NASA is an entity that has the goal of interstellar travel, and you rightly say that if they haven’t met this goal yet it doesn’t follow that they won’t meet this goal. But if that is supposed to be analogous to our discussion of science, naturalism and supernaturalism then it seems to me that you’re saying it is a goal of science to prove naturalism, which, while some people may want this to be the case, cannot be the case. Science is not a personal entity so it cannot have intentions or goals.

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  6. You're correct, I apologize for that confusing dual use of naturalism/natural. Based on your response to that ill-worded question; may I infer that you consider the plurality of persons who perceive or think they perceive a supernatural component to life constitute evidence of something like a supernatural element present?

    Yes I do, not conclusive evidence but certainly evidence to some degree or another.

    Thank you for explaining your process to use Incompleteness Theorems. And, I agree that the second condition is the weak point in the continuum. It's that second condition that leads me to our fundamental disagreement on math. Leaving aside that quantum physics indicates that without someone around to think about it, math, and most everything else, would not exist; you say that natural laws are described by computational functions. It seems to stand to reason that our limited ability to describe natural laws might result in our use of imperfect means of description that are open to such criticism.

    Wait how does “quantum physics [indicate] that without someone around to think about it, math, and most everything else wouldn’t exist”? Are you referring to the function of a detector in wave-function collapse under the Copenhagen interpretation? And yes, I agree that “our limited ability to describe natural laws might result in our use of imperfect means of description that are open to criticism.”

    To put it more succinctly and clearly, how do you know that what you experience is "free-will" rather that a purely naturalistic electro-chemical reaction that was pre-determined at the beginning of the universe?

    Well I don't think I can actually know this with mathematical certainty, but our direct perceptions, be they of free-will, memories, or a loud noise, are simply all we got; we can trust them or we can trust nothing. Aside from biological instincts there are no things that we know from a source other than personal experience.

    Finally, you are right in part. I am saying there may be, and statistically very likely is, an unknown, unknown. I've repeatedly referenced our distinctly infantile understanding of reality. So, while I don't intend to put forth the proposition that the unknown, unknown is the possible best answer, but a number of unknowable unknowns must be considered before definitively deciding on the binary theistic/non-theistic paradigm.

    No I don’t think this is the case, it is with logical certainty that I hold this binary position. Either it is true that reality is theistic, or it is true that reality is non-theistic, the law of excluded middle eliminates the possibility of other possibilities. Now I do agree that it is statistically likely, if not statistically certain, that there are relevant unknown unknowns. But it's unknown how relevant they are as well.

    Simply, in the roughly 90% of reality we don't have the ability to perceive, it seems likely that there could be things that would dramatically change how we understand everything.

    Yes I fully agree that this could be the case, it is not for epistemological reasons that I usually give little weight to unknown unknowns when I make decisions but for prudential reasons. Life demands action and I cannot act on information that I do not have. While it may true that some unknown unknown renders my actions unwise or my beliefs false it seems to me that any attempt to actually live as if this were warrant for inaction or unbelief would result in paralysis or a surrender of the will to subjective feelings. Furthermore I think we have good reason to trust our direct perceptions, they’re certainly very consistent and each action aimed to achieve a goal is in itself a small experiment. I put food in my mouth hoping it tastes good and nourishes me... and it does! hypothesis confirmed.

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  7. (silly character limit)
    Thanks once again for the response, I appreciate it.

    Hey man I really appreciate the time you've taken here, thoughtful criticism is hard to come by.

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  9. I agree, it proves something of a challenge to find thoughtful discussion, particularly in fields to esoteric.

    Broadly speaking, you could say that I was referring to the Copenhagen Interpretation. Although, my real understanding of the concept is based on Biocentrism as posited by Robert Lanza. The idea that as quantum physics confirms, reality doesn't exist outside of our experience of it. Tress falling in forests produce no sounds unless there is a biological witness, and then only if the witness has the capacity to interpret disturbances in the atmosphere as what we perceive as sound or various analogs pertaining thereto.

    As I understand it, the law of the excluded middle has fallen into disfavor by most logicians. While I can appreciate its application to simple premises, we're talking about the very nature of reality, which I think begs for a potential multitude of options.

    For example, if asking a sentient octopus (kind of my dream pet) to differentiate between grey and black colors, the octopus would likely decide those were its only two options. A human, however, might easily recognize that within the shade of grey, yellow and purple were actually present. So, given it's limited chromatic perception, the octopus might infer a binary choice, when for a being with different perceptive capabilities, a minimum of three choices were available.

    I certainly appreciate your point about making a decision with the current information at your disposal. I still continue, however, to find it fascinating that given the dearth of information required to make a truly educated decision, so many persons (both those of faith and those without it) can be so resolute in their respective choices.

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