Tuesday, February 03, 2009

More Incoherence

I suppose the question left unanswered by my last blog is only troubling if you find relevance in debates concerning fairies and pin heads, or flies and holy water. I do find these questions pertinent, even if you consider "fairies" in its modern contextual slang. (I'm sure the question has arisen in theory more than once in performance rehearsals of Swan Lake or The Nutcracker.)
Seriously, the questions that we sometimes diminish as superfluous or just silly because of their abstract nature are what underpin our basic doctrines and beliefs. For example, a child's curious agnosticism may cause him to ask, "If God can do anything, can He make a rock so big He can't move it?" The average reply is a snort, but really, the question is making a specific point of God's omnipotence and exposes the ultimate inadequacy of logic when explaining the concept of God.
So, the nonexistence of objectivity I proposed naturally creates a follow-up question.
If no one can be truly objective, how can we ever be sure of finding the truth? If nobody can weigh the question without any preexisting bias, doesn't it become impossible to establish anything as the absolute truth?
You must acknowledge the beginning bias, which in turn acknowledges the precondition of instinct. From whence came your desire to believe in an Almighty or your desire to disbelieve in Him? I'm not talking about upbringing, not talking about environment. As a child, when you were first presented with an idea or statement concerning the nature of the spiritual or the material, you were predisposed, however slightly, to choose one view or the other. If you insist on the impossibility of the child totally uninfluenced by upbringing or environment, consider a hypothetical child brought up in a vacuum, say a round room, with no human interaction, sustenance delivered by automation. You would have to contend that this child, deprived of any interaction with any means of shaping his views, would be a blank slate upon reaching adulthood, and have no preferences or inclinations. (Assuming you would not propose something so ridiculous, let's move on.)
If you acknowledge an inherent predisposition, independent of any influence, you acknowledge something unexplainable. Now, if it was an evolutionary development, let us take it all the way back to the first man, or first life form in possession of reasoning capabilities. Upon what did his or its choice hinge upon? What, for instance, gave it the instinct for survival that dictated the actions of the man or organism? Don't tell me survival is simply inherent. It makes as much sense as saying that the universe has always existed in some form or another; or, that something cannot come from nothing. That statement is a monstrous inconsistency for the atheist or the theist. It protests both arguments and there is no third choice, so it is an illogical statement.
So, to sum it up, if you can bring yourself to acknowledge an intangible, truly acknowledge it and accepts its implications, you then have a point of reference and everything else can then be mapped and established.
Frank Peretti gives an excellent example in a speech in which he uses a chair for a point of reference. He asks us to imagine that we are in a round room, no corners, and completely dark. We have no concept of location or distance; completely lost. But, in our stumbling and groping, we come upon this chair. The world settles into place. We now have a point of reference, and everything makes sense.
As I said before, atheistic nihilism doesn't lend itself to sanity. Even computers have logic to operate on. To disavow any absolutes sets us adrift in the round room, and there is no chair to comfort us.
(Again, notice the inconsistency of our vocal atheists. They all protest the existence of absolutes but yet make statements that subscribe to a moral code, however oblique.)


Anonymous said...

I feel as though I'm on eggshells here, but nihilism and atheism should not be conflated in this way. Sam Harris is by no means a nihilist. And, if any instinctual drive is in fact inherent, it must be that of survival. Living organisms avoid death; they strain in opposition to it. That is a much less bombastic statement than proclaiming the primordial existence of the cosmos, without having any knowledge as to its origin. I'm also not sure you can presume the moral codes of one who denies the existence of God are oblique. Morality can be extricated from the mechanism of religious belief, regardless of the religion itself. Any one person has the ability to think objectively, and thereby logically.

- Blake

Nathan Carpenter said...

No eggshells, just thin ice.
Sam Harris may not consider himself a nihilist, but, he is, in effect, since he denies absolutes. If you have no truths, what sort of logical leap is it to call anything "good" or "bad," and who is responsible for establishing good and bad? Call it a slippery slope analogy if you will, but nihilism is the inevitable destination of the man who begins to deny absolutes.
And, regarding the survival instinct, it is inherent in living organisms, but it is not "simply" inherent. Strictly philosophically speaking, leaving biology out of it, I argue it must have been introduced, rather than developed through evolution. The question of origin is first a philosophical question, not a scientific one. You can argue back to the first organism capable of a survival instinct, but where did that instinct come from? It has no precursor, unless you assume the primordial soup itself had a survival instinct.
Finally, my whole argument is that you must have a foundation, or at least, a cornerstone of sorts on which to establish a moral code. Atheists have none to appeal to, providing they don't subscribe to Dawkins' speculation that some alien intelligence is responsible for our existence. (no, i'm not kidding.)
Anyway, I'm always glad when you stop by, particularly on a day when I'm stuck inside with a blizzard outside.

Anonymous said...

A blizzard! Blasted Al Gore again!!! And, sadly, I know you're not mocking Dawkins. Look for me again later...