Saturday, February 2, 2013

Faith, Science, and Reality

Tonight I watched Dr. William Lane Craig, a Christian, debate Dr. Alex Rosenberg, an atheist. 

As the debate progressed, it became clear that Dr. Rosenberg believed himself to affirm only those propositions which could be empirically verified through scientific inquiry.  Thus he openly denied transcendent moral value, selfhood, and free will, since all are invisible to science. 

For example, on Dr. Rosenberg’s accounting, humans have moral impulses because they have evolved to instinctively dislike certain behaviors (rape, murder, child abuse, etc.) which so happen to impede their ability as a species to survive and reproduce.  However, Dr. Rosenberg believes that the processes which have created these impulses are random.  If the clock were rewound to the big bang, and the processes of evolution allowed to play out again, the universe might very well produce quite different creatures with quite different moralities.  For all we know, other races might exist in other corners of the universe, with moralities which are as different from our own as white is from black.  Furthermore, according to Dr. Rosenberg, human morality has evolved over time and is not the same as it was in previous ages.  Science can provide no basis on which to assert that one morality is better than another, nor can it provide any basis for insisting that individuals should altruistically submit to their moral instincts. 

As I listened to Dr. Rosenberg speak, I was astonished that he did not seem to realize his own inconsistency.  He claimed to believe only what could be empirically verified through scientific inquiry and to reject any proposition which must be accepted on faith.  However, science itself cannot be empirically verified through scientific inquiry!  All scientific observation presupposes the reality of the external world, the veracity of logic, and the existence of the past, as well as the reliability of the observer’s own cognitive faculties.  It is theoretically possible that any one of these basic premises is false, just as it is theoretically possible that moral value, selfhood, and free will are illusory.  Dr. Rosenberg has no reason for believing the premises which undergird science aside from the fact that they are obviously true.  However, they are no more obvious than moral value, selfhood, and free will!

Does Dr. Rosenberg honestly expect me to affirm the existence of the information I perceive as I gaze through a microscope and yet deny the reality of my own selfhood or free will?  Does he honestly expect me to affirm the current understanding of quantum mechanics and yet deny that the holocaust was truly evil? 

If you approach reality as a skeptic, refusing to believe what you yourself cannot verify, you will ultimately be forced into absolute ignorance, for at the end of the day, you cannot verify anything without taking something on faith.  Dr. Rosenberg clings to science, but he is deluding himself.  He cannot handle the harsh consequences of his own philosophy.  If faith is eliminated, science will be swept away just as quickly as morality. 

On the other hand, if you allow reality to force itself in upon your mind – if you do not refuse to believe what is obviously true – you will step into the beauty and light of a world that does not need your permission to exist.

See also:  A Simple Argument Against Naturalism

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