Archive for the ‘reason’ Tag

Reasonable Bias   Leave a comment

All of us have biases. We want to believe we don’t. “I’m enlightened and I don’t base my decisions on subconscious or unconscious cues!” We say that, yet we do just that every day, all day long.

Discrimination is a survival skill, so it is biologically impossible not to be biased. It’s written into our DNA. I’m personally not a big believer in evolution, but neuroscientists say bias is how we survived as a species. Our ancestors saw something that looked scary and either ran away or killed it. Those who didn’t gradually died off, leaving behind the ones who fled or fought.

Some people would say that we in the 21st century no longer need that fight or flight response, so should overcome those inner demons in order to make “rational” decisions. There’s no reason to distrust our fellow man or protect ourselves from him. All will be well if we just let go of our bias … bigotry … racism … violence … guns … religion … nationalism … etc., etc., etc.

I’m unconvinced. I grew up in Alaska, where the civil rights debate was already long over before the United States got around to discussing it, but a product of being raised during the Civil Rights movement is that I try always to admit to myself that I have biases. As a human, I am flawed, damaged by the Fall. But then so are my fellow humans. I hit pause when my instincts might say to distrust someone of a different race or nationality or religion. I’ve met some lovely people by doing that. Yet ….

I’ve been in situations where my gut reaction was to not trust someone and mostly I’ve been proven right by that person’s behavior. I can’t always explain those hunches. Discernment of spirits is a gift of the Spirit, but it might also sometimes boil down to bias — hundreds of pieces of evidence that alert my gut to not trust this person regardless of skin color, religion, ethnicity, gender or whatever. Sometimes you just know somebody is a risk to you.

So while I stand against bigotry, I don’t stand against bias because I think it’s a useful tool for self-protection. Joyce Brothers suggested that the gut knows what the head hasn’t get processed.

There are some biases that we should set aside though and for good reason. I try never to hide from those whose opinions are different from my own. In fact, I’ll invite an argument with them just to hear what they have to say. Why? Diversity of opinion is a far better methodology for solving complex problems than the utilization of similar-minded folks. Far too many people live in a bubble these days, refusing to even entertain arguments they disagree with.

That, by the way, is a more dangerous discrimination than choosing to live in an all-white (or all-black) neighborhood, because you can commute out of that neighborhood to interact with other races, but when you segregate your information and opinion, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to see realities that you may one day wish you’d seen earlier.

It’s why I’m listening to all the presidential debates. I know that in the end, I’m not going to agree with certain candidates. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are both statists intent upon taking away my freedoms to enrich themselves or their own special interests and I opposed dynastic rule on principle, so Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush will not be getting my vote. Regardless of that, I will listen and take notes and then read the transcripts later, because for me, it’s important to be fully informed on as many sides of the issue as I can manage. That doesn’t mean I have to agree, but it does mean that at times I might change my mind … if the evidence is strong enough to warrant it.

But know that if you come at me arguing for (example) gun control and you haven’t bothered to look for solutions favored outside of your own bubble, that you’re not going to convince me because I have already looked at your argument and found it to be lacking. Until you take the blinders off and look at the other side (or several angles), you are showing your bias rather than your reason.

Posted October 14, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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A Beautiful Painting   Leave a comment

Define materialistic evolution however you want, it is an outgrowth and shield for modern humanist and secular thought in our society. It can be simply stated as the belief that all things we see in the world around us have developed by chance over enormous period of time. The unstated presupposition of this philosophy is also its hoped-for takeaway – there is no God who created the universe, no first cause that brought about the extraordinary diversity of the natural world. Disorder just somehow developed into order, chance somehow gave rise to the immense complexity and interdependence of life, searingly hot gas and rocks somehow spawned living things, inanimate life gave rise to thinking life, thinking life gave rise to sentient beings.

That’s a stretch akin to asking me to believe that 2+2=5 not just once, but thousands of times in the history of the universe. That just seems like an irrational leap of logic (or perhaps a Kierkkegaardian leap of faith).

“The heavens declare the glory of God; this skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1)

When we look at a beautiful painting, we ask “Who painted that?” and we praise the creator. Why shouldn’t we do the same with the universe?

Christianity declares that order, diversity, the intricate web of interdependence and beauty of the natural world were created by the living God who the Bible reveals to us. Order, diversity and beauty are products of God’s creative activity, not chance processes of natural selection. Scripture sees this truth as self-evident – it is common sense to look at the world and realize it is the product of a Creator.

 “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen,  being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

Unreasonable Reason   Leave a comment

  • What is knowledge?
  • How do we know?
  • How can we be sure that what we think we know is accurate?

Throughout the Modern Age, our society’s pervading philosophy has been humanism, which answers the questions about knowledge by appealing to human reason. Man starts from himself and works outward for all answers.

“Reason appears in possession of the throne, prescribing laws and imposing maxims, with an absolute sway and authority.” (David Hume)

This belief in the power of reason is the foundation of modern western society.  Post-modernism acknowledges that the value of reason can never be demonstrated because it starts with man alone, relying on the accuracy of our sense perceptions. We can never have certain knowledge of even our physical existence, let alone the objective existence of the material world around us. Hume acknowledged the potential pitfall of relying on something that is not wholly adequate, but he refused to despair or abandon his reliance on humanism.

Should it be asked me whether I sincerely assent to this argument which I have been to such pains to inculcate, whether I be really one of those skeptics who hold that all is uncertain, I should reply…that neither I nor any other person was ever sincerely and constantly of that opinion …I dine, I play backgammon, I converse and am merry with my friends, and when, after three or four hours’ amusement. I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold and strained and ridiculous that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any further. Thus, the skeptic still continues to reason and believe, though he asserts that he cannot defend his reason by reason, and by the same rule, he must assent to the principle concerning the existence of body, though he cannot pretend by any argument of philosophy to maintain its veracity.

 

In the 20th century, many thinkers began to despair from trying to ignore the contradictions. Reason had become modern man’s god, but it was becoming a rotting corpse reminding him of the decay of meaning and the death of value in human existence.

The problem was simple enough. Man is finite. Our grasp of reality is limited — too limited to generate sufficient knowledge to answer all the questions or to understand the whole of reality. Reality is huge, but we (even collectively) are small; how can we ever be sure that our knowledge is accurate? Might it not all be a projection of our innermost hopes and fears and not anything real at all?

Christians don’t concern themselves much with our finiteness. We freely acknowledge that our understanding is limited. No problem! God exists and His knowledge is complete. He knows the universe in a way we cannot. God has revealed Himself to us in His word, the Bible, and though this word does not tell us everything, it tells us truly. Our foundation of knowledge is secure in God’s word. We have been created in God’s image to understand the world in which we live, so our perception is accurate. When reason is made the master, it is a tyrant that leads us into the blackest night of ignorance and confusion, but when reason stands under God’s revelation, it becomes a servant of great value, to explore and reflect upon the world in which we live.

The Christian need not fear anything we may learn about the universe.

Interview with A Former Atheist   4 comments

The Markham clan discussion group started with reasonable adults who wanted to understand one another … or at least convince each other that we were reasonable.

But we didn’t start out like that. Rick is older and grew up in Seattle, while Bai, David and myself were all kids together here in Fairbanks. Growing up, Bai and David’s mom was Catholic, but the family quit going within a year of arriving in Fairbanks and so the boys didn’t really grow up with that tradition. Toward the end of high school, I became interested in Christianity and Bai dated one of my Christian friends in college before he became a Christian himself. He and I both agree we were something akin to rational deists before we came to Christ. We didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ, but we also both saw evidence for the existence of the metaphysical before our salvation experience, so when God called us, we wanted evidence, but we didn’t demand proof because we already knew something besides the physical existed.

In high school, David dabbled in Eastern Mysticism and researched Catholicism. He announced that he thought Christianity was cannibalism because of the whole transubstantiation dogma. He was surprised to find out that I (the only evangelical he knew) agreed. The Bible describes a memorial feast. There’s no actual blood or flesh involved in the bread and wine/juice no matter how many magic words a priest says. It’s all symbolism.

In college, David was surrounded by atheists professors and was particularly drawn to a philosphy professor who was an avowed Christian hater. I’d had the same professor a few years before and found him charismatic and intelligent, and managed to get a B out of his class without renouncing my faith. David never really needled me about my faith probably because there’s nearly five years age difference, so we weren’t close friends in college. The few conversations we had were reasonable enough, though I found myself having to correct his misperceptions about Christianity a lot. When Bai accepted Christ, however, David exploded. He became determined to prove to Bai, if not me, that Christianity was unintelligent delusional crap! He played the battering ram for years before Rick suggested a reasonable discussion over the controllable environment of email.

A few years ago when he announced he’d become an agnostic, in my capacity as chronicler of our group, I asked him why?

Why have to decided that agnosticism is a more reasonable response than atheism?

“I got tired of being angry all the time against people who were irritated by me, but who I knew wished me absolutely well. If I needed a kidney, Bai would be the first one to offer. Rick would figure out how to cure my kidney disease before I needed the kidney. You were there when (his wife) went into labor and I was half a world away. No matter how much I wanted to say your beliefs turned you into monsters, that wasn’t true. You’re all good people.

Then there the questions I see in my own profession. Rick especially helped me to see that too much certainty is not a scientific way to view the world. Evidence is not proof. Evidence can be interpreted different ways and sometimes the pet theories of yesterday turn out to be ridiculous in the next generation. I still think my view of the evidence is the best way to view it, but I wouldn’t be shocked (now) if I was proven wrong.”

What sort of evidence would constitute proof for you of God?

“Honestly, although I say I don’t know if God exists, it would still take something very definite to convince me of his existence. If he really does come back, I’ll believe in him then — I think.”

So at least one ticket on the Post-Tribulation Believers’ Express?

“Yeah, I know — that’s what you guys don’t want for me, but unless I can see, feel, touch God in the physical world, I don’t see myself accepting a phantom as real. I put God with the multiverse theory of universal origins. You may want it to be true, but there’s no evidence. It’s just conjecture, so I’m abstaining until some more evidence shows up.”

What drives you crazy about Christians?

“Your certainty. I used to call that arrogance or non-thinking, but I can’t call Rick non-thinking and you, Brad and Bai have not been arrogant to me. Your certainty in the face of so much opposition is hard to grasp. I see the same evidence you guys see, but you come to different conclusions. I used to think you had to go through some delusional mental gymnastics to do that, but over the last 20 years, I’ve recognized that you don’t. “

So, how do you see things differently from when you said you were an atheist?

“I don’t know that I do. I think it’s more my attitude. Before I was very zealous. My ‘faith’ in science and materialism was so absolute, I felt I needed to beat you into believing it. It was a crusade. And, now I don’t feel so messianic. I don’t know that I’m right. I don’t know that you are either.”

So do you think some of this new softness comes from the birth of your son?

“Cheap shot, but yeah. It’s hard not to wonder about miracles when your wife gets pregnant when she’s supposed to be unable to conceive and then she goes into labor a month early and you just happen to show up with a midwife. And, he’s gorgeous and healthy! I know the pregnancy was medically possible because it happened and the midwife was a mountain-biking coincidence, but wow …. Yeah, that definitely made me think. But I’m not going soft-headed.”

Just soft-hearted?

“Maybe. Being a parent does make you think about the future and even eternity. Is my atheism best serving my child?  Just as I am now planning more time at home, which means less time in the field, I also want to be less angry and argumentative. And, when I think about the cold, material world that I believe in, I’m not sure I want that for Dylan. If there’s an alternative, I might prefer that for him.”

Does that mean you’ll let him spend time with his heretic relatives?

The answer was “yes” and Dylan is on our son’s babysitting list for the summer and our son is a 15-year-old who lives his faith. To the extent that you can have a theological conversation with a four-year-old, they’re talking about it.

As I’ve said, I have no problem with agnostics. Of course, I live my faith in front of them and they can accept that or not. The Markham Clan Discussion Group continues to this day and David remains the sharp counterpoint who can be counted on for a non-believing perspective. We’ve also added a cousin who is an engineer. He’s afraid to call himself an atheist, but he’s definitely a non-believer.

Posted June 16, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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