Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Proving Out Beliefs

John Derbyshire of NRO's The Corner has been sounding off a bit lately (how can one not expect a bit of "no popery" nonsense out of a crotchety Anglican turned atheist at a time like this) calling pope Benedict XVI's denunciations of relativism silly.
Of course religious belief is relativistic. Religious people say it is! Suppose I line up a Christian, a Moslem, and a Hindu, and ask: "You guys all promote a different set of 'fundamental truths.' How can I figure out who's right and who's wrong? What external test can I apply? What can any of you point to in the beliefs of the others that doesn't square with observable facts about the world, or about human life?" What will they say? After a lot of babbling and pointing, it will boil down to: "You gotta have faith. You have to feel the truth within yourself." In other words, it's an interior, subjective experience. What's more relative than that?
There's much more, but you get the idea. Derb goes on to assert that this is what differentiates science from religion -- that in science there's always a way to prove out a question.

Well, as it happens, Derb's imagination is failing him. There's a very clear way to prove whether the Christian, Moslem or Hindu is right, and all of them would agree that the test would work.

Die.

The one difficulty is that it's rather difficult to publish a peer reviewed article about the experience afterwards. But it is definitely the way to get to the truth of the matter. And what's better yet, death is one of the most universal human experiences. So although Derb rants that he doesn't have the time or interest to read any books on what the pope has been up to lately, he will eventually get the chance to perform the experiment, just like all the rest of us, and will know the truth of the matter for himself.

8 comments:

AnotherCoward said...

Except that a lot of people do die and then are resuscitated, and there's no real consensus about what the death experience gives you.

I'm guessing you're meaning "Die without resuscitation" ... but I'm certain that leaving it at just "Die" would get responses along the lines of the above.

crankycon said...

Well I see that the Darb has now turned to that excellent source known as Wikipedia to disprove the notion that the Church has not ever changed its teachings. He really does the intellectual heavy lifting.

What a clown he has become.

Darwin said...

It's unfortunate that long held prejudice (which is I think what we're generally seeing here -- Derb is of working class British background and proud of it) is turning him into such a know-nothing on this. A while back I had a chance to read the first 50 pages or so of his book Unknown Quantity on the history of algebra, and found it one of the msot engagingly written books about math I've read in a long time.

He's clearly a person who can muster a great deal of intellectual curiosity, which is what make his I-refuse-to-read-anything-real-about-this-but-I'm-going-to-rant-about-it-anyway attitude on this doubly inexcusable.

Patrick said...

Well, that solution doesn't help at all with the pragmatic question of what religion, if any, you should believe before you die— a matter of no small import to all three of the faiths mentioned.

Got anything better?

Geoffrey said...

Darwin, no offense, but your post was weak.

You have to come at the question of which religion is true primarily from an historical perspective. There are many excellent resources available that detail the historical evidence in favor of Christ's resurrection.

You can also debunk religions from an historical perspective.

Philosophy, logic, etc...there are tons of tools to figure out whether or not a religion is true. Visit my blog. I have a recommended reading list.

But Darwin, once again, your current post is pathetic, and borders on the heresy of fideism.

"Nothing can be known this side of the grave...we'll find out who's right when we die." And thus, you confirm John Derbyshire's accusations by asserting that you just have to have faith that you're right.

According to logic, even if religion is ultimately theoretically objective, if we can't know the truth about it until we die, it's practically relative and subjective for us in the present.

Geoffrey said...

Darwin, no offense, but your post was weak.

You have to come at the question of which religion is true primarily from an historical perspective. There are many excellent resources available that detail the historical evidence in favor of Christ's resurrection.

You can also debunk religions from an historical perspective.

Philosophy, logic, etc...there are tons of tools to figure out whether or not a religion is true. Visit my blog. I have a recommended reading list.

But Darwin, once again, your current post is pathetic, and borders on the heresy of fideism.

"Nothing can be known this side of the grave...we'll find out who's right when we die." And thus, you confirm John Derbyshire's accusations by asserting that you just have to have faith that you're right.

According to logic, even if religion is ultimately theoretically objective, if we can't know the truth about it until we die, it's practically relative and subjective for us in the present.

Darwin said...

Patrick,

Say you're considering getting married, and you think that you've round the right person to marry, but you're not 100% sure this is someone you can be successfully married to. How can you be sure?

You can make a very, very convincing case before hand, but the only way to know completely for sure is to get married and see what happens.

I believe based on the history of Christianity, by understanding of philosophy, and my understanding of the world that Christ came into the world as the son of God and died for our sins, and that He appointed Peter as the head of His Church on earth. I believe that most of the evidence points in that direction, and I have no problem basing my belief on what I consider to be overwhelming evidence. But to be 100% sure, I'll have to die.

Dunno that I can give you much more than that, though obviously there's a great deal of detail to go into in the above points.

Geoffrey,

See above.

I wouldn't say that dying is the only way to know. But it's the only way to know with 100% certainty, which is what Derb has been asking for.

Patrick said...

Well, I just disagree that a convincing case has actually been made, and I think my interpretation of the evidence is more sound. But that's a series of other discussions.

To turn your example around, you wouldn't marry someone if you had little or no reason to believe she'd be good for you— there's no being completely sure, but you'd want to have some good reasons. Perhaps you wouldn't want to be perfectly dry and philosophical while pondering the matter, but you certainly wouldn't want to deceive yourself.