Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Andrew, The Atheist, Answers The Opening Question: What Is The Source Of Truth

I dig this beginning. First, I think we need to establish what we mean by "Truth". It seems to me that what you mean to say when you say, "truth", is "what is real", or what can be described as "reality". So to re-phrase the question for the purpose of my answer, the question can be stated, "What are the means of detecting what is real? Is science the only way to detect what can be described as reality?" If you meant something else by "truth", disregard the following and clarify, please.

The next term you use almost interchangedly is "absolute truth". I've no idea what you mean by this term. You seem to use it to say that science changes its views. Perhaps you mean to say that because science changes its views, it cannot be trusted. If so, this will be the first point I contend. To do so, we need to understand what science is, and what it is not.

Science is a method we use to determine what is real through hypothisis, tests, results and conclusions. To be sure this is a simple definition, and to be sure the method is far from perfect. But to date it is the BEST method we have for detecting what is true. Imagine if I claimed to be able to see through walls. How would you determine if my claim was true? Before any test was determined, you should be able to predict if my professed ability is or is not real. Then we would test it. We would compare my results to a standard or control. Then we would repeat.

Now in this example, would the results be conclusive? No. Perhaps the experiment was flawed, the standard wrong, the execution compromised. So many things could skew the data. More tests, more data. Over time we should get a better and better idea if there is any reason to suspect there is valididty to my claim. Though I would expect very shortly there would be better evidence that there is no reason to think I have the ability to see through walls.

Now love is very commonly used as an example of something that is not measurable by science. This is actually a false claim. Science can measure the chemical reations in our brains that cause love. Science can provide evidence that mothers have a very specific chemical reation in the brain when they hear the sound of their child's voice, or see a picture of their child, or smell the child's clothing, etc. We have the ability to see into the organ that houses emotion, which is the brain, not the heart.

The idea the science has nothing to say about heaven, I think, is misplaced. The argument is usually that science and heaven are in separate "magisterium" (don't kill me for the spelling). The idea is that religion and science cannot intersect at all. I think this is flawed. Religion often makes claims that can be tested by science. Is there some mystical release of energy at the moment of death? Science can answer that question. The answer is no. Is there a magical place beyond the sky? Science can answer that question. The answer is no.

Finally, I would take issue with the one who says that we cannot prove God through the scientific method, therefore, He must not exist. I am not saying we can prove God through the scientific method. I am arguing, however, that science points toward a Creator" This quote, I think, illistrates the "have my cake and eat it too" kind of argument you are making. You want to use science when it suits you, but when it contradicts what you want to be true, you dimiss it as unable to reach the "truth". Still, the statement is better phrased, "If we cannot prove the existance of god, we HAVE NO GOOD REASON for believing he exists." You may have bad reasons, but without evidence, you have no good reason for believing it. Finally, I want to say that I see nothing in existance that points to a creator. However, let's say for argument's sake that I do. Fine. How do you differenciate between potential creators? What makes your god a more likely creator than the flying spaghetti monster? The invisible pink unicorn? Giants? Titans? Cosmic turtles? The problem is that when you allow for a supernatural answer, ANY supernatural answer will do. One creator is just as likely as another. This is why intellegent design is NOT science. It offers no testable hypothesis. All it does is make a claim: the universe had a designer. It offers no evidence, has no explanitory power, and fails utterly.


  1. Oh, I should make a new post when I reply!! Yes, that makes sense. No character limits. Gotcha!

  2. It seems to me that Science has a method for determining what is true and what is not. religion just makes up claims and asserts them as being true. There is no way to disprove a religious claim to the religious except through violence.

    "God told me the world is flat."
    "No, he told me it was a triangle!"
    "He did not!"
    "He did so!"
    "God hates you and wants me to kill you!"
    End of religious argument.

    Science can actual discover an answer, test it, re-test it, etc. No violence needed.

  3. Hi Staks! Welcome. I am not saying that science is not A source for truth; I am only saying it is not the ONLY source of truth. There is evidence for religious claims. The only way to PROVE it, however, is to experience it. Thanks for reading, for your comment, and please keep coming back.

  4. You cannot prove something to someone else based on a personal experience.

  5. In regard to personal experience It is kind of like when someone tells a Bigfoot or UFO story. A person is absolutely convinced! That they saw something and many people swear to have encountered a UFO or a Bigfoot. No one has ever found one, I doubt they will.

    Bigfoot Personal Account

    I'm convinced that this guy really thinks he saw bigfoot. Without proof, his personal account is useless.

  6. Please tell me you are not comparing a belief in God to a belief in Bigfoot. Not that Bigfoot might not exist. Yet, there is much more evidence for God than there is for Bigfoot.

  7. I think a belief in bigfoot is certainly comprable to belief in god. In fact, how would you prove that bigfoot did or did not exist without science? How could an alternative method of describing reality show that bigfoot does or does not exist? What is to stop a person from employing the method you use to believe in god to believe in bigfoot?

  8. Andrew, I agree that science is a great method. What it is NOT is a complete worldview (though atheism is). Science provides a world picture; one among many that informs our respective worldviews.

    As to your claim about science measuring love, sure it can measure chemicals. However, it can not provide meaning and significance for those chemicals. All Tim is arguing for is that there are other ways of knowing.

  9. athanasius, I disagree that atheism is a worldview. Atheism is only a lack of a belief in gods or deities. That is all. Humanism may be a worldview, but that is separate from atheism. I've met Humanist christians, in other words.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "meaning and significance" to chemicals. We can show, through science, what these chemicals do and how they interact with the body and the reactions in the brain from the presence of the chemicals. What more is love?

    I understand that Tim is suggesting there are other ways of knowing. I'm confused as to what he thinks those are. Neither you nor he ever really named them. What, besides science, would you use to determine if bigfoot is real?

  10. I wish I had found this earlier. But here is a link to a Christian philosopher, William Lane Craig's lecture where he presents the arguments better than I did. There are three total parts but I am only posting the first part. All three are worth watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kb7JFMfQB1o&feature=related

  11. Thanks for the links. I will check these out later when I get some time.

  12. Honestly, I'm not really sure at what he was getting at.