2: WHY SHOULD ANYONE BELIEVE ANYTHING AT ALL? (PART 1)
Edited 4/16/10 to include new material.
So that I don’t make monstrous posts, I’ll divide the chapter up into a few different pieces.
To demonstrate the exclusivity of truth, the author relays an anecdote about Ravi Zacharias. At the conclusion, he asks us to imagine if the professor had said, “Ravi, your math calculations are wrong in India because you’re using Western math rather than Eastern math.” This does not discredit that truth may not be knowable in the same way from all perspectives. Until relatively recently, no pun intended, it appeared that the world was governed by laws arising from a consistent set of Euclidean axioms. A person capable of thinking in four dimensions might see space-time from the perspective of hyperbolic axioms. The statements that parallel lines move away from one another and that parallel lines do not move away from each other would both appear to be true depending on the perspective. If it is objective truth that there are ten or eleven dimensions, the geometry of the universe might follow laws that appear contradictory to what we currently observe. It may be that even if a multiverse reflects objective truth, it could remain outside human observation and its truth claim be unknowable because of our scale in relation to the universe.
I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the style of argument in this book. It is almost impossible to evaluate the author’s claims in a meaningful way when he summarizes and dismisses Hume and Kant in three pages each. The author starts his discussion of Hume by writing that while he claimed to be a skeptic, Hume certainly wasn’t skeptical about these two conditions – he was absolutely convinced that he had the truth (p 57). This is an egregious mischaracterization of Hume. In his Treatise of Human Nature, Book 1, Part 3, Hume addresses the need for skepticism regarding his own philosophy. Yves Michaud describes the predicament: Now, Hume is facing the two horns of a dilemma: either we trust the fallible impulses of the imagination or we trust the self- destructive mechanisms of the understanding (Hume Studies, Vol. 11, Issue 1). Hume admits that the human has no option but to rely on his best understanding of what constitutes reason. While the author eventually draws the same conclusion as a criticism of Hume, I cannot find a positive way to view his misleading portrayal of Hume as unaware of the ramifications of his own philosophy: either he is ignorant, or he is being deliberately misleading, or he lacks respect for his audience.
Lest you think that I am maliciously trying to find any excuse to criticize the author, my observations of the dismissive way that Geisler writes about philosophy have been shared by John Frame of the Reformed Theological Seminary in his review of Biblical Errancy: An Analysis of its Philosophical Roots, who writes: There is no evidence of careful analysis, no recognition of important distinctions, no anticipation of objections to Geisler’s evaluations. If the reader is not knowledgeable, he must accept such foundational arguments based on his trust in the author’s analysis. I am troubled by the implication presented at the beginning of the book that the reader will obtain a rational case for Christianity, when in fact what many readers will demonstrate is a capacity for faith in the author.
The further problem with the author’s analysis is that Hume’s propositions can more accurately be called self-supporting rather than self-defeating when one accounts for indirect empirical verification (for a more involved discussion, see http://blog.evangelicalrealism.com/2007/11/30/xfiles-friday-hume-and-skepticism). It remains the burden of the author to prove his statement that such claims don’t comprise all meaningful statements as Hume and Ayer contend. He goes on to claim that we can also know truth through induction, but fails to address Hume’s argument that an inductive justification of induction is circular (Treatise, Book I, Part III, Section IV).