July 18, 2007

Horse 782 - A Priori

One of the great problems that is always put forward when trying to explain the existance of God is that this requires a priori knowledge. Logically it follows that unless you can prove the existance of such, then we in the 21st Century with an essentially Greek mind.

The apostle Paul ran into this problem from a philosophical standpoint 1950 years ago and wrote that the Jews demanded miraculous signs and Greeks looked for wisdom. If you fast forward to the 21st century, you still have people searching for spirituality, hunting for miracles and the scientific community demanding empirical proof.

There is of course a great problem here. The Greek mindset is after reproducible events and conditions, and sets up postulates that are all a posteriori, that is science can not accept anything unless there is empirical proof; by definition empirical proof is a posteriori or if you will after the event. Science in all its finery can not explain things for which there is no proof.

Religion generally and Christianity in particular relies on very a strong a priori standpoint, ie. that God exists. Science demands empirical proof of this, so it's only natural that the two will find it impossible to hit a common standpoint.

Paul in his letter to the church at Rome made what surely has to be the most a priori statement in history: For 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.
Esentially the argument is the Ontological argument that because creation exists there must have a creator a priori. Science still demands proof of such though, by rejecting the so called "obvious" argument, but interestingly still pursues an answer.

I'm going to take a few steps sideways and ask some seemingly stupid questions.

1. Imagine that the year is 1601 and you're living London, England. Do Kangaroos exist?
What? Of course. Kangaroos have been around forever. Considering that no Europeans have ever set foot in Australia, and no Kangaroos have ever been observed, then as we know based on a posteriori evidence that they do most certainly exist.

2. The year is 2007, and I want to listen to Rocket FM on 103.2MHz. I have an AM Radio, why can't I pick up the radio station? I mean radio waves exist, and I have a radio receiver so what's the problem from a philosophical standpoint?
The argument is not whether something exists but whether you actually have the instruments at hand to be able to detect something.
There are in fact lots of things which I will wager that science will never be able to empirically prove. The whole argument of existance is one. Where does someone's consciousness attach itself to their body? If someone has a soul, spirit or whatever you call it, why can't it be detected? Even the concept of love which you can find chemical triggers for doesn't really have a rational empirical set of proofs.

The big problem I have with disproving the existance of God, is that there is a whole heap of observation evidence. Is science really prepared to tell every single religious person on the face of the planet that has ever existed that their experience is fraudulent?
Why is for instance (and this is the deepest darkest Africa question) that every known tribe ever discovered has at least in some way come to the conclusion that something that they can't see has brought things into existance? If it's really a part of so called evolution, then the law of large numbers should have suggested that there should have been at least one atheist tribe somewhere on the planet and that simply has not occured.

Augustine wrote about God that "You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are rest-less till they find their rest in you" and Blaise Pascal is famous for the concept that man contains a "God-shaped hole". These postulates could be said to have been based on that a posteriori event known as experience but again there is no empirical proof.

Pascal reached the point that I have done and wrote these:

"We understand nothing of the works of God unless we take it as a principle that He wishes to blind some and to enlighten others."

"This is what I see, and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and everywhere I see nothing but obscurity. Nature offers me nothing that is not a matter of doubt and disquiet. If I saw no signs of a divinity, I would fix myself in denial. If I saw everywhere the marks of a Creator, I would repose peacefully in faith. But seeing too much to deny [Him], and too little to assure me, I am in a pitiful state, and I would wish a hundred times that if a God sustains nature it would reveal Him without ambiguity."

If God exists, then why is there no empirical proof?
Are you actually sure that there's not or have you merely rejected the a priori standpoint? If you refuse to accept the a posteriori evidence that people generally are looking for some form of "spirituality" then where does this leave you? To conclude that there is no God is already logically stupid.

I believe that God lets us arrive at our own conclusions on the matter simply to keep us curious. I happen to agree with both Paul and Pascal. If an a priori standpoint is obvious, then I fail to see why I should prove it. It would be like trying to prove that 1=1.

Finally what did God have to say on his own existance? I think one of the names He gave Himself is quite appropriate... "I AM"*.

*I AM - of course it's obvious. It's one of the great Der's Of History.

No comments: