Re: The Thomas Trap

George Murphy (
Sun, 22 Nov 1998 20:52:20 -0500

Moorad Alexanian wrote:
> At 09:49 AM 11/21/98 -0500, George Murphy wrote:
> >Robin Mandell wrote:
> > ............................
> >> It is possible and scripture hints that in this case the inherent
> >> knowledge is placed in a human by the creator.Not so with
> >> geometry.Would not that make it different.
> >
> > It goes beyond what Scripture says to say that God gave us an "inherent
> >knowledge" of the creator. We are able to hear God's Word which tells us
> who God is
> >and God's will for us. But the problem is that we turn away from that &
> construct
> >gods for ourselves, which is what Rom.1:18-31 is about. Any appeal to
> "inherent
> >knowledge" of God, like appeals to a knowledge of God supposedly available
> in nature,
> >(cf. Kant's "starry heavens above & moral law within") thus are fraught
> with danger &
> >must continually be checked against & controlled by revelation.
> >
> >George L. Murphy
> >
> >
> If you have no inherent knowledge of something, there is no amount of
> reading or hearing that will allow you learn anything about that something.
> I gave the example of the alien who may not understand what love is, a human
> experience which is meaningless to science, because it/he/she has no a
> priori knowledge of that human feeling. It is true that different people
> conclude different things from that a priori knowledge. However, once one
> makes conclusions from that inherent knowledge, then one has to test the
> "correctness" of those conclusions from the external data and the
> conclusions of others. For instance, as you mentioned, the a priori
> knowledge of space and time lead Kent to the "incorrect" conclusion that
> spacetime is Euclidean. That does not negate the existence of our inherent
> knowledge of space and time.

I can't see the force of your argument that one must have some inherent
knowledge, nor do I wish to deny that there is any such knowledge. What I will say is
that appeals to inherent knowledge are very often misleading. I already gave Kant on
Euclidean geometry as an example. & _if_ something like string theory turns out to be
correct, & space-time is really some type of macroscopic average of an underlying
"stringy" reality then the very idea that space & time are _a priori_ may have to be
dropped. (I confess that I'm enough of an old fashioned relativist that I'm not
thrilled with that prospect & wish something like Schroedinger's affine field theory
were the royal road, but I wouldn't claim any inherent knowledge of such theories.)
Theologically, it may be that we have an inherent knowledge that there is a God.
Maybe. But as soon as people start trying to move beyond that & say anything about
_who_ God, they invariably founder in the swamps of theologies of glory.

> I ask you, what does being created in the image
> of God mean?

Different parts of Scripture & the Christian tradition have understood this
differently. Gen.1 seems to give it a functional sense, the representation of God with
respect to creation. But in order to function in that way, both "true fear of God and
faith in God" and rationality are necessary, so those understandings of the image,
though indirectly related to Gen.1, make sense.

George L. Murphy