Re: Only Myths?

dfsiemensjr@juno.com
Tue, 23 Nov 1999 15:30:46 -0700

I read the interchange between Glenn and George and was troubled by the
amount of misinformation or sloppiness involved. For example, both
appealed to Godel (Goedel) and Aristotle. The facts during the last
century, approximately, are somewhat different. Frege "invented" new
formal logics, the functional calculi, related to the propositional
calculi which deal with whole sentences. They are sufficiently different
from syllogistic that it is impossible to translate Aristotelian logic
into the lower functional calculus. For example, the move from A, All S
are P, to I, Some S are P, is valid. But the assumed translation of A
into (x)(fx>gx) or (x)(fx>gx)&(Ex)(fx) does not yield (Ex)(fx&gx), which
is closer to the sense of I.

The lower functional calculus allows quantification over individual
variables, the x's above. The second level functional calculus provides
also quantification over predicates. This was necessary to formulate
number theory. All functional calculi allow relational predicates as well
as property (one-place) predicates. This also was a requirement for
Frege's attempt to reduce mathematics to pure logic. It has been remarked
that the only person Frege knew had read his _Grundlagen_ wrote him that
it contained a paradox. This was Russell, who did not use Aristotelian
logic in his proof.

Goedel's proof involved formal axiomatized systems in the second level
functional calculus: they can never be complete if consistent. This last
is tied to the medieval _consequentia mirabilis_, that a contradiction
allows the valid proof of every statement. Church later extended this
proof to include the lower functional calculus. Neither applies broadly
to human limitations, for reason is not a formal system. The
demonstration of human limitations has other roots.

There is one thing that _I_ know to be necessarily true, my own
existence. This was the point of Descartes' _Cogito, ergo sum._ The roots
of this go back to Augustine, who was faced by skeptics who claimed that
nothing could be known. He argued that, no matter what they doubted, they
could not doubt their own existence, for the very act of doubting
affirmed that. So they inexorably knew something. Descartes put it
positively and, as a rationalist, tied it to thought. But it applies to
every experience, sensory and emotional as well as to reason. I have this
direct internal witness with every experience. But I cannot show it to
you, nor can I detect it in you, for I _assume_ that you have your own
self-awareness. Note that I _assume_ this, for I cannot demonstrate that
you are not just the product of my imagination. I may be hallucinating
what I consider the real world outside of me. Believing this is
solipsism, from the Latin for "itself alone." Nobody who tries to
communicate believes it for a second. If there is a true solipsist, he is
so totally withdrawn as to be inert. Since the world out there is
assumed, not proved to exist, all empirical science is founded on
assumption. Given the assumption, we formulate descriptions of the
universe and its residents, which we do not question further. The
philosophers who point out that solipsism is not disprovable are
generally ignored.

Human fallibilism is broader, of course. As C. S. Peirce observed, when
people understand the concept, they will assent, "always making
exceptions for themselves in this instance." But fallibilism does not
warrant: "It is my express intention to undermined [sic] any and all
FAITH in reason; which is the essence of rationalism." This blows it, for
it is incoherent. He is using his reason from beginning to end of his
communication. Rationalism goes beyond faith in reason to the assumption
that all truth springs from reason. This is parallel to the naturalism
that posits that all truth springs from physical experience. There is
perhaps a weaker sense of rationalism that merely posits that human
language is adequate to fully express all reality. But this runs afoul of
the fuzziness of language. For example, we recognize _Panthera pardalis_
pretty well. Its skin is tawny with black rosettes. If we encounter a
hide with solid spots we say it is not a leopard's skin, but came from a
New World cat. That part has been decided. But what if the hide has
bullseye marks? The possibility has not been addressed because one has
not yet been observed. But we have decided that the creatures commonly
known as black panthers are _P. pardalis_, a good thing since sometimes a
tawny pair will have a black cub.

One problem with the Greeks was that they would not believe what they
didn't think they understood. They would swallow such stuff as that
everything was untimately water, but they flatly insisted that creation
was impossible. Yet some ascribed the origin of all (eternal ?) things to
bits that swerved and combined, aparently permanently. But by the time
Paul came on the scene, the skeptics were pretty much in control. No
wonder he opposed Greek thought. A modification of Platonism was later
recovered and used by Augustine, as Thomas later depended on Aristotle.
My take is that Calvin was right in going back to Augustine and Plato.

Glenn also wrote: "Rationality is based upon the syllogism being true.
You and I have very different views of epistemology." Later he added,
"The YEC's start with the syllogism that the Bible is God's word." Not
quite. What is required is that syllogisms and other acceptable forms of
logical manipulation (i.e., valid arguments) be truth-preserving. The
usualy formulation specifies that, if the premises are true and the
argument valid, the conclusion will be true. What Glenn presents as a
syllogism is not one, indeed, is not even a judgment (to use the
traditional term) within syllogistic. A syllogism on the topic might
read:
All Biblical statements are God's Words.
All God's Words are true.
Therefore, all Biblical statements are true.
But if I try to extend this by means of:
All statements contradicting true statements are false.
Some scientific statements contradict Biblical statements.
Therefore, some scientific statements are false.
I do not have a syllogism, for the second premise involves a relation,
which syllogistic cannot handle, and the first premise does not connect
to the previous conclusion within Aristotelian strictures.

As I see it, the difference between Glenn and George cannot be described
as a difference in epistemology. It is a difference in assumptions. Glenn
presupposes that, for revelation to be an adequate basis for faith, God
had to transcend all cosmological and other beliefs of the time and
provide a message without mistakes of any kind. It's perfection or
perfidy. George assumes that, so long as God's purpose is served, His
message communicated, the ancient errors invalidate nothing. Glenn views
this as the start of a slippery slope. George feels that he's on a plain.
It seems clear to me that George is not allowing every scriptural
statement to be dubious. For example, I am confident that he will not
allow _Elohim_ to indicate polytheism. But he does not have to find as
excuse to make "firmament" other than solid. Glenn, on the other hand,
has to refute Paul Seely's analysis. Is it akin to the "spiral twist"
Mark Twain spoke of?

Further down Glenn wrote: "You believe what you say is truth, yet you say
that truth is not absolute. If truth is not absolute, then you have no
basis upon which to be offended. If there is no absolute truth, then what
I respond to you is ALSO ABSOLUTE GIBBERISH AND MEANINGLESS GAB. Truth
MUST be more than what you say or communication is impossible." This
seems to confuse two senses of 'truth', not to mention that _aletheia_ is
sometimes better translated by 'reality'. There is truth as an ideal, and
fallibilism. As an ideal, I recognize that, of contradictories, one has
to be true and one false (unless they are nonsense parodying
contradictories); of contraries, at most one can be true, but both may be
false. When we disagree, one asserting _p_ and the other _~p_, we
understand fully the true-false relationship of our competing claims.
That's truth as an absolute value. It even applies in principle to empty
forms and to some kinds of nonsense. This is quite a different matter
from the truth of an individual's beliefs. If Glenn's assumption, as
noted above, is true, George's is false, and vice versa, for they are
incompatible. Unfortunately, both may be false. Of course, if they really
understood the situation, they'd adopt my view. ;-/

As arguments for or against a position are presented, they are normally
incomplete and dependent on supposedly shared tacit premises. If A zings
B with _p>q_, therefore _q_ because he assumes _p_, B may be unzung, for
he may well be committed to _p'_ or even _~p_. A may wonder why B is so
stupid or obstinate that he doesn't react, especially since the
assumptions may go beyond tacit to subconscious, unconscious or even
inchoate. One of my more difficult tasks as a philosopher was to dig down
to understand just where I was coming from. I'm still learning, and
modifying, and sometimes discovering that my best guess is very
tentative. Thirty-forty years ago I knew a lot more things for sure than
I do now.

In concluding let me go beyond the classic shalom to the Pauline grace,
mercy and peace. May we have them from the Father, and beween and toward
each other.

Dave

From: mortongr@flash.net
To: George Andrews <gandrews@as.wm.edu>
Cc: asa@calvin.edu
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1999 19:06:10 +0000
Subject: Re: Only Myths?

Hi George:

George Andrews wrote:
>>>Your concern over a "disaster of rejecting reason" to purchase an
Emperor's wardrobe, is unfounded. Recall that I concluded my previous
post
with the following:
"Rationality is indispensable for precision in verbal communication
and interpretation of sense data; however, it is always a function of the
data set at hand and - most importantly - inherently unsuited for
discernment of absolute certainty about anything (as Russell and Godel
have
shown us)."

It is my express intention to undermined any and all FAITH in reason;
which
is the essence of rationalism. Such idolatry is what, I believe, Paul was
referring to when he concludes that the cross of Christ is - to the
Greeks
of his time - considered as foolishness; which I interpret to read
philosophically unsophisticated and unreasonable. <<<<

First off, Godel didn't show us that we can't have absolute certainty
about
anything. That is a solipcist position. Godel showed that for any
axiomatic system there are statements within that system which can not be
proven or disproven. That is entirely different than what you are saying.

Secondly, if you undermine faith in our reason, you can't have
rationality.
Rationality is based upon the syllogism being true. You and I have very
different views of epistemology.

George Andrews Wrote:
>>>>The thrust of your argument is that since the YEC position
presupposes
the Bible, and they are so prone to improper and poor science, then any
an
all who share such presumptions must be wrong. But such a position, apart
from its spurious character, implicates your brand of concordism too! You
merely point out a truth that needs to be highlighted more often: we all
share the same goal of taking the Bible seriously and predicating
Biblical
truth to our contemporary world! <<<<

This does not condemn my brand of concordism. You don't understand the
YECs
very well. The YECs start with the syllogism that the Bible is God's
word.
Then they view that their interpretation of God's word is the true
interpretation. Once they do that, they can reject any scientific data
that contradicts their view because God told them what the truth was. My
brand of concordism starts with the same view, that the Bible is God's
word. I like them interpret the Bible. But here is where the difference
starts. If any data contradicts my interpretation then it is my
interpretation which must be changed. The YECs view their intepretation
as
infallible,,God given. I don't view my interpretation in that fashion.

I wrote:
>>>>As for you, if you don't believe we have an autonomous reason, how do
you
know you are not being deceived by whatever outside thing is influencing
your reason? You can't.<<<<

George replied:
>>>Precisely; by George :-), I think you've got it! As the Bible teaches,
the human intellect - including mine - is prone to all manner of
deceitful
imaginations concerning the creation. This simply underscores the
distinctly christian view that without the present work of the Holy
Spirit, we will believe a lie (Romans 1). Furthermore, since all have
sinned, we all are incapable of obtaining the revelatory truth through
any
exclusively human effort.<<<<

THis is the best argument for solipcism I have seen. This is exactly the
YEC view of human reason. They believe that God told them that the earth
was young. Thus any data that contradicts the young-earth MUST be wrong
and MUST be rejected because their reason is incapable of telling them
the
truth. So, does any data matter to your interpretation of Scripture? or
can
you too reject scientific data when it conflicts with your theological
interpretation?

I wrote:
>>>>Do you believe that what you wrote above is true? If so, how can you
know
that when you said humans can't tell truth from falsehood. If you don't
believe it is true, why are you writing this gibberish? <<<<

George replied
>>>> Please note the quotations around the words truth and falsehood.
Such
punctuation was meant to convey the usage of these words the naive and
absolute sense you do. It is such naivety and absoluteness that lies at
the
heart of the problems I have with much of your way of thinking and cause
you to be so rude in your responses. On that note, Please feel free to
not
respond to my posts; if they are "gibberish" and "meaningless gab", then
they pose no threat to you.<<<<

You OBVIOUSLY misunderstood what I was doing. I was applying YOUR
epistemology to your statements and it offended you. It offended you
because you are not living by what you teach. You believe that what you
say is truth, yet you say that truth is not absolute. If truth is not
absolute, then you have no basis upon which to be offended. If there is
no
absolute truth, then what I respond to you is ALSO ABSOLUTE GIBBERISH AND
MEANINGLESS GAB. Truth MUST be more than what you say or communication
is
impossible.

Now, I do apologize for offending you--it was an illustration and I
wanted
to see if you really believed your statement that truth is relative apart
from the God's revelation. I found out that you really don't believe
what
you teach! One can't be offended if one thinks truth is not absolute!

I wrote:
>>>>Gee, I didn't know that Islam influenced Paul. Where is my history
book? I
need to check this out.<<<<
>>>Accept for its sardonic and immature content, I do not understand this
reply as pertaining to anything I wrote above. Allah is the God of the
Bible too and Islam's origins are outlined in Biblical history. <<<<

Allah is the God of the Bible????? I will tell you a story. My wife is of
Lebanese descent and one of her relatives, Munir, was the consul for the
Organization of Arab States. When my youngest was born, Munir came over
to
our house and we got into a discussion about what the Bible said about
Jesus. Munir didn't know Islam or the Koran as well as he should have.
He
told me the same thing you did. I told him that the Koran quotes Allah as
denying that He had a son. He didn't believe me and said,'I would like
to
see that in the Koran.' I got my copy of the Koran opened it to Surrah 4
v.
171 where it says:

"O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and
do
not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa
son
of Marium is only an apostle of Allah and His Word which He communicated
to
Marium and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His
apostles,
and say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one God;
far be It from His glory that He should have a son, whatever is in the
heavens and whatever is in the earth is His, and Allah is sufficient for
a
Protector. "

In this passage the followers of the book are christians. Allah says
that
he is unitarian and that he never had a son. Munir was so impressed with
my knowledge of the Koran, that he placed me on the Palestinian mailing
list which for years solicted funds from me for the Palestinian war
effort.
:-( He invited me to dinners where the politics of the middle east were
discussed and I sat next to a fellow that described himself as a
Palestinian freedom fighter. I told him I felt a bit different about
things--it was an interesting dinner time discussion. I never gave any
money but I bet I am on some FBI list now!
:-(

If I recall, the God of the Bible says: This is my son in whom I am well
pleased. You will probably say "Glenn, you think that Allah as described
in the Koran and Jehovah as described in the Bible are different because
you 'naievly' beleive that truth is absolute and have faith in reason."
Yes, if I do away with reason, I can easily accept that Allah and Jehovah
are the same. Silly me.

George wrote:
>>> Yes! It was by the use of Aristotleian-Thomastic reasoning that
Russell showed the inadequacy of basing mathematical proof upon an
axiomatic method of set theory. And in so doing, not only did "arithmetic
became suspect" (paraphrase of ....ah , what was his name? :-) ), but
Russell, inspired Godel to further show - for certain - that in formal
systems, one could never be sure of possessing a completeness in the
axiomatic set that avoids antinomy! So where does this leave us? Contrary
to your sardonic and naive conclusion, their use of reason ironically
refuted rationalism and thereby helped usher in the post-modern age. A
marvelous and inspired feat to be sure! <<<

First not having complete knowledge does not allow us to claim that we
have
NO knowledge. This is the error you are making.

George wrote:
>>>Glenn, I am sorry you fell the need to reduce yourself with sarcastic
hyperbola. Again, I would rather you simply ignored this post if it
irritates you so. <<<

I am sorry that you didn't see that I was applying your epistemology to
your own statements. You should occasionally take stock to see if one's
own epistemology undermines his own views. In your case, your desire to
undermine reason means that you can't be sure of what you say. So why do
you say it with such certainty? Are you the only person in the world
immune to being "decieved " by your faulty reasoning ability? If you
think
that they there are other problems. By having faith in reason, I do not
undermine the arguments I present. Your lack of faith in reason means
that
everything you reason out is suspect---unless you claim an infallible
reasoning ability.

glenn

From: George Andrews <gandrews@as.wm.edu>
To: mortongr@flash.net
Cc: asa@calvin.edu
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1999 10:16:01 -0500
Subject: Re: Only Myths?

Hi Glenn;

mortongr@flash.net wrote:[clipped]

I am sorry Glenn, but the syntax of your first question is puzzling to me
- making
it difficult or impossible to accurately respond to. I believe you are
asking: How
can we cling to theological and religious predications based upon a Bible
that does
not stand the scrutiny of being historically accurate. If I
misunderstood, I
apologize; and as for a response, I believe George M., John Z. and Paul
S. have
adequately done so over the past few weeks.

Your concern over a "disaster of rejecting reason" to purchase an
Emperor's
wardrobe, is unfounded. Recall that I concluded my previous post with the
following:
"Rationality is indispensable for precision in verbal communication
and
interpretation of sense data; however, it is always a function of the
data set at
hand and - most importantly - inherently unsuited for discernment of
absolute
certainty about anything (as Russell and Godel have shown us)."

It is my express intention to undermined any and all FAITH in reason;
which is the
essence of rationalism. Such idolatry is what, I believe, Paul was
referring to
when he concludes that the cross of Christ is - to the Greeks of his time
-
considered as foolishness; which I interpret to read philosophically
unsophisticated and unreasonable.

>[clipped]

>
> Because reason has already been abandoned, Ham can make the statement
he
> does. Reason doesn't matter--it is what the Bible say.
>

This is correct and quite reasonable :-) seeing that both the reformed
and
evangelical views (let me use these distinctions in the broadest of
sense) desire
to take the Bible as their starting points in formulating their world
views.
However, hermeneutics is where the "Y" lies; i.e., Just what is the
Bible saying
and what does it mean to "believe" it?

The thrust of your argument is that since the YEC position presupposes
the Bible,
and they are so prone to improper and poor science, then any an all who
share such
presumptions must be wrong. But such a position, apart from its spurious
character,
implicates your brand of concordism too! You merely point out a truth
that needs to
be highlighted more often: we all share the same goal of taking the Bible
seriously
and predicating Biblical truth to our contemporary world!

>
> As for you, if you don't believe we have an autonomous reason, how do
you
> know you are not being deceived by whatever outside thing is
influencing
> your reason? You can't.

Precisely; by George :-), I think you've got it! As the Bible teaches,
the human
intellect - including mine - is prone to all manner of deceitful
imaginations
concerning the creation. This simply underscores the distinctly christian
view
that without the present work of the Holy Spirit, we will believe a lie
(Romans
1). Furthermore, since all have sinned, we all are incapable of obtaining
the
revelatory truth through any exclusively human effort. This is the
explanation and
origin of atheistic evolution and secular humanism: they simply are lost
and blind
and can't help themselves! The existence of secular humans who are very
adept at
reason is readily understood in light of the revelation that all humans
are image
barriers; saved and unsaved alike. Thus reason is evolution's gift to the
human
race, i.e., the distinguishing characteristic of humanity prior to and
independent
of redemption's work.

So how can we be sure? "The Spirit bears witness to our spirits, that we
are the
children of God." Again, you do not understand Romans 1 and the need for
prevenient
grace.

>[clipped]

I admit I do not keep up with their publications as I am presently
pursuing my own
studies in science, but I do recall reading some nice work in Creation Ex
Nihilo
about Lunar cratering.

>[clipped]
>

Please note the quotations around the words truth and falsehood. Such
punctuation
was meant to convey the usage of these words the naive and absolute sense
you do.
It is such naivety and absoluteness that lies at the heart of the
problems I have
with much of your way of thinking and cause you to be so rude in your
responses. On
that note, Please feel free to not respond to my posts; if they are
"gibberish"
and "meaningless gab", then they pose no threat to you.

A critical realist position, one to which I presently subscribe, is that
the
results of science and theoretical reasoning are models corresponding to
- but
legitimately portraying - some attribute of what is actually out there
when
measured. However, this position does allow for uncertainty and
incompleteness in
understanding. It is the foundational notion of the absolute trust in
reason that
you posses that I am against; an not in the use of reason. As I already
stated.

"Rationality is indispensable for precision in verbal communication
and
interpretation of sense data; however, it is always a function of the
data set at
hand and - most importantly - inherently unsuited for discernment of
absolute
certainty about anything (as Russell and Godel have shown us).

But more on this later.

>
> >[clipped]
>
> Gee, I didn't know that Islam influenced Paul. Where is my history
book? I
> need to check this out.

Accept for its sardonic and immature content, I do not understand this
reply as
pertaining to anything I wrote above. Allah is the God of the Bible too
and Islam's
origins are outlined in Biblical history.

>[clipped]
>

George replied

Yes! It was by the use of Aristotleian-Thomastic reasoning that Russell
showed the
inadequacy of basing mathematical proof upon an axiomatic method of set
theory. And
in so doing, not only did "arithmetic became suspect" (paraphrase of
....ah , what
was his name? :-) ), but Russell, inspired Godel to further show - for
certain -
that in formal systems, one could never be sure of possessing a
completeness in the
axiomatic set that avoids antinomy! So where does this leave us? Contrary
to your
sardonic and naive conclusion, their use of reason ironically refuted
rationalism
and thereby helped usher in the post-modern age. A marvelous and inspired
feat to
be sure!

The irony of this inspired feat is only further heighten by the fact that
Russell
was an atheist! (To me, it reveals something akin to a sense of humor in
the doings
of Russell's creator!), Russell, by virtue of his humanity was an image
barer and
thereby a rational being. His atheism does not preclude divine influence
of
inspiration. Again it is your naive assumptions upon divine inspiration
that cause
your conclusions and sarcasm. God uses unbelievers to forward his purpose
on a
regular bases as Biblical history shows.

Glenn, I am sorry you fell the need to reduce yourself with sarcastic
hyperbola.
Again, I would rather you simply ignored this post if it irritates you
so.

Sincerely in God's Grace;
George A.

<br>>[gobs clipped--repetition]
<br>>