RE: [asa] The empirical basis of knowledge

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Mon Mar 19 2007 - 21:57:11 EDT

For Iain, Merv, David Siemans, David W.
Iain Strachan wrote:
>>>What empirical basis is there in the decision to become a Christian? At
the end of the day, one may see evidence that pulls you in that direction,
but the crucial deciding factor was (I always understood) conviction by the
Holy Spirit. How do you measure that empirically? How do you measure a
"leap of faith" empirically? <<<
In my personal case, it was empirically obvious that the Christians were
happy, I wasn't and I wanted what they had. Some will say that the
empirical data for the resurrection is good enough for them, for indeed,
with out that empirical claim of a risen Lord, Christianity would have been
still borne.
Merv wrote:
>>>>Okay, Glenn How about this one: "The only real knowledge we can have
must come from empirical evidence." Actually, while I may be inclined to
agree in some ways with that statement, I am not the one who made it. You
did. So your claim to know this is an answer to your own challenge. There is
no empirical evidence you can present to address this since it is the
necessity empirical evidence itself that is in question --- UNLESS you
insist that a lack of a non-philosophical counter example counts as a kind
of "empirical" evidence. But if you are standing on a mere failure of your
opponents to produce a counter-example, that seems weak at best. And yet you
seem to be claiming quite strongly to know this. What is your empirical
basis for this knowledge claim? <<<

I do like this one and it comes close to beating me back--self
referentiality often does things like this. Now, I could say that I don't
really know this as a fact but am merely asserting it and thus it isn't the
refutation of itself (and there is some truth in that statement). I can't
think of anything I know with certainty that I didn't learn through
experience. And because of this, I assert that this is a universal, but in
reality I don't know it in which case, your absolutely ingenious effort

Kant would say we have synthetic a priori knowledge, but that never struck
me quite as certain knowledge but more of a perceptual filter (but then, I
am very rusty on Kant)

this should answer David O.'s point. Indeed, his quotation of me says it

"I claimed that empirical data is all we have upon which to know things

And claimed is all I did. I didn't know it.

>>>>>And I am still interested in your own take, not only on floating
axe-heads but the sun standing still in the sky & such things. Those are
straight-forward claims in Scripture the latter of which is physically
fantastical -- and would seem to have no empirical basis except for our
faith in the Scriptural testimony by itself. Since I have only had time to
read a small fraction of your lengthy posts, I apologize if you've already
thoroughly hashed this elsewhere.I am not just being rhetorical in all this
-- I really want to know. Either I need to be desperately praying -- "God, I
believe; help thou my unbelief", or I need to pray: "God, thank you for the
human faculty of reason -- help me to use it to your glory." (or most likely
I need to pray both prayers.)<<<<

My main point is that if God can raise a dead man, and thus can perform
miracles, what is the big deal about believing miracles. It seems
inconsistent to ad hoc pick and chose the miracles we beleive in in the
Bible. The Bible ain't a cafeteria where we can go down the aisle and say,
'give me a little bit of resurrection, none of that talking snake, a wee bit
of floating ax head' and still remain faithful to principle. Either miracles
exist or they don't. If they don't, then the resurrection isn't real. If
they do, then we need to have mighty good reasons (other than embarassement)
for rejecting other miracles in the Bible.

As to lengthy posts, the stupid rule on this list is that one can only post
4 times a day. It is supposed to keep people from having to down load
megabytes. But, if everyone did what I do, then it saves nothing except
make for lengthy posts. The rule makes us feel good but accomplishes little
but the stifling of discussion.



DAvid Siemans wrote:

>What I am most sure of are matters which are nonempirical--tautologies,
whether logical or semantic. Most of the
>empirical matters I think I know come from reports of others who have
observed them or confirmed the statements
>of theoretical derivations. Dave

All triangles have three sides--a wonderful tautology, but before it is an
intelligible sentence one must know what a triangle is by observation. The
following shape has 3 sides |_| and isn't a triangle.
With malice toward none, with charity for all. That is a semantic example of
a tautology. But can one really say that he KNOWS that? I would need
observation to know if Mr. Lincoln really was a person with malic toward
none, with charity for all.
David W wrote:
>>>>Glenn in the case above I think, in general, their has to be
communication of love as well as the actions you describe. The actions while
necessary do not seem sufficient to infer love. You probably can/will argue
that verbal or written communication etc is empirical.I think that all
knowledge involves a step into the unknown and sometimes the step can be a
fairly long leap. However, I find that people who talk about a leap in spite
of the evidence or even against the evidence have little credibility, at
least with me.<<<<

I have to agree with what you say. Yes, communication is definitely
empirical. One can set up a decibal meter to measure the loudness of the
statement "I love you". And leaping in spite of the evidence, is often
stupid. In spite of the evidence that I am standing on the precipice, I
will leap into the unknown. Such actions make for short lives.

>>>some sense all of God's dealing with us finite beings involves some
amount of accommodation. However, historical accommodation seems to be the
issue that has been concerning us recently on this list.Quite a while back
you asked what leads one to accept historical accommodation in the first n
chapters of Genesis. I have thought about this a lot and have an answer that
satisfies at least me, although I suspect that some on this list with more
expertise in these areas will find it wanting, my training is as an engineer
and mathematician not philosophy or world view studies. I hope to write a
note to the list trying to state my thoughts but not tonight. Since, to my
sorrow and loss you are leaving this list tomorrow I will try to remember to
send you a copy off list.<<<

Please do. Unfortunately, I can only take limited doses of this list any
more and I find far more interesting debating grounds where they use,
amazingly, modern listserve technology where one can post pictures and post
as many times or as few as one wants. No one has to down load anything other
than the web page

Now to try to answer your question:

>>>now that my redeemer liveth. (at least I am willing to stake my life on
it.)-Biblical evidence is necessary but not sufficient in terms that it is
generally historically accurate, although many things are hard to show much
evidence for. <<<

I would argue that even Biblical evidence is empirical--you read it on the
physical pages of the Bible and what knowledge you gained you gained through
your senses. If you had never read the Bible, you would not have a fully
worked out Christian theology or the stories of the Bible implanted on the
retinas of your eyes.

>>>mind there are two big miracles in the Bible and that once one accepts
those, that things like floating axe heads are noise. In many cases the
authors of scripture describe what appeared to happen to them and do not
provide a scientifically valid description. <<<

Absolutely agree with you. If one accepts the resurrection, floating ax
heads are miniscule by comparison but we strain the gnats and swallow the
camel. And I agree that the authors are not providing a scientific
description and are describing what they saw, but that is not a reason, imo,
for some to claim that it never happened. As I have often said, God needs
to communicate a simple, but true statement of what happens in creation.
"arth! Bring forth living creatures" is such a statement. It is not a
science book explanation but captures the origin of life and evolution quite
simply (or at least could be read that way). Same with the non-moving sun

>>me the accuracy of the history is of more importance than the accuracy of
their interpretation of what they say.<<<

Amen AMen,AMEn AMEN! Now some will say that this is a big loophole through
which one can reject the miracles, but in point of fact, if the authors of
Scripture are lying to us, we are in trouble. They have to at least believe
they are telling us what they really saw and what they think really
happened. And, there must be some basis in fact for why they report what
they do. Because if they are making it all up, they are lying and we are in

>>>The two big miracles are: "In the beginning God" The resurrection of
Christ.-The message in the Bible seems true in terms of the human condition
(C S Lewis' argument...)-I believe that I have seen God acting in my life
and in the life of others.-There is also the witness of the spirit.Some of
the evidence is empirical, some that the world view makes sense
(empirical??) and some is none empirical or that is how I would see the
witness... of the spirit.<<

One of the real questions in my mind about my own assertion is the status of
subjectively empirical data. I know what I think and feel. That is not a
question for me. But it is empirical to me but not to you and vice versa.
So, even thoughts, feelings etc have an emirical base. Descartes said
"Dubito ergo cogito, cogito ergo sum" The doubting was empirical (and yes I
am aware that Descartes is a Rationalist.



They're Here: The Pathway Papers
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Adam, Apes and Anthropology

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Received on Mon Mar 19 21:58:37 2007

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