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Jeff at The Dawn Treader has posted a very good four part series up on the subject of the Criterion, or how we can claim to know anything.

See the following –

  1. The problem of the Criterion, part one
  2. The problem of the Criterion, part two
  3. The problem of the Criterion, part three
  4. The problem of the Criterion, part four

None of the posts are too long and Jeff is very clear and able in his writing, so by all means have a look. It’s an interesting subject.

I’m still working on it myself, but I am inclined to agree with him in that there are certain things that we just know. Basic maths are the best example of things that we can all see very clearly and which are not in serious dispute. I believe that there is more that we know, much of it with varying degrees of confidence. I would offer that the cloudiness of our vision is an effect of the Fall. Despite that, we have moments of Grace when things do become clearer. It is very difficult to convince others who have not experienced it to concede that we have anything at all. All we can point to is the many others who have said the same, and to the weakness of the alternatives – what Jeff calls the skepitcal approach and scientific methodism. Tradition is the best guide that what we think we have been given by Grace is in fact a gift of Grace, and it can act as a bridge to those who cannot yet see it clearly.

Returning to the subject of Intelligent Design, I want to point out that I think it is actually two things. One is that it is a truth claim about the world we inhabit. As I suggested last night, I think whether one reads evolution as materialistic or designed has much to do with how one fits the data – is the glass half full (design) or half empty (materialism)? The question can’t properly be solved by the addition of new data, unless perhaps the data it is something like a stone engraved with the following message – “I did not design the world. Signed, God.” Otherwise, it is a question of interpretation.

There is some coherence to both approaches. As I’ve written before, however, I don’t think coherence alone should be considered sufficient proof. I think there are implications of the material approach that make it dubious. I’m not appealing to the consequences of belief; am I am saying that if you accept it you also need to accept some weird things in order to maintain coherence, such as a lack of free will or the ability to know anything absolutely. And in accepting them you have not broken free of the necessity of faith.

Secondly, Intelligent Design is a method of argumentation – the teleological method, which is out of favour today. When teleology is questioned a common approach is to point to someone using the method to prove something obviously suspect or even plainly wrong. This does not discredit the method any more than a false syllogism repudiates logic.

The purpose of something is A and B.
Therefore, Y:
Not A
Not B
Therefore, not Y

This is a valid refutation. It says nothing about being unable to attribute any purpose to anything, however. There may yet be a purpose to the object in question that we will assent to. Of course someone using scientific methodism will not consent to things having purpose if he can’t squeeze the idea of purpose through the evaluative criteria he has set up. That’s not a refutation, however, because his criteria are just as unfounded as the notion of purpose. His criteria and the question of purpose are both questions of faith.

Without faith, thought can’t get off the ground. It becomes an infinite regress: “I think that I think, that I think… ” Richard Dawkins, a famous proponent of material evolution, is as guilty of curve fitting as Behe when he goes on and on about how it is possible that radomness, given enough time, etc. Well, yes. It is possible – and possibility is not proof. Ultimately proof comes from faith. There is either and unmoved mover who is the Criterion, who gives us radical freedom and true knowledge in a caused universe, or there is no Criterion and we are robots fumbling in the dark. Without Grace, it’s tough to pick. With Grace, it’s not so tough.

The shrouded Church during Lent is hard to look at because it’s a reminder of what we have been given, and what we are at risk of losing: Grace, from which we gain our very existence, our freedom, our ability to know, and our ability to love and be loved.


Written by Curt

February 8, 2005 at 10:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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