Metaphysical Masturbation And The Basis For Logic

Christian apologists like to delve into philosophical problems in a similar vein to how they like to delve into scientific findings. Not to understand them, but to point out flaws that are somehow supposed to prove that god exists. These arguments are classical god of the gaps arguments, but the gaps are in human reasoning, not in scientific knowledge.

A primary argument that is put forward is basically this: All knowledge is based on human reasoning, but what are the premises of logic? How can we prove human reasoning to be valid? In their case god is placed as the ultimate first premise, the perfect basis for logic and reason. What can the opposition say?

The truth is that there are no final definitive answers for this. You cannot prove logic with logic. If logic dictates that evidence proves something, then even evidence cannot prove logic. Logic is purely axiomatic, we accept its premises without proving them. Does this mean that everything we know could be false? Yes. Everything we know could be false. I am going to attempt an analogy:

Think of the universe as a machine, our senses as lights on the machine and our bodies as switches on the machine. There are many switches and lights, and things are possibly happening in the machine that we cannot see. What we can do is activate switches by our actions. When we activate a single switch a specific light will come on. When we activate another switch another light comes on. When we activate switches in certain rhythms or patterns certain sequences of lights and colours of lights are activated in return. Do we truly know how the machine works? Are the lights the function of the machine, or are things happening behind them? What can we tell about what is happening in the machine based purely on the lights?

The answer to this is that we can only know anything about our own internal reality. We can only see the lights and activate the switches. Many mysteries could lie inside the machine, but we simply can't see it. This is a barrier between our senses and the external universe which is called the phaneron.We cannot know for certain whether anything beyond it exists, just like we cannot know whether there is anything happening in the machine other than the activation of the lights based on the switches we activate. In truth all we are could exist only in our minds. We imagine ourselves and the world around us.That is the job of our brains.

There is a second important component to this analogy, already alluded to in the preceding paragraph. When we activate certain switches, certain lights go on. Gradually we learn how the machine works and we create methods for finding new workings of the machine. As time passes by we learn more complexities of it. Maybe one day we will figure out what is happening inside it, or maybe, that there is no inside to it at all. This is basically what the activity of science is. If we were completely wrong about logic, would we have been able to make the machine work in the way we wanted it to? Although not entirely improbable the probability of this is low. Whenever you are wrong about the workings of something eventually the error gets multiplied and everything you think should work fails horribly. If you are wrong about the operation of a stove, it will burn you, if you are wrong about baking a cake, it will flop.The basic advantage of science is that we can bring the effects we intend on the world with exceeding and improving accuracy.

Happily we have an example of a system where the tenets were wrong on the other hand, causing its consequent failures to multiply into madness and absurdity. That system is religion. Religion bases all reasoning on the existence of god. Hundreds of years later we can look back and name the period when we tried religious epistemology the Dark Ages. Theologians desperately pressed buttons but their theories of how the machine worked was wrong. The lights would flash randomly at them, alarming them and causing them to become angry at each other and engage in wars and atrocities. Nothing worked. Gradually however, as the god premise was slowly and painstakingly removed from philosophy, and science was born, the lights started to come on predictably and in spectacular fashion. It seemed as though we may never know what happens in the machine, or whether the machine actually exists, but we at least knew that we could finally start to learn how to operate it.

Where does that leave us. What is the basis for logic? We don't know. Does that make it valid to posit that the basis for logic must be god? No. Did the existence of god as a premise for arguments yield useful results? Mostly no (some by accident). Did science and scientific scepticism yield working results? Yes. Is there a reason to believe that logic and science works? Yes. Why? Because "science, it works... bitches!"