Creationism: Atheism, the Problem of Induction and How Christ is Needed to Make Sense of Everything

Introduction

There is an obstacle in the path of materialism, naturalism, and atheism that is often overlooked, but what I would consider to be the their greatest challenge to consistency and rationality. If you are not familiar with the above mentioned terms, feel free to take some time and learn them as it would be helpful in this discussion.

A man named David Hume described it as the problem of induction, where he essentially described the non-rationality of everyday life. This sounds vague and perhaps a little 'heady', but I will try and describe what I understand concerning the issue, apply it to our every day life and tie it in with what it has to do with Jesus Christ.

Another controversial article can be found here.

Setting Up the Problem

Induction

A practical way of describing induction would be: drawing a general truth from limited and minimal experiences. For instance, you do not check the sturdiness or structural integrity of every chair you come across. You have drawn a general truth, 'Chairs will support my weight and girth,' from your experience, 'most every chair that I have sat in has supported my weight so far.'

A formal line of reasoning might follow as such:

  • Every chair I have come across has supported my my weight
  • In general, chairs will support my weight -or- the next chair I sit in will support my weight

When we do anything it seems we tend to assume things will carry on the way they always have. When I fill my car up with gasoline, I assume that gasoline has remained combustible just like it has the hundreds of times before. When I make a cup of coffee I assume liquid afterwards is a mixture of the water going through the coffee beans, not a pot of anti-freeze or some other dangerous chemical. In fact we live just about every aspect of our life with these mini-assumptions that we are confident in. I walk and I expect my legs to carry me, I talk and I can expect my words to not change and what comes out is what I meant to come out (well most of the time). We may not have examined our life this way but we quietly and confidently live like this. I do not check my legs for each step to make sure I can put my weight onto it. I do not check the chemical make-up of my coffee to make sure it isn’t lethal. I speak and I get what I want to come out… usually.

We often do this because a lot of our experience has affirmed our future actions. Right? Take for instance the walking bit. I do not test my legs for stability because I just used them and they were working just fine yesterday, last night, two hours ago or to get me to my laptop. They worked just fine then, that means they will work just fine in a moment when I take a potty break.

This is, in a sense, science and how the practice of science is done. There is a hypothesis, it is tested and then we confirm and hold the hypothesis as true. Well we treat the hypothesis as true and behave as though it is true until something comes along and the hypothesis is changed.


Applying the Scientific Method

Consider the truths discovered with the scientific method and see how they are applied to the vast universe we never interact with.

For instance, and for simplicity's sake, consider the discovery of DNA. If I asked you a simple question, "Do all living organisms have DNA?" You might respond with a confident, "Yes."

But how are you so certain? Have you microscopically examined every living organism? Or do you hold this as true because it seems that every living organism that has been examined so far for DNA has had DNA.

This is a fair and very useful way of thinking! In fact, medical science depends greatly on induction. Considering all the chemicals we put into our bodies to interact with other chemicals greatly depends on the assumption they will continue to react the same way. We don't run blood tests and body scans on a person before they take an aspirin. We simply assume because the chemicals in aspirin have interacted with chemicals in our bodies in a way to relieve pain in the past, that they will continue to do so now and in the future.

I hope this makes sense.

The Problem

I understand I haven't gone into great depth with the scientific method, but my intention is not to teach the full breadth of the method, but to demonstrate how induction is extremely important in making truth claims (facts). To make progress in the argument though, the real issue is not whether one inducts well, but if one can give a satisfactory basis for why they can induce.

Now let's return to the chair example and use an easier object, one that I have seen used to make sense of this idea: snow. We introduced the chair to make an example of how we judge the sturdiness of future chairs we encounter. We will use snow to make the same point about unobserved 'matters of fact' and the future. So follow along:

  • In my experience snow has been cold.

Because of this we conclude:

  • All snow is cold -or- the next bit of snow I encounter will be cold.

Can you see how we do this with most everything in our lives when approaching future events? We can make it even more simple.

  • In my experience all A's are B's
  • I will conclude that all A's are B's -or- the next A I come across will be a B. (future)

Take a moment and notice something, it would be easy to point out that my conclusion is not valid, since it would be logical and acceptable for an A to be something else. This has to do more with 'formal validity', a technical term, but it also carries over into the real world.

If A is snow and B is cold, and this is where we stop with the example above, it would be logical and reasonable to assume that there is snow I haven't experienced that is not cold. So we need to introduce a premise, or another truth to make sure our inductive reasoning isn't made irrational right here.

  • In my experience snow has been cold
  • Nature is Uniform (has been in my experience)
  • All snow is cold -or- the next bit of snow I encounter will be cold.

There is the premise that makes induction viable. In every instance we use induction, we assume that Nature is Uniform, or assume that since nature has been uniform in my experience so far, that it is representative of the whole of nature. (everything unexperienced)

Since we introduced the middle premise, this validates our above line of logic or syllogism; but this is where the problem shows itself. There is really no reason to accept the Uniformity of Nature. The first premise is not in question, but if we want to accept the last premise, we need to find a reason to accept the middle premise.

The Heart of the Problem

What Reason Do We Have to Believe in the Uniformity of Nature?

To be honest and straightforward, the atheist, agnostic, materialist, and naturalist have no good reason to accept that nature is uniform, or their experience of nature represents the vastness of nature or that even mankind's experience of nature is representative of the universe.

So to clarify, the uniformity of nature is a claim concerning unobserved matters of fact, more particularly, the future. Since all beliefs or conclusions concerning the future are based on induction, to give a rationale for believing in the uniformity of nature, you would need to argue inductively to do so. Since the uniformity of nature figures as a premise in any inductive argument, all the arguments for the uniformity of nature would be circular. To conclude, there are no non-circular arguments for the uniformity of nature.


How is this Significant

Now take for a moment every arguing atheist out there who might say something like, "Science has championed religion! No longer do we need that faith based drivel because we have hardcore empirical fact."

They might say something like this, yet the very basis for what they believe about the world is based on an unverifiable assumption. The atheist will claim that religious folk have no rational or logical reasons to believe in God, yet they make this claim from a foundation they cannot account for. The atheist who propounds a naturalistic or materialist worldview must either submit they are irrational or that they are inconsistent.

Now Christian, this puts the ball in your court. You do have a foundation for believing in the uniformity of nature and it can be simply stated; God has created nature in such a way. He created all of nature to behave according to His will, which we have seen to be consistent and reliable. In fact, Christianity is the only worldview than can consistently and reliably account for the uniformity of nature and to take this one step further, any person who behaves as though nature is uniform borrows from the Christian worldview.

Yes, the atheist who says there is no God and propounds any such belief as a result of experience essentially sits in the lap of the creator God and slaps Him in the face. They ascend to the roof of a house with a ladder and once they reach the top they kick away the ladder, claim it never was and begin describing how they got their by some other means.

Do you like to argue with the atheist? Stop doing so about trivial things and first make them give a rational basis for their worldview. Unless you like arguing with irrational folk, save yourself the time. Once they understand their worldview is irrationally based, what objection of irrationality can they make to the believer? Especially to the Christian who can give a reason for the uniformity of nature.

Conclusion

Please note that claiming we believe things will continue to be the way they are because they have always been that way still assumes the uniformity of nature. For things to continue on the way they have been means all of nature will continue on the way it has.

To say that we are never certain about the future, it is all probability is still assuming the uniformity of nature. For something to be highly probably, there is an assumption that the factors surrounding an event will remain uniform. Even to say something is improbable is assuming things will continue the way they are as to make said event unlikely.

In either example, there is still a call to explain the rationale for assuming the uniformity of nature.

Please feel free to comment for clarification.

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Comments 12 comments

mathsciguy profile image

mathsciguy 4 years ago from Here, there, and everywhere

Did you know that most scientists are aware of the limitations of induction? I had never known anything about David Hume, but had previously studied Karl Popper's ideas about what can constitute scientific "truth." This is, in fact, the primary reason why it seems like scientific "knowledge" changes from day to day. This is why science cannot make any claims to "truth," but can only make and refine theories to better and better describe the way that the world seems to work.

For this reason, it is unwise to try to claim that no god could possibly exist. Bertrand Russell described this effect as like a "cosmic teapot" which could be orbiting the sun, undetectable by observation or scientific inquiry. There is no way to logically refute the possibility, but most people would reject such a belief without some sort of experimental or theoretical support for it.


Millercl profile image

Millercl 4 years ago Author

Yeah, was it Popper who introduced the concept of falsification? (Look at me asking and I can just google it.)


mathsciguy profile image

mathsciguy 4 years ago from Here, there, and everywhere

Yes, that's the one - although I'm not sure if he really introduced it as much as just put it into the context of scientific inquiry.


Millercl profile image

Millercl 4 years ago Author

There is a pretty common objection to falsification and that is to simply question whether it is falsifiable or not.

To even make theories about how the world works, you have to assume the world will continue behaving in the same way it has in the past and present. This is still unexplained in anything Popper introduced.

Even probability or possibility are measured assuming the uniformity of nature. I feel if I were to ask you to explain the uniformity of nature, you might not be able to explain it, or the explanation you give would essentially be irrational.

Now what I am saying is that a Christian has a rational explanation that consistently fits within his/her worldview. Whether you want to believe/accept it or not is a different story.


Carneades-Georgia profile image

Carneades-Georgia 4 years ago from Augusta, Georgia

One question begs by invoking God to solve the question about induction as one first has to account for HIm as He is formost nat a basic belief,despite Alvin Plantinga. That is one has to use induction to justify arguments for HIm.

For now, that it is heuristic is its justification: again it works. Another problem with the God-idea is that one has to illustrate why not full animism or polytheism instead of theism.

John Loftus's outsiders' test ever arises,

Yes, the sun will not only come up tomorrow but for another few billions years acccording to science.

Evolution depends on the uniformity of Nature.

Now to disconfirm all this, one needs a Popperian crtirion that somehow somethng could unforseeabley keep the sun from its path. Could some stupendous, fire-resistant comet knock the sun out of its orbit to another galaxy?

No, inducton and reason depend on naturalism at work!To query about them as a threat to naturalism means to reject reason and natural causes1

Lamberth's the Malebranche Reductio notes that Nocholas Malebranche claims that ti's God who effectuates all causes directly when we just think that we cause actions; ti's He who puts the eight ball whereever it lands instead of us.

Alexander Smotltzyk, German journalist,has this argumet: God is neither a principe nor an entity nor a person but instead is the ultimate explanation [ as Leibniz claims]. I query: if not an entity nor a personal being, then He has no power to effectuate Himself as that!

Either way, reductio ad absurdum appears to handle both.

Science finds no divine intent such that He cannot be any sort of Primary Cause and Ultimate Explanation. And the kicker is that He'd depend on regularity, induction, natural laws in order to use intent had He it!

To blspheme reason still to insist on His intent for induction and other matters contradicts science instead of complementing it.

Again, you have to use induction and natural phenomena to vouchsafe His very existence!

Science makes claims to tentative truth. Now, it can justly claim that evolution itself will ever be true but science will ever tell us more about its components such that their truth will change with perspective.

Carneades of old queries if God is infinite, then He occupies all space and this cannot move and thus is limited and restricted. That shows him as the first ignostic.

Again, reality intrudes upon God-talk insted of the other way around!

Oh, and as far as Plantinga's argument from reason, would he allege that demons might interfere with our faculties as he allegs they might with natural evils? The devil-ideas is another one of the mysteries around Him the greatest mystery, introduced as the personal explanation, as Billy Lane and Rich Swinburne so claim, but in the end means no more than a square circle and has no more power than a rabbit's foot!

No, He cannot answer the problem of induction!

Wh not Allah or Bhrama instead of Yahweh the author of good and evil?

By what mechanisms would He operate- by the magic of let it be?

Your worldview is parasitic on mine!

It thrills me to see how supernaturalists can so lose connection with induction and deduction!

And Reichenbach's argument is that as Existence is all, no transcendent being can exist- yes,Carneades!That is the Multiverse is all.Science finds nothng else.

Thanks.

As a Coffee Pary member I encourage civility!However, I loom large against certain aposlogists as to their arguments.


Millercl profile image

Millercl 4 years ago Author

Slow down Carneades, if I were to say "I believe in Christianity and it is true because it works," then you would have a hissy fit!

So is that your answer for why science can assume the uniformity of nature? "It works"


Sooner28 4 years ago

Let's assume that I completely accept your conclusion, that God is the best explanation for the uniformity of nature. This immediately means God is completely immoral, for God has made nature uniformly harsh to human beings.

There are genetic defects, natural disasters, heat strokes, and common diseases such as cancer and heart disease that are UNIFORMLY AND CONSISTENTLY part of nature. If you would like to insert God as a best explanation feel free, but you also are giving God the direct responsibility for all of the rather troublesome things he has thus inflicted on human beings in a highly consistent way, since he is the creator.


Millercl profile image

Millercl 4 years ago Author

Sooner28,

Thanks for commenting and sharing. I am not trying to play a game with what I say next, but I feel like you cannot object unless you can demonstrate that what you feel is immoral actually is. I don't think you can consistently do so without the Christian God. How do you know what is moral and immoral?

To address the second portion, genetic defects, natural disasters, common disease, etc, are consistent with a consistent with a Christian worldview. We believe there is a curse on this world as a result of sin, and said problems are the manifestations. You are right to say that God is responsible, but you can't say that is wrong for the reason I challenged you above.

For example, if you are a naturalist, what is there that is truly unnatural? To submit to naturalism in a sense traps you in a worldview that must submit that anything that happens is 'natural' and neither right or wrong. (I don't know where you stand... so just let me know what you think)


Sooner28 4 years ago

I do want to compliment your writing in this hub. It's very clear and readable.

I understand it's not a game. As a philosophy major, we always get bad reputations for playing "word games." But these alleged "games" are argumentation, and are hopefully either causing people to think, or helping them accept an argument that gets them closer to the truth. And your questions are perfectly reasonable to me.

You asking me how I know what is moral or immoral is leading down the path of you asking me what basis I have to make any moral judgment. As a non-believer, I clearly have no basis whatsoever! Not that I can't be moral, but that the grounding for moral actions simply does not exist for me, according to this line of reasoning. I've encountered this argument before from William Lane Craig and others. And I do think it's a very intriguing question. My response is probably going to be obvious, but it's the Euthyphro problem. If God is the basis of your morality, then God can order any action he desires, such as killing babies or raping women. If God is not the basis and God simply "recognizes" moral actions, then God is not needed for morality whatsoever. Either way, it's bad for the theist. The only grounding I see for morality from a non-theist perspective is a natural basis, and human experience. We are all, fundamentally speaking, much more similar than we may want to admit. Morality comes from that basis. And if you press me on this, and claim that this is not the same type of grounding God provides, I will readily admit it, but I have avoided the Euthyphro problem and God's arbitrary commands being unquestionably accepted.

As to the second point, I in no way mean offense, but I cannot accept Christianity as an explanation. If we get into this discussion, I will post troublesome verses, you will say I am taking them out of context, or give me some argument about how Jesus changed everything, then I will quote from the New Testament, and you will probably find a clever way to escape the objection. If we want to get anywhere on this, in my opinion it's better to stick with a generic theism rather than a specific religious tradition.

I would say I am a naturalist in the sense that I think that whatever exists is "natural." So space, time, whatever the case may be. I would also take a consequentialist view of morality. But natural does not necessarily have to be observable under a microscope. IF time travel ends up being possible, I'm sure it would challenge many preconceptions many have.

As a non-theist, I would have no trouble saying genetic defects and natural disasters are not evil, they just are, because I have no belief that God is in control of their occurrences. It saddens me when people suffer because of them, but all that can be done to change it is advances in medicine and technology.

But from a theistic perspective, God is in control of all of this. If I were to create the world, I would not design it as so. With a "designer" supposedly in charge of such an environment, he would bear responsibility.


Carneades-Georgia profile image

Carneades-Georgia 4 years ago from Augusta, Georgia

Sooner28,Google covenant morality for humanity -the presumption of humanism for my account about consequentialist morality.

Yes, God would be such1 And per the Star Trek argument, He cannot be perfect, and so cannot be himself and exist as He made no perfection as the perfect being would perforce had to do!

Carneades, the first ignostic, dispose of theism: we are his heirs.

Amongst his other begged questions, Aquinas errs by claiming that God's nature is good. Definition,faith and postulation cannot instantiate Him!

Again , He' depend on the inherent to Nature the natural laws,causes and such, that He'd be the secondary cause!

Again, per Malebranche and Smoltczyk, He has no functions, and thus cannot exist. We no more need Him as the Primary Cause than we need gremlins and demons! He functions as a married bachelor. Google the ignostic-Ockham and also the presumption of naturalism to see that that indeed, He is that married bachelor or square circle1 Gregory Dawes goes at length in " Theism and Explanation ' to reveal Him as no explanation. Contra Swinburne and Craig , that personal explanation ranks as superstition in that it reflects reduced animism, one spirit behind all Nature than the many in full animism, functioning the same.


Millercl profile image

Millercl 4 years ago Author

@Sooner: Thank you for the compliment! I try really hard to be understandable if not agreeable.

I am glad that you see what I mean concerning a 'basis for morality.' I understand the Euthyphro idea, though I have never heard it called that.. I think I have read Bertrand Russell presenting something of the sort.

I would have to remain within the Christian confines of my understanding of God, because I don't believe in the other perspectives. So, when I make my points, it isn't to convince you to believe, but rather to show you Christianity is a consistent worldview. (I feel consistency is the issue here.)

So the God of the bible is the basis for morality and whatever He commands is right and good. If you disagree, that is fine, but why?

For instance, if I said I have measuring tape and I showed you what an inch is then you responded and said, "That is not an inch." I would want you to show me why you don't believe that is an inch and if you haven't any reason to believe it isn't an inch other than by what you feel, a proper response from me would simply to say, "I feel that it is an inch." (Does that make sense?)

I understand you don't agree with Christianity and you feel it is wrong, so we are either working with two different measuring tapes or you need to show me how my perspective contradicts itself using its own values.

For real, let me know what you think.

@Carneades:

I feel like you are really smart, but it seems like a lot of what you type is really jumbled...

I feel like a lot of the guys you cite have really engaged theism, but not Christian theism. I will jump on board and show how silly it is to believe in some vague undefined God, but please, interact with what I have put. Also, to help me out, do it one portion at a time.


Carneades-Georgia profile image

Carneades-Georgia 4 years ago from Augusta, Georgia

I use the measuring tapes of rationalism and skepticism.Can reason support the claim? Can we find out why?

Again,people have to use induction to claim that He exists,not question beggingly use Him to justify it! Thus, you yourself illustrate why induction works per the scientific method, not by that cult leader of yore.

All theology depends on vacuity about Him in the end as the incompatability arguments so illuminate.

My previous remark note that Star Trek one as as an incompatibility argument.

The logical argument from evil does that as Fr. Meslier's the problem of Heaven validates.

References are to substantiate better my remarks or just to add to them.

Thanks.

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