Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Belief in God, the UCCF apologetics website, has a good, meaty article by William Lane Craig here on religious epistemology. It covers lots of ground, including many of the issues raised by commenters here. If you'd rather listen than read, it's available to download as an MP3 file, apparently.

On the challenge represented by logical positivism to religious belief (which still represents the heart of the objection of many people from a science background to non-materialistic philosophy), he says:
In general, verificationist analyses of meaning ran into two insuperable problems: (1) The verification/falsification principle was too restrictive. It was quickly realized that on such theories of meaning vast tracts of obviously meaningful discourse would have to be declared meaningless, including even scientific statements, which the principle had aimed to preserve. (2) The principle was self-refuting. The statement “In order to be meaningful, an informative sentence must be capable in principle of being empirically verified/falsified" is itself incapable of being verified or falsified. Therefore, it is by its own lights a meaningless statement–or, at best, an arbitrary definition which we are free to reject. The inadequacies of the positivistic theory of meaning led to the complete collapse of Logical Positivism during the second half of the twentieth century...
Unfortunately, the word didn't really get out.

On whether a presumption of atheism is reasonable, in the absence of immediate evidence to the contrary, William Lane Craig writes:
Michael Scriven, for example, maintained that in the absence of evidence rendering the existence of some entity probable, we are justified in believing that it does not exist, provided that (1) it is not something which might leave no traces, and (2) we have comprehensively surveyed the area where the evidence would be found if the entity existed. But if this is correct, then our justification for atheism depends on (1) the probability that God would leave more evidence of His existence than what we have and (2) the probability that we have comprehensively surveyed the field for evidence of His existence That puts a different face on the matter! Suddenly the presumer of atheism, who sought to shirk his share of the burden of proof, finds himself saddled with the very considerable burden of proving (1) and (2) to be the case.
The author also explains why Pascal's Wager is not a good argument for Christianity, before explaining Plantinga's reformed epistemology, and extending it.