Friday, January 18, 2013

Why Evidentialism Sucks (p.3)

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Why Evidentialism Sucks
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How Can the Believer Be Justified?

How could a theist be justified in believing in God without evidence or proof? Here’s one way: God designed humans (whether via evolution or otherwise) in such a way that when our cognitive faculties are functioning properly, we intuitively apprehend God. True enough, a pretty sizeable portion of humanity has believed in God or at least something like God. I thus think this hypothesis is probable, at least if God exists. An atheist will find the hypothesis highly improbable of course, but it seems that about the only way to disprove the hypothesis is to show that God doesn’t exist, not to argue that people are irrational for believing in God even if God exists, because if God does exist then our intuitions of his existence are veridical and likely the direct or indirect product of God himself.

What about the Christian embracing Christianity without evidence? The same sort of situation for theism applies here. If Christianity is true, it’s plausible that the Holy Spirit encourages the believer when he or she hears the message and receives it. On this view, the intuition that the Christian faith is true is thus at least in part the result of the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. The atheist may find this view implausible, but again the best way to refute it seems to be refuting Christianity itself, and skip arguing for the idea that Christians are irrational even if Christianity is true. It’s relatively trivial to come up with a flavor of Christianity that is rational to believe if that flavor of Christianity is true (e.g. the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit thing).

Conclusion

Evidentialism sucks. Even if it’s well-intentioned, it sucks. The infinite regress problem (evidence for one’s evidence for one’s evidence...) is enough to make it unworkable, but evidentialism also runs into trouble from mathematics. Consider for example the hypothesis you are recently created (say, within the past few years) brain in a vat of chemicals hooked up to a supercomputer that gives you all the memories, sense experiences, and intuitions you now have. We are rational to believe that crazy hypothesis is false, and yet mathematics shows us that we can’t really have any evidence against that hypothesis (since any memory, sense experience, or intuition you have is predicted by said crazy hypothesis).

The upshot is that it is rational to believe some things without evidence or proof, e.g. that the crazy brain-in-the-vat hypothesis is false. There is also room for rationally believing in God and Christianity without evidence (at least if God and Christianity are true).

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