October 29, 2008
A good article I just read was from a magazine I received called Christian Research Journal. The article was called "Reasonable Skepticism about Radical Skepticism" by Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD.
Breggen gave, quite convincingly, counters for many of the different type of skepticisms. I was hoping it was online, but it isn't, so here is the Reader's Digest version.
Funky/Pop skepticism, a good example is the Matrix movies that claims nothing we see, hear, taste, or touch is real.
The Doctor's five counters included imagining the doubt isn't the same as actually to doubt or imagining isn't doubting. To think otherwise is to conflate two distinct cognitive categories. Another is mere logical possibility of (x) is not the same as adequate justification for (x). Mere assertion of a mere logical possibility. If we accept mere assertions of bare logical possibilities as grounds for truth we should believe all mere assertions.
Sensory skepticism, our scenes deceive us, thus we cannot know the external world. When strolling on along railroad tracts, I see that the metal rails look straight and parallel, but on the horizon they appear to meet or a mirage in the desert of water.
A rational reply would be first always does not follow logically from sometimes. Our senses' prima facie veridicality- that is, their very apparent truthfulness, remains. Senses are innocent until proven guilty, as long as we have no overriding reason to doubt them, as long as we are careful.
Immanuel Kantian skepticism, the external world in rose colored, subjective glasses.
A rational reply would be if Kantian skepticism is true then science's search for causal connections/laws ultimately is a search for connections/laws that are not really in the world but in our heads. Second, as Jim Leffel astutely observes, "The success of scientific technology is a strong argument that our perceptions of the world are relatively accurate. Countless achievements attest to the reliability of human knowledge [including our knowledge of the causal principle]. We can engineer enormously sophisticated rockets to propel men to the moon, and provide health care that has more than doubled human life expectancy. We couldn't do these things without an essentially reliable correspondence between our ideas of reality and reality itself."
Linguistic skepticism Kind of a postmodern philosophizing, we cannot know truth about the world in an objective way because of the distorting effect of language.
There is no objective truth; each community has it's own mere 'story' or 'narrative'
There is no objective rationality; we reason in language, which is culture-dependent.
There are no objective ethics; values are relative to culture, too.
Therefore power rules; the dominating culture group ultimately controls the language (wittingly or unwittingly), so it determines "truth," rationality, and ethics.
A rational reply would be it is simply not the case that language is completely defined by other language. There is such a thing as ostensive definition. Objective truth and principle of noncontradiction arguments apply. Moral relativism can be seriously challenged. Poking pins into baby's eyes for fun surely is wrong for everyone, everywhere, and always. (hey, that sounds familiar) The fact that language and power are often intertwined is ground for caution not radical skepticism. Language is not wholly a power play; we are capable of communicating knowledge.
The article concluded with this brilliant nugget:
It turns out that because we can know at least some of the external world (in a limited way), we can find reasonable evidence for the existence of God. Scientifically based evidence and good reasoning lead us to believe that the universe had a beginning; that it was caused; that cause transcends matter, energy, space, and time; that the arrangement of the universe was fine-tuned for life; and that life itself-the cell's molecular machines and DNA's code/language- is exquisitely fine tuned. All of this points to an intelligent and powerful supernatural cause. Historical investigation of the external world gives is further reason to believe the New Testament's witness concerning Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. In other words, the external world points us to the Christian worldview, the gospel, and a reasonable faith in Jesus Christ.
I found Hendrik van der Breggen's blog and will be checking in often.