Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How Should We Think?

This is really a blog that tries to emphasize HOW to think vs tell anyone WHAT to think.

Maybe I'm naive, but I believe in the dialectic process of reasoning. I'd summarize this process as looking at pros and cons on any issue, weighing/evaluating both and then developing a synthesis to deduce the truth.

Of course, this approach is based upon the notion that the truth is absolute and transcendent (a topic for another blog). But in a previous blog post, I already referenced the law of noncontradiction, which is at the heart of my belief in such absolute and transcendent truth.

The evaluation stage of the dialectic process is dependent upon our ability to reduce the pros and cons of an issue down to their presuppositional levels.

I have found that as finite human beings that presuppositions usually end up having to be embraced or rejected based upon faith. When I say faith, don't think simply in terms of religion. Here's an example that illustrates this process. I will have to oversimplify the example to illustrate the point within a reasonable blog space, but a more elaborate representation will still support my position:

Pros and Cons of being a vegetarian in order to uphold animal rights

Animals are life too and are to be valued on the same plane as human life, therefore they shouldn't be killed for food any more than humans should

Animals are life, but their lives don't have the same value as human beings. Meat can therefore be eaten.

The above listing of Pros and Cons is at a superficial (non-presuppositional) level. This is where we all start our thinking. The problem is that most people stop thinking at this superficial level.

But the process of asking "Why" takes us deeper.

Why does each side believe in its values expressed in these Pros and cons?

Pros' answer
Human beings evolved from animals. We are descendents from animals. Animals are our ancestors.

Cons' answer
We didn't evolve from animals. We're not "monkeys' uncles." Creationism is the best explanation of our origins.

Again, I am oversimplifying for the purpose of illustration. However, the bottom line is that when you go deeper into the presuppositional levels of argumentation, by asking the "why" questions, you'll find philosophical and theological underpinnings to any political and social argumentation.

Granted, there are plenty of evolutionists who are NOT animal rights activists, at least not to the extreme of practicing vegetarianism. However, those evolutionists are simply not living their lives consistently with their evolutionary presuppositions. They can be dismised as not holding rational arguments. Their presuppositions do not connect to their conclusions.

Incidentally, there are also creationists on the Pro's side who might practice vegetarianism for other reasons....

But at this level, reasoning can be used to reinforce an argument or show a lack of correlation between "cause" and "effect".

But what are we left with when BOTH sides are logically consistent and empirically adaquate? What do you do when you have a logically consistent creationist on the cons side, and a logically consistent evolutionist on the pros side of this issue?

Now, an argument that once appeared to be about the pros and cons of the ethics of vegetarianism has moved to an argument on the subject of origins.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that this debate on origins is a huge can of worms that has so many levels of complexity and branches of argumentation.

But in the end, both sides have a level of faith in their basic presuppositions. I say this because neither side was there to observe the origins of the universe. This is not to discard or mitigate the scientific arguments made for either side, it is only to point out that at some degree, both sides require faith.

The goal of each side is to show that the other side needs MORE faith to hold to their position. But the bottom line is that both sets of presuppositions are ultimately unprovable. To prove either side, one would need to have a time machine to go back to the origin of the universe and watch what happened.

To even try and recreate the exact conditions of the origins of the universe in a lab (if such a thing wasn't a virtual impossibility) would only prove that it can be done under a set of conditions TODAY. It would not necessarily prove that those conditions existed in the past and caused the universe that we know.

I have to simplify because of an attempt at brevity, but the bottom line is that epistemologically, we want axioms, but end up accepting presuppositions with a level of faith.

As I have said before, and will attempt to "sell" in subsequent posts, I believe that faith, once it has passed the smell tests of "logical consistency" and "empirical adaquacy", is volitional.

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