Some random thoughts on nature and reason

I said I wouldn’t be blogging again for a while, and I haven’t, but in the mean time I have still been thinking and writing down random thoughts that occur to me. I’m going to post some of them here every so often, though I’m going to say ahead of time that I wont respond to any comments given. So, some food for thought.

  • Either God created living species entirely through the laws of nature, or he did not. If he did, then God’s activity would be undetectable since everything (except the natural laws) could be explained entirely through natural laws. If he did not, then trying to reason backwards from the present to the origin of species with the assumption that natural laws are never violated would make detecting God’s activity impossible, since by stipulation it did not happen if it did not happen according to natural law. Thus both theistic evolution and special creation are unverifiable and unfalsifiable on the basis of backwards extrapolation from the present on the assumption of naturalistic uniformitarianism.
  • For a Christian any historical event is equally likely to have been caused by a miracle as by God through natural law, unless God reveals otherwise (in some manner). This means it is not categorically irrational to appeal to a divine miracle to explain an event, and thus the “God of the gaps” argument is not automatically a failure to carry out one’s intellectual responsibilities.
  • On the other hand, because of the previous point, a lack of current knowledge of the cause of any given event does not necessarily imply it is a miracle (unless it revealed to be so), since it is also possible that God did such a thing through some natural process. This means that arguments for miracles from inductive reasoning can only ever be probabilistic and subject to possible future disconfirmation. This does not, however, rule out such arguments.
  • Merely allowing the possibility that God has acted miraculously in history implies that naturalistic investigations for causes of effects are not guaranteed to be always reliable. Further, knowledge of the existence of God (a being who exists outside of nature and yet has caused effects in nature) and the dependence of creation on him (which implies that a natural effect has a supernatural cause) implies necessarily that miracles are possible. This implies that God is not necessarily guilty of deception if naturalistic investigations are sometimes constitutionally incapable of discovering the truth about the cause for some effect in history.
  • What would make a conclusion that an event was miraculously caused, a good inductive conclusion? If revelation has not said anything about the cause of the event, the only good reason would have to be: there are a) no good natural explanations for the event, and b) we cannot imagine any good natural explanations for the event based on our current knowledge of nature. In other words, any natural explanation for the event would have to be much less likely according to our present knowledge of reality than a non-natural explanation. This conclusion is, in principle, not logically necessary and therefore subject to possible disconfirmation.
  • If naturalism is not affirmed, there is no reason we should categorically assume naturalistic investigation will always eventually be able to discover a cause for an historical event. This implies that any inductive argument for a miracle will have to weigh faith in the possibility of a natural cause (not faith in naturalism!) against the probability that we can’t explain or even imagine how we could explain a particular event naturalistically. To put it another way: the argument will have to weigh evidence that naturalistic investigation has eventually found a way to explain things it at one time could not easily explain against evidence that the current event under investigation is so difficult to explain naturalistically that it probably could never be explained naturalistically.
  • Inductive conclusions, because it in principle assumes not all the facts are known, and because all people obviously do not know the same facts, can only be obligatory on a person-relative basis. Deductive conclusions, however, have categorical weight based on the fact that everyone knows the facts about the laws of logic.
  • The general uniformity of nature (human and non-human) must be known for people to be held responsible for their actions in relation to said nature(s), since responsibility implies knowledge of how things ought to be related to, which implies there are correct ways of relating to things, which implies that they have some kind of consistent identity through time. The general uniformity of nature means that humans must be able to detect patterns in nature such that they can take dominion over nature correctly and relate to each other correctly; it does not mean, however, that they must be able to know everything from knowing some things, which means they can be possibly wrong about a pattern of nature they claim to know and still be held responsible for knowing the general patterns. This further means that human beings cannot be held responsible for knowing every cause to every event in history based on knowing general patterns in nature.