DiaBlogue: Round and Round

I think Alan hits the nail on the head when he asks, Where Did We Put Those Goalposts? We do appear to have converged on a reasonable definition of “Round One”, but as he points out, ‘this is not a one round “fight” ‘. Specifically:

The overall goal that I pictured Ernie to be pursuing was something like “You should believe what I believe” or perhaps “I am justified in believing what I believe.”

That’s a good start, but I would (as usual 🙂 rephrase it. In particular, I don’t actually see the goal as one person “winning” and another “losing”. Given that (at least on good days 🙂 our ultimate goal is “to pursue truth” rather than merely defend our initial positions, I believe the purpose of this DiaBlogue is to achieve mutual agreement that either.

I. Belief in Christianity is justified, and disbelief in Christianity is NOT justified


II. Disbelief in Christianity is justified, and belief in Christianity is NOT justified

That is, either of those two endstates qualify as convergence. Conversely, it will have diverged if we mutually agree that it isn’t possible to reach either of those endstates with the time and/or information available; for example, we may conclude that neither position is justifiable given our joint epistemology.

I hope Alan is satisfied with such “convergence” as the appropriate analogue of a victory condition. If not, I hope he can come up with a suitable improvement such that we can at least converge on a definition of convergence!

Given that end game, though, I am now unsure whether my “Round One” argument is really the optimal route to get there. [Read more] for my thoughts on a different way to proceed.

I actually feel I owe Alan an apology. I must confess I initially approached this DiaBlogue as more of an open-ended exploration of issues of interest to me. Because of that, i didn’t really pursue a deep understanding of Alan’s underlying concerns, but instead (over)reacted to my superficial impressions of what he meant. This led me to pursue a number of tangents that subsequent events have shown were not useful in advancing the debate.

That was wrong of me. I am sorry. Alan, I hope you will forgive me.

Given that, I’d actually like to start over. In particular, I would like to take a more Socratic and less didactic approach, to make sure I understand Alan’s questions before proposing answers. Let me start by summarizing what appears to be the fundamental reason Alan considers Christianity untenable:

a. a reasonable conception of justice would require the subject of the belief to be believable, to be well-supported by both evidence and reason
b. evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is insufficient to justify belief in its occurrence
c. yes there are unanswered questions under most if not all theories.
d. But then, none of those (scientific) theories posit eternal consequences to someone who does not believe the theory, [and]
e. the unknowns or uncertainties generally do not revolve around the core assertions of the theory, not if the theory is widely supported.
f. In the case of Christianity, I think the unanswered questions are too large, too important, so that those questions must be answered first before assenting (even provisionally) to the truth of theory.

So, my initial questions to Alan are:

1. Is this in fact your fundamental argument against Christianity, such that resolving it one way or the other would ultimately lead to convergence?
2. Would you agree that a coherent understanding of justice is central to your argument, or can you reformulate it to be independent of moral considerations?
3. If there was no Biblical requirement for hell — say (purely hypothetically) I could provide evidence that the concept of eternal suffering was a hermeneutical error — would that dramatically change your argument?
4. Would you accept a justification of Christianity that was consistent with the level of confidence we typically expect for:
i. – scientific theories (e.g., quantum physics)
ii. – historical events (e.g. Apollo astronauts walked on the moon), and/or
iii. – personal relationships (e.g., my mother loves me)

And perhaps most important of all: do you see the relevance of my questions? If not, please tell me now, to ensure I don’t lead you down another rathole.

Rabbit holes, on the other hand, are always a possibility…