February 15, 2010
Jim of Reason vs. Apologetics offers a series of thought experiments titled Proof of God’s Existence to explore the epistemic parameters of what he calls “common sense inquiry.” He identifies they ways people assess evidence and probability in everyday affairs and suggests that common sense inquiry is grounds for skepticism.
Proof of God’s Existence, 1: Trip to the Hypothetical Fish Farm — As Descartes realized, a sufficiently talented philosopher can justifiedly deny anything except the existence of his or her own mind. We need some way to circumvent human stubbornness.
Proof of God’s Existence, 2: When Is Belief Justified? — If nothing in our dealings with the witnesses would lead us to believe they’re trying to deceive us, and if we cannot establish a plausible motive explaining why the witnesses would deceive us, is belief in their testimony justified?
Proof of God’s Existence, 3: Why Is That? — The question of why one experiences a given feeling or phenomenon bypasses bickering about justification and gets directly to discussing reality as it is.
Proof of God’s Existence, 4: When Is Belief Justified, Redux — We revisit the concept of justified belief, culminating in a provisional definition of conservatively-stated beliefs.
Proof of God’s Existence, 5: Conservatively Stated Belief — Nothing requires malicious behavior to appear abnormal, nor does anything require innocent behavior to appear mundane. If Mary and Mr. Garcia were intelligent conspirators, we would expect them to portray an image of “business as usual” to the neighborhood.
Proof of God’s Existence, 6: Carol Should Have Partied! — I disagree with jim’s implicit assumption that all theists necessarily reject commonsense inquiry for some reason or another. I counter that scientists are not necessarily immune from epistemological laxity either, and provide a few examples.
Proof of God’s Existence, 7: What Is Evidence? — As with many words in the English language, there are several valid meanings of the word evidence, each distinct and relevant to (a)theist discussion.