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Measurability of beliefs
Reasons for a more modest level of certainty
published 11/02/2015 | # 33
Raul, Richard, George, Immanuel

Some atheists seem to have great fun in doing the Richard Dawkins’ seven milestones – found in his best seller ‘The God Delusion’(which I recommend) - for gauging the level of their atheism. In the end some of them will probably claim to have a higher degree of atheism than the author himself maybe trying to suggest that they are therefore a bit stricter or even smarter than him ( ‘no fool’).

I do my best trying to emulate them ( no, I really don’t) but what a boring guy am I who finds nothing funny! I must confess I am not a very good reader of Dawkins’. I got this moron thing called ‘thinking’ which makes me unprepared to be a follower of Jesus’ (or any upcoming Christ) as much as a follower of Dawkins’.

I will not here be angry with the atheists who possibly find this post a bit nitpicking, it is, really, nevertheless this reflection was important at some point of my life and it involves philosophy and self-criticism : Is it really possible to solve the ultimate problem of existence thus inductively (a posteriori)as Dawkins tries to do looking almost exclusively for material evidence in the phenomenal world based on our five limited monkey-like senses?(rationalism x empiricism, again!)

By the way, can monkeys understand ultimate reality? No, I would bet . Then again, why do we humans think we can? (isn’t this pretention tantamount to a kind of faith?)What on Earth or in heavens can assure us we have reached a perfect evolutionary stage or any evolutionary stage enough for grasping every important thing there is to know about reality and existence? I once heard someone argue that our senses evolved to survive, not to know and though these two abilities converge to some extent they are clearly not synonymous.

1. Deliberately hidden God

What if a deistic God – Spinoza’s or Leibniz’s - in order to better appreciate the sentient beings behavior is intentionally hiding all the final inductive evidence about his own existence? Such God of course would not be omnipotent, omniscient, instead, it would be more like a natural force, rewarding or punishing (not with paradise or hell, of course!) the sentient beings according to what they were given as gifts/resources and have delivered as results under some possibly absolute moral rules. This God could still be benevolent acting in his mysterious ways, etc. (a kind of Buddhism with a deistic or pantheistic God).

Even though Dawkins’ main contention is particularly directed against theism (specifically, Christianity, which, for me takes no more than one paragraph to be refuted) it seems probable that this form of deism might also fit the criticisms vigorously deployed in “The God Delusion”.

2. Noumena

What is Noumena? Does it exist or is it just a void concept?

According to some interpretations of Kant’s philosophy it is not possible for us, humans, to understand the things in themselves, but only those aspects of them which appear to us, being therefore intelligible to our senses. So, as we can discover by reading the history of Western philosophy, a philosopher named Edmund Hurssel made it still clearer that human science and human a posteriori knowledge deals only with these appearances ( phenomena as opposed to noumena ) – which are the only and very object of science.

But "appearances are often deceiving”. How can we be sure that the phenomena we see exactly corresponds to the noumena they relate?

Anyway, it is much likely that people with mindsets such as Dawkin’s would reply that there is not such a thing as things in themselves since everything is ultimately reducible to molecules, atoms or its wave/particles properties. It is arguable, of course, but - as pointed out in an interview by Bryan Magee - how to explain then that these atoms and molecules always gather in a particular way, forming, at least for the human perception, identifiable objects like dogs, cats, etc. and not just a bunch of haphazardly unorganized matter? If this order is caused by the events themselves, what has set this order, in the first place? Why the atoms and particles behave the way they do and always this way and not some way else? I can imagine the great George Carlin replying that “it just is”. But isn’t his hypothetical answering also a bit evasive and somewhat equivalent to “it is deistic God”? Could we gauge the possibility of existence of noumena?

3. Bacteria in a soap bubble

When we humans try to understand all reality solely through the phenomena available to us we may be behaving as two bacteria discussing on a soap bubble about the origins of this bubble. This is an anecdote I have just made up from thin air to illustrate my point here.

It is a simple analogy that shows how mistaken we could end up if we give up our ability to think critically and instead trust excessively or totally on the sometimes incomplete and ambiguous evidences from our phenomenal world.

Empirically we (the bacteria) may never discover what created that bubble (the Earth, the universe, etc.) based on the material stuff this bubble is made of (soap, air, water and the geometrical form). Rationally the bacteria can speculate if the bubble was created by a pipe or by any other instrument. They can even discover the material stuff out of which the bubble is composed of. But the material which constitutes the possible pipe, the origin of the pipe etc. is beyond their empirical reach and forever uncertain for even their wildest speculation. Who created the pipe, after all if anyone? Their experience may suggest them that everything is ultimately made up of soap (the equivalent to our atoms) and this would be a big false premise and yet these bacteria would have the illusion of knowledge if based solely on their ‘bacteria-science’ . Believing it as the truth could sound like faith before more demanding philosophical inquiries.

I understand that many people will respond to this kind of proposition ( such as the ones aforementioned) as if they were just mere possibilities as any other possibility. They would even joke and compare them to absurdities such as the Flying Spaghetti Monster (which I love, by the way), unicorns, orbit teapots, etc. - as equally possible propositions for explaining the universe and existence. Doing so - bringing to the table irrelevant infinitesimally possible hypotheses - it seems to me we become vulnerable to be accused of a sort of fallacious appeal to possibility , a “tool” activists might use just to evade the debate, which at this point is not my case.

Thinking less, reason gives way to more belief and faith, though, this time in the opposite direction. So I wish there was a way we could gauge also our impartiality.


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Inspiring quotes:
Friedrich Nietzsche:
There are no facts, only interpretations.
Karl Marx:
From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.
Noam Chomsky:
If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
Adolf Hitler:
I do not see why man should not be just as cruel as nature.

Future possible posts:

Subject: EthicsLikely title:What if we're just a bunch of atoms? Expected to: Oct/2015