Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Further point re Ibrahim Lawson correspondence
Here’s another, hopefully more accessible, way of making the same point I made in my reply to Ibrahim below.
Suppose Ted buys an astrology book. The first line of the book says he must accept the basic principles of astrology without question. They must not be subject to critical scrutiny. Ever. Ted accepts this.
As a result, whenever Ted comes up against any apparent evidence against astrology, he always attempts to explain away the evidence, or, if he can’t, says it’s simply a “mystery” that such evidence should exist given astrology is true. The one thing he never does is question the basic tenets of the book.
Ask him why he does not question the book, he simply answers: because the book says he mustn't.
Ted has made acceptance of the principles of this book part of his foundational beliefs – his first principles, if you like.
Given you reject astrology, as I do, would you nevertheless accept that, because Ted has made acceptance of these principles "foundational", we have here a rationally “unresolvable disagreement over first order issues”? Do you suppose that reason cannot reveal whether or not the principles of astrology are true? That reason cannot reveal whether or not its Ted, or us, that's mistaken?
I’m sure you wouldn’t. The fact is, astrology can be shown to be false. By science and reason.
Would you consider Ted’s position intellectually respectable and honest?
Again, surely not. I think we’d both agree that Ted is a fool.
Ted’s position, epistemologically speaking, is worthy of about the same level of respect as that of someone who, when told about something they don’t want to have to consider, sticks their fingers in their ears and shouts “Nya, nya nya! Can’t hear you!”
But if that’s true – then why aren’t those who take the same attitude to the Koran not similarly foolish?
P.S. Ibrahim, having just read these last two posts, they strike me as a bit brusque, which wasn't my intention. Tend to get brusque when I have my philosophy hat on - apologies.