The truth and nothing but the facts

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Thomas, Jun 3, 2016.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    I picked this up from an exchange between NJ and DA in the 'Fresh Air' thread.

    NJ —
    The exact same thing can be said of those who base their beliefs on presumed facts.

    DA —
    Unfortunately you are right. With the deletion of the word 'presumed'. Facts don't always prove to be correct; they are as correct as our technology is at the time though. (my emphasis).

    NJ —
    Facts don't always prove to be correct; they are as correct as our technology is at the time though.
    True. That's exactly why I said presumed.

    +++

    It seems to me that the content of sacra doctrina are simply not determinable as 'facts', if we assume a fact is something that is determined by an empirical proof.

    Which brings us round to the 'science v religion' thing again?

    I post this here, perhaps better suited to 'Philosophy', but I wanted to discuss the thing under a general heading.

    It seems to me the content of sacra doctrina is by its very nature not subject to empirical determination. To do that would require a science that can demonstrably prove the existence of God, or the Transcendent Intellect, or whatever term a given religion designates for 'It'.

    So it seems to me that DA's argument is in fact another more discreet example of the 'science v religion' debate?

    Take miracles, for example. The modern notion is that miracles are impossible because they break the laws of nature, and ancient peoples only accepted them because they did not understand natural law.

    I'm not so sure.

    Ancient peoples might not have our understanding of physics, might not have had Newton, but they understood 'gravity' even if they didn't know the term, and they knew when something happened that just should not or could not happen. So when the ancients designated something as a miracle, they did so conscious of the fact that in any normal circumstance, what just happened should not be possible ...

    Or put another way: while all facts are true, not all truths are necessarily facts.
     
  2. Aussie Thoughts

    Aussie Thoughts Just my 2 cents

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    Yup. Definitely not a lounge topic.
     
  3. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    This in a nutshell is my thoughts on the subject.

    As for miracles. That is a harder nut to crack. I agree that the lack of knowledge of modern science does not mean people of the time could not understand when something outside the norm was occurring. My question here is (a. the credibility of what was seen and (b. whether it actually happened at all.

    a. Did the people who saw something they thought was extra ordinary actually that or did they see something ordinary that appeared to be extra ordinary. We know how easily the human senses can be fooled even today when we have a basic scientific framework of what is possible and what is not we can be fooled all too easily.

    b. Did said miracles happen in the first place, or are they mythological constructs created to make a point to the people of the time. This is the huge one for me. We are depending on stories from thousands of years ago, often stories that were passed down verbally for a long time before they were ever written down.

    Anyone who has experienced an event, and then read a newspaper report of said event knows that the latter is often only a vague report of what did happen. And that is in today's world when the report is within hours of the event. Add in the thousands of years for the event to be modified, altered, even radically changed it seems foolish to think that we are receiving an accurate report of that ancient event as the people who were there saw it.
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Quite. That's the perennial question ... probably asked by the immediate witnesses, and continues to be asked millennia later.

    Well often, but not always, and that does not necessarily mean the report is inaccurate. I think we tend to focus on the negative and forget the positive.

    Really? then all history is foolish, surely?

    There's physical events, and the human story of and around the events ... I agree with how slippery the whole process is, and post-modernism delights in undoing everything we once held to be true ... but I would not go so far as to say 'foolish' or that we can dismiss all testimony on that basis ... I think this is a larger faith-oriented question ...
     
  5. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    In a sense you are right that all history is foolish. We all know the old nut "History is written by the winners". All too true more times than not. We have to be careful to what extent we can believe what recorded history tells us. On the other side of the equation we have to be even more careful about people who would rewrite history for their own ends.

    My thought is that if non miraculous history is hard enough to know the truth of, miraculous events in history are a thousand times more difficult to know the truth of.
     
  6. Nasruddin

    Nasruddin Active Member

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    If sacred doctrine, scripture, mythology, and indeed the concept of religion itself is subjected to the knife of science the entire point of it is missed. Deconstruction may be an interesting learning tool, but, like taking apart the remote control, the thing works better if you don't.
     
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  7. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Why? Because you find it a thousand times harder to accept a miracle? But then that would apply if a miracle happened right now ... so the passage of time is really neither here nor there.

    There really shouldn't be any difference. It all boils down to the availability of evidence. It's actually easier to know the truth of Christ than it is of Julius Caesar, as there's more evidence and testimony about Jesus than Julius. There is more about Jesus than there is about Shakespeare. We accept both because they didn't do anything we find 'miraculous'.

    The fact that there are miracles in the account is immaterial, what your left with then is one's own position on miracles. Suppose we came up with an incontrovertible hostile eye-witness account, which spoke of miracles? What then? Simple: we'd find grounds to explain it away, because miracles can't happen. Suppose a miracle happened down the road today?

    So my point would be that a 'scientific understanding' can often be an impediment to enlightenment if and when one assumes that the empirical method is the benchmark of all truth and the key to all knowledge. I had a nephew (a research chemist) who blithely declared once "Of course I'm a scientist so I can't believe in God" — ah! Such ignorance, such folly!
     
  8. Nasruddin

    Nasruddin Active Member

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    You would think a scientist would avoid being so narrowly defined. I once heard that a fool who persists in his folly will become wise. I've studied science and religion, and find two wonderful ways of looking at, and discovering the world around me. What I find is that while science is incredibly helpful, it is too precise, cuts too finely, and can miss the point entirely. If you look too closely at an image it fades into a blur, step back a bit and an image appears.
     
  9. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

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    Positivists...
     
  10. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Yes. Precisely because I find it a thousand times harder to accept a miracle - because a miracle does not conform to the laws of reality. A miracle, by definition breaks the laws of this reality. And the point of a miracle happening now is that they don't! Oh sure we can call an improbable event a 'miracle'; small 'm'. The big grand there-can-be-no-other-explanation Miracles - they are safely tucked away 2000 years ago, or longer.

    It would be awesome if one of the Gods would perform a true, no doubt about it, no other way to explain it, Miracle in the modern world. The Earth stops rotating on its axis for a day. That would make me sit up and pay attention! There is no conceivable way to fake such an event.

    As to your other point, the passage of time is absolutely relevant to accepting the reality of an event. As I was attempting to explain before, normal every day human history tends to alter over time. What we remember of something as recently as, say, the American Revolution - how close to what actually happened in and around 1776 is what is recorded in modern records. History of the normal is a close approximation of what happened. The further we go back, the more we have to be cautious of accepting what has come down thru the years as 'fact'.

    If we have to be cautious about accepting normal reality events from long ago, we have to be so much more skeptical of events that break the laws of how reality works. As Shuny said in another thread, humans are too prone to misunderstanding what they see. And the passage of time alters, and often makes events appear more grand than the original event was.

    This is not about whether one accepts miracles as real or not. At least I don't think it is. It is about what is reasonable to accept versus what seems highly improbable. No ancient miracle can stand on its own. There are simply too many ways for some ancient event to have been misinterpreted and modified over 2000 years.
     
  11. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

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    Two points I don't agree on.
    Only laws as defined by man...or some men at least. Reality is a big thing.

    There is always different ways to explain an event. The world stopping it's rotation is...outside the realm of our understanding, but it's not like atheist will go "Well I guess there's a god then".

    Both these points are based on you assumption of reality, which in turn is based the natural sciences. I think few here question the findings of physics, but the difference, between you and I for instance, is that I think there could be questions outside the scope of natural sciences. You won't get anywhere if you try to investigate Miracles through the methods of physics, just as using chemistry to solve an inflation crisis in Europe is very unhelpful.

    So again, you keep coming back to Miracles, but why? You don't have the tools to do anything with the questions. Isn't that ok?
     
  12. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Tea I get your point and I just cannot agree with it. If we are going to study miraculous events (which for this purpose I define as events not possible under which the rules of the universe works) we have to look at them through science. There is no other way to look at them. Other than to make the blanket statement 'Oh well that is because it is God and he/she/it doesn't have to follow the laws of reality'. The latter statement is a useless statement because there is no way to prove/disprove anything.

    Using this way of thinking you can prove that unicorns are real, that Santa Claus has a mansion at the North Pole, or any absurd statement that most of humanity would find ridiculous (the only exception is when we are talking about deities. Suddenly all the rules we apply to our reality get thrown out the window). Yet we don't do that. We say unicorns would be neat if they were real but we know they are a mythical creation. Very few people would argue that point. But substitute God for unicorn and somehow all the rules change.

    I think that is a double standard.

    As to why I go on about miracles. It is only in response to someone else bringing them up. In this thread Thomas brought up miracles in his OP. He purposes a situation in which Miracles did happen, and were recorded accurately at the time of the event, and were handed down for 2000 years without any significant loss of information about the original event.

    If one is to make a statement like that it opens up the question is that supposition plausible. Thomas thinks it is. I do not.
     
  13. Nasruddin

    Nasruddin Active Member

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    Okay, I just had to tease you about that one.
     
  14. Nasruddin

    Nasruddin Active Member

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    There's something about the terms we use that certainly cause confusion. Pyscholinguistics is an area of study that shows how language influences thinking. For example, the term "natural law" is something no one questions. Indeed, it is something nearly all of use agree is a given fact. And yet, if you think about it carefully, you find that the term itself is merely a label for how we perceive and believe the world and most likely the universe, operate. From this perspective, natural law is only a term which indicates what we understand up to this point. Jesus said "Come, let us reason together"
     
  15. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Agreed. Language is a lousy way to communicate, and the terms we use can create confusion and misunderstanding. For better or worse that is the best we have to work with as a species. That a term is 'merely' a label for how we perceive our reality does not make it any less how we perceive our reality. It is the only way we can perceive reality and the labels are the only way to make statements that make sense to all of us so that we can communicate at all.

    Thus the 'merely a label' concept has always felt something of a philosophical sleight of hand. Our limitations as a life form define how we can perceive, and share that perception, with others. To say it is in reality a label is true, and it is also irrelevant as it is the only way we have. We are limited by the senses we have. We can only function with ourselves and each other with the senses we have.
     
  16. Nasruddin

    Nasruddin Active Member

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    Fair enough, let me clean that up a bit, lest I get into a sort of "nothing but-ness" Though the labels we use constrain our thinking, they in themselves mean nothing, it is the intent that is important. In essence, the map is not the territory, though language nearly compels us to think so. What a human can perceive has a pretty broad range, meaning, however, is of necessity imputed.

    I think further that avoiding absolutes is the best way to steer clear of logical fallacy
     
  17. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Well, he's young ... and that tends to be his opinion on everything.
     
  18. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    How, when it's a given that what has happened occurs outside the remit of the empirical sciences to determine?

    A proof, for example, can be demonstrated, be it a logical argument in maths, or an experiment in the lab. A miracle does not sit inside our logical constructs – were that so, it would not be a miracle. Nor is it the effect of an observable cause. It ticks none of the boxes that enable empiricism to offer an authoritative commentary ... so why persist in applying the rule when we know it does not apply?

    This is my point, it's bring it back to a science v religion thing, when we all agreed that the content of religion lies outside science's remit.

    I would also point out, at the risk of being tiresome, that there are scientists at the top of their profession and the cutting edge of their field who profess a religious faith, and don't get caught up in the empirical as absolute, as we are here. It might well be that miracles cannot happen in the world as you construe it, but I might suggest thats not the world as they construe it.

    The Doctrine of the Incarnation is defined as an hypostatic union. If one accepts that, then miracles become possible.

    From a religious pop, all creation exists by virtue of this union, of some order of union and participation between the Absolute and the contingent, the Uncreate and the created. The Absolute, the Uncreate, the Transcendent, whatever one chooses to name it, is not patio-temporal thing, but rather a dynamic continuum –

    LOL — in fact, much like modern theory, God appears both as a particle – The Transcendent – and a wave – the Immanent – and the ancients were aware of this from the days of Anaximander (6thc BC)! Had the 'scientists' paid a bit more attention to theology, they might well have arrived at Quantum Mechanics millennia ago! I add this jokingly, but then Nicholas of Cusa made ground-breaking insights into mathematics and astronomy based on his Christian metaphysics ... including helio-centrism and multi-universe theory which was pretty good for the 15th c) ...

    So while the scientist explains the world within the context of its phenomena, the metaphysician would say that creation is not strictly defined as a one moment nothing the next moment something temporal event, but rather an ongoing, unfolding, phenomena that underpins time and space and by which time and space subsists; everything that occurs within time and space does so within the limitations of its containment — natural law — but the container is not constrained by those same constraints as the contained, and can work from above to effect them without 'breaking the rules'.

    Quite. Why? Because we're outside the remit of science. Science cannot prove nor disprove God.

    Ah, no ... philosophically that's a no-no.

    No, because 'God' is not the same order of thing as 'unicorn'.
     
  19. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

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    What way of thinking proves unicorns are real?
     
  20. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Thomas I get your point, and as you know I agree that science cannot prove nor disprove God. The issue with miracles I can't get beyond is how to determine their reality. I'll grant you that science is not the solution as that can only study observable laws within the construct of our reality as we understand it.

    My trouble is, what DO we use to determine the validity of Miracles? And the answer I am getting, as I understand it, is to simply accept that they are beyond our understanding so one has to simply believe. Which comes from a belief structure based on the reality of Gods in the first place. Which is also based upon simply believing. There is no solid foundation, it is all smoke and mirrors. In order to accept the smoke and mirrors of the impossible as Divinely driven it is required to fall back on faith. Maybe that is the entire point.

    Faith fails for me because, by definition, there is no way to know whether that faith deserves belief or it doesn't.
     

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