Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Problems with 'explaining away' beliefs

It isn’t all that difficult to concoct hypotheses that, if true, might result in people believing all sorts of things (including theism and atheism) irrespective of the truth-value of those beliefs, or despite the assumed falsity of those beliefs. Descartes’ suggestion that an evil demon may systematically deceive us, Schopenhauer’s suggestion that humans are in the impersonal grip of the will to life, Darwin’s suggestion that our cognitive apparatus is the product of a blind watchmaker who selfishly cares (metaphorically speaking) about nothing but survival, all qualify. Modern-day atheologians often employ Darwin’s theory to explain away theistic belief, without noticing that this theory can – indeed, on their own principles, must - be used to explain their belief in Darwinism. The fact that a given theory of belief, if true, can explain why theists believe in God on the assumption that theism is not true, does nothing to establish either the truth of the theory of belief-formation concerned, or the truth of atheism.

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