Sunday, September 4, 2011

On Evangelical Conversion Logic: "Believing So You Will See"

One thing that's always irritated me about evangelicals is their insistence on "believing so you will see." At first that sounds all nice and pretty, but if you think about it for just a second, you'll realize that this reasoning can make anything seem true. If I decided to believe in Allah so that I could see his works in the world, I would be a Muslim. Likewise for Elohim and the rest. For me, this is not a way to divine truth about the nature of god, insofar as one exists; for me, the method I use to arrive at belief in a god must be exclusive --- by that I mean, it must be something which meaningfully, not arbitrarily, allows me to believe that a god (a particular one or in general) exists. If the system being proposed always forces the same conclusion of truth, independently of the hypothesis being tested, then it's not a useful way to divine any sort of real truth about the nature of god --- all it is is a platitude.

Another way of phrasing it is, if the answer to the question, "how can I see evidence that god exists?" is, "you must believe before you will see," then that forces the next logical question: "what reason do I have to think that I should believe?" The answer being offered is not a real answer at all; it's just a rephrasing of the same platitude that provoked the original question --- how can I see something that will make me believe? The real answer, then, seems to be, "you can't." It seems that I have to believe in god before hearing the evidence in order to see their arguments as evidence of god....but then, what good is the evidence of god in the first place? Is it not the place of evidence to demonstrate things in such a way as to sway people away from one belief and towards another?

In information theory, there is a saying that goes like this: if you have 1000 bits of information, and they are transferred from one place to another, if the exact value of each of those 1000 bits is already known prior to the transmission, then it is said that no information has been transferred. This is the method by which many psychics, for example, claim to have psychic powers --- they provide the illusion that information is being transferred when it is actually already known prior. They claim to have discovered a method of transferring information which is more efficient than normal physical means, when in fact they have already utilized normal physical means beforehand, and the "psychic" transfer is a ruse. Likewise, it's sort of "cheating" at argument when an evidence must be accepted as evidence a priori in order to count as evidence. It defeats the entire purpose of the evidence in the first place, which is to transfer information (that was not already known prior). Evidence that carries no new information is not really evidence in that sense. So the argument that you must "believe before you will see" (and the subsequent claim that this amounts to evidence in any sense) is really just a logical fallacy --- pretend that it is evidence, and it shall become evidence!