Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Jason Lisle doesn't know everything (and neither do I)

Jason Lisle, presup creationist, has a blog. He recently posted an article espousing the "How do you know?" tactic when dealing with unbelievers. His egregious assertions, I felt, deserved similar treatment:
September 7, 2013 at 6:57 am
The Christian worldview alone makes it possible for us to answer these questions and have genuine knowledge. This is because knowledge stems from the nature of God (Proverbs 1:7, Colossians 2:3).
How do you know this?
[Dr. Lisle: God has revealed it in His Word. Did you not read the verses?]
How do you know the words are true?
[Dr. Lisle: If they were not, it would be impossible to know anything because there could be no justification for those things necessary for knowledge. And it is possible to know some things.]
Paul S. Jenkins says:
September 21, 2013 at 9:22 am
“If they were not, it would be impossible to know anything because there could be no justification for those things necessary for knowledge. And it is possible to know some things.”
It’s possible to know things without justification.
[Dr. Lisle: In logic and philosophy, knowledge is actually defined as "true, justified belief." So it is impossible to have knowledge without justification. You can have beliefs without justification, but not knowledge.]
For example, I know that I am thinking (whatever “I” might be defined as), and I’m certain of that — it’s self evident.
[Dr. Lisle: How do you know that? How do you know that you are the one doing the thinking? If you cannot even define "I" then how can you be certain that "I think?"]
Also, I know that I don’t know everything, and I’m certain of that too.
[Dr. Lisle: How do you know that you don't know everything? Unless you know everything, how can you be certain that what you think you know is actually true, and therefore "known?" By the way, I agree with your belief that you don't know everything. But I maintain that you can't really know even that without relying upon Christian principles.
This is also self evident (that is, the contrary is impossible).
[Dr. Lisle: You are asserting that it is impossible to know everything? How do you know that? How do you know that there cannot be a Being who knows everything?]
In those two examples, my certain knowledge is independent of anything other the existence of the entity referred to as “I”,
[Dr. Lisle: Two problems: (1) You don't have certain knowledge of the two examples you gave - at least you haven't yet explained how you do. (2) You claim that even these examples are dependent on the entity referred to as "I." But how, on your own worldview, do you know that "I" (you) exist?]
therefore it is false to say that it depends on the truth of particular words of scripture (or anything else, for that matter).
[Dr. Lisle: God claims that knowledge begins with Him (Proverbs 1:7). Indeed He is the truth (John 14:6) and all knowledge is hidden in Him (Colossians 2:3). Apart from God, apart from the truth of the Christian worldview, we couldn't know anything at all. We've seen this demonstrated in many conversations on this blog. Unbelievers just cannot rationally justify those things necessary for knowledge, such as the reliability of senses, or the properties of laws of logic.]
I didn't see Lisle's final responses immediately, but when I got around to addressing them he had closed off comments on his blogpost. So I didn't get a chance to counter-respond, and his action in arbitrarily guillotining all comments has resolved me not to comment on anything else he writes on his blog.

Nevertheless, the weakness of his final responses needs pointing out.

[Dr. Lisle: In logic and philosophy, knowledge is actually defined as "true, justified belief." So it is impossible to have knowledge without justification. You can have beliefs without justification, but not knowledge.]

Despite Lisle's comment, it is possible to have knowledge without justification. Here's the definition of axiom: "A self-evident or universally recognized truth." If it's self-evident, I don't need justification, or evidence, to support it.

[Dr. Lisle: How do you know that? How do you know that you are the one doing the thinking? If you cannot even define "I" then how can you be certain that "I think?"]

I didn't claim that I was was the one doing the thinking. I merely claimed that an entity designated by "I" was thinking. It doesn't matter who or what that entity is — it is irrefutably thinking.

[Dr. Lisle: How do you know that you don't know everything? Unless you know everything, how can you be certain that what you think you know is actually true, and therefore "known?" By the way, I agree with your belief that you don't know everything. But I maintain that you can't really know even that without relying upon Christian principles.]

Lisle is asking me how I know that I don't know everything. Really? He's suggesting that I could be mistaken about not being omniscient? If I were mistaken about not being omniscient, that would mean I was, in fact, omniscient. But how can an omniscient being be mistaken? I don't think Lisle has thought this through. It appears that he's claiming there is only absolute certainty about everything — omniscience — or no certainty about anything. But I have shown that it is indeed possible to be absolutely certain of something, and I gave a couple of examples. His assertion that knowledge is only possible by relying on Christian principles is just that — an assertion, and he has not shown how he can know that his source for that claim is true.

[Dr. Lisle: You are asserting that it is impossible to know everything? How do you know that? How do you know that there cannot be a Being who knows everything?]

I did not make that assertion. I asserted that it is self-evident that I am not omniscient. I made no assertion about the impossibility of omniscience.

[Dr. Lisle: Two problems: (1) You don't have certain knowledge of the two examples you gave - at least you haven't yet explained how you do. (2) You claim that even these examples are dependent on the entity referred to as "I." But how, on your own worldview, do you know that "I" (you) exist?]

(1) Lisle isn't following the argument. I do have certain knowledge that I am not omniscient — see above. (2) There is an entity that is thinking, else the assertion could not have been made (how is something asserted, if not by an entity of some kind?), and if an entity is thinking, it clearly exists — see Descartes.

[Dr. Lisle: God claims that knowledge begins with Him (Proverbs 1:7). Indeed He is the truth (John 14:6) and all knowledge is hidden in Him (Colossians 2:3). Apart from God, apart from the truth of the Christian worldview, we couldn't know anything at all. We've seen this demonstrated in many conversations on this blog. Unbelievers just cannot rationally justify those things necessary for knowledge, such as the reliability of senses, or the properties of laws of logic.]

Lisle quotes scripture without giving any justification for its truth value, and then just repeats what he said before as if he didn't read the argument. As for "Unbelievers just cannot rationally justify those things necessary for knowledge" — I just have.
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