Saturday, April 23, 2011

C. S.Lewis on the AFR and the Scientific Juggernaut

The link is to an article by Jim Slagle in Quodlibeta. 


The picture so often painted of Christians huddling together on an ever narrower strip of beach while the incoming tide of "Science" mounts higher and higher corresponds to nothing in my own experience. That grand myth which I asked you to admire a few minutes ago is not for me a hostile novelty breaking in on my traditional beliefs. On the contrary, that cosmology is what I started from. Deepening distrust and final abandonment of it long preceded my conversion to Christianity. Long before I believed Theology to be true I had already decided that the popular scientific picture at any rate was false. One absolutely central inconsistency ruins it; it is the one we touched on a fortnight ago. The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears. Unless we can be sure that reality in the remotest nebula or the remotest part obeys the thought laws of the human scientist here and now in his laboratory -- in other words, unless Reason is an absolute -- all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based.

1 comment:

woodchuck64 said...

Well, I feel I have a tentative grasp of the AFR, but I didn't really get the force of this Lewis quote.

I think "inference" can be broken down into deduction and induction. Induction has Hume's problem which theism doesn't solve, and deduction seems to have more in common with language than it does with physical laws. That is, asking if deductive rules of logic are still valid in the remote corners of the galaxy feels like asking if English could still be understood in the remote corners of the galaxy. Neither seems like a question that has any meaning without minds. But once you assume minds, then language and logic can both be thought of as concepts minds have agreed upon in order to communicate consistently/coherently with other minds or with one's own mind (via thinking).

In that regard, knowledge from "Reason" can be thought of as the observational experience of human minds distilled into consistent/coherent concepts, and so would be necessarily constrained by the limits of our observational ability, whatever those may be. But this doesn't seem like a "central inconsistency" or "all in ruins". Whether atheist or theist, we still need to trust induction and our senses to some degree in order to be more than potted plants.