Empiricism Fails to Deliver the Ground for Knowledge
by Mike Robinson
Many people say that they cannot believe anything unless they can see it for themselves; this is one usage of empiricism. Many atheists (atheism as their metaphysical position) hold to empiricism as their epistemic base (position on knowledge) for their worldview. They declare that unless something can be tested empirically, using the five senses, it is not true. The main problem with such an assertion is that this assertion cannot itself be tested by any of the senses. Thus it is a self-conflagrating assertion.
Another problem is that our senses are not one-hundred-percent accurate. They are mostly reliable, but cannot be completely trusted. St. Augustine pointed out that a straight oar appears bent when it is in the water. Many of us, as we drive our cars during a hot day, see mirages on the road. If an elephant is a quarter mile up the road and I put my thumb in front of my eyes, the beast seems to be no larger than my thumb.
The Hand is Quicker than the Eye
In Las Vegas there are dozens of magicians who make a good living by fooling the empirical senses of their audiences; the hand is quicker than the eye. Our eyes and our other senses can deceive us. We cannot base our world and life view on these senses unaided; nobody can.
Skeptics who claim that they only believe in what they see do not and cannot follow that philosophy consistently. Their use of logic, induction, and mathematics is not intelligible by the senses alone; these are immaterial entities that the materialist uses every day. To understand this world, God must be presupposed—whether the materialist realizes it or not. The notion that truth may be ascertained merely through the senses cannot even justify that two plus two will always be four in all places or that all animals will die; for the reason that no human can be simultaneously in all places where two plus two occur, nor can any human witness the death of all animals. The believer can trust the basic reliability of the senses only because an infallible God, who knows all things, has revealed that we can. The reason that scientists often repeat their tests and experiments hundreds of times is because the senses are occasionally unreliable. Men of science and industry have built instruments as well as machines to help bypass the inconsistency and unreliability of the senses. The five senses are not always reliable because human beings are not infallible and absent the divine ability to possess universal knowledge. Definite knowledge requires a man to depend on a God who is perfect, infallible, and omniscient.
Can One Really See an Object?
The five senses can provide awareness of and information about only some attributes of an object. This truth, conjoined with the practicality that numerous people claim that they only believe in what they can see, makes for an interesting discovery. Considering that in a way, under their non-Christian worldview, men cannot see any object. Human eyesight cannot give direct and immediate awareness and understanding of any object. Eyesight can provide information on some aspects and attributes of a given object. But only God can see all atoms, and only He can fully understand all protons and electrons. He has exact and exhaustive knowledge of the color, texture, size, weight, density, and complete physical makeup of all objects in the universe from a perfect perspective. No human can have exhaustive and perfect knowledge of even one of the attributes of a material article; hitherto some want to trust their eyesight and senses above the God who understands all things.
The senses are generally reliable; however we have justified knowledge because of God’s revelation. We must have a transcendent source that “sees” everything and reveals to us that the senses are basically reliable. The problem comes when people reject God’s word and construct a worldview based on their senses alone. Senses can routinely deceive. Professional illusionists get paid large salaries to fool our eyesight. Conversations between husbands and wives can quickly reveal how unreliable the sense of hearing can be. Many taste-test studies have demonstrated that the sense of taste is not always reliable. The Associated Press reported that surgical teams leave clamps, sponges, and other tools inside 1,500 patients nationwide each year (http://sci.rutgers.edu/forum/archive/index.php/t-1969.html). These are highly trained teams with large potential lawsuits looming over them, and yet their senses fail them at times. One cannot construct a reliable worldview based exclusively on the senses, as many scientists attempt to do. It is epistemically unmanageable for them to avoid the truth of God in view of the fact that all their theories, notes, and scientific conclusions utilize the laws of logic. Logic is immaterial, universal, and invariant; it presupposes God.
Empiricism fails as a worldview every time you stub your toe or trip over a rock since this helps demonstrate the sometimes unreliability of our sight; our senses are normally reliable, but we cannot build a worldview on their untrustworthiness. God alone is the necessary truth condition for an intelligible worldview which includes the basic trustworthiness of our five senses.
Atheists can be rational because they borrow rational essentials from the Christian Worldview (CWV); the atheistic WV fails to account for the laws of logic that the CWV underwrites all the while borrowing them out of necessity.
Analysis of anti-theistic materialism demonstrates that it is self-nullifying inasmuch as it fails to give what it does not possess. The material cosmos, as a particular thing, is devoid of a foundation for eternal invariant universals; one cannot hang one’s house on one’s paintings, but one hangs one’s paintings on one’s house. God is the immovable truth required to hang knowledge claims, including atheistic claims.
The Rational Pre-essentials for Knowledge
I will employ a transcendental analysis by determining what the rational pre-essentials are for knowledge and understanding human experience; what must be true to be able to account for intelligibility. The triune God is the transcendental necessity who provides the preconditions for knowledge of reality. Mere men, devoid of immutability and universal rational attainment, cannot supply the transcendental conditions that are needed for the Law of Non-contradiction (LNC), love, and knowledge.
To rightly understand reality one must have universals to generalize the particulars. This implies that the sheer anthropology of atheism cannot supply the general and universal realities that must be present for the necessary and unavoidable transcendental conditions listed beforehand.
Some people claim that knowledge is impossible. Nonetheless if knowledge is impossible, one could not know that knowledge is impossible because that is a knowledge claim. The intelligibility of human experience requires God. Christianity is a WV that provides human reason an unchanging foundation for knowledge. Atheism, naturalism, and skepticism all fail to furnish a foundation for the LNC; thus they cannot provide the permanent footing for knowledge. They can only offer an irrational and incongruous WV.
Unless one believes in God, one cannot account for anything in the universe. God is the underlying and infinite ground for all knowledge, proof, evidence, and logic. It is impossible for God not to exist. He is the truth condition for all knowledge because all human knowledge requires the use of unchanging universals. The omniscient, immaterial, and unchanging God alone provides the a priori essentials for the use of nonphysical, universal, and unchanging universals. Non-believing thought cannot supply the necessary pre-environment for knowledge, thus they fall into futility.
“Of all the offspring of time, Error is the most ancient, and is so old and familiar an acquaintance, that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most of us like an intruder, and meets the intruder’s welcome” (Charles Mackay).
The Christian worldview is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. The contrary of the CWV implies a contradiction inasmuch as the denial of the CWV leaves one without the ontic (ontic: relating to ontology; relating to existence, being) foundation to ground immutable universals such as the laws of thought and moral laws, which are required for knowledge. The denial of knowledge (or its ground) is a self-contradicting endeavor.
For More see my Innovative book that refutes Atheism: Truth, Knowledge, and the Reason for God