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A Comparison of Worldviews 

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  • Pages: 11
  • Word count: 2551
  • Category: Worldview

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Of all the beliefs that one can have, the most important belief is the existence or non-existence of God. in this section of philosophy there are only a few opposing worldviews. One claims that the supernatural, in this case God, exists. Another worldview claims that there is nothing beyond the observable material world, such entities as God are immaterial and therefore do not exist. The evidence presented will be considered in a philosophical manner in order to prevent highly contested evidence, such as the fossil records, from being the basis of either argument. The primary text for materialism and atheism will be taken from Dr. Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. Materialism and Atheism are faith based beliefs that God does not exist. The primary evidence for theism (the faith based belief that God does exist) will be taken from the Bible and Dr. Kenneth Andrew Walker’s book, Presuppositional Preaching.

Before the two worldviews are discussed, it is important to define some terminology and to explain some philosophical theories. First, all highest authorities prove themselves: “every philosophy uses its own standards in proving its conclusions” (Frame 19) for instance, rationalists use reason to prove reason while materialists will attempt to use material means to prove materialism. If a “materialist” uses rational means to prove materialism, he is not a materialist, but a rationalist. Second, a worldview is the sum of one’s beliefs about the world, especially pertaining to metaphysics which is the study of reality, epistemology which is the study of knowledge, and ethics which is the study of right versus wrong. third, It is important to note the law of non-contradiction. The law of non contradiction states that, ”something cannot be both true and not true at the same time when dealing with the same context” (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry). Fourth, empiricism is the belief that knowledge is only gained through the five senses and other means that are proven valid by them. Dawkins claims that there is no God. One argument against the existence of God is his criticism of the ontological argument. To understand this concept better, you should know that all arguments for God’s existence are either a priori or a posteriori.

This means that they either presume God’s existence -a priori- or they assume God’s existence upon inspection of the world around you -a posteriori-.Dawkins understands that the ontological argument is an a priori argument, the existence of God is necessary for the argument to be valid. This is commonly known as “begging the question”. Begging the question is defined as, “Any form of argument where the conclusion is assumed in one of the premises” (Begging the Question). it is simply a circular argument, and therefore not logical. Walker agrees with Dawkins’ claim of the futility of this argument One of Dawkins’ best arguments against theism is disproving one of the most common arguments propagated by modern Christians: The Argument from Personal Experience. He gives examples saying that “some people have experienced a pink elephant” (Dawkins 88) Dawkins also cites a famous serial killer who heard, “the voice of Jesus telling him to kill women” (Dawkins 88). Although, Dawkins argues, belief is not equal to truth, truth being knowledge, and knowledge being justified belief. Neither of these examples can prove themselves without entering circular reasoning, regardless of how strongly the person believes their claim. In this case, religion is similar to a person in an asylum that believes that they are Napoleon Bonaparte; their belief does not mean that it is true. Dawkins shows that an argument from experience is subjective to the individual and is not true. Interestingly, Walker agrees that this argument is fruitless. While Walker disagrees with Dawkins conclusion, he agrees with the logic used here.

Despite their differences and disagreements, both Dawkins and Walker do an excellent job of pointing out the uselessness of hard agnosticism. Dawkins calls it “deeply inescapable” (Dawkins 70) while Walker compares it to “a leaky bucket” (Walker 143). Hard agnosticism claims that you can not know anything, including whether or not you are an agnostic. This eliminates truth by claiming that nothing is either proven or disproven. This includes being agnostic about the previous sentence. The consequences of both Dawkins’ and Walker’s beliefs are crucial. Assuming the Bible is true, anyone who does not meet certain requirements is damned to eternal punishment. Assuming that empirical observation is the highest epistemological authority, religious practitioners are possibly one of the greatest hindrances to scientific discovery and one of the most judgmental sects of American culture.

This cultural impediment would result in more people dying of cancer, new species of animals not being discovered, and science -a god Dawkins is willing to serve- not getting its rightful credit. Their motives, while different, both seem to have other’s best interests in mind, just in different aspects of life and death. Dawkins claims that God cannot be either proven or disproven. He goes on to say that atheism is a better worldview because atheists do not have faith (Dawkins 74); atheists operate solely on facts and knowledge. During a speech at the Edinburgh International Science Festival on April 15, 1992 Dawkins is credited with saying “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence”. If Atheists do not need to make assumptions about the universe in order for it to make sense, it is the more preferable of the two options.

Dawkins even has the fortitude and the humility to say that as soon as definitive evidence is presented to him, he will abandon all of his inconsistent beliefs. Walker’s belief system is much more traumatic. He argues that God cannot be proven deductively, but only inductively. By this he means that without God, nothing would make sense; things do make sense, therefore God exists. He claims to know this based on the Bible which claims to be true (John 17:17, 2 Timothy 2:15, Revelation 21:5, Psalm 119:160). His argument is that any worldview that cannot give a reasonable account for certain philosophical assumptions is not viable. A few of the facts Walker claims must be accounted for are as follows: 1.) You assume that you have a mind that is something more than your brain. 2.) You assume that reality is composed of particulars that share some unity 3.) You assume that reality is composed of the material, the physical, as well as the non-physical. 4.) You assume the uniformity of nature. 5.) You assume that sense perceptions are a reliable source of knowledge. 6.) You assume that knowledge is possible. 7.) You assume that the laws of logic exist. 8.) You assume that reason is a trustworthy tool for the acquisition of knowledge. 9.) You assume the law of non-contradiction. 10.) You assume that knowledge is objective rather than subjective. 11.) You assume the laws of cause and effect. 12.) You assume that objective moral values exist (Walker).

Walker claims that if a person’s worldview cannot support these things, they cannot account for truth and are living in an inconsistent manner to what they claim to believe. This inconsistency calls for a worldview change. For instance, if a person believes that anything can be true for anyone, you could claim that what they just said is not true for you. Both cannot be true. If they maintain their position, truth becomes opinion at best, and meaningless at worst. Both are good arguments; both arguments are equally valid. The difference is the foundation, the presuppositions, that they are built on. Walker’s argument is based on the Bible, Dawkins’ is built on empirical observation. This means that whoever has the better presupposition also has the better argument. Given this information, it would follow to compare their worldviews. As previously stated, common sense dictates that two opposing facts cannot both simultaneously be true: it can only be one or the other. Thus the Bible and empirical observation cannot both be the highest form of justification for a belief. Walker begins with the Bible. He claims that apart from God and the Bible, it is impossible to attain objective truth. Walker shows how subjective truth is nothing more than opinion and how one’s opinion does not justify condemning someone else’s beliefs. He states that without an objective standard, truth is opinion and even that is questionable. Walker claims that subjectivity eradicates any possibility to interpret the human experience thereby dispensing with human intelligibility. Dawkins’ best argument against the existence of God is his critique of Walker’s premise: the Bible. He gives scriptural examples of inconsistency, such as differentiating accounts of Jesus’ lineage, citing that both Luke and John give different accounts with very little overlap (Dawkins p. 118).

This is possibly the greatest detriment to Walker’s argument because a good argument cannot be built on a bad foundation. In response, Luke simply follows Jesus’ mother’s lineage back to King David of the Old Testament, while John follows Jesus’ earthly father’s lineage. Walker’s belief about the inerrancy of the Bible is held by a minority of people. While large groups of people are not always right, they often are. This fact lends at least some strength to Dawkins argument. Dawkins illustrates this fact with a story of a professor who did not believe in the Golgi apparatus of a cell, however, the majority of biologists at that time were correct in assuming that cells did indeed contain a Golgi apparatus (Dawkins 320-1). This evidence is not definitive that Walker is wrong; although, it certainly is anecdotal. Another critique of the Bible Dawkins expounds upon is the time gap between the occurrence of the events in the Bible and the time that they were written, which would clearly be enough time for one to forget what actually happened. While Dawkins is correct in understanding the capability for human error, there is also corroborating evidence for the Bible found in the works of Flavius Josephus which was written in A.D. 93, the Babylonian Talmud (which is contested as biblical canon) written between A.D. 70–200, Pliny the Younger’s letter to the Emperor Trajan written approx. A.D. 100, the Annals of Tacitus between A.D. 115–117, Mara Bar Serapion which was penned after A.D. 73, not to mention Suetonius’ Life of Claudius and Life of Nero (A.D. 120) among others (Ken Boa). Most of these were probably written by eyewitnesses, soon after the events took place.

The Bible has been criticized for millennia on the topic of accuracy. There is an argument for both sides. On the side of the disbeliever, there lies the fact that the Bible was written approximately 40 years after the death of Jesus. This is certainly time enough for the authors to have forgotten some details, not to mention that the Bible is nearly 2000 years old, this would seemingly prove that the Bible is no longer accurate to what it originally said. However, there are nearly 25000 new testament biblical manuscripts, of which only 6000 are considered fragmented. These were written only two and a half decades after the events took place. To contrast, Caesar’s Gallic Wars was written in first century B.C., meaning that the earliest textual evidence available was put down approximately 1,000 years after the original, of which there are only ten copies in existence. Aristotle’s Poetics has a similar level of reliability. They were written in the fourth century B.C. There are only 5 manuscripts in existence. The earliest textual evidence of them was copied 1,400 years after the original (The Institute for Creation Research). This evidence shows that if the works of the authors of antiquity and the information in the Gallic Wars is to be considered accurate, then the Bible should be treated, at least, as an equal.

Dawkins claims that he is an atheist, ergo, a materialist, ergo, an empiricist. Dawkins defines atheism as the belief that there is “nothing beyond the natural, physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe.” (Dawkins 14). However, upon examination, he often uses the laws of logic, which Greg Bahnsen, one of the first to explore the realm of presuppositional apologetics, claims cannot be proven by empirical observation (Bahnsen 112): logic is not observable, no one has ever seen, felt, heard, touched, or tasted logic. This means that logic is immaterial, as Dawkins uses an immaterial agent, Walker would consider him inconsistent with his claims as an atheist. The most common answer to this problem is that logic is a by product of thought process and the chemical reactions in the brain. The way the brain is programmed is to solve problems and thus logic is, in essence, material. Another argument against materialism begins by limiting reality to physical particulars. Walker argues that if the brain is just matter in motion, there is nothing beyond the physical brain, then knowledge is determined by chemical interactions. If knowledge is determined in this manner, then belief is predetermined, based on an antecedent, before the subject chooses to believe based on evidence or a lack thereof.

Walker claims that this worldview does not allow for choice or free will because all other options are excluded based on the predetermined chemical reactions in the brain that lead the subject to act (Walker 89). If Walker is correct, education, conversation, debate, and expression are all useless expenditures of energy because they yield nothing more than the material components of reality will allow. In simpler terms, what a person believes is the only thing that they can believe based on the exclusion principle of determinism. Dawkins admits, in order to be consistent with his worldview, that “things are determined in a rational way by antecedent” (ShirleyFilms). Walker maintains that any basis for morality is destroyed with this belief. Any “wrong” action is only the result of the antecedent. The result of 9/11? The holocaust? Cambodian genocide? All of them were determined, thus punishing someone for an act they were inescapably forced to commit would be “wrong”; however, the subject’s punishment would also be determined.

This problem could be turned around on Walker, “do you have free will?”, In his defence, the Bible claims that as God’s creations, humans are bestowed the gift of free will (John 17:7, Romans 13:2, Galatians 5:16-7, Deuteronomy 30:19-20), and yet, God is sovereign (Romans 9, Ephesians 4). Walker holds that this is true. He says “it is a biblical mystery, not a biblical contradiction” (Walker Personal Interview). In conclusion, the worldview you adopt can seriously direct the course and purpose of your life. To quote Walker “we live in a universe where the external world is real and our choices are significant” (Walker 329). And to quote Dawkins “I genuinely don’t know the answer, but I am thrilled to be alive at a time when humanity is pushing the limits of understanding. Even better, we may eventually discover that there are no limits.” (Dawkins 349) The sum of your beliefs and actions can make a significant impact in the lives of those around you. You have the facts. what do you believe?  

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