Thursday, January 13, 2005

Evidence and argumentation...and it's really cold out

The current temperature here in Minneapolis (largest city in "Minne-so-cold," as Hugh calls it, is -2. The wind chill is -25. You'd think this is a problem, but for those of us who call this place home, it's really not that bad. Sure, you wouldn't want to go around sticking your tongues to flag poles or anything, but for sanitary reasons you probably wouldn't want to do that in July either.

Some people think we're somewhat strange, those of us who live here, for dealing with such cold. I think it's a wonderful thing, the varying weather forms we see up here. Christmas wouldn't be the same without snow, and it's wonderful to be able to enjoy skiing, golfing, snowshoeing, etc...all without having to travel to another state. Besides, for every person who thinks they'd never live here in the cold, I can find a person who could never live in Texas come summertime. It's all a matter of preference, none "crazier" than another. God's creation is, well, very creative. There are blessings and dangers no matter where one resides, and it's something we should all keep in mind.

Then again, the cold could have rendered my capacity for though useless today (as my wife would ask, "today only?") and in reality there's no rational reason for choosing to live here. Minus 25 wind chills are pretty cold...even for a long time 'Sotan.

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Last week I said I'd start a series of posts on why I believe in God. Pretty standard fare for your typical Evangelical, and probably not fraught with new dangers for me to explore. However, if you are going to be reading what I write, it probably helps you to know a bit more about my thought process. Who knows, perhaps someone can help me improve it. I'm not above correction. I expect this series to go about a week or so, with the possibility of interruptions as events call for it. After all, interesting things are happening in this world on a daily basis, and some of them will intrigue me enough to interrupt my regularly scheduled blogging.

Before I get into the "why's" though, I should present the usual disclaimers in matters of metaphysics and apologetics. First of all, there is no way to "prove" the existence of God. When dealing with the topic, the best we can do is present our best evidence. The reader can then do what the reader wants with the information, and hopefully evidence presented fairly will be received and evaluated fairly.

Second, there are multiple types of evidences. Some are empirical, some are experiential, some are testimonial. I'm sure there are further divisions and subdivisions. My point is not to provide a tutorial on types of evidences, but instead to say there are many types. Some types of evidences are accepted as valid or credible by some people, but very few people accept all types of evidences as equally valid. So, for instance, if I provide testimonial evidence as a reason I believe in X, I don't expect everyone to acknowledge that the testimonial evidence is sufficient to justify my belief in X. Likewise, I don't accept that just because empirical evidence points to Y that solves the question. To me, the clearest picture comes when you are open-minded enough to accept that multiple forms of evidence are valid, albeit to different people they will be valid to a varying extent.

Third, everyone has biases. Everyone has preferences, and preconceived notions. Hopefully I will be clear about mine, and if I am not, please ask. I'll do what I can to clarify such things. There is nothing wrong with biases, and having one does nothing to add or subtract from the credibility of an argument. For instance, I may have a bias against X and for Y. If I write that X is bad because of Z, the fact that I prefer Y to X doesn't mean that Z is not a rational reason for believing X is bad. Evaluate Z on its own merits, and don't dismiss it just because I prefer X to Y. I do expect that my biases will be noted and included in the evaluation of my arguments, but they alone should not be sufficient cause to disregard or avoid the argument itself.

Finally, I'm very willing to hear what others have to say on the matter. Where we agree, I'm interested in hearing different formulations of my argument to help clarify my own thinking. Where we disagree, I am very interested in testing my beliefs against alternatives. If I haven't mentioned it yet, I am a nut about apologetics, and an amateur (i.e. self-taught, with a steep learning curve ahead) philosophy junky. Testing my beliefs is a wonderful use of the faculties God gave me. I promise to consider your thoughts as best I can.

Now...back to the cold, and I'll be back tomorrow with the first post in the series. Unless something more interesting comes up.

God bless!

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