Dan,

Because it’s early and I don’t understand the concept of “absolute truth,” I’ll steer clear of it. Let’s see if we can make do without it. It seems to me you made two arguments in your last post, both rooted in pragmatism. First, you contended that “…neither science nor religion can uncover an absolute truth.” Next, you argued for religion’s relative “truth” as a factor of, or flowing from, its use to individuals or society.

First, it may be true that scientific principle x is just a low-uncertainty hypothesis but, given its roots in the scientific method, I’d say its uncertainty value is much, much lower than any theism’s, absent a concerted defense of theism’s “truth.” Even if it’s true that neither science nor religion can uncover absolute truth, that’s certainly not to say that the two disciplines (and again, I hesitate to call religion a “discipline”) are equally suited for the task. I drop a rubber ball in my kitchen 99 times; each time it bounces. Now, my statement that “It will bounce again on the hundredth time” is really just a low-uncertainty hypothesis, but I’m entitled to make it because I’ve just conducted 99 trials. Evidence, gathered by human observation and analysis, chases out uncertainty as light chases out shadow. So where is the evidence for theism? I’m not arguing there is none; I’m just demanding to see it. Theism needs a positive argument!

Second, I have a hard time accepting the notion that a thing’s truth value can be a direct function of its utility. Santa Clause is a beloved cultural icon in this and many Western European countries…but he’s still just a story. I know this is a cartoonish view of pragmatism–the theories of pragmatism rest on more than just assertions that “truth is what works”–but I can’t take this further because I’m lost. What are you arguing, exactly?

Finally, the challenge. The thing for which I’ve been waiting, in this and a number of conversations I’ve had with friends about Dawkins’ book, is a positive argument for theism. Pacal’s Wager, arguments about the ends of epistemology or social utility–these are all merely implicit cases for theism. Can we build anything stronger?

–Morgan Hubbard

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