Saturday, January 30, 2010

Logical Positivism and its ugly past.

Today I want to share with you something that is fairly interesting, fairly funny and also kinda sad (in an amusing way).

First, lets start off with this ripper from prominent Atheist author and spokesperson, Christopher Hitchens:
"What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence."
Thats from his article on Mother Theresa which can be found here.

Now, lets turn to the topic at hand. With the success of the scientific method and humanities new found ability to discover the truth apart from God, we decided, heck, lets just do away with God entirely. Enter: Logical Positivism. Logical Positivism was a movement in the first half of the 20th Century that was lead by philosophers such as A.J. Ayer. Basically it was the idea that no hypothesis can be treated seriously if it does not have some empirical evidence entered into the equation somewhere, and also, more importantly it has to be directly related to the object of the hypothesis. (I hope that makes sense).

The effect of this was to be devastating for theistic belief among philosophers. It was not that God had been disproved, but that the statement "God exists" became completely meaningless. It was unverifiable, therefore one could not say anything about it. It was a bit like making this statement "aglup mart unadapop". Thats basically what it amounts to.

However, by the 1960's it was undermined by the realization that the statement 'everything must be verified by empirical evidence' is itself a meaningless statement. So the whole world view became horribly self refuting. So, if we return to Christopher's aforementioned quote, well I would like to deny it because I have no evidence to suggest that its true, thank you very much.

But, I have noticed that among many of my peers this idea lives on... most frequently repackaged as the so-called 'law of falsification' the idea that if a hypothesis is non falsifiable then we can dismiss it. (In this case the falsifiability has to come in the form  of empirical evidence usually), and also, if one were to take this as an axiom of their world view, then they could hold no other axioms and technically their only axiom would be self refuting. (We cant falsify the 'law of falsifiability'). This leaves me in the humorous position of discovering an argument that was refuted 40 years before I was born being told to me by someone who considers me illogical and stupid, and himself to be the very paradigm of rationality and critical thinking!

So, before I go, I want to leave you with this little video of Bill Craig humiliating Peter Atkins.


So, next time you come across this argument, don't make a pithy argument based on the fact that we cannot see the wind, instead expose the foolishness of the unbelieving worldview!

(Gosh, that sounded a lot more cavalier than "So put that in your pipe and smoke it.")

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