Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wishful thinking . . .

This time of year we hear a lot about wishes for the coming year and within thirty days it just turns into wishful thinking.  So much of life comes down to the tension between what we wish to be and what is just wish fulfillment.

As a Christian I am familiar with this territory.  My skeptic friends usually pose this question: "how do you know that your faith isn't just wishful thinking?"

But when it really boils down, everything is wishful thinking.  I mean if you are an atheist, the idea that there is no God is the best way that you can reconcile that there is evil in the world or there are pedophile priests or the fact that you didn't get what you prayed for.  It actually unifies your thoughts about the world if there were no God.  So in a strange way, the atheist too engages in wishful thinking.

The believer
The atheist
The agnostic
The transcendentalist
The materialist

The list could be as long as my arm - we all find ways to justify our particular view of the world.  But note that it is the view that comes first and the justification second.  We want a worldview that fits what we see - and that is the wish fulfillment we engage in (and not the other way around).

And perhaps the most interesting take on this is that, in the end, one of these views is correct . . .


  1. Great post John. I was gonna try and loose 10 lbs this year, psh, not anymore. ;)

  2. Not sure which atheists you're talking to, but you have it backwards in my case. I look at the complete lack of evidence of the existence of anything supernatural; atheism is a natural conclusion to come to. So while you might put view first and justification second, please don't impose that on the rest of us; it just isn't true.

  3. Dave, a complete lack of evidence for the supernatural is the conclusion you may have come to, but some others do feel there is reason to believe in the supernatural. I think the origin of the universe allows plenty of room for something outside our current natural happenings to exist.

  4. I notice that you said "reason to believe," not "evidence." I agree that you're putting view first and justification second; I just don't agree that atheists do that.

  5. dave, I only have a reason though because i think the big bang needs an initiator. something outside of space and time. and for me to ask 'why' I then consider religions and spiritual things that claim to have been before the earth was created. but honestly, I don't feel naturalism has a satisfactory answer to the origins of the universe right now. but religion and spirituality do attempt to answer some origin questions. I have come to believe that the God of the bible fits best.

  6. Hi Dave, thanks for the comments. I would like for you to see that your search for evidence of the supernatural composes a 'view' that gets justified by your efforts. You can't get out of that epistemological loop and still be human.


  7. " I would like for you to see that your search for evidence of the supernatural composes a 'view' that gets justified by your efforts."

    I'm not searching for evidence of the supernatural; I'm saying that the supernatural does not exist, based on the evidence. You still have it backwards, no matter what semantic tricks you try.

  8. Okay - since I wrote a book about no arguing, I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

    But . . .

    It is your remark about semantic 'tricks' that has me concerned that perhaps we are miscommunicating.

    I was just referring to your initial entry in which you said: "I look at the complete lack of evidence of the existence of anything supernatural; atheism is a natural conclusion to come to."

    This would imply that since you have observed a lack of evidence that you were at least paying attention to whether there was evidence - at least that is what I would hope you would do.

    So yes, actually you have searched for evidence (if what you say is true about observing the lack of it). This is especially true if you have come to the conclusion that the supernatural doesn't exist - the only way you could have arrived at that would have been through the search you deny. So it is not verbal acrobatics - yes, you had to have searched at some point and yes, your search was justified by your efforts.

    None of us can escape this fact - we hold a view and then we justify it. Yours is science and mine is faith. I freely admit that I choose faith and seek to support it through what I see and understand. It is because I know we as humans have nothing outside of ourselves to appraise what the correct starting point is epistemologically. Everything is up for grabs when it comes to what is true - I don't believe that the limit of truth falls with our senses.

    Incidentally this is what hacks off materialists because they think that what is real is what is there. Reality is not just what is there, but why it is there. This is a question that goes beyond the senses and what we can reason.

    Try this - can you reasonably justify reason? Of course you can't because it is a closed loop. In the same way when people justify faith or reason or atheism through materialism or positivism or what have you, they are still behind the eight ball of proof. They only thing that one demonstrates is one's bias.

    So I hope that helps to clear up any word play or semantic trickery - these are things humans have wrestled with for eons. But it is clear that you and I don't agree, thought it would be fun to talk some more.