I was in a discussion with an agnostic the other day, and I brought up the existence of miracles to justify belief in the supernatural. He said something along the lines of “That doesn’t prove anything. We can’t trust our senses to prove something beyond any doubt. We could be in a matrix, for all we know.” A ridiculous assertion, of course; but one that is difficult, if not downright impossible, to disprove. Is there any rational argument out there to counteract such an objection? How do I answer this?
Tell him that he is the “one”
“Give me tangible evidence to believe in God.” “Ok, here.” “Errr, umm, actually, any evidence for anything is meaningless.”
How do you rationally deal with someone like that? You can’t because they’re completely irrational. They’re more staunchly dogmatic than we are! Best bet is to pray and do penance that they may be given the light they need.
Logic should still “exist” in “the Matrix” if I remember correctly from the overrated movie…
Perhaps a few doses of Aquinas might help.
How do you mean?
For the record, I haven’t seen the movie; but I have heard a lot about it so I’m familiar with the concept.
Some people need proof when the only proof is your faith. Faith, being intangible, cannot be shown but it still exists. Which boils down to the fact that you can never show some people proof.
I don’t think he was being serious when he said that… He just firmly believes that nothing can ever fully be explained and anything is possible.
‘Paschal’s Wager’ would be a good step for having him consider seriously approaching the subject. Think of it as an ‘insurance salesman’ approach… Focus on the selfish side and then develop it from there.
BTW, I absolutely love the Matrix films! I believe they’re seriously underrated but they’re good fodder for beginning discussions of this sort. In order for Neo to win, he needed to have faith in something… whether it was in himself as being the One, or the machine ‘Deus.’ Otherwise he’d just be prodding along a road to nowhere learning nothing and accomplishing nothing! Just like Agnostics…
I guess the obvious question to ask him is how does one prove anything “beyond any doubt”? Force him to give you the standards which he will accept, and then examine some of his own beliefs according to those standards.
Or you could punch him in the nose and then explain to him that it never really happened, no matter what his senses falsely claim. :rolleyes:
We DO live in a sort of matrix, or at least a lot of people do. They don’t know the Truth (God) and a lot of agents (Satan and other evil spirits) are trying their best to keep it so. But there is One (Jesus) who defeated death and agents and is freeing people from the world of lies and sin.
tell him that Matrix is a great parable to what is actually happening
Try this approach. It kinda ties in with the whole “Matrix” theme. I agree it was a totally overrated movie. catholic.com/thisrock/2006/0605uan.asp
Thanks so much for all the replies, everyone!
Try out your “Kung Fu” moves on him?
As I’ve said elsewhere, Pascal’s Wager is the plastic cocktail saber in the arsenal of apologetics. It is a malformed and incomplete thought experiment, and as an apologetic argument it absolutely cannot be taken seriously.
Otherwise he’d just be prodding along a road to nowhere learning nothing and accomplishing nothing! Just like Agnostics…
Careful with that, you never know who’s listening…
Glorfindel: there really isn’t. There’s no way to prove we all aren’t brains in jars being fed experiences; there’s no way to prove I’m not just a voice in your head or that you’re not in a very vivid lucid dream if that’s what you believe. Yes, it’s ridiculous – but odds are to your friend it makes just about as much sense as religion.
All a miracle shows once its existence is proven beyond a doubt (which is difficult enough!) is that we don’t know everything about how the world works; no more, no less. melensdad is, as far as I can tell from the other side of the fence, right on.
Normally I would not suggest Descartes, but for one who thinks “Nothing can be Proven” the best place to start is “**Cogito, ergo sum”
imagines Jesus beating up hundreds of Satans with a metal pole
This touches on a question relating to epistemology, or how we gain knowledge.
The theist basically believes it is possible for humans to gain knowledge of God, either by evidence God exists through the senses and mind, or by God’s revelation by means of religious experience, miracles, scripture, and other means.
The atheist denies God exists so whatever ‘knowledge’ we have of God simply has an explanation in terms of either human belief or activity or cognition, or in terms of natural phenomena.
The agnostic denies that knowledge of God or any other transcendant entity or object is possible, usually because there is no conclusive evidence such a being exists or has revealed him/itself to us, or that our powers of cognition and understanding cannot know such a being or transcendant object.
This problem touches then on the question of human knowledge and of what human beings can and cannot know. The argument in the Matrix against the possibility of knowledge is basically that there is no way of telling which ‘reality’ which we experience in our minds is really true; it is possible (and in fact, it is true) in the Matrix that the ‘Matrix’ is a gigantic communal delusion of the human race made by their intelligent machine overlords. Yet to each perceiver in the Matrix, the Matrix is ‘real.’ Philosophers have formulated it another way; the brain in the vat paradox. Suppose some intelligent aliens, wanting to experiment on humans, came down in a UFO, abducted you, removed your brain from your body (ensuring it remained alive) and placed it in a special tank. The aliens, using their advanced technology, attach various information pathways to the nerves of various sense organs which simulate normal human experience on Earth. When the human being ‘wakes up’ (that is, the aliens turn the brain to a state of normal conciousness) how does the human know the reality is not a simulation, as it really is?
Descartes posed this problem himself in his Meditations, using ancient skeptical arguments, and instead of aliens assumed instead all sense impressions and experience were the work of a demon. He came to the conclusion that the only truth he could come to was that to exist and be aware of things, a concious entity must also exist necessarily. Descartes believed this was a rigorous proof that the mind and soul were immortal, even if the body perished, as when the existence of the body is shown to be a false belief by this skeptical method, the only thing left is conciousness.
Not all buy this argument and many reject it, or tried to present alternatives. One area of interest is how we can know which universe of experience is true, and which are simply illusions or delusions.
Descartes also offered a proof of God’s existence based on the reflections and method of doubt, on the basis that it was God who guaranteed that the external world existed and what Descartes believed to be true was true. He also argued from something called an innate idea, a sort of intelligible object the mind, abstracting from sense experience, contemplates and is led onwards to absolute and perfect Being (a similar path to the Absolute or God occurs in Plotinus and Augustine, and also in Indian contemplative meditations). Skeptical philosophers though argued Descartes was incoherent at many points and some believe the mind is basically the brain, and any ‘objects’ we encounter in cognition are either phenomena or appearances which don’t reflect a deeper underlying reality, or simply items of concious awareness our brain generates for us in our concious awareness.
George Berkely believed the last idea, and comes close to the Matrix when he argues all things are in fact simply ideas in minds, either human minds, angelic minds, or God’s mind. John Scotus Eriugena came to a similar conclusion in the early medieval period, though via a different route. This was rejected by empricists like Hume and also by Kant, though Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology in a way rediscovered this idea when he studied how the mind understands logical truths.
In terms of understanding God, it depends on whether one accepts cognition of the essence of God is possible by the human mind. Theologians seem to agree God’s essence is not something the human mind can grasp in its infinity, and the philosophers agree, though the human mind can still approach God by logical methods and contemplation to arrive at some statements about God which are true. St Thomas believed it was possible for the human mind to have cognition of God in the sense terms and concepts could be applied to God, but not in the sense the mind could grasp the divine essence (which requires the beatific vision).
In terms of your agnostic friend, you should tell him to contemplate things like beauty, truth and goodness or compassion in his mind, and see where they lead. If one contemplates these carefully, and abstracts them into transcendental concepts, and then one asks rationally what their source is or where they come from, or what gives them beauty and reality and form, one feels they are leading onward to something which is beyond grasp but very clear, true, unchanging and ineffably beautiful, like a radiant diamond shining brilliantly with light that never changes and is a cool, calm, astonishly beautiful and which the mind takes absolute delight in when it contemplates it, and fills one’s heart with overflowing joy.
“Brains in jars being fed experiences” presupposes the real existence of brains and jars, doesn’t it?
Aquinas argues that since our perceptions can contradict each other (for example, I might say something is green and you might say no, it is not green), perceptions are not genuine knowledge. To get around this, he argues that our experience of objects is direct experience of real objects of knowledge.
In other words, our experience of reality does not have to be defended logically; it is itself the foundation of logical argument. If your friend says, “No, all we have are our perceptions, not reality,” just ask, “Perceptions of what?” And then don’t let him off the hook. The objects of knowledge we perceive are real. If anyone tries to dispute that seriously, I would argue it is just a mental game for them; people who do actually doubt their sense experiences are having some kind of psychosis.
Here’s something else to ask your friend: In the movie, when Neo goes into the “real” world, given the premises of the movie itself, how could Neo know that the “new” world he was in was any more real than the “old” world he had before?
He can’t, which is why the movie at a primary level can’t make sense (although it was pretty entertaining). You could point out that that is the problem—THE PREMISES OF THE MOVIE ITSELF can’t be right.