It could be because I have never formally studied the Social Sciences why I am ambivalent about the results of polls. I accept that polls can be accurate. However, it is my position that they are, in general, not reliable because people are not always reliable.
Here now is an obnoxious question. Why are the results of the recent Don Anderson polls re aversion to abortion taken with such seriousness by Christians? What do the people polled really know about an abortion beyond a gut view and what if the results had swung in favour of abortion? What do we know cognitively and defensibly either way?
And horrible question now. What unquestionable logical/scientific axiom renders the view of a thousand people as representative of the views of approximately 2.5 million of us? Polled ignorance even from an adequate sample is still pooled ignorance!
The same, by the way, happens in church Bible study when the leader gives a text and asks folk what they think the text means, without providing any background or other tools for interpreting the text responsibly. Pooled ignorance is the end result despite the façade of ‘involving the members’.
I bare my academic flanks now for shooters. Has there ever been in any economics class a philosophical questioning of the supply and demand maxim? Why is increased demand seemingly a sufficient justification for a price increase in the product demanded? So NHT will increase its loan limit. Why must that affect the price of new or existing houses? Why really?
These next two issues require quite a bit of serious thought because they are philosophical.
French Philosopher, Rene Descartes, in a bid to guarantee certainty in the content of his knowledge decided on a method of doubting everything. After operating thus for awhile he said he discovered that while he was thinking and doubting he was sure that he was (that is, that he existed) and was a thinking thing. This led to his now well-known aphorism (strangely, more known in its Latin form than in French), cogito ergo sum,‘I think therefore I am’.
In introductory philosophy classes students are encouraged to find weaknesses in Descartes’ line of reasoning. One popular criticism has been that Descartes’ ability to be thinking is not adequate enough proof of his existence because a brain in a vat could do likewise. It continues to puzzle and bemuse me that this criticism became so popular when it should have been shot down logically as flawed.
The thinking-brain-in-a-vat notion is really silly because it takes more than a brain to generate thinking. There must be an ‘I’ that is using the brain to do mind work or think and there is none in the vat. I use my brain to do mind work or think and so do you.
Without conjunction with a person or centre of consciousness, a brain is simply a piece of meat and can do no mind work, no thinking. Put more philosophically, a brain may be necessary for mind work or thinking but it is not sufficient for mind work or thinking.
Stephen Hawking, in his co-authored 2010 book The Grand Design says “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing… Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to…set the Universe going.” (p. 180)
This statement is frankly nice-sounding nonsense, juvenile, philosophically and junk, scientifically!
Hawking, by his statement, concedes that the Universe is not eternal (a fact verified by the latest research in Astrophysics) but then he makes a juvenile mistake, philosophically, by treating the Universe at once, as both cause and effect in the statement “…the Universe can and will create itself…”
As I hammer home to my students in philosophy and apologetics. a self-created/caused being or entity is a contradiction in terms. It would have to be as cause before it can become an effect! It gets worse for Hawking with the addition to that statement of the words “from nothing…” Philosophy, science and common-sense experience all testify that from nothing, nothing comes without the intervention of a personal mind and creative will.
As we cultivate critical thinking we need to raise critical questions, answer questions properly and question answers logically as well!
Rev. Clinton Chisholm, Academic Dean, Caribbean Graduate School of Theology