A conversation with John Frame

The other side of it is rationalism, where people are convinced that they have the answers. It may be a view of scientific evolution, it may be a political theory or any number of things. But they have confidence that their mind can take them there. I think the Christian philosopher, the Christian apologist wants to say, Okay, if you’re going to be an irrationalist and say that reason has no use and you can’t find truth anywhere, why do you talk to me about that? Why are you trying to present this view persuasively, if you admit that it’s not possible to obtain the truth, why are you asserting things? Why do you assert anything? Well, then they usually jump from being an irrationalist to being a rationalist, and they’ll say, “Well, okay, I’m skeptical, but I do know that you have to start where you are, that the mind is the final authority, and you just have to follow wherever it leads.” Then you say, “Well, okay, where does the mind begin? Does it have any principles that it has to follow?” It may be logic, it may be sense experience. Some philosophers thought that logic and mathematics were the beginning of all certainty, and may be the only thing that’s really certain. Some of them think that it’s the sense experience, it’s what we see that we believe, and if we’re going to argue that anything is true, we have to begin with what we see. That’s called empiricism. So, you go through that, trying to clarify what they mean, and then you ask, “Well, why should we believe that logic is true?”

Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism says that we can assume that the mind is evolved, and it’s designed for survival of the species. Now, for one thing, where do you get this talk of design? Why should we believe it’s designed for anything? But just bypassing that, if it’s designed for the survival of the species, then it’s not necessarily designed for the finding of truth. Some animal species just crawl around on the bottom of streams. Take for example, the electric eels, which work up electric shock in their bodies to disable other creatures that they can eat for lunch, and so on. That’s one way of living and surviving, but that doesn’t depend on any knowledge of truth. They couldn’t tell you anything about why the world is the way it is or why they’re designed the way they are.

BENYOLA: They’re not self-conscious, or sentient.

FRAME: Yeah, so evolution can be perfectly adequate to enable a species to survive without guaranteeing that we would have any knowledge of truth at all. Maybe our brilliant ideas that we think about are a more sophisticated example of the electric eel killing its prey. Why should we be believe that these organic materials up here in the head are a gateway to truth, and not just a complicated way of surviving?

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