Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Americans & Brits Believe in Heaven Than 10 Years Ago (+, on the fallacy of "evidentialism")

I liked Dinesh D'Souza's Life After Death: The Evidence." Johann Hari thinks it's "preposterous." Hari, in "Heaven: A fool's paradise," is scandalized by data that shows "81 per cent of Americans and 51 per cent of Brits say they believe in heaven – an increase of 10 per cent since a decade ago. Of those, 71 per cent say it is "an actual place"." We can't, suggests Hari, get over the idea of the "pearly gates."

Hari's is a long article, but here's one Hari-idea that reveals a lot to me. He writes: "[T]o believe in heaven you have to make "a leap of faith" – but in what other field in life do we abandon all need for evidence? Why do it in one so crucial to your whole sense of existence?"

The correct answer is: we believe tons of things without "evidence." The fallacy of "evidentialism" is seen in the extremely famous words of atheist W.K. Clifford: "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." (The Ethics of Belief, 1879) Clifford was wrong, as shown by (again) Alvin Plantinga, who has the ability to prove anyone wrong. For example, we believe the laws of logic are true, but cannot provide evidence for their truth, since to do so one would have to employ the laws of logic. Or, we believe there is a world perceived by our senses that is external to us. Note that we believe this non-evidentially, since to provide evidence by our senses that we sense a world outside of ourselves is circular, hence non-evidential. Or, you believe "1+1=2," but have this belief sans evidential reasoning. (Unless you are "Dr. Math." But even if Dr. Math has proven this, probably you cannot and never have, thus you believe "1+1=2" as something properly basic.)

Back to Hari. I believe in "heaven," but in an essentially non-evidential way. Because I believe the noetic framework of Christian theism is true, this gives me "warrant," or "grounds," for my belief in an afterlife. The "afterlife" is a rational belief on Christian theism.

In short, Hari's evidentialism badly leads him astray in his pearly-gate essay.