|« Prev||B. If True, Probably So||Next »|
B. If True, Probably So
On the other hand, if theistic belief is true, then it seems likely that it does have warrant. If it is true, then there is, indeed, such a person as God, a person who has created us in his image (so that we resemble him, among other things, in having the capacity for knowledge), who loves us, who desires that we know and love him, and who is such that it is our end and good to know and love him. But if these things are so, then he would of course intend that we be able to be aware of his presence and to know something about him. And if that is so, the natural thing to think is that he created us in such a way that we would come to hold such true beliefs as that there is such a person as God, that he is our creator, that we owe him obedience and worship, that he is worthy of worship, that he loves us, and so on. And if that is so, then the natural thing to think is that the cognitive processes that do produce belief in God are aimed by their designer at producing that belief. But then the belief in question will be produced by cognitive faculties functioning properly according to a design plan successfully aimed at truth: it will therefore have warrant. Again, this isn’t certain; the argument is not deductively valid. It is abstractly possible, I suppose, that God has created us with a certain faculty f for knowing him; for one reason or another, f always malfunctions, and some other faculty f' created to produce some other beliefs, often malfunctions in such a way that it produces belief in God. Then our belief in God wouldn’t have warrant, despite the fact that it is true. (This would be something like a sort of complex and peculiar theological Gettier problem.) And the abstract character of this possibility is perhaps strengthened when we think of the fact that human beings, according to Christian belief, have fallen into sin, which has noetic effects as well as effects of other sorts. Nevertheless, the more probable thing, at least so far as I can see, is that if in fact theism is true, then theistic belief has warrant.
Suppose we try to take a deeper look. How could we make sense of the idea that theism is true but belief in God doesn’t have warrant?
We’d have to suppose (1) that there is such a person as God, who has created us in his image and has created us in such a way that our chief end and good is knowledge of him, and (2) that belief in God (i.e., our belief in God, human belief in God) has no warrant: is not produced by cognitive processes successfully aimed at giving us true beliefs about God, functioning properly in a congenial epistemic environment. That is, we’d have to think that belief in God is produced by cognitive processes that either (1) are not functioning properly (because of disease or impedance), (2) are not aimed at producing true beliefs about God, or (3) are so aimed but not successfully aimed, or (4) the cognitive environment is uncongenial, not one for which our faculties are designed. With respect to (4), however, we are supposing God has created us; there seems no reason at all to think our epistemic environment is not the one for which he created us. (We have no reason, for example, to think that our ancestors originated on some other planet and made a long, hazardous journey to Earth.) With respect to (3), because, by hypothesis, theistic belief is true, it seems that if the cognitive process that produces it is aimed at the truth, it is successfully aimed at the truth. That leaves us with (1) and (2). Given that God would certainly want us to be able to know him, the chances are excellent that he would create us with faculties enabling us to do just that. So the natural thing to think is that those faculties that produce theistic belief were indeed designed to produce that sort of belief and are functioning properly in so doing. Of course it is possible, in the broadly logical sense, that the faculties designed to produce theistic belief don’t work for one reason or another, and some other faculties not aimed at producing theistic belief malfunction, thus producing it. The same, I suppose, is abstractly possible with respect to perception: the original faculties whereby we knew our environment began to malfunction, and by some serendipitous happenstance, other faculties began to malfunction in just such a way as to produce our perceptual beliefs. Possible, but not likely. This is an abstract possibility, but not much more. And suppose, improbably, that something like this did happen with the original sensus divinitatis: it stopped working (perhaps as a result of sin), and some other faculty began to malfunction and leapt into the breach, by serendipitous happenstance producing the very sorts of beliefs the original sensus divinitatis did: then it would seem likely that God has adopted this other way of working as our design plan, so that theistic belief does indeed have warrant, but via a sort of circuitous route. The conclusion to draw, I think, is that the epistemic probability of theistic belief’s being warranted, given that theism is true, is very high.222222 Here we must also suppose, in accord with the conclusion of part IV of this book, that it is not the case that those who believe in God for the most part have defeaters for that belief.
|« Prev||B. If True, Probably So||Next »|