Chance Melts Away Knowledge

Ice & sun on Gosaikunda lake

“Imagine a middle school kid doing his class work in his math class…  His method of finding out the solution?  He uses some dice that he rolls out and whatever the number lands on is what he writes down as his answer.  Would anyone think the child truly is learning?  No, his answer is a product of chance.

Now let’s say the child has an exercise that asks what is four multiplied by four. …He rolls two dice and the answer is sixteen. Would anyone say the child truly “know” that sixteen is the solution?  No, again, his answer is a product of chance.  It just happened to land on “sixteen.” Here we see that one of the important aspect of truly knowing something is that one came to the conclusion according to proper methods as oppose to mere chance.  This is an illustration of how methods based upon chance destroys knowledge.  How much more problematic is a worldview that assert that behind every aspect of attaining knowledge is the fury of chance.  Chance melts away knowledge like a bright sun to an ice cube. Even if it so happen that the right conclusion was reached, chance has reduce every method of knowledge to a game of dice.”



11 thoughts on “Chance Melts Away Knowledge

    • The quote is talking about how one can arrive at “knowledge” in a world governed by “chance,” ie. one can’t. What part do you think is obvious and what part are you confused about?

  1. A ‘world governed by chance’? To what extent? I don’t see how it can fit into a learning process either.
    I’m happy to be persuaded, but I don’t see it right now.

    • Perhaps it might help to read the original article from which the quote is taken? The original article is talking about how there can be no true knowledge in an atheistic universe. In an atheistic universe, we can’t truly “know” anything — even that there is no God. The article explains it much better than I probably can so I recommend browsing that first 🙂

      • Ah, well I was not privy to your discussion so I can’t comment on it, but as I understand it, generally the problems that atheism/humanism as a system of thought faces are that:

        1. It provides no foundation or basis for morality (not that one might label certain actions as “moral” or not but that atheism as a system of thought does not provide a solid basis for determining the morality of actions).

        2. When an atheist claims that he has behaved in a moral fashion, he is appealing to an objective standard of morality by which his actions can be measured, but his atheism does not provide such an objective standard by which to measure actions. In other words, atheism has to borrow from another worldview (ie., one that presupposes objective morality) in order to make a claim on this issue. (Incidentally, this would mean that atheism cannot be ultimately true because it relies on another worldview to make sense. That would make the other worldview the holder of truth and not atheism).

        Here are some other posts that might interest you:

        Is Morality Arbitrary?

        Knowledge and Humanism

        The Final Reference Point Required

        Basing Morality on Empathy is a Recipe for Failure

      • It was there that I fundamentally disagreed. Atheists do usually have an objective morality. It comes not from believers, but from humanity. Laws are made by humans, usually in courts and governments. There is no need to call on any notion of a deity.
        What annoys me is the apparent suggestion that believers are morally superior. I see no evidence that such superiority is reflected in their behaviour, or even in their sacred books.
        We’re all human beings and certain rules are necessary if we’re to get along.

      • I think maybe we are understanding the term “objective” in different ways. Rules made up by humans, ie. courts and governments, being then arbitrary, are by nature subjective, not objective. They are culturally or socially determined (ie. cultural relativism). In that way, there is no standard against which to measure them in order to determine if a society’s rule is “right” or “wrong” (I use moral terminology here but these words are undefined in this discussion. What does “right” or “wrong” mean in an atheist worldview? From this discussion, “right” would equal “following the law” and “wrong” would equal “breaking the law.” No need for “morality” then). So one could not say that Hitler’s Germany was immoral because it operated on that society’s laws. The same goes for other societies. So, in ISIS territory today, it is “right” to throw homosexuals off buildings to their deaths. Or, in other words, it is “following the law” to throw homosexuals off buildings to their deaths. And why should we care? If all we’re doing is observing whether or not an action is lawful, why does it matter what other societies do? And why do we humans keep invoking moral terminology if there really is no morality to speak of? If slavery becomes lawful again, would everyone agree that that makes it morally right? Or are “moral” and “lawful” really just synonyms?

        [As an aside, in the comments to Is Morality Arbitrary an atheist argues that morality is subjective and not objective. You might find his reasoning of interest.]

        In relation to the latter part of your comment, certainly believers are not necessarily morally superior to non-believers. From a historic biblical Protestant Christian perspective (need to qualify the word “Christian” these days), all human beings are “sinners.” That means we have all at one time or another fallen short of God’s standard of perfection or broken his rules for right behavior. We’ve all told lies or stolen or lusted after someone or refused to acknowledge God, etc. — myself included. Christians aren’t immune from breaking rules or acting imperfectly any more than unbelievers are. Even the unbelieving world agrees that “Nobody’s Perfect.” True Christianity says that we humans are all in the same boat: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is part of the human condition to want to go our own way, do our own thing, and ignore our own consciences: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10). So I don’t think I’m in any way superior to you and probably you are superior to me in very many ways. I consider you to be worthy of dignity and respect and to have the same ontological value before God as I do.

        Rules are definitely necessary for a society to function and hence why I would oppose anarchy. But when we evaluate rules, are we just talking about rule-keeping and rule-breaking or about something more? Here is a fascinating debate that explores this question that may be of interest to you:

        Debate: Do Moral Truths Exist?

        I hope you can see what I am saying. Google defines “subjective” as “based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.” The example you’ve given of a society making up its own rules based on its own opinions means that the society is operating on a subjective and not an objective morality. In that situation, there isn’t really a morality to speak of but just law-keeping and law-breaking. Do you see what I’m saying?

  2. Okay, I did read it. There are some very unrealistic assumptions and analogies in there. The whole tossing dice thing has nothing to do with the way maths works. Mathematicians have a whole toolbox of techniques they can call upon for various situations. Calling on chance in the analogy is choosing the most unsuitable method in that instance. No wonder the writer and to an absurd conclusion.

    • Sorry it took me so long to respond — dealing with real life here.

      The article isn’t about maths. It is about chance using math as an analogy to make the point clear. From an atheist (or humanist) perspective, the universe operates on chance. In a universe where chance is the operative factor, there can be no true knowledge. That is the point the article is trying to make using math — arriving at a math answer using chance, ie. rolling dice, doesn’t get you to a point where you “know” that the answer is true. And so there can be no true knowledge in an atheistic universe. If chance is all there is that is taking place, then we can know nothing at all about anything. It’s all random with no way of “knowing,” so to speak. It’s an epistemological claim using Van Til’s method of presuppositional apologetics (of which I am not an expert but in which I have an interest). Hope that helps!

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