Three Unanswerable Questions HTML version
his “answer” insisting that the 3Q Challenge has already been answered. The infidel
wrote the following:
Periander, I notice that you still claim on your website that no one has tried to answer your "three unanswerable
questions". I'm sure that a good Christian like yourself wouldn't lie, so I must conclude that you haven't seen my
response here. To save you the trouble of looking for it, I repeat it here:
Periander, I came across this challenge on your website. These are good and fair questions, and I gave them a shot.
I expect that we will get deeper into them if you care to respond.
"1. How do you know that you really know what you pretend to know?"
I use two criteria: self-consistency, and consistency with sense-data. That is, those things that fit with the other things
that I "know" I consider more probable than those things that do not fit; and those things that accord with what I
experience I consider more probable than those things that do not accord with my experience. In accordance with the
scientific method, all knowledge is provisional. I place very high confidence in some propositions, and lesser amounts
in others; and there are some statements that I do not pretend to be able to evaluate the truth value of.
There are fundamental questions about the reliability of sense data and the nature of logic which I will go into if need
be, but keep in mind that a believer's knowledge of the Bible is through the senses and his understanding is mediated
by logic, so if they are unreliable for me they are unreliable for you too.
"2. Why is there something (or order) rather than nothing at all (or chaos right now)?"
I don't know how it came about that the singularity that began the big bang sprang into existence. That this universe
has physical laws, hence is ordered, seems to have been essential to its nature. I contend that it is meaningless to
ask "why" this event occurred, if what is meant is something other than an enquiry into its cause(s), because
intentionality implies the existence of a conscious being. It may also be meaningless to ask about the cause(s) of the
big bang--it may have been causeless, at least in the sense that things in this universe have a cause. The very laws
of causation, after all, were created with the universe.
You may, if you like, answer your question with the assertion that a god did all this, but you can't say how, or where
this god came from, so you have only pushed back the question and raised another.
"3. What are the reasons behind your belief that:
a. truth is more preferable than deception?"
A statement or belief is true to the extent that it accords with objective reality. True beliefs will therefore serve better
to help us reach our goals than false ones. Deception is the intentional misleading of one person by another, and is
usually harmful in that it will lead the deceived individual to do things that are not what he/she would have done were
the accurate information imparted.
"b. right is better than wrong?"
The moral sense is part of human nature. As a human, I will of necessity think that what I apprehend as "right" is
better than what I apprehend as "wrong". The process by which we assign actions their moral values is partly
instinctive, partly learned, and subject to individual variation. No two people, including Biblical figures, have ever had
precisely the same moral codes; and everyone's moral code changes over his/her life to some extent. There is no
reason to suppose that there is a divinely mandated moral code. The elements common to nearly all societies and
religions are inspired by our social instincts.
"c. good is higher than evil?"
See above. In what sense are you differentiating between 'right' and 'good', or between 'wrong' and 'evil'?
"The above three questions...are unanswerable."
Clearly, that is not the case. You have answers, I have answers. It may, however, be impossible for us to identify for
sure which answer is correct. I do maintain that we can make some judgments as to which of them is more likely to