Saturday, April 23, 2011

The David Hume god

It seems that David Hume always comes up when a Christian and Atheist dialogue.  His name may not appear in the conversation, but his evidential proof seems to always be implied.  What is the evidential proof of Hume? 

Consider some of these quotes from Hume: "We should never repose the least confidence in human testimony," or "It is a miracle, that a dead man should come back to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country.  There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event," or "We readily reject any fact which is unusual and incredible in an ordinary degree."[1]   The evidential proof of Hume is the outright denial of miracles, even miracles attested to by witnesses should never be accepted.  On Hume's account, unless one has 100% proof, the event should be rejected.  How does Hume's testimony hold up by using his own criteria?

Hume fails the test, when his criteria is applied to himself, for no one can give 100% evidence, atheist or Christian.  If we are to reject human testimony, then what shall we do with Hume's testimony?  Philosopher William Lane Craig states, "For an argument to be a good one, it isn't required that we have 100% certainty." [2]  In a court of law, the evidence only needs to be tipped in your favor (51% or greater).  When looking at miracles, like the resurrection story of Jesus, 100 % proof is not what is needed.  All claims can be evaluated on their merits and an inference to best explanation is what should count. The late atheist turned theist, Anthony Flew, was honest when he said, "we should follow the evidence wherever it leads." [3]

So why do atheist seem to worship at the feet of David Hume?  It is my belief that some simply do not have any evidence to their view in the non-existence of God, but also, and I think most importantly, many who reject Jesus do so because they do not want to submit to who he is.  In other words, they want to live an unhindered life to indulge themselves in whatever they want.  Philosopher Thomas Nagel summarizes the view of many atheist nicely by saying, "I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.  It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief.  It's that I hope there is no God!  I don't want there to be a God.  I don't want a universe like that." [4]  At least Nagel is honest.  When the atheist has his mind made up because of Humeian evidence, they no longer are atheist, but worship the David Hume god which turns out to look strangely like themselves!

[1]  Hume, David, Of Miracles, 1776
[2]  Craig, William Lane, God, Are You There?, p.7
[3]  Interview with Anthony Few at Biola University, 2004
[4]  Nagel, Thomas, The Last Word, p. 130

1 comment: said...

I'm currently reading Peter Kreeft's Socrates Meets Hume, in which he offers an excellent refutation of Hume's strict Empiricism, his denial of causality, and his denial of miracles.