9/13/2010

Thought Processes

How do we know what we know? How do we know what is true? How do we evaluate one idea against another? How do we interpret the information our senses provide us? What do we see? Hear? Touch? Smell? Taste?

These questions fascinate me. I first began to ask questions like this as I studied Human Factors Engineering (HFE) in graduate school. HFE is a branch of engineering that studies how a human being interacts with their environment, usually with respect to how we obtain information and how we perform work. We looked at basic types of mistakes that people make, the way we obtain information from our senses, the way we process that information, the way we decide to act, and the way we activate machine controls to act on that processed information. The field includes ergonomics, but it includes much more than that.

One of the things we learned right off the bat was that the way we interact with our environment is a process. Think of a black box with arrows going into the left side for what goes into the process (inputs) and arrows coming out of the right side for what comes out of the process (outputs). The box itself is a set of steps that are followed in sequence on the inputs to reach the outputs.

I had never thought of knowledge being the result, or output, of a process until those classes. I began to read widely on the subject, both within my field and outside it. I came across the branch of philosophy know as epistemology very quickly. According to Wikipedia, epistemology is “the branch of philosophy that studies the nature, methods, limitations, and validity of knowledge and belief.” This field fascinates me, and I plan to pursue an education in philosophy as my time and resources allow.

The thing that interests me at this point is the skepticism many philosophers have with regard to knowledge. Wikipedia defines philosophical skepticism as a field that “poses the question of whether knowledge, in the first place, is possible.” I find it amazing how many modern or post-modern philosophers do not believe we can find knowledge about the outside world at all. From Hume’s skepticism with regard to sense perception and empirical knowledge to Reid’s reaction to Hume, the field is amazing to me.

I do not want to go too far into the issue, but I do want to point out something. I have been taught to see knowledge and rational thought as processes, and I believe that they are. Any process that reaches an organized output requires someone to set it up and keep it going. From assembly lines to creation itself, processes require a processor. A process must be designed, or it does not lead to purposeful outcomes. That includes the process of knowledge and the process of thought.

As John M. Frame puts it here:
Apologists have often noted that we could not know the world at all unless it had been designed for knowledge. If the world were nothing but matter, motion, time, and chance, we would have no reason to think that the ideas in our heads told us anything about the real world. Only if a person had designed
the world to be known, and the human mind to know it, could knowledge be possible…without God the data of our experience suggesting order and causality are unintelligible…So if creation presupposes God, even the denial of creation presupposes him …

We cannot deny that logic reflects reality or that knowledge is possible. Any such denials are forced and temporary. R. C. Sproul and Norman Geisler both argue this persuasively, as if it needs to be argued. Frame puts it this way: “You can’t question logic without presupposing it; you can’t argue against the primacy of logic without presupposing it as primary.”

The process of logical thinking and the process of arriving at knowledge from our senses both require a designer. We need a designer who possesses creativity and intention. We need a designer that does not change his thinking himself. If his thinking process changed, then our process of logical thinking would change as well. Going back to Frame’s writings: “Logic, the laws of nature, and the laws of morality make no sense unless God is presupposed.”

We are left with what one internet apologist states well: “The Absolute God with an absolute mind, has conceived of the logical absolutes. They are a reflection of His mind.”

May we stand in awe of the unchanging, clear-thinking, purposeful, powerful God of the Bible!

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