The great apologist, Norman Geisler, was battling the growing philosophy of skepticism back in the mid-sixties, made popular by David Hume over 200 years earlier. Hume’s skepticism regarding truth led other philosophers to follow suit, to expound on his ideals, leading to the pervasive skeptic movement that still exists today in academia. Hume’s assertion was that things were only actually meaningful if, and only if:
- The truth claim is of abstract reasoning, such as 2+2=4, or all triangles have three sides;
- the truth claim can be verified by the 5 senses.
According to his book, if it does not have reasoning concerning quantity or number, and it does not contain experimental reasoning, it should be “committed to the flames” as an illusion.
This of course does away with almost everything forensic in nature, not to mention relegating every religious book to usefulness only as fuel for a book burning.
God within philosophy was hard hit, and it opened up avenues for skeptics that are alive and well even now.
We have discussed The Law of Non-Contradiction, a self-evident first principle of philosophy in the previous article linked here. As a review, the law of non-contradiction states that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time, e.g. the two propositions “A is B” and “A is not B” are mutually exclusive.
This Law gives logical ammunition to those who know how to use it as Geisler did, and in a college professor’s class at the University of Detroit in the ’60’s, he did just that. Hume’s philosophy was called ’empirical verifiability’, and was the second chapter of the subject matter being taught during this 14 week course. The professor, a professed atheist, allowed Norman to give his presentation on a chapter. He chose the empirical verifiability chapter.
That morning, the professor said to keep the speech at 20 minutes, so there was room for discussion after. Norm didn’t need that long. He stood up in front of the class, and stated this:
“The principle of empirical verifiability states that there are only two kinds of meaningful propositions: 1. those that are true by definition, and 2. those that are empirically verifiable. Since the principle of empirical verifiability is neither true by definition, nor empirically verifiable, it cannot be meaningful.”
He then sat down, and the class and professor both were silent.
Just like that, Norm had shown concisely, that the principle contradicted itself, and was not internally logical. It was self-defeating. The professor later blamed the train wreck of a semester, and all of its volatility on that one statement.
When we are faced with these world views, notice often that the writer or espouser always wishes to be excluded from his or her own statement. This occurs again with Kant, when he claims that no one can know the real world. In this premise he himself claims to know something about the real world.
We do very much believe in a God of logic, and who is reasonable. There is objective morality, objective truth beyond ourselves, and this should comfort us. Without it, we could not know anything at all. This is not to say we understand everything, for what kind of God would that be if we could comprehend all His glory. But, I dare say, it is more comforting believing in Him, then filling your worldview with doubt. What hope is there in doubt?
2 thoughts on “How Geisler Defeated Skepticism”
Whew! Pretty deep there J.R. Philosophy has never been my strong suit as the esoteric nature of the arguments always seem hard to follow. But it is very easy to see how a view which divides the physical and everything else, then judges the validity of each, can be all over the place trying to define things like honesty, integrity, guile, love, etc.
Thanks for tackling this.