Uncommon Sense

January 8, 2019

Other Ways of Knowing, Part 2

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:46 pm
Tags: , , ,

In the ongoing war between faith and science a common claim is that science is not the only way to acquire knowledge, that there are “other ways of knowing.” Along with this I see question after question on the Quora website asking atheists about what “evidence” would convince them to believe in God/Jesus (like we tell them and then they produce it … strange question). The number of these latter questions is smaller than the usual ones asking atheists to prove there is no god or asking for evidence that there is no god, but they are numerous enough.

So, many of these arguments center on “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” arguments which are too nonsensical to take seriously but the “other ways of knowing” response is intriguing. Usually they are referring to “revealed” truth or some such thing through “personal experience” (as if there were any other kind). Interestingly enough, in the vast majority of times in which revealed truths have some up against scientific truths, the revealed truths have come out poorly. This lead me to the following line of thinking.

In legal contests, if one side makes an argument that there is only one interpretation of the evidence and that interpretation circumstantially leads to the guilt of a defendant, the only requirement of the refutation of such an argument is that another equally plausible interpretation be made … not proved, just made. So, if the argument is “god did it,” then in spite of the evidence, all that is needed is an equally plausible interpretation of the “evidence.” Well, that has been provided and, obviously, it didn’t work.

So, consider the following hypothetical scenario. A favorite meme of the ancient alien speculators (they are not theorists) is that an alien race came to this planet and “adjusted” our genetic material to make us who we are now. What if that were true?

So, a flying saucer (or any other equivalent space craft) lands on the White House lawn and after a small diplomatic interlude, their representatives claim that they came back to check on how we were doing, because X numbers of thousands of years ago, they “adjusted the DNA of a hominid ancestor of ours to result in … us. They provide more than credible evidence of this deed (videos, tissue samples, explanations of the DNA “adjustments,” etc.

What happens to the “other ways of knowing” at that point? I suggest that all of them are blown out of the water as the hooey they are. The claim that there are “other ways of knowing” is simple a ruse to protect their “knowledge” from critical inspection.

I suggest that this is not the only scenario that results in all of those “other ways” of folding up like a cheap cardboard suitcase left in the rain. (Cheap cardboard suitcases were the ancestors of cheap plastic suitcases.) Another would be the discovery of significant life on another planet, which could come about through contact or communication remotely. If we found that their set of “beliefs” about nature were different from scientific truths and ascribed to “other ways of knowing,” we would know we were talking to their bullshit artists who were part and parcel with our bullshit artists.

Can you think of other such scenarios? Wouldn’t a benign one of these be lovely? Traumatic for some but lovely collectively. (One can empathize with the traumatized (and I would), but you can’t put your balls on an anvil, pass out hammers, and then complain of the pain you suffer.)


  1. Miracles are so rare that pilgrimages are built around tourist money. People travel the world to see these non testable, not duplicated non happenings. Grow a limb through prayer… That would convince me. “Greater miracles than these follow them that believe”—Jesus. greater? Raise multiple dead people, turn water into whiskey, feed the entire world with 5 loaves and a few fishes. Then, I’d be a believer.
    Can’t remember who said it, “No supernatural explanation has ever supplanted a natural one”—ever!


    Comment by jim- — January 8, 2019 @ 1:49 pm | Reply

    • I don’t think you and I could be any closer in our positions. I am waging a battle against the supernatural, which I am convinced is just BS.

      I blogged once that God must hate amputees because he never, ever regrows a limb for them. Now that would make me sit up and take notice … not that I would fall for the god scam, but there might be a really powerful alien (like Q in the Star Trek universe) behind the curtain. (remember the miracle in the Star Trek movie (the whale one) in which Bones gives the woman a pill that regrows her liver or kidney, I can’t remember, and she thought is was a miracle?

      On Tue, Jan 8, 2019 at 1:49 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 8, 2019 @ 2:10 pm | Reply

      • Q I think you meant? Every planet needs a Q, the shining example of a god—what’s the word… provocateur?


        Comment by jim- — January 8, 2019 @ 2:21 pm | Reply

        • And capricious! That’s the one!


          Comment by jim- — January 8, 2019 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

        • Thanks! (I hate typos!)

          On Tue, Jan 8, 2019 at 2:22 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:



          Comment by Steve Ruis — January 9, 2019 @ 9:43 am | Reply

          • I’ve had my share too. No worries, I’m used to it…hehe


            Comment by jim- — January 9, 2019 @ 9:46 am | Reply

            • We get a share? Who is in charge? Oh, no! Proof that a god exists … an evil god!

              On Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 9:46 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


              Liked by 1 person

              Comment by Steve Ruis — January 9, 2019 @ 9:51 am | Reply

  2. Other ways of knowing often are short on facts and long on speculation. Which in my view places that particular premise in the bullshit folder.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by shelldigger — January 8, 2019 @ 4:22 pm | Reply

    • And the government has promised me a posse.
      Which I figure will be long on promise and short on posse—Rooster Cogburn


      Comment by jim- — January 8, 2019 @ 10:39 pm | Reply

      • Ha! I’m sure I’ve heard that quote before, being a bit of a John Wayne fan, but darn if I remember it. Now I have to sift through my old movies and watch it again.


        Comment by shelldigger — January 9, 2019 @ 5:14 am | Reply

  3. Whenever I hear the phrase “other ways of knowing” I am instantly transported to a different hilltop with a very different view, especially different than the faith/non-faith one. The hilltop is the one where the massive power of language, of words, vs. non language based information transferral systems can be glimpsed. A very basic and attenuated example is the difference between seeing a fire and then calling out the word “fire” and smelling an unseen fire and immediately knowing in a non word based way that running away is a damn good idea.
    I have always thought of the thing Steve is describing as being the dishonest habit of pretzling up ones thinking to pretend that an emotional response to an idea, in this case god, is somehow also provable by the rational, logical, evidenced based aspect of the mind. The irony here is that to do so is to deny or at least circumvent the very idea of faith, which I have heard preachers describe as something that does not require evidence or proof. It seems that even among the faithful, the ability to simply believe without the need for evidence is rather hard. Once you cross the line between that and concocting “evidence” to justify your beliefs and therefore your right and “obligation” to impose them on others, you are most definitely lost in no mans land.


    Comment by Jon — January 9, 2019 @ 11:20 am | Reply

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