Critical Rationalism, Christianity and Christian Transhumanism
Jonathan Gunnell, Micah Redding
Posted on Thu Jul 28 2022 20:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
INTRO to CRITICAL RATIONALISM
Critical Rationalism is the philosophy of Karl Popper and his intellectual successors, notably quantum computing pioneer David Deutsch. It is concerned with the question "How does knowledge grow?" Popper's key insight was that knowledge grows through a process of Conjecture and Critique. That is, new ideas are created, and then they are tested, compared to other ideas, and so on. Over time, better ideas can accumulate, and worse ideas can be rejected.
This is in contrast to theories that attempt to show why certain beliefs can be "justified" or "proven". Instead, Popper suggests that ideas can be "severely tested", and then valued based on how well they have withstood such tests. Rather than the traditional focus on "where ideas come from", Popper puts the focus on "how well ideas withstand tests". In science, this is the source of the idea that scientific theories must be falsifiable. Falsifiable theories are theories that are built to be severely tested.
SOME CONCEPTS in CRITICAL RATIONALISM
- Realism (objective reality really exists)
- Fallibilism (we can't be certain what that reality is)
- Tradition (we have to start from existing knowledge)
- Error-correction (we have to improve that knowledge over time)
- Persons (are knowledge creators)
- All life is problem-solving (and that's beautiful)
- Institutions: Habits, traditions, customs that shape human behavior (non-coercively). This includes everything from hand-shakes to parliaments. By analogy, consider how a paved path directs human foot-traffic, without needing to fence humans in. Institutions are social technologies, and civilizational progress consists in the progress of effective institutions.
- Problem-Solving: The process of identifying problems in the network of current theories, and conjecturing new theories to resolve them. Paradoxically, the more problems are resolved, the more new problems are discovered. Thus, our most long-standing scientific theories introduce the deepest problems. Problems are good, however, because they show us opportunities to grow towards a better understanding of ultimate reality. Since ultimate reality is infinite, problem-solving continues without end. Problem-solving is identical with growth or progress.
- Knowledge and Explanatory Knowledge: Knowledge is any useful information or structure that can cause changes in its environment. This includes everything from genes to computer programs to intuitions to institutions. Knowledge is "hard-to-vary". That is, most mutations will considerably degrade usefulness. Thus, severe testing will tend to sustain good knowledge, while eliminating less accurate/effective knowledge. Explanatory Knowledge is knowledge that consists of far-reaching models of how things work. This makes it exponentially more useful than other kinds of knowledge. Explanatory knowledge is more "hard-to-vary" than other kinds of knowledge. Explanatory knowledge is universal. That is, any system in the universe can be explained/modeled to any degree of accuracy. Only persons create explanatory knowledge. The connection between persons and explanatory knowledge means people have a "special relationship with the laws of physics".
CONNECTIONS with OTHER PHILOSOPHIES
Pragmatism: Critical Rationalism is similar to Pragmatism, in that both concern theories/ideas/structures that are always provisional, and are evaluated according to their usefulness. Critical Rationalism differs from Pragmatism in using "knowledge" to describe our provisional theories, and using "truth" to describe the conjectured objective reality that we have no direct access to.
Baconian Empiricism: Baconian Empiricism is not a real empiricism in the later sense of the term. Rather, it is a process of constructing knowledge, using explanatory models, through repeated rounds of experimentation, conjecture, and evaluation. In this sense, there is a lot of practical overlap between Baconian Empiricism and Critical Rationalism. Karl Popper criticized Bacon, but was criticizing Bacon as seen through the lens of later empiricists such as Hume.
Bayesianism: In contrast to Popperianism, Bayesianism says that "rather than being an all-or-nothing phenomenon, belief comes in degrees, and these degrees obey some formal constraints related to the axioms of probability theory. In epistemology, these views temper some traditional thoughts about belief and knowledge, and they may give rise to alternative views of justification and evidence. In philosophy of science, these views help structure views about the general practice of science." Bayesianism can be critiqued for allowing grey areas in belief, and whilst they may be useful for predictions, are not useful unless an explanation is found.
INDUCTIVE and DEDUCTIVE LOGIC
Inductive reasoning proceeds from Observation to Pattern to Hypothesis to Theory. Deductive reasoning then proceeds from the Theory to make a Hypothesis, followed by a specific prediction then confirmation.
Deductive logic is traditionally expressed in a syllogism, which has a major premise (a general rule), a minor premise, then a conclusion. The commonly-recognised problem with this ancient Greek formula is that all examples of the minor premise are included in the major premise. So unless the syllogism makes a prediction outside its comfort zone, it's meaningless. As soon as a 'black swan' appears, the syllogism fails. Thinking in syllogisms can result in closed world views and evidence filters.
A way to simplify deductive and inductive logic is to think in terms of "Pattern Recognition and Pattern Challenge/Extension/Refinement". A pattern still may be very useful even if a more rigorous pattern is known, for example Newtonian physics still rules structural engineering.
All patterns are provisional and subject to new evidence emerging, and new science and new data shedding light that helps us refine and extend our knowledge. And so it should be with our spiritual lives.
WHAT is TRUTH?
Pontius Pilate asked an excellent question. Modern philosophical descriptions of the concept of truth break into classical divisions such as Correspondence, Coherence, Pragmatic, Constructivist etc. These can be somewhat arcane and are not always helpful when faced with practical questions. It seems more helpful to define a series of 'types' of truth, with examples and contexts, because the "Search for Truth" and how we arrive at it means something very different depending on the nature and context of the Search.
Despite being a key topic in philosophy, it seems to need a definition of different types of truth, flowing out of different kinds of investigations in which we seek Truth.
For the purpose of this essay, "truth" will be defined in one of the following 11 Types of Truth, presented in approximate order of certainty:
|Item||Name||Definition||Examples||Why we know it's true||CTA Approach|
|1||Euclidean Axioms||Geometrical certainties||If A=B and A=C, B=C||Unchanging observed truths about the Universe, starting with Geometry. Non-Euclidean geometry has also emerged and behaves in the same manner, albeit with different axioms.||Foundational observed Truths from the General Revelation that concord with the Special Revelation, such as “Minimum Viable Theology” incl “Good Wins”.|
|2||Euclidean Propositions and Theorems||Certainties derived from axioms that are not immediately evident to humans, but after logical proof back to axioms we can treat them as being as certain as axioms||Pythagoras's Theorem||Proven from Axioms||Theorems undergirding our worldview, such as “Causation is a feature of the Simulation/Creation” - because both infinite regression and brute fact are defeatable using Popperian criteria.|
|3||Other Mathematical truths||Certainties from mathematics that we can rely on.||Quadratic equations, statistics etc||Notwithstanding Goedel's theorem, maths provides a foundation for certainty and is amazingly effective.||Application of mathematics and science, understanding universe is mathematical and scientific|
|4||Theoretically Derived - Hard sciences||Hard sciences such as Physics, Chemistry and much of biology and medicine where our Inductive and deductive logic (together "pattern observation and refinement") indicate truths that we hope to test experimentally, but may not be able to.||Big Bang theory||We don't. It hasn't been falsified yet, and it may not be able to be falsified. But we continue to use it and develop the field until it reaches the point where it can make a falsifiable prediction.||CTA members keep up with the frontiers of hard science as best as we can. For example, understanding the possible breakthrough paths in Physics to reconcile Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity|
|5||Experimentally Derived - Hard sciences||Theories from hard sciences that are corroborated by experiment.||Eddington’s 1919 verification of general relativity||All theories are only provisionally accepted. They are 'corroborated' by experiment, not proven. If falsified, it may be an edge case, and the theory may be updated.If a theory is replaced, the old one may still be useful. (e.g. Newtonian physics)||We love hard sciences and emerging tech, and how they might turn into Tech, eg. Neuralink.|
|6||Theoretically Derived - Soft sciences||Theories about humanity, social and political systems.||Political systems.||We don't. Utopian visions abound but attempts to radically overhaul society have rarely produced good fruit. Social changes should be careful improvements, inclusively led. "Scientific" Marxism was not at all scientific.||Articulating the future of humanity, promoting the Archetype of Christ and other Christian Archetypes|
|7||Observationally Derived - Soft sciences||The soft sciences emerge from hard sciences. Phenomena occur in a manner that is hard to definitively measure. Practitioners in these fields often make varying predictions. Failed predictions are often explained away in terms that may not be falsifiable. Amongst many pundits, at least one may be correct.||Economics: stockmarket predictions.
Psychology: prediction of an individual's behavior.
Politics: cannot function without evidence filters, post hoc and numerous other logical fallacies.
|We don't. There are insights and theories that help us gain understanding, and may be useful and give some useful fruit. Any such system will help to some extent, but many rely on unfalsifiable theories. Observational studies may be the only ones available.
An observational A/B testing result may say “This psychological treatment results in X% success” - a pragmatic observational or inductive ‘truth’ that is useable.
Politics in particular must avoid dogmatism, which today threatens western democracies.
|"By their fruit shall you know them" Study the impact of proposed social changes, such as UBI.
Comparing and contrasting different understandings of consciousness.
|8||Revelatory Truths||Truths injected into the Creation / Simulation from outside. Or conjectures of such truths.||This occurs as God gives people insights, words to say, or the revelation of the person and work of Jesus.||Revelations of all kinds are welcome to Popper as conjecture. Scripture states “test the spirits”, which implies not suppressing them, but listening and critiquing.
Hebrews - in many ways and at various times God spoke to our forebears…
Other religions may make comparable claims of truth, but they must be tested against reliability of testimony, ability to deliver spiritual transformation and better societies.
This will remain subjective, and other religions in other cultures may deliver comparable results, but none have the 'limit state' archetype of Christ embodying extreme states of both compassion and judgment.
|Learning the spiritual truths expressed by Christ (Special Revelation) and inherent in the foundation of the universe (General Revelation), and using these to articulate the future of humanity
Future humans should converge towards the archetype of Christ. A personality that would enjoy eternal life is filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
|9||Genetic inheritance||Genetic truths inherent in our minds from before we are born.||How to conduct yourself, reflexes, lower nature drives, our brain's OS.
- Jungian Archetypes and collective unconscious.
- Chomsky’s universal grammar
- Pinker’s ‘non-blank’ slate
|Observationally we can measure these, so they are part of biology, psychology, and will be a mix of hard and soft sciences above.
These features can be said to be ‘emergent’ in the sense of strong emergence.
|Learning how human nature evolved and Christian Spiritual Disciplines that ameliorate it.
Being transformed by a spiritual relationship with Christ.
|10||Enculturated Truths - Tradition||Experience handed to us by our forebears. This is likely to have been influenced by genetic, geographic and other factors.||Social traditions, compliance with which will produce a good society||"We hold these truths to be self-evident." which certainly they are for that society, and how they can be best adapted to other societies may or may not be possible.
Debate over the universality of such truths is legitimate and should be conducted in good faith, but may be hard to conclusively verify.
|Traditions are important because they embody wisdom and should not be discarded recklessly.
Traditional aspects of Christian faith and worship. Understanding the thoughts of church leaders in past centuries, how they responded to their context and how we should respond to ours.
|11||Systemically defined truths||Truths that flow from definitions of systems such as language, or laws and e.g. building codes||"All bachelors are unmarried", "This building complies with the Building Code."||These are true either by definition, or by certification by a qualified person.||We don't have our own system, but seek to understand conflicts in other systems and seek truth wherever it may be found.|
Regrettably English only has one word for "Truth". Similarly, it only has one word for "Love" which we apply to both to our love of chocolate (temptation!) and God's 'agape' love for humanity that he would suffer and die. On the other hand, New Testament Greek gifts us 7 words for Love. If only we had more words for Truth in English, we would avert a lot of conflict! Indeed, most debates about what is 'true' have an underlying subtext of the definition of truth and how sure we can be about anything.
Underlying these is the assumption that our reality is objective. Human minds are born with this underlying assumption built in, also that we are part of but separate from the world around us, that we can learn about it, make choices in, and influence. Because we believe we are living in a Simulation or Creation, 'objective reality' can be defined as the contents of the Creation. Knowledge is useful as it helps us grow and begin to cross Irenaeus' epistemic gap.
Human knowledge is acquired by noticing patterns in nature. Humans are born with some innate knowledge (Chomsky's underlying grammar, Jung's archetypes). We learn how our body works and how to interact with our emotions and those of our parents. This is the first kind of knowledge we acquire by experiment and experience. (The Spanish translation of those two words are near synonyms.)
So we gain knowledge inductively and deductively by a process of pattern observation and pattern refinement. Observation is data collection, hindered by evidence filters (these can be thought of as a type of sin to repent of, a powerful tool) and by limitations on our perceptual abilities. Our patterns are conjectures which can then be challenged using Popper's methods. But we can also use conjectures from any other source.
The Scientific method could be reconceived as a more rigorous version of the process all children go through as they gain awareness. The scientific revolution (initiated by Baconian empiricism) could be reconceived as correcting over-reliance on tradition and the 'appeal to authority' fallacy.
SOME RAMIFICATIONS of CRITICAL RATIONALISM in the SEARCH for TRUTH
These are some ways that people have interpreted and applied the ideas of Critical Rationalism. There are many disagreements around these topics.
Free speech. The fundamental process of knowledge creation is critiquing ideas, even very good ones. This means critique cannot be impeded. Thus free speech is an epistemological necessity.
The right to Free Speech also flows from key concepts we cherish such as:
- individual human rights to freedom of thought and association
- individual sovereignty
- that leaders should serve the people, not vice versa. If people can't speak freely, how will leaders know what will help them flourish?
- that the best way to solve problems is to collaborate from different perspectives
Implicit in the concept of free speech is that the speech should be in good faith. The public freedom to speak your mind is not only threatened by censorship, but by abuse of it to publish fake news. It can also be threatened by ad-hominem attacks and suppressing ideas contrary to those held by the powerful.
Bad-faith speech and speech you disagree with must not be conflated.
Free Speech is a necessary but insufficient condition for what we really want, which is 'good quality truth seeking discourse'. Therefore we also need::
- No heckler's veto nor social media pile-ons
- No bots spouting semi-true propaganda
- Verified humans only (who may choose to stay anonymous)
- People not requiring others to recite their 'team Shibboleths' to be accepted
- People not limiting their own speech to their 'team Shibboleths' but who actively question their own team's ideas to ensure they moe closer to truth
- People not replacing their own personal thoughts with those from some memeplex they adopt because their 'team' does.
- Minds willing to change as they understand things better, and to applaud those who also change.
- And above all 'do unto others...' i.e. listen respectfully, and don't be partisan.
Non-coercion. For the same reason, coercion of any kind impedes the growth of knowledge. If a choice is coerced, it means that critique of that choice has been impeded, and knowledge creation is being slowed or reversed. All life has some coercion, but this explains why less coercion brings more knowledge.
Democracy. The reason democracy works is not because it is the "will of the people", but because it allows us to treat policies and politicians like science experiments. We can test them, and then critique and reject the bad ones. Deutsch goes further, suggesting that compromise political policies are bad, because it muddies both the assessment of the policy and the responsibility. Therefore 'first past the post' voting is preferred, because it leads to quicker trialing of well-defined policies. On the other hand, this risks extreme policy swings.
No human is infallible. Investing a leader with unfettered power does no good for the leader, let alone the led. In a well-functioning management hierarchy, a useful oversimplification states "Goals down, plans up". The leaders (ultimately the voters) set the overall objectives for the organization or society, and the society mobilizes to achieve these goals based on plans and policy ideas developed by representatives to test in the public arena. The rapid testing of ideas, in Deutch's view, is prevented when compromises are driven by un-representatively powerful minor parties. He critiques proportional representation because the most powerful party becomes the third-most voted. In Australia, quirks in the senate election system have seen individuals with 0.51% of the vote elected when a quota of 8.3% is required.
Society and governance standards are therefore essential to Christian Transhumanism. If humanity is to progress and reach God's best for us, we must elevate the best systems for creating explanatory knowledge. Currently, no system better than Popper's Open Society has delivered this. This assertion can be validated by explanatory knowledge derived from soft sciences, both theoretically and observationally, Types of Truth 6 and 7. As Popper wrote about institutions, civilisation's progress consists in the progress of effective institutions. This includes the 'Tradition of Criticism', that is, the freedom to create, test and discard ideas. [Need Citation]
CONNECTIONS with CHRISTIANITY
Because we see the universe to be an ordered Creation, which can be understood from the General Revelation independent of Scripture, it must be understandable to some extent by humans. A Christian Transhumanist view of Truth must therefore include the evidence from physics and other sciences as outlined in the Types of Truth.
That is, from our perspective, to say "reality is objective" is to imply sense data as we receive it is a meaningful input from the created reality. That is not to insist that our perceptions are 100% accurate, because all "perceptions are theory laden". (That is another way of saying we all have evidence filters). There is so much to perceive, and so many different things demanding our attention. Therefore our brains naturally triage inputs for what is most meaningful, which we will interpret using motivated reasoning for various purposes, most likely to enhance our status in our group.
Therefore, discerning "Truth" from the noise is not easy.
"Truth" can then be conceived as coherence with the reality of the creation as we experience it. Routes to Truth therefore include pure reason, experimentation, debate and contest, and the evolved model-making techniques inherent in the human brain that we must continue to intentionally improve.
Popper distinguishes mathematical proofs from scientific proofs. (In the table above with 11 Types of Truths where we seek to break this down further). Whilst a mathematical theory can be conclusive due to the nature of the mathematical system, advanced scientific theories, particularly in complex fields such as physics and biological science remain provisional, always subject to being replaced by a later and better theory.
Fundamentalist atheism, and indeed many experts in their own fields, fail to make this distinction. But it already exists in Christian Scripture, that "whoever thinks they know something does not yet know as they ought". To Popper, it is just as important to know how to know, to ensure you continue to learn.
Jesus' words "the truth shall set you free", in context imply a relationship with Christ, richly drinking in the 'logos' or foundational logic of the Universe. This leads to freedom from being enslaved to daily desires, rejection of mindless consumerism, and a commitment to a renewed humanity both in ourselves and society.
Truth, to Jesus, is firstly truths about how to live, the truth of the spiritual renewal, the truth of a relationship with the divine, not only the truths of mathematics and science. Indeed our important pursuits in all other fields will be effective only with an undergirding spirituality that seeks only truth, that does not try to distort, that does not exaggerate or engage in 'fake news' nor score political points to create division.
This is why we include Type of Truth 8 - Revelatory. We get Revelatory Truth from both the General Revelation (humanity's ability to observe the ordered universe) and the Special Revelation (the nature of Christ and God as revealed in Scripture and the life of Jesus). Popper does not care where the conjecture comes from. It must be critiqued and then found reliable until falsified. So far, the Revelatory Truths, properly understood, have withstood two millennia of critiquing, yet remain the foundation of the world view of the vast majority of monotheistic and post-monotheistic societies.
Not everything we value is able to be falsified. Not everything that is true can be subjected to rigorous proof using critical rationalism. But that should not devalue these things we know by other means, nor diminish the power of Critical Rationalism. Popper was right to understand this also, believing that many unfalsifiable propositions are important. Thus there is a need to classify the 11 Types of Truth.
EVIDENCE from SCRIPTURE SUPPORTING CRITICAL RATIONALISM
The New Testament contains many warnings against false certainty, not just 1 Cor 8 ("knowledge puffs up, but love builds up"). Jesus' parables were delivered with a caveat that "let the listener understand". Some were delivered as riddles, encouraging independent thought, in contrast to the strawman that religious dogmatism represents Christianity, Martin B Copenhaver in the ironically titled "Jesus is the Question" lists 307 questions Jesus asked but only 3 he directly answered.
Jesus is therefore encouraging conjecture and critiquing, a very Popperian notion.
In Matt 5:35-36 Jesus says not to take an oath, but to simply let your yes be yes and your no be no. It's not just the bad look of having to say, "I'm being especially truthful," implying you often lie. The swearing of an oath elevates one particular fact (be it past, such as evidence in a trial, or future commitment) to a level of certainty that humans just aren't capable of. It's well known in law that a single eyewitness is unreliable. Scripture requires two or three to give evidence.
Popper contends that we cannot be certain about hypotheses we haven't tested, and even if we have tested them, we can only say 'they haven't been disconfirmed yet'. Evidence 'corroborates' rather than 'proves'. An echo of this is found at the end of Matthew's gospel. Jesus says, "You shall be my witnesses". He doesn't say, "You shall be my logical arguers." He does not say, "You shall swear that you have seen the truth." He just wants us to say, "This is what happened, this is my testimony." No oaths, no false certainty, just tell your story, and be prepared to listen to others. Truth will emerge if it is sought after.
In this, we are seeking Truths of Types 8 to 11, to compare them with other truths in the hierarchy, most of which come from the General Revelation.
MOST THEOLOGY IS BAYESIAN
Whilst complex systematic theologies have some positive uses, never does Jesus instruct his followers to construct these. When preached, theology is invariably presented with verses or authorities that support it. Disconfirming evidence that doesn't fit the pre-defined narrative is discarded, much as for any assertion of Truth, including many published peer reviewed papers in Truth Types 4-7.
Referring to the 11 types of Truth above, systematic theological 'Truths' emerge from type 8: Revelatory, and are influenced by 9: Genetic Inheritance, 10: Enculturated Truths and 11: Systemically Defined. These are more as risk of motivated reasoning and evidence filters than higher Types of Truth. Despite the importance of having a clear view of the Creator, and the many good things that do come out of systematic theology, it is imperative to carve out the essentials of faith, leaving the non-essential theological ideas out of dividing lines between Christians.
In a Bayesian way, different proof texts are presented and some kind of balanced compromise reached, based on the probability and importance of various verses and concepts. Article 20 of the Church of England requires that no one teaching from the Bible may "so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another." But this doesn't stop many preachers from building complex edifices on a few verses and excluding others.
At times in European history in particular this has occurred in the context of political power struggles between factions and nations, with the objective of finding theological truth happily (for the proponents) coinciding with the desire to politically exclude others. Thus adding 'Truths' that must be believed beyond a very basic set that can withstand severe critiquing in a Popperian manner is a profoundly dis-inclusive and anti-Christian undertaking.
APPLYING CRITICAL RATIONALISM TO CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY
The faith that Christ rose from the dead and that he has died to bring us back into a great relationship with the Creator needs to be distinguished from the faith that various passages of scripture must be taken literally, or that the musings of any given Christian leader on eschatology or other sub-discipline of theology are authoritative. So maybe we need a list of different types of Faith, much as our list of types of Truths.
But first, it's important to win a battle with Atheism over the definition of 'Faith'.
When we feel 'truth' and certainty, without having falsifiable evidence, that is 'faith'. Faith (defined in Scripture) is the assurance we feel about things we have not seen (that is, are not able to falsify).
Atheism makes two frequent assertions about faith:
- That atheism itself has no faith (yet it has faith that the universe just popped into existence by itself, or is eternal, with intelligence arising from nothing, or that these questions are not important)
- That faith is holding a belief despite evidence. Such faith of the young earther is not faith at all but a dogged denial of evidence. (even if less wrong than believing the universe could be self-creating).
"Faith" (as defined in Scripture) is the same for both Christians and Atheists. Christians have seen many things in changed lives, the gospel's positive impact in history, and in its utility. Solid Christian faith is based not just on ideas we have heard but experiences with the divine. It is based not only on scripture and tradition, but also on reason and experience.
Christian faith also echoes in the good soil from the parable of the Sower. Those who identify with the archetype of Christ, that is, those who trust that a good God exists. This is what Jesus meant speaking to Thomas after his resurrection. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe", means blessed are those who are prepared to commit themselves to the archetype of Christ. Those who accepted it is believable that a good God exist, would seek to interact with the Creation / Simulation and trusted enough to make this the central foundation of their world view and life's actions.
Faith is categorically not the strawman that fundamentalist atheists make out, that is, holding beliefs in spite of evidence. As Hebrews makes clear, it is the assurance we feel about what we can't see. For example, the age of the Earth is seen. The power of Spiritual experiences is seen, but the reason is taken on faith. (either the Atheist mimetic and evolutionary explanation, or the Christian personal and interventional God explanation). It can be argued both of these explanations are already implicit in the worldviews of their respective proponents, and difficult to rigorously falsify. Therefore, they both fit Scripture's definition of 'Faith'.
Faith means holding beliefs that are unfalsifiable in the Popperian sense. This includes the truth of the transforming relationship that Jesus spoke of in John 8:32, referenced above. Popper believes unfalsifiable beliefs are still useful, in contrast to logical positivism that holds the fundamentalist position that all unfalsifiable statements are meaningless.
Christianity seeks not only 'faith' but wisdom, insights and character transformation. About wisdom, James writes: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. You need the Faith that wisdom, insights and character transformation are possible. This faith exists in both Christians and non-Christians to some extent, but the Christian version sees the source of faith in the character of the Creator.
Epistemology for the CTA must therefore see Critical Rationalism as a central plank, in the context of other greater 'truths' of which we can find a kind of certainty spoken of in Scripture. But we must be cautious at this point, to divide different kinds of truths, and use truth in a compassionate and careful manner, reflecting the way Jesus used truth.
But Critical Rationalism, applied to Faith, leaves us some conjectures which can survive Popperian critiques and some which can't, but are still useful. Therefore we can define different Types of Faith-held Truths:
|Item||Name||Description / Examples||CTA example and position|
|1||Foundational Faith Axioms||An axiom that is unquestionably derived directly from the scriptures and teaching of the Apostles||That Christ died, was buried and rose again|
|2||Archetypal Concordance||Faith that the nature of God is as revealed in both the Old and New Testaments, comprising both Law and Grace.
Faith which does not result in transformation to the likeness of Christ is less than God planned.
|That we, and future humans, should move ever closer to the archetype of Christ. Our creations, including AGI, should instantiate archetypes drawn from Christianity to avert the SkyNet risk.|
|3||Error Correcting - Less Wrong||
Faith that God wants me to do one or both of the following to improve my representation of God’s character:
|Scripture provides different corrections for different errors. A wise and mature Christian will discern such errors and help those seeking guidance.|
|4||Emerging theological structures||Eschatology, Soteriology, Hamartiology, etc||These are important and interesting but not necessary to be correct for salvation. For example, in Soteriology, there are different views between ransom theory, penal substitution theory, and Christus Victor, amongst others. Entrance to an eternal blissful relationship with God is not on the basis of correct theology, but the conformance with the archetype of Christ.|
|5||Pseudo-faith||Faith held contrary to evidence, for example, young-Earth creationism||This is not faith at all, according to specific words in Scripture, the General Revelation and the Character of Christ.|
The process of applying Critical Rationalism to our religion can free us from dogma. This is not to seek after a stale miracle-less modernist gospel, far from it. We do not discard the central truths of the Gospel, that Christ died for our sins and was raised and ascended. That God spoke through the prophets in various ways and various times, that the Holy Spirit is our ever-present companion and coach, empowering our conscience and discernment. This is a truth which can be allowed in Critical Rationalism, despite its only partial falsifiability, as Popper argues that many important and useful things cannot be falsified.
Applying CR to systematic theology leaves nearly every major systematic theological tenet with disconfirming textual evidence. Maybe this is because Paul sought to become all things to all people, so by all means to win some of them . Christianity should always comfort the disturbed whilst simultaneously disturbing and challenging the comfortable. Thus, as in the extra-biblical parable of the blind persons and the elephant, each person needs to hear something different about the Gospel, due to the inherent limitations in humanity's understanding and the different errors we all make.
There are numerous apparent scriptural contradictions, when really it is just different messages for different occasions. Take for example "Let your light so shine" and "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing." The mature reader must understand this, and falsify theologies that present only one part of the greater picture of God.
This compels us to hold all complex theological constructions lightly. Confused about Calvinism v Arminianism? Join the club, both can be disconfirmed by scripture. So let's relegate it to a second-order mystery, and focus on the main game of bringing the good news and seeing our churches, institutions and society continuously evolving to the likeness of Christ.
What are we left with, after applying CR to theology? We are left humbled, with very little faith (assurance) of our theology, even the bits that are helpful. Which is good. The Gospel must be simple enough for anyone to understand. Hence the core Christian concepts that withstand rigorous CR relate to practical behaviors and archetypes. Christian truths which withstand all challenges require repentance, faith, and to strive after the archetype of Christ. That we are living in a Creation. That God is good, and that the Creation is good despite its fallen state.
Theology that withstands CR challenges in Scripture is archetypal. That is, it points to routes of formation. It enlivens our faith in practical ways. It points us to the values of a society ruled by God's principles. It encourages us to think for ourselves, to reason, to debate, to consider different points of view and change our minds as appropriate.
This is what Christianity has in common with Critical Rationalism. That we will continue to reason, to learn, to grow, to change ourselves, and to change our minds. There is no need to be dogmatic when you are truly comfortable that the truth of the Gospel is an unshaken foundation of a transforming relationship with the Creator. All else will continue to be revealed with inquiry.
The Christian Transhumanist project includes defining a defensible world view that not only attracts Christians and Transhumanists, but provides sufficient common ground for non-Christians and other people of good will to support us.
To do this we should start with axioms we can rely on, and build these into theories supported by both observation and logic, challenging ourselves at every turn with the tools of CR. Such axioms include:
- The Universe is most likely to be a Simulation or Creation. This means when we refer to reality we refer to a part of the simulation or creation.
- The sentient beings in the universe (humans are the most common we encounter) are themselves a mix of good and evil. The dividing line between good and evil runs not between groups of people, but through every individual heart.
- Such sentient beings are 'problem solvers' as Popper would say, and seek to bridge Irenaeus's epistemic gap.
- "Good Wins". That is, cooperative and mutually interdependent beneficial behaviour is most likely to succeed in a race or society.
- These and other basic principles of the Universe can be understood from the General Revelation and bring concordance with Scripture
- Optimizing trusted mutual interdependence globally is factually the most efficient way towards the development of explanatory knowledge, to achieve goals held by Christians, Transhumanists and people of good will alike. That is, peace, freedom, and individual human rights (or individual sovereignty). That is, Popper's Open Society.
- What matters in Faith is conformance to the archetype of Christ. Such archetypes should be built into our human future, instantiated in Artificial General Intelligence and taught to our children.
It is therefore the CTA's mission to grow a mature Christianity that embraces the future, a future of diverse humans living together in peace and harmony under the principles of the rule of God. Together creating explanatory knowledge, using the tools of good-faith free speech and free inquiry, building a future we can barely conceive.
Jesus described himself as "The Way, The Truth and the Life". What did he mean by this? On observation is Christ expects his followers to hold to the "Truth" in the context of the "Way", that is, the lifestyle of Christ, and the "Life" that is, the eternal presence with God that can start today as we seek to dedicate our lives to an ever closer walk. Truth standing alone is like knowledge that puffs up, rather than building up.
Given humanity's frail abilities to grasp 'Truth', that each person needs a different insight from the reality of God's best for their lives, and the ever-present evidence filters and temptation to join a pre-packaged world view, an isolationist view of 'Truth' appears not only hard to achieve but undesirable. Solving the puzzles of the universe is a great and worthy undertaking, but without the 'Way' and the 'Life', a focus on 'Truth' may end unsuccessfully.
So whilst we support Critical Rationalism as a powerful tool in understanding the technology of the Simulation/Creation, to leverage its power, we need a spirituality that disempowers evidence filters and prior convictions. Such a Spirituality is a core goal of the CTA.