Infinite Regression of a Deep Thinker

Infinite Regression of a Deep Thinker

<quote from Real Faith & Reason>

So we meet a deep thinker, and we try to find out how many layers of his infinite regression he can articulate. But it makes no difference because stacking up unknowns doesn’t create truth. He doesn’t gain any intellectual “friction” to make the unknowns true. The more cogent he is, the more deceptive he is.

Consider a man who had received some teaching that sounded good. Let’s call him Sandy. Sandy had taken this reasoning to its logical end, which was destroying his wife and children. And yet, people would sit at Sandy’s feet to listen to him teach his theology and philosophy. One student of philosophy decided to test him by searching for root causes, so he asked Sandy for the cause five times. After this test, the student declared that Sandy had a well-reasoned philosophy.

One day, God gave Sandy a vision of a huge mansion. This mansion was as large as a city, and half of it stood on a rock. The rock was massive like a mountain and extended down past what Sandy could see. However, that city also extended over the edge of the cliff and out over the abyss. It was cantilevered over nothing. It’s not that it was unsupported, though. Under the city, a hodgepodge of two-by-fours braced it up from the bottom. They were at odd angles, and many of them were fastened together to share the load. Charlie followed the structure down and found that each two-by-four rested on supporting two-by-fours, and those two-by-fours rested on other two-by-fours. This amazing structure continued down until the final two-by-fours rested on nothing at all. They just hung over the abyss. Sandy didn’t understand. Then, a voice said, “That’s how you think.”

Someone may think that many layers of unproven proofs will eventually build up “intellectual friction,” but it doesn’t work that way. Many unknowns don’t eventually lead to truth any more than many empty propane tanks can cook the burgers on your grill.

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