End of Year

The Future: The Past Revisited?

An interesting thread of comment came up on Facebook about how we trust that the future will be like the past, known as the ”Uniformity of Nature.” How can we know that the future will be like the past? If we could not ”know“ this very simple concept, then we would not perform experiments in science. For example, if we were to do an experiment and see that water boils at 212 degrees, but do not expect the future to be like the past, then why do the experiment? For all we know when we do the experiment again tomorrow under the same conditions it might be different. The question is, ”HOW do we KNOW that the future will be like the past?” Here was my response on Facebook:

I believe the misunderstanding is coming up when we refer to the future being like the past. If I ask you, “How do you know the future will be like the past?” and you tell me, “Because in the past, the future has been like the past,” you are committing a logical fallacy of “Begging the Question.” It becomes a viciously circular argument, and that goes against logic.

I am not asking you if, in the past, the future has been like the past, I am asking you how you KNOW that the future will be like the past. The only thing you can give me from your worldview is: “It has been that way in the past, and there is a high probability that it will be like that in the future.”

I am not trying to put words into your mouth but that is what it comes down to.

The point is to show you that to assume the future will be like the past is to borrow the Christian worldview. We can give an account as to “why” the future will be like the past. It is because God in His word ”revealed“ the knowledge to us that He holds all things together.

Our question for you is, ”In a random-chance world, how do you know the future will be like the past?”

Try to answer this without referring to the past so that you don’t commit a logical fallacy and look silly.

Does it make sense to assume that the future will be like the past (or will even probably be like the past) without depending on the God who knows the future? No way! To say that the future will even ”probably“ be like the past is assuming the very thing you are trying to prove.

Think about it: When someone says that something will ”probably happen,” what are they really saying? They mean that since this event happened in the past and we know that the future is like the past, there is a high probability that this will happen in the future. You see, they assume what they are trying to prove, which is viciously circular.

I know, it is deep, but understand this: If the world were random, i.e. if anything could happen, we would have no basis to trust that the future will be like the past. Therefore, we could not have science, either, because it depends on this very fact to do repeatable, testable experiments.

When scientists tell you that they don’t believe in God, don’t believe them!

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Leave11 Responses to testThe Future: The Past Revisited?

  1. die kerze August 11, 2010 at 7:41 am #

    Oh my, where to begin?

    The laws of nature didn’t change in the past, so it is unnecessary to assume they suddenly would.

    But what i find more interesting is this: “We can give an account as to “why” the future will be like the past. It is because God in His word “revealed.” “the knowledge to us that He holds all things together.”

    Don’t you say that the radioactivy decay changed over time?
    I would like to submit that that is a change of the natural law….

    “I know, it is deep,”

    Yeah…. not really.

    “If the world were random, i.e. if anything could happen, we would have no basis to trust that the future will be like the past.”

    Ehm, sorry, but the world isn’t random. It is defined by the laws of nature. All observations show that the laws of nature are consistant.
    That is not really random, is it?

  2. Rocky Salit August 11, 2010 at 7:23 am #

    Actually we predict that the future will be like the past. If it is not, then we would have to investigate and understand why it was not.

    I know, it is deep, but understand this: If the world were random, i.e. if anything could happen, we would have no basis to trust that the future will be like the past. Therefore, we could not have science, either, because it depends on this very fact to do repeatable, testable experiments.

    It is a good thing that it is not random then, eh? We have been able to find some things out about the way the Universe runs and call these Laws. I know that you are aware of at least of few of these. What we call Laws are how we understand the way the universe runs, they are not absolute but are our understanding according to the evidence. They are also subject to change if new evidence is presented. It is upon our understanding of Laws and the scientific Theories we have based off these Laws that we can predict that the future will be like the past.

    Again, if it is not, then our understanding is flawed. It is not assumed but predicted. All scientific Theories make predictions.

    None of this, though, precludes God. Again science cannot, does not, and will not say anything about the supernatural.

  3. Rocky Salit August 11, 2010 at 7:27 am #

    As an example, the Theory of Gravity predicts the sun will rise in the morning (even so far as down to the minute in accordance with each location). This is not assuming that the future is going to be like the past but a prediction. If that prediction ever failed, scientists would try to understand why that happened. Contrary new evidence calls for reevaluation of what we know.

  4. Ed Snipples August 11, 2010 at 9:33 am #

    How is one going to answer a question about past and future with out referring to the past?

    Why don’t you explain to me how the bible is the word of god with out referring to the bible?

  5. Jon Richt August 11, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    At what point would “trust in predictability based on God holding everything together” conflict with “God performs miracles”? When there’s a Creator who creates and breaks the laws the universe seems to operate on, on what basis do Christians have to believe that ANYTHING in the natural world can be predicted? God could come down and work miracles in front of us for whatever reason he deems worthy, and we would have no choice but to accept it.

    Christians have no more reason to believe that the natural world is predictable than do the people of any other world view.

  6. Lance Grey August 11, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    In a surprising twist the bible seems to describe a rewind in time as a time when a political despot like Nimrod arrives, men profane the name of God, and ultimately the earth is restored to Garden conditions when the son of God rules from Davids throne! Later, in heaven, there’s no earth, sun or need of it.
    Forward to the Past!

  7. Jeremey Chinshue August 11, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    @ Jon Richt

    How do we even know if God’s breaking the laws he set into motion? He could be using other laws that we’ve yet to discover. God doesn’t contradict himself, He used wind to part the Red Sea for example. It didn’t just open up.

  8. Nigel McNaughton August 11, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Ah the Random Canard. Do you really think the world is Random?

    Do you get up in the morning and wonder if the ground will hold you up? The world is so random!

    Do you get your mug, coffee, milk, sugar and think, what is this going to end up being? The world is so random!

    No you don’t, because you know the world operates in fairly well understood ways.

    Now as Jon as already pointed out, if you believe in Miracles then you aren’t justified in assuming it will work the same way because God is free to alter things at his whim. As you believe he apparently has.

  9. die kerze August 11, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    @ Jeremey Chinshue

    An argument that is not falsifiable is no argument.
    It’s like
    “there are no fossils!”
    “ok, there are fossils, but god made them to tease us!”

    You can adjust to whatever you like, but your argument is weak.

    “He used wind to part the Red Sea for example. It didn’t just open up.”

    Ehm….
    Get some basic knowledge about “wind”, for example thermal lift, air pressure and so on. And then inform you about water and how it behaves.
    And then show me at least a basic model to explain how “wind” could do that.
    Until then, stop making stuff up because it fits your worldview.

    “It didn’t just open up.”

    It didn’t open up. <- fixed

  10. Jon Richt August 11, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    Hi Jeremy,

    If God only uses natural laws that we’re unaware of (a distinct possibility), then there are two consequences:

    1) Such intervention is not a miracle

    2) God is constrained by natural law, and therefore not omnipotent

  11. H. Bosma August 12, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    Religion has always been a way to describe the unknown.
    When we do not have a solution why something happens, a supernatural cause is the easiest.

    Believe in a god ensures you that you cannot predict the future, because he/she can do as he/she wishes and break the rules, or implement new laws.

    Science uses the past to predict the future, because it’s the best possible way. When the future deviates from the past, scientist look for the answers.

    A limited mind needs a supernatural being, because it cannot accept the fact that we do not know everything.

    The quote “When scientists tell you that they don’t believe in God, don’t believe them!” I have often seen used.
    That’s just the fact that Kent cannot grasp how scientist think and work. Kent can only see everything in the light of his god.