Ray Ingles provided this quote from “The Doctor” in my post “On Taking an Objective Approach to Inexplicable Events“. This is an interesting claim. It first begs interpretation. I take there to be the following two basic possibilities:
(1) The rational person believes that every object, event or state of affairs has some explanation for why it obtains rather than not.
(2) The rational person believes that every object, event or state of affairs has some explanation for why it obtains which could be understood by rational persons.
With that in mind we face a dilemma. On the one hand, (1) is a toothless statement. I mean who would deny that there is some reason for why x exists or y occurs? That statement is so general that it is simply uninteresting.
But (2) is equally problematic because it takes a very robust, optimistic approach toward human cognitive potential by saying that human beings must be able to understand everything. Not only is it very robust and optimistic, but it is indefensibly so. Gödel’s incompleteness theorems are sufficient to establish this. It is quite clear that there are many things which transcend human understanding and this reflects our inherent cognitive limitations.
Christians and atheists alike should recognize that the notion that we should, in principle, be able to explain everything is sheer hubris. For the Christian it is hubris because it presumes we can “know the mind of God”. (See John Jefferson Davis’s essay “Does Gödel’s Proof have Theological Implications?”) For atheists it is hubris because it assumes that minds randomly evolved to maximize survival are provided some sort of guaranteed insight into the nature of things. (See Colin McGinn’s work on “mysterianism.”) To think that a random process of evolutionary development would furnish us with the ability to understand all things is like thinking that a Hong Kong street vendor can furnish us with a watch that keeps time like an NIST atomic clock.
So if we take this statement literally then it is either trivial (there must be some reason for x) or obviously false (we must be able to grasp the reason for x). But if neither of these works, then what is the point of the statement? I suggest that rather than read it literally, we take it as a kind of slogan, a chant to get the crowd going. “Come on everybody! Let’s think of how to explain this! Let’s give it the old college try! Now strike up the pep band!”
And that’s fine, I guess. So long as we’re clear that it is, after all, just a slogan.