Solving the Contact Paradox: Rational Belief in the Teeth of the Evidence

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Abstract
Evidentialism is the doctrine that rational belief should be proportioned to one’s evidence. By “one’s evidence,” I mean evidence that we possess and know that we possess. I specifically exclude from “evidence” the following: information of which we are unaware that our brain might rely on in constructing experience or in the formation of beliefs. My initial interest is with the doctrine of Evidentialism as it applies to a quandary that arises in the Sci-Fi movie Contact, the “Contact Paradox” as I will call it. In this movie one of the main characters, Ellie, is a cosmologist working in a radio-telescope research facility searching for signals from intelligent life in the cosmos. The entity whose epistemological status is at issue in her quandary is her deceased father but there is an obvious parallel between the quandary of a rational believer in God and Ellie’s quandary, a parallel extensively explored in the movie itself. My first thesis is that in Ellie’s case Evidentialism is false: in certain cases, it is rational to believe in the existence of an entity in spite of the fact that the empirical evidence overall is contrary, and the Contact Paradox is one such case. Later in the paper I turn attention to the issue of Evidentialism regarding beliefs in the existence of God. My second thesis is that Evidentialism is false there as well.
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Archival date: 2020-09-24
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2020-09-24

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