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Author Topic:   Degrees of Faith?
JustinC
Member (Idle past 4926 days)
Posts: 624
From: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Joined: 07-21-2003


Message 1 of 86 (376533)
01-12-2007 4:29 PM


I'm sure many people here, when trying to explain the conflict between science and religion, between the philosophy of doubt and tentative knowledge and that of faith and revealed truth, have come up against this counterargument.
"It is true that I may have faith in the Bible (God, church, etc.), but everyone has to have faith in something. For instance, you have faith in the scientific method (or empiricism, tentative knowledge, etc.). So pointing out that I have faith is not a criticism, since you are guilty of the same crime"
My question is, what is the correct response to this type of argument.
First off, let's define faith. I'd define it as "belief without regard to reason" with empiricism being encompassed within the term reason. This isn't to say that faith can't be reasonable, but just that it doesn't matter if it is or not: it will be believe no matter what.
By that definition, is belief in the scientific methods ability to elucidate the truth considered a form of faith? If not, why?
If it is, is it a more "reasonable" faith. Can faith be categorized in degrees of reasonableness? For instance, is a faith in Santa Clause less reasonable than a belief in a creator? Is a faith that our perceptions give us a more or less accurate picture of the world a more reasonable type of faith than a belief in a creator?
Edited by JustinC, : empericism-->empiricism

Replies to this message:
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 Message 41 by purpledawn, posted 01-19-2007 12:05 PM JustinC has replied

  
AdminQuetzal
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Message 2 of 86 (376546)
01-12-2007 5:13 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
01-12-2007 4:29 PM


Nice topic, Justin. How do you want to play it? Faith and Belief or Is It Science?

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  • This message is a reply to:
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    JustinC
    Member (Idle past 4926 days)
    Posts: 624
    From: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
    Joined: 07-21-2003


    Message 3 of 86 (376606)
    01-12-2007 8:51 PM
    Reply to: Message 2 by AdminQuetzal
    01-12-2007 5:13 PM


    How about a new Forum, "Is it Faith?"
    "Faith and Belief" works also.

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    AdminQuetzal
    Inactive Member


    Message 4 of 86 (376614)
    01-12-2007 9:23 PM


    Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

      
    Omnivorous
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    From: Adirondackia
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    Message 5 of 86 (376635)
    01-12-2007 11:02 PM
    Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
    01-12-2007 4:29 PM


    "It is true that I may have faith in the Bible (God, church, etc.), but everyone has to have faith in something. For instance, you have faith in the scientific method (or empiricism, tentative knowledge, etc.). So pointing out that I have faith is not a criticism, since you are guilty of the same crime"
    Excellent topic, JustinC--this is a textbook example of equivocation as well as a pretty good case of the tu quoque (You too! Nyah, nyah!) fallacy.
    I think your definition of faith as "belief without regard to reason" is a fair one; I especially like "firm belief in something for which there is no proof" as offered by my Webster's.
    The essential difference is that the scientific method requires replicable evidence. Descartes sought certainty in his own existence in incrementalism--following a chain of logic composed of very small steps, each link one in which he could have great confidence. He stopped short of scientific rigor, however, when he settled for the "faith" of internal experience.
    Science raises the bar by requiring that the evidence that generates confidence must be evidence that can be obtained and examined independently by others. Also, science requires the perpetually open mind, the willingness to examine and accept valid falsifying evidence.
    So the reply to the equivocating, so-are-you fallacy you describe is a simple one, I think: we have confidence, not faith, in science, because its methods are rigorous, and its products clear to see. Far from being a mirror world to faith, science is the antithesis of faith: not "firm belief in something for which there is no proof" but confidence in something for which the evidential grounds are broad, deep, and universally available. Faith requires belief without evidence, as well as persistence of belief in the face of contrary evidence.
    Faith does not admit of degrees--you either believe or you do not; that belief may be weak or strong in the face of challenge, but the state itself is absolute. Science, however, admits of a broad spectrum of confidence, ranging from "it looks like it might be" to "it almost certainly is."
    I am confident of the ability of science to yield true knowledge about the world because of the persuasiveness of the methodology and the powerful manipulations of the world that science has made possible. Faith can offer no evidence at all but leaps (like Descartes but with less reason) to certainty.
    The difference is as deep as a fair trial vs. a lynching party.
    Edited by Omnivorous, : in search of comma perfection

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    iano
    Member (Idle past 2023 days)
    Posts: 6165
    From: Co. Wicklow, Ireland.
    Joined: 07-27-2005


    Message 6 of 86 (376816)
    01-13-2007 9:13 PM
    Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
    01-12-2007 4:29 PM


    JustinC writes:
    First off, let's define faith. I'd define it as "belief without regard to reason" with empiricism being encompassed within the term reason. This isn't to say that faith can't be reasonable, but just that it doesn't matter if it is or not: it will be believe no matter what.
    You could also define faith as the Bible defines it in Hebrews 11.1. "Faith...the evidence of things not seen". For "not seen" you would do well to insert "not touched, tasted, not smelled, not heard". Not empirical in other words.
    "Faith..the evidence of things not empirically evidenced"
    You now have a problem. Faith is described as being the same as evidence. And since it is, "belief" in what it evidences is as reasonable as is "belief" in anything that is evidenced. I'm not sure whether saying "I believe I am sitting in a chair" should be described as a belief however. The normal terminology is to say "I know I am sitting in a chair - I have evidence of the class which permits knowing such things"
    The problem is this. There is nothing at all to suggest that non-empirical evidence does not exist. Given that, does the problem lie in there being no non-empirical evidence. Or does it lie in you not being able to detect it (unless you have non-empirical evidence detectors plugged in).
    When a bunch of people point the finger anywhere but at themselves common sense says you should suspect the people. Not the evidence
    That's my bit promoting agnostism for now

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    nator
    Member (Idle past 2251 days)
    Posts: 12961
    From: Ann Arbor
    Joined: 12-09-2001


    Message 7 of 86 (376854)
    01-14-2007 12:04 AM
    Reply to: Message 6 by iano
    01-13-2007 9:13 PM


    quote:
    There is nothing at all to suggest that non-empirical evidence does not exist.
    There is nothing at all to suggest that non-empirical evidence exists, either.
    I mean, if we can't sense it in any way, it doesn't matter if it exists or not, because we wouldn't be able to detect it whatsoever.
    We can therefore consider it as irrelevant as if it didn't exist at all.
    ...since, of course, it doesn't, as far as we can tell.

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    purpledawn
    Member (Idle past 3539 days)
    Posts: 4453
    From: Indiana
    Joined: 04-25-2004


    Message 8 of 86 (376894)
    01-14-2007 8:45 AM
    Reply to: Message 5 by Omnivorous
    01-12-2007 11:02 PM


    Proof for the Method
    quote:
    The essential difference is that the scientific method requires replicable evidence.
    Actually those who created the scientific method require replicable evidence, but is there evidence that the scientific method does yield true knowledge about the natural world?
    Years ago using the scientific method, scientists come up with a fact about the natural world.
    Years later using the scientific method, scientists show that that fact was wrong and give us a new fact.
    Does the scientific method really give us true knowledge of the natural world or just confirm or prove false the questions that we pose?
    From a peon standpoint, without proof, we trust that the scientists are asking the right questions with our well being in mind. Is it reasonable to continue to trust a group that has provided knowledge that helps to destroy our environment and our health? Do we continue to trust because we feel the pros outweigh the cons, although we have no proof that the pros do outweigh the cons; or do we trust because we have become conditioned to trust what scientists proclaim, just as those raised in a religous setting have been conditioned to trust what religion proclaims?

    "Peshat is what I say and derash is what you say." --Nehama Leibowitz

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    Replies to this message:
     Message 10 by Straggler, posted 01-14-2007 12:16 PM purpledawn has replied
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    RAZD
    Member (Idle past 1487 days)
    Posts: 20714
    From: the other end of the sidewalk
    Joined: 03-14-2004


    Message 9 of 86 (376901)
    01-14-2007 10:09 AM
    Reply to: Message 6 by iano
    01-13-2007 9:13 PM


    what???
    "Faith..the evidence of things not empirically evidenced"
    You now have a problem. Faith is described as being the same as evidence.
    How do you get this conclusion? Playing semantic games with definitions doesn't make your argument valid.
    faith -n.
    1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
    2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief, trust.
    3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
    4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
    5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
    6. A set of principles or beliefs.
    We are talking about definition #2. You can't have belief be evidence for faith when it is evidence of faith.
    Edited by RAZD, : added to end comment

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    This message is a reply to:
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    Straggler
    Member (Idle past 147 days)
    Posts: 10333
    From: London England
    Joined: 09-30-2006


    Message 10 of 86 (376917)
    01-14-2007 12:16 PM
    Reply to: Message 8 by purpledawn
    01-14-2007 8:45 AM


    Re: Proof for the Method
    Does the scientific method really give us true knowledge of the natural world or just confirm or prove false the questions that we pose?
    Science assumes that there is true knowledge of the natural world to be had. It then seeks to ask the right questions to understand, explain, model, predict and to some extent control that natural world.
    Whether it actually reveals the 'truth' of the natural world or just approximates to it in some limited way that our perceptions are capable of comprehending, matters little to all practical intents and purposes.
    Years ago using the scientific method, scientists come up with a fact about the natural world.
    Years later using the scientific method, scientists show that that fact was wrong and give us a new fact.
    Better models reap better results and are arguably closer to the truth of nature than inferior models. Verisimilitude - The ever increasing closenes to 'the truth'
    From a peon standpoint, without proof, we trust that the scientists are asking the right questions with our well being in mind. Is it reasonable to continue to trust a group that has provided knowledge that helps to destroy our environment and our health? Do we continue to trust because we feel the pros outweigh the cons, although we have no proof that the pros do outweigh the cons; or do we trust because we have become conditioned to trust what scientists proclaim, just as those raised in a religous setting have been conditioned to trust what religion proclaims?
    You are treating scientists as if they are some sort of select cult proclaiming truths for the rest of us to follow!!!!
    There is nothing to stop anybody asking whatever questions they want. If you think that the wrong ones are being asked then ask the right ones.
    All science demands are that the methods of science are used to evaluate any such questions.
    Science has only ever progressed by the means of pioneers in the field asking the questions that no-one else has - Netwon, Darwin, Galileo, Einstein etc. etc.
    There is nothing to stop you or I being another of those pioneers but our own inability to ask the right questions and find the subsequent answers!!!!!

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    iano
    Member (Idle past 2023 days)
    Posts: 6165
    From: Co. Wicklow, Ireland.
    Joined: 07-27-2005


    Message 11 of 86 (376924)
    01-14-2007 12:42 PM
    Reply to: Message 9 by RAZD
    01-14-2007 10:09 AM


    Re: what???
    razd writes:
    How do you get this conclusion? Playing semantic games with definitions doesn't make your argument valid.
    I thought is was you who was playing semantics. You picked up a book called "the dictionary".
    We are talking about definition #2. You can't have belief be evidence for faith when it is evidence of faith.
    You are smart enough that I don't have to point out the problem here. Look to answer #1 if in doubt. Depends on which Bible you chose...
    I write by way of expressing concern. I've read the news. God bless.
    Edited by iano, : No reason given.

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    jar
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    Message 12 of 86 (376960)
    01-14-2007 3:06 PM
    Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
    01-12-2007 4:29 PM


    a pretend meaning of Faith.
    "It is true that I may have faith in the Bible (God, church, etc.), but everyone has to have faith in something. For instance, you have faith in the scientific method (or empiricism, tentative knowledge, etc.). So pointing out that I have faith is not a criticism, since you are guilty of the same crime"
    There is a difference between having a high degree of confidence in something based on evidence that all can see, and Faith in a religious sense. Lots of people love to conflate the two and even think that they are making a significant point.
    The answer is to point out that having a high degree of confidence in the scientific method is based on observed results of the method over many centuries, while Faith as in a religion is based on things hoped for.

    Aslan is not a Tame Lion

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    Straggler
    Member (Idle past 147 days)
    Posts: 10333
    From: London England
    Joined: 09-30-2006


    Message 13 of 86 (376975)
    01-14-2007 4:19 PM
    Reply to: Message 11 by iano
    01-14-2007 12:42 PM


    Faith Is Evidence
    If faith is evidence -
    Is it possible to have faith in something which is actually completely untrue?
    If so you would presumably class this as 'false evidence'?
    How is it possible to differentiate between faith that is evidence of the truth and misplaced faith that is false evidence?
    IF it is not possible to differentiate between faith that is evidence of truth and misplaced faith that is false evidence
    THEN to all practical intents and purposes it is useless evidence as it actually provides no clue to what is true and what is not.
    Is my logic wrong or have I unwittingly setup a straw man of some sort?
    This idea of faith as evidence seems very circular to me but even if we accept faith as evidence does the above analysis not present a fairly striking problem?

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    iano
    Member (Idle past 2023 days)
    Posts: 6165
    From: Co. Wicklow, Ireland.
    Joined: 07-27-2005


    Message 14 of 86 (376999)
    01-14-2007 5:55 PM
    Reply to: Message 13 by Straggler
    01-14-2007 4:19 PM


    Re: Faith Is Evidence
    straggler writes:
    IF it is not possible to differentiate between faith that is evidence of truth and misplaced faith that is false evidence
    THEN to all practical intents and purposes it is useless evidence as it actually provides no clue to what is true and what is not.
    Is my logic wrong or have I unwittingly setup a straw man of some sort?
    This idea of faith as evidence seems very circular to me but even if we accept faith as evidence does the above analysis not present a fairly striking problem?
    You are almost right to say its circular. But then again all evidence runs us in the same circle - the only think breaking us out of it is our own assumptions. I'm on this same thing on another site discussing Ricard Dawkins new book, The God Delusion. The book defines faith along the same lines as JustinC then sets about 'demolishing' the religious.
    - we assume the difference between our internal thoughts and what arrives at us by sense data is actually different. We assume what we perceive as sense data is actually relfecting an external-to-us reality. There is no way to verify this but we do so in order not to be solipsists. That we do so automatically doesn't make any difference. Sense data arrives through (we assume) various channels; sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch.
    - I do the same thing with another sense data as we all do with the above sense data. I assume it reflects an external reality simply because it has the same attribute as other sense data to whit: I perceive it as reflecting an external reality
    - whilst all our sense data is considered authoritive (ie: there is nothing else we can rely on but it) it is not necessarily reliable. How does one verify the accuracy (if any) with which our sense data reflects the true reality we have presumed it reflects. Patently we cannot rely on the fact that others sense data and our own shares remarkable commonality. All that their sharing our own tells us is that they share the same level of correlation w.r.t. perceiving the reality as we do. It may be that we are all on a 45% correlation. It could be that we are on 80% correlation. How could we tell where we are? How much could we be missing?
    - At worst I am in no worse a position that you. I sense something you do not, but could not tell whether my correlation reflects the true reality to a greater or lesser extent than your own - even though other people share the perception that I share. There is however a a not-insignificant factor on my own side - one that you do not have as you wonder about your own level of correlation. When asked the question "How do you know its God there and not another god playing tricks on you" I can respond as follows
    - whereas everyone is left to their own powers in deciding what level of correlation they sit at (making all arguments circular, relying as they do on assumptions) I am not. God is capable of making me know that it is him and no other. If I know its him its not because I have managed to break out of the circle - its because he has no problem breaking into it.
    This latter argument will no doubt receive some incoming. Fair enough and it is not my intention to argue it beyond here. The main point is there is no way for anyone to break themselves out of the circle. At worst, the evidence I have arises from an assumption that sense data reflects the external reality accurately. I do no different than anyone else in that regard.
    Edited by iano, : No reason given.
    Edited by iano, : No reason given.
    Edited by iano, : No reason given.

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    nator
    Member (Idle past 2251 days)
    Posts: 12961
    From: Ann Arbor
    Joined: 12-09-2001


    Message 15 of 86 (377005)
    01-14-2007 6:27 PM
    Reply to: Message 8 by purpledawn
    01-14-2007 8:45 AM


    Re: Proof for the Method
    quote:
    Is it reasonable to continue to trust a group that has provided knowledge that helps to destroy our environment and our health?
    Do not confuse the findings of science with how those findings are used (or misused).
    Science is merely a method. To say that it is science's "fault" that pollution exists, for example, is like saying that the manufacturers of a hammer are to blame when someone uses it to bash in another person's skull.
    And how has science "destroyed" people's health?
    Before scientifically-based medicine and scientific investigation of both agriculture and nutrition, life expectancy was half what it is now, and illnesses and conditions we consider no big deal, even trivial, these days used to kill great swaths of people.
    Childbith, influenza, and cuts come to mind as a few.

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