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Author Topic: Faith and reason.  (Read 4298 times)

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Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Faith and reason.
« on: October 03, 2012, 04:59:37 PM »
The following quote was originally posted in the Speak good of Muslims and those of any faith thread, but because we were getting off topic, with the permission of the other poster, I decided to create this thread. For context, see this post. I'm going to try to respond in a way that both addresses points previously made, and allows for other people to join in the debate. With that said, let's get started.

Emotions and feelings have a great deal to do with reality.  People live and die based on emotions.  Countries are toppled by what feelings they can invoke in another nation’s populace and in their own people.  When confidence is high inside a nation’s borders there is a surge of productivity and benefits to the economy and to social welfare.  The same goes for when there are good feelings and emotions inside the workplace.  People’s lifespans increase based on their emotions and feelings, their healing process in the hospital shortens if they are feeling good and have positive energy.  Emotions and feelings most certainly affect reality.  If atheists seek to foster change in the religious community, then caring about their emotions would have an effect on their progress.

Scientific scrutiny has upheld that belief does guide human interaction and assumption oils the machine of social welfare and government.  Research into authority figures (i.e. police officers, medical personnel, higher ranking soldiers) has shown the effectiveness of their presence simply because people feel a boost to confidence and a belief in the abilities of that figure.  Erwin Goffman did a great deal of research about social cues and interactions whereby belief in various symbols affected the interaction of two people.  Symbolism in society is another field that discusses how belief in various cues and objects affects people.  Institutions have the faith of people such as the Supreme Court.  Once judgment is based down from the Supreme Court, the majority of people accept that judgment.  They may not like the judgment, but they accept the judgment.

Here I think you're conflating belief in something tangible with faith in the supernatural, and feelings in general. I'm not denying that there's an emotional component to all of human existence, but I am denying that this component, if at odds with what we know or don't know, is reason enough to justify believing in something.

If we're going to get into "faith" in authority figures, then I think that, actually, skepticism is far more important for a well-functioning society. A Supreme Court can have the faith of the entire population and still be thoroughly corrupt, if no one questions that faith. By questioning, you force these institutions, or the economy, or whatever else you may have faith in, to prove itself. At that point, we're no longer talking about faith, but a justifiable belief.

With religious faith, there's no justification. Various religions ask you to take dubious answers to important questions purely on faith, and I don't see the value of it. Because I don't think certainty, in and of itself, has any value.

Also, stating that my points do not hold up to scrutiny and then contending that blind faith lead to economic collapse seems a poor choice.  Economy did fail through bad faith, but at the same time was created by faith and belief.  Credit and currency are two prime examples of this belief.  Faith has been betrayed in the recent economic collapse, leading to a great many reforms and restructures in an attempt to restore faith and confidence in the system.  Economics affects all aspects of society.

My point in bringing attention to your particular point about the economy was that it's an example of a situation where faith proved extremely dangerous. I didn't say that blind faith led to economic collapse, I said that blind faith and people willing to take advantage of it contributed to the economic collapse. Because, while there is a difference between religious faith and faith in something like a model for the economy, they're both examples of situations where faith ( I won't say "blind faith" again - all faith is blind by definition ) can prove to be misplaced.

As for the discussion on helpful and truth, we can end that discussion then I suppose.  In my opinion a useful and helpful tool does not lose value because the item does not work as people imagined. 

Sam Harris pointed out, at one point, that if the usefulness of a belief should be taken into account when deciding whether or not to believe in it, then we could just as easily make up our own religion right now which would surely be better than the ones we have. We could include things like commandments to protect the environment, to try hard to do well academically, and so on. And we'd get rid of every hateful, bigoted commandment that so many religions today have.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2012, 05:13:44 PM by Hemingway »

Offline Sabby

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2012, 11:46:37 AM »
This topic is still going on? o.O We're still humouring this? Having faith in something and logically concluding what something is are polar opposites, and one person disagreeing with this shouldn't be such an obstacle.

Just like a small minority of uneducated folks shouldn't drag scientific advancement to a stop just to humour their opinions as if they actually matter.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2012, 12:29:47 PM »
Having faith in something and logically concluding what something is are polar opposites

Um, no they aren't. Logic is a systematic process that can proceed from any premise -- scientific or otherwise -- and be used to validate all manner of things. The question is whether you accept the premises or not.

The notion of "logic" or "reason" being separate from faith -- while a commonplace of gadflies like Sam Harris and encouraged by current faith organizations that try to undermine science -- is fallacious and historically inaccurate. The evolution of formal logic in Western thought (or Eastern thought, for that matter) was inextricably linked to theology and religion for most of history. The rise of Rationalism in post-Classical European thought was part and parcel of the rise of Scholasticism in the Catholic Church from the 9th century onwards; natural and religious philosophy were also linked in Islam during its medieval scientific revolution. Most of the earliest scientists were Churchmen or religious philosophers, and the Western scientific method itself as we know it stems from Medieval disputes between the mainstream Church (which affirmed the goodness of Creation and the worthiness of investigating it) with various heresies like Catharism (which like the earliest Christianity itself sought to denounce all "worldly" things).

Inconvenient details like this are typically forgotten by modern anti-science or fake-science movements like the Intelligent Designers, and also by their opponents (people like Harris or Hitchens or Dawkins) who imagine that the conversation about religion's role in society begins and ends in shouting matches and flame-wars with fundamentalists. I say a pox on all such ignorant twits*, theist and atheist alike. Any rhetorical project that has to falsify and/or ignore the full picture is part of the problem. (I say this as an atheist myself.)

[EDIT: Sorry if all the above comes across as pedantic. I was a History major at University; hard habit to break.]

(* Dawkins is not of course an "ignorant twit" as a science writer. But his writing on religion is shallow, of far more limited and polemical use than he seems to imagine it to be.)
« Last Edit: October 05, 2012, 12:39:33 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Sabby

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2012, 12:41:42 PM »
Once again, I'm at a loss for relevance... this whole debate is because it was proposed that faith and reason are the same, and that faith is equally as important. I don't see how something like that can be rationalized by "Well, if ya look at history, something something bad apples". My problem is the responses to this almost always fly off into these long exposition dumps, and don't get me wrong, they're informative, but unnecessary :/ It's a simple matter that requires a simple answer.

What is faith. What is reason. Now, compare.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2012, 12:52:32 PM »
It's a simple matter that requires a simple answer.

Well, the simple answer is that faith (confidence in a thing that can't be strictly proven) and reason (the mental powers concerned with forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences) are distinct but not mutually exclusive, and it's basically a mug's game to try to prove one "better" or more important than the other.

Why is it a mug's game? That's what the exposition dumps are for. You can't have an informed perspective on the simple answer if you're not willing to learn about how it plays out in the real world, and has done over time.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2012, 12:54:01 PM »
this whole debate is because it was proposed that faith and reason are the same, and that faith is equally as important. I don't see how something like that can be rationalized by "Well, if ya look at history, something something bad apples".

No idea what you're talking about here, by the way.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2012, 01:01:17 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Sabby

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2012, 01:06:55 PM »
Okay, this needs to be said, because people tiptoe around this line too much. Sometimes, there is a superior answer. I won't wear the kiddy gloves for that, but I won't dispute that faith has done good things. Faith in the world not being flat is what lead someone across the ocean :P But once against, we're not looking at that. We can look to history to see how the two have played out together and their contributions to society, but people have done many good things for reasoning that doesn't fly any more in the wake of better methodology.

There are situations where one side is just wrong. We can talk about a time when faith was a benefit to society, and why it was, but I'm concerned with right now, and I'm going to assume the opening poster is as well, unless they'd like to clarify. Right here, right now, in this day, in this age, in this world, reasoning and logic have a place of great importance, and faith does not.

I'm sorry, but unless someone has a BRILLIANT argument to the contrary, all that can be achieved in this discussion is reflection. And the reason I refuse to humour this is I see it everywhere, doing much more damage then good. When a topic shows up, whether it be abortion, gay rights, religion, stem cells, climate change, politics, all I see everyone do is drift back in time and pluck out old examples of when they were right, of when this was like this, and that like that. No one is interested in moving forward and changing things.

I am.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2012, 01:14:01 PM »
Okay, this needs to be said, because people tiptoe around this line too much. Sometimes, there is a superior answer.

Of course there is. I just gave it to you.

The way you move forward and change things usefully is to actually be informed, curious and honest about the world around you and how it got that way. For example, if your definition of science requires you to rule intuition (a component of faith, incidentally) as inferior, then what this means is you have no idea how science works or ever has worked, and your perspective on it isn't worthwhile.

So you're absolutely correct that there's a right and wrong answer. Yours is wrong. (Or to put it more accurately, there are many possible wrong answers to this question, and yours is one of them.)
« Last Edit: October 05, 2012, 01:15:29 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Sabby

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2012, 01:27:39 PM »
Did you hear me say perspective is not needed to formulate solutions? Did you hear me say intuition is unimportant? Am I suggestion a world without unfounded ideas is a good thing?

If your hearing any of that, then there's a huge miscommunication here. I've been way too active on the Politics boards the last few days, and my brain is pretty much sizzling in it's skull right now from over use -.- I'm going to just stop posting for a few days, because I'm clearly not conveying my points as well as I should be and I have no desire to get in trouble.

Have fun guys.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2012, 01:33:14 PM »
Well, sorry if I'm misconstruing your position. Have a nice day.

Offline Stattick

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2012, 02:05:40 PM »
It's a simple matter that requires a simple answer.

And that way lies fundamentalism.

Offline Oniya

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2012, 06:00:50 PM »
Goedel's First Incompleteness Theorem states that there are true statements that cannot be proven.  What do we call it when we believe there is truth without the ability to prove it?  And yet, Reason still holds firm.

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2012, 07:31:15 PM »
Goedel's First Incompleteness Theorem states that there are true statements that cannot be proven.  What do we call it when we believe there is truth without the ability to prove it?  And yet, Reason still holds firm.

It's obvious, more or less, that there are certain things that are true that we can't prove right now. The intellectually honest thing to do is still to withhold judgment until such a time as we can prove them. Because without that evidence, you can't tell which things belong in the category of true but unproven, and which are simply untrue.

There's also an important distinction between things we can't prove to be true, but which produce consistent results as though they were, and things which have to be taken exclusively on faith and for which there is no test. Religious faith definitely belongs in the latter category, as religion contains many loopholes and explanations for why tests don't work.

Offline Stattick

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2012, 09:17:59 PM »
I can't prove anything other than I'm thinking right now at this minute. I can't even prove that my life existed before this very minute, and that everything that I think I remember actually happened. I take it on faith that my memories are real, that the things that I see and hear aren't illusion, and that I actually exist in this fleshy shell that I perceive. It is a matter of faith that the world as I perceive it is real.

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2012, 07:44:53 AM »
I can't prove anything other than I'm thinking right now at this minute. I can't even prove that my life existed before this very minute, and that everything that I think I remember actually happened. I take it on faith that my memories are real, that the things that I see and hear aren't illusion, and that I actually exist in this fleshy shell that I perceive. It is a matter of faith that the world as I perceive it is real.

It's not really, though. The world behaves predictably. It conforms, more or less, with what we think we know about it. We can't prove that it's real, exactly, but we can test our assumptions about it. Of course we might be living in the Matrix, or in Plato's cave, but I think old Occam can help us here. Which requires fewer assumptions: That the world as we see it is real, or that it's an elaborate illusion set up by someone else in order to trick us?

The bottom line, though, is still that even if you can't prove that everything around you is real, you have reasons to believe it. Those reasons aren't perfect, but they're still far better than the basis on which we're asked to accept religious faith. You can't arrive at religious faith - not a specific faith - without being told or having read about it. You can't test whether the claims are true or not, because if your test fails, then it's simply that god moves in mysterious ways, or your faith is being tested. It's not supported by anything but it's own self-contradictory texts and traditions, and a lot of excuses for these.

Offline Oniya

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2012, 11:40:56 AM »
Actually, I'd have to say that most religions arose as spontaneous explanations for the unexplained.  From the day that the first caveman saw lightning come from the sky, felt an earthquake or eruption, saw fire spring from hitting two rocks together, or saw a plant grow in a patch of barren dirt.  Deity names would have arisen through discussion, but not the superstitious awe.

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2012, 01:06:13 PM »
I was going to quote parts of a video I'm going to link below, because it deals with concepts of faith, reason and proof. There is, however, so much interesting information in it, that I think that I think it would be worth watching for anyone who's looking for something to do that isn't a complete waste of their time:

Setting Prometheus Free


Offline Stattick

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #17 on: October 07, 2012, 03:02:06 AM »
It's not really, though. The world behaves predictably. It conforms, more or less, with what we think we know about it. We can't prove that it's real, exactly, but we can test our assumptions about it.

As do the majority of my dreams. Predictability, conformation to expectation, and any other metric by which you can measure the world can all easily be an illusion. It doesn't require a conspiracy, or outside system to contain it either. The system of illusion can be the very mind itself - dreams, insanity, and misconceptions generally cannot be seen by the subject under their influence. It's why it's so hard to get schizophrenics or bipolar patients  to take their meds - from their vantage, they're not sick. Instead, crazy people are trying to force them to take something to force a change in their very thoughts and personalities. It's no wonder they resist. The point is, you cannot know whether the world that you perceive is real. At this very moment, I could be a schizo, twitching his fingers on an old typewriter, looking at a dead, unplugged television screen, and thinking that I'm having a nice chat with people all across the world. Any minute, people in white suits could come bursting in to capture me, take me to some hospital somewhere, and force me to take meds that will force this reality to dissolve away like a dream. I don't think that's going to happen, and I work under the assumption that what I perceive is real, but it's a matter of faith. It's also a matter of faith that when I go to sleep, that I'll eventually wake up; I have no proof that I will, but I believe that I won't die when I drift off to sleep.

Offline Sabby

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #18 on: October 07, 2012, 03:37:53 AM »
2 men, A and B. They have never met. They do not know there is another man. They are both put in lead rooms and monitored. There is a table in each room with an apple on it. A third man is watching, C. He can only see the table. 10 people, D Group, are seperated. They do not know of each other, and do not know the experiment. They can only hear C's testimony. C does not know that D Group is listening to him.

A and B are told to interact with the apple. They bite, crush, throw, drop, bruise and generally manipulate apple after apple. C recounts the events. D Group consistency recounts C's commentary.

After such an experiment, would you still take it on faith that the physical world works the way it does? Even if it could be an illusion in your mind, you have never and will never meet any member of D Group and they will go on to live their lives, never touching any element of this experiment. All parts of the experiment are completely isolated from each other.

For it to be an illusion, you would have to be conjuring the entirety of reality.


Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #19 on: October 07, 2012, 07:15:11 AM »
As do the majority of my dreams. Predictability, conformation to expectation, and any other metric by which you can measure the world can all easily be an illusion. It doesn't require a conspiracy, or outside system to contain it either. The system of illusion can be the very mind itself - dreams, insanity, and misconceptions generally cannot be seen by the subject under their influence. It's why it's so hard to get schizophrenics or bipolar patients  to take their meds - from their vantage, they're not sick. Instead, crazy people are trying to force them to take something to force a change in their very thoughts and personalities. It's no wonder they resist. The point is, you cannot know whether the world that you perceive is real.

Yes - and? I'll be the first to admit that what you've just said is true - it's an argument I often use myself, but against the validity of personal religious experience.

What does it imply for our use of faith and reason, though? Only that we should be even more skeptical.

Unless, of course, you're arguing that religious faith is a mental illness and ought to be treated as such, which I think would be controversial.

It's also a matter of faith that when I go to sleep, that I'll eventually wake up; I have no proof that I will, but I believe that I won't die when I drift off to sleep.

You believe it, but not on faith. You believe it based on the weight of the evidence, of past experiences going to sleep and waking up. A. C. Grayling, in the video I linked above, uses an example of going into the rain without an umbrella, because you're not certain that you're going to get wet. Your every experience with the rain tells you that you'll get wet, but then you've only done that so many times, and it could, for all you know, simply be a coincidence. But if you went into the rain thinking that, you wouldn't be, I believe as he puts it, proportioning your belief to the evidence.

Offline Ryuka Tana

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #20 on: October 07, 2012, 07:24:42 AM »
It's not really, though. The world behaves predictably. It conforms, more or less, with what we think we know about it. We can't prove that it's real, exactly, but we can test our assumptions about it. Of course we might be living in the Matrix, or in Plato's cave, but I think old Occam can help us here. Which requires fewer assumptions: That the world as we see it is real, or that it's an elaborate illusion set up by someone else in order to trick us?

The bottom line, though, is still that even if you can't prove that everything around you is real, you have reasons to believe it. Those reasons aren't perfect, but they're still far better than the basis on which we're asked to accept religious faith. You can't arrive at religious faith - not a specific faith - without being told or having read about it. You can't test whether the claims are true or not, because if your test fails, then it's simply that god moves in mysterious ways, or your faith is being tested. It's not supported by anything but it's own self-contradictory texts and traditions, and a lot of excuses for these.

"Occam's Razor... The simplest answer. Tell a 5-year-old about Evolution and all the minute details about it... Then tell him 'God did it', and see which one he grasps better. Occam hasn't got shit on philosophy and faith. The concept of existence itself drives men to madness, and fact is, because nothing can be proven untrue, so too can nothing be proven 100% true. If an omnipotent God exists, you can't say that all things only happen consistently because that God acts consistently (at least when observed). Of course, then, what if schizophrenic people are seeing real things because God's consistency isn't consistent?"

"If you're here to have a philosophical debate that ends with someone being right, you should stop. That just isn't the point of philosophy or this kind of debate."

"I don't have anything more to say on the subject, as, like Sabby, I'm burnt out on these topics, so I don't know if I'll be back here to continue. Hell, I'm tired, I don't even know how much of what I said makes the kind of sense I wanted it to make."
« Last Edit: October 07, 2012, 07:25:54 AM by Ryuka Tana »

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #21 on: October 07, 2012, 08:06:37 AM »
"Occam's Razor... The simplest answer. Tell a 5-year-old about Evolution and all the minute details about it... Then tell him 'God did it', and see which one he grasps better. Occam hasn't got shit on philosophy and faith.

You're misrepresenting Occam's razor, though, which isn't the best starting point you could ask for. It doesn't call for the "simplest" hypothesis to be assumed true, but the one requiring fewer assumptions. If you can get a child to understand that distinction, then you can also make them understand that the naturalistic view of the universe is a more plausible explanation than god or gods, or any sort of explanation that requires a complex, supernatural entity.

As to the rest of your post, I honestly don't understand what you're trying to say, certainly not in relation to the post you quoted.

I should like to correct you on what you say about proof, though. It's true, as a matter of intellectual honesty, that we can't prove anything to be an eternally unchanging and absolute truth. We can prove specific claims false, however. Unless - and this is the critical part - they're religious claims. Because religious claims have built into them explanations for why they can't be tested. If they can't be tested, they can't be proven wrong. If a hypothesis can't be proven wrong - that is to say that it can't be falsified - it's worthless as an explanation.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #22 on: October 07, 2012, 02:19:49 PM »
Hemingway is right about Ockham's Razor, which in fact states that the simplest argument that explains the evidence is usually the preferable one.

This of course has nothing to do with whether "faith" and "reason" are distinct entities; that's still just a basic category error AFAICS.

Offline doodasaurus

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #23 on: October 07, 2012, 11:39:26 PM »
I'm gonna toss in here and say the only reason people talk about this is religious people play a word trick with "faith".

Faith means different things.  One of them is trust in something.  Another is belief in things unseen.  It even means loyalty (I'm faithful to my wife) and resemblance (it's faithful to the original).  But the two that are in play when religious people try to conflate faith and reason are 1. faith as trust in something and 2. a belief in things unseen.

Well, the common reason people have faith in something or someone is observation and experience.  I have faith my wife will go to work tomorrow -- I know she works tomorrow, I know she has a lot of work to do tomorrow and long observation of her habits has taught me that she is a good worker.  Thus: faith.  But faith based in observation and experience.  It's very *reasonable*.

This is not the same as religious faith, which is simply an inordinate trust in authority.  But if you conflate faith born of experience (a kind of reason) with belief in things unseen, you can do this tricky bit of work and say that because scientific materialists have faith in science it's a faith like religious people have in their gods.

But it's just a rhetorical trick and a dishonest one at that.  Despite their manipulations, much of "faith" is reason, just not belief in things unseen.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #24 on: October 08, 2012, 11:06:30 AM »
This is not the same as religious faith, which is simply an inordinate trust in authority.

Rather ironic that this occurs in a post accusing the religious of "rhetorical tricks." This looks rather like one of those to me.

Look, faith and reason are not distinct entities because reason rarely proceeds from purely "reasonable" premises. The history of reason in the real, actual world is not an orderly philosophy seminar filled with grey and cautious men and women carefully avoiding getting any of that dirty "faith" on their Eggos.  A great deal of the history of science and philosophy is the history of intuitive leaps, of following the gut, of inspiration and emotion and the instinct of being right about something, and following a particular line of investigation that at first seems hopeless or completely crazy. All of those irrational phenomena are frequently entangled with faith -- be it "spiritual," religious, or even just secular and poetic -- and much of the history of reason was explicitly shaped and motivated by questions of faith and yes, of religion too.

You can be a rationalist, and a partisan of science, without trying to deny or falsify or squirm your way out of any of this. But of course you have to accept a mentality where you're not on one Team and "faith" is on the other Team and you're trying to score points on them.

Offline doodasaurus

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #25 on: October 08, 2012, 11:17:10 AM »
Rather ironic that this occurs in a post accusing the religious of "rhetorical tricks." This looks rather like one of those to me.

Look, faith and reason are not distinct entities because reason rarely proceeds from purely "reasonable" premises. The history of reason in the real, actual world is not an orderly philosophy seminar filled with grey and cautious men and women carefully avoiding getting any of that dirty "faith" on their Eggos.  A great deal of the history of science and philosophy is the history of intuitive leaps, of following the gut, of inspiration and emotion and the instinct of being right about something, and following a particular line of investigation that at first seems hopeless or completely crazy. All of those irrational phenomena are frequently entangled with faith -- be it "spiritual," religious, or even just secular and poetic -- and much of the history of reason was explicitly shaped and motivated by questions of faith and yes, of religion too.

You can be a rationalist, and a partisan of science, without trying to deny or falsify or squirm your way out of any of this. But of course you have to accept a mentality where you're not on one Team and "faith" is on the other Team and you're trying to score points on them.

This *exactly* demonstrates my point, BTW.  I entirely agreed that "faith" and "reason" aren't polar opposites -- but that faith has many definitions.  Reason, too.  But that people confuse the meanings in order to promote a specific ideological agenda in such a fashion through the use of word games.

And we're not talking about, say, faith and reason in the Enlightenment -- or I wasn't -- but about the current, modern definitions of the words.  But by bringing up archaic meanings and eliding those meanings to a modern discussion on the subject, you're engaging in the precise form of rhetorical trickery I was talking about.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #26 on: October 08, 2012, 12:23:46 PM »
But by bringing up archaic meanings and eliding those meanings to a modern discussion on the subject, you're engaging in the precise form of rhetorical trickery I was talking about.

Be specific. Which word or phrase in my post "brings up an archaic meaning" or "elides" [sic] that meaning to a modern discussion on the subject? Because I'm not aware of doing any such thing and have the distinct feeling that the supposed difference between "modern" and "archaic" definitions of "faith" are all in your head.

Offline doodasaurus

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #27 on: October 08, 2012, 12:49:51 PM »
Be specific. Which word or phrase in my post "brings up an archaic meaning" or "elides" [sic] that meaning to a modern discussion on the subject? Because I'm not aware of doing any such thing and have the distinct feeling that the supposed difference between "modern" and "archaic" definitions of "faith" are all in your head.

I was specific, but I'll be specific-er.

Reason and religion have been at loggerheads since the publication of Origin of the Species.  The late Renaissance early Enlightenment thinkers such as Descartes and Kant believed that a person could construct a fully logical argument to demonstrate religious truths, particularly the existence of the Christian god.  However, during the 19th century, that was turned on it's head -- the truths of natural philosophy were doing things like proving the world was much, much older than six thousand years, discovering all kinds of mechanistic explanations for what had hitherto been considered divine phenomenon (such as the weather).  Worse, the idea of a well-ordered universe just seemed to be wrong -- it was a cosmos filled with a great many . . . just perplexing things.  Origin of the Species was the final nail in the coffin, though.  By saying no divine intervention was required for the creation of humans, evolutionary theory created a schism between "reason" and "faith" that exists to this day.

So, while it was reasonably for a person like Rene Descartes to both reasonably and religious, since then there's been a lot of change in the relationship between secular and religious knowledge.

By saying, "Just look back at the history of reason" to demonstrate some identity between reason and faith ignores the weather change in reason and faith dating from the late 19th century (though certainly present to a lesser extent quite a bit before that; I'd say the real break between faith and reason, in the west, was burning Bruno at the stake -- Bruno's reason went head to head with religious faith and they set him on fire for daring to challenge religious faith).  So, by appealing to archaic definitions between reason and religious faith to say that, today, there continues to be an identity between them is a trick.  It's a trick that depends on a person being ignorant of the ways religious faith and secular reason have almost completely parted ways.

Since the middle to late 19th century, secular reasoning (not just in science, but in law, politics, economics, you name it) has been at considerable odds with religious faith.  Sure, if you look back at the history of both you can find a time where that's not true, but it's true today.  Appealing selectively to the past to "prove" something, while ignoring incredibly significant and relevant historical events that occurred along the way, is rhetorical trickery.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #28 on: October 08, 2012, 01:14:36 PM »
I was specific, but I'll be specific-er.

Thanks. And I'll identify a few problems here:

Quote
Reason and religion have been at loggerheads since the publication of Origin of the Species.

Wrong. Science and some populist religious movements have been at loggerheads. Conflating "science" with "reason" is circular, assuming your conclusion in advance. Portraying "religion" as its opposite likewise, which is what requires you to (falsely) portray all of religion as at loggerheads with "reason."

Quote
The late Renaissance early Enlightenment thinkers such as Descartes and Kant believed that a person could construct a fully logical argument to demonstrate religious truths, particularly the existence of the Christian god.  However, during the 19th century, that was turned on it's head

Actually it wasn't. The natural philosophy that did things like disprove the literal creation narrative was only at odds with literalist approaches to scripture (which aren't applicable to thinkers like Descartes or Kant). The literalist approach to scripture has been in dispute in religious philosophy and theology from the beginnings of any religion you'd care to name that uses scripture.

Quote
Worse, the idea of a well-ordered universe just seemed to be wrong -- it was a cosmos filled with a great many . . . just perplexing things.  Origin of the Species was the final nail in the coffin, though.

Again, you're describing problems for a portion of religious and scriptural literalism and mistaking them for a description of the whole. Modern theology is actually a burgeoning field which is specifically interested in the cosmos filled with perplexing things.

Quote
By saying, "Just look back at the history of reason" to demonstrate some identity between reason and faith ignores the weather change in reason and faith dating from the late 19th century

As I've said before, what's going on here is a category error. You have a specific narrative in mind about the contest between science and the degenerate populist fundamentalism that arose in the 19th century which you imagine represents the whole the relationship between "faith" and "reason." The only problem you have is, it doesn't, even limiting ourselves to religion and science and not even getting into the various ways in which "faith" and "reason" both already overlap with "science" and "religion" that you're avoiding accounting for. (When I talked about the role of inspiration and instinct and the ways in can overlap with anything from theistic religion to secular poetics, I wasn't talking about some vague epoch before the 19th century. The same description holds true for physics and quantum mechanics in our own time.)

That's why you should make sure you know what you're talking about before you try to throw around accusations of "trickery." It can really come back and bite you.

Offline doodasaurus

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #29 on: October 08, 2012, 02:07:01 PM »
Cyrano, the problem between us won't go away because we have different views of what religion is.  I don't make too many distinctions between "good" religion and "bad" religion because that's the no true Scotsman fallacy.  I also think, that in the United States, fundamentalist Christian religion is the dominant form of religion.  You make distinctions between those with literal interpretations of the Bible and those without, well, from where I sit, the liberal Christians have almost entirely ceded the religious discussion in the US to the fundamentalists.

Can you find religious people in America who comparmentalist religion away from reason?  Sure.  Can you find people in America who combine religion and reason.  Sure.  I like Spong.  But I don't think it's fair to say that these people have much of a say about religion in America.  And while I'm sure that most Americans don't have a literalist interpretation of the Bible, they are silent while the fundamentalists have taken over -- and have, then, become willful collaborators in the deceptions I am talking about.

If you don't believe that or see that, you'll never agree with what I say, yeah, absolutely.  And you are, I think, a part of the problem because instead of acknowledging what incredible damage fundamentalist religion has done to the communication with people deeply invested in reason, you're arguing there's no problem at all.

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #30 on: October 08, 2012, 05:06:45 PM »
If you're not interested in distinguishing between different forms of religion, then you're not interested in an accurate description of the world you're dealing with. Citing the "no true Scotsman" fallacy to get you off the hook will not work here, because I haven't said that "true" Christianity (or any other form of religion) does or doesn't do X; frankly I'm not interested in what "true" religion is or isn't, I'm interested in factual accuracy and intellectual honesty.

You're well within your rights to think that fundamentalism is a problem in America (though I think calling it the "dominant form of religion" in America is stretching things; what it is is the most vocal and politically active form of religion in America, which isn't the same thing). But if it hasn't occurred to you to wonder whether this kind of four-legs-good, two-legs-bad mentality about religion is helping or hurting your ability to persuade other people to your view -- or indeed is helping or hurting the cause of the liberal Christians who you think should be doing so much more -- then it's hard for me to care what problem you imagine me to part of. To me, carelessness about the facts, unwillingness to confront the full truth, the preference of polemical convenience to inconvenient complexity, is always the problem... particularly when it comes to the basic business of delineating what is and what isn't in the world around us, and whether it comes from atheists or theists. Such is the root of bigotry, and I don't care any more for secular bigotry than I do for its theistic variants.

(I should add that, on the tactical side of things: to whatever extent liberal Christianity has failed to confront its dangerous fundamentalist counterparts in America, a fair amount of that is owed to a mistaken sense of solidarity with their so-called religious brethren not unlike the solidarity that lumpen-atheism so frequently falls back to demanding from any form of atheism and agnosticism that disagrees with it in some detail. As an atheist, I would be no different in my own right from such Christians if I failed to call out developing illiberal currents in atheism. Moreover, even if you prioritize polemics above all, this kind of rhetoric is still a bad idea, because atheism remains a tiny minority inclination in America -- it has a growth rate in the last decade or so just matching the country's most reviled religion, Islam -- and it's therefore unrealistic to think you don't need allies from broader society to be able to effectively challenge the fundamentalist agenda. So this is one of those cases were sloppy thinking is also bad politics and bad strategy.)
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 05:18:40 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #31 on: October 08, 2012, 05:18:24 PM »
I feel I ought to say something before the entire thread burns to the ground.

I think I may have communicated poorly, in picking the title I did. Because I don't mean to imply that faith and reasons are opposites. The opposite of faith, in the sense I'm using it here ( belief founded on insufficient evidence ), is something like "doubt" or "skepticism". What I do believe is that faith and reason are in conflict. Faith isn't the opposite of reason, it's the abandonment of reason. I think this is perfectly self-evident, if you simply look at what the terms mean.

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #32 on: October 08, 2012, 05:34:26 PM »
I hope not to be burning down the thread; spirited as doodasaurus' and my exchanges might be, we're hopefully keeping it within bounds. (The funny thing is, I expect we're on the same side as regards science vs. dogma disputes in contemporary North America, for example that both of us would readily agree that teaching "Intelligent Design" as a scientific theory is simple fraud. The dispute is over something more basic than that.)

Faith isn't the opposite of reason, it's the abandonment of reason.

This, however: not an improvement, and actually just false. Someone who, for example, attempts a logical proof of a proposition of faith is not "abandoning reason." Their premises may be questionable, but that's a different question. I would simply say that faith is the non-rational backdrop against which any attempt at reasoning takes place, and that virtually all reasoning takes place against such a backdrop (whether the "faith" at issue is in some religious dogma or something less defined or less "spiritual" than that). Specific instances of religious dogma interfering with certain forms of reason are sub-arguments within that basic dynamic, and should each be treated as such without confusing them with the general argument. Otherwise you wind up with fictions.

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #33 on: October 08, 2012, 05:46:13 PM »
Faith is like the eatable that nearly every culture on the planet has devised in some form or other; a pastry or bread pocket filled with something savory or sweet.  Some cultures have more than one version.  It may be the result of coincidence or shared knowledge over time and distance.  Not everyone likes them though.

So why not the same modus operandi for faith and it's many forms of mono- and pantheism and atheism?  Religion is simply the methods and ingredients used to prepare them.

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #34 on: October 08, 2012, 05:55:02 PM »
This, however: not an improvement, and actually just false. Someone who, for example, attempts a logical proof of a proposition of faith is not "abandoning reason." Their premises may be questionable, but that's a different question. I would simply say that faith is the non-rational backdrop against which any attempt at reasoning takes place, and that virtually all reasoning takes place against such a backdrop (whether the "faith" at issue is in some religious dogma or something less defined or less "spiritual" than that). Specific instances of religious dogma interfering with certain forms of reason are sub-arguments within that basic dynamic, and should each be treated as such without confusing them with the general argument. Otherwise you wind up with fictions.

If you're attempting to justify something logically, then you're not taking it on faith. Or, rather, it's not if the results of this attempted proof matter to you. If the results aren't going to change your mind, then you're still among the faithful. I must stress that point, because I'm not about to credit liars like Ray Comfort with any sense of reason or logic.

Again, I must insist on us using the same definition of "faith". I got this one from Merriam-Webster, just for added clarity: "firm belief in something for which there is no proof". That's what I mean by it, and that's all I mean by it. It's not limited to religious faith,

A good illustration of what faith is, and what it can do to people, is this quote by geologist and creationist Kurt Wise:

Quote from: Kurt Wise
Although there are scientific reasons for accepting a young earth, I am a young age creationist because that is my understanding of the Scripture. As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #35 on: October 08, 2012, 06:09:59 PM »
If you're attempting to justify something logically, then you're not taking it on faith.

But that makes no sense. It's perfectly possible to take something on faith and then attempt to justify it logically, or for that matter scientifically. That's precisely what the medieval roots of Western science were: the faith-proposition of God's creation and its goodness was the justification for studying it methodically, instead of retreating into prayer and waiting for the Apocalypse. That this might skew logic and investigation is obvious, but it isn't the same thing as "abandoning reason."

Quote
Again, I must insist on us using the same definition of "faith". I got this one from Merriam-Webster, just for added clarity: "firm belief in something for which there is no proof". That's what I mean by it, and that's all I mean by it.

Strictly-speaking, there is no logically-bulletproof reason to believe in a "real" world to be investigated at all, so any instance of reasoning about proof admits of "faith" to at least this extent. Taking that as read, it is perfectly possible for someone to believe firmly in the possibility of, say, travelling in excess of the speed of light, a proposition for which there is no proof. Their investigations into that possibility do not therefore qualify as "abandoning reason." That distinction is just false.

(Further note: Kurt Wise's quote looks to me to be an instance of dogma trumping reason. That is not the same thing as "faith" trumping reason. If one had faith in a God to whom evidence and the employment of reason matter, hewing to one specific interpretation of "God's word" in the face of all evidence would be sacrilege.)
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 06:20:37 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Vanity Evolved

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #36 on: October 08, 2012, 06:20:41 PM »
But that makes no sense. It's perfectly possible to take something on faith and then attempt to justify it logically, or for that matter scientifically. That's precisely what the medieval roots of Western science were: the faith-proposition of God's creation and its goodness was the justification for studying it methodically, instead of retreating into prayer and waiting for the Apocalypse. That this might skew logic and investigation is obvious, but it isn't the same thing as "abandoning reason."

Strictly-speaking, there is no logically-bulletproof reason to believe in a "real" world to be investigated at all, so any instance of reasoning about proof admits of "faith" to at least this extent. Taking that as read, it is perfectly possible for someone to believe firmly in the possibility of, say, the possibility of travelling in excess of the speed of light, a proposition for which there is no proof. Their investigations into that possibility do not therefore qualify as "abandoning reason." That distinction is just false.

This is what makes no sense to me; working from an assumption then looking for evidence isn't the way logic works. It's not the way science works. If you've decided that God made the universe, you're not going to see what actually made the universe. You're going to see the evidence (or lead as much of it as you can) to point towards God in an effort to prove your idea, rather than finding evidence which points to a conclusion. You follow the breadcrumbs to the destination, not walk backwards and place the crumbs, hoping to find your way to the beginning.

Once you accept one idea on faith, it opens you up to a lot of other things. Especially when it comes to religious faith, where the idea is you're following what is true - God made the world. You have your answer. If you're sure you know the answer, you have no give or take. When presented with evidence to the contrary, you have only a couple of options.

i. Accept your beliefs and faith were wrong.
ii. The most common reaction, adjust your beliefs; "Well, the Bible says the Earth is flat, but -that- part was wrong. You can't expect a book written by man to be -all- true, right?"
iii. "A Wizard did it." It's all too common for a religious group to try and take claim for knowing 'truth' by saying that science is a tool
  • diety gave us to understand his world.


You'll notice that one thing a lot of religious groups opposed to science will criticize is the idea that science can get things wrong, and go back on what they said a couple of years prior. Science thrives on revision and constant checks to find truth in theories. Religious groups against science make it a proud point that they do -not- change their mind on a subject, because what they know is right.

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #37 on: October 08, 2012, 06:28:57 PM »
Am I communicating that poorly, or are you deliberately misunderstanding what I'm saying?

But that makes no sense. It's perfectly possible to take something on faith and then attempt to justify it logically, or for that matter scientifically. That's precisely what the medieval roots of Western science were: the faith-proposition of God's creation and its goodness was the justification for studying it methodically, instead of retreating into prayer and waiting for the Apocalypse. That this might skew logic and investigation is obvious, but it isn't the same thing as "abandoning reason."

If you're simply trying to prove what you think is a foregone conclusion - in this case the existence of god - and ignoring any evidence that does not support your premise, then you are abandoning your reason. In fact, I can't think of a better way of describing it. Because while you may employ your faculties of reason and logic in trying to prove your claim, you're ignoring results that don't suit you. You're using your reason up to that point, but no further.

Strictly-speaking, there is no logically-bulletproof reason to believe in a "real" world to be investigated at all, so any instance of reasoning about proof admits of "faith" to at least this extent. Taking that as read, it is perfectly possible for someone to believe firmly in the possibility of, say, travelling in excess of the speed of light, a proposition for which there is no proof. Their investigations into that possibility do not therefore qualify as "abandoning reason." That distinction is just false.

Because I seem to be having difficulty getting the point across, I'll repeat my point here. If you believe it's possible to travel faster than the speed of light, against evidence to the contrary, it's an article of faith. By the very definition of the word "faith", it is. If you decide to investigate this belief, then you're making a move in the right direction. I think it would be fair to say that if you're doing that, you're no longer taking it simply on faith. However, that's only, as in the example above, if the results matter. If you find nothing that supports your hypothesis of traveling faster than light, but you persist in believing it, it's bad science, and it's faith. Not religious faith, in this case, but faith all the same.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #38 on: October 08, 2012, 06:34:48 PM »
This is what makes no sense to me; working from an assumption then looking for evidence isn't the way logic works. It's not the way science works.

Well, it's not the way science is ideally supposed to work. In fact, emotion and non-rationality is pretty important to the history of science; if we had rejected (or continued to reject) any discovery that didn't conform to such an ideal model, the bulk of scientific discovery to date would in actuality be inadmissible (including everything that supposedly confirmed a deity's existence, which is the bulk of Western science done up to the late 19th century), because the way science actually works is rather different from the abstract ideal.

This is not to say that science shouldn't or doesn't operate by continual checks and balances, peer input and peer review. It's just that the motivations for specific discoveries and enterprises admit of a lot more "irrationality" than the abstract model is willing to admit.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #39 on: October 08, 2012, 06:40:55 PM »
Am I communicating that poorly, or are you deliberately misunderstanding what I'm saying?

Neither. It's just that you're wrong.

You want a hard-and-fast point at which "faith" ends and "reason" begins. But there isn't one. If you're choosing to investigate an idea of faith "logically," for instance, you are reasoning, but since logical reasoning in fact never has to make contact with the world of (physical and experimental rather than abstract and self-consistent) proof, there is no division between faith and reason. If you're interested in reasoning from physical and experimental proof, then you've moved in a more scientific direction; this does not disqualify more abstract propositions and processes of reason from being either "reason" or "faith." Your distinction just isn't doing the job.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 06:45:23 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #40 on: October 08, 2012, 06:47:46 PM »
In my researching things I've found as many people who agree faith and reason can co-exist as I've found those who disagree.

None seem right and none seem wrong but in the scope of the philosophy they all seem to be exploring and looking for truth; not a truth or the truth but truth that melds the two.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 06:49:47 PM by Beguile's Mistress »

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #41 on: October 08, 2012, 06:49:47 PM »
So why not the same modus operandi for faith and it's many forms of mono- and pantheism and atheism?  Religion is simply the methods and ingredients used to prepare them.

Or maybe "belief systems" (secular or partially-secular or otherwise) are the methods and ingredients?

Offline Stattick

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #42 on: October 08, 2012, 06:59:05 PM »
So, shall we send a memo to the Catholic church that they aren't actually doing science then, and that all of their discoveries have been tainted by faith and shall forthwith be tossed out? Snark aside, it's ridiculous to propose that faith and reason are diametrically opposed to one another. Take a look the link below, and skim through some of the discoveries that the Catholic scientists who were monks, priests, or nuns have contributed to the world of science.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_Catholic_cleric-scientists

Offline doodasaurus

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #43 on: October 08, 2012, 07:09:06 PM »
The same Catholic Church that burned Bruno at the stake?

Or, more recently, when Stephen Hawking was at a Catholic physics seminar, a Vatican representative said that it wouldn't be proper for scientists to examine the very young universe too closely.  Hawking felt embarrassed because earlier that very day he had given a speech on precisely that subject.  It's good they're not burning anyone alive, anymore, but the RCC is quite comfortable interfering with science on theological grounds.

Of course there are Catholic scientists who do good work, as do scientists of all religious faiths, but it is simply clear to me that there is a very real conflict between reason (and not just scientific reason, but equally applicable to law, society and many other things) and religious faith.  Whether or not you believe there *should* be such a conflict doesn't change the fact that there often *is* such a conflict -- on evolution, abortion, gay rights and many other things, besides.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #44 on: October 08, 2012, 07:09:31 PM »
So, shall we send a memo to the Catholic church that they aren't actually doing science then, and that all of their discoveries have been tainted by faith and shall forthwith be tossed out? Snark aside, it's ridiculous to propose that faith and reason are diametrically opposed to one another. Take a look the link below, and skim through some of the discoveries that the Catholic scientists who were monks, priests, or nuns have contributed to the world of science.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_Catholic_cleric-scientists

We've already been informed that alluding to the actual history of science is somehow dodging the issue. I'm not sure how that's supposed to work, but apparently it's a rule.  "No Albertus Magnus for you!" :P

Although I can understand a bit of where that comes from. People are trying to guard against the assertion that religion is somehow essential to scientific progress in the present day, as opposed to the distant past. And science does have a vastly different authoritative profile now than in the 14th century; that's why new religions often try to cloak themselves in an aura of quasi-science (cf. "Christian Science," "Scientology," the "Moorish Science Temple"). Unfortunately that's an argument over historical specifics, not so much an argument over the general question of "faith" and "reason."

If someone wants to argue that science (the willingness to prioritize real-world proof, be part of a conversation and be corrected by others' results) is more authoritative about real-world concerns in the present day than dogma (the absolute insistence on propositions of faith in the face of results or peer correction), I'm entirely on board. I just don't want that dispute misrepresented as the dispute between "faith" and "reason." They're different arguments.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 07:16:51 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #45 on: October 08, 2012, 07:18:52 PM »
Belief systems works for me.  It's not the word that is important but the concept.


And ladies and gentlemen - Catholics are not the only group of people in history or on the face of this earth who used torture and death by horrible means to achieve intimidation.  Go look for all the rest of them.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 07:21:38 PM by Beguile's Mistress »

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #46 on: October 08, 2012, 07:21:30 PM »
And ladies and gentlemen - Catholics are not the only one group of people in history or on the face of this earth who used torture and death by horrible means to achieve intimidation.  Go look for all the rest of them.

China's CCP has justified the suppression of Tibetan Buddhism on much the same argumentative grounds used by many here against religion. For example.

Offline Vanity Evolved

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #47 on: October 08, 2012, 07:24:36 PM »
Eeyup; suppression of religion is a pretty backwards idea.

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #48 on: October 08, 2012, 07:31:32 PM »
Neither. It's just that you're wrong.

Your repeated assertion does not make it true.

You want a hard-and-fast point at which "faith" ends and "reason" begins. But there isn't one. If you're choosing to investigate an idea of faith "logically," for instance, you are reasoning, but since logical reasoning in fact never has to make contact with the world of (physical and experimental rather than abstract and self-consistent) proof, there is no division between faith and reason. If you're interested in reasoning from physical and experimental proof, then you've moved in a more scientific direction; this does not disqualify more abstract propositions and processes of reason from being either "reason" or "faith." Your distinction just isn't doing the job.

I don't actually recognize most of what you've just presented as my views, as my own views. You're either seriously misunderstanding or misrepresenting my position.

I haven't said that there's a point where faith ends and reason begins. I've said that reason ends with faith. You'll notice that those are two quite different things. I made very clear in an earlier post that I see the conflict as being between faith and doubt ( or skepticism ), the latter being a necessary component of reason.

As to the bolded part: The conclusion simply doesn't follow from the premise. If you're employing deductive reasoning, then you should be fine. If you're using inductive reasoning to support some claim, then you may arrive at the wrong conclusion. You'd have no way of knowing you were wrong, so you might persist in believing something that was not true. You'll notice, however, that the definition of faith I provided makes no mention of whether or not a claim is true. You could believe in a falsehood based on a flawed proof, but it wouldn't be faith in that case.

Snark aside, it's ridiculous to propose that faith and reason are diametrically opposed to one another. Take a look the link below, and skim through some of the discoveries that the Catholic scientists who were monks, priests, or nuns have contributed to the world of science.

I will concede this point - and this entire debate - if you can point me to a single Catholic scientist who arrived at his conclusion through faith.

I think you'll notice very quickly, though, that this whole challenge is meaningless. Literally meaningless, that is - you can't arrive at any conclusion through faith. You may try, as for instance Ray Comfort has, but you'll find yourself very much in conflict with observable reality.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #49 on: October 08, 2012, 07:42:25 PM »
Quote from: Hemingway
I haven't said that there's a point where faith ends and reason begins. I've said that reason ends with faith.

Ummm... you really don't see that that's just restating the same thing? Because that's certainly how it looks to me, and if you're seeing an "obvious" distinction there, you're right, I'm not grokking it. Please explain.

Quote
The conclusion simply doesn't follow from the premise. If you're employing deductive reasoning, then you should be fine.

Why? Deductive reasoning isn't qualitatively any different from inductive reasoning as regards its relationship to experimental proof. The definition of deduction is:

Quote from: Camridge Dictionary of Philosophy
For any sentence S, relative to a set of sentences K, a finite sequence of sentences whose last sentence is S (the one said to be deduced) and which is such that each sentence in the sequence is an axiom or an element of K, or follows from preceding sentences in the sequence by a rule of inference.

That has nothing to do with the distinction between physical evidence and self-consistency which is the differentiation between logic and science.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 07:44:07 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #50 on: October 08, 2012, 07:45:56 PM »
I will concede this point - and this entire debate - if you can point me to a single Catholic scientist who arrived at his conclusion through faith.

Will you concede it at the point where you can point to someone whose inquiry would never have started without his faith? Because that actually seems the more important threshold.

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #51 on: October 08, 2012, 08:34:54 PM »
Ummm... you really don't see that that's just restating the same thing? Because that's certainly how it looks to me, and if you're seeing an "obvious" distinction there, you're right, I'm not grokking it. Please explain.

When you say there's a point where faith ends and reason begins, that implies a sort of duality, or a sort of scale with faith on one end and reason on the other. It implies that they're opposites, or at least that they somehow belong to the same category. It seems to suggest that you either have faith or reason, which is not what I believe ( I get the distinct impression that this is what people think I believe ).

Consider the opposite, too. It's not my view that reason is doubt. I think doubt is an essential part of reason. It's impossible to reason, to be analytical, to be logical and rational, without doubting. I think that's self-evident, and I know I'll be corrected if I'm wrong. If, then, you take out that essential part - which is what it means to take something on faith - then what you're left with is not reason. You're not making that decision - the decision to believe - on the basis of reason.

Why? Deductive reasoning isn't qualitatively any different from inductive reasoning as regards its relationship to experimental proof.

I'm not sure why you seized on this. I made the distinction only because with deductive reasoning, assuming your premises are true, the conclusion follows by logical necessity. With inductive reasoning, even if all your premises are valid, you may still end up with the wrong conclusion. I simply wanted to make the point that if you do end up with the wrong conclusion, and you don't know it's wrong, and as a result you believe in something that isn't true, that isn't faith.

On a side note: I feel, at this point, that the debate is only tangentially connected to my original contention. I think a sort of refocusing may be necessary, but I haven't the energy for that now. At any rate, I won't have it said that I duck questions, so I'll naturally address any counter-arguments to what I've said so far.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #52 on: October 08, 2012, 09:30:19 PM »
When you say there's a point where faith ends and reason begins, that implies a sort of duality, or a sort of scale with faith on one end and reason on the other.

But proposing that faith is the point where you "abandon" reason is exactly this. (It doesn't suggest that a person has one and not the other; it does suggest that enacting reason is an act separate from faith, which is a suggestion of a bright line where one ends and the other begins.)

Quote
It's impossible to reason, to be analytical, to be logical and rational, without doubting. I think that's self-evident, and I know I'll be corrected if I'm wrong.

In fact I don't think this is necessarily the case,  though I can't be definitive about it. Can we know that Parmenides or Zeno had no doubt when they formulated the logical argument for the changelessness of the cosmos? No. On the other hand, doubt plays no necessary part in the proceedings. Likewise, where Gregory the Great decided to accept a proposition of faith, we cannot reliably conclude that he did so without doubt, and faith is not of course the absence of doubt. (Indeed it's a very mainstream contention in Christian theology that faith untested by doubt is meaningless; that's what the myth of the temptation of Christ is about.)

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If, then, you take out that essential part - which is what it means to take something on faith

No. Removal of doubt is not what it means to take something on faith. Taking something on faith means you believe it in spite of doubt, or because you believe you have good reason to weigh faith more heavily than doubt.

Quote
I'm not sure why you seized on this. I made the distinction only because with deductive reasoning, assuming your premises are true, the conclusion follows by logical necessity.

But this has nothing to do with the distinction I was talking about. Your premises can be supplied as easily by mythology or personal inclination as by "reason." I seized on this because this argument made it seem to me that you don't understand what reasoning is or what its parameters are, or what the distinction between scientific and logical reasoning is. And I still think you don't understand those distinctions.

Having said that, I think there is a useful refocusing possible here, because again, what I think you're aiming at is not at all a distinction between faith and reason, but rather a (much more supportible) distinction between science and dogma.

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #53 on: October 09, 2012, 07:53:39 AM »
But this has nothing to do with the distinction I was talking about. Your premises can be supplied as easily by mythology or personal inclination as by "reason." I seized on this because this argument made it seem to me that you don't understand what reasoning is or what its parameters are, or what the distinction between scientific and logical reasoning is. And I still think you don't understand those distinctions.

I can't let this go unanswered. Let me assure you I do know, and I think I made it quite clear. I'm not going to try once again to convince you, so I'll simply leave it there for people to decide for themselves.

Having said that, I think there is a useful refocusing possible here, because again, what I think you're aiming at is not at all a distinction between faith and reason, but rather a (much more supportible) distinction between science and dogma.

No. I think the problem is we don't agree on what reason is and is not, and I should have narrowed it down and described exactly what I meant earlier on. I must insist on keeping faith, however, and I must insist on using the specific definition I provided. Here in another version, which sums up the view I've been trying to get across over my last few posts:

Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

By faith, I do not mean any of the following:

1.  Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
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.

What it means, quite simply, is that by taking something on faith - by accepting something based on insufficient or bad evidence - you're being unscientific, let's say. You're acting contrary to the type of scientific skepticism for instance Carl Sagan advocated, where, in the absence of evidence, you withhold judgment until the evidence is in. I want to make it very clear that I'm not saying reason and science are the same thing. My main contention was always ( I may have to take the blame for not making this clear, as I think I said this in the thread I linked to in the opening post, but made no mention of it here ) that faith is not always harmful, but has the potential to be. Faith is not a virtue. It's something we'd be better off without. Here's another Carl Sagan quote, which sums up why I think this is the case:

Quote from: Carl Sagan
“Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes rambling along.”

This includes religious faith, but it extends far beyond it. It involves being skeptical of anyone who claims to know something for which there is no evidence or proof, to doubt any claim that can't be sufficiently backed up. This includes when state leaders claim we need to invade a country because this country poses an existential threat to us. It also includes doubting peddlers of miraculous "alternative medicine". If you buy some product which has no effect but claims to be able to cure some illness or another, then, at worst, you could be risking your life. That's not a hypothetical situation, either, as I'm sure people are well aware. Because people are suckers, and I'd rather they weren't. I'd feel safer if they weren't.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #54 on: October 09, 2012, 12:55:09 PM »
I must insist on keeping faith, however, and I must insist on using the specific definition I provided.

Except you're misusing that definition, and seem as thoroughly confused about it as you appear to me to be about "reason."

Quote
What it means, quite simply, is that by taking something on faith - by accepting something based on insufficient or bad evidence - you're being unscientific, let's say. You're acting contrary to the type of scientific skepticism for instance Carl Sagan advocated, where, in the absence of evidence, you withhold judgment until the evidence is in.

First of all, this is basically just a restatement of your earlier contentions that faith is the absence of doubt and that faith is the "abandonment" of reason. It's just as silly and factually inaccurate as those earlier statements, and for the same reasons. Faith does not in fact require the absence of doubt, nor does the acceptance of a faith proposition automatically mean it is uncritically accepted in perpetuity. Faith is, as I've already said, simply the backdrop of non-rational propositions against which reason works (this usage of the term is, BTW, perfectly in agreement with the defintion you keep insisting on, something you seem not to have noticed). Strictly-speaking there is no act of reasoning that doesn't start from a faith proposition, even if that proposition is as basic as "there is an objective reality to investigate." And again as I've already said, a great deal of the history of science and of rational philosophy is actually to be found in the pursuit or support of what at first appear to be irrational propositions... including but of course far from limited to propositions of religious belief. Faith and reason are fundamentally intertwined, neither mutually exclusive nor separate, as much as you would like them to be. That's just a fact.

To address some of the meta-stuff beyond that basic issue: The Demon-Haunted World was a lovely book and all, but basically any time you take a limited polemic like it too seriously and imagine it to apply too widely, you will get into trouble. Carl Sagan was great at explaining the nuts and bolts of how scientific investigation and skepticism should work, and is of course correct: faith propositions should be examined skeptically (not an idea that is exactly new to me, if you've paid any attention to what I've written up-thread). However, the man was not a philosopher. He was not good at confronting and accounting for what in fact has historically been a fairly important role of faith in science, which is something pretty important to be able to account for if you're going to have an informed opinion about faith and reason. And you cannot ultimately rely on polemics from the trenches of America's culture wars as a complete guide to vastly complicated issues like this.

Most of all, the ideal of a world where science could work untouched and unimpeded by all that messy "faith" stuff is an unrealistic fantasy that disregards both human nature and the actual workings of real-life science. If in the West we had had to wait for a "science" produced in 100% pure faith-free fashion, we would still be in the Dark Ages at best, since our scientific tradition was a creation of faith at its root. Neither faith or skepticism is inherently a "virtue" -- such things are just tools, and can be used to good or bad account -- but nevertheless I think most of us would agree that having science at our disposal is something of a result. To want to impeach faith with the responsiblity for its role in charlatanism and evil while being squeamish and evasive about admitting its countervailing role in more positive phenomena like the discovery of the scientific method is to falsify and deny the facts. It's dishonest, and any skepticism really worth its salt should be concerned with avoiding that kind of dishonesty.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2012, 01:03:09 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #55 on: October 09, 2012, 02:14:16 PM »
It's just as silly and factually inaccurate as those earlier statements, and for the same reasons.

Between statements like this, your general condescending attitude, and your tendency to declare things wrong without explaining how or why, I'm starting to suspect that you have no real interesting in an actual discussion. If calling my statements "silly" is the level of maturity I can expect from you, I have no interest in continuing this supposed discussion.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #56 on: October 09, 2012, 04:34:46 PM »
If calling my statements "silly" is the level of maturity I can expect from you, I have no interest in continuing this supposed discussion.

You may certainly execute The Flounce at your discretion. Although I find your reaction to the word "silly" rather over-the-top and, well.... a bit silly... I'm really not trying to be condescending. If I'm coming across this way, it's just frustrating to explain the same thing several different ways and then have someone essentially just repeat the same thing back at you, or worse to be told that I have a:

Quote
tendency to declare things wrong without explaining how or why

Which, since I have explained extremely clearly how and why... yeah. Just not that impressive, sorry.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2012, 04:43:26 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #57 on: October 09, 2012, 05:55:16 PM »
You may certainly execute The Flounce at your discretion. Although I find your reaction to the word "silly" rather over-the-top and, well.... a bit silly... I'm really not trying to be condescending. If I'm coming across this way, it's just frustrating to explain the same thing several different ways and then have someone essentially just repeat the same thing back at you, or worse to be told that I have a:

I have been repeating myself, because you've been, in my view, consistently missing the central point I've been trying to get across. Your attitude is condescending because, in my view, you've taken the attitude that this is not a result of us talking about two different things, but rather I'm wrong and you're trying to correct me, and I'm silly and refuse to listen. Which is precisely why I've been rephrasing and rewording my arguments.

But I think, maybe, I see a possibility here to avoid confusion.

Ignore religious faith. I want to stress that I haven't conceded anything with regards to religious. I made it very clear, right from the start, that I'm not talking strictly about religious faith, so forget about that. We're now talking about faith in political leaders, or in alternative medicine, or the promises of astrology. We're talking, regardless of your continued insistence that faith is "belief in spite of doubt", about belief unsupported by facts - or even opposed by facts.

I'll even provide the cultural context I'm talking about this from. Because here, where I live, religion is not actually a big issue. Homeopathy, healing, and other forms of quackery, as well as various claims of psychic abilities, those are. There is no evidence that any of them work. There is, in fact, a lot of evidence suggesting they don't work, at least no more than normal placebo. Well, when someone, knowing that, still believes that these treatment forms have an effect, that's faith. Or that's the type of faith I'm talking about. It's belief without evidence, belief that isn't justified in any way, other than through wishful thinking.

You could apply the same to various forms of extreme patriotism, where facts are no impediment to support for the action's of a person's country.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #58 on: October 09, 2012, 06:21:50 PM »
I have been repeating myself, because you've been, in my view, consistently missing the central point I've been trying to get across.

Well, what I'm trying to tell you is that there's more to the issue than the "central point" you're concerned with. I'm sorry if it offends you that I think you're wrong, but... you know, sometimes, we're wrong. It happens to the best of us. That I think you're mistaken doesn't mean I'm trying to be a dick, it just means I think you're mistaken.

Quote
I made it very clear, right from the start, that I'm not talking strictly about religious faith

Yeah, you know, so have I. Multiple times. So... that's not very promising.

I've also specifically addressed the question of quackery and charlatanism. Yes you should be skeptical about these things, yes they should be subject to scrutiny, and no skepticism about these particular issues does not amount to the entirety of the debate about Faith and Reason, and yes it is misleading to pretend otherwise. I've expended enough words on this in the thread above that I see no need to repeat them here; maybe go back and have a look at some of my posts when you're a little less pissed at me. If such a time should come.

Offline HemingwayTopic starter

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #59 on: October 09, 2012, 06:51:34 PM »
I've also specifically addressed the question of quackery and charlatanism. Yes you should be skeptical about these things, yes they should be subject to scrutiny, and no skepticism about these particular issues does not amount to the entirety of the debate about Faith and Reason, and yes it is misleading to pretend otherwise. I've expended enough words on this in the thread above that I see no need to repeat them here; maybe go back and have a look at some of my posts when you're a little less pissed at me. If such a time should come.

It's such a good thing, then, that I've never made such a claim, or pretended that was a case. I'd hate to be dishonest.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #60 on: October 09, 2012, 06:54:22 PM »
It's such a good thing, then, that I've never made such a claim, or pretended that was a case. I'd hate to be dishonest.

Alrighty then.

Offline doodasaurus

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #61 on: October 09, 2012, 06:55:07 PM »
It's such a good thing, then, that I've never made such a claim, or pretended that was a case. I'd hate to be dishonest.

Yeah, he did the same thing to me.  I was wondering how long you were gonna hang in there.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #62 on: October 09, 2012, 06:59:47 PM »
Yeah, he did the same thing to me.  I was wondering how long you were gonna hang in there.

The Mitt Romney school of debate means never having to own up to what you actually said. Must be nice!

Offline Oniya

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #63 on: October 09, 2012, 07:07:30 PM »
*ahem*  Let's keep things civil.  Dropping unrelated and barbed comments does not fall under most definitions of civil.

Offline doodasaurus

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #64 on: October 09, 2012, 07:20:31 PM »
Oniya, this conversation stopped being civil for me when Cyrano put words in my mouth.  I'm a grown up.  It wasn't that he disagreed with me that I minded.  I wasn't real thrilled with the fashion that took, that way that some people of of decontextualizing an argument while ignoring intervening hypotheses and mitigating factors, but whatever.  But the moment that he told me I'd said something I most definitely did not say, the conversation got uncivil.

I actually prefer open hostility, though.  I figured he was that kind of dude and now I know for sure.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #65 on: October 09, 2012, 07:23:29 PM »
I'm not buying it, but doodasaurus is of course welcome to PM me and get specific about what words I'm supposed to have put in his mouth if it's really that much of a problem for him.

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #66 on: October 09, 2012, 07:54:19 PM »
It makes no difference who threw the first rock.  Both of you stop it now.  Disrespect and incivility is not permitted.  If you'd like I can make it an official Staff warning.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2012, 08:01:39 PM by Beguile's Mistress »

Offline doodasaurus

Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #67 on: October 09, 2012, 08:02:46 PM »
Forgive me, you are right.  I should have remained silent.  Two wrongs don't make a right and I should have remembered that without having to be told.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Faith and reason.
« Reply #68 on: October 09, 2012, 09:40:39 PM »
It makes no difference who threw the first rock.  Both of you stop it now.  Disrespect and incivility is not permitted.  If you'd like I can make it an official Staff warning.

So noted. Sorry about the mess.