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Author Topic: Let's not use "Faith" when we mean "Trust".
KarlEd
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The subject of "faith" came up again in a thread that ended up being locked. One thing I'd like to salvage from that thread is a quote by Tresopax:
quote:
You may not need faith to DO science, but you certainly need faith to USE it. For instance, science can't prove the laws of physics will work tomorrow in the same way they worked today. That is a matter of faith, based on the fact that they've worked that way as long as we've observed. And thus if you are going to use the laws of physics to build bridges that we expect to be safe, it is necessary to actually believe those laws of physics will continue to hold true, and thus it is necessary to have faith in something that science has not proven.

Of course, every time you cross a bridge you have faith in a lot more than just science. You have faith that the engineers and construction workers who built that bridge applied those laws of science correctly. You have faith that they did not forget a decimal point in their calculations. None of these things are known or proven to be true, yet you believe them anyway, or else you would not cross that bridge.

Even worse is a roller-coaster ride. Now THAT is a real exercise in faith.

It bothers me that the word "faith" gets bandied about so cavalierly as if it had one specific meaning regardless of context. I submit that the "faith" Tres is talking about is not the same "faith" that someone means when they say "I have faith in God."

We've had this discussion before, but the quote above got me thinking again. Although I could, I would usually not say I have "faith" in the engineers who built a bridge. I'd more likely say "I trust them", recongizing that "trust" and "faith" can be synonyms.

Dictionary.com gives this as one definition of "trust":

1. Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.

It gives this as one definition of "faith":

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

Insofar as we're using this definition of "faith", I'm OK with it in relation to bridges and roller coasters, etc. However, I prefer to use the word "trust" in this sense to avoid confusion with the other kind of "faith":

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

This is the type of "faith" I think most people are talking about in a religious context. Note, it doesn't say the belief is illogical or without material evidence, simply that it does not rely on them. This is the faith that I do not think applies to things like bridges, roller-coasters or even science.

Sure, we have no proof that tomorrow the laws of physics will function as they do today, heck we have no proof that tomorrow will come at all. But our trust that it will come and bring with it the same laws of physics that function today is based on logic and evidence. As far as we know, the laws of physics have functioned this way since before humans ever appeared, and there is no reason to believe they will not function this way as long as the universe continues. At the very least, they function a consistent way every single time they are tested in a given paradigm. Were this not the case, our "faith" in those laws would absolutely not exist.

I think there is ample evidence that "faith" in God is usually not susceptible to that kind of failure. Trust in God isn't based on the same kind of evidence or logic. God isn't a law of physics, and can't be relied on in the same way. I trust that those who tell me they have faith in God have their own evidence and logic, but as we have made abundantly clear in many threads on this forum, it isn't the kind of evidence or logic that can be replicated for the skeptical observer. 50 people praying in the same way for the same thing will not all get the same results. (Though I won't say they won't get results, or that their results aren't consistent with a single concept of God, whatever that may be.)

So, if our discussions about religion and science are to be productive and not just symantic games to score points*, I think it would be a good idea if we either used separate words for the kind of faith that we place in bridges, roller-coasters, and science (i.e. trust) and the kind we place in (or don't place) in God, or at the very least say up front what defition we're using and be careful not to mix them up in the ensuing discussion.

[*note: I'm not saying Tres was doing this in his quote above, though I do think he was blurring a distinction that I think is critical.]

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King of Men
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That is very well put.
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twinky
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I couldn't agree more.

<3

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Tante Shvester
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I know you are not out to score points, Karl, but you continue to rack up points with me. How did you get to be so swell, anyway?
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kmbboots
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Exactly. Way to go (again), Karl.

So, BTW, what did you learn about the "wages of sin"? Are they finally going to start paying me something?

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Dr Strangelove
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I really wish I had your powers of expression Karl. I've been having that thought, but have been completely unable to express it. Hat's off to you. [Hat]
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Dagonee
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quote:
This is the type of "faith" I think most people are talking about in a religious context.
Most people I know who use the word faith in a religious concept are using definition 1 most often and defintion 2 least of all. (edit: to remove my confusion about the defintions).

I think it's the insistence on relegating religious faith to category 2 that motivates people to dig their heals in about science resting on faith as well. In reality, the "opposition" (I hate the word, but can't think of a better one right now) in each case is projecting definition 2 onto the other side (same thing about hating) when neither is using it to self-describe in that context.

[ March 28, 2006, 03:27 PM: Message edited by: Dagonee ]

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dkw
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quote:
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

This is the type of "faith" I think most people are talking about in a religious context.

This is absolutely and 100% NOT what I mean when I use the word "faith" in a religious context. I spend sermons, lectures, and Sunday School classes stating that belief is not the same thing as faith and fatih is not merely belief in something with a low degree of evidence.
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Dagonee
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Or, what Dana said. [Smile]
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dkw
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Also what Dag said. [Wink]
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twinky
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quote:
I think it's the insistence on relegating religious faith to category 3 that motivates people to dig their heals in about science resting on faith as well.
Do you think that science does rest on "faith?"
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kmbboots
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I've got to say that I agree with Karl. I would hope that if I lost my mind or my senses, I would somehow still have my faith.
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Dagonee
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quote:
Do you think that science does rest on "faith?"
As KarlEd said, science rests on category 1 faith, which happens to be the faith most religious people are speaking of when they speak of resting on faith.
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Dr Strangelove
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Can't definition 3 fit into definition 1?
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twinky
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
quote:
Do you think that science does rest on "faith?"
As KarlEd said, science rests on category 1 faith, which happens to be the faith most religious people are speaking of when they speak of resting on faith.
The first definition is a definition of trust, not of faith. I'm not quite sure I follow you.
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Dagonee
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quote:
The first definition is a definition of trust, not of faith. I'm not quite sure I follow you.
I screwed up the numbering, which should be fixed now. As I am now using them in my posts:

KarlEd equated definition 1 of "faith" to the only definition KarlEd gave for "trust," which happens to also be numbered "1".

Definition (or category) 2 is the definition of faith that KarlEd said was the one being used by religious people, something both dkw and I took objection to.

Defintion 1 is the definition of faith that KarlEd said applied to science's resting on the continuity of physical laws, the one he equated with "trust."

In KarlEd's schema, "category 1 faith" is equivalent to "trust." Science rests on category 1 faith.

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KarlEd
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
quote:
Do you think that science does rest on "faith?"
As KarlEd said, science rests on category 1 faith, which happens to be the faith most religious people are speaking of when they speak of resting on faith.
Are you then arguing that religious "faith" and "faith" necessary to cross a bridge are the same thing? Because I wholeheartedly believe that they are not, for the reasons I stated above.
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Dr Strangelove
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My mind isn't working right now, due to some neato medication, but "Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence" and "Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing" don't seem to be mutually exclusive. What I mean is you can believe in something and not rest on logical proof or material evidence AND firmely rely on the integrity, ability or character of that same something. If that makes any sense...
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Dagonee
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quote:
Are you then arguing that religious "faith" and "faith" necessary to cross a bridge are the same thing? Because I wholeheartedly believe that they are not, for the reasons I stated above.
I'm arguing that I am most likely using a definition of faith that is far, far closer to definition 1 when I speak of religious faith. If you say that science rests on definition 1 faith, then those faiths are of the same type.

What I think you actually mean, though, is that there is material evidence underlying a person's belief that a bridge can support their weight, and that this material evidence is that person's reason for having category 1 faith that the bridge will not collapse.

That's not a nit-picking distinction. Your original post stems from frustration with Tres saying your faith in the bridge is of the same type as faith in God, and because you view faith in God as category 2 faith, you interpret Tres as minimizing the difference between believing a bridge will support your weight and believing in God.

What I am trying to get at is that Tres probably is not minimizing your reasons for trusting the bridge by that comparison, because he does not view faith as merely belief without material evidence.

You are making a distinction about reasons for belief. Tres is making a distinction about strength of belief. Thus the conflict.

If the concepts of faith and belief are dealt with seperately, the conflict disappears.

(It's probably taking this too far afield to mention that most people actually only have faith 1 type faith when crossing a bridge, because they are accepting it on authority that the bridge was designed correctly. But I don't think that's actually relevant to the distinction you were making nor does it invalidate the distinction. It's just fun. [Smile] )

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Lisa
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I'm in the middle of rereading Time Enough for Love right now (it's been years), and Lazarus just said something along the lines of "I try not to have beliefs. They interfere with learning."

This is how I understand the words "faith", "conviction", "belief" and "trust":

Faith comes from the heart or the guts. Or the soul. However you want to put it, it comes from the emotions, and has nothing to do with the intellect. It's not illogical; it's alogical. It has nothing to do with logic; they operate in different realms.

Conviction comes from the intellect. It's a matter of whether or not you are convinced intellectually of a proposition, and to what degree you're convinced of it.

Belief is a reflex. It's like an autopilot. When you believe something, you've internalized it and will very rarely be willing to pull it out and reexamine it.

Trust is a policy. It's like belief, but it takes a lot less to get you to take another look at it.

Very often, if you trust in something long enough, it tends to become a belief. That's just how people are. The longer you haven't questioned something, the more averse most people are to doing so.

Both belief and trust can be based on faith, and both belief and trust can be based on conviction. They can be based on a combination of the two.

The key is (a) the source of the position, and (b) how willing you are to reexamine it and consider the possibility of changing or abandoning it.

Going back to Lazarus Long, I agree with him. I think that belief is a bad policy. And from my personal point of view, I think that faith is a forfeiture of the mind that God gave us. YMMV.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
You are making a distinction about reasons for belief. Tres is making a distinction about strength of belief. Thus the conflict.

If the concepts of faith and belief are dealt with seperately, the conflict disappears.

Bingo. Belief and trust are two different strengths, and faith and conviction are two different reasons/sources.
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Dagonee
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To get really Catholic for a minute:

"Faith" can be used to refer to steadfastedness (as in keeping faith), trust, and belief.

Faith (belief) is a precondition for faith (trust) which allows us to keep faith (steadfastedness). When speaking of "Faith," elements of all three are usually meant. For example, "faith without works is dead" is conveying all three meanings.

Each usage has nuances of meaning that aren't related with a single synonym. But it's a decent way to think about it.

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KarlEd
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Dag, I was thinking about what you wrote at 3:31 on my drive home from work and just read your subsequent posts. I see what you are saying and I largely agree with you.

I guess the difference is the basis for having faith in the one versus the reasons for having faith in the other. One is faith based on material evidence. The other is based on non-material evidence (or spiritual evidence, if you prefer). The critical difference for me, then, is that I find non-material evidence to be illusory.

Damn! I thought I had something there. Way to ruin a good essay, Dag. [Wink]

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Xaposert
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quote:
It gives this as one definition of "faith":

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

Insofar as we're using this definition of "faith", I'm OK with it in relation to bridges and roller coasters, etc. However, I prefer to use the word "trust" in this sense to avoid confusion with the other kind of "faith":

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

This is the type of "faith" I think most people are talking about in a religious context

I think it is the other way around. As some mentioned earlier, I think religious faith is very much based on evidence. I think people look at the world around them, and read the Bible given to them as an account of things supposedly observed directly, and take into account personal spiritual experiences, and combine this with help from others to derive their religious beliefs. These are all reasons, and some of them are material evidence. Hence, religious faith is more akin to definition #1.

In contrast, I think most people who go on roller coasters have seen absolutely NO logical proof or material evidence of that roller coaster's safety. Has anybody examined a roller coaster's structure before riding it? In truth, when you get on a roller coaster you bet your life on your faith that the people who built that roller coaster knew exactly what they were doing. And you bet it on the assumption that the laws of physics will keep holding true too - something that is also very much unproven by any physical evidence or logical proof. But there most definitely is still a reason for the faith, even if it is just trust in a group of people or an amusement park.

So, I don't think the distinction you are making is completely correct. I do definitely think religious faith is different from faith in the laws of science, because the evidence underlying each is different. But both are nevertheless faith, and both are based on some sort of reasoning that backs one belief without proving it for certain.

The only reason this is important is because atheists and agnostics often try to claim they reject religion because they only believe that which is supported by evidence. They argue that because religion is based on faith, it is not based on evidence. This is a misleading argument. Faith does not contradict having reasons for a belief. Rather, faith often entails having reasons for a belief. People believe in a religion because of the evidence for that religion, and then have faith in that conclusion. Atheists do the same thing with science.

So, atheists cannot reject faith as a whole concept. They can reject religious faith - but since the only difference between religious faith and other faith is the sort of reasoning supporting that faith, all that amounts to is rejecting certain lines of reasoning that tend to support religion.

My point is just this: Don't get the wrong idea about religion when they say it requires "faith". That does not mean religious beliefs aren't backed by reasons. And don't say you aren't capable of faith. You are. Rather, you just might not find religious evidence convincing enough to give you the same faith that you have in that which is supported by scientific evidence.

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TheGrimace
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I think StarLisa's definitions work best for me.

They break it up into distinct magnitudes and sources, as Dag points out, and also can work in conjunction with other pre-existing definitions.

i.e. The Catechism (and therefor Catholic Theology) defines faith as something that is given to us by God, not something we can develop on our own. (though there may be some issue with that exact definition it shouldn't really matter).

It also helps delineate what causes you to actually do something: Faith and conviction don't directly cause action. They lead to trust or belief which in turn causes action.

Now you can probably argue that any belief is going to be based on some combination of both faith and conviction (never purely one or the other). And in that sense you can compare the belief in science to the belief in God.
But the comparison would be as follows:
Belief in Science (80% Conviction 20% Faith)
Belief in God (80% Faith 20% Conviction) (insert whatever numbers you feel comfortable with)

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King of Men
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I'd like to point out that the kind of evidence we deal with in science is, by definition, demonstrable to someone else. The 'evidence' Dag refers to for his faith, is not. I think that is an extremely important distinction.
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KarlEd
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quote:
In contrast, I think most people who go on roller coasters have seen absolutely NO logical proof or material evidence of that roller coaster's safety. Has anybody examined a roller coaster's structure before riding it? In truth, when you get on a roller coaster you bet your life on your faith that the people who built that roller coaster knew exactly what they were doing. And you bet it on the assumption that the laws of physics will keep holding true too - something that is also very much unproven by any physical evidence or logical proof. But there most definitely is still a reason for the faith, even if it is just trust in a group of people or an amusement park.
See, I think this kind of reasoning is bizzarre. I also think you way overstate your case, making me really discount a lot of what you write. I don't think anybody has ever gotten on a roller-coaster with "absolutely no logical proof or material evidence of that roller coaster's safety."

I'd say all the people who rode the thing before you would constitute at the very least "logical proof" that it is safe, if not actual material evidence. And you make it sound like a significant number of people expect that at any given moment the laws of physics will just nullify themselves and we'll all just dissolve in a flash of uncontrolled atomic energy. The fact is there is nothing like the leap of faith you claim involved in the riding of a roller coaster. Certainly nothing near the leap of faith required to significantly change one's life for the promise of an eternal reward hereafter.

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Tatiana
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KarlEd, your definition of faith in God is one that doesn't apply to my faith in God at all. I think we really are understanding the word in fundamentally different ways.

I am nursing my sick kitty at the moment, but if I have time later, and think about it, I'll try to write something that would come closer to describing my faith in God.

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Shan
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Well, Karl, if nothing else, this thread has effectively challenged me to consider just what "faith" means to me . . . *smiles*
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Xaposert
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quote:
I'd like to point out that the kind of evidence we deal with in science is, by definition, demonstrable to someone else. The 'evidence' Dag refers to for his faith, is not. I think that is an extremely important distinction.
I agree that it is important. But the degree to which it makes a belief more trustworthy is very much in question. Does the fact that I cannot demonstrate to anyone the pain I feel when I have a headache reduce the confidence in my belief that I have a headache?

quote:
And you make it sound like a significant number of people expect that at any given moment the laws of physics will just nullify themselves and we'll all just dissolve in a flash of uncontrolled atomic energy.
Whether anyone actually believes the laws of physics will nullify themselves tomorrow is irrelevant to whether or not such a thing is possible. Similarly, even if everybody in the world was sure God exists, that would not make the leap of faith required to believe that claim any less so.

I am not aware of any valid line of reasoning that can show the laws of physics will continue tomorrow as they were today. (You could argue those laws will remain constant because they have remained constant in the past, but that is a circular argument, using the conclusion as a premise to justify itself.) Thus it is a leap of faith to assume any law of science will continue holding true tomorrow - a leap of faith that is not only unproven, but that is also supported by no valid reasoning. To most people this sounds crazy, though, because that faith is so ingrained within them. They have been confident in it since they were babies. The belief has been reenforced repeatedly since then, as it has consistently remained true. Does that count as evidence? Perhaps - but no more so than the person who prays, and repeatedly has the prayer come true.

Perhaps I am overstating my case here, as I'm sure I could come up with less extreme examples, but part of the point I'd like to make is just how extremely fundamental faith is to our everyday lives. Just like most of an iceberg is underwater, most of the things we have faith in have been accepted by us as true for so long that we no longer even recognize them as faith - instead seeing them as common sense truths. As children we have no idea about the science behind the solar system, but the sun comes up day after day until we get to the point where we have complete faith that it always will, and don't even recognize an assumption is being made. For this reason, I think people are inclined to feel as if such things are not really faith, not in the same way religious faith is faith. I don't think those feelings are accurate.

Logically speaking, what is the difference? You have a set of observations that point towards a certain conclusion, but don't logically prove it. Those observations can come in different types (scientific, personal, objective, subjective), but ultimately there is no piece of logic that dictates that any given type of evidence should be more convincing than any other, unless it truly proves the conclusion. There is no logical rule that we should trust measurable evidence more than unquantifiable evidence, or that we should trust writings in books any less than what our own eyes tell us, or that we should trust repeatable experiments more than personal observations, etc. The weighing of evidence ultimately must come down to human judgement. Thus the difference between that which we consider common sense, that which we trust science to be correct about, and that which we call religious faith boils down to the different sorts of evidence that supports each and the degree to which we, as individuals, judge one sort of evidence to be more convincing than another. While I agree that does make each of these faiths different, I don't think it makes any of them cease to be faith. At the very least they are all similar to faith in the one way that I think is most critical to our discussions - the fact that we are confident in them, but that they can't be proven through reason. Even if you don't want to label all of those beliefs faith, they still share that significant feature. When I say they are faith, that is what I mean.

Faith is as fundamental to human beings as breathing - because there are so many things that we cannot prove that we nevertheless MUST believe in order to survive on a daily basis. If we want to survive, we MUST believe tomorrow will be like today. We MUST believe the laws of physics will continue to hold true. We MUST believe the physical world around us exists. We cannot rationally prove any of these, so each of these requires faith, and thus we MUST have faith.

We can change the words around if we want, but I'm inclined to think that just confuses people, and makes them mistakenly feel as if many of the things they have faith in are actually known fact that cannot be questioned. I see no compelling reason to call religious beliefs "faith" while not applying the same label to other different unproven things we are completely confident in - other than to suggest those things are more rationally justified than they really are. I don't see how the fact that they are supported by different types of evidence implies they need to not be considered faith in the same way religious faith is.

[ March 28, 2006, 11:16 PM: Message edited by: Xaposert ]

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Irregardless
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I have never been to Alaska. I have seen pictures that were alleged to be taken in Alaska, but of course those could have been taken in, say, Canada for all I know (assuming that Canada even exists). I can see Alaska in maps and satellite photographs of the Earth, but how do I prove the claims that what I'm looking at is really Alaska? I suppose I could navigate to Alaska using an astrolabe and a compass -- can't trust an externally influenced GPS, of course -- to prove that what I find there matches the common claims of what lies in Alaska (specific cities, etc.); but even then, that assumes the accuracy of what I've been taught about latitude & longitude and magnetic north and so on. And more to point, I'm *not* going to navigate to Alaska, because it's not worth the effort.

I have faith that Alaska exists. I believe it exists, not because of my own independent verification, but because I place a certain amount of faith in the sources that tell me about it. I am not going back and reproducing their observations. Instead I accept them as trustworthy witnesses, on the basis of factors like these:

- The same sources (atlases, etc.) give accurate information on other places that I *have* independently observed.

- Numerous independent sources agree on the existence, location and characteristics of Alaska.

- I am unaware of any sources that have produced credible evidence that Alaska does not exist.

- I can think of no realistic motive for a grand conspiracy by geographers to deceive me.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I submit that my faith in God is fundamentally the same as my faith in Alaska, and for comparable reasons.

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Irregardless
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Or alternately, consider a case where the claim really is unverifiable by the hearer: should a blind man believe his friends and family when they describe a rainbow to him? If he does, is he employing "confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing" or "belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence"?
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GaalDornick
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I'd just like to say that I believe, with all of my heart, that the world was created on March 27, 1990 and no one will ever be able to prove me wrong. All evidence that says otherwise was created on March 27, 1990 to create the illusion that the world is older. That is all.
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FlyingCow
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quote:
And you bet it on the assumption that the laws of physics will keep holding true too - something that is also very much unproven by any physical evidence or logical proof.
This makes me laugh.

Tres, once again, playing Devil's Advocate.

Well, it *could* happen that we all turn into giant purple antelopes made entirely out of marshmallow fluff tomorrow. You have no way of proving that we won't! ::puts fingers in ears::

Heh.

We base our reality on cause and effect. "If I punch that rock with my bare hand, it will hurt." "If I cut my arm deeply, I will bleed." "If I jump off of this cliff, I will fall."

Those are truths that existed long before we had an understanding of science, or the scientific method. Humans, as far back as you want to go, have observed causes and effects and then based future behavior on those observations.

To say that "If I throw a rock in the air tomorrow, it may not come down again" is silly and naive to the point of absurdity. Anyone can tell you that it will fall, based on past experience. Rocks fall back to the ground when you drop or throw them. You don't need science, math, or even the word "gravity" to explain it.

It's not faith that makes someone believe this, though, nor is it trust. It's just plain understanding of the world based on observation of cause and effect.

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Xaposert
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And what reason do you have that proves that "understanding" is correct? Every rock so far may have fallen back to the ground when you threw it, but what reason do you have to prove the next rock will do the same? (This is not a question just for the sake of being a devil's advocate - many philosophers have literally spent their working lives trying to answer it effectively.) If you have no such proof, then it is something that requires faith, no matter how fundamental it is.

In fact, that's the point - even many of the most simple, obvious, fundamental and ancient of beliefs rest upon faith, and are not proven by reason. Faith is something you could not survive without.

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FlyingCow
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Hehe.

Again, cause and effect. "If someone makes an argument, Tres will be contrary." [Razz]

quote:
Every rock so far may have fallen back to the ground when you threw it, but what reason do you have to prove the next rock will do the same?
I hope you are well prepared for life as a giant purple antelope made of marshmallow fluff. It seems you feel there is at least some chance that tomorrow you will be one.

Or of course you could become a microscopic green armadillo made of silly putty. Who can tell really. There's no way of knowing, I guess. Best prepare for all those eventualities, right?

I mean, since past observation is not a predictor of future reality, why set your alarm in the morning? It may not even be there, or your job or school may have changed into a forest of modern art made out of dried pasta and crepe paper.

I reject the notion that the constancy of the world is a matter of faith, no matter how many philosophers spent their lives trying to prove that very question.

A philosopher could spend his life trying to prove that I am in fact a giant Japanese beetle that only imagines itself as a human, but that doesn't make that the case. It just means the philosopher has too much time on his hands.

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Xaposert
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quote:
I hope you are well prepared for life as a giant purple antelope made of marshmallow fluff. It seems you feel there is at least some chance that tomorrow you will be one.
No, I said I cannot PROVE there is no chance I won't be a purple antelope tomorrow. I have FAITH that there is no such chance.

quote:
Or of course you could become a microscopic green armadillo made of silly putty. Who can tell really. There's no way of knowing, I guess. Best prepare for all those eventualities, right?
Once again, no need to prepare for that chance because you and I both have FAITH that it can't ever happen - even though we can't prove it.

quote:
I mean, since past observation is not a predictor of future reality, why set your alarm in the morning?
Because I have FAITH that it will wake me up at the right time next morning, even though I can't prove it will. I have FAITH that the past does predict the future, even though I cannot prove it does.

quote:
I reject the notion that the constancy of the world is a matter of faith, no matter how many philosophers spent their lives trying to prove that very question.
You can reject anything, but that doesn't make it wrong. If it isn't a matter of faith, then what proof do you have that the constancy of the world is certain? No need for mocking my points. Just give your proof, if proof exists.

If you can't give any proof that isn't circular, I'd argue that you should consider the possibility that it does, in fact, require faith - of if you'd prefer to not call it faith, whatever you'd call that which allows you to have such confidence in things you can't really rationally prove.

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FlyingCow
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quote:
No, I said I cannot PROVE there is no chance I won't be a purple antelope tomorrow. I
Yes, so you freely admit that there is a chance that you will be. You accept the fact that this is possible. You claim to have faith that you won't be, but you are willing to accept that all observational reality can cease to exist.

I find it very funny that you live in such a potentially unstable world.

You don't want proof. If proof is given, you will deny its premises. You're very predictable.

One can have no proof of anything if one embraces all the possibilities of philosophy. I mean, you can reject any and all evidence that is perceived by the senses by calling it delusion. You can reject any fact by calling the very nature of reality into question.

Prove to me that you exist at all. Prove to me that you are not simply a computer program that is spouting nonsense philosophy. Prove to me that hatrack even exists and is not some figment of my own mind. Truth is, you can't. Even if you came to my house and introduced yourself, I could ask you to prove that you weren't some dream I was having.

It's similar to a very young child asking "Why?" after every statement, and every subsequent explanation. A neverending string of "Whys".

Seeking philosophical proofs is folly, like Sir Palomides and his Questing Beast. It is a waste of thought and time, and ultimately leads to disappointment.

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Beren One Hand
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quote:
I am not aware of any valid line of reasoning that can show the laws of physics will continue tomorrow as they were today. (You could argue those laws will remain constant because they have remained constant in the past, but that is a circular argument, using the conclusion as a premise to justify itself.) Thus it is a leap of faith to assume any law of science will continue holding true tomorrow - a leap of faith that is not only unproven, but that is also supported by no valid reasoning.
Why stop there? Under this analysis, no valid line of reasoning can be used to prove anything.

Concepts like "logic" and "evidence" will have no meaning. How can we discuss whether a belief is logical when the very foundations of logic--e.g. causality, deductive reasoning--cannot be trusted?

quote:
I agree that it is important. But the degree to which it makes a belief more trustworthy is very much in question. Does the fact that I cannot demonstrate to anyone the pain I feel when I have a headache reduce the confidence in my belief that I have a headache?
The usefulness of subjective evidence depends largely on the context in which they are used.

For things like love, religion, and art, your subjective beliefs and feelings are just as "trustworthy" as the next person's.

But if we're building a bridge, I would go with belief based on objective, demonstrable evidence.

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Dagonee
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quote:
I find it very funny that you live in such a potentially unstable world.
The fact that you view Tres's world as unstable underscores the real difference between yours and Tres's usage of the word faith.

You see his reliance on faith as somehow shaky - indicating a "potentially unstable world."

Listen to what Tres is saying: he does not see it as potentially unstable. ("No, I said I cannot PROVE there is no chance I won't be a purple antelope tomorrow. I have FAITH that there is no such chance.") He is simply acknowledging that he cannot prove that a particular thing that has never happened before won't happen tomorrow. He is also saying that he does not believe such a thing will happen.

Once again, the problem is that Tres's use of the word faith is viewed as perjorative - somehow making his surety weaker - because of how you view faith.

Assume for a moment that both you and Tres have the same expectation about turning into marshmallow fluff tomorrow. Now assume his usage of the word faith is consistent with the surety of that expectation. Then you will begin to understand what Tres means by faith.

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KarlEd
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So, then, if there is essentially no difference between the "faith" of "faith in God" and "faith in science", do you think the phrases are on equal footing? Is there no difference between faith based on material evidence and that based on spiritual evidence?
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twinky
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I think it's important to keep in mind that in science, at least, evidence is every bit as important and valuable as proof. I can't prove that I won't be a purple antelope tomorrow, but my repeated observations of non-purple-antelopeness strongly support that hypothesis.

I agree with Beren One Hand.

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Dagonee
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quote:
So, then, if there is essentially no difference between the "faith" of "faith in God" and "faith in science", do you think the phrases are on equal footing?
It depends on what you mean by "equal footing." People base their actions according to what they have faith in. My faith in God is absolutely as important to the decisions I make as my faith in science. In fact, a lot of my faith in science (i.e., the reason I believe there is rational order to the universe, much of which is expressed in the form of regular physical laws) derives from my faith in God. So, with respect to how I make decisions in life, they are on equal footing.

Remember, however, that I've separated "faith" from "reason for belief." The reasons for believing a bridge won't fall down are, as KoM said, repeatedly demonstrable. So with regards to how I attempt to influence the decisions of others, the two are not on equal footing. At least for present scientific phenomenon that can be demonstrated via experiment, my ability to convince someone of something is far greater in the scientific arena. I could simply set up an experiment and demonstrate it, whereas I can't do this with respect to my faith in God.

However, anyone I do try to convince via experiment would have to have "non-scientific" faith in me - I might be setting up a clever stage trick to fool them, and this possibility cannot be demonstrated away easily. The only sure way to do it would be to induce the person to recreate the experiment (and all necessary equipment) from scratch. Such inducement would, of course, require that the person have some minimum amount of faith in my experiment before they undertook the effort.

[ March 29, 2006, 09:23 AM: Message edited by: Dagonee ]

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Xaposert
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quote:
quote:
No, I said I cannot PROVE there is no chance I won't be a purple antelope tomorrow. I

Yes, so you freely admit that there is a chance that you will be.
You are assuming that "I cannot prove X won't happen" implies "there is a chance that X will happen." I don't believe that is the case. There are many things that I cannot prove won't happen that I nevertheless believe can't happen. I have faith that they cannot happen.

quote:
You don't want proof. If proof is given, you will deny its premises.
I do want proof. I have just thought about these matters enough to have some idea of when proof is probably not going to be found. As you suggested, seeking philosophical proof is often folly - which is why faith is necessary. But that does not mean there is NOTHING that can be proven or know for certain. I think math can be proven. I think the fact that I exist can be known by me for certain.

quote:
Why stop there? Under this analysis, no valid line of reasoning can be used to prove anything.

Concepts like "logic" and "evidence" will have no meaning. How can we discuss whether a belief is logical when the very foundations of logic--e.g. causality, deductive reasoning--cannot be trusted?

I am not questioning the foundations of logic or deductive reasoning. I am questioning inductive reasoning. Logic is not based upon that.

quote:
So, then, if there is essentially no difference between the "faith" of "faith in God" and "faith in science", do you think the phrases are on equal footing? Is there no difference between faith based on material evidence and that based on spiritual evidence?
No, I think they are different insofar as they are based on different evidence, which may or may not each be better or worse evidence. But I think it bears noting how similar both also are, in terms of how they function to give of confidence in beliefs we don't really know for certain, and I think calling one "faith" but not calling the other "faith" is misleading.
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Irregardless
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quote:
Originally posted by KarlEd:
So, then, if there is essentially no difference between the "faith" of "faith in God" and "faith in science", do you think the phrases are on equal footing? Is there no difference between faith based on material evidence and that based on spiritual evidence?

I think the term 'spiritual evidence' is misleading. There are people who have religious beliefs on the basis of some alleged personal spiritual experience (e.g., God/the Holy Spirit entering a person's heart, etc.), but that's not the sort of thing *I* was talking about, at any rate.

The two relevant kinds of evidence, IMO, are material evidence (direct observation) and testimony by others who witness the material evidence. If I conduct an experiment myself, I have the former type of evidence. If I read about a series of experiments in a scientific journal and accept the findings as accurate without reproducing them myself, then I have the latter.

Correspondingly, in the religious realm, if I witness someone being raised from the dead or walking on the sea, I have material evidence. If I read an account of such, I have the testimony of witnesses.

That is not to suggest that all evidence has equal weight. Anyone can claim any outlandish nonsense, after all. Consequently, extraordinary claims about supernatural events require a higher standard of evidence than those which are mundane and easily believable. Supernatural claims are incongruous with the natural order of things observed elsewhere (i.e., dead people stay dead, it's impossible to walk on liquid water), so I'm going to have to have a very good reason for believing someone who claims to have witnessed such a thing. But the kinds of evidence, and the means of evaluating it, are no different IMO.

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twinky
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If "god exists" is a scientifically testable postulate, can you devise an experiment to test it in accordance with the scientific method?
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Dagonee
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Who is that directed at, twinky?
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suminonA
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quote:
Originally posted by twinky:
If "god exists" is a scientifically testable postulate, can you devise an experiment to test it in accordance with the scientific method?

This certainly isn't directed at those who believe that "God is by definition outside the realm of science".

A.

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password
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quote:
Originally posted by Beren One Hand:
Why stop there? Under this analysis, no valid line of reasoning can be used to prove anything.

I submit that you can't prove anything without postulating something first. You have to start from unproven first principles before you can prove anything. Fortunately, many of these we can agree on or at least admit for the sake of argument. Often we can agree to the results of inductive "proof" even though, technically speaking, it's not proven at all. "Demonstrated" might be a better word.

quote:

Concepts like "logic" and "evidence" will have no meaning. How can we discuss whether a belief is logical when the very foundations of logic--e.g. causality, deductive reasoning--cannot be trusted?

There's a difference between "cannot be trusted" and "cannot be proven", yes? even "cannot be demonstrated" doesn't imply "cannot be trusted." I think of "Contact" when Jodie Foster demands that her dad loved her, but is stymied when told to "prove it".

I think sound reasoning goes something like this-- "Evidence" provides a set of "principles" from which we can use "logic" to prove something. It must be remembered that something proven is only true insofar as those principles are true. Sometimes, new evidence can cause you to re-evaluate these first principles, which is why it's important to keep collecting new evidence.

This is, as far as I can tell, how relativity came into being-- there was evidence that the speed of light was a constant. Logic dictated that this was in conflict with other observed first principles and led Einstein to conclude that the principle of time and space as immutable and constant was wrong.

But nothing I have said is based on reason. Reason cannot explain itself Reasonably... that would be circular. Logically proving that logic itself works isn't very useful... but that's far from saying that logic isn't useful.

Finally, does Goedel have a place in this somewhere?

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FlyingCow
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Humans are the only creatures that worry about such ultimately pointless ideas.

A dog knows that if it jumps off the couch, it will get to the floor. Birds know that if they stop flapping their wings in the air, they will fall towards the ground.

Their understanding of the world informs their actions. A dog will not look over the edge of a fifth story roof at a building across the street and make that jump. It knows it will not make it, that it will fall and most likely die. It will stop at the edge.

Does it have faith? Does it require proof?

No, it understands the world through its past interactions with it, and its future actions are influenced by these past interactions.

Whether or not you have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow has no bearing on whether or not it will happen. I can say that I have faith that I have five fingers on each hand, or that I have faith that my heart is beating at this very moment. I can say that I have faith that I didn't die a moment ago, and I can say that I have faith that I'm not pregnant (tough, because I'm a guy).

All that is simply a misuse of the word faith. Those are things I know, not things I have faith in.

You want to broaden the term faith to include everything. What is 2+2? I have faith that it is 4. What do you call a reqular four sided polygon? I have faith that it is a square. What part of speech is the word "of"? I have faith that it is a preposition.

No, that's just broadening the use of the word faith to such an abstraction as to make it devoid of any meaning.

There are things that you can know, that do not rely up faith. If you feel there are not, then you deny the entire concept of knowledge.

By taking your philosophically abstract view, we can eliminate the words "know" or "knowledge" from our vocabulary, as it is impossible to know anything, only to have faith in something. "Knowledge" and "faith" are not synonyms.

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