Are faith and reason opposite ways of understanding the world?

Mr Davidson: I look forward to reading your forthcoming book! One of the great wonders of my life has been the jaw-dropping astonishment I experience when close friends with great intellect, curiosity and reason reveal that they believe in a god. They, like me and like you, spend 99% of our day following the scientific method to navigate our world. Evidence informs our every move. We’d be paralyzed without it. Yet my friends will toss that strategy into the lake when it comes to Christianity! Obvious impossibilities like the virgin birth or the Great Flood or the dead coming back to life rent the same mental space as does gravity and fingers and trigonometry! How can that be?

You know your mistake, and misplaced arrogance, roots in your presuppostion that a religious person didn´t apply the same evidence-based criteria before becoming religious. Engage with the philosophy of religion and learn for yourself, why 80% there are theists. Read some Augustine or Aquinas to know why I and other Catholics are convinced that we can/have proven the existence of God through human rationality. How about you really contribute something rather than spilling around hollow polemics?

Faith and evidence-based reason are opposite ways of understanding the world. I don’t understand how a person can use both.

This is on you. Making assertions without arguments is like going duck hunting with a blindfold. And you have probably never asked yourself, why all the arch-rationalists were theists, do you? I provided you with some names above as resources, but I can add Leibniz, Descartes, Spinoza, Aristotle, Edward Feser (+G.E.M. Anscombe, David Oderberg, Alexander Pruss and Mortimer Adler) as a contemporary treatment of their arguments or just the whole regrowing field of neo-scholasticism. So now you have two options: 1. Engage with it and read the arguments for yourself, especially Leibniz is important for his argument as to why a rational universe necessarily leads to theism. 2. Ignore what I said and keep on applauding yourself for nonsensical claims which no serious atheistic philosopher in the philosophy of religion, like Quentin Smith, J.L. Mackie, Kai Nielsen or J.C.C. Smart would ever make.
Given the fact that what you contributed in the past to the discussion was less than well argued, I´d bet money that I know which option you take. But then I will keep calling out your claims over and over and over again.

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That is your first lie. The scientific method only works for a very specialized activity and anybody claiming to live their life by this method is immersed in deception of themselves and others. It is in fact demonstrable that science cannot answer all questions and demonstrable that people can know things for which they haven’t a shred of evidence.

Now you are indulging in equivocation. The evidence that science accepts as relevant is vastly different than the evidence used in courts which is vastly different that the evidence used in other activities and by necessity the least objective of all is the “evidence” by which people conduct their lives, for the simple fact that life will not wait for objective evidence. We are force to make choices whether there is evidence or proof of things or not.

Christianity along with the rest of religion and philosophy is far from a monolithic enterprise and the degree of honesty and rationality varies greatly. Some even indulge in as much dishonesty and deception as has you have, believing things which is incompatible with the evidence and what is demonstrable.

Take for example the virgin birth. Anyone with the slightest bit of scientific knowledge knows that pregnancy does NOT require sexual intercourse and thus it is more than possible for a virgin to give birth. Only the fact that the one reported in the Bible occurred thousands of years before in vitro fertilization techniques make it seem at all miraculous. And the dead coming back to life? Are we talking about dead before there were any M.D. issuing death certificates? Surely you know something about cases where people who are taken to be dead nevertheless revive – please tell me you are not that uninformed. And finally there is the flood… if you check the discussion in the other thread, almost none of the participants in that discussion take the idea of a planet-wide flood seriously. Why should they when we are talking about a book written at a time when there was no conception of the earth as a planet, so it would be absurd to think that “the world” meant anything like that to the writers.

Though there are plenty like myself who do not think any proofs for the existence of God have objective validity. And I would certainly challenge the claim that any so called proofs are the reason why 80% of humanity are theists.

What a load of nonsense. Reason requires faith for the simple fact that logic can ONLY take you from premises which you accept on faith to resultant conclusions. And it is well known that evidence cannot fix this problem since the best it can do for reason is an argument by induction, the flaws of which are well known. This is not to say that science does not offer a superior epistemological foundation for knowledge, for it certainly does. But your idea for why is just plain wrong.

The correct explanation for the superiority of scientific knowledge is the following. First there is a methodological standard of honesty often called the scientific method which requires the scientist to test proposed hypothesis rather than seek supporting evidence like a lawyer or used car salesman. Second claims of knowledge consist of written procedures which anyone can follow to get the same result no matter what they believe. This is very effective at both getting past our subjective biases and resolving disputes BUT it most certainly is founded on accepting a few premises ON FAITH. Besides the faith we have that these methodological ideals will get us to the truth, there is the faith that there are no demons or something out there arranging the evidence to deceive us. To be sure this is a reasonable faith, but it is still faith.

Thus the dichotomy you push is an utterly false one. It is not a choice between reason and faith – for I have just shown that these cannot be separated. The only coherent choice involved is the one between reasonable faith and blind faith which which ignores any evidence to the contrary.

Maybe, but I can´t judge if your position is valid from the distance. For that I´d have to know exactly what your objections are. It´s one thing if you want to say that we can´t stablish certain attributes. Or that there is no way to ever establish anything with 100% certainty, since a skeptic could always make some assumptions to undermine an argument. That´s the position of Bill Vallicella, and I´d agree with it. But it´s another claim to say that the arguments fail to establish a certain conclusion after giving premises and logically following up with what those premises entail.

I would too, because that was not what I was saying at all. Read again, I was talking about philosophers of religion.

Hi Mitchell. Let me explain what I mean. There is a lengthy cognitive causal chain between the action of a decision and the reasoning justifying the action. If I take a Tylenol for my headache, I am doing so based on assumptions like the medicine is what the label says it is rather than say cornstarch. I’m not acting on faith, I’m being intellectually lazy. Because to verify the makeup of the medicine I’d have to perform appropriate tests myself - that is, I would use the scientific method to derive an answer. I don’t have the skills or patience to do that, so I assume something about it.

And more. How do I know those are pills and not cashews? I could do a simple test based on the definitions we have assigned these two objects. Easy. A hundred similar silly questions could be asked, but we never ask them because our past experiences have created a foundation of knowledge, the proof of which does not require constant reconfirmation.

All my experiences allows me to bypass impracticality and move on to relieving my headache. At no point in this calculation do I rely on faith.

I rely on incomplete information though and I’m arguing that while I’m acting with incomplete evidence, I logically COULD answer my questions

The difference between science and faith in my tedious little argument here is this: the makeup of the medicine CAN logically, scientifically be affirmed while many biblical claims, like the virgin birth, cannot.

[quote=“mitchellmckain, post:55, topic:40626”]
Take for example the virgin birth. Anyone with the slightest bit of scientific knowledge knows that pregnancy does require sexual intercourse and thus it is more than possible for a virgin to give birth.

That doesn’t make sense to me.

Details are relevant here. Do you mean that someone who has no heartbeat and is therefore dead (by one definition) and is resescutated with CPR? That kinda dead? Or dead, without life, not resting or stunned or pining for the fjords (look it up), three days in a cave sort of dead? I mean the latter. Jesus died, three days later, alive. THAT can’t happen.

Dominik: You lose. Can you give me a more complete reference for Liebinz?

Yes, this “evidence” of past experiences is the foundation of fads in alternative medicine as well as healing with crystals, reincarnation, astrology, and the psychic network, not to mention all the claims of religious people. Picking your personal favorites and slapping names like science, reason, and evidence on them doesn’t change a thing. What makes real science different are those two methodological ideals I described because without them there is no difference and isn’t science.

On the contrary, every time you assume that your past experiences are anything but pure coincidence you are relying on faith. There is a reason why drugs are tested with control groups and other means of ruling out all sorts of bias – because past experience is not scientific evidence.

Yes we call that demonstrability – which is the essence of that second ideal of objectivity which I described. But demonstrability can only account for a small fraction of the beliefs of any human being. Life doesn’t allow any alternative, because we are constantly forced to make choices without any such thing to back it up.

Why? You haven’t heard of in vitro fertilization?

OH… maybe it was my typo… leaving out the word “not.” fixed it.

Exactly! That is the question. That is why we have a trained medical doctor issue a death certificate and even then they can make a mistake. But there were no people with such training back when the Bible was written, so how can we possibly equate what we mean by “dead” with what they meant? Now we talk about people being coma, but you don’t find the Bible mentioning any such thing and three days in a coma is far from unbelievable.

Now the case of Jesus really is different, not because of the three days, but because the resurrected Jesus appeared in a room without opening the door. And then He disappeared off the face of the earth. So is that teleportation or Star Trek transporters? Or is it as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrected have a spiritual body and not a physical body. I am afraid we don’t have anything in science which says anything whatsoever about spiritual bodies.

Dear Gunter,
I share your frustrations with many of my intellectual friends, but only a few of them are Christian and display the blind fatih that you mentioned. As with everything in this world, there is a health relationship between reason and faith and there are unhealthy relationships. Blind faith is the unhealthy relationship with reason that I believe you are struggling with, as do I.

Einstein said: “I have faith in the nobility of nature.” It is this faith that is based in reason and in the empirical observation of nature. Unfortunately, modern Christianity does not offer a logical link between God’s creation and Christian doctrine. This is why the majority of my intellectual friends are atheists. They have seen the damage that blind faith has done in the past and are happy with their materialistic views of the world, with no interest in Christianity. It is for them that I wrote Torn Between Two Worlds.

Thanks for posting the questions I wanted to ask too but didn’t have the courage.

Faith becomes an evidence when and only when what you try to understand is someone’s pursuit, the way of life, decision, behaviour, etc. And then based on this evidence, together with other evidences, you can explain someone’s behavior (not body) more accurately than by observation alone.

If what you want to understand is not those subjective things, then faith and evidence are opposite ways. Nobody, not even God can use both.

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I can agree where the evidence of the senses and their logical extension by science is concerned. If what you hold by faith is directly contradicted by these it may be time to re-evaluate your faith commitments, and isn’t that what happens where faith isn’t corrupted by fundamentalist dogma. And sometimes even that can happen from what I read here.

But don’t you hold any faith commitments? I do, albeit not in regard to anything supernatural. Still there is plenty within the human sphere which resist direct observation or detection in a laboratory setting.

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Hi MarkD: I don’t think I have any faith commitments (most certainly none supernatural), but perhaps I’m missing a subtlty of your term.

Hi Shawn: I’m not sure there should be gradients of faith. Faith is a belief without evidence. I’m with you about the damage done to our world; the first casualty is reason.

Back to my original point and lifelong concern. Why believe something without evidence? And worse, why believe something with no possibility of the existence of evidence? Like “spirit bodies”.

This is why I think you see a conflict with faith and reason. You define faith as a belief without evidence. However, this could not be further from the truth. Take for example the Christian belief that we will be resurrected and given new bodies in the future. Why do we have faith in this? Because Jesus was resurrected. It is reasonable to put our faith in a future resurrection because Jesus himself was resurrected, and showed evidence of this. He presented himself to the disciples after his resurrection, thus providing evidence of his resurrection. Never at any point did Jesus claim that the disciples must believe in the resurrection without evidence, or reason, but only blind faith. Rather, he provided evidence of his resurrection. To sum up my position, faith is putting trust in something God has claimed because of reason and evidence.

Yes, there are gradients in faith, and that is what Einstein was talking about. His experience in studying nature supports his faith that God’s creation is noble, and logical. Blind faith in manmade doctrine is not based in this experience nor in reason. This goes counter to 1 John 4 where we are told to test the spirit of truth, not accept pit blindly.

That brings us back to my previous observation that there are many different standards of evidence. Science requires objective evidence founded on demonstrability, the courtroom another, sales and politics another. This is because demonstrability is applicable to very few things in life - particularly over things which you can control. Thus restricting yourself to this alone is not only outright impossible but also implies some degree of addiction to being in control. So for most of life we must use standards of evidence which are considerably weaker than what is demanded by science. And this is not just a matter of going with our best guess, because another factor playing into this is the fact that while science requires objective observation where what you want doesn’t matter, life requires subjective participation where what you want is central.

The reasonable compromise is thus to recognize the line and know when your decisions are subjective and do not pretend otherwise. And then you acknowledge the superior epistemological status of conclusions which are founded upon objective evidence. For religions this means that in order to be reasonable they must accept the correction of demonstrable scientific findings.

As for the question, why believe? Well people have a great many different reasons. Here are mine.

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Hi Thanos: there is no scientifically acceptable evidence that Jesus was resurrected. There are biblical accounts, but they cannot be accepted as evidence. People don’t live after death, that’s a reasonable definition of death. Ask my my mother who died in 2005 (ha ha, of course you can’t! [and BTW, my mother would get a kick out of this discussion])!

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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