Is faith a reliable path to knowledge?

Discussion in 'Comparative Religion' started by James R, Jul 23, 2015.

  1. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Then surely the issue to be addressed is not the "lack of evidence" or "there is evidence", but on how we reach that starting point. If all we do is shout "it's not evidence", or "I don't believe because there is no evidence" then we will forever be at loggerheads with those that retort that "everything is evidence" or "you can't comprehend the evidence" etc.

    What is it that causes some people to accept the definition as an a priori truth to the question of evidence, whereas some don't?
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    This is why we can have endless debates about the existence of God, never resolving the question. Theists start with the assumption that God exists, whereas atheists tend to want something objective that we can agree is evidence of God, as opposed to evidence of natural processes.

    I think that, fundamentally, its wishful thinking, perhaps combined with a fear of chaos. It's a comforting idea to believe that someone is "in charge" of the universe, that there is a purpose to it all, and that somebody "bigger" is concerned for our wellbeing in some sense. Maybe it's the desire for a kind of a super-parent who will continue to look after us even when we're adults.

    There's also a need to feel significant, maybe. So, religion tells us that God considers human beings to be a particularly special part of his creation. Religion puts us at centre stage of God's supposed Creation. The alternative is to recognise that we live on one planet among billions in an unremarkable corner of an unremarkable galaxy, while there's a vast universe out there that cares nothing about us as individuals. It's no surprise that some people are frightened by that kind of view of things.

    So, in short, it's probably tied up with the individual's views on the meaning of life. If you're the kind of person who needs the comfort of thinking that your life is externally validated by a Higher Power, then God is an attractive kind of belief.

    Psychologically, I also think we're primed to search out agency in things. And sometimes our agent-finding mental radar goes awry, so that it's easy to perceive agency where there is none. In times past, we said that Thor's hammer caused thunder, for example, because we didn't understand the natural cause and it was obvious that something powerful was involved. Understandable to assume, therefore, that the cause could be a powerful person-like being.
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    If we define 'faith' as confidence and trust in the truth of things that remain logically and factually uncertain, then the answer should be reasonably obvious.

    If the evidences for God's existence and God's nature aren't slam-dunks, if the epistemological case for those things remains uncertain, then believing in their truth, and having enough confidence in those beliefs to live one's entire life based on them, will inevitably go beyond the evidence and require faith (as defined above).

    I don't think that's this psychological process is unique to religion. The physicist's belief in the existence and universal applicability of laws of physics is an example of a similar sort of faith.
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  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Physicists don't hold any a priori belief in the universal applicability of the laws of physics. In fact, there is ongoing research on such matters as: are the laws of physics the same in different physical regions of the universe? Were the laws of physics the same in the distant past as they are now?
  8. Jan Ardena Valued Senior Member

    Like any relationship one develops trust and confidence over time. Faith isn't something you flaunt. It is like compassion, it kicks in when it needs to.

    Believing in God, for me, does not require faith. It is a default position.

    That is your understanding of it, because you require external evidences in order to accept that God exists.

    I think the confusion lies in the thinking that it is like that for everyone. When in fact, it's not.

    He may need faith if he/she is conducting an experiment based on
    hypothetical/theoretical information where some kind of danger could possibly ensue. But faith is not necessary to accept the laws of nature.

  9. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I think that there typically is an a priori philosophical assumption built into physics that physical laws are both necessary and universal. (It's certainly assumed that mathematics and logic are.)

    We see it all the time in cosmological speculation.

    We see it when physicists try to derive being itself from quantum field theory. (Quantum fields are obviously foundational and presumably eternal in those schemes.) We see it in the speculations about all the high-energy physics imagined as taking place in the first instants after the 'big bang'. (Physicists assume that they have some grasp of the principles involved.) We see it in the speculations about cosmological constants and dark energy, the large-scale structure of space-time and stuff like that. And we see it in speculations about what the ultimate fate of the universe might be. Cosmology is all about extrapolating the known 'laws of physics' into new and extreme situations.

    The problems encountered a century ago extrapolating classical physics onto the microscale might be a bit of a warning about pushing too hard. But physicists continue to do it, and in my opinion that's an illustration of the kind of faith found in the scientific sphere. I'm not suggesting having some degree of confidence in things that we don't know with absolute certainty is always a bad thing. Human beings couldn't live their lives any other way. I'm just pointing it out and expressing my opinion about it.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2017
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