[FoRK] "faith" vs. critical rationalism Re: Philosophy, for whoever needs it

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Tue Jun 24 14:54:25 PDT 2008

And the cycle begins again...

Dr. Ernie Prabhakar wrote:
> Hi Jeff,
> Thanks for the elaboration, it is quite helpful. But...
> On Jun 24, 2008, at 8:01 AM, Jeff Bone wrote:
>> My rejection of "divinity" as a subject of rational inquiry is not a 
>> statement of belief or disbelief, of certainty or probability.  It is 
>> a statement about the unsuitability of that topic for rational 
>> inquiry, consideration, or discussion --- by definition of 
>> rationality, under critical rationalism.  I am not *willing* to 
>> believe because I do not recognize the validity of any 
>> epistemological method that would allow me to acquire and possess 
>> such belief.  Religion insists on faith;  faith sets itself outside 
>> the realm of the rational by definition.
> That's where you're losing me.  Yes, there *are* certain 
> epistemologies where "faith" is contrasted with "rational inquiry."
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fideism
> But, even within fideism, some see faith and reason as complementary, 
> rather than antagonistic.
> I wonder what definition of "faith" you are using that makes it 
> *necessarily* antagonistic.  For example, I can have "faith"  (or 
> "believe") that:
> a) human beings evolved from unicellular organisms via a process 
> involving natural selection
> b) there exists a singular unifything Theory of Everything that can 
> characterize all observable physical phenomena
> c) the United States exists in its present form largely due to the 
> courage, intelligence and character of a hisorical person named George 
> Washington
> d) societies built around respect for the individual maximize total 
> happiness better than any of the alternatives
> Those propositions -- which guide the actions of many scientists and 
> politicians -- could certainly be characterized as acts of "faith", 
> but aren't (necessarily) "religious" or "outside the realm of rational 
> inquiry."  Are they?
When and if people call those things "faith", they don't mean the same 
thing.  When I use "faith", generally it is a shorthand for more precise 
terms such as: "Based on extrapolation and scientific proof, the 
following is probably true" or "my experience seems to indicate...".  
All of those things can be tested in some way or are predictions based 
on extrapolation of existing, testable fact.

Religious faith is some combination of belief in explanations that are 
based on nothing more than that other people are believing or have 
believed or apparently believe (for those in polite silence) in them 
along with very weak evidence (people speaking in tongues, et al).  
Other than mind games ("The Devil will test your faith..."), there is no 
encouragement to question, test, or try alternatives.
> If not, then you can perhaps guess my follow-up question; but I'll 
> save that for another post...
> -- Ernie P.
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