Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I've got mail (Feedback Welcome)

I'm posting this because I'd like to hear how others might have responded.

I recently received this in my inbox:

I found your site. Your definition of faith is flawed, because it assumes that all faith is flawed. Emotion about an irrational notion or a false notion is certainly a problem. But faith is something that you use all the time whether you are rational or not to find truth about things that are true.

For example, I have faith in the future. The future is something that hasn't happened yet, because I cannot yet see it. But that doesn't mean that it isn't real, because it will shortly present itself. And from past experience, I know that it is real, because it has presented itself previously. And it takes faith for me to believe that it will continue to present itself. And wait, what is that? Woah, the future just became the present, and I believed it would, and hey, I was right! And I just proved it. Because the future just became the present. See the mental exercise there? Faith is useful when based on the truth. A hypothesis is faith, because its hope in that which is not seen, but which might be true, and if proven, then it is true. A natural law is a proven fact that started out with a hypothesis that is now proven. Therefore your definition of faith is fundamentally flawed, because the principle of faith is interwoven with science. You just have just dismissed it entirely in the realm of religion, because you have dismissed religion entirely. If you don't believe in religion, you should just say so, but don't trash on faith. Faith is something that you can't do away with, because it is fact when it is used with something that is true.

Faith, or the HYPOTHESIS, opened the way to every discovery in science. Faith is the CREATIVITY that brought about the reason for doing the EXPERIMENTATION, that let to the DISCOVERIES in science. Therefore, I challenge your fundamental definition of faith. If you hate religion, just say so. If you don't believe in God, because you don't believe in something that the scientific method can't touch, then just say so. But you can't trash on faith, because it is the core principle behind the scientific method.

Now, how do you get to know God? Not through the experimentations of science, but through spiritual experimentation. If you don't believe in that, then it is simply because you haven't done the experimentation, and you haven't had the true desire to experiment to get the result that would yield fruit. Therefore I challenge your notion that God and religion is something deluded or irrational, because you haven't used the principles of the scientific method to prove that your assertion is so. And you can't use the tools in your lab to scientifically prove God is there. You have to scientifically pray.

A believer and knower of a scientific and rational God,

I pondered over this email for awhile and decided to respond as follows:

Thanks for visiting my site, and taking some time to send an email. I appreciate your input, however, all you have really done here is prove your lack of understanding not only in the definition of faith, but in your definition of a hypothesis and your complete disregard for the scientific method.
You are attempting to integrate faith into logic and the 2 are mutually exclusive. Time or "The Future" does not require faith. The mental exercise you so sarcastically presented really proves nothing. Why not attempt to prove this with some evidence? How could we possibly do this without faith? To begin with we would have to create a hypothesis based on observable repeatable evidence (A hypothesis is simply an educated guess based on observable evidence it is not faith) from there we could make a prediction and based on the results we should be able to share this evidence with others to verify our observations in order to validate our initial hypothesis. I'm sure you can figure the rest out.... We could use our rising sun as the basis, the fact that we grow older, etc.. So, you see no "faith" is required. Faith is never based on "Truth". It is however something required to believe in something that has no evidence.

PS. "You have to scientifically pray" is probably the funniest thing I've heard in awhile... Thanks!

I'm providing you with a few links that may clear up your understanding of the scientific method..

And now for his reply:

You sound a bit overconfident in yourself. Let me quote from since you reject the definition ( ):

14 results for: faith Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
8. Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.
9. in faith, in truth; indeed: In faith, he is a fine lad.

Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

The relevant results here for a secular definition of faith (outside of a religious context) are 1, 2, 4, 6, 7 and 9, and all back up my points in my original email.

Therefore, this refutes your argument on faith, and shows that my definition was perfectly fine. Further, reference #2, specifically backs up the fact that having confidence in the ultimate result of a hypothesis, and the proposal of a hypothesis, is indeed an act of faith. Therefore you are simply wrong. Faith is a HOPE of truth. Faith is always based on something that you hope turns out to be true, and is useful when that which is hoped for does turn out to be true, just as a scientist hopes that his hypothesis turns out to be true once tested. Therefore you are plain wrong.

Faith is a principle of reality that is based upon a guess that you hope for might turn out to be true, and if it does turn out to be true, then the faith was useful. This principle can be used in a secular context just as easily as a religious context. Just because you reject the religious context out of hand doesn't justify dismissing its usefulness in a secular context. Therefore, the fact that it is used in conjunction with a hypothesis means that it is a core piece of the scientific method and you are now refuted. Don't argue with me. Go argue with the dictionary.

Now, in a religious context, if you don't believe something to be true, and it does turn out to be true on judgment day, then you are damned because you didn't care to attempt to find out if it was true before judgment day.

Now, in the scientific method, facts are found out by the use of observation of observable phenomena. The problem with spiritual things is that they are not observable phenomena, and are usually only discernible by their effects, not unlike dark matter and dark energy. How do you use the scientific method with spiritual things? By spiritual experimentation. First, you must have a desire to know if spiritual things really do exist, and if they do, then you must want to know if God exists. If you don't care, then don't bother. But you should know first of all why it would be useful for you to know why God exists.

Many Christians are absolutely wrong about the reason for existence. Is it really to serve God as the religious people that originally indoctrinated you tried to drill into you? No. That is only something that you end up doing because you want to, that is, if you end up being happy in the state you end up being in. Happiness is the design and purpose of our existence. Misery is not.

What makes you happy right now? And what is lasting happiness? What if you die and then you haven't prepared to be happy after death? Let's say for the sake of argument that your mind is an immortal thing that cannot be destroyed, just as light is, or matter is. If your mind is indeed going to outlive your body, and is actually an independent entity that cannot be destroyed, doesn't it make sense to find out ahead of time before you can't do anything about it, and haven't prepared for the eventuality?
My last reply was as follows:
Interesting argument. In your honor, I will rename my "Definition for Faith" on my website to "A Religious Definition of Faith".

I still have my doubts as to your conclusion and your use of the term faith, but i have read where this argument has been made before.

Thank you for your feedback.


Now, if you happen to make it through all of that... What do you think? He brought up truth, yet I don't recall mentioning anything about truth. Any hypothesis has an equal chance of being true as it does being false prior to being verified who says the one hypothesizing wants it to be true or false? Anyway, I had so many thoughts on this that I simply didn't know where to begin, so i figured I'd share and see what others thought as well.


John Morales said...

Robert, this scenario has been seen before, ad-nauseam. Good reply, though.

That dictionary gambit reminds me of "scientist/philosopher" in the comments here.

Robert said...

Wow, I found that post.. That is an eerily similar use of the dictionary. Thanks for the feedback and the link.