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Faith in facts?

 
 
Cyracuz
 
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 10:26 am
Everything is taken on faith. The fact that there are people who reject scientific knowledge seems to suggest that even facts must be believed in to be true. That means that everything we know about reality rests on the choice to believe that this knowledge is accurate. The scientific method has produced facts that require little in the way of faith to embrace, but that doesn't make it no choice, just an easy one.
But I might just be saying that because I believe in the scientific method.
 
Setanta
 
  3  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 10:39 am
@Cyracuz,
There is a distinction to be made about degrees of "faith" (which is a caveat applicable to so many areas of discussion). If one believes something because "scientists say so," their response is little different than the blind faith of the religious. Little difference, but still there is a difference. Science has given us clean water and effective sewage removal which makes life better for us all. It has given us the automobile, which removed significant vectors of disease from society. It has followed its own predictive models to put men on the moon and robot explorers on Mars. Taken all in all, "faith" in science is far better justified than faith in "holy writ." Those who believe something because the scripture tells thems so, or their political ideology tells them so are indulging blind faith, and aren't troubling their intellects at all.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 11:06 am
@Cyracuz,
Cyracuz wrote:
Everything is taken on faith.

That is questionable, because 'faith' is such a murky term. If 'faith' simply means confidence that something is, you're correct. I trust empirical evidence. So if it's strong enough, I'm confident of the truth of whatever the evidence supports. But if 'faith' means 'belief without evidence', as it usually does when discussing topics like this one, your statement that everything is taken on faith is simply false.

Cyracuz wrote:
The scientific method has produced facts that require little in the way of faith to embrace, but that doesn't make it no choice, just an easy one.

I never understood why so many people conceive of believing something as a choice. I can choose to look at evidence. But, having looked at the evidence, belief or skepticism emerge automatically. For illustration, suppose somebody showed you a stone (with greater density than air) that falls upward rather than downward when dropped. You could choose not to look at it in order to preserve your faith in Newtonian physics, but, having looked at it (and checked for conjuring tricks) you'd have no choice but to believe something is wrong with Newton's law of gravity.

Cyracuz wrote:
But I might just be saying that because I believe in the scientific method.

Of course you believe in the scientific method. Why wouldn't you? There's plenty of evidence that it works. This is much more than can be said about faith healing, turning water into wine, reviving dead people who already smell, and so forth.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  2  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 11:47 am
@Cyracuz,
The confidence (not faith) we have in science is partly due to the interconnectivity/inextricable linkages in its detailed applications. For example, we are happy to accept aspects of "quantum theory" because the technology of these very computers with which we communicate has been based on such a theory. This interconnectivity is the reason why counter examples to theory tend to be initially resisted ,or isolated in brackets. There are revolutions in scientific paradigms but they tend to account for/explain the range of the bracketing rather than destroy "faith".

In a way scientific confidence is a little like religious faith insofar that they "work" for the holder. The difference is the degree of social agreement as to the details of such working (as Setanta has already suggested).
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 12:32 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta's post suggests an even better example than I previously gave. One point I've heard supposedly-sophisticated theologians make goes like this: "Sure, the concept of the trinity sounds paradoxical. But is it any more paradoxical than the notion that electrons are both particles and waves? You wouldn't dismiss quantum mechanics as woo-woo theory. So why not give Christian theology the benefit of the doubt?"

Here's why: Physicists, unlike theologians, didn't just theorize that electrons have both particle and wave characteristics. They built the electron microscope, which tested their theories around the wave-particle dualism. If they were wrong, there would be no such thing as electron optics, and this device couldn't possibly magnify images using refracted electron beams. Yet it does, and reliably so.

No such demonstration exists for the concept of the trinity. To portray the belief in quantum mechanics and the belief in the trinity as comparable examples of faith is to ignore a gap so large it's no longer a difference in degree. This is a difference in kind. And I think it generalizes to any attempt to liken belief in evidence with belief in the supernatural.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 12:57 pm
...when I cross the street I don't particularly recur to the scientific method to be confidently certain I must avoid the cars coming through, empirical common sense is good enough and sufficiently different from guess work...
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  2  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 01:08 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
No such demonstration exists for the concept of the trinity.


I'm not convinced there is a definitive difference in "kind".

Isaac Newton's position at Trinity College, Cambridge was made somewhat precarious by his rejection of "the trinity". However, whether this rejection was an aspect of his "scientific method" is debatable, when we consider his heavy involvement in alchemy.

Similar blurring of boundaries seem to be involved with Einstein's rejection of quantum theory on the grounds that (his) "God does not play dice", a "religious" stance berhaps ironically balanced by Niels Bohr's Taoist leanings (as indicated by his Yin-Yang coat of arms).
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 01:35 pm
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 01:44 pm
Good discussion folks, and very refreshing given the poor quality of threads in the philosophy forum lately.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 01:52 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
Nice clip containing the telling phrase, "physicists see only what they expect to see". which provides a useful illustration of observer-observed co-extension.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 02:12 pm
@fresco,
...you better ought to see the entire program to which that small video came from...besides what was said was that it was hard to adapt what we expect from what we are seeing, as you well know mystifier...
0 Replies
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 02:34 pm
Here goes the entire episode from here the previous video was made :
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vikorr
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jun, 2012 02:37 pm
@Cyracuz,
It's always possible that some aspects of 'faiths' will be proven to actually be accurate.

There's plenty of anecdotal evidence of twins knowing what the other twin is feeling even when they aren't in the room, or twins/close couples knowing when their twin/loved one has died. There's also plenty of evidence to suggest that people know when someone is 'staring daggers at the back of their head'/

None of that has been explainable by science (and the vast majority of people believe in such) - perhaps until the discovery of quantum physics, and the discovery of quantum entanglement.
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Jun, 2012 05:30 pm
@Thomas,
I do not disagree with anything you say in that post. I am not trying to liken belief in evidence with belief in the supernatural. But why is evidence better to believe in than something supernatural? As fresco says, we have confidence in science, rather than faith. But we believe firmly that our confidence is well placed. We believe that we have a method to truly cure our ignorance, and all we need to do is apply it. By "we" I mean myself included. I really believe that. But at the same time I think it is clear that our ignorance is never really cured. The earth was in the center of the universe, then orbiting the sun. Our methods and our understanding of those methods grew to a point where we could see that what we previously knew to be true was in fact false. That was not the last time such a momentous discovery was made, and there is no reason to think that something similar will never happen again. Despite knowing this we believe that we know what reality is and how it works. We might have confidence in the scientific methods, and as I said I think it is well placed. But we believe in the understanding we get from them, and that goes beyond confidence.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Jun, 2012 05:52 pm
@Cyracuz,
Cyracuz wrote:
But why is evidence better to believe in than something supernatural?

Because evidence-based scientific theories are more likely to make true predictions about things we don't know yet, and science has the track record to prove it.

Cyracuz wrote:
But at the same time I think it is clear that our ignorance is never really cured.

But there are degrees of ignorance, and we are continuously making progress. The Bible, by contrast, keeps peddling the same bullshit it's been peddling 1950 years ago.

Cyracuz wrote:
But we believe in the understanding we get from them, and that goes beyond confidence.

I agree we believe that science works. Why not? Evidence is a good reason to believe something, because it leads to an internally-consistent picture consistent with future evidence. Faith in tradition, authority, and revelation does not --- witness all those poor souls who keep believing that the end of the world will end next year, and have their worldview collapse when it doesn't.
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Jun, 2012 05:54 pm
@vikorr,
Quote:
It's always possible that some aspects of 'faiths' will be proven to actually be accurate.


Please don't confuse faith with belief. The former is an action, or a human capacity or ability. The latter is merely it's by-product. Faith creates beliefs.
We need only look at history to find many examples of beliefs that faith in science has produced.
That, to me, is good reason to distinguish between "confidence in scientific methods" and "faith in scientific knowledge".
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Jun, 2012 06:08 pm
@Cyracuz,
...just semantics here, nothing against the core argument, but it is my impression that is the other way around...
...a set of beliefs sets up a Faith !
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Jun, 2012 06:29 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
Because evidence-based scientific theories are more likely to make true predictions about things we don't know yet, and science has the track record to prove it.


Is having true predictions an end in itself?
You are right in that there are degrees of ignorance. There are also many aspects of life we can be ignorant about. Scientific fact follows scientific inquiry.
We may have methods to accurately answer most questions we ask, but how do we decide which questions to ask?
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Jun, 2012 07:12 pm
@Cyracuz,
Cyracuz wrote:
Is having true predictions an end in itself?

Only if you care about what's true. If you don't care about what's true, you have no reason to care about science. Or about your faith, for that matter. (If you adhere to a Christian faith, your pastor won't like it if you tell her "I don't care if it's true that the trinity exists" --- and rightly so.)

Cyracuz wrote:
We may have methods to accurately answer most questions we ask, but how do we decide which questions to ask?

That's an independent question. Without a pre-existing proposition you seek evidence about, or faith in, neither has anything to attach to.

***

The more I think about your initial post, the less I believe I know what you're getting at. On the face of it, it seems hard to discuss your topic without circular reasoning. Evidence, by definition, is a thing or a set of things that furnishes belief. So why do we believe in evidence? Because it wouldn't be evidence if we didn't. Take believers who pray to their deities for the answer to important questions in their life. When they hear an inner voice giving them the answer, that's genuine evidence to them. In their mind, their faith in the answer doesn't rest on an alternative to evidence; it rests on evidence.

Against this background, the question "why do we believe in evidence?" seems akin to asking, "why are liquids wet?". The sentence sounds like a valid question because that's what it is syntactically. But semantically, it's really not. It's just philosophical-sounding nonsense. Can you re-state what you're getting at in a form that doesn't involve this kind of nonsense?
JPLosman0711
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Jun, 2012 08:38 pm
@Cyracuz,
'Facts' are answers which people have concluded at. They are the end of thinking. Someone comes to a conclusion about something, then attains the agreement about it with many others and thus becomes 'fact'.

So assuming the above is true, why are you going to sit here and 'contemplate' something like your believing/not-believing in something which is in-authentic in its very origin? The fundamental basis for each and every so-called 'fact' is completely un-founded and rests on un-stable grounds.

So what's there to have faith in and who's there to have it?
0 Replies
 
 

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