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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:09 pm 
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You've lost me here. I do believe that diseases are typically caused by tiny microorganisms. I believe that Darwin's account of the origin of species is more-or-less accurate. I believe that the present shape of the continents was formed by the movement of continental plates. I haven't done any of the direct research myself to confirm those theories, and even if I had, I would still admit the possibility that other forces might also be at work, but I think "belief" is a perfectly reasonable and customary attitude to have in relationship to those theories.

Do you need to believe in the chair that you are sitting on? Do you need to admit the possibility of divine forces at work in its preventing your body from crashing to the ground? No, it's just there. The reason you can't have the same attitude towards plate tectonic theory is because there's just too much stuff to be directly and casually observable by any one human being. But the difference between plate tectonics and God is that plate tectonics has been repeatedly and carefully observed and measured by people, whose observations have collectively built up a mutually reinforcing and internally consistent picture of what is going on in the earth's crust. And these people, though nerdier than most, have no special powers or insight. With plate tectonics, other people have done the work and can provide the documentation to show it. Whereas nobody's got independently testable documentation on God. The reason you have to have faith in God isn't just because God is too big for one person to observe. It's because God is inherently impossible to nail down.

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:10 pm 
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kitoba wrote:
Atheism IS a faith --the faith that there is no God, as opposed to agnosticism which is the state of not knowing, apatheism, which is not caring, and secularism, which is merely a segregation of religion from public life.


Okay, even if Atheism is a faith, that's not my point.

Science is NOT a faith. It's a set of observations which we use to explain how the world works, and harness to create tools. We then turn around and teach our children these observations in the hopes that some will have a better understanding of the way the world works as we observe it (and that they'll hopefully continue to supplement their educations with news of new observations as adults), and some will be excited enough to move into fields where they either make the tools our observations allow us to make, or discover new observations.

But that education is hindered by folks who believe this:

waffle wrote:
Since any invalidation of any portion of the Bible invalidates the organizing principles of the religion, it is seen as an attack on religion.


Some people of faith have decided that because our set of observations does not line up with Biblical literalism, science disproves god. And if science disproves god, then it is an atheistic (and untrue) study. And if it's an atheistic study, then teaching it to children is the equivalent of someone bursting through the doors and handing out baptisms.

So to them, science is an actual faith - they have faith that it's a faith. And here's where it gets hazy. Can people of faith define a school of observations as a faith that those who study those observations say is not a faith? Who gets to say what is and isn't a faith? This is what is happening in certain school districts.

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:23 pm 
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I have a different point of view on science and God. I think science will eventually prove the existence of God. I think that the problem that many other Christians have is the fact that if given a scientific fact they sometimes can't work it to their belief. For instance I have no problem with what little I know of quantum mechanics. But I also don't think that it has to be mutually exclusive to a belief in God. Just because science has figured something out doesn't mean it can't fit. Obviously certain theories are at odds with the creationist point of view that I hold, but those theories have also not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. They are merely accepted as fact. I don't choose to accept them as fact because they can't be proven.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 12:14 am 
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kitoba wrote:
Given that the majority of people alive today (as well as the majority of people throughout recorded history) profess some form of religion, and given that there is no shortage of people of manifest intelligence and education who believe in God, then yes, it does take a fair amount of faith in the accuracy and completeness of your own personal knowledge about the universe to definitively declare that all those people are wholly deluded, rather than admitting the possibility that they might be tapped into something real that lies outside of your own sphere of experience and understanding.

The more we learn about our brains, specifically it's ability to deceive itself and our predilection for believing things which are not true, I don't think it takes a great amount of faith to declare that it is a possibility. That however is not the point. The point is that, as an atheist, I have seen no convincing evidence either directly or indirectly to support the existence of a Devine being. This means that either there is no Devine being or that whatever Devine being there is has no effect on my existence. Both of these conclusions leads me to act as if there is no Devine being.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:02 am 
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kitoba wrote:
arcosh wrote:
i consider the existence of multiple mutually exclusive equally correct interpretations as much more plausible, then that of one right christianity.


This is equivalent to saying that you believe this is a situation where there is no actual "fact of the matter" --i.e. that Christian belief is strictly a matter of opinion. While that's a legitimate position for those outside the church, it's not a legitimate position for a believer, such as myself or Jorodryn. We're Christians presumably because we mutually believe there is a core of consequential truth in our religion, even though we might disagree on some of the specifics.

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Moreover even if some people have some religious identity, that in an objective way contradicts their holy book, telling them, that they have their identity wrong is generally considered an offence.


Again, if you are outside a given religion, it is beyond presumptuous to dictate to those within it what their beliefs are. The situation is a bit different on the inside, since there's a starting assumption that those who profess the same faith ought to be in agreement as to what that faith is.


If you are a believer, there needs to be somewhere have been some communication with god, if only to point you to the correct religion. That it does not only point to a holy book, but also to a particular interpretation of that book is not so much of a stretch. So the postulation, that you don't get to the one and only true christianity by analyzing the bible alone, but also need some sort of divine intervention is compatible with belief. But then, given you can't proof that your divine inspiration is correct, and the other one is not actually a real one, you can't objetivly proof, that you are correct.

And it is not a trivial matter to define the inside and the outside of a religion. If you have 2 branches of one religion or 2 totally different religions that share symbology and some historic roots, is often a matter of opinion.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:32 am 
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Jorodryn wrote:
I have a different point of view on science and God. I think science will eventually prove the existence of God. I think that the problem that many other Christians have is the fact that if given a scientific fact they sometimes can't work it to their belief. For instance I have no problem with what little I know of quantum mechanics. But I also don't think that it has to be mutually exclusive to a belief in God. Just because science has figured something out doesn't mean it can't fit. Obviously certain theories are at odds with the creationist point of view that I hold, but those theories have also not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. They are merely accepted as fact. I don't choose to accept them as fact because they can't be proven.

That's pretty close to the 'God of the Gaps' idea, where God is in the spaces where science hasn't found an explanation for. Those gaps keep closing though, there's not much space left for a God to hide. (Hide seems to be the correct term too, no god lately has been too interested in showing hide nor hair.)

Nothing in science is ever proven. Nothing. There is falsified, and not falsified, and every idea in science is roughly, viciously, relentlessly tested in an attempt to falsify it. Theories are ideas that have survived every test thrown at them, every attempt to destroy them, that's a lot stronger than 'merely accepted as fact'. People have been trying to falsify every Theory for the entire existence of the Theory, and will continue to do so, because that's how science progresses and that's how scientists make their mark on history.

What you choose to accept as fact or not has no bearing on reality.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:01 am 
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Kea wrote:
Do you need to believe in the chair that you are sitting on? Do you need to admit the possibility of divine forces at work in its preventing your body from crashing to the ground? No, it's just there.

You may not admit that possibility, but I certainly do. However that's entirely tangential to my argument.

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The reason you can't have the same attitude towards plate tectonic theory is because there's just too much stuff to be directly and casually observable by any one human being. But the difference between plate tectonics and God is that plate tectonics has been repeatedly and carefully observed and measured by people, whose observations have collectively built up a mutually reinforcing and internally consistent picture of what is going on in the earth's crust.


I'm not arguing contra the point that belief in God is significantly different from belief in a scientific theory. But it goes against all common usage to argue that the term "belief" has no place in science:
(1) You believe, as do I, that the research has been done, that it is internally consistent and so forth. But no one could possibly do all the research themselves. And it's a sad fact that researchers do falsify research all the time.
(2) Even if you could do the research yourself, the most any experiment can empirically demonstrate is that results match the predictions of theory. There's no such thing as absolute proof in science.

weatherwax wrote:
Okay, even if Atheism is a faith, that's not my point.
Science is NOT a faith.


My point is just that the fault is not all on the side of the Biblical fundamentalists. There do exist influential thinkers who approach atheism as a faith, and who have worked hard to tie that faith to a belief in science --which, frankly, both inflames the paranoia of the fundamentalists, and supports their efforts to drive a wedge between believers and science.

Steave wrote:
The point is that, as an atheist, I have seen no convincing evidence either directly or indirectly to support the existence of a Devine being. This means that either there is no Devine being or that whatever Devine being there is has no effect on my existence. Both of these conclusions leads me to act as if there is no Devine being.


I would describe that as an "agnostic" position, not an atheist one. However, even as an agnostic position, I think your intermediate conclusion is an overreach. I would recast it as "any divine being that might exist has no effect separable from natural causes that I can personally observe in my life." This may still lead you to your final agnostic conclusion, but it's more in line with what you can actually reasonably claim.

arcosh wrote:
And it is not a trivial matter to define the inside and the outside of a religion. If you have 2 branches of one religion or 2 totally different religions that share symbology and some historic roots, is often a matter of opinion.


I don't disagree, but my statement was a clarification to your quite correct point of etiquette: It is rude to presume to dictate to a member of a group to which you do not belong the requirements of membership. However if the disputants are both claimants to membership, the disagreement may be no more welcome, but it does rise to a level of necessity outweighing the rudeness.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:13 am 
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kitoba wrote:
(1) You believe, as do I, that the research has been done, that it is internally consistent and so forth. But no one could possibly do all the research themselves. And it's a sad fact that researchers do falsify research all the time.


A small fraction, yes. The system is set up to be stable against error, including intentional error.

kitoba wrote:
(2) Even if you could do the research yourself, the most any experiment can empirically demonstrate is that results match the predictions of theory. There's no such thing as absolute proof in science.


The ability to predict IS the theory. What else could you ask of it?

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:10 pm 
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kitoba wrote:
waffle wrote:
Atheism is no more a faith than 'off' is a channel on the television.


Given that the majority of people alive today (as well as the majority of people throughout recorded history) profess some form of religion, and given that there is no shortage of people of manifest intelligence and education who believe in God, then yes, it does take a fair amount of faith in the accuracy and completeness of your own personal knowledge about the universe to definitively declare that all those people are wholly deluded, rather than admitting the possibility that they might be tapped into something real that lies outside of your own sphere of experience and understanding.


If I took a survey of every person in China, asking them the length of the Emperor's nose, I could compute an answer. But it bears no relation to the actual length of the Emperor's nose. The entire dataset can be invalidated with a ruler and a ruler, as it were. In other words, this is an extremely weak argument.

The problem here is that you seem to see everything through the lens of faith. In fact, you seem to see faith at the root of any form of epistemology. You do not acknowledge any other form of understanding. And, I think, you confuse faith with any and all forms of knowledge.

Put it this way. The sun rose today. The sun rose yesterday. The sun rose every day last week. I then form a hypothesis that the sun will rise tomorrow. Is this as statement of faith? No, it is not. It is an example of deductive reasoning. It is a hypothesis based on a set of observations. And it is falsifiable.

It is not faith. Or rather, if it is faith, you have defined faith so broadly that it ceases to have meaning. If I am held up right now by my faith in my sofa, rather than my sofa, why even bother having the clause 'my faith in?' The phrase has become meaningless through overapplication. It has no more meaning than a valley girl's 'like' verbal tick.

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Evolution is not a belief. It exists independent of belief, one way or another.


This is itself a creedal statement. It has the exact same form as the following: "God is not a belief. God exists independent of belief, one way or another."


This is incorrect. Evolution is a fact. It is an observed phenomenom. Allele frequencies have changed through time. We have, literally, mountains of observations of evolution. It is not a statement of belief in any way, shape or form; no matter how convenient it might be for it to be so.

The problem here is that you are conflating two terms that should be separate. Evolution is the change in allele frequencies with time. This is an observed fact. Evolution leads to speciation. This is an observed fact. There is zero faith in this.

The Theory of Evolution is a set of scientific principles, laws, hypotheses and ideas that form a framework to explain the how of Evolution. How do allele frequencies change with time? What are the mechanisms behind this shift?

The fact of Evolution is not subject to faith. It may be subject to some training and education to understand what you are looking at, but it isn't hard, and it isn't an interpretation. It isn't faith. Evolution is as much a fact of our Universe as gravity, electromagnetism or earthquakes. The Theory of Evolution is a scientific theory to explain these facts. It requires as little faith as Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, Quantum Field Theory or the Theory of Plate Tectonics.

Let's try something. Tell me what you think faith is.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:15 pm 
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Waffle, that's inductive reasoning. Very important distinction, especially in this case.

Science is all about doing induction right.

And though it never reaches 100% certainty, on many occasions it has gotten to the point where doubt is silly.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:34 pm 
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Waffle, the sun rising tomorrow is faith. Yes the fact that it has been observed to happen make it predictable, but if for instance something were to happen to halt the earth's rotation then the sun would not rise tomorrow. If the sun were to explode in a nova, the sun would not rise tomorrow. You have faith based on your previous observations that a continuous chain of events will continue to happen. Your faith is rooted in what you have seen so it is a logical conclusion. Now with what we know about physics, and what we can observe as far as other extraterrestrial bodies, the chance that you are correct is even higher, but a random event that was missed could change all that. Still your faith in the sun rising tomorrow is probably not shaken.

Also perspective changes things. If for instance you were in space for some reason, say on the international space station, the sun may rise and fall for you several times or not at all during the day based on your orbit even though on earth the sun rises and sets as normal. I know this may seem like splitting hairs but perspective does have a lot of bearing on people's faith.


Last edited by Jorodryn on Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:35 pm 
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While we're nitpicking Waffle...

The valley girl "like" isn't always meaningless. It can have grammatical function. For instance, "And he was like..." basically means, "And then he said..." There's a specific term for this usage, but I forget what is. Carry on!

POOF!
*Returns to Relative Obscurity*

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:54 pm 
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drachefly wrote:
Waffle, that's inductive reasoning. Very important distinction, especially in this case.

Science is all about doing induction right.

And though it never reaches 100% certainty, on many occasions it has gotten to the point where doubt is silly.


Bah! You're right, inductive. Posting without coffee is my defense. And yeah, we're at the point now where many explanations are so fenced in by observation that doubt is silly.

Jorodryn wrote:
Waffle, the sun rising tomorrow is faith. Yes the fact that it has been observed to happen make it predictable, but if for instance something were to happen to halt the earth's rotation then the sun would not rise tomorrow. If the sun were to explode in a nova, the sun would not rise tomorrow. You have faith based on your previous observations that a continuous chain of events will continue to happen. Your faith is rooted in what you have seen so it is a logical conclusion. Now with what we know about physics, and what we can observe as far as other extraterrestrial bodies, the chance that you are correct is even higher, but a random event that was missed could change all that. Still your faith in the sun rising tomorrow is probably not shaken.


No, it is not faith. As drache said, it is inductive reasoning. If you wish to redefine inductive reasoning as a measure of faith, then the term 'faith' is meaningless.

What you are doing is taking the idea that there might be any conclusion in which there is any doubt, uncertainty or unknown and defining it as faith. Will the sun rise tomorrow? Most likely. But there are a few highly unlikely caveats, leading to a small measure of uncertainty. Therefore, faith! If I've got an inside straight, am getting six to one odds on my hand, I raise. I've got a good chance to win, but I might lose. Faith! If I get in my car and turn the key, it will likely start. But there's a chance the fuel pump froze overnight. Therefore, the act of starting my car is an act of faith.

Garbage. You've redefined the word so broadly it has ceased to have any meaning.

And don't get me started on the irony of trying to point out exceptions using the rotation of the earth or novas, both products of inductive and deductive reasoning, as theoretical exceptions to my induction example.

It feels like the only tool you have in your mental toolbox is faith. And when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When the only thing you admit is faith, you reclassify, erroneously, everything as faith.

This is heading dangerously towards our good friend, the God of the Gaps. If one is prepared to see faith in any possible uncertainty, one will tend to ascribe unknowns to the divine. When those uncertainties close, one will feel that one's faith is under attack. But the problem is one's faith was never under attack, it was simply misplaced.

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:23 pm 
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@waffle

I agree with you that we're using these terms in incompatible ways. So I'll offer some definitions as a starting point, with the understanding that we won't argue about whether the definitions themselves are correct or not. Since I may not have been consistent with these definitions prior to this point, these definitions should be referred to only moving forward.

Fact: I will use the term "factual" to mean a statement that has a definite truth value, regardless of whether that truth value is true or false.
Belief: A statement assumed to be true.
Proof: A logical structure used to establish the relationship between the truth values of various statements.
Proven: A statement incapable of being false given the accepted assumptions.
Statement of faith: An unproven belief (not to be confused with capital F "Faith", which I will not be discussing in this post)

OK, then:

I think we agree that evolution is factual --it is in the realm of things that have a definite truth value. We both also share the belief that the truth-value of evolution is "true". However, it's simply incorrect to refer to evolution as "proven." At best you can call it "supported beyond all reasonable doubt" --a solid, secure belief.

This, by the way, is not a strange or controversial statement, or something only a religious nut could come up with --it's a fundamental feature of empirical science.

If you say "evolution is true" or "evolution is a fact" or "evolution is not a belief", and if by that you explicitly mean "evolution has been proven incapable of being false", then you have gone beyond the bounds of science and have made a statement of faith (small "f"). You may have good solid reasons for making that leap of faith --but then, I would say the same about my statements of faith as well.


Last edited by kitoba on Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:24 pm 
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Actually, I rather like phrasing faith as any uncertainty you're willing to completely discount.

This gives a precise mathematical strength to faith - the logarithm of the reciprocal of the probability that's the lowest such that you'd be willing to swallow the remainder and accept the proposition anyway.

Like, I completely discount the probability that the sun will fail to rise tomorrow. Suppose the probability of the sun failing to rise tomorrow is 1 in a mole, so the probability of success is (1 - 1/mole). That leaves me with a faith of at least 1/mole.
Meanwhile, take a YEC who acknowledges the scientific evidence against (rare, but they exist). They accept a proposition with a probability of around 10^-30, so they've got 30 faith.

As you note, however, this definition of faith makes it ubiquitous, and so therefore it cannot be the sole criterion for religious protection.

Kitoba - When a scientist says a theory is true, that means 'This theory has been tested strongly enough that withholding provisional assent would be perverse.' i.e. very very low faith required in the sense given above. This generally kicks in somewhere around 1 in a billion for medium-scale results - less stringent for smaller results, more for larger. Evolution easily easily surpasses this threshold.

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