Thursday, 5 November 2009

Faith v Evidence

In a previous response, Adam said that I am "labouring under a faulty defintion of faith, namely that faith means 100% blind faith at all times."

This is not what I said. Faith is related to the volume of evidence. If you have sufficient evidence, why do you need to call it faith?

Of course you can say we have faith in induction or that the sun will rise tomorrow, but this makes the term meaningless. The less evidence one has for something the more faith it takes to believe it, therefore to say that someone's faith is fact based, is paradoxical.


  1. "We would surely agree that faith means holding a belief either contrary to or in the absence of knowledge....."

    how is this statement not compatible with my statement "faith means 100% blind faith"?

    "the less evidence one has for something the more faith it takes to believe it" seems like a true statement to me. we have varying degrees of certainty concerning in almost every thing that we believe.

    i believe the titanic went down. but i didnt see it go down.

    i believe that the lights were on at work yesterday. because i saw them.

    i live my life and interact with others as if the titanic sank, and i believe that it did. but the level of certainty doesnt rise to the level of my observation that the lights were on at work yesterday.

    you do not "know" chair will hold you. you believe it will. it probably will. you have a high degree of certainty that it will. you have expectation that it will. but this could be the time it breaks underneath you. so you have faith it will based on the prior "experiements" that you have conducted every other time you sat in it.

    is your official position is that you do not exercise faith in anyone anything @ anytime to conduct your life?

  2. ""the less evidence one has for something the more faith it takes to believe it" seems like a true statement to me."

    So therefore, are we better to believe something with more evidence than faith or with more faith than evidence? In an ideal world, where should we be on the sloping graph, top left or bottom right?

  3. i suppose we would have to define an ideal world.

  4. As we have established that to have more evidence means less reliance on faith, (and vice versa) then, generally speaking, is it better rely on faith or evidence when forming opinions?

    If the evidence points to X but you have faith in Y, which should take precedence in opinion forming?

  5. if theres sufficient evidence then zero faith is required i would think.

    i dont exercise any faith in the belief that my tv is 57 inches. im sitting right beside it. more faith is required for me to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. i do believe it, and i have some good evidence to those ends. again, evidence based faith. as i didnt observe it, unlike my television.

    im sort of repeating myself arent i... as humans we hold different levels of certainty for different things we believe. i think this is normal.

    if i could press you again, what is an ideal world?

  6. I think it is important to remember that the context of this discussion is Ross's book, and his point is that there IS evidence (and a lot more of it than many Christians believe becasue he uses the evidence of the universe) that raises the degree of certainty that God exists.

    It seems that if one wishes to say it takes too much "faith" to believe in God from a Christian perspective, surely it takes just as much "faith" to believe there is no God whatsoever unless you are willing to throw out billions of years of observable (or deduced) data, namely that something never comes from nothing.

    You mentioned that it could be charged that we have to use faith to believe the sun will rise tomorrow, but that using the word in this way removes any real meaning...the implication being that we have observed this enough times to believe it to be fact (we get this lecture a lot when it comes to evolution etc.), but I submit that based on this same criteria we can establish as fact that something never comes from nothing. Yet the materialist seem to be waiting for science to "prove" the exception to this rule...hmm.

  7. Cosmologists and physicists are continuing to work on investigating the universe.Watch this fascinating lecture by Lawrence Krauss:

    He is a Theoretical Physicist from Arizona University who honestly reviews the evidence we have on the structure and state on the universe as it is.

    As to what caused the universe? It is a nonsensical question. what time was before time? or why could the universe not always have existed? or why could universes not be caused regularly (as seems to be the case with quantum mechanics) popping out of nothing.

    To be honest, you are not postulating a cause, you are simply trying to create a space for your idea of god.

  8. To get back to faith - faith is a positivistic state, by that I mean that if one has faith in a proposition, then one has a belief that the outcome will somehow be favourable or positive. Why then would you posit that I have faith there is no God, I merely want my beliefs to conform to that which is true and so far I have seen no real evidence that there is the one you say. The burden of proof is on the one making the positive claim.

    One does not have faith that one's child will be killed by a doctor's negligence; one does not have faith that things will not work out alright, rather faith always implies a positive outcome. "I have faith that God will provide" etc

    I would say that faith is in essence wishful thinking, a belief that a hoped-for or longed-for state of affairs is actually the true state of affairs. To base the idea that a state of affairs is true or even likely to be true on faith, therefore, is open to all sorts of biases and failures; and therefore faith is not a virtue if one wants to know that which is more likely to be true over that which is less likely.

    Of course, like a twice a day correct broken watch, faith can lead to a correct answer but in the end even those relying on faith rely on evidence to verify it.

    Even Doubting Thomas was given evidence, yet he was admonished for requiring it.("Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed") And this is why I think religions get it wrong; by relying on Faith and promoting it as a virtue over evidence, they risk promoting things unquestioningly.

    To get back to Ross's book, if he has good evidence of what he is proposing then of course I can but accept it.

  9. I use the words "ideal world" in a colloquial sense, as an idiom like "all things being equal". I'm just trying to establish if we are right to try an minimize relying on faith to determine what is true whenever practically possible.

    I posit that we should, yet your religion seems to teach otherwise. (see comment above) I wanted to know where you stood.

  10. "As to what caused the universe? It is a nonsensical question..."

    How very convenient for you. Now that we have that cleared up we can move on to the questions that can be answered in a way that fits a naturalistic worldview. That you cannot see the irony here based on some of your first comments about Ross' preconceived ideology is baffling.

    "To be honest, you are not postulating a cause, you are simply trying to create a space for your idea of god."

    I agree that I am not postulating a cause (in this thread), but I also am not attempting to create a space for anything. The space exists based on the best evidence we have, namely that something does not come from nothing. I am no where near as smart as you, but I think the laws of thermodynamics may be germaine here, but I could be wrong on that one.

    My point is simply that you except the best evidence available (as you should) when it is convenient, but when it is not the question being asked becomes "nonsensical". I wonder how nonsensical the question would be if the best evidence we had starting tomorrow supported a universe that has somehow always existed or popped into existence from nothing. My guess is that you would no longer see this as a nonsensical question (as a matter of fact, I suspect many naturalist are waiting for just such an occurrence so they can move that question from the nonsense side of the board to the "we have naturalistic proof" side of the board), but rather one that can be answered from a naturalistic point of view, which is after all your only choice...otherwise it is nonsensical...see the circle we are going in? You have decided a priori that nothing can be answered via supernatural causes so any discussion is basically pointless.

    At this point you could say that I am in the exact opposite position. Perhaps you are right, I'm just not sure about that. I know that there are a lot of things that I used to consider a direct miraculous intervention of God that I now see as simply a function of the universe playing by the rules it was created by. That may not seem like much of a difference to you, but it gets me into a world of trouble.

    Frankly, when I sent you the book I did not have any delusions that you would read it and have some transformational experience, but I did think Ross presented things in a way that was much more academic and frankly, troublesome to other Christians, that it would get more than the usual responses from you...apparently not.

  11. ill try to get to watch the krauss vid. i think ive read his book about star trek physics.

    i believe you are in error concerning our burden of proof. and youve been in error for some time, as you and i have discussed this very topic.

    anyone who makes a truth claim has a burden of truth. we do, and so do you. you claim that God does not exist. prove it! i know you cannot. and you know i cannot prove Gods existance to a 100% degree of certainty.

    so at the very least you should call the proof burden a draw.

    "faith always implies a positivistic outcome" seems to be obviously false. i have faith the obama economic policy will have deleterious effects on the american economy despite the fact that he tells me otherwise, for instance.

    do you believe abiogenesis occured? if so does that involve any faith?

    a recent publication in astrobiology journal settles a decade old dispute with a complex very early life form winning the day. hugh ross creation model predicts this, evolutionary models do not. would that count as evidence?

    what is in nature is right. meaning it just is. its not really right or wrong in the naturalistic framework. which means this IS your ideal world, or the one where all things are equal. the current state of things, the distance to the sun, the corruption in government and the levels of faith used or not used appropriately or otherwise by anyone at anytime are just the way things are. for you to propose anything different is like a mouse complaining that cats like to eat him. too bad.

    weve got to clear this universe thing up. these are the assumptions im operating under. hubbles red shift discoveries in the early 20th century led to the dramatic conclusion that the universe is expanding and could be rewound to its beginning, namely a singularity exploding big bang.

    is this not still the predominant view? as every alternate theory, multi-universe, bubble universe oscillating and on and on are debunked they only serve to strengthen the case for the singularity. is this incorrect?

    assuming it is, why is this not the only view you espouse at all times? we tolerate charges of dogmatism, ignorance and believing provably false things, while you only follow science where it leads you. so when the universe origin topic arises, why is it always oscillating this and expanding that? again unless my information is incorrect these alternate proposals arent predicting anything and are not falsifiable.

    under these conditions, since you only follow the scientific evidence it seems you would be shouting about the beginning of the universe from the rooftops!

    clear this up once and for all will you?

  12. what is your opinion of this paragraph written by bill craig?

    "but philosophers of science during the second half of the 20th century came to realize that the whole scientific enterprise is based on certain assumptions that cannot be proved scientifically, but that are guaranteed by the Christian worldview, for example , the laws of logic, the orderly nature of the externbal world, the reliability of our cognitivve facilities in knowing the world, the validity of inductive reasoning, and the objectivity of the moral values used in science. I want to emphasize that science could not even exist without these assumptions, and yet these assumptions cannot be proven scientifically. they're philosophical assumptions, which are part and parcel to the Christian worldview. thus theology is an ally to science in that it can furnish a conceptual framework in which science can exist.....Christian religion historically furnished the conceptual framework in which modern science was born and nutured"

  13. I'd like to answer these points as best I can, but as ever in our back and forth discussions the subjects covered and the points raised increase exponentially with every response!

    Perhaps we can stick with the point of the post.


    Your own Bible explains faith as "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).

    Things hoped for? You hope Obama's policies will have deleterious effects on your economy?

    Of course there are other common definitions of faith as "expectation" or "trust" but the problem is that faith is promoted by religions as a virtue in determining reality and it this I cannot accept. 1bn Muslims would claim to believe just as strongly in faith as you. I say we should endeavour to minimise faith WHEREVER PRACTICALLY POSSIBLE (sorry for caps, no formatting in the text) as it providentially leads to more consistent, pragmatic and universal and practical conclusions. Do you disagree?

    I accept fully that at base we have to make decisions at some point without full knowledge and it would be useless to consistently check something if there is no expectation of it changing, but this is not faith, this is just practicality in our day to day world. I get on a plane with the expectation it won't crash but I accept there is a slight possibility it will. I suppose I have faith it won't but if it is going to crash then it makes no odds what I think.

    Would you want to stand trial as an innocent man where a jury has faith in your guilt? No you would want them to weigh the EVIDENCE, and rely on that. What other standard do we have?

    Craig's comment - What philosophers of science is he referring to? What are his sources for this comment? He is claiming that PoS (all of them? some? a pluralistic two?) now realise the Christian world view is necessary to do science - that is a huge claim. But none of his list DEPENDS on a Christian World view. The CWV may well include such beliefs but I can accept them or dismiss them without accepting Jesus' divinity - that is a complete non-sequitur.

    Arrow - I don't know what or how the universe started. That's it. I just don't accept a Jewish mountain god created it. It may have been some "thing" but I can't see how you can say that this "thing" also was conscious and is the thing you refer to when you talk about "god", why could it not have been one "thing" that had some universe creating properties we do not know about after all the Laws of thermodynamics would not necessarily have applied BEFORE the universal laws existed and therefore this point is moot.

    I have never said - "I believe there is no God" I will happily admit to not believing there is a God. There is a very important distinction here. I am an A-theist, I lack a belief. Prove to me there is no Santa Claus or Flying Spaghetti Monster? Are you therefore wrong to dismiss them?

  14. ArrowJ: "...You have decided a priori that nothing can be answered via supernatural causes..."

    Sean: "...why could it not have been one "thing" that had some universe creating properties we do not know about..."

    My feeling is that any discussion with you on these topics is not one of seeking THE truth, but rather seeking truth that fits within a naturalistic worldview for you (and you could claim) a supernatural worldview for me.

    For whatever reason(s) I have decided that everything that encompasses the human condition and our environment cannot be explained purely naturalistically, and you have decided that it can. While my attempts (and Adam's too I think) are designed to question this very foundational belief I don't think we ever get anywhere close to that point because this has already been decided and has become dogma for you. (Note that I do not subscribe to the notion that dogmas are always bad so don't read more into that statement that is there.)

    In the end these discussions may be nothing more than so many mental gymnastics for the sake of proving to each other how smart we all are...but maybe I'm just being too pessimistic?

  15. Surely if it has no "nature" (or at least one which conforms to the nature we inhabit) then ANYTHING goes?

    What method or tool can I use to differentiate imagined claims from the reality of a supernatural realm?

    I am genuinely interested in hearing your answer as it might help get at the nub of our differences.

  16. I don't think it will help. How can we discuss ways to differentiate between different interpretations of supernatural events or even different ways of determining if something is more than nature if that option is simply never a possibility.

    I could start doing some mental gymnastics about making logically and well informed decisions about supernatural choices, but we would just end up back where we started with you talking about spaghetti monsters.

    I don't think I'm smart enough to find a way to get you remotely close to really believing something outside of nature could explain anything in the universe.

    It seems that I am a #2 on Dawkins’ scale and you are a #6 or a #7. It is hard to get through 3-5/6 to find common ground.

    1. Strong theist, 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C. G. Jung, 'I do not believe, I know.'
    2. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. De facto theist. 'I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.'
    3. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. 'I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.'
    4. Exactly 50 per cent. Completely impartial agnostic. 'God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.'
    5. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. 'I don't know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be sceptical.'
    6. Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. 'I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.'
    7. Strong atheist. 'I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung "knows" there is one.'