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The Usefulness of Faith
Posted: 12 June 2009 01:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 09 June 2009 11:50 PM
Keep The Reason - 09 June 2009 07:40 PM
Antisocialdarwinist - 08 June 2009 09:06 PM

Keep The Reason believes in growing up as a species.  Again, that’s his own personal preference—nothing wrong with that—but he’s taking it on faith that growing up as a species is “better” than believing in an imaginary God.

I disagree with this interpretation, because it’s not just a “belief” that we are growing up as a species, it’s clearly a demonstrable fact that we are progressing from a more primitive to a more complex state as humans and society evolve.

Forgive me if it seems like I’m picking nits here, KTR, but that’s not at all what you originally said, which was:

Keep The Reason - 08 June 2009 05:45 PM

How are we going to grow up as a species if we are forever swathed in the security blanket of ignorance, which is precisely where faith leads us?

Asking, “How are we going to grow up?” is not the same as claiming, “It’s clearly a demonstrable fact that we are progressing.”  The former implies that growing up is desirable, and that faith is preventing us from achieving it.  The latter is just an objective observation.

Here’s an analogy.  Suppose I asked, “How are we going to recover from this recession if the government keeps digging us deeper into debt?”  Would that be the same as stating, “It’s clearly a demonstrable fact that the economy is recovering?”  By your interpretation, it would be.

It’s not the clearly demonstrable fact that we’re growing up as a species that I claim you’re taking on faith, it’s the belief that growing up as a species is better than not growing up as a species.  Wouldn’t you agree?

I don’t know which is “better”.  From my modern perspective today, I’m glad that it’s not likley I’ll die from an infected tooth or a scratch like our distant ancestors did with consistent regularity.

On the other hand, they were healthier because they didn’t eat the polluted foods we eat today.  Most of the time, I think growing up is “better”.  But it’s neither here nor there if it’s better or worse—the fact is, it IS happening.  And just like a child has to accept the obligations maturity forces on them as they grow older and more knowledgeable, so do humans collectively.

200 years ago, nations endorsing slavery were not only tolerated, it was the norm and it was a thriving business.  Today, a nation that would endorse legalized slavery would be a global pariah.  Surely that’s better for those who would be the potential slaves, and surely it’s an ethic that is better than one that endorses the misery slavery brings.

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Posted: 12 June 2009 01:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 11 June 2009 12:14 PM
Salt Creek - 11 June 2009 10:48 AM

There are two possibilities for your defense of maintaining a stake in a population of irrational thinkers.

I’m not defending the belief that a population of irrational thinkers is more desirable than a population of rational thinkers.  My position is that neither belief (rational > irrational, or irrational > rational) is supported by logical proof or material evidence, and therefore both are based on faith.

Ok, I know where you’re going with this.  What you are describing is the difference between the ultimate and the penultimate.  The ultimate is the lowest plank wherein one cannot use logic but instead must assume logic is a priori in effect, which is a paradox.  I.e., you cannot assume your conclusion (logic) in order to prove your conclusion (logic).

A philosophical argument can be made that we cannot ultimately know if we are real or if we are merely brains in a jar.  This is the idea upon which “The Matrix” is based.  It’s not a resolvable question, because we have no way of externally identifying where we are at the lowest level of any established heirarchy.

Thus, are we indivduals living in a logical world with specific laws that consistently work?  Or are we brains in a jar that only believe we live in a logical world with specific laws that consistently work?  We cannot prove we are ambulatory individuals or brains in a jug that think we are ambulatory individuals, or the musings of a god who makes us think we are abulatory (etc).

We actually function on the penultimate level of reality—where we assume something—theists assume an a priori  god-ordered universe, whereas reasonists assume that logic is a priori in effect.  And so we have to have “faith” that one or the other is actually in effect.

I say that reasonist wins by default because god-assertions require logic to be assumed once more.  Law of Identity for one—god either is god or is not—needs to be understood and assumed as valid before one can even categorize ther label itself.

It’s a fun excercise, but (pen) ultimately, I conclude (or believe) logic exists a priori and does not need to be proven.

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Posted: 12 June 2009 03:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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unknown zone - 12 June 2009 03:32 PM

If it’s not necessarily religious faith, then we can agree that the word faith is used with varying definitions. To me, that would signal the end of the argument of this thread. Right?

To me, that would signal that you haven’t been paying attention.  Thalamus stated in his opening post, ”If a belief in, say pink unicorns, turns out to actually make people feel good…” which obviously has nothing to do with religious faith; and I even defined faith for you in response to your rather snide little comment (“ASD, you need to invest in a really nice dictionary…”).  Are you just now figuring out that what we’re talking about isn’t necessarily religious faith?

unknown zone - 12 June 2009 03:32 PM

Also, I hope you’re not claiming that psychopaths and nihilists are unable to have the types of “faith” that are defined so as to exclude religious characteristics. Can you clarify?

First, I don’t think faith that’s “not necessarily religious faith” is “defined so as to exclude religious characteristics.”  Religious faith is a subset of faith.  The set of all unicorns that aren’t necessarily pink doesn’t exclude pink unicorns.  Pink unicorns are a subset of all unicorns.

And don’t worry:  your hope is realized.  I never claimed that psychopaths and nihilists are unable to have faith—religious or otherwise.  I brought them up as examples of people who don’t believe in anything.  Whether they’re unable or simply choose not to believe in anything seems irrelevant to me.  I’m not sure where you’re going with that.

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Do-gooding is like treating hemophilia—the real cure is to let hemophiliacs bleed to death, before they breed more hemophiliacs. -Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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Posted: 12 June 2009 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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eudemonia - 12 June 2009 03:35 PM

There is a difference between believing in something and accepting something.

I don’t believe in science. I accept the discoveries and findings once they have been through the scientific method.

Agreed.  No one is accusing you of believing “in” science or evolution.

But it might be possible to believe “in” Darwinian evolution, if you used it as a guide to behavior.  You might argue that the Nazis or the Social Darwinists of turn-of-the-century America believed “in” Darwinian evolution, or at least their convoluted understanding of it.

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Do-gooding is like treating hemophilia—the real cure is to let hemophiliacs bleed to death, before they breed more hemophiliacs. -Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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Posted: 12 June 2009 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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The OP’s question is remarkably like the main question in the movies “The Matrix”. The character Cypher wants to go back to the matrix, and prefers to be a human battery in the real world while believing in the matrix world that he is a rich, powerful, happy guy rather than being awake with no delusions but living like a fugitive in the real world.

Some people needs to swallow the blue pill of dreams and fantasy to be happy, others are able to swallow the red pill of reason and rationality and still be able to live a wholesome life.

MH

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Posted: 12 June 2009 04:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 12 June 2009 07:08 PM
unknown zone - 12 June 2009 03:32 PM

If it’s not necessarily religious faith, then we can agree that the word faith is used with varying definitions. To me, that would signal the end of the argument of this thread. Right?

To me, that would signal that you haven’t been paying attention.  Thalamus stated in his opening post, ”If a belief in, say pink unicorns, turns out to actually make people feel good…” which obviously has nothing to do with religious faith; and I even defined faith for you in response to your rather snide little comment (“ASD, you need to invest in a really nice dictionary…”).  Are you just now figuring out that what we’re talking about isn’t necessarily religious faith?

I see faith in pink unicorns as resembling religious faith more than typical pedestrian sorts of faiths that are not ordinarily contested. I’ll admit to being a bit confused at this point.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 12 June 2009 05:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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unknown zone - 12 June 2009 08:15 PM

I see faith in pink unicorns as resembling religious faith more than typical pedestrian sorts of faiths that are not ordinarily contested. I’ll admit to being a bit confused at this point.

I think you’re right in that there are two kinds of “faith”.  One is the faith you put ihjnto something that hasn’t yet been proven—like you have faith that your car will start of the new doctor you are going to for an exam is actually a doctor.

As evidence of these events turn out positively and mount up, your faith moves to “trust”—a grounded belief in the validity of something.  This kind of faith is useful.  Otherwise, if you couldn’t put some tentative trust out there over something before you acted, you’d be paralyzed and never do anything.

This is completely different from religious faith which is a demand that one suspends all critical faculties and simply accept an assertion as true based upon unsubstantiated authority.  This kind of faith—be it in a theistic paradigm or a secular one—is extremely dangerous.

Is that kind of faith then useful?  I suppose to a megalomaniacal dictator such a faith is “useful”.  But it isn’t good, or smart.

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Posted: 12 June 2009 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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Keep The Reason - 12 June 2009 09:25 PM

I think you’re right in that there are two kinds of “faith”.  One is the faith you put into something that hasn’t yet been proven—like you have faith that your car will start or the new doctor you are going to for an exam is actually a doctor.

That’s helpful, KTR. I moved last December and made an appointment with a local dentist to replace a filling I’d lost. I wasn’t sure how things would go, but I hoped that the new guy would be as competent as my old dentist. Is that faith? It doesn’t seem so to me. But your example of someone actually being a doctor does seem like a type of faith.

As it turned out, I still don’t doubt that the new dentist had a license and the proper credentials, even though he proved himself to be entirely incompetent at numbing the lower jaw. Needless to say, I’ll now very happily drive the 15 miles to my old dentist any time I need work of any kind.

But even lacking doubt about someone’s credentials is faith of a very different sort than religious faith in the context of the new dentist I described, because it’s very unlikely for a dentist in Santa Rosa, CA who has receptionists, assistants and D.D. partners working in nicely equipped dental offices not to be an actual dentist. Of course it’s possible that he’s only an exceptionally ambitious barber or butcher who managed to forge a diploma, etc. But extremely unlikely.

The degree of difference between religious faith and faith that a neighborhood dentist is in fact an authentic dentist seems enormous to me. Therefore, doesn’t it seem that at least three categories of faith could be arrived at?

Maybe something like:
1) faith in miraculous deities, 2) faith that Elvis is still alive or that unicorns could be found somewhere on Earth or perhaps that Planet Earth is flat, and 3) faith that a local dentist working in a respectable office is in fact a legitimate dentist or that your car will start, assuming it has a history of reliability.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 12 June 2009 09:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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Keep The Reason - 12 June 2009 05:28 PM

Ok, I know where you’re going with this…

That was very nicely written.  Now I feel like I finally understand all that stuff the Architect said in the second episode of The Matrix.

In order to believe that we’re living in the Matrix, you have to also believe that a Matrix exists.  There’s no way to disprove the existence of a Matrix, of course, but nor is there any material evidence to support it.  It’s the same as believing in God:  since you have no material evidence of God’s existence, the best you can do is claim that I can’t disprove it.  Same argument for pink unicorns. 

I don’t think the examples of having faith in your new dentist or your car starting really apply, because you at least have material evidence that your new dentist is in fact a dentist (a license and credentials) or that your car will start (it always has before). 

To illustrate this, suppose you went to your new dentist’s address and found him working out of the bathroom at the public library?  Then, I think, it would require faith to believe he was really a dentist.  Or what if your car had never ever started before?  Believing it’s going to start this time would take faith.   

But what about believing in something like, “Do No Harm?”  The universe provides no more material evidence that you should do no harm than it does for the existence of the Matrix or God or pink unicorns. 

What about believing that your life has purpose?  There’s no material evidence for that, either.  You could, of course, simply assign some purpose to your life: to be happy, for example.  But if the purpose of life is to be happy, does it matter how you fulfill it? 

Most people here would probably agree it does matter, that achieving happiness through believing in pink unicorns is the wrong way to go about it, and that the right way is through the rational mindset, or something similar.  But where’s the proof or evidence of that?

Now, it may be that I’m at a disadvantage here because I’ve never believed in God (or the Matrix or pink unicorns).  My only experience with believing in God is second hand.  The people I know who do believe in God seem happy enough.  But it’s possible that if I’d had the misfortune of believing in God myself, I might have found material evidence against said belief leading to happiness.

Then again, it could be that you ex-believers are a little like ex-smokers or ex-drinkers, who take an exceptionally hard stance against their old bad habits and perceive them as worse than they actually are.

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Do-gooding is like treating hemophilia—the real cure is to let hemophiliacs bleed to death, before they breed more hemophiliacs. -Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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Posted: 12 June 2009 09:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 12 June 2009 01:18 AM

 

Now, before you accuse me of being a nihilist myself, let me assure you that I do believe in the Goodness of Life and the Golden Rule and all that crap.  But I also recognize that since there is no logical proof or material evidence to support my belief in those things, that I’m taking them on faith.  Hence the usefulness of faith.

It’s interesting that you would employ “logical proof” and “material evidence” (the tools of science and rationality) as your measuring stick. The implication being that logical proof or material evidence would influence and justify your beliefs. Hence the usefulness/desireability of reason over faith.

Furthermore, I’m reasonably certain that if you look deep enough inside yourself, you’ll find—despite your claim that faith is a mind disease—that you too believe in something for which there is no logical proof or material evidence.  Because you don’t strike me as a psychopath or a nihilist

.


To the extent that claims of existent beings/things are being made (pink unicorns were used by the original poster), those that insist on believing in those things (and for example, leprechauns, ghosts, pink unicorns, fairies, demons, Gods, etc.) despite a lack of evidence, or evidence to the contrary, are delusional. “Faith” that these things exist is therefore an expression of delusion. The state of delusion is an unhealthy and undesireable state of mind. When one’s physical body is unhealthy, it is diseased/broken to some degree. Thus the analogy of faith to a mind disease.

And I can’t think of anything that I “believe in” despite a lack of evidence, or evidence to the contrary.

Ron

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Posted: 13 June 2009 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 13 June 2009 01:01 AM

In order to believe that we’re living in the Matrix, you have to also believe that a Matrix exists.  There’s no way to disprove the existence of a Matrix, of course, but nor is there any material evidence to support it.  It’s the same as believing in God:  since you have no material evidence of God’s existence, the best you can do is claim that I can’t disprove it.  Same argument for pink unicorns.

This area seems to be an ongoing issue of fascination for you, ASD. It’s as though you took an acid trip years ago and never quite forgot about it. You recovered certainly, and now follow along with human life just like those around you, going to work, shopping, interacting with your family and friends, etc. I’m assuming this only for the sake of discussion. It very well may be that you’ve never taken any hallucinogen.

But to continue my guess: A fascinating insight grabbed your attention during your trip. Something to the effect of, “Human nature is a vast and ridiculous illusion that, at the foundation of meaning and structure, is so stupid that I can’t believe we continue on with things as we have.” It may have been such a powerfully felt insight that it changed certain attitudes of yours, even after you came off the trip. Maybe you tried to explain it to someone or maybe you never did because you knew that it was so private and powerful that no one would ever really understand what you were trying to say because everyone around you is intensely involved in an anti-trip of sorts. A cover-up of reality. The anti-trip, so to speak, is a powerful antidote to the fact that we have only primitive-primate primordial nature at our core, not human nature as we think we know it. We belong in the trees, developing or enjoying our limb-climbing and vine-swinging skills, not sitting around in carpeted, walled buildings doing things that are antithetical to meaning that has any hint of connection to what occurs in nature. We’ve forsaken nature and convinced ourselves that we’re all little deities of a sort.

I apologize in advance if I have come no where near your actual story, ASD. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I haven’t reached it at all. It’s just that I find myself wondering about how it is that your arguments over the years have always seems so slippery. Please just consider my little stab at things to be a metaphorical attempt at a guess at what goes on in your head. It seems as though you lack some trait that allows you to understand something about the game of being a human being.

The whole endeavor is only a game. No thinking person really assumes that the things we commonly take part in make any sense whatsoever in any literal way. We think and act according to all the little programs we’ve inherited by our parents and their parents. I’ve never seen the Matrix so I can only guess at how that movie has managed to inspire so many people to talk and write. But I have noticed since a young age that nothing in the world of humanity makes a whit of sense if you look at it closely enough. People who argue against the stupidity and violence of religion are only arguing for a life of game playing that aligns with their physical comfort. For me, at least, that is the final floor of what is real and what makes sense. All the little inanities of human life only go towards propping up the game we play—the pretense that we really know something solid, beneficial, actual.

Maybe it’s true that most people never quite understand this game-nature of things, and your slippery questions are serving them somehow. But again, I really am only guessing about what is in your head.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 13 June 2009 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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‘No one is accusing you of believing “in” science or evolution.’

Ah… not so. The religious faithful all the time tell me that I have to have just as much ‘faith’ to believe in evolution, as they have to have to believe in God. They are of the opinion that evolution and science are just other religions based on faith.

However, as I reiterated before, they do not understand that ‘faith’ in is nothing more than a combination of hope and gullibility, where as ‘acceptance’ is knowledge, understanding, reason and probability.

Thus science and atheism are not based on faith or believing in anything, per se. They are based on knowledge, understanding and acceptance.

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‘Every reflecting mind must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity’

‘If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature destroys them’

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Posted: 13 June 2009 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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unknown zone - 13 June 2009 09:27 AM

It seems as though you lack some trait that allows you to understand something about the game of being a human being.

This one made my day (so far). If I end up satisfied with it at the end of the day, maybe I’m closer to being true to my ground-ape nature.

Among the games that human beings play is the one being played here. In it, some people, equipped with not much more than a bit of training in rhetoric, can pretend to themselves that they are holding their own in an intellectual discussion. How successful one is in this can be detected in the actual liveliness of the idea after it is recorded in a forum database. ASD can post as many rectally-extracted assertions as he wishes, and gain as much notoriety as he can, but simply being a nuisance is not, in the end, “holding one’s own”.

The way that ASD ends up “holding his own” most readily is by putting his hand down his pants. In the figurative sense, of course.

In fact, I bring a lot more to bear on discussions of “the usefulness of faith” than merely training in rhetoric. There are times when knowledge of chemistry and physics and biology can be very pertinent to the question of “the usefulness of faith”. Such concepts as “efficiency of thermal processes” are germane to the problem. One might consider the wasted motion of faith with its supposed “usefulness”, which no one who propounds it seems to be able really to articulate. The wasted motion is represented, in a very clear way, by the sheer number of printed pages of theology. You can’t eat theology.

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Posted: 13 June 2009 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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‘There are times when knowledge of chemistry and physics and biology can be very pertinent to the question of “the usefulness of faith”.’

Goddamnit put Physics first!! All the arrows point down Salt, you know that!

Faith, and it’s usefulness, is nothing more than a quark gone awry! Why does everybody pretend otherwise? wink

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‘Every reflecting mind must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity’

‘If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature destroys them’

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Posted: 13 June 2009 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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Then again, it could be that you ex-believers are a little like ex-smokers or ex-drinkers, who take an exceptionally hard stance against their old bad habits and perceive them as worse than they actually are.

I think you’re on to something there ASD

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“If you desire to be good, begin by believing that you are wicked.” -Epictetus

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