Thursday, December 6, 2012

Faith vs Trust

There is an important distinction to make here. Trust is not the same thing as faith. For example, I place trust in science. That trust is always provisional, always conditional, and scales up or down based on the evidence presented and the confidence I have in it. That is not faith. It is not blind or absolute or unquestioning or unwavering. It is not strongest in the absence of evidence but instead would diminish.

Although not synonymous, faith and trust do nevertheless share something in common. They are both ways of establishing standards for deciding what to believe and how to evaluate claims about reality. They just go about this very differently, leaving faith to be little different from credulity and gullibility. As such, I do not value it or venerate it or respect it. I consider it potentially harmful, inherently misguided, and always inferior as an analytical tool.

Now that does not mean that I consider people of faith to be inferior. A person can have a bad way of doing something, that doesn’t automatically make the person bad. And just because I do not value faith does not mean I don’t value the person holding it. A person has intellect, feelings, dignity and is entitled to respect. Concepts, ideas, and beliefs do not and are not so entitled.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gaps

There are a multitude of questions about the nature of the universe that I do not know the answers to. I am not alone in this. In fact I suspect that humanity will never know every answer because as we learn, we uncover more questions. So there will forever be gaps in our knowledge, areas of ongoing research, or questions we do not yet have the technology to explore.

However our current inability to understand some facet of the universe does not cast the whole endeavor of verifiable, scalable, human understanding into doubt. Nor should the rest of us take seriously someone who chooses to fill those gaps with untestable fantasies or mythology, even if those ideas can't be definitely ruled out.

We can't rule out invisible pink unicorns. We can't rule out a tiny teapot in orbit around the Sun, between Earth and Mars. Belief in either proposition is unreasonable, silly even. Those ideas are unsupported by evidence and inconsistent with the knowledge we currently have. Not all ideas are created equal or should be treated as though they have the same chance of being correct.