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Utopia-Politics > Utopia Politics > The Duel
"Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence. The worst thing is that the rest of us are supposed to respect it: to treat it with kid gloves. ...

Faith is allowed not to justify itself by argument. Faith must be respected; and if you don't respect it, you are accused of violating human rights. ...

Well I don't [respect arguments from faith]. I will respect your views if you can justify them. but if you justify your views only by saying you have faith in them, I shall not respect them. "

Richard Dawkins, from a nameless debate lecture he gave in December 1994, taken from

Let the duel begin ;-)!


First, this should be called "thread", not "post".

Second, I should probably make myself clear on this issue. I am an atheist, and I realise that the burden of proof is on me. So first, I'll argue that being an agnostic is the most correct of all stances in this debate. And then I will argue that once you are an agnostic you can do God away with all the other (infinite amount of) things you can be agnostic about (like faeries and elves). In other words, the most practical choice is to be an atheist, just like you're not going to belive in invisible fire breathing dragons camping out in your garage.
(I didn't have time to reply today, and probably won't have time tomorrow. But I WILL reply. Eventually. Sorry about the delay, it's Christmas so we open early, close late, and I get to do both. Yay!)
Okay, I've got some time now. Sorry about not replying yesterday, but the storms here left the power out for nearly five hours. And since I opened today (in a mall, BTW, Purvis) I didn't want to risk sleeping in, so I stayed at my mom's place since they still had power up there, only she doesn't have a computer.

Now, then, at any rate, I have to ask what you mean by "faith."

You see, the standard definition I have for the word faith is "A subjective certainty about an objective uncertainty." For instance, you don't "have faith" that 2+2=4; you can see that two apples set next to two apples makes four apples.

What you do have faith about, however, are things that are and always will be objectively uncertain. For instance, was the universe created or did it just happen? We can't know objectively. It's not like proving a table was created... You aren't going to find tools just lying around and a whole bunch of nails on some planet. But before you say that we've found all sorts of scientific evidence to support claims that the universe is a causal accident, you have to remember that perhaps even evolution is equitable to a hammer as far as God is concerned. So, we cannot objectively determine the truth, as such, we do it subjectively. Humans need answers, and when we can't have them, we make them up.

Odd words to hear from a Catholic, eh? =)


Anyhow, aside from getting a clarification on what kind of faith we're talking about, it looks like Dawkins is making a "Candy is good" statement. That is, one that is just so obvious that it doesn't even really need saying. His problem seems to be with dogma, which is something we would have in common were we to meet.
Sorry for not replying, but my computer has gone kaput, so to speak, with the answer inside the HDD. Sheesh. Anyway, the good thing about these boards is that the threads don't get automatically deleted. I'll try to write an answer as soon as possible, maybe even today.

Haha! Here am I on my brand new Pentium MMX 166 MHz and ATI Rage Mach II 2 MB's! How cool is that! Well, at least it works (in color!), so I'll reply very soon.
OK, here it goes. Quite long, maybe I'll trim it a bit later.

I don't agree with you on the definition of faith, and in fact Dawkins defines faith in the first sentence from the quote. Here are some definitions from

(1) Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
(2) Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief. See Synonyms at trust.
(4) often Faith Christianity. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.

I think the common definition is somewhere between #2 and #4, and that's certanly the way I define it. Subjective certanity is not that, because what we think of as an objective reality is not actually 100% certain after all. Do you have faith that the sun will rise? Do you have faith that a stone released in mid-air will fall to the ground? Do you have faith that the earth really does revolve around the sun which in turn revolves around a massive black hole in the center of our galaxy? No. This is knowledge. For all practical reasons, it can be taken to be 100% certain. You may not be subjectively certain who or what broke the window, but will you theorize that it was a supernatural agent?

The question of how the universe was created is a question about the natural world. Unlike morals or taste in fashion or food, you can't blaim it on subjectivity. In the end, there is one definitive answer, regardless of your own beliefs.

First, we have no evidence to suggest that the universe was indeed created, or that anything in it requires more than just simple physical laws to work. Second, what is the point inventing all sorts of answers when in the extreme case you can say "I don't know"? After all, if naturalism accounts very well for the natural world, why go further? Unless you can come up with a better explanation. But God is not better - one of Dawkins' main arguments against such explanations is that it assumes the very thing it is trying to explain. You can, of course, say "God is uncomprehendable to a human", but that would be an arugment out of ignorance, as well as special pleading, and overall not a very convincing answer to the Big Questions. Science IS comprehendable, and by no means have we reached the limits of what we can understand or explore.

In other words (this is known as Occam's Razor) if you have 2 theories that explain the data equally well (theism doesn't, but let's suppose that it does) you should choose the simpler one. Now in such cases as "who/what stands behind the universe" there may not be enough evidence to judge, but there are enough evidence in such things as the origin of life.

To conclude, we can't even be certain that others exist for 100% certanity, and yet we don't debate that. There are things that are rational and logic to believe in, and other things that are better left as speculative and nothing more. God is one of those things. We don't need God to explain anything. The most intellectually honest answer to such questions would be "I don't know", which is like agnosticism. More to the point would be to concede that the hypothesis of God has taken too many blows to be allowed any respectable stance as far as explaining the natural world goes.

As for the argument of Dawkins, most creationists and religious people in general base their views - and their demands - on faith. Call it dogma if you will, but the definition from stands. Such arguments are plain wrong, and yet too many people fall for it. That is the point Dawkins made, and I think that it is very valid. These boards are not immune to arguments out of faith.

Dogma is like faith, it is something authoritative (did I spell that correctly?). It is to believe arbitrarily, if you will. I don't think that my opinions are arbitrary, and I don't consider them set in stone.
Firstly, faith and belief are related, but not equivocable. Taking something you said about the universe for instance, you said "In the end, there is one definitive answer, regardless of your own beliefs." That's exactly what I meant.

There IS one definitive answer. But as far as what that one answer is, is objectively uncertain. I know that my faith may be misplaced, that's exactly why it's faith. Faith is not a dogma, it's held in fear and trembling. In the face of constant adversity, it is constantly questioned and re-examined, which is the exact opposite of dogma. Dogma, when questioned by someone else, is defended, not refined.


Sorry, I'm way to hungry right now. I'll come back and post the rest. Sorry.
I don't mean to offend, but you eat A LOT. wink.gif

Also, check out my c00l new signature! If you remember, in our original debate I said that religion is altered by the times, and science alters the times. (Or something very similar.) I must say that I was very surprised (the good kind of surprise!) to see someone actually make that kind of argument (in our original discussion I couldn't argue for it very well).
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