Is faith a reliable path to knowledge?

Discussion in 'Comparative Religion' started by James R, Jul 23, 2015.

  1. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    I'm fine with that, even if others may consider it blasphemy in their tradition.

    Just being observant of my own when I can.
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  3. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Wisdom is in my understanding using knowledge to its best advantage

    And yes the best advantage may throw up some wanton results but I contend further knowledge is gained from observing the effects of the use of knowledge in this way

    Continued use of knowledge in such wanton ways turns into evil

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  5. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    But the Old Testament also states that Lillith spoke the unspeakable name and just "poofed" away, only to become a demon.
    So to speak the name God is risking God's wrath and instant non-existence and become a demon.
    Scary stuff that.
    But there is always a way around by not quite naming the unspeakable name..

    Later this was changed to : Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
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  7. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    I did not know that

    Thank you

    Guess I stumbled on the way NOT to be "poofed" away and become a demon.

    Actually that might be THE WAY to go

    Lying there on death bed

    making sure all relatives are gathered around

    speak the name

    poof I'm a demon

    Listen to the relatives argue

    "See I told you he was badass evil"

    Way to go

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  8. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    True, but is it not better to use the wisdom of; "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"
    I agree completely.
  9. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I'm going to disagree.

    Is faith a reliable path to knowledge?

    I'll say 'no'.

    I don't see faith as being a source of information. Nor does faith justify belief in whatever information we might have. So I don't think that faith is a 'path to knowledge' at all. It shouldn't be thought of as if it was an additional non-physical sense or some non-deductive form of inference.

    But... having said that, I do think that faith is a psychological requirement (not only in humans, but in all sentient life) that's necessary for living in the real world.

    We have faith in the existence and universal applicability of what we conceive of as 'laws of physics'. We have faith in logic and mathematics. Every time we board an airplane we are trusting our lives to that kind of faith.

    On a more common-sensical level, we have faith every time we take a step that the law of gravity hasn't suddenly been repealed.

    The way I see it, 'faith' is confidence and trust in the truth of things that remain logically and factually uncertain. We see some varieties of religion (the Protestant Christians particularly) elevating that to be the center of their whole system. I tend to think that this kind of religiosity abuses the idea of faith.

    But faith is both necessary and present everywhere else in life as well, even in science and mathematics. Basically, faith is what gives us our ability to live our lives in conditions of uncertainty. (Which is the human condition.) It's what pertains when we can't be absolutely sure, when all of the questions that arise haven't been satisfactorily answered, but when we have to plow ahead anyway and trust our lives to the incomplete and fallible beliefs that we do have.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  10. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    Please stop, you are making the typical equivocation fallacy of considering "tentative trust" which is the common meaning of the word with "absolute certainty in the absence of evidence" which is what it means in religion. Religious faith isn't confidence or trust.
  11. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Confusing faith with knowledge

    Two different concepts

    I KNOW law of gravity will not be repealed

    Those with FAITH in their god only hope he doesn't

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  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I'm just not accepting what I take to be a straw-man definition.

    That's not an equivocation, since I've used the same definition of 'faith' throughout:

    Faith is confidence and trust in the truth of things that remain logically and factually uncertain.

    I'll even go further and argue that 'absolute certainty in the absence of evidence' oftentimes isn't how even religious people understand 'faith'.

    Most religions don't place nearly the emphasis on faith that Christianity does. For example:

    And we're all familiar with the Kalama sutta which says in effect that no matter how many teachings you've heard or how many scriptures you've read, or how much faith you have in these things, you still don't really know until you've experienced for yourself. That's what all that Buddhist meditation stuff is about. But if knowing is seemingly being equated with enlightenment, then Buddhists must have enough confidence in the dhamma to start out and persevere on the path. That's the role of faith (saddha) in early Buddhism.

    From the point of view of religious philosophy, it's probably a mistake to try to understand the meaning and functioning of faith in terms derived exclusively from the most extreme forms of Protestant Christianity. That's what JamesR and you seem to want to do. It's why I think that kind of interpretation of faith creates a bit of a straw man.

    And that's what I'm arguing against.

    I think that trying to understand how people form beliefs and make commitments in the face of incomplete and uncertain evidencial support is an important topic in epistemology, since it seemingly applies not only to all of everyday life but to the foundations of science as well.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  13. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    You can make up your own definitions, but it's not the one we are most familiar with as represented by the largest religious group in the US. Faith isn't merely confidence and trust. In Christianity, it takes the place of evidence.

    11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
    Hebrews 11:1-6King James Version (KJV)
  14. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    The final answer to the OP question is; Only faith in the simple arithmetic of the exponential function is a reliable path to knowledge of the future.
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    With your definition of "faith", you're broadening the terms of the discussion beyond what I started with, which I set out in the early posts to this thread. For example, this is from the opening post:
    In terms of your definition, the faith that the sun will rise tomorrow is logically and factually uncertain, yet it remains an evidence-based, reasonable belief. So does the faith that your mother loves you. A discussion of this kind of faith is philosophically interesting, but it wasn't what I set out to examine in the current thread.

    This is a reply I made to you a few posts after the opening post:
    In particular, I had in mind the fact that if you ask theists "On a scale from zero to 100%, how confident are you that God exists?", many will unhesitatingly answer "100% - no doubt at all". There doesn't seem much room there for admitting that the existence of God is logically and factually uncertain. And, if the believer does admit that the existence of God is factually uncertain, then where does that 100% confidence level come from? On what basis does the believer make the leap from the intellectual appreciation that he doesn't know for sure that God exists, to the conclusion he expresses that he nevertheless believes that God's existence is a certainty?

    It seems to me that the believer is claiming to have gained further knowledge through "faith" - a mechanism that operates independent of reason. Otherwise, he would be content to say something along the lines of "I think there's a 70% chance that God is real", or something like that.
  16. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    I don't think any new knowledge has been gained for a thesist to leap from say 70% to 100%

    I would contend it has been at 100% all the time and might even strengthen to example 110% or some such nonsensical percentage over 100%

    Why would any thesist only claim to be 70% certain?

    Two reasons I can think of
    • They want to be seen as reasonably and appear to be looking for more evidence (which to my mind is silly because already NO evidence exists except in the thesist mind) and
    • admission of only being 70% certain gives us evil athesist a wedge to force them away from their beloved god
    I have put elsewhere the idea of why many thesist see athesist as a threat or opposition to their faith (it isn't).

    BUT athesist ARE a constant reminder of existing DOUBT about the existence of god

    Along the lines of if everyone agrees then it (gods existence) HAS to be true right?

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  17. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    After 29 pages, I wonder how different this conversation would have been if the OP question had been;
    "is science a reliable path to knowledge"?
  18. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    The original post was answered by one word NO

    Your suggested question would be answered by one word YES

    However from Post #572 it appears what is being asked for now is EXTRA faith

    After being in (as in example) having 70% faith would THAT 70% provide the EXTRA evidence to boost the belief up to 100%

    After that the answer is still NO

    Faith consisting of 70% of 0% knowledge

    cannot conjure even ½% extra knowledge let alone 30%

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  19. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I suggested that you created a rhetorical straw-man (what Exchemist would call an 'aunt Sally') in your initial post.

    It is if you accept the implicit premises. The whole idea that 'evidence' of things that happened in the past is even applicable to conclusions about events yet to come in the future needs justification. We also need some explanation of what the concept of 'reasonable' includes (and why).

    My worry is that defining 'faith' was you seemingly want to define it might prevent us from understanding how the idea is used in religion beyond a certain kind of hard-core Protestant Christianity (and its Islamic cousins, perhaps). This is the 'Comparative Religion' forum, right? That's why I brought up the Buddhist idea of saddha (faith) in my last post. I don't think that it can even be understood in the way you propose. I don't think that Christianity's so-called 'theistic proofs' and 'natural theology' make very much sense in those terms either, if theists are supposed to already possess a 100% certain source of extra-sensory religious information.

    I think that my definition provides a better conceptual template for understanding 'faith' cross-culturally, since various traditions' theologies of faith can be better classified and understood based on how they agree and disagree with it. Beyond that, it situates faith in a much broader cognitive psychology context.

    It also helps silence the contempt that atheists often have for the whole concept of faith. It challenges them to explain why they aren't guilty of the exact same things and challenges them to post something more than sarcastic one-liners.

    Using your solar example above, if somebody is planning to do something at sunrise tomorrow, and if you express some skeptical inductive doubts, they are apt to look at you kind of dismissively and say that they are 100% confident that the Sun is going to rise tomorrow morning. Of course whatever justification they produce for that belief will probably have significant defects. But yet, they don't harbor any doubts.

    From he or she being 100% willing to commit to it. People can't provide air-tight 100% justifications that the Sun will rise tomorrow, without leaving lots of unjustified loose-ends. They probably can't justify any of the rest of their beliefs (including their beliefs in science) to that (probably unrealistic) standard either. Yet they are still willing to organize their entire lives around confidence in those beliefs' truth.

    Even here on this board, I think that some of our theists have quite openly said that they can't justify their faith to an atheist's satisfaction. (Probably an impossible task.) But that doesn't mean that they are doubtful about their own religious beliefs.

    Laypeople, whether religious or atheist, often seem to me to confuse strength of epistemic justification for a belief with strength of commitment to that belief. They will often state their faith convictions in epistemic terms, by insisting that they know that their religious beliefs are true, when they really mean that they are fully committed to the truth of those beliefs. That can lead to abuses of the idea of faith, as we see in some varieties of Protestant Christianity and elsewhere.

    I think that it's a mistake to confuse confidence in one's commitments with the strength of the epistemic and logical justification of those commitments. It's even worse to imagine faith as if it was an occult spiritual sense of some sort that provides us with information that we wouldn't otherwise have.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2017
  20. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Lets cut through all the cowpats which are being stepped in

    People have faith in god because they are Cowpat scared of going to hell

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  21. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    But mathematics and their ability to project future results is not subjective.

    I can understand scripture very well if taken metaphorically. But Aesop's fable of the "fox and the crow" also contains truth.
    A very good moral message, but does anyone believe that a fox and a crow can actually speak?

    I find much value in reading scripture, but I don't take it literally. To me, scripture is a big fable, written by non-scientists, but containing some valuable wisdom.
    I see the metaphor of God as nothing but an ignorant and therefore innocent attempt to explain reality in accordance to what was known about the miracle of unknown (at that time) natural mathematical functions, such as Adam eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge (evolving a sophisticated brain) and the possible power it gives us to manipulate nature's balance, to our possible demise.
  22. river

    The Tree of knowledge is not our demise but our extention of our existence .

    Without knowledge we are no better than the dinosaurs .
  23. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    IMO, that's debatable, the dinosaurs ruled the earth for hundreds of millions years and their demise was purely accidental.

    Modern man with our great brains has managed to create an existential threat to ourselves in a few centuries.

    Intelligence is a double edged sword. We think we can rule the world, but in the end it will be Mother Nature that determines our fate if we don't obey the rules, which is also part of the warning in the biblical metaphor. The moment we divorced ourselves from natural processes we became responsible for our own future. That is explained in the metaphor of being banned from Eden.

    Even an atheist (such as myself) can gain knowledge of moral responsibilities that comes with greater intelligence and the ability to shape rather than adapt and use the resources of our ecosystem wisely.

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