The Ully-Verse

From quantum stuff to space stuff and lots of in between stuff.

Faith and Belief...some differences

Faith is a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Typically when we talk about faith we are referring to religious faith, i.e., a belief in the existence of God and/or certain attributes about God. (There are some who would claim to have proof, or at least evidence, of God’s existence, but let’s not quibble here; there are plenty of people who have faith in God’s existence without having seen that proof or evidence, and it’s that kind of faith that I’m talking about in this post.)

In contrast, belief (as I am defining it for purposes of this post) is a conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenonespecially when based on examination of evidence . Thus, belief is an opinion held as the end result of critical thinking.

There is nothing wrong with having faith, as long as you recognize it for what it is: a belief that is unsupported by any proof. And there is certainly nothing wrong with having belief that is based on sound critical thinking applied to evaluating the evidence.

However, when people confound their faith and their beliefs, problems often arise. Faith and belief usually don’t mix very well.

Here’s why.

In order to effectively apply critical thinking and the scientific method, you must adopt the habits of a good critical thinker: intellectual humility (an awareness of and willingness to admit to the prejudice of one’s viewpoint and the limits of one’s knowledge and abilities), intellectual courage (a willingness to challenge one’s own beliefs), intellectual empathy (ability and willingness to examine issues from others’ viewpoints in an open-minded manner), fair-mindedness (treating all viewpoints equally without regard for one’s own feelings or vested interests), and so on.

But if you use a faith-based belief as the basis for subsequent critical thinking and the scientific method, then ultimately your whole line of reasoning — no matter how logically well-formed and evidence-based it may be — is fundamentally flawed from a critical thinking standpoint, because it rests on a root assertion for which there is no evidence. And worse still: if you are unwilling to yield on your faith-based assumption regardless of evidence to the contrary, then you’ve thrown quite a lot of critical thinking — intellectual humility, intellectual courage, fair-mindedness, and so on — right out the window.

Take, for example, the strict creationists who believe in a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, i.e., that God made all of creation over a 7-day period some ~6,000 years ago. As you can read about in gory detail here (among other places), strict creationists seek to refute evolution. And their root assertion is based purely on faith, with no evidence to support it and a huge amount of evidence to the contrary. They are so adamant in their faith-based belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis that any evidence in support of evolution is immediately viewed as wrong; it’s just a matter of finding out why it’s wrong. This attitude is utterly inconsistent with critical thinking and the scientific method.

I could argue that the same holds for a certain segment of the “global warming alarmist” community, i.e., those who believe in man-made global warming as a matter of faith, and automatically seek to discount any evidence to the contrary. Really this is just a combination of worldview (see, e.g., my post on global warming and socialism), wishful thinking, and the confirmation/ disconfirmation bias working together. (And in all fairness, the same could be said of a certain segment of the “global warming denier” community.)

Bottom line: Whenever you are unwilling to critically examine one of your beliefs (whether faith-based or not), you CANNOT, by definition, be engaged in critical thinking.

Though...we must start to look at the elimination of belief also. See my next note for that.


Post a Comment

Who Are You... Ullyses?

I am a polymath, universalist, critical thinker, and self declared anarcho-pacifist. I do my best as a teacher and I'm kind of a clumsy farmer.

What do you enjoy doing, Ullyses?

I really enjoy writing, even though it is most difficult for me, similar to how I feel about being an artist.

What are you doing for work these days?

I am trying to find a name for what I am doing, its an amalgam of social networking, storytelling, and exploiting technology for the purpose of inspiring others to fall in love with an idea and or product. Like a digital cupid with techno-ninja tendencies.

You seem like you have had an interesting life, Ullyses, tell me more about that.

I have had some the most epic journeys one could imagine. I lived in Africa helping train doctors how to treat AIDS, managed a Chinese karaoke bar, backpacked for a year all over Afica, wandered India, was a Buddhist Monk, starting businesses all over the globe, fell in love, lost everything, gained everything and lost it again, have been loved and hated and admired and despised. I have experienced what it means to be human.

You seem awesome.

I am.

Recent posts