Thought of the day

To lack faith does not mean to have 100% certainty.

Advertisements

12 Responses

  1. Not having 100% certainty in what?

  2. Faith is an overloaded word; it has at least two meanings.

    1 – Reasonable certainty based on experience. For example, I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow , based on my observation that it has done every day for over fifty years in my experience (apart from one day when I was under anesthesia in hospital and didn’t wake up; I can’t be sure the sun actually came up that day).

    2 – Belief without observable evidence (and often in direct contradiction with observations). This is the kind of faith that we atheists lack, and my guess is it’s the kind of faith referred to in today’s thought. And as the thought says, just because someone lacks this kind of faith does not (or at least should not) imply that we have certainty in some area. For example, I have a friend who believes quite strongly that UFOs are alien spacecraft and that said aliens visit Earth regularly. There is no compelling evidence; he has faith. I do not. Does that mean I’m certain he’s wrong? No, it doesn’t. He *could* be right – I think it’s highly unlikely, but if some compelling evidence showed up it could change my mind. Same thing goes for gods and other supernatural entities – no compelling evidence, no faith, but that could change in the light of new evidence – hence no claim to 100% certainty.

  3. So if someone believes for example that life originated from non-living chemicals, despite there being no conclusive evidence that this is so, does a person who has this belief have faith?

  4. It means to mean you don’t have a certainty that those who have a faith…like I’m certain there is a God and if I’m good I’ll be re-united in an afterlife with loved ones.

    I’m totaly without this kind of faith but am uncertain of answers to the bigger question of why we are all here in the first place.

  5. I understand the ‘totally without faith’ position, which sounds a lot like agnosticism, however I’m wondering for someone who does believe a position like the one mentioned above (about the origin of life), does that constitute faith?

  6. Not quite, in that case. If they believe, they believe. If they have faith, they have faith. Since you say the person believes, then they don’t have faith – they believe.

    As for this specific question, saying that life did, or did not, originate from non-living chemicals is a bit like saying that my car originated (or did not) from non-moving materials.

    In any case, despite there being no conclusive evidence, our knowledge of chemistry, biology, etc. makes life from non-life the best logical explanation unless, of course, you allow for a supernatural origin. Or to put another way, there probably weren’t “living” chemicals on Earth when it was formed, except perhaps some simple chemicals that have been detected in space, such as alcohols, hydrocarbons and formaldehyde, and they probably wouldn’t have lasted long in the conditions we’re reasonably certain existed at that time. However we know there are such chemicals now. Hence, somewhere between then and now, “living” chemicals came into existence (or if you like, the first life appeared).

  7. Not quite, in that case. If they believe, they believe. If they have faith, they have faith. Since you say the person believes, then they don’t have faith – they believe.

    Hmmm…but you said faith was, “Belief without observable evidence” – if someone believes life originated from chemical processes unguided by intentional design or purpose, and there is no observable evidence that this is so, wouldn’t that, by your own definition, be ‘faith’?

    As for this specific question, saying that life did, or did not, originate from non-living chemicals is a bit like saying that my car originated (or did not) from non-moving materials.

    Well I was trying to be brief but I will be more specific for the sake of clarity:

    So if someone believes for example that life originated from chemicals process unguided by intentional design or purpose, does a person who has this belief have ‘faith’?

    In any case, despite there being no conclusive evidence, our knowledge of chemistry, biology, etc. makes life from non-life the best logical explanation unless, of course, you allow for a supernatural origin. Or to put another way, there probably weren’t “living” chemicals on Earth when it was formed, except perhaps some simple chemicals that have been detected in space, such as alcohols, hydrocarbons and formaldehyde, and they probably wouldn’t have lasted long in the conditions we’re reasonably certain existed at that time. However we know there are such chemicals now. Hence, somewhere between then and now, “living” chemicals came into existence (or if you like, the first life appeared).

    So, as articulated, have a belief about the origin of life for which you admit there is no conclusive evidence. There is also no ‘observable’ evidence in that we have never observed the process you detail to occur. So accepting that idea would be an act of faith, would it not?

  8. Hmmm…but you said faith was, “Belief without observable evidence” – if someone believes life originated from chemical processes unguided by intentional design or purpose, and there is no observable evidence that this is so, wouldn’t that, by your own definition, be ‘faith’?

    True enough. However, you say that there is no observable evidence; I think it’s highly unlikely that there was life on Earth 4.5 billion years ago (red-hot ball of molten rock: not the best conditions for life) and we know that there is life now. That in itself is evidence that life originated at some point, and as I pointed out our understanding of chemistry etc. supports the likelihood that this was a natural, unguided process.

    So if someone believes for example that life originated from chemicals process unguided by intentional design or purpose, does a person who has this belief have ‘faith’?

    I would say yes – faith based on observable evidence (no life then, life now, our understanding of physical processes).

    So, as articulated, have a belief about the origin of life for which you admit there is no conclusive evidence. There is also no ‘observable’ evidence in that we have never observed the process you detail to occur. So accepting that idea would be an act of faith, would it not?

    But as I said, there is evidence. It may not be conclusive (if it was conclusive, it wouldn’t just be evidence, it would be proof) but it is observable (my cat is evidence that there’s life on Earth). So really, accepting the idea is an act of faith – but faith based on some evidence rather than none at all, and on some understanding of how the real world works.

  9. True enough. However, you say that there is no observable evidence; I think it’s highly unlikely that there was life on Earth 4.5 billion years ago (red-hot ball of molten rock: not the best conditions for life) and we know that there is life now. That in itself is evidence that life originated at some point, and as I pointed out our understanding of chemistry etc. supports the likelihood that this was a natural, unguided process.

    Well sure, and I think there is pretty round agreement that life originated; had it not it would be unlikely we would be discussing it. :)

    I would say yes – faith based on observable evidence (no life then, life now, our understanding of physical processes).

    So then, just to be clear, faith can be based on observation?

    But as I said, there is evidence. It may not be conclusive (if it was conclusive, it wouldn’t just be evidence, it would be proof) but it is observable (my cat is evidence that there’s life on Earth). So really, accepting the idea is an act of faith – but faith based on some evidence rather than none at all, and on some understanding of how the real world works.

    Well yes, we all agree life exists – but if I conclude based on my observation of life and how the ‘real world works’ that intention and design were necessary to life’s inception, wouldn’t that too be ‘faith based on some evidence’?

    By the way, thank you for your even-handed and thoughtful responses.

  10. So then, just to be clear, faith can be based on observation?

    Yes, but now we’re talking about Faith sense (1) that I mentioned above, rather than sense (2).

    …but if I conclude based on my observation of life and how the ‘real world works’ that intention and design were necessary to life’s inception, wouldn’t that too be ‘faith based on some evidence’?

    Yes – but in that case I’d be questioning my evidence and my chain of logic, since intent would imply an external agency (natural or supernatural) and I’d want some evidence of such.

  11. Yes, but now we’re talking about Faith sense (1) that I mentioned above, rather than sense (2).

    So then, could one have a Christian faith based on observation?

    If for example if I saw Jesus crucified, I saw His mangled, lifeless body placed in a tomb, and then three days later encountered Him alive and healthy, apparently without injury absent a few scars with apparently no ill effects from the gruesome procedure. If in fact those observations were accurate, wouldn’t the belief that something extraordinary, even miraculous had happened, be faith in the 1st sense of the word?

    Yes – but in that case I’d be questioning my evidence and my chain of logic, since intent would imply an external agency (natural or supernatural) and I’d want some evidence of such.

    It would seem to me if the organization of life were consistent with the organization of structures and systems known to be produced by intelligent agents, then that would constitute evidence in and of itself.

  12. So then, could one have a Christian faith based on observation?

    If for example if I saw Jesus crucified, I saw His mangled, lifeless body placed in a tomb, and then three days later encountered Him alive and healthy, apparently without injury absent a few scars with apparently no ill effects from the gruesome procedure. If in fact those observations were accurate, wouldn’t the belief that something extraordinary, even miraculous had happened, be faith in the 1st sense of the word?

    Yes – if you actually saw the events, I’d say it was reasonable to have that kind of faith. On the other hand I have to say that I very probably wouldn’t accept such an improbable story if I didn’t see some pretty good evidence that it really happened.

    It would seem to me if the organization of life were consistent with the organization of structures and systems known to be produced by intelligent agents, then that would constitute evidence in and of itself.

    But now, what if that organization were consistent with several proposed mechanisms? Let’s not beat about the bush here: we’re talking about evolution/creationism.

    So, the structures we see in living things are consistent with evolution, and they’re consistent with creationism. (And they may also be consistent with other ideas, including some that haven’t been thought of yet, but let’s skip that.)

    There are a couple of problems here: first, the structures that we see are often not very well designed – I’m sure we all know about the forward/backward construction of octopus and human eyes, nipples for men, all the rest, so I won’t elaborate further.

    Second, the design argument implies a designer and the only evidence for a designer is the design. Circular logic.

    So we’re back to a choice. Evolution explains the structures we see, and also explains how many of those structures have such wacky-looking “designs”, and doesn’t require a designer. Creationism explains the structures too, but doesn’t really explain (for example) why human retinas are back to front, or why I’m shortsighted so I need glasses, or why my dad got prostate cancer; and it also requires the existence of a designer, for which there is no independent evidence (independent of those designs themselves, I mean). For myself I have to say that evolution is the better explanation of the evidence from living structures.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: