After the Fact
Faith vs. Reason is the basic cultural divide in the US today. This divide isn’t as clear-cut as one might guess at first glance. “Faith in science” and “reasoned theology” have both surfaced over time. Faith and reason are tools that people have used to forward their personal self interest over the years as well. The details of what one believes to be faith becomes murky as time separates the epiphany event from the eager student new to the faith. Similarly new students in science need to believe that the previous scientists have used the proper methods and reasoning as they learn the lore of science. No modern scientist can reproduce every experiment that has built the edifice of knowledge that has given us the shoulders of giants that we now stand on. So, when we stand back and look at the regular people who are neither experts in religion or science we should be able to empathize with their confusion as to which they should pledge their allegiance.
The problem with this debate between faith and reason is that we all carry our personal bias into this debate. We have all learned how to look at the world from an early age and we carry that world view into the argument. We find it easy to persuade others with our same world view by using our common basic assumptions about the world as we argue for a world view that we already believe to be true. These two world views do not matter in our day-to-day living, and therefore they are not challenged on our day-to-day existence. However, these grand world views do have an impact on how we should govern ourselves, and how we view our purpose in the world.
The truth of the matter is that there really isn’t a dichotomy in world views. Instead, there is a plurality of world views. The reality is that there really isn’t a debate between faith and reason. Reality is not known by any of us, no matter which side of the debate that you fall on. Those on the reason side can only know for certain what we can measure for certain. But one knows that knowing everything is futile because we have limitations to those measurements. Those on the faith side of the argument are limited to communications with the supernatural no matter what faith one believes.
The bifurcation between faith and reason quickly breaks down into multiples of different communications with the supernatural and multiples of informed reason biased by the cultures from which the reasoner was born into. Even if one who reasons could understand the observable world one would certainly need to concede that there does exist an unobservable portion of the universe. And, finally ethics and morality can not be based solely on reason. Biology or mathematics can not tell us that stealing from our neighbor is wrong. We may observe that when someone steals from us we feel loss, but we can not prove that the loss is not a good thing. We know from example that pain can be good for us. We could even use logic to determine how to minimize human suffering, but we can not prove that this is a good thing in the long run.
For example, if we believe that evolution is the process in which humans have become reasoning beings. And, if we believe that reasoning beings can evolve into something even better. Then we must believe that beings that lack the new desired trait will eventually need to die before they can reproduce, because this is how evolution works. So, reasoning people are faced with a dilemma that can not be reasoned – Which is more important, the evolution of the species or the weak individual lacking the superior-trait? Our current culture biases us toward the individual, but it is only faith in this culture that prevents us from sliding into another way of looking at this. This faith has nothing to do with a superior being. Ancient societies believed that culling of the weak offspring would make the tribe stronger in the long run. With all of our understanding of the science of evolution we have chosen to allow our tribe to get weaker because of our cultural bias toward the weak.
It is our Christian culture that teaches us to feel pity for the weak in our society. If it wasn’t for Jesus telling us to feel pity for the poor, the sinners and the lepers then we might have continued to put these people out of our society for the good of our society. Today we take it on faith that Jesus was right, but God told Moses differently. This is a very complex argument with implications on our society for thousands of years into the future, but most of us haven’t thought about it. Even if we were to learn by some scientific method that there was a group of people that harm our society because of the genes that they carry, would we decide to make our future society better by removing them from breeding?
We can look at this problem from the other side as well. Those of faith believe in their hearts that a supreme being is molding our society with his hand. If the weak in our society can’t cut it, then this supreme being will put those people out of their misery. The more powerful are smiled on and they are able to have more children and pass their heritage down through the generations. Whether one believes in genes or evolution, this is how society has been working for eons. Believing in faith alone would be to continue this process. There are rules that are taken on faith and they can not be challenged, because to challenge the rules would be to challenge the whole system.
Our society exists in four dimensions, on earth in three dimensions, plus its projection into time. The question is – How long will our society exist into the future and why?
Man has evolved the ability to predict the future through reasoning. Or, man has been given the gift of predicting the future by reasoning from his creator. Either way, man has this ability and it should be used, either to honor his creator, or to further the success of the species. This fact should not be argued; both sides of the debate should agree on this. It is not a black or white question. Whether one believes in faith or science both camps should agree that man should further the existence of the species with reasoning. Man should exam the threats and reason for solutions to those threats.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this. Some believe that one should put complete faith in the supreme being. This attitude poisons the debate. And, in order to defend the position some on the side of faith will argue absolutes. This means that one should be absolutely sure of a problem before one should take preventative measures. This same argument would mean that no one should buy insurance even when the risk of danger is very high. Because, unless one is certain that their house will catch fire then one shouldn’t waste money on insurance. In addition, no one should repair a house unless one is certain that the house is going fall down. One shouldn’t learn to swim unless one is certain they will fall out of a boat, or into a pool. One should not learn to hunt unless one is certain that the stores will be shut down for weeks. One should just pray that nothing bad will happen, unless it is forewarned and certain.
The problem, of course, is that no one but God can be certain of anything. Even when a hurricane is baring down on the coast, it might just move to east and nothing happens to you. And by definition no one can be certain so no one should prepare for anything. This attitude ignores the gift of reason given to us by God or by evolution. It doesn’t really matter how we got the gift of reason, but it does matter that we use it.
Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."
Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit