Barfing is Believing

Faith is defined as, “Belief that is not based in proof.”

For one to have “proof”, they need only have what they consider evidence that is sufficient to establish that a thing is true.  For some people, all they need is their parents, or some other close advisor to tell them a thing is true to produce with how I “feel” about things rather than over-analyzing it and questioning everything.  I kind of envy some people that are able to operate that way, but mostly, that isn’t for me.  I require thinking things through to come to my own conclusions based on whatever evidence I feel is sufficient before that evidence will produce a belief that something is true.  It’s what I do all day long in IT.  There’s often a lot of detective work involved.  I never take a problemed server or network and decide how I feel about it to arrive at a conclusion.  I instantly look at the effects, evaluate potential causes, and then arrive at the most likely conclusion.  Once I’ve reached a point where I believe I have enough evidence that something is true, that’s when the feeling part comes in because I have sufficient evidence to believe in the solution to the problem, and then I act on the evidence.  Generally speaking, sufficient evidence leads me to the truth.

This being said, there are some things I just don’t have time to understand for myself, so I find outside sources of evidence.  I often try to find people that have thought these things through and live vicariously through their study of a subject so that I don’t have to put in the same amount of effort to come to a conclusion.  Sometimes I find it difficult to conceptualize what they say I ought to believe, but because they’ve studied it so extensively, or experienced it first-hand, I feel obligated to take their word for it sometimes.  If I have good reason to believe they’re not liars that are intentionally trying to mislead me for their own gain or something, I have a little faith in their experience, even though it may not yet be my own.  Don’t get me wrong, I won’t take the word of just any joe on the street, it’s got to be at least an authority on the matter, or someone I trust such as a close friend.  I wouldn’t take legal advice from someone who hadn’t spent plenty of time inside a courtroom, and I wouldn’t take farming advice from a lawyer.

I believe documentation and personal experience also constitute good evidence.  Trusted documentation from an authority or a first-hand eyewitness is often the first thing I consult.  If I believe anybody has actually had their hands on something or witnessed it, then documented it, that usually makes decent evidence.  In my work, I constantly refer to the information technology eco-system for advice on difficult problems.  Networking with peers is often a good source of information.  Even when there is ample documentation sometimes it may be difficult to understand if it is the first time encountering a specific scenario or topic.  It’s always valuable to have help from somebody who’s been there and worked through the same sort of issues.

What I’m getting at I guess, is that I really like to think things through and entirely draw my own conclusions.  I like to have the sufficient evidence that could be construed as “proof”, but sometimes I have to fill gaps with other people’s knowledge, theories, and personal experience because some things just can’t be fully understood at first.  I take a leap of faith and trust that even though I may not yet have or fully grasp all the evidence I feel like there’s enough circumstantial evidence to reach a conclusion.  As long as I’m working with a reliable source document or subject matter expert(s), I can move to believe something is true with enough circumstantial evidence.  I’m sometimes compelled to put my faith in what I feel is the best inference from the evidence for something, even though science can’t prove it to me.  I’m inclined to believe it, because maybe it best fits as an elegant cause to an effect, even though I can’t see it.  Maybe I can’t fully understand it, but I can I can have faith that it is there, even without the sufficient evidence physical evidence that might normally constitue proof.

Some people tell me that such unfounded belief is silly, and that I should only believe in things that can be proved.  I’d be stupid to buy into something that cannot be observed by experimentation in a lab.  However, reaching conclusions with solid circumstantial evidence has served me well, so I will continue to do it.  Call me crazy, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m willing to take a leap of faith and believe in the existence of… dark energy and dark matter.  I suppose it is only a matter of time before the scientists and atheists call me a fool for this faith in the unseen, since they would never do something like that, but I’ll take my chances.

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9 thoughts on “Barfing is Believing

  1. You know I agree with you most of the way here. The one thing I would caution you about is confirmation bias. As humans, we tend to form beliefs, rather quickly and rashly sometimes, and then seek out evidence that support those beliefs. We tend to gravitate to and give more weight to (unjustly) sources of evidence that confirm our beliefs rather than don’t. This has been proven through the cognitive sciences.

    Have you ever read Thomas Paine (Age of Reason), Bertrand Russell, Robert Ingersoll, even Hitchens, Dawkins, or Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation)? I highly recommend any of them as a way to balance the effects of confirmation bias.

  2. I seek out evidence on all sides, because I don’t want to be a victim of confirmation bias. I’d prefer to think for myself. I’m more of a multimedia guy, so I usually take in things like documentaries, or video/audio of debates to get multiple sides of a conversation.

    Confirmation bias is universal. It’s part of being human. Theists don’t have a monopoly on confirmation bias, otherwise intelligent design would be an easily accepted theory for the existence of the universe. You don’ t have to call it God. Maybe it is unicorns or aliens or something, but the universe is intricately designed machinery. It isn’t unreasonable to look at it’s workings and consider that it sure appears to be finely tuned. So much so that it is essentially statistically impossible that we even exist. This fact cannot be denied unless you have a presupposition that what we see is what we get.

    Everybody has confirmation bias, which leads to faith in scientifically unproven theories, so when anybody is silenced, it is simply intellectual bullying from one side that keeps the other side’s bias out of the conversation. Presuppositions exist in both theism and naturalism, and it is intellectually dishonest to say otherwise. Empirical evidence just cannot explain it all. We’re only vaguely aware of what goes on in about 5% of the universe, so how can we claim anything is universal?! Leaps of faith have to be made…one way or another.

    Both sides commit this sort of intellectual bullying due to their desire to be right rather than their desire to actually uncover truth.

    Dang…I think I should just copy and paste this comment as a barf at some point 🙂

  3. The “fine tuning” argument is kinda off topic, and has been debunked pretty thoroughly. Or not depending on your bias! I like to think I’ve looked at both sides of that argument pretty thoroughly.

    It perplexes me that you don’t see the clear quality difference between “belief” in scientific hypothesis and belief in religious assertions. Scientific “beliefs” are empirically backed or in the process of being backed empirically or dis-proven. Religious belief clearly is not and does not care to subject itself to such rigors. Why? Because the evidence ranges from very bad to completely nonexistent for any of the various assertions of the Christian faith (the creation story, the resurrection, the flood, etc.).

  4. It’s not off topic. It’s a perfect example of confirmation bias based on presupposition, since science can no more prove that there *isn’t* something beyond the universe, than there *is* something beyond the universe. The only way I’ve seen the ID theory debunked is by saying, “it’s not possible so we won’t consider it. We don’t have to prove a negative.” Presupposition. Just like mine only opposite. See the previous comments on lack of *any* scientific understanding about what the non-existence of the universe means to me, since I know it wasn’t always there, and I also know the only job science can do is to study the known universe. This is how I arrive at my presupposition in something outside of the universe.

    The suggestion that somehow science mystifies the Biblical record is patently false. Organizations like Reasons To Believe do an excellent job of interpreting scientific data within a theistic worldview. Keep in mind that not everybody would say the only Biblical interpretation of the creation story involves a six 24 hour periods or that Noah’s flood had to be a global flood. Personally, I think the scope of those things are pretty inconsequential to the point of the narrative though, since the end result is the same. I know people that would probably call me a heretic for saying so.

    As for the resurrection, casting aside presuppositions about the supernatural (ie other dimensions!), there are mounds of evidence for this historical claim. Either Jesus was who he said he was, or he was a crazy person. If he was just a crazy person, I find it hard to believe we’d even be talking about this, but something significant happened and people seemed to accept it as fact. If not we should have other historical text from the same time period speaking out against this crazy guy (like we do against a guy like Joseph Smith), but we don’t. I’m awaiting a book about to come out by J. Warner Wallace, who is a reknowned cold case homicide detective and former atheist that will address this issue from a cold case perspective. Should be interesting.

    In any case, in the end it won’t be science that kills faith. Rest assured that it will be “religion”. Religion kills relationship with God which, in the end, is the only thing that can produce faith in God. You make me get way ahead of myself though!

  5. Ah, yes, what I assume is the typical use of the false cause fallacy to turn the historical person of Jesus into a combination of legends (I’ll watch this weekend)…

    …but then back on point of my barf, where you accuse RTB of doing the same thing that you, I, and Stephen Hawking do, which is to draw the best inference of inconclusive data, unavoidably based on the presuppositions of our worldviews. You have just have a much nastier way of saying it 😉

  6. You should definitely check it out. I’m curious as to where you think his and my logic is flawed. Clearly a legend to any objective outsider (like jews, hindu’s and muslims, etc.) 🙂

  7. That’s at least better than the usual comparsion to various mythological characters from which Jesus’ story supposedly comes. I withdrawl the suggestion of the false cause fallacy, because that’s not what this is.

    It’s just flawed historically speaking. You can’t use only the Bible to draw a complete picture of what people knew about Jesus. I could spend a lot of time typing about how John was an eyewitness who lived to a ripe old age, and he also cited Luke which means we can assume that Luke’s Gospel was widely accepted, and how John’s students (Ignatius, Papias and Polycarp) were still teaching things the way John saw them which means John wasn’t re-written later, it was really John’s eyewitness account. Same sort of trail goes for Paul’s and Peter’s accounts. I think Matthew is the only one with less historically sound evidence for early authorship. I could spend that time, but instead, you can just read this (sorry, youtube was nice, but this one has to be read)…

    http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com/index/The_Scriptural_Chain_of_Custody

    I’ll let you have the last input on this one if you like. It’s time to barf up something else.

  8. Thank you for the opportunity to provide a closing argument. I shall take it!
    There are no credible extra-biblical sources that validate anything of consequence in the bible. I’ve looked into this quite extensively and the commonly sited sources outside the bible have been thoroughly debunked or in some cases exposed as fraudulent (I could site a number of biblical textual critics on this count). Furthermore, the evidence is overwhelming that the gospel writers were not eyewitnesses. Unfortunately, this comes down to which sources you find more trustworthy or make better arguments or have better evidence – we obviously come down on opposite sides.

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