Friday, July 25, 2008

Science and the Nature of Faith

I read a great post today on McCabe’s site about “Scientism”. As can often happen, I found myself putting into words, in response to somebody else, something that I might never have written down if I hadn’t been so stimulated and provoked.

Gordon McCabe made quit a few interesting points in his
post. Actually I don’t know what manner of believer or anti-believer he is, but he’s certainly critical of Religion.

Er….aren’t we all, I reflect internally as a theist -though I didn’t say that to him. Wasn’t Jesus, weren’t all the Old Testament prophets, as well as all the reformers, critical of the religious establishment? But yes, I know, that’s a whole other shindig.

What engaged me most was what Gordon had to say about the nature of faith. He criticises religious faith on the grounds that it is a “belief without evidence or reason”. For his second point, I will let him speak for himself. In his view:

“a worldview which includes a moral system based upon rationality rather than religious decree, a scientific understanding of the physical world based upon reason and evidence, and a fully-rounded population, appreciative of the arts, philosophy and literature as well as science and technology, is the means by which the human race will be capable of progressing.”

This was how I responded:

"I like the way you write. With energy and yet in a moderate, calm tone. Powerful and respectful of those you disagree with.

To me faith has three possible meanings, I think. One is what you say it is: a 'belief without evidence or reason'. In other words, I want to win the lottery tonight. And so I will. That is my belief.

But it could be something different, though similar: Again a 'belief without evidence or reason' - but here the evidence or reason that is lacking is not any possible kind or type of evidence or reason, but that type of evidence or reason demanded as sufficient by a particular epistemological community (i.e a western scientific one).

Thirdly, faith is much closer to 'trust'. I trust that my Mum will pick me up when she said she would because I know her, and I know that she loves me etc. Here her existence is presupposed and undoubted and a lot more besides. I think this was what Jesus meant by 'have faith'.

Odd besides, that the Protestants of the world should have to be tainted with brushes applied against the Magisterium and its pronouncements (i.e that made against against Galileo’s heliocentrism).

As a theist, to me, solar-system-wide heliocentrism is no problem at all. Why would it be? Surely it is humanism not theism that puts man at the centre of the world, if you know what I mean?

Still, I know what you mean about the shame that attaches to theism for many theists. Maybe if they were listened to and ridiculed less by those hostile to metaphysics and faith, this feature would be less apparent?

Your closing lines are sumptous and wonderful. Again, as a theist I have no issue with that optimistic vision, and nor does God, I'd suggest.

We must always return to the question: What is meant by this 'God' that we are denying the existence of?"


Anonymous said...

The "nature of faith" is explained in the Qur'an.

I'm loving this blog!

Jonathan said...

Wouldn't that be "the nature of Islamic Faith"?

Thanks for the compliment!

Daniel Wesley said...

Excellent post... I'm looking forward to reading more.