Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Faith Versus Reason

I often talk of faith and reason as if they were polar opposites, but are they? Or is the interaction between faith and reason more complex than just two different approaches to life and solving the problems life presents?

Those on the religious right who push Creationism as "Creation Science" or "Intelligent Design" often claim that we believe in reason only because we have faith in reason. Take these comments from Evolution of Truth:
You, like most non-believers, and as I once did, take so much pride that your beliefs are based on reason and yet never even realize how much your beliefs are based in faith:
  • faith that life started on its own against incredible odds when this can never be proven and has never since been observed to happen,

  • faith that your very limited life experience and knowledge is all that is required to answer the greatest question mankind has ever considered,

  • faith that our 3.5 pound brains and five senses even give us the tools to answer such a question,

  • faith that your understandings of God and spirituality are correct even though they are based on opinions and are in contradiction to experiences reported by millions of others,

  • faith that reason is the only means by which to acquire knowledge and insight.

While I find this line of reasoning very seductive, ultimately I find I must reject it. I believe in reason and the scientific method not because I have some faith that cannot be confirmed but because reason has proven its worth. We see the success of the scientific method all around us and, as opposed to the natural world, we know where science came from.

But what about the other way around? Is it reasonable to believe in faith? Here the answer must be Yes, faith works and we can prove it. Placeboes work. Every time a new medicine is tested its performance must be compared to that of a simple sugar pill. I believe that other forms of faith also work, such as hope, optimism and confidence.

I'll talk about how all this effects my views on politics some time in the near future...