Board index Faith and Knowledge

How do we know what we know, and what is faith all about

Re: "I just know it's true!"

Postby Jet Ski » Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:20 pm

> We choose which evidences we accept.

I agree, you have to decide which evidence is reliable and which isn't. But once you did that, once you have all the relevant evidence sorted out, isn't that evidence what convinces you to a certain degree? Do you need to do anything extra? Does "belief" or "faith" as you use it mean doing anything extra? For example: If you meet a random person on the street and they tell you they have a Ferrari standing just around the corner, you may be 1% convinced of it, because the person doesn't look very wealthy or rich. Then they show you some Ferrari keys, and you may be 20% convinced. They show you a picture of themselves with the Ferrari, and you're 60% convinced. You go around the corner and see the Ferrari - 90% convinced. The person uses their keys to open the Ferrari, and now you're 99% convinced (it could still be stolen or something). At every stage, your conviction is passive. You can't help but become more and more convinced. Is there any time when you make use of active belief?

Of course, we should use something more nuanced then "to know" when talking about every topic, not just religion.

So, is there any difference at all between what you mean by "belief" and what you mean by "faith"?
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Re: "I just know it's true!"

Postby jimwalton » Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:27 pm

> I agree, you have to decide which evidence is reliable and which isn't. But once you did that, once you have all the relevant evidence sorted out, isn't that evidence what convinces you to a certain degree?

Yep.

> Do you need to do anything extra? Does "belief" or "faith" as you use it mean doing anything extra?

Not that I can think of.

> For example: If you meet a random person on the street and they tell you they have a Ferrari...

Yep, that's it. That's how it works.

> At every stage, your conviction is passive.

Not necessarily. I am engaging the evidence and deciding, because all along the way it could still be a set-up or be a trick. A healthy amount of skepticism is always, well, healthy. But even in the end, as you admitted, it could be stolen or something. Until it's firm, it's not firm.

> You can't help but become more and more convinced.

With the Ferrari situation, it's more set. But in other situations, it depends on the level and kind of evidence. For instance, global warming: Is global warming the natural cycles of the planet, or is global warming largely caused by human activity? Now it's not just a matter of walking around the corner and seeing a Ferrari, and hey, the keys work! This becomes a matter of inductive reasoning, possibilities, plausibility, strength of evidence, contrary evidence, and reasonable doubt.

> So, is there any difference at all between what you mean by "belief" and what you mean by "faith"?

I don't think so. I think in the context of our discussion I was using the two synonymously.
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Re: "I just know it's true!"

Postby Jet Ski » Mon Sep 10, 2018 10:05 am

> A healthy amount of skepticism is always, well, healthy.

> This becomes a matter of inductive reasoning, possibilities, plausibility, strength of evidence, contrary evidence, and reasonable doubt.

This is slowly approaching the topic of free will. Can you decide how much skepticism a particular evidence evokes in you (this sounds really badly phrased..)? Because even if you're doubting or rejecting evidence or actively withholding judgement, it's only because of the unreliability, incompleteness or complexity of the evidence, isn't it?

It's interesting how our intuitions differ here.
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Re: "I just know it's true!"

Postby jimwalton » Mon Sep 10, 2018 10:14 am

> This is slowly approaching the topic of free will. Can you decide how much skepticism a particular evidence evokes in you

Skepticism and evaluation of evidence often pertain to our experiences, worldview (that has been formed by our experiences and cognitive decisions through the years), cognitive environment, and cultural context. Some of these things I decide along the way and then they become part of me, and others are part of the immediate situation where we have to make decisions on the information facing us at the moment. Those immediate decisions are decided by our past (those 4 elements I mentions), the strength of the evidence at hand, and the visceral factors at play.

> Because even if you're doubting or rejecting evidence or actively withholding judgement, it's only because of the unreliability, incompleteness or complexity of the evidence, isn't it?

Yes, I would agree. There are all sorts of decisions, evaluations, and judgments that are only partially formed at any particular time. We're all deciding in process and learning as we go. We seek equilibrium and consistency as well as correspondence to reality. Any new information or disequilibrium causes us to reevaluate. Sometimes we just react viscerally and push things into known categories without full assessment just because we're either biased or lazy, and at other times we get pushed far enough to have to reconsider our position and adjust our worldview. It's hard for people to do that, but it does happen.
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Re: "I just know it's true!"

Postby Cuddly » Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:39 am

1. Riddled with logical fallacies

2. God of the gaps

3. God of the gaps

4. God of the gaps

5. God of the gaps

6. The only evidence for the resurrection is in the bible

7. The bible is not valid evidence for proving a god.

8. Personal testimonies are not valid evidence for proving a god.

9. Personal testimonies are not valid evidence for proving a god.

10. God of the gaps.

11. So does any other religion within their own wordlview.

12. Those things do not necessarily require a god.

13. I can say the same for christianity.
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Re: "I just know it's true!"

Postby jimwalton » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:00 am

You are wrong on every count.

1. These arguments are not riddled with logical fallacies. They are carefully crafted arguments that are both strong and plausible, and also carry more weight than the refutations. While they are not airtight arguments, they are strong, and their cumulative effect creates a formidable argument for the veracity of theism.

2, 3, 4, & 5. A "God of the gaps" argument states that we don't know such things now, but we can assume that what we do know is enough to fill in the holes in the argument so that we can assume the credibility of the conclusion. These arguments (God makes sense of abstract entities, the origin of the universe, complex order, and objective moral values), but contrast, are not "God of the gaps" arguments bur rather abductive reasoning, using premises to infer plausibility by weight of argument.

6. You are guilty of reductionism is you claim the only evidence for the resurrection is in the Bible. It is indisputable sociologically and culturally that a new religion arose right in the core and capital city of Judaism that was completely different from Judaism (Trinity, no priests, no temple, no sacrifices, no circumcision, no Sabbath). Neither the empty tomb by itself nor the appearances by themselves could have generated the early Christian belief. The empty tomb alone would be a puzzle and a tragedy. Sightings of an apparently alive Jesus, by themselves, would have been classified as visions or hallucinations, which were well enough known in the ancient world. However, an empty tomb and appearances of a living Jesus, taken together, would have presented a powerful reason for the emergence of the belief.

7. You're right, it's not. But given its historical, archaeological, cultural, and geographical reliability, we have to give an honest appraisal of the theological claims it makes. And taken with the other 12 items on the list, it becomes a source of credibility for the truth of Christianity.

8 & 9. Of course they are not, but personal testimonies can have quite a bit of truth and reliability to them if we can establish that the source (the person) is credible. Personal testimony is admissible in court under penalty of perjury. Its strength depends on the reliability of the source. In our culture we use personal testimony in journalism (what the secret mole says about in the inside dynamics of the Trump administration, what Omorosa says happened in staff meetings, what Strzok says was going on inside the FBI, etc.) and in court (the calling of witnesses to speak of evidences not available through the sciences). Personal testimonies can be valid contributions to the God debate.

10. This is not a God of the gaps argument but rather a personal opinion, in my analysis and observations.

11. This is true, but we must subject such worldviews to evidentiary analysis. By my assessments, Christianity squares best and tells an honest and accurate story. This is not a science experiment, but a response to the question that was asked: "What methodology can be used to determine your god is the right one?" I was giving my list of why I consider Christianity to be true. This item (#11) is a legitimate reason in answer to that question.

12. Whether or not these require a god is a matter for discussion. Many have argued, I think successfully, that they honestly do require a god. These are much longer discussions, however, and cannot be handled in the scope of one post.

13. Of course you can say the same for Christianity, and apparently you do, based on your toss-off list here. That's OK. You are entitled to your analysis and conclusion. I, obviously, differ, based on the list of the other 12 items.
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Re: "I just know it's true!"

Postby Jet Ski » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:07 am

I'm not sure I totally get what you're saying. Do you think the following is an accurate summary of our disagreement? : As I see it, people are slaves of their rational or irrational mind and have no control over the degree to which they find a particular evidence convincing. You seem to suggest that at least in part we can control that because, as you said, "Skepticism and evaluation of evidence often pertain to our experiences, worldview (that has been formed by our experiences and cognitive decisions through the years), cognitive environment, and cultural context. Some of these things I decide along the way and then they become part of me."
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Re: "I just know it's true!"

Postby jimwalton » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:08 am

What I'm asserting is that our knowledge and ability to decide is not an all-or-nothing proposition, all the time and in every situation. It matters what the subject is. Our experiences and previous decisions factor into these things. Sometimes we are able to decide outright (Do I believe Harris's tweet that Judge Kavanaugh is a misogynist), sometimes our decisions are part of a long chain of decisions and are influenced by previous decision (the veracity of human contribution to global warming), and sometimes our decisions are completely outside of our control (that the earth is round).

It seems that your statement ("As I see it...") is a fair summary of our disparate positions. You seem to think nothing is within our control to decide, and I think that some things are.
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Re: "I just know it's true!"

Postby Jet Ski » Fri Sep 14, 2018 10:25 am

Do you think this is an important disagreement because it plays a role in how we get from evidence to conviction and belief, or do you think it's a superficial one? It seems to me that if we both had the exact same evidence presented to us, consisting of everything that could possibly be important to know, we should be convinced to exactly the same degree that the claim in question is true or not.
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Re: "I just know it's true!"

Postby jimwalton » Fri Sep 14, 2018 10:36 am

> Do you think this is an important disagreement because it plays a role in how we get from evidence to conviction and belief, or do you think it's a superficial one?

I think it's important, but I'm not sure it's resolvable.

> It seems to me that if we both had the exact same evidence presented to us, consisting of everything that could possibly be important to know, we should be convinced to exactly the same degree that the claim in question is true or not.

There's a new discovery. One archaeologist thinks the item at hand may be a ritual spoon like hammer used to create musical tones for the gods. Another may think it's a part of a system of weights and measures for fair business trade. They're both trying to be objective, weighing the evidences at hand, but arriving at completely different conclusions. For many years there were debates about what caused the aurora borealis. There are still many hypotheses about the nature of dark matter, the way life began, and the existence of extra-terrestrial life, even though we have the same evidence at hand.

Juridically, there are still disagreements about OJ Simpson's guilt or innocence, who killed JonBenet Ramsey, and what really happened to JFK and RFK. We all have exactly the same evidence consisting of everything that could be important to know, and yet we arrive at different conclusions. To me this bolsters the idea that we get to choose what we believe, at least in some cases.
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