April 30, 2014

Horse 1664 - On Faith

There was a famous defamation case heard before Justice Frederick "Fatty" Bacon in 1823 of Pot vs Kettle. In this case, the court heard how Pot had made accusations as to the nature of Kettle's colour. The court found that Pot however, was precisely the same colour.
I make mention of Pot vs Kettle because in a number of discussions that I've had (both in the real word and on the internet), people who often purport to have no religion will criticise those who do; despite the fact that it's relatively easy to prove that everyone does in fact have their own religion (see Horse 1219) because everyone has their own belief set; thus functionally fulfilling the very requirements of what religion actually is.
One thing that comes up quite frequently (and which needs to be pointed out because of the internal logical fallacy) is the fact that because everyone has a belief set, they also have a some degree of faith which stems from that.

What is faith though?

The word "faith" comes to us via the Latin "fidus" and means confidence in a thing or person. The Oxford English Dictionary clarifies this with the opening definition of "reliance or trust". The Latin word still finds its way into modern usage with the words "fiduciary" and "fiducial" which imply a degree of trust in the legal or monetary instrument in question.
Yet people without "faith" or at least who claim to be without faith, very much demonstrate and often quite vociferously, they they do in fact have confidence in and rely upon things which make up their belief structure.

Take for instance the concept of a theory in science. A theory in science is a method of collecting a series of ideas and combining them into a coherent picture. "Theoria" in Green roughly means "to look at" or "to contemplate".

If we were to look at for example The Big Bang Theory which first gained credence in the 1910s, following the work of Vesto Slipher and Carl Wilhelm Wirtz, it is a working model for explaining the observations which scientists were making.

The standard Big Bang model tells us that the Universe exploded out of an infinitely dense point, or singularity. But nobody knows what would have triggered this outburst: the known laws of physics cannot tell us what happened at that moment.
“For all physicists know, dragons could have come flying out of the singularity,” says Niayesh Afshordi, an astrophysicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada.
It is also difficult to explain how a violent Big Bang would have left behind a Universe that has an almost completely uniform temperature, because there does not seem to have been enough time since the birth of the cosmos for it to have reached temperature equilibrium.
- Nature, Sep 2013

Never mind the fact that we don't actually know where 95% of the mass of the universe is, or even as Stephen Hawking suggested in "A Brief History Of Time" that there might not even be a quantum singularity because space-time might be shaped entirely differently.
Richard Feynman proposed a theory which posits that there might only be a single electron in the entire universe and quantum mechanics itself has some interesting things in calculus which don't really care what the age of the universe actually is. The calculus works equally well if the universe is 15 billion or 190 billion years old, 10 minutes old, 17000 years old, 4 seconds old, minus 350 trillion years old... what the heck are you supposed to rely on when observational science and calculus can't give you an answer?
I mean that's quite a of things to be taking on "blind faith"; especially when a lot of people who have confidence in science generally, can't even explain mathematics like trigonometry or basic calculus and still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

Since science itself (which is from the Latin "scientia" or "knowledge") is about the acquisition of knowledge and there is so much of it missing, then theories which have to be developed are only best estimations at drawing up a model and explanation of what can be seen. If the information is incomplete then the confidence in science is based on in part, the unknown and may in fact be wrong.
Science forms theories and then discards them regularly. No-one believes in alchemy, phlogiston or even that atoms are indivisible any more. The average life of a scientific theory works out to be about 200 years; so when people tell me that they don't have faith, I seriously call into question why?

Curiously, the word  πιστις (pistis) in the Greek; as it is used in the Bible, is used at least four ways: as a form of mental acceptance, a degree of submission, a confidence in a thing and as a point of understanding something. The way we use the word "faith" in English, points to only one or maybe two of those. If anything, it suggests that English is less versatile at displaying various shades of meaning.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
- Hebrews 11:1

Yet faith is the pragmatic assumption and expectation of that which we haven't seen but are convinced of.
- Hebrews 11:1 (Rollo's on the run translation)

I don't think that faith specifically belongs to people who have a "religious" inclination. The most general definition of faith is the pragmatic assumption and expectation of something. If we scoot right back to the beginning of this, we can not escape the fact that faith is confidence in a thing or person.
It seems to me that people who claim to be completely devoid of faith are either liars, ignorant or delusional and do so from some other motive; mostly I would assume because they want to claim some sort of moral superiority.
That in particularly seems very strange to me, if you claim to be without faith at all.

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