Skepticism, Bias, and Faith

A friend of mine ranted eloquently about skepticism and the inescapable nature of bias, and it got me to thinking about faith.

While skepticism is a good starting point for coming to truth, it must ultimately give way to faith. The committed skeptic quickly becomes the man who believes nothing, who trusts nothing, who sees nothing, as in the end, he finds nothing that he cannot doubt.

Reading through the Bible is fairly interesting when you consider that the men that we encounter there could recite their lineage back to Adam, and that much of their faith was based on the word of their fathers. Today, we live in a nation of wounded men and wounded sons, and such faith is mocked.

Skepticism and doubt are interesting though, as Renรƒยฉ Descartes used them to plumb to the depths of his faith in God. His summary, I think, therefore I am, arose from his attempt to find the one immoveable point with which he could then move the universe and bring him to the knowledge of God. Ultimately though, skepticism fails, but only in that it must surrender to faith. A better “proof” for Descartes would have been, He is, therefore I am.

As always, comments or insults are welcome.

18 thoughts on “Skepticism, Bias, and Faith”

  1. Charles,

    I am note sure why you think scepticism has to give way for faith or belief in the absence of reasonable evidence. I hang with sceptics and rationalists of all kinds. Pretty much we are open to appropriate levels of evidence, bearing in mind that extraordinary claims require a little more evidence. But we don’t live in denial, and we are very open to new and appropriate evidence. As you know, there has been an absence of evidence for a God for centuries, which is obviously, why Christianity has a premium on faith. Its interesting when you say, biblical men can recite their linage back to Adam, its a dang pity they didn’t know about genetics. If they did they would learn about an entirely different kind of “Adam”(or Eve to be really precise) (That’s why I like science myself for getting closer to the real truth)

  2. Charles,

    I am note sure why you think scepticism has to give way for faith or belief in the absence of reasonable evidence. I hang with sceptics and rationalists of all kinds. Pretty much we are open to appropriate levels of evidence, bearing in mind that extraordinary claims require a little more evidence. But we don’t live in denial, and we are very open to new and appropriate evidence. As you know, there has been an absence of evidence for a God for centuries, which is obviously, why Christianity has a premium on faith. Its interesting when you say, biblical men can recite their linage back to Adam, its a dang pity they didn’t know about genetics. If they did they would learn about an entirely different kind of “Adam”(or Eve to be really precise) (That’s why I like science myself for getting closer to the real truth)

  3. Ivan,
    Tell me one thing you know that isn’t known by faith. Descartes believed that one thing he knew was that he existed because, he thought, therefore someone must exist to do the thinking. Hume and Kant and others have pointed out that he assumed that thinking was a function of a being/mind. He was even holding that by faith.

    Charles

  4. Ivan,
    Tell me one thing you know that isn’t known by faith. Descartes believed that one thing he knew was that he existed because, he thought, therefore someone must exist to do the thinking. Hume and Kant and others have pointed out that he assumed that thinking was a function of a being/mind. He was even holding that by faith.

    Charles

  5. Charles,

    Came over from the discussion on Scot’s Blog I figure it might be better to talk for a second here. About the role of faith, belief, and perhaps even science. Your post on Descartes is perfect.

    I think the key to understanding Descartes and the Skepticism he introduced was to realize his goals. Descartes was in Europe during the hundred years war, he saw a civilization being ripped apart by the abuse of theological arguments (the reformation and all that jazz.) It was fundamentally a political war that used theology/religion as an excuse rather then just a theological argument.

    Descartes was trying to introduce a way of speaking and discussing that everyone could agree on. His use of skeptical doubt was about removing the barriers to the resolution of conflict. So for Descartes the goal was not permanent skepticism (or not knowing anything for sure) it was the establishing a firm foundation so we can all agree on everything (everything that would cause people to fight at least.) He was restricting the level of discourse to those things we could all agree on.

    Ultimately he failed in his project. Science, reason, and philosophy have not ended all wars, in fact in many ways they have made things worse.

    Your alternative proof for Descartes would not work today. Dawkins (from Jesuscreed) would not be able to start by agreeing He is. I suggested a couple of times a different approach to talking about faith and Ivan seemed to be agreeable to talking about faith that way, I know Daniel Dennet is, Dawkins might even be as well (though he does seem to be a bit of a pompous writer and not interested in much dialog at all).

    Your concept, that you discern your faith by faith, is circular like you said. Being circular by itself is not a problem for me … but I wonder where the circle started and if it can be escaped? My first post in the thread was to ask someone else that. If his faith was discerned by his faith, and he began as a hindu would he still be one?

    Most christians I know find the idea of being born a hindu and never converting troubling.

  6. Charles,

    Came over from the discussion on Scot’s Blog I figure it might be better to talk for a second here. About the role of faith, belief, and perhaps even science. Your post on Descartes is perfect.

    I think the key to understanding Descartes and the Skepticism he introduced was to realize his goals. Descartes was in Europe during the hundred years war, he saw a civilization being ripped apart by the abuse of theological arguments (the reformation and all that jazz.) It was fundamentally a political war that used theology/religion as an excuse rather then just a theological argument.

    Descartes was trying to introduce a way of speaking and discussing that everyone could agree on. His use of skeptical doubt was about removing the barriers to the resolution of conflict. So for Descartes the goal was not permanent skepticism (or not knowing anything for sure) it was the establishing a firm foundation so we can all agree on everything (everything that would cause people to fight at least.) He was restricting the level of discourse to those things we could all agree on.

    Ultimately he failed in his project. Science, reason, and philosophy have not ended all wars, in fact in many ways they have made things worse.

    Your alternative proof for Descartes would not work today. Dawkins (from Jesuscreed) would not be able to start by agreeing He is. I suggested a couple of times a different approach to talking about faith and Ivan seemed to be agreeable to talking about faith that way, I know Daniel Dennet is, Dawkins might even be as well (though he does seem to be a bit of a pompous writer and not interested in much dialog at all).

    Your concept, that you discern your faith by faith, is circular like you said. Being circular by itself is not a problem for me … but I wonder where the circle started and if it can be escaped? My first post in the thread was to ask someone else that. If his faith was discerned by his faith, and he began as a hindu would he still be one?

    Most christians I know find the idea of being born a hindu and never converting troubling.

  7. Charles,

    But not faith alone. Not faith in isolation. Faith in God is faith in total isolation of any other known fact. Its baseless in a way. Dang I wished I had taken more attention during high school English classes!

    Ivan

  8. Charles,

    But not faith alone. Not faith in isolation. Faith in God is faith in total isolation of any other known fact. Its baseless in a way. Dang I wished I had taken more attention during high school English classes!

    Ivan

  9. Ivan,
    Then what is the basis for the first shred of knowledge a child possesses? What is the basis for the assumption that our senses are not completely deceptive? It IS faith. The very fact that you sit at a terminal and type a reply to this message is faith. Faith that you can speak and that I can understand you (potentially unfounded faith, mind you ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), faith that you are a person talking to another person, and that I am no figment (John-Nash-like) of your imagination. Faith. What other word would you (by faith that it means anything at all), use to describe it?

    Charles Churchill

  10. Ivan,
    Then what is the basis for the first shred of knowledge a child possesses? What is the basis for the assumption that our senses are not completely deceptive? It IS faith. The very fact that you sit at a terminal and type a reply to this message is faith. Faith that you can speak and that I can understand you (potentially unfounded faith, mind you ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), faith that you are a person talking to another person, and that I am no figment (John-Nash-like) of your imagination. Faith. What other word would you (by faith that it means anything at all), use to describe it?

    Charles Churchill

  11. Yes but not faith in any kind of isolation Charles. Faith combined with other types of information.

    Ivan

  12. Yes but not faith in any kind of isolation Charles. Faith combined with other types of information.

    Ivan

  13. Is this the Charles Churchill that used to own a 1950 Willy’s Jeepster? I’m restoring one he used to own. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but if this is you, I would love to quiz you brain on the history of this car. Thanks, -Steve

  14. Is this the Charles Churchill that used to own a 1950 Willy’s Jeepster? I’m restoring one he used to own. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but if this is you, I would love to quiz you brain on the history of this car. Thanks, -Steve

  15. Steve,
    I am not the Charles Churchill that you are looking for. Sorry.

    Take care,
    Charles “Never Owned a Willy’s Jeepster” Churchill

  16. Steve,
    I am not the Charles Churchill that you are looking for. Sorry.

    Take care,
    Charles “Never Owned a Willy’s Jeepster” Churchill

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