13. Everybody has Faith

The thirteenth now in my series about the book God or Godless? As all religious discussion eventually do, the Christian here has begun to assert that atheists have faith too.

Is it a faith claim to assert that a believe should be supported by evidence? The entire debate comes down to that question. And the answer is no. This claim can be thought of it two ways: it is either a value claim, as Sam Harris argues. He asks us what reasons we might give to person to value reason, if they have already chosen not to value reason. Equally, what evidence might we present to a person who already thinks evidence is not a good route to the truth? So in some real way, the idea that beliefs should be supported by evidence and reason is simply a values claim.

Sticking with Sam Harris, has we ever had a reasoned or evidential belief to which now a faith based belief is a better answer? No. Evidence and reason have a track record for tracking truth. If faith had this track record of accurate and precise claims above that of chance we wouldn’t hold evidence in such high regard.

If you think evidence isn’t important, I challenge you to prefer a hospital that has never practiced evidential medicine over a hospital that has. Antibiotics versus something I mixed from the ingredients in my kitchen, plus faith.


16 thoughts on “13. Everybody has Faith”

    1. The appeal to nature to me will always be countered by the claim “organic cannot feed the world”.
      Which basically means that organic food is too labour intensive and land intensive to produce enough food for us to eat.
      We actually need fertilisers to get more food from our land (and 3D printing !?)

      1. I could not agree more. It was just a counter to the challenge that people actually need evidence. When it comes to supplementation, many need nothing more than an organic or natural sticker on it to think it will work.

        Yep, organic won’t get us anywhere. The neuroticism of those who think it will contribute anything boggles the mind. I just bought a book called “The Food Police” that deals with those kinda folks. Looking forward to getting stuck into it.

        We need fertilisers, GMOs, efficient transportation, but most importantly, brains enough to recognize we need those 3 (as well as many others: scientists, farmers and the like).

        1. Transport is the most important, I suspect. In the poorer countries we lose around 50% to bad transport links. I.e. we’d double our food from poor countries if we could make waste zero, with no changes to farming.

  1. And think about what we do if we made positive changes to farming: GMOs need less pesticides,leave non-target organisms alive and so forth. *Sigh* whats the point of all that science and agriculture if no one listens to it…

      1. It is, unfortunately. I just had a few comments on my “Science Said Y X years ago, therefore…” that illustrate that perfectly. If someone doesn’t understand the evidence, they assume no one else does either: solipsism at it’s finest. I might go read some Hitchen’s with the drop of the solipsism hat. 🙂

        You need to do a GMO post. You have a method of explaining things in new ways much simpler and easier than most writers. Take that Steve Jobs method and turn it to agriculture. How about it? Guest post it on my blog and maybe I can get some new followers for ya 🙂

        1. Once I have a reliable internet connection I think I shall get onto that. But I currently have three posts I want to write, and I’m waiting until all 20 of the posts in this series go up. I may take you up on it being a guest post. 🙂

  2. “I challenge you to prefer a hospital that has never practiced evidential medicine over a hospital that has..”

    To compare with self made ingredient with establish hospital is not comparable. But if you ask me, I will go to alternative medicine that do not practice “evidential medicine”. Actually, I don’t understand what is evidential medicine.

    I may called it alternative medicine or traditional medicine. This medicine may not have a sophisticated labs, a vast study and research, but still I will try. One of medical practice is “acupuncture”. It don’t have a basis in modern science. They sticking the needle in the body to release chi, yin or yang or in modern word “stimulate the qi”. In modern scientific until today, this medicine still can not be understand totally.

    In history, this type of medical treatment have being used vastly in Asia especially China, Korea, and Taiwan.

    Even, in the history of antibiotics started with “faith of that ‘thing’ can possibly will work”, The science of biology and microorganism are not yet establish for scientist to understand the antibiotics until recently.

    When you try the “unknown” medicine. If you die, you will be called “stupid” and “knowledgeable” , if you “alive”, you will be called “brave” and “inventor”. It depend on how you see.

    1. I think it is dangerous to prefer non-evidential medicine (medicine where the effectiveness is not found by looking at whether it has actually helped people). If there is no reason to believe it has helped before, why would you prefer it over something that has been demonstrated to work?

      1. If there are totally no reason, then may be it not worth trying at all.

        If there are just a small reason that logic, worked, example “acupuncture” as above.

        May be we can just assume that as another knowledge that not yet being revealed or understand by human mind.

        When Newton found that apple dropped from the tree, no body understand about gravity. If, he not observe and understand the event, we may not understand gravity until today.

        Why we must limit ourselves to certain thing that already establish such evidence medical, etc. Even in modern medicine, the no such thing called 100% effective or there may have side effect.

        For me, the excitement of science is ability to challenge, improve or explain the events. Dangerous? Of course. No one denied it, that is the risk that should we take.

        That why, now days, most cheap and effective medicine is design by India. They don’t afford to buy expensive well-research medicine, so they need to take a risk by trying new thing and new method.

        1. (You’re English is coming on amazingly.)

          The problem with accupuncture, as an example, is two-fold: very few people who practice accupuncture (and other Chinese traditional medicines) are willing to let other people do rigorous scientific studies on it. The few studies that have been done suggest that some of the ideas accupuncture are based on (like you can stick a pin in someone’s foot to heal probelms with their stomach) are not true, even when accupuncture has a success rate above that of chance. And that is rarely found.
          I looked up a lot on accupuncture when my ex-girlfriend considered it for her fibromyalgia. There were a lot of testimonies that it worked wonders. The few scientific investigations that were done found absolutely no effect.
          And this is the benefit of evidential medicine. We can try new ideas all we like, and we can assert that there is a way that it works all we like. But if experiments cannot find that it does work then all the talk and hypotheses suddenly mean nothing.

      2. I always have discussion with my wife regarding this matters, and she always object because she are more keen towards modern practice. Can not blame her too, she study that for 5 years like crazy.

        When come to a failure experiment, Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Of course, it depends on how we see the things.

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