Byzantine Reality

Searching for Byzantine failures in the world around us

Faith and Reason

There are many different definitions for the word ‘faith’, some tangible, others intangible. Most people refer to it as ‘their faith’, specifically referring to their religion. Not being the religious type, I have always felt it to mean something else. Faith for me is more relying on one’s intuition and notably relying on things that have been reasonably proven to me in the past. That’s my faith. It’s something I cling onto even during the occasional times when I know I shouldn’t, perhaps in the same way your faith has worked for you.

My faith has evolved over time in the scientific sense: a theory is made that models the world around me. If it proves to be accurate over time, it ‘lives’ on, and if not, a new ‘faith’ takes its place. It is the same for most of my beliefs, and it should be no surprise, as it’s just a fancy way of saying that I’m learning as I go along.

But why then do so many people cling onto the notion of God given our world today? It’s not hard to see why people believed it hundreds of years ago, even one hundred years ago before the advent of germ theory came about. It seems to me that, as Stephen Hawking puts it, “God was confined to the areas that nineteenth-century science did not understand.” [1] I believe that this still holds today and that this is the primary reason why the notion of God has survived so long. Most people don’t believe that disease is caused by ghosts and magic as much as by bad food or bad hygiene or other things along this line, and although that’s great, it only came through because somebody wanted proof that ghosts and magic were the causes of disease and found none.

It was reason that pushed us forward then, and it must be reason that pushes us forward in the future. Are there things about religion that are great? Sure! It brings people together and makes some of them happy while they’re there. The problem is that when people leave their place of worship, most forget what they’ve been taught and show generally displeasing amounts of malice towards one another. Furthermore, the ones that religion “really does help” believe that our planet is several thousand years old [2] while scientific evidence places it around more than four billion years old [3]. It’s not like I’m bitching because the two numbers aren’t exactly the same. I’m bitching because the two numbers ARE NOT EVEN CLOSE TO EACH OTHER! We know that there were ice ages millions and billions of years ago [4]. So with this in hand as well as other events that place the earth well beyond 4000 BC, why are some people so persistant?

Rationality has to prevail here. For all our sakes, it’s gonna get a lot worse if we let anybody run their mouth and be dubbed ‘credible’ without any evidence or rationality whatsoever. For more info on the stuff about the ice ages and this in general, a good book to check out is The End of Faith [5]. I prefer a changing faith instead of the end of faith, but we are definitely talking about two different definitions of faith.

References:
[1] Steven Hawking, A Brief History of Time (ISBN 0-553-38016-8), p. 188
[2] WikipediaDating Creation, accessed 08/01/06
[3] WikipediaAge of the Earth, accessed 08/01/06
[4] WikipediaIce Age, accessed 08/01/06
[5] Sam Harris, The End of Faith (ISBN 0-393-32765-5)