I’ve been having an interesting exchange with a woman online who I’ll simply refer to as CC. CC seems to have some confusions over faith, reason, and burden of proof. Below is a recent reply of mine to her.
This is the last time I will type the SAME DAMN THING. If you can’t get it now, there is no hope for you.
There is no concrete, objective evidence to support the existence of fairies, Big Foot, or Nessie (or any number of fabulous mythical beasts and other phenomena of the supernatural variety). What we do have tend to be exposed as frauds and hoaxes at worst and misunderstanding at best. Thus, I do not believe they exist. However, because I can’t prove a negative, I can’t “prove” they don’t exist. All I can say is that the evidence I have encountered and the odds as I understand them suggest that they aren’t real – so in essence, I have faith that my judgement in these matters is correct. I am willing to concede a possibiilty of being wrong on those matters (because it *is* possible – I can’t possibly know everything and be an expert in all things). But the proof in favor of such things has to be pretty damned strong for me to change my mind on it
That’s actually two separate things, your judgement and your opinion of your ability to make judgments. How you arrived at your judgment was by reason. If you feel your trust in your ability to make judgments is solely based on faith, so be it, but I’d bet that instead that trust comes from the evidence of your past judgments being sound more times than not.
I think you’re constructing a false dichotomy between faith and absolute knowledge. If you confuse the two, then yes, everything would then be faith, would it not? I mean, how much do we have absolute knowledge of? Are we really here or merely brains in a vat? But faith is more than a conclusion reached in lieu of absolute knowledge, it’s a conclusion reached not just without sufficient knowledge, but often in spite of actual knowledge. If I wake up every morning as a human, is it faith to assume that tomorrow I’ll awake as a human instead of a cockroach because I don’t have absolute knowledge I’ll awake as a human? Faith would be believing I’d have a Kafka moment tomorrow.
I can’t prove that alien life forms are not visiting the Earth and delivering anal probes upon unsuspecting hillbillies. I am about as certain as I can possibly be that they are not. However, there is a chance that I am wrong on this – my reason tells me that it’s a possibility, therefore, my doubt is somewhat based upon faith that I have reached a correct conclusion based upon the available evidence.
Again no, your doubt is not based on faith, but rather reason, for reason tells you that although accepting the alien anal probe claims is unreasonable, that’s not the same thing as having actual knowledge. It’s reason which forces you to accept the tentativeness of your conclusion (tentative as in your conclusion could change should you become aware of new information), whereas faith wouldn’t care about that, and a faith based conclusion is independent and immune from contrary evidence.
I also see you as perhaps mistaken about burden of proof. If someone makes a claim, it’s not the listener’s burden to prove it false. A claimant must give warrant for their claim to be accepted. If the claimant fails, then the claim is deemed unwarranted and dismissed. Claims aren’t accepted until proven false. Quite the opposite is true. They’re dismissed until it’s warranted to accept them, and reason requires that warrant to be something demonstrable.
For a rational atheist, god claims are examined rationally and deemed unwarranted to accept and summarily dismissed. From that dismissal, one can reasonably conclude then that there are no gods, like you reasonably concluded that there are no fairies, Big Foot, Nessie, or alien anal probers of hillbillies, but it’s understood that such conclusions are tentative in lieu of a better claim and/or new information.
So I truly hope that I’ve seen the last of you typing the SAME DAMN THING. Sadly, reason tells me it’s not, but I’ll use faith that it is.