Saturday, March 7, 2009

Agnostic Denial a Lack of Courage?

In response to Brian Heberts post about "The Nature of God"

Agnostics Believe That Their Method Of Reason Does Not Make Use Of Faith

Brian "I have my own ways of determining the potential nature of the supernatural even if I am not convinced that such a being exists. There are limitations to what I can consider though, as I have to be careful to avoid ideas that require faith (non-evidence-based belief) one way or the other."

What is Brians Definition of Faith?

From Brians post, "The Dangers of Flawed Arguments (Naturalism, Cosmology, and the Bible),"Faith, on the other hand, is explicitly defined as a "belief that is not based on proof" ( Faith is the conscious decision to formulate a conclusion despite the absence of evidence."

The word here is PROOF. Let's keep our eye on that word.

Yet He Didn't Realize That He Was "Guilty" of Embracing Faith

From Brians post, "Naturalism, Materialism, and Empiricism (oh, my!)"

"I personally believe that all of the universe can be explained through natural means, a belief called Metaphysical Naturalism, but I cannot prove this fact."

The word is PROVE.

A) Brian believes that all of the universe can be explained through natural means.
B) Brian has no proof that all of the universe can be explained through natural means.

If Brians definition of Faith is, "belief that is not based on proof" (" then we can conclude that Brian's world view is based on Faith. Because:

A) Brian believes in 'x'
B) Brian can not prove 'x' (because 'x' cannot be proven)

Therefore Brian is exercising Faith according to the definition he gave. The inability to present evidence or proof speaks to the abscence of evidence supporting his 'belief'

A Very Weak Disclaimer

Brian is confused about which paradigm to adopt and tries, unsuccessfully in my opinion, to distance himself from the fact that he does in fact embrace faith...

"Without conclusive evidence, I cannot construct a properly skeptical worldview with Metaphysical Naturalism at its heart. Instead, I must compromise a bit and adopt the weaker form of Naturalism called Methodological Naturalism."

Metaphysical Naturalism at its heart he says. Yet he said previously that "he personally believes...(metaphysical naturalism) etc..."

A Compromise?

Brian is fully aware that boldly embracing Metaphysical Naturalism is to be guilty of the same leaps of faith as a theist. So to protect his world view from the charge of Faith, he has added the weak disclaimer that "Instead, (he) must compromise a bit and adopt the weaker form of Naturalism called Methodological Naturalism"

Notice he took the care to say, "a bit" meaning that he still strongly considers himself a Metaphysical Naturalist. Again this is in my opinion a very weak disclaimer. The use of the word compromise is invalid though as these two terms (Metaphysical Naturalism and Methodological Naturalism) are not apples and apples but rather apples and oranges. This is not merely to imply that they are different philosophies but that adherence to one does not qualify as a compromise to the other.

Brians definitions of the two terms as printed on his blog, borrowed from Wikipedia:

"Methodological Naturalism - The view that the scientific method (hypothesize, predict, test, and repeat) is the only effective way to investigate reality.

Metaphysical Naturalism - The belief that the natural world (i.e. the universe) is all that exists and, therefore, nothing supernatural exists."

Brians disclaimer is invalid and fails to protect him from charges of embracing Faith.

In the above definitions that Brian offered it is clear that Metaphysical Naturalism is a conclusion and belief while Methodological Naturalism is a method. Apples and oranges.

Metaphysical Naturalism is a belief based on the evidence we do have.
Methodological Naturalism is a preferred method with which to gather the evidence to support a belief such as Metaphysical Naturalism.

So what my Agnostic friend Brian is saying is, "I believe in Metaphysical Naturalism and I think that the scientific method is the most reliable way to investigate the world we live in"

One could use Methodological Naturalism to arrive at Metaphysical Naturalism but the opposite is not true. One could not use metaphysical naturalism to arrive at Methodological Naturalism because one is a belief and the other a method.

Why Would An Agnostic Try So Desperately To Distance Himself From Faith?

It's no surprise that Brian is avoiding the fact that his world view is based on faith. For if he did admit that to himself (which he should in my opinion if he wants to remain intellectually honest) he would be forced to start all over again from square one.

More Defensive Maneuvers

Occasionally, when forced to look in the mirror and see faith looking back at him, an alert Agnostic will cover his tracks (which lead to faith) by yet another bit of semantic jujitsu. It's called blurring the definitions and accepted uses of the words faith and belief to suit your own preformed conclusion.

When an agnostic has been exposed as a Faith monger he will usually try to say that it is not faith but rather a belief, which is simply a temporary set of conclusions based on the current but ever changing evidence one has at his disposal.

Philosophers who love to play hide and seek often hide behind semantics when confronted with a challenge they are not prepared to face in a straight forward and unafraid way. It is a case of "let's not argue that difficult challenge right now but rather, in lieu of that, let's argue the definition of words."

Rest assured that once you have been fed this line from your opponent, you have gotten inside his head in a way that makes him very uncomfortable! No further argument is necessary and be wise not to pursue it further. Our job as debaters, philosophers and wannabe philosophers is to cause our opponents not to verbally concede his pride and errant worldview but rather to make him reconsider in earnest his core beliefs which run opposite of your own.

If I say, "I believe that two plus two equals thirteen" would you say either:

1. "Two plus two actually equals four, here, let me show you."


2. "Well my friend, I have a hunch that you really don't understand the formal definition of the word 'believe.' Let me clarify by quoting Kant, Locke, Spinoza and Voltaire etc..."

When do we employ semantic jujitsu? Answer: when the challenge is too great.

To try and blur the lines between faith and belief is not an effective smoke screen for an alert opponent. Agnostics claim that belief and faith are not interchangeable, yet when shown to be reasoning by faith Agnostics quickly make the word belief very ambiguous.

Belief= a temporary set of conclusions based on the evidence available that is subject to change, implying that faith is not subject to change despite the introduction of new evidence.

A thought experiment.

You are approaching three doors, door #1, door #2 and door #3. Behind the doors you have good things and bad things, one per each door. There is either a good thing or a bad thing but not both behind each door. You have to choose which door to take.

You must decide which door to take but how shall you decide? You decide to reason this one out by considering all the available information you have about these doors.

Here is the information:

1. All scientists have always agreed that good things are always and only behind door #3. This has been both observed and proven in every case so far.

2. The Bible says that good things are always and only behind door #2. All believers of all denominations believe this to be true.

You walk up to the doors but are forced to stop just a few feet from door #2. The doors suddenly opened, all three at once and you are allowed to see behind the doors. Indeed you saw that bad things were behind both doors number 2 AND 3 but good things were behind door #1.

You walk out the first door!

First, the fact that you were walking toward door #2 (the Bible door) makes no difference and you could have been walking toward door #3 (the science door).

That fact that you had chosen a door is what counts. Now did you believe that you were choosing the right door or did you have faith that you would choose the right door?

Let's look at the definitions of faith and belief again as given by Brian, perhaps that will help us figure this out:

1. "Belief is the rather benign act of formulating conclusions based on the available information." He further clarifies, "Since we can never know everything at all times, we are forced to make temporary conclusions (beliefs -edgar) based off of what seems most likely"

2. "Faith is the conscious decision to formulate a conclusion despite the absence of evidence."

In our thought experiment you could rightly say that you chose door#2 because according to the available information at the time, it seemed most likely that door#2 was the correct choice.

Or you could rightly say that you chose door #2 by faith because you made "the conscious decision to formulate a conclusion despite the absence of evidence."

Since these examples have been examined according to the definitions of faith and belief that was provided by my agnostic friend Brian, it is now clear that he willingly blurs the meanings of the words here, especially the word belief.

If you do this you are only fooling yourself. Again, hiding behind semantics while simultaneously trying to sound like a genius is an exercise in vanity and not the road to the truth.

Furthermore this demonstrates the effects of evidence on faith.

In Conclusion:

Why did I bother to write all of this? Why did I pick on Brian? First of all I love this topic! Secondly, I have been enjoying reading Brian's blog immensely and was inspired to reply to his crafty arguments. But strangely he reminds me of me when I was in my twenties. I don't know Brian personally but just by reading his blog I am shocked at how someone else in this world shares my former belief system to a "T" !!

I feel as though I am arguing with myself because in fact I DID have this argument with myself a long time ago. I just didn't think that somebody else could SO CLOSELY believe what I used to believe, in all that I have read so far!