Faith-based thought vs thinkers Re:[extropy-chat]IntelligentDesign: I'm not dead yet

Brett Paatsch bpaatsch at
Mon Jan 30 23:53:51 UTC 2006

Russell Wallace wrote:
  On 1/30/06, Brett Paatsch <bpaatsch at> wrote:

    By not answering the question I asked you are making it difficult to communicate with you.

  I was trying to, but maybe I didn't do a good job of it; I'll try again. 

    I was trying to find out what *you* meant by "faith" remember? 

  Okay, I'll define it as belief in the absence of evidence.
    I wondered if you were defending some right of religious people to be "faith-based thinkers" perhaps because you were yourself a religious person or if instead your objection was coming from a different place.  

  Different place; I have no belief in God or the supernatural. Nor do I suggest that faith can replace reason in science, law or philosophy. But nor can reason entirely replace faith. Reason can tell you that B follows from A, but it can't tell you whether to believe A in the first place; the chain has to start somewhere.
Yes, the chain of reasoning does have to start somewhere, I agree with that.  

I don't know if it is right or moral that you should start your chain of reasoning from beliefs rather than axioms though.  
  I'm not a religious man, but I believe in love and life and laughter. I believe in beauty and truth and goodness, 
Good for you, honestly.  What I mean is I think those are good values. 

I live. I can laugh. I haved loved. I see beauty. I value and pursue truth. Goodness seems good to me.    

But it doesn't seem quite right to me to say that I *believe* in those things. 

Now here's something. 

I might be able to live more, laugh more, see more beauty and see more good if like you I believed more. I don't know. You may be happier than me because you reason from beliefs rather than axioms.  You might not be, but you might be. 

  and I believe these things are worth protecting, even though neither I nor anyone else can prove it; at some point I, like any civilized man, must resort to belief in the absence of evidence; for people who don't believe in beauty produce ugliness; people who don't believe in truth produce falsehood; and people who don't believe in good produce evil.
I am trying to get at whether your believing qua believing is actually anything rather than an artifact of language. 

I get that you think (intellectually) and feel (emotionally) that what you value, life, laughter, beauty, truth, goodness, is valuable and is worth protecting, so do I.

What I am not sure about is whether there is some essential domain of truth that only the words belief or faith can cover for you. Or if in holding to believe you are simply clinging to a cosy error. 

I think most of the things you've identified as beliefs would be valued as valuable by most people. But I doubt that *you* would find *values* to be a satisfactory substitute for beliefs or articles of faith. Or would you? 

Do values and beliefs seem to be different things for you. 

I don't get why you think or feel that you must "resort" to belief in the absence of evidence. By doing so you seem to turn values into beliefs and it is not clear to me that in 2006 there is any advantage in doing that. Whereas it is clear to me (and here I could be wrong) that believe and faith carries a lot of baggage. Others also value life, laughter, beauty, truth and goodness as they see it.  There are things which are nearly universally valued by all homo sapiens - and both that that is so, and what those things are, are things which can yeild to intellectual inquiry or to study into human beings. 

Given a magic button impossibly disconnected from everything else such that you might benefit from my pressing on it with more life, laughter, love, beauty, truth and goodness without any shortfall in those things arising at the same time elsewhere and I would be happy to press that button for you.  

I think you are wrong to hold that those that don't believe in beauty produce ugliness. Nature doesn't believe in beauty yet there are sunsets, sunrises, night skies that non-believers like me do find beautiful.  A person that finds beauty in a new and unexpected experience could not prior to the experience have had a belief in it and once
they have had it it seems to add little to create a new belief.

The thing that believing seems to give a person is fraternity with those that also like to talk about what they believe in. And perhaps power over them if they imprint on one. And as what some believe in (their words not mine) seem to me and others to be ugly, false and bad things, so the the fraternity of believers that will stand by believers against non-believers does not seem to be a moral one to opt in to.   Notwithstanding how cosy it may look to social creatures to have so much emotional company. 

I admit believing looks pretty cosy and comfortable to me sometimes. 

And if I were to draw a dividing line in the sands of philosophy and choose one side to make a stand against the other, I wouldn't draw it between those who believe in God and those who do not. I would draw it between those who believe in beauty and truth and goodness - whether or not God is part of their belief system - and those who do not. 

[I don't seem to be able to indent the comment line at the side so I'll switch to italics] 

If you were to draw your dividing line then call people and invite those who believe in beauty, truth and goodness to chose one side and those that didn't to choose the other I'd probably choose the other or equivicate until you deemed that I had because I couldn't say I *believed* in them. Yet nor do I *believe* in (endorse or affirm) ugliness, falsehood or evil. But my failure to chose you would apparently placed me in your opposing camp whereas by mine you've given me a conflated choice. (Aside: This is perhaps similar to the conflated choice President Bush offers or demands one makes when he says you are either with us (meaning him) or against us.)

If you were to invite those who *value*  beauty, truth and goodness to chose a side and those that do not to chose the other I'd be on the side of those that value them.

Now lets change things a little. If I was looking for people that could do something about improving the world and I was looking for practical folk I might use belief in God, or belief in fairies, or belief in just about anything to sort folk into practical and impractical categories. The believers are not likely to understand the contingent nature of the universe. Those that think they can both have their cake and eat it, best not be given the responsibilities of a quartermaster or the treasury or the cake they will eat and the treasure they will spend will not be there for others.   In terms of their sentiments the faith-based groups aren't the enemy but in terms of their practicality they are deadly in large numbers not just to themselves but to non-believers. 

Does that answer your question?  

Perhaps *I* have a hang-up against believing and against faith and that is making me especially dull to your meaning.

My question was "can you offer an example where faith per se IS CURRENTLY progressive, humansitic, extropic, or in any way a net benefit to people in its consequences?", *I* don't think you did answer that exactly. Others without my possible hang-ups and aversions to believing and faith might think you did. 

In talking about what you "believe in" you *did* make some of your own values clearer and they are values I can relate to a respect.   

You say above that reason cannot entire replace faith. Okay but if you believe in something like that "international law is an existential risk" I wonder if you can be moved away from any of your belief which I might find to be themselves anti-extropic, by reason. I wonder if you will allow things *you* have faith in to give ground to reason or if when an article of faith for you is challenged in order to build a bridge to you your reasoning will only serve to protect beliefs regardless of whether those belief ought be protected.

You seem to be able to defend others who you disagree with on priniciple sometimes (which I think is promising and likeable) but I don't know how reliable your adherence to principle can be.  I think that to be effective within the world we live in we have to form hierarchies of principle, not belief. Its not going to be enough to just have principles when those principles can conflict. Beliefs have to be fair ground for directing criticism at if we are to get the hierarchy of principle right.  

Sorry for the length of my reply. 

Brett Paatsch
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