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

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Tue Jan 31 13:14:12 UTC 2006

Since I may have been the one who contributed "faith-based thought" to the
discussion (I haven't gone back through the thread to check), I'll explain
what I meant (or would mean by it).

To me, "faith-based thought" implies beliefs in assertions, axioms,
statements, etc. as being valid (true) to the extent that those beliefs
dictate actual actions.  (I.e. if there are not "thoughts" there are
presumably no "actions" -- even reflex reactions involve "thought" (i.e.
computation) though it is generally extremely simple in nature).

IMO, "faith-based thought" must involve (a) unconscious thought  (believing
things without actively thinking about them) or (b) conscious thought which
either ignores evidence or in some way rejects rational conclusions.

For example, as a child I was handed a system of beliefs called
Catholicism.  As I grew older, learned more about the world (esp. physics
and other aspects of science) it became clear that the "miracles" upon which
Catholicism is based (virgin birth, death & resurrection, etc.) could *not*
be true without rejecting the body of evidence provided by scientific
"reality".  Since I was particularly keen on rejecting the laws of physics I
rejected Catholicism instead.  Others, e.g. certain scholars, some
Protestant variants, etc. tend to recast the "miracles" as parables,
analogies, etc. i.e. making the Bible non-literal.  Other religions have
tried to enforce the literal interpretation of the Bible.  Subsequently over
the last few years I've devoted some thought to how much of Catholicism (or
Biblical history) could be true if things like miracles relying on
nanotechnology, Intelligent Design (of solar systems), ETI (SI)
interventions in human evolution or computer based simulations of entire
civilizations are feasible (which appears to be the case).

There appears to be a significant element of "group-think" in "faith-based
thought".  It would seem to make sense that everyone who eventually reaches
the conclusion that Santa Claus is a myth should also reach the conclusion
that religions that are based on other "magical" claims are also myths.
While giving up ones belief in Santa Claus is accepted  - giving up ones
belief in a fictional reality based set of religious beliefs generally is

The point which Harris finds objectionable is that the moderates allow the
"faith-based actors" to continue to act without forcing (and yes, I used the
word *force* again) them to confront their failure to build rational systems
for acting.  Irrational actors in other contexts tend to be locked away
where they can do minimal harm to society.

Each person reading this has made a conscious (or unconscious) choice not to
stand in front of their local religious institution on Friday, Saturday or
Sunday morning holding up a sign saying "You are acting upon beliefs in
*myths*" (in "Western" cultures).  [You either *are* extropic and are acting
upon it or you are just along for the ride...]  The continued tolerance of
the mental belief systems of faith-based actors (and the actions resulting
therefrom) *do* have consequences such as:

1) the hold-ups in California funding for stem cell research (an active
topic on the GRG list);
2) recent proposals in a number of state legislatures to *allow* individuals
ranging from doctors to pharmacists to legally not act (or act) based on
their conscience (faith) in various circumstances (performing abortions,
filling morning-after pill prescriptions, ignoring DNR directives, etc.);
3) spending hundreds of billions of dollars on defense or wars that might be
better spent on medical, biotechnology or nanotechnology research (largely
in response to actions of various "faith-based actors"),

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