Thursday, December 10, 2009

You gotta have faith!

I was talking to my friend in California recently. Maria is a Christian. In many ways she is the closest thing to a "real" Christian that I know. By that I mean that Maria struggles constantly to avoid the verbal facade of Christianity while engaging in behavior that she believes is consistent with what it means to be a Christian.

But Maria is human too. By that I mean that we always tend toward ideas and beliefs that support our foundational perceptions of the world. Maria is no exception.

So back to my story. Maria and I were talking and she suddenly announced to me that she really envied my capacity for faith. When I asked her what the hell she was talking about, she told me that she believed it required far more faith for me to believe that we all evolved from apes or primordial ooze then it took to believe that we were created.

One more quick aside before I continue. It was here in our conversation that I refer to when I say that we tend toward ideas that support our fundamental beliefs. What I mean is, Maria gets her arguments by attending church and meetings with like minded people. In those environments the memes of the group infect them all. That's not to say that they necessarily can support the belief, just that they are quickly, efficiently exposed to all the latest "defenses" of their belief.

So, my response. Any time I hear an argument like this, my instinctive reaction is that it stinks. Maybe that's my own prejudice, my own defensiveness of my belief system. Maybe it's an awareness, not yet defensible, that the argument is inherently weak. Whatever the case, I generally will hold my tongue until I have the time to explore the argument and test it's validity.

I could throw terms like "false analogy" or "red herring" or "straw man fallacy" out, but I think I'd rather try to explain it in simple terms. I said to Maria that my acceptance of the theory of evolution was based on the opposite of faith. The scientific process is the antidote to mythology. Before humans contrived the rules of scientific discovery, we were subject to the untestable notions of those we elevated to positions of leadership. In spite of the underlying motives, the effect of creating policy based on faith in something have proven disastrous throughout human history.

My belief in evolution rests on the mountain of evidence that supports it. Only on that. And I don't defend it beyond that. That is to say, if another theory evolved that eventually dismantled evolution by natural selection, I would not hesitate to turn my back on the flawed notion and embrace the new belief until such time that new science dismantled it.

Now consider the difference between a faithless acceptance of scientific proof and a belief in something that only exists because I profess faith in it. In other words, there is nothing anywhere at anytime for any people that supports the idea of the existence of a god except the unsupportable, concocted framework of men without an ounce of demonstrable cause and effect fact.

To believe in evolution you gotta have a testable hypothesis that lets you predict outcomes accurately and lets you repeat the results of tests successfully over and over again. Nowhere in the equation does faith enter in.

To believe in god you gotta have faith.