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.


Blogger Mig22 said...

Welcome back to the world of Blogging, Nate. Glad that you're writing again.

One point that is a bit valid in the "belief in EBNS requires faith" is that if you are a non-scientist, you really don't see the evidence exactly. Instead, we believe that all these books and tv shows are telling the truth about evolution and the fossil record, molecular biology,

By the way, I'm not disagreeing with you at all, just letting my mind wander a bit.


December 10, 2009 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Donny Pauling said...

I'm sure you've heard of Theistic Evolution, no? If not, check this out:

God and Science are not mutually exclusive. God and Evolution are not mutually exclusive either. I have strong faith in God, and believe evolution is the process through which he created all that exists.

December 10, 2009 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger Nate Phelps said...

Mig, I absolutely agree with that point. I am being dishonest so long as I accept the word of scientists without searching out the information for myself. I consider that when I am first exposed to a new theory and stay skeptical about the theory. It is always a process for me and my "faith" in new science grows only with my own reading and understanding of the evidence behind it.

Donny, I did go and read the site you posted. In a nut shell here's the problem I have: that site is simply one person's opinion of why his faith is worth having. In the end it is neither a refutation of the argument that science is not based on faith or a proof that god is real. Certainly Mr. Drew has done a much better job of justifying his beliefs then most, and certainly he is entitled to express his beliefs.

But he accepts as fact the writings of the bible without any effort to justify his acceptance. That's faith, not science.

December 10, 2009 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger ElPato said...

Glad to run across your site! Gives me some hope that there really are sane people out there!

January 30, 2010 at 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on your blog and am fascinated!! I am devoutly Catholic and your faith or lack of has me cracking my knuckles to mentally challange your thoughts. Your comments on evolution also interest me. I believe both. I am glad you escaped your legacy. And hope to read your journey!

April 8, 2010 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Go Penguin said...

Hi Nate
I’m an Aussie and new to Westboro – I must say I am gob-smacked by what they preach! I found it hard not to laugh a little bit – it sounds like something from a comedy take-off. But I guess none of it is funny for you.
I like your pictures on your website – you look like a nice person.
I’m of the belief that religion and God are opposites, not God and science!

I am a believer in Christ, but I believe He is Love embodied, and I certainly have ditched the eternal hell doctrine (actually not in the bible to start with – it was put there by translators). There are many ‘believers’ out there who believe that mainstream Christianity itself is NOT good. But God is.

I certainly understand why you would turn to atheism. Some days, so could I (well, almost)!!


December 31, 2010 at 11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This little pagan-sufist-faerie thinks that you are fabulous. I live in the place where science invokes wonder and meets mystery... the tiniest atoms, the spin of the seasons. I have so much respect for who you are and all that you have had to carry and learn from. I hope that in all of your reason, you are able to stay kind and open to those of us who have faith, or who carry different methods of reason. In other words, I hope you don't get dogmatic, now that you've found a new home for your heart and mind. Stay with us! I love the diversity of this place, and science honors that too. I hope we can hang out there, in that common space... <3
You are strong and brave and you rock.

January 11, 2011 at 4:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nate, I admire you so much. The strength it took you to leave your family and stand up for what is kind and compassionate, awes me.

August 14, 2012 at 11:40 AM  

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