Letter between friends: Regarding faith and science

First of all, I am open. As open as ever. I admit that my search has not ended, and will not end, as long as I am alive, and as long as I feverently aspire to reconcile belief and truth in my quest for knowledge and understanding. The more I know, the more I do not know- further confirming my duty to seek out understanding.

Anyone who is unwilling to shed biases, look beyond the ego, rise above the forces of conditioning, and continually start anew in the pursuit of truth is self-deceived, and unapologetically so. Also, before we begin discussing, just as you can pronounce the fault of youth and years of inexperience, so too can I pronounce the fault of age and the years of conditioning that only serve to further entrench beliefs (and leave men with the delusion that they are proficient enough in the art of their reason. But this satisfaction is limited to ones own ratiocination, and does not extend to other men).

You apply faith to the unknown (supernatural conceptions outside the sanctifications of observed reality, derived from inherited historical and cultural constructions) in exchange for an assurance that rescues from the angst of the unknown.

But before I get off on a rant, I’ll address the questions regarding this whole topic of science:

The whole topic is inexhaustibly contested. Each discipline of philosophy has something to contribute about science. I am not adequately versed in the philosophy of science, epistemology, analytic philosophy, logic, phenomenology, and the like to even begin to contribute to the discussion of how knowledge is acquired, if it exists, if it is simple a projection of ourselves, etc. If you want to talk about onto-epistemological methods of investigation and philosophy of science, its gonna be a long talk.

In debates concerning the scientific method and the ethos of science, a consensual understanding eventually emerges due to its ability to yield consistent observations.

I’ll break this down for you:

Science makes the naturalistic assumptions that an objective reality exists, that we can rationally perceive reality, and that knowledge can derived from reality. Using critical rationalism, scientific inquiry systematically searches for knowledge whose validity does not depend on the particular individual but is open for anyone to check or rediscover. You’re response makes it sound like these assumptions are drawn from thin air. Certain assumptions need to be made- such as the three classic laws of thought- in order to reasonably acquire knowledge.

Science is concerned with physicality, with naturalism, because it constitutes all that can be observed and therefore systematically categorized into facts.

The assumptions that cannot ever be proved are that an “objective reality exists, that we can rationally perceive this reality, and that knowledge can be derived from reality.”

Critical rationalism is the way in which we verify this objective reality via falsifiability.

Science is: the systematic search for knowledge whose validity does not depend on the particular individual but is open for anyone to check or rediscover. Just as there is a philosophy of science that addresses the scientific method, so is there the philosophy of the ethos of science. Science should be unbiased, not appeal to an authority, be duplicable, etc. Look it up.

Also look up the demarcation of science. It addresses the methods of classifying what is science and pseudoscience.

The laws of thought, or the aforementioned three laws of classic thought, are basic laws that must govern thought for proper reasoning to occur. It is the basis of all logic. The fundamental laws of classic thought first formulated by Aristotle are the: law of identity, law of noncontradiction, law of excluded middle. While there is absolutely no way to prove their existence, they are absolutely essential for any form of reasoning to occur.

I mentioned the laws of thought because the principles of science adopt similar basic assumptions.

Like I touched on earlier, ‘naturalistic assumption’ is simply an assumption about the existence of an objective, material, physical, reality. Science inherently depends on naturalism to come up with knowledge about this assumed objective reality.

Naturalism is: “the philosophy that maintains that (1) nature is all there is and whatever exists or happens is natural; (2) nature (the universe or cosmos) consists only of natural elements, that is, of spatiotemporal material elements–matter and energy–and non-material elements–mind, ideas, values, logical relationships, mathematical laws, etc.–that are either associated with the human brain or exist independently of the brain but are still somehow immanent in the physical structure of the universe; (3) nature operates by natural processes that follow natural laws and can, in principle, be explained and understood by science and philosophy; and (4) the supernatural does not exist, i.e., only nature is real, therefore, supernature is not real. Naturalism is therefore a metaphysical philosophy opposed primarily by supernaturalism.” [1998, Schafersman]

But…”is naturalism true? We may think so, but we can’t know for certain. Naturalism’s truth would presumably depend on the existence of a supernatural realm. If there were empirical evidence for the supernatural or a logical reason to believe in the supernatural without such evidence, then naturalism would be false. If we knew for certain that the supernatural did not exist, then naturalism would be true. It is doubtful whether any empirical evidence can possibly exist that would prove, demonstrate, or even suggest the existence of the supernatural. Such evidence posited by philosophical supernaturalists would certainly be labeled incomplete, incoherent, illogical, meaningless, misunderstood, or misinterpreted by philosophical naturalists, and thus rejected as reliable evidence. In fact, all such evidence has been so rejected, and I agree with these rejections. This leaves rational arguments for the proof of supernaturalism. All such arguments have been criticized as unsound or invalid, due to their underlying illogic or the questionable truth or proven falsity of their premises. In fact, despite centuries of attempts by theistic rationalists to prove the existence of god, miracles, and the supernatural, all such attempts have failed. There is thus no evidence for the supernatural and no reason to believe in it despite the lack of evidence; however, the supernatural could still possibly exist without our knowledge. It is apparently impossible to prove its non-existence. Such a lack of evidence and reason forces one to be agnostic about the existence of the supernatural and thus about the ultimate truth of naturalism. However, because of such lack of evidence and logical arguments, it is more reasonable to disbelieve the supernatural than to disbelieve naturalism. In light of this, it is fair to say that 90% of Americans believe in supernaturalism for emotional, psychological, or religious reasons rather than for empirical, logical, or realistic reasons, although most would probably deny this.” [1998, Schafersman]

The bottom line is, if science supported your beliefs, you would have no qualms with it. Because there are inconsistencies, you deduce there is something inherently wrong with the methods of science, and not your beliefs. I would encourage you, as fruitless encouragement this probably is, to challenge the origin of your beliefs with the same vigor that you challenge the assumptions of science. Consider how one develops understanding. Consider the cultural influences and inheritances than shape a world view. Consider the legitimacy of that world view among other world views and where it places its values. Consider how disciplined exposure to beliefs have reinforced beliefs over the years. Ask yourself why the questions that seem so important are really so important. Question your questions. Is there a built in premise, i.e., a slippery slope?

I’m tired.

It is incredibly easy for me to avoid these conversations. My only stake is that they will help you gain a glimmer of enlightenment that in the end will improve your life. But as long as your absolutely sure your life cannot get any better, and no more understanding can be gained, our conversation is futile. I would also never want to pry anyone from beliefs that effectively keep them secure and comfortable- so long as they are functional and happy.

In the end, my hope is that any conversation we have will open you up to understanding. I never thought I’d escape the grip of religious conviction and find my way out of the mazes of deception. Possibility is more evident than ever.