I ran across this gem by freshman Sharon Neely this morning at the Tufts Daily. It would be nice to think such a person would go through college and come out 4 years later well-educated as to the naivete of their foolish youth. But what is striking about this piece is that it pretty much hits every common logical fallacy in the book and yet still mirrors the state-of-the-art of apologetics I’ve heard from Ph.D. theologians:
Last Thursday, Xavier Malina wrote an op-ed entitled “Not a belief system, but a reason-based alternative to religion.” It was a response to an earlier op-ed, entitled “A case for God,” which was about atheism. In his piece, Malina defended his opinion on the subject – an entirely legitimate thing to do – by refuting the claim that atheism was a type of belief system.
However, I was troubled and saddened by the assumptions Malina made about faith and its role in people’s lives. And while I’m going to use my own experiences and thoughts as an active believer in God to, in turn, refute Malina’s claims, I write in full confidence and awareness that there are many, many others out there who share my views.
She’s off to a roaring start with argumentum ad populum.
My first concern was the definition of faith used by Malina. Regardless of the fact that I think it’s almost laughably absurd to use an atheist’s definition of faith, I furthermore do not agree that faith is “belief without, or in spite of, reason.” I’m sorry that that is what some people’s view of faith is.
Convenient and capricious redefinition of terms. Dictionary.com’s definition #2 for faith reads: “belief that is not based on proof”
I see proof for my faith everyday, in what I’m assuming most atheists put their “faith” in: science.
Now after just having said that faith is not belief in spite of reason, she provides her “proof” then changes the definition back to the traditional by claiming that atheists have “faith” in science, which is clear equivocation.
Yes, I believe in God and evolution and global warming and that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and I see God behind it all. Scientists have discovered the quark, but we still aren’t sure why they stick together to make atoms. We’ve delved into the brain, found the dendrite and the axon, but still haven’t figured out how memory really works.
But her “proof” turns out to be argument from ignorance.
But my answer to that is God. What else could have made such a beautiful and complex and spectacular universe? And I’m not alone; even prominent scientists, in the course of their reasoned studies, have seen the brilliance of the stars in the galaxy and have come away knowing there must be a Creator behind it.
I see the Creator in the beauty of the leaves turning red and the ability of a penguin to hear the call of her child amongst thousands. I feel as if I’m communing with the Divine each time I learn a new law of physics or see how a math problem works. Reason and science and thought lead me to God. I don’t find that the “available evidence” for God is lacking – rather, I believe that it’s so abundant that you can almost be numbed by it.
The God of the gaps, or argument from personal incredulity, with another dash of argumentum ad populum (and even argumentum ad verecundiam–authority or respect–for ‘prominent scientists’) thrown in.
My second – but no less worrisome – concern is the claim that theism is “founded on the basis of the acceptance of certain unflinching truths.” My experience is that faith and belief are not that simple in the slightest.
Faith is about going on a journey, it’s about struggle and it’s about wrestling with what happens in the world head on. It’s about asking questions and not agreeing with the answers and continuing to search. Sometimes it is about doubting and leaving your faith until you come back realizing that you want to believe. Only then is your faith stronger.
The flip side of argument from personal incredulity, is of course personal credulity, or what Dr. Daniel Dennett calls “belief in belief.”
So you might not think it, but faithful people need to be “verifying and integrating new data” into our schemas as much as the scientist – because faith provides answers that are hardly “static.” Different faiths each have their own sects, which all have their own theologians saying different things.
Relativism and belief in belief again: The differing and contradictory notions of faith are OK, because what’s important is that you have faith, not the content of your faith.
Part of the journey is finding what the truth is for yourself. It seems to me that atheism, in fact, provides the static answer, while faith makes you deal with the fact that God does exist, and, despite this, the world is how it is.
More relativism. My truth vs. your truth, instead of just “truth,” or better yet empirical evidence.
So when I read Malina’s article, I was bothered by it. I like to think that I see the world “as it exists” – don’t we all? But my faith never hinders my belief in that. Rather, my faith inspires me to respond to the state the world is in. My faith gives me a purpose in life, and assures me that there is a God who created me and every other person in the world – and loves us all the same.
Laying claim to teleology. Gratuitous back-handed insult. The implication is that people who don’t have faith lack purpose. People who don’t have faith are “mean” and want to take away “God’s love.”
It isn’t that I hide behind a dogma or have been brainwashed by cult leaders. Though unfortunately there are people out there who pervert organized religion into something horrendous and politicians who give belief a bad name, you’ll find that most believers are regular people who have found a connection with something greater than themselves.
Finally, Neely wraps up with the silly catch-all that we should all prostrate ourselves before “something greater” in some kind of a master-slave system of self-effacing ethics. And she fails to see that atheists and scientists are themselves humbled (but impersonally) before the mysteries of life and the universe.
I keep waiting for faith heads to come up with some different and better arguments, but it never happens. And I’m afraid this freshman seems unlikely to change her views no matter how many years of school she completes.
If she doesn’t figure this out by the time she graduates, it will be a tremendous waste of $100,000 tuition. I hope Tufts is up to the task of giving her a real education.
Not sure if you got to read my collage of responses to the Christian bombardment my blog suffered recently. One of the ‘gems’ in there is a statement that mutation is about molecules moving. To which my reply was that evolution is not like pimped-out rims (imagine Chris Rock saying this); “they’re spinnin,’ they’re spinnin,’ they’re spinnin.'”
My biggest pet peeve is this, those who learned science in Sunday school need to never ever mention science. In fact they need to forget the word, and when someone says “science,” they should say, “what is that?”
Here’s why: “Weâ€™ve delved into the brain, found the dendrite and the axon, but still havenâ€™t figured out how memory really works.” What a ‘beautiful’ way to completely trash (who’s mean?) the enormous work put into neuroscience? Pseudo-scientists need to google chemical glutamate, which is just one of the many new discoveries that paint a clearer picture behind the very complex biology of memory. And then they need to somehow increase levels of endocannabinoids in their brains and forget the word ‘science,’ in hopes we may start over with their education.
My comment will take two paths, almost parallel, but with significant discourses (rest assured neither will err towards the irrational).
To reconcile my opening I must start with the fact that I agree with everything the columnist has argued, and although I sometimes envy those on my side of the spiritual divide who have the ‘brusqueness’ to throw the gauntlet directly in the face of such absurdities; I myself, lean towards a more subtle reasoning. Yes, the [justified] cries of ‘apologest’ I hear ringing out- for it has got us nowhere- this point I concede.
But I have raised this conjecture before, although not in this forum, and it is not original. Richard D. touched on it before me and in his appendixes I believe he sourced numerous ‘enlightened’ ones before his arrival.
That point being that we- as those who wish to discover as opposed to they that are told- Continually wage a battle fought on flawed terminology, that weakens our arguments simply because (and I believe the writer was trying to bridge a middle ground) we stand so diametrically opposed to the theist’s point of view.
When an argument is winnable on so many fronts it is sometimes (albeit concilliatory) prudent to allow a path (of least resistance- due to it’s familiarity) that will permit the least of the die-hards, or even a majority of the young guns to find a common ground to begin their independent thought without losing face to their peers, family and influence. Which is indeed the primary malfactor to acknowledging evidence and logic; or lack thereof.
My paths diverged sooner than methinks.
My alternative stance suggests that as we don’t believe in religion, par se, we have no doubt a ‘spiritual’ side which sees the beauty and extravagance of nature and that the more we scratch the more we are in awe. But religion requests we keep that awe solely for a being that may, no… doesn’t exist. And that even the the most superficial attempts at emmulating said being is abhorrent.
To eventually come round to a conclusion, it is right we distance ourselves from religion entirely and that includes all descriptive terms therein, anything less is only half done.
Faith, the word exudes irrationality. I have faith in my partner and she in I, but whether or not we believe in divinity won’t change the fact that we can be attracted by others. Trust is a more appropiate term and says a lot more about the human animal. Every single word that has tied mens’ conscious to the supernatural can be exchanged for another, and Atheist too, a term concocted in the past to alienate us- WE are reasonists, thinkers and challengers, non of which puts a picture of a bearded man on our (or their) prefrontal cortex or wherever, before engagement.
[…] A Freshman Summary of Every Naive Faith Argument Filed under: Religious Right — jr @ 11:30 am A Freshman Summary of Every Naive Faith Argument […]
Will I become smarter if I stop believing in God?
You might become smarter if you start looking into all of your assumptions, including the one about God. Good luck to you.
Same old same old from the theists. Excellent analysis.
Excellent response to that inanity. Was fun to read you take it apart.
Wasn’t it more evidence of teleology that helped move a free thinking, great mind like Antony Flew from athiest to thiest?, so one must ask how truely naive can all these arguments be?
Roger, Anthony Flew is an anomaly among atheists, and I certainly disagree with his basis for “conversion.” I think he did it for emotional reasons.
Teleology is for people who don’t have enough imagination or chutzpah to stake out their own purpose in life. Or who are too bewildered by the awesome randomness of the natural universe to live comfortably without fantasizing some kind of order to it all.
These are limiting perspectives from the fitful childhood of humanity.
Oh my god roger, you have made my day. Not many defend others argumentative fallacies with argumentative fallacies.
Oh really? I read many of these blogs, and I see it happen all the time, on both sides of these discussions.
Duh, tell me more about the rabbits George!