Scientific Faith? You are Surely Joking! (1)

The main issue of talking to “some” believers is their utter dishonesty and ignorance. Of course, this comes in many different ways and shapes: Sometimes they try to abuse a professional language, sometimes they lie, and sometimes they try to confiscate irrelevant things for their own position, including science and scientific method.

Recently I keep hearing the old claim that “we all accept things based on faith, including scientists”. You ask where? Let’s take the case of this audio-video, in which “Dr.” John Warwick Montgomery apparently tries to criticize Sam Harris’s comment on faith.*

Of course, there are numerous reasons why this is flawed. In fact, it is so flawed that one wonders where to begin?!

Let’s start with the very first sentence: “No evidence for factual things reaches a hundred percent.” And then he goes on giving an example about “crossing the street”. It is interesting that “He” should dare calling Harris a bad epistemologist, while he is attacking Harris exactly based on bad epistemology.

Assuming that we ignore we don’t know what this guy means by “factual things”, and assuming he means “factual belief”, if theories of natural science are “factual things”, then the evidence for them based on methodology of science “should” be 100%. If not, then they are falsified theories and should be put aside.**

There are other domains of knowledge, like social sciences, art, history, philosophy etc, which contain these “factual things”. None of them are as robust as natural science, but some of them are close, like social sciences, or our ordinary lives for that matter. If we have reasons, beyond reasonable doubt, that something has happened or is going to happen, it would be moronic to say we have “faith” in it. The only thing we have is reasonable acceptance, which is a fancy name for common sense.

This brings us to the second glorious (gloriously stupid of course) statement of Dr. Montgomery: “Faith is jumping the gap from evidence to certainty”. Well, then we have “faith”, which means trusting your common sense when crossing the street, and we have “faith”, which means believing in Pixies, Fairies, Santa, Loch Ness monster, Genie of the lamp, All the God(s) and Russel’s teapot (theists nightmare). You’re telling me there is no difference here?!

We have common sense that tells us we should ignore unreasonable doubts. After all, we cannot live if we do not do so: Imagine someone that never passes the street because despite all the precautions, there “might” be an accident.

If that does not show the difference, there are two other things that will: First, is the mere existence of religious pluralism should be a clue to its fraudulent nature. The evidential truth in religion as a knowledge does not pass beyond individual subjectivism. But science is almost completely different: There is no sign of pluralism within scientific community, which shows its objective nature.

Second, the history of science and history of religion clearly show that as time passed by, religion branches into many different denominations, while science remains mostly as one “paradigm”. Even if there are two rival theories (or paradigms) at a time, one would eventually die away, as scientific experiments go on.

from WikipediaSource: Wikipedia

And one final thing, until now, there has been no justified evidence for the truth of any major religious claim. Which means religion keeps pending outside the known knowledge of reality, along with pixies, fairies and leprechauns.

Is there no end to hypocrasy of religious apologists?

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* It’s interesting that he does not dare debating Harris, or others whom he supposably criticizes without them being there.

** There have been a lot of relatvie discussions in philosophy of science about this that I do not mention here, none of them have recognized religious belief to be factual and evidentially accurate though. But I will talk about one related question later in another post: “Is there anything that scientists believe, without it being evidentially justified?”

 

Death

It would be a lie, for probably anyone, if one says one is not afraid of death; and it does not matter if they are religious or not. In fact, followers of Abraham may not realize it, but their religion does not create comfort for them, it creates even more despair. Not only the fear of the unknown side of the inevitable demise does not diminish by their faith, but one more fear is added to it: The fear of eternal damnation.

This reminds me of a teacher that we had, he was a fundamentalist since he was teaching “Islamic thought” nonsense to us. He used to say: “I am going to hell anyways”. Of course, he didn’t mean it. He was trying to be humble, but this triggers my point: No religious person can even remotely be sure that they would go to heaven.

It has always been amusing for me to see people have the ultimate phobia of the end. Being afraid of the unknown is one thing, but not wanting to face the inevitable is irrational. Of course, this does not mean that we should not try to live longer, or we should commit suicide; but it means that when it is time to go, well, it is time to go…

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I wonder If this fear is the reason why “afterlife” was invented? Watch as Sam Harris explains about the science of mind and the ultimate question about afterlife, that religious people, of any sort, have to be able to explain:

 

Me vs. Islam: Why Nobody Should Ever Convert to Islam?

Note: Please keep in mind that this post applies to Shia Islam, though I believe many aspects of it applies to Sunnis as well.

To me it is quite obvious that no one should convert to any religion, and I think in my previous posts I have established that fact. But the question about Islam was presented to me by my housemate, who asked in particular why should no one convert to Islam, if he or she is a member of other religions.

I told him I had many very good reason, but one I think to be the most important, and that reason was losing one’s individuality. If Renaissance did one thing for Europe, that was creating a sense of self centred importance in people, the ability to think as one, and not as only a member of an ideology. This by itself led to enlightenment and rationalism. But Islam has never had a Renaissance, and that’s why if anyone converts to it, they must lose their entire individual existence.

To back my claim up I don’t need to go far, “Islam” as a world means “surrender”. Surrender to the will of their tyrant God, Allah, who has the desire to control “everything” in one’s life. Most Abrahamic religions are in fact totalitarian in the same way, but none are like Islam.

Most people from outside may or may not know, but the Sharia law is not all in the Koran or in Hadith, it is made up by mullahs in their books which is called “resalah”. Reading one of them makes you realized what actually means to control every aspect of one’s life by controlling their will.

They literally try to control “everything”. Let’s have an example about eating habits: What you eat, when you eat, how you eat, where to eat, where not to eat, what is better to do when you eat, what’s better not to do when you eat, etc, etc… From the most basic, to the most trivial things like “it is better not to drink with left hand” they want to control!

This goes for every aspect of one’s life: There are orders even from “How to enter the bathroom” to “How to relieve yourself in the bathroom” and what to do next, and no, I’m not kidding at all.

And then there is the matter of “Fatwa”. The attempt to silence any sane person who criticizes Islam in a way that the Mullahs don’t like. Example? Ayatollah Sistani’s fatwa on Abdulaziz Sachedina, telling other Muslims “Don’t listen to him”.

And yes, there are orders (fatwa) about whom should be killed too. Ayatollah Khomeini’s Fatwa on Sir Salman Rushdie is probably the most famous and the most persistent one of them. You may also remember the more recent murder of Theo van Gogh, the director of a short movie criticizing the bigotry of Islam (I don’t know if this one was a fatwa).

No sane person in the world should ever commit to this horrific mind control of a totalitarian ideology. And remember, even after this, if one still wants to convert to Islam, one should have in mind that there is no escape from this: The punishment for apostasy in Islam is death, and even if the converter realizes that he/she has made a mistake, there is most probably no way back.

Book Review: “Lying” by Sam Harris

I got excited about the book the first time I saw it’s cover. Firstly, it is written by Sam Harris, who has shown in the recent years that has a way with words that could make the most trivial arguments into something worthwhile. Secondly, since I am by nature truthful, meaning normally I cannot lie even if I try, lying had turned into the subject of my lesser moral obsessions.

I always had in mind that there come times in which lying is a necessity. Although I’m not anything close to a good liar, I lied numerous times to my family in the middle east about my sexuality, something that I am still doing, and I made it believable. I had to make them believe it, because I was lying to save my own life: You may know that death is the punishment of having sex as a Homosexual in the world of Islam. And yet, we are always told “You should be truthful”, and it is never added in the end of this moral code that there are occasions that there would be no way but lying.

I got the book with hope that Harris could give a scientific explanation for our behaviour, and/or give a good argument in favour of a better moral code that includes these sorts of dilemmas. I was disappointed, but a part of it was the result of my expectations.

The book itself is not bad. It is in fact very simple, which is it’s both strength and weakness: Those who expect more will be disappointed, but the book in fact could be a very good guideline for ordinary people who seek to know why we have good reasons for our every day ethics and codes, in this case lying. Also, because it is simple, it can be easily used to teach teenagers both the moral of being truthful and how to reason to reach those morals.

For me, though Harris in some cases does make compelling arguments, the book was lacking in some answers, answers that in fact were the subject of my not so much trivial obsession.

Take the case of Anne Frank in the attic for example: If a Nazi German officer and his SS group are standing on your doorstep asking if you have any Jews in the house, and Anne Frank is hiding in your attic, will you lie to save her? Or will you tell the truth even though telling the truth could cost an innocent person her life?

Harris mentions the exact same example in the beginning of the book, but then changes it slightly into a case for a murderer and a child hiding in your home, in order to reach to two different points he wants to make. This slight change makes his point almost relevant: You should not lie, because something worse “may” happen.

Yes, in case of a one man murderer that may be true, but then again, something better could also happen. And, we know that telling the truth “will” create a great evil deed, in which we bear more responsibility than in case of lying. The case of a murderer is different with the case of Nazis, we can stand and defend the innocent against one murderer, but it is practically impossible to stand alone against a whole bunch of SS, ready to kill for the Reich.

If we lie, we know that we have done something to save a life, yes, we may have taken a risk, but that is better than being directly responsible in someone else’s death by telling the truth.

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Overall, Harris does not solve the important dilemmas. But he makes good and simple cases for those who wish to know why they should not say trivial lies, and why being a liar is nothing good in ordinary life.