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.
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?
* 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?”