Getting dialog going: Preview of next document concerning belief and faith

Update: The new document described below is now online.

So far on this blog, there has been minimal dialog or debate. This is not surprising, for several reasons. First, of course, the blog is new, and readership is not particularly huge (although stats have shown 275 views, which is pretty good!). Second, I have not advertised the site widely, relying primarily on word-of-mouth, and many of the folks that have initially taken a look at the site are also on the atheist side of things. Third, and possibly most importantly, the two main documents I have posted so far consist of (a) a technical discussion of an obscure issue and (b) simple definitions of atheism and agnosticism. In short, I have not yet provided an argument for atheism. My next document is going to take a large step in that direction. I am offering a preview here in order to solicit arguments and counterarguments that I can ensure that I address in that post.

I will be discussing the differences between belief and faith, and will be arguing that faith in anything is both unjustified and unjustifiable; put another way, I will be arguing that faith is not a valid way of knowing reality. Further, I will argue that faith is inherently dangerous to society, and that it is indeed possible to live a life entirely without faith. These last two points together lead directly to the conclusion that anyone interested in intellectual honesty and the betterment of society should root faith out of their own belief system, and should, where appropriate, argue against faith-as-a-way-of-knowing in the broader world. Finally, if the argument holds up to scrutiny, it implies that a discussion of the reasonableness of religious belief should be held on the basis of evidence rather than on the basis of faith. The evidence for or against the reasonableness of religious belief will be in a separate post later.

So, please comment if you have points or arguments that you think would bear on this discussion. Thanks! Also, feel free to advertise this to anyone that you think might have something to contribute to the discussion.

6 Comments

  1. Do all atheists believe in evolution? What other human origin theories exist? Regarding evolution… If evolution were true, why don’t we see various stages of human evolution today? why do animals appear to not be evolving to adapt with environmental changes?

    Like

    • Interesting questions, Shawn. I certainly intend to post some articles at a later point concerning evolution, but I’m happy to tackle some questions now.

      No, not all atheists believe in evolution. Atheism simply means, “without theism,” and there are plenty of ways to lack theism and still not buy into evolution. I think it is likely that MOST atheists believe evolution, but it is not a necessary condition of atheism.

      Your second question is interesting, because it is nearly the opposite of the one I normally hear. I usually hear, “If humans evolved from apes, then why are there still apes?” The answer to THAT one is that we didn’t evolve from apes… apes and we evolved from a common ancestor (apes are analogous to our cousins, not our grandparents).

      But that’s not what you asked. Why don’t we see various stages of human evolution today? Well largely that’s because it is populations that evolve, not individuals. And today we have a global human population, so all of our genes are getting mixed up in the gene pool. In order to have separate populations that split at some point, those separate populations would have to remain separate long enough for them to evolve (through either natural selection or genetic drift… or both) to the point that the populations can no longer successfully interbreed, kind of like how horses and donkeys have evolved separately long enough that they cannot successfully interbreed now (their offspring, mules, are sterile). That can take a very long time. The current estimate is between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago for the human population’s most recent common ancestor (http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-08/new-dates-humanitys-last-common-male-and-female-ancestors). That seems like a huge timeframe, but in evolutionary time it’s not that long. Take a look, for example, at the timeline at the bottom of this page (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/species.html). Our most recent relative was Homo neanderthalensis, and the current theory is that humans outcompeted, and thus they died out. It would make sense that the same would be true of the earlier stages of development.

      And now your last question… why animals don’t appear to be evolving to adapt with environmental changes. The answer is that they are. A great example that has been studied for 200 years is the peppered moths: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppered_moth_evolution

      Like

  2. There is plenty of evidence for evolution in modern man. One example taken from listverse.com

    Wisdom Teeth
    Early humans ate a lot of plants – and they needed to eat them quickly enough that they could eat a sufficient amount in one day to get all of the nutrients they needed. For this reason, we had an extra set of molars to make the larger mouth more productive. This was particularly essential as the body lacked the ability to sufficiently digest cellulose. As evolution made its selections, our diets changed, our jaws grew appropriately smaller, and our third molars became unnecessary. Some human populations have now all but completely stopped growing wisdom teeth, while others have almost 100% likelihood of developing them.

    Then there’s the appendix, coccyx, third eyelid…

    Like

  3. Pingback: New document (Belief vs. Faith), and site status | Convert The Atheist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s