Fundamental Astuteness

The Essence of Astuteness: Non-Partisan Intellectual Honesty

Archive for the ‘Michael Shermer’ Category

Great Quotes: Ludwig Von Mises

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The aforementioned individual was a widely acclaimed economist and political philsopher of his time. Born in 1881 in what is now Liviv, Ukraine, he became a great leader in the classical liberal movement and in advancing the Austrian School of Economic though (libertarianism and extremely laissez faire economics, respectively). Justifying his opinion that government ought not to be in the business of protecting people from their own foolishness, he opined in his great book Human Action, as follows:
Opium and morphine are certainly dangerous and habit forming drugs. But once a principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments. A good case could be made out in favor of the prohibition of alcohol and nicotine. And why limit the government’s benevolent providence to the protection of the individual’s body only? Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music?

The passage struck a chord with for the same reason it did for the great skeptic and libertarian Michael Shermer, who said of the passage that it  “…resonated with me because his analogue from the physical to the ideological is so effective in conveying the central message of freedom and liberty[.]”

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Michael Shermer on the Problem of Evil

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My favorite skeptic, Michael Shermer, has written a book titled “How We Believe: The Search for God in the Age of Science”. I’m enjoying it so far. The critics seem to like it too. “Well researched, comprehensive, and persuasive” “This is an important book” “Great read…!”

I’ve always been fascinated by the problem of evil. I assume at least most of my small readership is familiar with the issue. The question basically is: “How can an all good God and all powerful God allow evil in this world and still be sinless?”

I’m still thinking and reading on the topic, and I hope to write more about it soon. What I have concluded is that despite the apparent conundrums inolved with the problem, I am not yet convinced that the existence of pain and suffering justifies the rejection of God. Nevertheless, I’m still intruiged by other people’s reasoning and justifications for their worldview, and I now present an excerpt from page five of his book mentioned above:

“To this day I have not heard an answer to the Problem of Evil that seems satisfactory. As with the Problem of Free Will, most answers involve complicated twists and turns of logic and semantic wordplay. One answer, for example, is based on the fundamental assumption of a stone so heavy he cannot lift it. Likewise, God cannot be encompassed in the in the subset of evil. Evil, like heavy stones, exist independently of the larger set of God, even though remaining in that set. Another riposte involves explaining specific historical evils, like the Holocaust, where one answer is that “humans committed these evil acts, not God.” But this avoids the problem altogether: Either God allowed Nazis to kill Jews, in which case He is not omnibenevolent, or God could not prevent Nazis from killing Jews, in which case he is not omnipotent.”

Others have found the answer. I hope to find it too.

Written by Astuteness

September 11, 2008 at 5:01 pm

On Faithful Skepticism and Rational Faith

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It is my observation that the mainstream media and academia stigmatize faith as something intellectually inferior and antithetical to both science and reason. This is not always true of every respected scientist. Some, like Michael Shermer (editor of Skeptic Magazine and the one to whom I also like to refer to as “my favorite skeptic”) have a less villifying take on faith in general, and the Christian Faith in particular. Still, atheists like George H. Smith boldy assert that “Christian theism must be rejected by any person with even a shred of respect for reason”. Websites too, like Importance of Philosophy make assertions such as “The result of using faith consistently is the complete inability to think.” Richard Dawkins is quoted as saying “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

I disagree.

To either replace their faith and justify their rejection of it, skeptics turn to other pinnicles on which to view truth and analyze the world. Some go all out in support of Science. Its all about science. What do emperical experiments tell us. What’s happening in the labratory. Others are all about reason. “This is rational.” “That is not.” “If God created everything, then God created evil. And since evil exists, and acording to the principle that our works define who we are, the we can assume God is evil.”

Media and acadamia potray these alternatives to faith (reason, science, etc) as exclusive to faith. “Science and Faith are not compatible” or “Reason and Faith cannot be reconciled”. The implication is that if you have faith, then you are not rational. You are not scientific. You wonder in the wastelands of stupidity and cluelessnes. Such implications are used, particuarly in our college campuses, as tools by which to destroy people’s religious faith.

And it works. The Christian Church doesn’t do very well educating its people on how to defend the faith. The de-conversion rate of college students is at an all time high. So when our young people go to college, who wants to be called “irrational” “stupid” “clueless” etc? And so people fall away from the faith or cower from the mighty intellecutals in fear because someone convinced them that faith is inherently exclusive to the other faculties of reason, science, and so on.

Part of the problem may be that we let our opponents define what faith is. And when that happens, they are more than happy to define it in the negative. “Faith is the opposite of reason” or “Faith is antithetical to science”.

But is faith merely a dictionary antonym for intellectual glory?

I think not.

I propose that we as Christians take our definition of faith from the 19th book of the New Testament, the Book of Hebrews, the 11th chapter, and the first verse, which says: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

In other words, strictly speaking, faith is merely the belief in something that we have not directly seen or experienced firsthand. That’s it.

If this is the case, then it has far reaching implications into whether or not faith should be stigmatized as something inherently irrational. Because if it is true that faith is merely belief in something not directly experienced, then everyone has faith.

I have not been to England. But I have strong faith that it exists. I haven’t seen it first hand, but Rick Steves has apparantly been there and made a movie about it. The name appears in my history books and all of them agree on the general size and location of the country on the map. Its a well grounded faith too, because there is good evidence for it.

Scientists have not actually seen macro-evolution happen. No one has gone to the zoo for a few million years and watched a monkey turn from ape to homo-sapien. Its a matter of faith because they’re believing in something that they have not actually seen.

In light of this, the argument in our culture ought not to be about whether faith is inherently dangerous or evil; everyone has faith; the argument ought to be over who has the best faith supported by experience, reason, science, and logic.

As a historical faith, Christianity has, in my experience, been able to meet the burden of proof to my satisfaction such that I am convinced that, while theism and christianity are not proveable with mathmatical certainty, the archeological, scientific, philosophical, and historical evidences make faith in God and the Bible a reasonable state of existence not outside the realms of science and rationality.

The evidence that makes this so will be explored on this blog as time goes on. But for now, remember: Faith is not irrational in and of itself. Everyone has to one varying degree or another in various fields of thought and persuasion. The debate ought to be over which faith is best supported by our deductions and observations.

I conclude as I often like to do with the great quote from the great Voddie Baucham:

“Is that your final answer? I hope its not. voddie-baucham.jpgLet me give you an answer to that question that I believe is better than ‘I was raised that way’ or its better than “Well I’m Southern Baptist and that’s the way we believe’ or its better than “I tried it, and it worked for me” Let me tell you why I choose to believe the Bible. I don’t believe the Bible because I was raised that way—because I wasn’t. I don’t choose to believe the Bible because I tried it and it worked for me. My mother’s Buddhism worked for her—that’s why she was a Buddhist! I need something more than just ‘because it works’. Here’s the answer—I’ll give it to you and unpack it for you:

I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report [of] supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claimed that their writing are divine rather than human in origin.”