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Old 10 January 2013, 02:17 AM
Spud Sabre Spud Sabre is offline
 
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Default Is "having faith" equivalent to "assuming"?

I just watched the latest few episodes of Extra Credits, dealing with religion in games

Part 1

Part 2

Response to criticism

In those episodes, they use a different definition of faith than what I am used to, that faith is the lack of absolute knowledge/certainty and that things like mathematical proofs that cannot be proven in all cases (sorry I don't know any of them) are taken on faith, which I would agree with using the above definition of faith, but I'm not sure if that definition is proper. But since words evolve, maybe it is a proper definition.

I want to know what y'all think about this: does "taking x on faith" and "assuming x" mean the same thing?
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Old 10 January 2013, 02:24 AM
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No, they don't mean the same thing. "Assuming x" expressly declared, means that you are discussing a hypothetical case where "x" exists, or is true. You are declaring a premise, but you aren't saying that you believe it to be true--you're saying if it's true, then ___ follows. You may or may not actually believe it to be true. You are not declaring x to be something that is, in general, not subject to requirements of evidence and proof.

"Taking x on faith" means that you are declaring x to be true, or to exist, without any/sufficient proof. That is, you do actually believe x, without actual proof. Further, by declaring that you are taking it on faith, you are declaring that you do not require proof of x--you simply believe it.
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Old 10 January 2013, 02:27 AM
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IME when someone makes an assumption they're open to later finding out it was wrong and re-jigging their thought process based on new evidence. When they accept something on faith then that's just how it is and any evidence to the contrary is ignored or discounted.
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Old 10 January 2013, 02:30 AM
Spud Sabre Spud Sabre is offline
 
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I agree with both of you, as per my belief that the word "faith" is misused by Extra Credits.
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Old 10 January 2013, 02:35 AM
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As a general rule, I think synonyms are never precisely identical. Each word or term has its own context and connotation, which give it different shades of meaning than any similar words or phrases. The word "faith" is very much colored by its religious uses, and as such has taken on a patina of courage and loyalty or irrationality and obstinacy, depending on how you view it. The word "assume," by contrast, is usually used to refer to either an unthinking, unchallenged belief that could be easily changed with new evidence (e.g. when I woke up and saw droplets of water all over my bedroom window, I assumed it had rained overnight, but then I saw the neighbor kids playing with squirt guns...) or a functional belief not sincerely held but used merely for the sake of problem-solving (let's assume, for the sake of argument...).

To put it another way, "faith" is a much weightier thing than "assumption."

ETA: Or what everyone else just said. Damn, I'm slow.
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Old 10 January 2013, 02:41 AM
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A word can have more than one meaning, too.
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Old 10 January 2013, 02:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spud Sabre View Post
I agree with both of you, as per my belief that the word "faith" is misused by Extra Credits.
Yep. The way they talk about it is conflating the two. The scientific method doesn't take observations being true "on faith." It doesn't even assume them to be true--that's why experimental results have to be reproducible to be taken as valid. When something is consistently observed, then it may be tentatively taken as true or valid. But it's always subject to being disproved. That's the opposite of taking something on faith the way I use that term.

ETA: I think there is a casual use of the term "take it on faith" that comes closer to the "assume" meaning, but that isn't the sense that "faith" is used in the context of religion, and it isn't what anyone would say about the scientific method if they were being precise.
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Old 10 January 2013, 02:46 AM
Spud Sabre Spud Sabre is offline
 
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That is true. Unfortunately there's the whole equivocation thing.

ETA: Spanked by erwins.
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  #9  
Old 10 January 2013, 04:55 AM
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I don't think they were suggesting that the scientific method, and this measured by it, are taken of faith. They are saying that at some level science is building on faith in it's initial axioms.

I suppose "assumption" is arguably saying the same thing but at some point but somehow seems different.

It's like their example where the rules of mathematics and physics we took as true don't always apply in all situations.

Beyond even that deep level, most people (and I suspect scientists) take things on faith because they cannot realistically re-do all the research every time somebody new wants to use it. You are taking it on faith that barring new evidence the past findings are correct.


I think that 'faith' is something all of us use in one form or another, though not always faith in the divine of course. The difference between reasonable people and those who are not however is that once evidence arrives that suggests something we put our faith in is wrong we move on and adjust our worldview, unreasonable people do not.

That is the strength of science and weakness of religion; science changes quickly and often with less bloodshed when compared with religion and science demands that the things we put our faith in be tested and stand up to scrutiny rather than just state them and be done with it. But at some point when you dig down deep enough in any given science it's rooted in faith that the most deepest understandings we have about how the world and universe work are on faith in some scientific theory. Faith supported by evidence, sure, but still faith.

To me it's like this chair I'm in; I have faith that it won't collapse when I sit on it, that's why I don't test it carefully every time I sit down. That faith is bolstered by evidence and by experience but at some deep level it still relates to faith.
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  #10  
Old 10 January 2013, 05:08 AM
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On another message board I frequent there's a few people that counter any request for reasonable skepticism with appeals to solipsism. You won't take their claim of Bigfoot seriously due to lack of evidence or invoke the burden of proof, BAM they immediately go to the old "Well how do you know you're not a brain in a jar?" style arguments.

I don't have faith, I don't like faith as a concept. But yes I do have to make certain core assumptions. I have to assume a level of base reality that yes I suppose due to basic metaphysical mindscrews I do have to simply just more or less assume. I have to assume that what my sense are showing me, within what we know about neurology and sensory input, is more or less accurate. I have to assume a certain side in the Plato's Cave, Brain in a Jar, Butterfly Dreaming I'm A Man, What If We're All Plugged Into the Matrix navel gazing malarkey simply to function intellectually.

Firstly because, although I'm not sure if I can verbalize it exactly, there is simply a core base difference between reality denial and reasonable skepticism. "I think therefore I am" is not equivalent to "Everything I think must be true." (And personally I detest solipsism because I generally tend to dismiss arguments that can be countered by punching the person making them in the nose. Reality isn't nearly as easy to ignore as some coffee shop intellectuals like to pretend.)

But more importantly I don't see these assumptions as a good thing. Yes I've had to back burner some intellectual question because they at the moment simply cannot be answered but I don't revere this gaps in my knowledge as good things. These... unknowns don't occupy the same overwhelmingly positive place in my brain as faith does for people.
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  #11  
Old 10 January 2013, 06:29 AM
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But whether you think they are valid (or reasonable) they still demand faith.

I personally like the color-blind example better than the others (just cause it's more realistic). A society of color-blind people would assume the world as they saw it was true but in fact there would be much that they could not see.

I think where the issue comes up is how those things are used; yes like it or not there are things we all take on faith, you can say you don't have faith but really we are just splitting hairs on different definitions of words (calling it, for example, core assumptions rather than faith, it means the same thing in this context).

One thing that is different about the 'brain in a jar' style of faith being used by the bigfoot enthusiasts however is that it makes no sense to have faith in it because there is no evidence to support it. The problem I see with how faith often works in the world particularly where religion and the like are concerned is they take the opposite stance. Instead of saying "I don't believe there is a God because I have never seen any evidence to suggest there is one" they say "I believe there is a God because I have never seen any evidence to suggest there isn't one".

Or to go back to the above example; yes we cannot know for certain if we are brains in jars creating the world around us or if we aren't.. However given that it makes far more sense to me (and to science) to assume we are not until evidence arrives to suggest that we are, and you can say the same thing about bigfoot (though there is more evidence there I guess, there is also far more evidence against it, but that's a whole other discussion). The "faith" is that we are not brains in jars, and that is a reasonable faith to have, but at some level we must acknowledge that we do have that faith and that the assumption that we are not brains in jars is not rooted in science but in belief.

I don't think that makes us weaker or less rational, nor do I think it cheapens or limits science, quite the opposite in fact, I think it is a sign of intelligence to be able to admit the limit of the things you can know as 'truth or fact' and accept that there are some things you are willing to take on faith or assume.

Ultimately, to me, if you are ever assuming something is true without any evidence to support that assumption you are taking something on faith; the word itself has a lot of baggage which is why I think we get these semantical nit-picks over calling them 'core truths' or 'core assumptions' or what have you but realistically, and in the context of the discussion and in the Extra Credits videos, faith means the same thing.
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Old 10 January 2013, 06:44 AM
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I don't understand the colorblind example. We're all colorblind in an infinite number of ways. Is that what we're supposed to see? But color isn't a property of the universe at all. It's completely made up in our heads. So it's a little like saying "people who didn't have cartoons would assume the world they were living in was true but there would be so many things they couldn't even imagine as cartoons." Well, yeah, but what exactly would they be missing?
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Old 10 January 2013, 06:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
But whether you think they are valid (or reasonable) they still demand faith.
If you have to call it that I suppose. But the elevation of "faith" to a positive concept makes it a very different beast from unavoidable assumptions.

Quote:
I personally like the color-blind example better than the others (just cause it's more realistic). A society of color-blind people would assume the world as they saw it was true but in fact there would be much that they could not see.
But we already live in that world and that assumption didn't last forever. We can't see ultraviolet or infrared but that limitation in our sensory input hasn't completely kneecapped our understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum. Your hypothetical color blind world wouldn't be any different. Sure it would be described and visualized differently, but the concept of "color" in some sense of the word would still exist. Like now we know intellectually that bats can "see" sound via echolocation in a way we can't and pit vipers can see heat and so forth. We can't internally visualize those concepts because yes they are fundamentally foreign to how we perceive the world, but they aren't some grand mysterious of the universe to us forever outside our understanding.

We are simply not that hampered by our sensory limitations. The idea that if we couldn't visually see color it would forever rob us of understanding the concept is just not true. We understand things we don't directly perceive through our senses all the time, and I'm not talking through mystical woo either.
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  #14  
Old 10 January 2013, 06:48 AM
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Yes, what Joe said too.
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  #15  
Old 10 January 2013, 07:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
That is the strength of science and weakness of religion; science changes quickly and often with less bloodshed when compared with religion and science demands that the things we put our faith in be tested and stand up to scrutiny rather than just state them and be done with it. But at some point when you dig down deep enough in any given science it's rooted in faith that the most deepest understandings we have about how the world and universe work are on faith in some scientific theory. Faith supported by evidence, sure, but still faith.
So the words are the same, except for this tiny way that they are different--which happens to be the distinction we're all talking about--but that's just semantical hair-splitting. I think this might be called begging the question.

Having "faith" that a chair won't collapse isn't the same sense of the word that is used for religious faith. I believe that my chair won't collapse based on a plethora of evidence, mostly based on having many many experiences with chairs, and I will only believe it up until the point at which there is enough evidence to the contrary to make me doubt it. IOW, I know what my chair is made of, I know those materials have in the past been capable of holding my weight, I know it's in reasonably good repair, and has not been abused. I don't, however, rule out that it could collapse due to some factor that I'm unaware of. It's true that I don't reevaluate it each time I go to sit down, but I would notice if, say, one of the legs were missing, and I would cease to believe that it would not collapse. It's the opposite of faith in the religious sense.

More importantly, however, the building blocks of science are not taken on faith. They are taken as provisionally true. If evidence contradicts something that was assumed as a premise, it gets rejected or reevaluated. Evidence is sought, not eschewed. Those are real differences, and they are the differences between what those words mean, and the concepts that they represent.
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Old 10 January 2013, 08:49 AM
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Tim Minchin has a great quote about what faith is.

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed. Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U
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Old 10 January 2013, 08:51 AM
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Those Extra Credits people are really bad theologians. I also love how they tried to pass off their argument "Science is based on Faith" by redefining the meaning of 'faith', that's pretty darned sloppy.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
The problem I see with how faith often works in the world particularly where religion and the like are concerned is they take the opposite stance. Instead of saying "I don't believe there is a God because I have never seen any evidence to suggest there is one" they say "I believe there is a God because I have never seen any evidence to suggest there isn't one".
They're trying to use Pascal's Wager which is a really poor debating tool. Read up on it and you'll be well armed against their "I believe in X because I see no evidence that X doesn't exist" argument.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
Beyond even that deep level, most people (and I suspect scientists) take things on faith because they cannot realistically re-do all the research every time somebody new wants to use it. You are taking it on faith that barring new evidence the past findings are correct.
No, not at all. Pretty much every scientist will have performed all the basic scientific experiments themselves in high school and college during lab classes and the specific experiments that they haven't performed themselves or don't have time to perform will have been checked and retested by countless people before them. The scientific method's reliance on repeatability and peer review supplies a great deal of evidence for every finding.
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Old 10 January 2013, 08:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeBentley View Post
On another message board I frequent there's a few people that counter any request for reasonable skepticism with appeals to solipsism. You won't take their claim of Bigfoot seriously due to lack of evidence or invoke the burden of proof, BAM they immediately go to the old "Well how do you know you're not a brain in a jar?" style arguments.
I've become somewhat obsessed with Squatchology lately and I'm fascinated by the mindset of Bigfoot believers. If you want to start up a thread about it I'd be more than happy to discuss it and pick your brain.
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Old 10 January 2013, 01:02 PM
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You should always be careful with words like "proof" and "faith". Before long you will prove that black is white and who knows how that will end up?
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Old 10 January 2013, 03:42 PM
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Quote:
So the words are the same, except for this tiny way that they are different--which happens to be the distinction we're all talking about--but that's just semantical hair-splitting. I think this might be called begging the question.
I don't see how they are different. They are the same, it's how they are being used that is different. One group is using it as a starting point, the other as an ending point.

As for the colorblind example (and the mathematics one above) the point is that for a time scientists did have faith that was the case, they would have no reason not to because that is what they could observe with the tools they had. However the difference is that they continued to experiment and observe and eventually proved those things that once the majority of science would have believed in as wrong (just like certain mathematical concepts made sense until we started learning more about how the universe worked).

But this is not a difference between faith and not faith, it's a difference in how it's applied.


I guess I really don't see them as re-defining the meaning of faith so much as trying to use the word without the various hangups many people have about it. Faith means you believe in something without personally knowing it to be true, I don't see how it is different than Joe's term "Core assumptions", he believes in those things even though he doesn't know them to be true either.
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