Sunday, May 27, 2007

The basis for lack of belief

I recently was asked these questions by Paul:

And you are an atheist because of the "evidence?"
You have evidence that the universe burst into existence due to some natural phenomena?
You have evidence that its delicately tuned laws of physics are a lucky roll of the dice because we are one of infinite universes?
You have evidence that life actually arose from simple chemistry?
You have evidence that a prokaryote has changed into a eukaryote, and you know the chemical pathways?
You have evidence that consciousness, will, emotion, and morality can be produced from complex chemistry?
You have evidence that Jesus didn't actually say what is claimed and rise from the dead?

And then he ended with this statement:
I think there are surely some presuppositions haunting your thinking.

Surely there must be presuppositions to thought. I don't see it as a haunting though. I do see that one presupposition is the notion of the burden of proof. A better phrase might be the burden of evidence. Some of these questions I can answer in the affirmative, others I regard as an attempt to shift the burden of evidence. I wonder if my assessment coincides with anyone else's.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Rationality of Faith

I recently read a paper: The Rationality of Science and the Rationality of Faith, Theodore J. Everett, Journal of Philosophy Vol. 98, No. 1. (Jan., 2001), pp. 19-42.

It made for interesting reading. The main points were:
1) That the prevailing orthodoxy that traditional 'non-scientific' beliefs derive from non rational causes is mistaken.
2)most scientists ought not to believe their own theories.

Everett draws a distinction between 'objective rationality' and 'subjective rationality'. He then argues that it is subjectively rational in most cases for people to believe in their local traditions since for a given individual, the probability that they know better than most other people around them is small. By a similar argument, scientists or intellectuals putting forward new theories ought to realise that the likelihood of them being correct in contradiction to what most of their peers think is also small.
There are some atheists that seem to me to have a simplified view of the nature of, and reasons for belief and faith which is counter productive and hampers dialogue. Some theists also evince a stereotyped view of atheists as being amoral and smug. people like Everett, Pascal Boyer (Religion Explained) and Michael Frayn (The Human Touch) are a few of the voices that might serve to counter this polarization.