Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Metaphysics in blogs

So apparently to be a good blogger one needs to read other blogs. Alas I have been so busy that I haven't been able to read hardly anything for fun (except for my daily comics). But today I ventured over to two of my favorite blogs and found religious discussions that I found quite interesting.

The first is Scott Aaronson's blog about a conversation with a fundamentalist Christian and deducing the rules of religious inference. The topic is quite hot for I see regularly scientists and secularists being more on the offensive about the flaws of religion in books, blogs, magazines, and almost every form of print. In addition to these publications we also see that Scott recieved almost 200 comments on the post, which just goes to show how hot a topic it is.

The next blog is a friend over at Orthonormal Basis blogging about questioning acts of faith. While I realize that some may see such a questioning as an unforgivable offense to the Almighty, in my Socratic sytle I would say question on for better to be a reasoned man. Perhaps most of all these two posts have woken me up a bit to things I use to think about quite a bit before I came to this cold dead campus of eternal work. (Not cold and dead because it is secular but rather because I work too much.)

As one of Aaronson's commenter's points out, a part of the missing analysis among these blogs is Wittgenstein's idea of "aspect blindness". In my humble view, it seems that both the fundamentalist and the over-analyzed scientist are both hiding important aspects of their beliefs. Aaronson's post demonstrates how often religious people will hold contradictions solely because they are religious beliefs, this sort of analysis presumes that scientific beliefs which are held solely because they are scientific are more worthy. This shoots to the more important religion/science debate rather than merely attacking the ability of some individuals modus ponens abilities.

Let me expound a bit more on a simple example. Which is a "higher" belief, the belief that without God we would not exist or the belief that without oxygen we would die.

Of course, the second one is verifiable and the first not. Perhaps its easy to stop and say that since this is so and it appears to be true (modulo any science fiction fantasies) that is a "higher" belief. But this in itself seems to be a matter of faith, that true justified beliefs are "higher" and even qualify as "knowledge" (once again modulo the Gettier problem).

But the first belief, or some equivalent religious belief, still might strike one as a "higher" belief simple because of its subject. Such a belief will not pass for any test of "knowledge" and thus also becomes a matter of faith to hold that it is a higher belief. To some this belief does not make a difference in the grand scheme of things, it appears that very little in one's life depends on beliefs of this type. Once again a matter of faith.

Before one starts to even evaluate these beliefs an act of faith must be made. Unfortunately much of the debate about religion and science are riddled with ad hominem and other fallacies, but this essential question of how such an act of faith begins so much of our world views that it will start wars and indecencies among the most rational people.

Of course this path of logic tends to take me into much longer philosophical diatribes, but I guess I should just end my post with a question. How can we evaluate religious beliefs with such scientific reasoning that requires we take an opposite stand of faith?