Monday, June 15, 2009

Faith v Reason

Read an interesting post recently about Faith vs Reason, and I think it was off the mark entirely. Yes I know that Martin Luther called reason the enemy of faith, but let's face it, he was just another religious whack job.

Here's my reasoning. Or you can take it on faith. Faith depends on reason. Why? Well, take any of them, judism, xtianity, islam, they all derive certain rules, laws, morals, etc. from whatever "sacred" texts were handed to them. They start from certain givens, and through reasoning, i.e. some thought process, they arrive at their conclusions.

Reasoning is central to creating dogma, to creating a church, to creating a faith. If you just start with the sacred texts, you don't have much to form a society on. So, religious folk use reasoning to support their conclusions based on whatever their starting point or givens were.

Great. So reasoning is essential to religion. Then how did someone as smart as Martin Luther, let alone others, ever come to the idea that reason was bad?

Here's my thought. religious and non-religious reasoning use the same mental tools, but they start with different givens, and possibly stop before they've reached their ulimate conclusion.

So, a bible literalist might start with a 6,000 year old earth, and then use reasoning to support what he sees today. He starts from a given, sees fossils in the grand canyon, and comes up with reasoning to support the conclusion in light of the given.

A rational person might look at fossils, not start with a 6,000 year old earth, but rather start with a knowledge of processes that produce fossils and come up with a much older earth.

So starting point or givens, and ending point, in something that needs explaining, and the reasonable and creative thought process that one needs to undertake to connect the two.

The genius is the ability to explain things appropriate to your givens, and be able to support it, or not really support it, but support your givens, so that enough other people who support the givens will also pick up your thread of reason.

Reason is the workhorse of the faithful, not it's enemy. It's just that the faithful have different starting points than most of us, so that our reason scares them in some way. It's still the same creative process.

An epiphany, or realization, is the changing of a fundemental starting point. I came to the realization that x... it changes my starting point, that I had to change my understanding or belief in order to support what I see around me to be true. This has far reaching consequences.