Riker's Mailbox

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

BLASPHEMY - EXACTITUDE

Two separate concepts popped into my head the other day. New ways to articulate how I feel about a couple key topics in the faith vs. reason debate.

Number 1 -

Faith and Blind Faith (or, faith and Faith, truth and Truth, what have you).

Most of the argumentative types I come across could really use a heavy dose of linguistic precision. I love the English language for being so flexible and organic, but I hate when those attributes are exploited to supplement the argument being presented. "It takes just as much faith to be an atheist/believe in evolution/fill-in-the-blank." You know what? I'll admit it. That's all true.

That's true because it takes faith to do or believe anything. It takes faith to believe your calculus teacher; otherwise, you'd be left to reinvent it for yourself. It takes faith in spades to fly in a commercial jetliner; there are hundreds of engineers who better have been right when they designed the plane, and thousands of their predecessors who developed the aviation industry based on the works of Glenn H. Curtiss and the Wright brothers, who had to place a lot of faith into a lot of things to accomplish their achievements.

Faith is not a bad thing. Faith is another word for trust. Trust is based on evidence. Faith is functionally useful; in fact, it is a sleight to faith to leave it at that... faith is crucial to survival. Faith gives us a means to use all the tools we have not invented ourselves. Scientific advancement would not have gotten us to where we are so quickly if scientists couldn't rely on information outside of their own experience. It is what enables us to stand on the shoulders of giants. Faith is not a bad thing.

Blind faith is a terrible thing. Blind faith removes the verification process something has to endure before you can have faith in it. This is the kind of faith the religious have; the problem is that they mistakenly believe that their faith is the unblind kind. They have been misled into thinking that their faith is supported by evidence when, for example, they see prayer 'work' for the people around them. That is why they cannot distinguish between the faith it takes to be religious and the faith it takes to be rational. That is why they so easily say "it takes just as much faith to be an atheist." The truth is, it takes no blind faith to be an atheist, and the faithful can't tell the difference.


Number 2 -

'Supernatural' is still a useless word.

I figured out another analogy to make my concept of the supernatural more palatable to mystical types. The concept of the supernatural is like thinking of a color called superblack*. It is conceivable to think of a shade of black that's blacker than any shade you've ever seen before. You can imagine what it would be like to see something superblack. But the problem is, true black is defined as the absence of light. To go further than that is by definition immeasurable. Black is simply as black as you can get**. You can think of superblack, but it won't get you anywhere that black can't.


Here's another one. Temperature. The coldest temperature theoretically achievable is absolute zero, which is -273 degrees celsius. It is at this temperature that all molecular activity ceases***. Heat is simply a way to measure the kinetic activity of particles. Absolute zero is literally the absence of heat. But it'd be very easy to imagine extending the temperature scale to -274 degrees. It doesn't matter that in this universe nobody is ever going to measure absolute -1... we can still think of it. But again, it won't get us anywhere.


* - Not to be confused with the glorious summer comedy 'Superbad'.
** - Okay, this is not true in the world of NTSC television, but that doesn't count anyway.
*** - Back off, buddy. I'm not going to discuss zero-point energy if I don't have to.

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