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Is Faith inherently irrational?

I would like to propose the motion that faith is inherently irrational.

I consider rationality (in a nutshell) to be:
'An accurate apportionment of belief in a statement concerning the objective nature of reality, with respect to the available evidence.'

I can think of no better definition of faith than the exact opposite of this:
'A grossly inaccurate apportionment of belief in a statement concerning the objective nature of reality, with respect to the available evidence.'

However, I invite those who have faith, and profess it as a virtue, to submit their definition of faith.

(EDIT 16/9/12: This is intended to be a discussion on the nature of religious faith, of the sort people cite when putting forward claims of the supernatural, of gods, of an afterlife etc.... This is not intended to be a discussion of the wider concepts of hope, loyalty, trust or monogamy, but feel free to mention them in passing, or in comparison to faith. ENDEDIT).

Joseph Dorrell


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    Sep 15 2012: I believe this question can be a semantic game in a sense. But to me faith is inherently irrational since your beliefs backed up by evidence are rational, which are not faith any more.
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      Sep 15 2012: No, it could still be faith (even with reason) when looked outside of the individual's beliefs.

      I have a rational belief there are more intelligent aliens - most will believe this is irrational due to lack of evidence, yet, even if I provide the evidence they insist my evidence is circumstantial, coincidence and/or non-foundational. So since most would argue my belief is irrational or impossible, my position becomes one based on faith.
      • Sep 15 2012: "I have a rational belief there are more intelligent aliens - most will believe this is irrational due to lack of evidence"

        There is no lack of evidence for that, it's all circumstantial evidence but it is abundant and compelling. We know there are many, many planets out there and can infer from that even if the odds of life coming into being on any particular planet is very low there is still a high probability it happened on at least one other planet.
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          Sep 15 2012: At least one? No, we are CONSTANTLY finding exoplanets in which exist in the habitable zone from their 'sun' - the chances are not high, they are apparent. We are just arrogant in anthropocentric thinking to admit we are not alone in our 'superior' understanding of the universe.

          Regardless, of that side topic, are you suggesting 'most' would not suggest this claim of knowledge to be irrational?
        • Sep 15 2012: I don't know much about the circumstantial evidence for or against the existence of aliens, but can I assume that your belief in aliens is apportioned to the evidence available to you, or is it a matter of hoping that aliens exist, or tricking yourself? It is possible to have weak beliefs as well as strong ones, and also apply probabilities to statements of belief, e.g. I have a strong belief that my red die at home will have between a 16% and 17.5% chance of showing up a 6 when rolled.
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          Sep 16 2012: Let's suggest for a moment there is no such thing as black and white - but infinite shades of grey that seem to get brighter and darker...

          Now a great theory that is popular today for psychology is the Big 5 Personality Traits. they do not simply suggest you are either introvert or extrovert, but have a certain amount or degree of Extraversion.

          Okay reality doesn't work in left or rights but in broad and ambiguous ideological ideas.

          For a longer time of history the culture of thought was: we are alone (special/unqiue), we are the best creatures on this planet/universe, mankind will strive over anything....This is a natural attitude all animals have in order to survive, and it is being measured more and more for how biased it is innately. Optimism bias - check it out.

          So - everyone who is sensible can agree that aliens exist (whether the creatures are smarter, dumber, big foot monsters still evolving, animals, sea creatures, younger or older humanoids, etc.), simple just LIFE.

          Now -Consider what are the variables in that species existence? What are ours?

          Time, evolution, culture, civilizations, trading, art, sciences...

          The question is now aliens, yes, but it still a matter faith because the consensus of mankind does not admit or agree with the idea of extraterrestrial life forms that may in fact be older and more evolved.

          My non-evidential thoughts: Where we exist from the origins of the big bang can either be much older than the rest of the universe or much younger - we could be the first species of humanoids to exist, sure, but most unlikely. But there are other earth-like planets out there, we are just not able to visit them and to know for sure.

          Conclusion: it shouldn't if it is based on faith or not, it should matter where the faith is applied to. My faith in other life forms makes me question more and know I know a lot less than what I assume I do, constantly. Reality isn't a yes or no thing with existential concerns, it is a matter of gre
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          Sep 17 2012: Your example for fish is just a ratiocination activity, which requires making assumptions. That a theory can be backed up by compelling or overwhelming circumstantial evidence doesn't automatically render the theory rational or self-evident.

          Like I said below, faith and rationality just come together to form our perspectives, but that doesn't compromise the fact that faith is inherently irrational.
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        Sep 16 2012: Since your evidence for intelligent aliens is characterized as circumstantial, coincidence and/or non-foundational, I won't regard this type of evidence plausible or rational. Therefore, the faith you hold upon is still a belief not backed up by rational evidence.

        By the way, because the topic you cited is a long-term debate. Neither side can be called "rational" in absolute terms.
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          Sep 16 2012: Rational evidence is an opinion and usually depends on an authority or authorities to dictate what is in 'fact' irrational. Do you not agree? (Assuming you mean scientific data as the source reason in evidence or vice versa.)

          There are no such things as absolute terms in general.

          Please read my above comment. Thank you guys.
        • Sep 16 2012: "Since your evidence for intelligent aliens is characterized as circumstantial, coincidence and/or non-foundational, I won't regard this type of evidence plausible or rational."

          That's lawyer thinking, not science thinking. The evidence for aliens existing is circumstantial but overwhelming. When there are waterplants, insects, plankton, fih-eating birds and bacteria in a 5000km clean river that's connected to the ocean you're not going to say "youre belief that there is at least one fish in this river is not rational because all the evidence is circumstantial". There being at least one fish in the river is so much more likely than there not being a single fish in the river that the mountain of circumstantial evidence is compelling.
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        Sep 16 2012: Rational evidence doesn't depend on an authority to claim it. Say you are reading a scientific paper and you somehow agree to its reasoning, so obviously you believe the reasoning is correct because it's logical, reasonable and rational, not because the person who's proposing this theory is an expert or a pundit. The source of evidence comes from axioms or common senses. We hold strong belief to those things because it's something that is widely accepted for its intrinsic value and self-evident. All the other argument or inference starts from there.

        I agree with you that "it shouldn't matter if it is based on faith or not, it should matter where the faith is applied to". But that doesn't compromise the fact that faith is inherently irrational, maybe even just like us as human beings. Faith and rationality maybe just come together to form our perspectives.
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          Sep 16 2012: My best example to assist here is Dawkins. He writes books in which he is ignorant of a great of historic use of terminology and religious belief (Note: popularity of thought - matters in how well accepted it becomes also)... He broad stroked about cultural thought units (memes) so hard it is disturbing (even though I think the idea is innovative). Apparent ideals/idea in which are biased due to the premeditation those whom practice fundamentalist are in fact irrational - when many simply live a normal/average never harming another, References thought movements in science - but deny religious-like parallels in groupthought, actively. Dawkins is not the only self claimed atheist to be militant actively, and accused to project those beliefs/ideologies into his scientific research/writings....

          Scientist bring their own beliefs into their work all the time - it's just really hard to in mathematics lol - but a lot are certainly provocative for doing so.

          Scientific papers aside, we are talking epistemology; the philosophy of knowledge. Let's not get into science, it's a tricky subject.

          But simply let's say scientific conclusions are an ample (the best) way in which we can practice rationality.

          Evidence is opinion, even if it is rational. It is evidence itself that is being called to be rational or irrational conclusions. It becomes not an opinion when consensus agrees it is a theory or fact.

          Lastly - Your conclusion is great Hugo - except what is irrational draws from the longevity of where the thoughts take you in actions and further thinking.
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        Sep 17 2012: I suggest pointing out the possibility of extra terrestrial life is rational.

        To claim you know, to be absolutely certain there is is perhaps irrational. It could be the natural initiation of self replicating molecules by chance is so rare it only happened here.

        Do you have proof of life from other planets? No.

        But we might find something on mars or elsewhere. Because we know life evolved here.

        Believing it likely that life developed on other planets is still different from claiming to know intimate details about an invisible, intangible creator of the universe.

        Even if your belief is near certain, you are believing in something we have proof has happened at least once - we see life evolved on this planet. It is not such a stretch to believe it could have happened elsewhere if there is water, amino acids etc.

        No evidence of the existence of gods in the same way we know life exists on earth.
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          Sep 17 2012: The point of science and theory is to figure out how the nature/universe functions in atomistic terms in order to understand, manipulate, theorize, hypothesize, etc. the very nature we are exploring.

          I believe there could also be a creator. There could be life forms that understand the bits and pieces of genetics and related biological knowledge - using that knowledge (in science) which is in our theory - and using it to play 'God'. That is more likely than we are the first to be randomly evolved in the universe to this sophisticated mentality. No other species on this planet measures any where near our cognitive ability (most animals (insects) - are almost purely responsive - neurologically) - yet we are an animal and have patternicity in our nature, and the nature to change the patterns... Random chance? Perhaps, yes. But at the same time doubting even certainty can call forth more interpretations of what is potentially possible.

          But the question is faith Obey,

          I assume, by considering the faith in E.T and the faith in God are different, you suggest there are differences in their faith? One is more faith reliant than the other?

          Would you agree that faith is not irrational, but rather what the faith is applied to, can be in fact considered irrational... Even then being a degree of irrationality?

          Perhaps there are degrees to faith?
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        Sep 18 2012: Good points Nicholas. Got me thinking.

        The degree of rationality or irrationality perhaps depends on the nature of the claim and extent of belief. The extent of belief may also reflect what actions one takes in light of your faith based beliefs.

        I note you say: I believe there could also be a creator. This is different to saying I Know Jesus Christ is God.

        "Could" in respect to some god claims may be reasonable. Just like life on Earth could have been seeded by aliens. All cats could be descended from space alien cats and they are psychically controlling world leaders. There is an invisible intangible dragon in my lounge room. The next number to win the lottery is 456789

        These are all hypotheses. There may be different levels of evidence to support each possibility. they may be more or less verifiable.

        I suggest the realm of faith comes mainly into play when you start to pretend you know things you really don't know are true, or to believe things like there is a magic dragon at my home.

        I suggest the level of rationality or irrationality associated with the belief depends on the nature of the belief, the strength of belief versus the evidence supporting the claim.

        So believing there may or could be a god is different to believing in El and the pantheon of gods he created.

        In this regards I'm talking about the rationality of accepting the claims based on evidence and reason, rather than whether it makes sense to profess something or be a believer in order to get some net benefit.

        I might avoid a blanket statement about faith in general as semantics come into it. Also I think we have evolved with intuitive cognitive mechanisms that support irrational beliefs. Some irrationality is a natural outcome. But when it comes to believing in specific extraordinary claims such as a donkey talked or a man walked on water or the creator of the universe likes the colour purple, there is likely an element of poor logic or irrationality.
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          Sep 18 2012: Actions and inactions follow thoughts - example: the inaction of going over to a group of people you know are fundamentalist and not having a conversation. This is based on your premeditated conscious. So the ideal of rationality must also consider actions [of/in thought]. Hence my conclusion of longevity being vital.

          Wait now, the faith of Jesus does have evidence and support, so therefore, your belief in the invisible dragon in your living room - relies on more faith; more irrational. The evidence of him being the son of a creator God - again, we interpreted, could be a lot of historic misinterpretations. Again 'where' the faith is applied!

          So what is their image of 'God'? Consider a few points: Now the fundamental beliefs they posses could be preventing reinterpretation of the same beliefs, but again, what is the God? Needs to be called into question to see where the faith is being placed! Is their God this judgmental jerk or is he love? Energy? Everything? When answered, the possibility we could suggest they are irrational or not, is due to applications of faith - in their foundationalism for rationally thinking. Believing God is 'everything' is far different than believing he has an opinion about abortion.

          Conclusion: The origin of this conversation is behind 'extremism faith' usually found in religious fundamentalism. However, faith is variable, and depending on where the beliefs are founded on (whether they are (ir)rational), continue to evolve the person.

          Almost no scientific communities investigate the possibility of aliens, so there is no empirical data, yet a great deal of this world believes aliens exist. Mexicans and most S. Americans are notorious believers of E.T.

          So, you claim my faith is not profound enough?

          Empirical claims should be a part of what is considered knowledge, not all, theory is more important.

          What is irrationality is poor decision making, not because they believe in unfounded claims but what they do with their beliefs.
    • Sep 15 2012: I agree that it is a semantic game, 'in a sense', but this is the same sense that we define trees and grasses as being mutually exclusive groups. No-one would claim that the distinction between trees and grasses is a semantic game.

      The question is, how do you explain the difference to a society of people who do not make the distinction between trees and grasses?

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