Biological Conspiracy Theories

Hello again, all.  Apologies for being rather inactive these days — by way of explanation, I took another trip to visit my dad in Oregon (we’re trying to fit in as much family visits as we can before the baby arrives!), and I’ve been pouring my creative energies into various other projects; so I’ve had little impetus or time left over to blog, or at least to blog well.  Generally I prefer to wait until I have at least a snowball’s chance of putting out sound material rather than just merely keeping the ball afloat by throwing out garbage — if I do write garbage, I at least want it to be thoroughly well-thought-out garbage.

Today, though, I’m choosing to shrug off this analysis paralysis and work out an idea that’s been brewing for a little while.  It centers around this kick I’ve been on lately regarding Harmon’s idea about “inference to the best explanation,” and how that applies to competing theories to explain religious phenomena.  From my perspective, when it comes to personal experiences that seem, on a prima facie level, to be supernatural in nature, there are basically two main theories that attempt to explain what is actually going on:

  1. There is, in fact, a supernatural world that sometimes intersects and affects our material world, or
  2. Such experiences begin and end with the functions of the human brain, and can be best explained with methods such as pattern-seeking, confirmation bias, etc.

Drawing from my own experiences as a case study, I’d like to explore these two competing theories. (more…)

What’s the Opposite of Blind Faith?

I think most of my readers can agree on one thing at least:  Blind faith is a bad thing.  You know what I’m talking about — it’s the kind of faith that holds onto belief not only in incomplete evidence, but in a complete absence of evidence, and sometimes even in the face of contrary evidence.  If we were to set up a belief spectrum, where as you move more and more to the right you are willing to accept claims with less and less evidence, then blind faith would fall to the rightmost extreme — and if Aristotle taught us anything, it’s that extremes are bad, right?

Here are some of the things that make blind faith lame: (more…)

Let’s Leave Motives Out of It

When discussing ideas, I think it best to keep motives out of it.

Often, I am told that my experiences of God (and therefore my belief in Him) are nothing but the results of an elaborate physiological ruse, where I am held victim to the workings of my own brain (boy, aren’t we all?) — or, even worse, my belief in God is just the manifestation of my own wishful thinking.  Freud made this view popular, saying that religious beliefs are “illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind….  Thus the benevolent rule of the divine Providence allays our fears of the dangers of life.”  And Freud was a smart guy, so we can just take his word for it, right?  No need to look at evidence or reasoning or anything — or even lay me on a sofa and come up with any direct support for your diagnosis, O great mind-reading wizard on the other end of the computer screen.  It must be true, because (as you say) it can’t be that God actually exists — there has to be a “simpler” explanation (because the explanation that God actually exists is way more far-fetched than my brain’s ability to create, sustain, and continually reinforce a series of ordered and consistent delusions that in every way resemble the qualities of an actual relationship — not to mention do things like granting insight into unknowable yet pertinent information and future events and healing emotional wounds — all in a manner that holds up to corroboration with others who claim similar relationships).

Sorry, I guess I’m feeling a little snarky today, aren’t I?  C’mon, Seth, let’s reign it in… a little. (more…)

Is faith evidence-based?

I saw this graphic, and I just had to post a bit of a rant about it — so, bear with me please 🙂 It’s a rather silly graphic, really — though I find it instructive because it shows a misunderstanding I consistently encounter when it comes to what faith is.

As a theist, I have before been accused of imposing my faith upon reality, rather than letting observations of reality inform my worldview.  Regardless of how you feel about the soundness of my worldview itself, this accusation (when it comes to my method, as well as those of many other theists) is patently false, for my faith is based on evidence rather than conjecture, whim or desire.  Contrary to what some would have us believe, faith is not an assertion in spite of evidence, but rather a belief based upon incomplete evidence.  An archaeologist could claim no better.

Does this mean that my reasoning is entirely infallible and airtight?  No way, I have no delusions that my mind is the paramount of rational thought.  Does it mean that I believe I have had the opportunity to gather and comprehend all the evidences available and thus make an impeccably well-informed decision?  Not in the slightest — I can only do the best with what I have so far.  What it does mean is that I believe the evidences that I have found support Christianity being true more than they do any competing theory.  It is evidence that brought me to my faith, and it is a consistent increase in evidence that has kept me there. (more…)

What Has Convinced Me?

One of my favorite people with whom to discuss, hero4thought, recently asked me a question:

What are two or three top factors in your mind that convince you that a God in fact exists?

It’s such a great question that I wanted to expand my answer into a separate post.  As always, comments and thoughts are welcome 🙂 As I said in my original response, I’ll arrange these talking points in a somewhat logical order, rather than anything reflecting any chronology of my particular faith journey. (more…)

Belief vs. Knowledge

Ah, tildeb, you’ve done it again — you’ve raised such an incisive point that I have no choice but to devote an entire post to my reply 🙂 Thanks, as always, for the inspiration!

Now, I for one highly recommend my readers to take the time to go through the entire discussion (it actually starts back here, then jumps to here) — but, since this may be a tall order for people who already live rich and busy lives, I’ll set the stage by saying, simply, that the discussion thus far has been characterized by tildeb offering critique of my methods in arriving at the truth about God.  I have provided evidence of both subjective and substantive natures, but all were rejected because, at the end of the day, my metaphysical worldview boils down to faith — I cannot know definitively that what I believe is the truth, because none of my conclusions can be independently verified in ways consistent with the naturalistic method of attaining knowledge.  (I think this is an accurate picture of our discussion thus far, tildeb, but I am of course open to correction.)

So, now the rest of this post will be a direct response to tildeb: (more…)