This, and so much more, was also posted over at my blog, Cubik's Rube.


Let's own up to a dark and terrible truth.

We atheists all know that we have just as much faith in unproven superstitions as the religious people we so gleefully despise. I mean, secretly, we're all well aware that our beloved "science" is just another way of seeing the world, dependent on at least as much blind belief as, say, fundamentalist Christianity, and that evolution is a religion just like any other, with Darwin as our god. Right? That's why we worship him and never question anything he ever said or did, right?

We like to bill ourselves as the skeptical, rational, faithless ones, just because our convictions are always tentatively held based on the current state of the competing theories and subject to change in light of new observations. But come on, we're among friends here. We don't need to keep this ludicrous pretence up all the time.

But I was wondering: Since our position is really one of at least as much blind faith as your average god-botherer, what would a position genuinely devoid of any faith actually look like?

Most religious believers will proudly claim faith as a virtue, after all, and wear their disregard for measurable truth and empirical reality as a badge of honour. But any traditional scientific mindset is just as faith-based - or so we're often told by these same religious types (and who would know better?). Does this mean that everyone alive has to have some sort of faith in something? Must every opinion ever held by a human brain be on this same level of unprovability? Does belief in anything, or the holding of any conviction, on any subject, necessitate an equally religious approach?

Or is it actually possible to be truly faith-free, and look on life without ever making that leap, leaving aside for now the issue of whether this would actually be a good thing?

This is a question for any faithful who make this argument, rather than actual skeptics, obviously. Despite my little rhetorical device up there, which you may have noticed my attempting to use for comic effect a few paragraphs ago, faith is entirely antithetical to what we call our scientific, skeptical worldview. But the true believers do stop by here from time to time, so maybe someone will care to explain this. If scientific understanding is based on faith just as much as your religion, what would an outlook that really doesn't have any faith at all look like? Are there people out there who approach the world in this way? Would it be possible for them to ever know anything, or form any kind of views on the truth?

Many people would say that this is called "science" - but is science something different, and intrinsically faith-based in the way it's set up? Or could science potentially be this faithless worldview I'm talking about, if all those silly scientists would stop espousing positions that so obviously require you to just "believe" in them, like evolution, for which nobody has ever published reams and reams of evidence?

Or, if we tried to take a faith-free approach to everything, would we find ourselves stuck in some sort of limbo, where nothing can ever be known, understood, or even talked about coherently? Are we really left with no choice but to apply a faithy outlook constantly, one way or another, if we ever want anything to mean anything? This seems weird to me, but if you can explain how it's reconciled with whatever your concept of faith is, I'd love to hear it. (It also brings up the usual questions of how you can judge your own kind of faith to be superior to any other, but that's a long-awaited rant that I'll get back to working on another time.)

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Tags: atheism, belief, evolution, faith, faithless, god, religion, science

Comment by CJoe on June 28, 2009 at 9:42pm
I uh... I had a response to this, but um... I'm just wondering if you're joking. You must be joking. You don't really think science is faith-based, do you? You don't REALLY think evolution is a religion, or Darwin our god... do you??
Comment by Dave G on June 28, 2009 at 10:15pm
I don't think so, Cara. He's mocking the people who do say that science is just another religion.
Comment by CJoe on June 28, 2009 at 10:21pm
Ok Dave... thanks for clearing that up. I was really disturbed and couldn't figure out if he was being sarcastic. HA! Thank God... ;)
Comment by Reggie on June 28, 2009 at 11:37pm
Wait a minute. Does this mean I don't have to sacrifice goats to Darwin? Now you tell me!
Comment by Aric on June 29, 2009 at 12:04am
Reggie, everyone knows Darwin prefers for children to be sacrificed to him.
Comment by Cubik's Rube on June 29, 2009 at 3:33am
Cara - In retrospect, I think I did a pretty poor job of distinguishing between the sarcasm used in the first few paragraphs, and the sincere questions in the later bit. But yes, the mockery was what was intended, as Dave explained rather more succinctly and unambiguously than I managed to. :)

Reggie - well, you don't *have* to, but if you want to keep evolving, he must be appeased!
Comment by Reggie on June 29, 2009 at 7:32am
Aric - they were baby goats. Does this count?

Cubik - I'm determined to evolve, but Ray Comfort says that I'll need a female to evolve exactly at the same time in the same manner. Should my fiancee also being offering blood sacrifices?


You know, I could see a religious Dear Abby parody in the spirit of Edward Current being rather entertaining.

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