Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Arguments II - Belief

Today I would like to focus on another typical attack on evolution and that is the word "Belief". The attack somehow tries to turn belief in science into an analogy of a religious belief. This one is a lot of fun to mess around with.

Like when we discussed Theory, let's start with the definition from Webster:

  1. a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
  2. something believed; especially : a tenet or body of tenets held by a group
  3. conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence
synonyms belief, faith, credence, credit mean assent to the truth of something offered for acceptance. Belief may or may not imply certitude in the believer i.e.: my belief that I had caught all the errors. Faith almost always implies certitude even where there is no evidence or proof i.e.: an unshakable faith in God. Credence suggests intellectual assent without implying anything about grounds for assent i.e.: a theory now given credence by scientists. Credit may imply assent on grounds other than direct proof i.e.: gave full credit to the statement of a reputable witness.
Now in the Little Book of Prophecy and Truth the author characterizes a religion as: A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe. He then goes on to state: "Evolution cannot be proven and as defined practically and literally, it is a belief, not a science, and certainly not fact. It’s a belief. Anyone can believe anything they want, but that doesn’t make it true."

He's half right -- anyone can believe anything they want. In fact he uses the term to again attack all of science: "People used to believe that a big rock would fall faster than a small rock. Today we know that they fall at the same speed."

So the bottom line question is belief in science the same as belief in a certain religion? Using the falling rock idea seems to address this to me. People may believe two different sized rocks may fall at different speeds, but does that make it so? Even in Aristotle's time when he taught this, it still didn't actually happen. In order for two different sized items, when released at the same time, to fall at different speeds is if one is acted on by another force. Just believing it didn't make it so. Since it wasn't so, people learned better over time. This is called Science. The difference is Science works whether you believe in it or not. My car starts not because I believe it will but because science has predicts that the right materials brought together in the right way will cause a car to start. Remove one of these materials, be it gasoline vapor, oxygen, or a spark, and the car will become a frustrating paperweight.

Back to the definitions. When someone says they believe in science, or even in a particular scientific theory, they are using the 3rd definition. They believe something to be true based on the evidence. I believe in Thermodynamics because my car starts. I believe in materials science because my house doesn't fall down around my ears. But when I say I believe in God, I am using the second definition. This belief requires no evidence, it's part of what makes me Me!

So when attacks are made against Evolution in an effort to make people think it's just another form of religion, the attackers are doing themselves a disservice. I 'believe' that they are actually weakening the moral fiber of our world by casting as much doubt on my belief system as they are trying to cast on science. They are using another lawyer's misleading word technique to take a position to make you believe something that isn't true.

The only time I have prayed for my car to start was in the dead of Winter after it had been sitting in the airport parking lot for 3 weeks in sub-zero temperatures and I knew the battery was 7 years old. Maybe God helped me out that day, but whether he did it through science and all the right conditions were met or maybe he did it by direct intervention, I'll never know, but I believe in both using two different definitions of the word!

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