Monday, November 13, 2006

Is faith the same as Ignorance?
On a TV show that I like to watch, the main character made the comment “Faith, isn’t that the same as ignorance?”. That line has stuck with me. Obviously, I am interested in knowledge and to an extent against ignorance. So this idea that faith and ignorance are the same has really caused me to think. Is faith the same as ignorance? Surely not, but it is not enough for me to say that, I must be able to support that idea. So let us look at what ignorance and faith are, and how they relate.
Let’s start with ignorance. I suspect that you know, or think you know, what ignorance is. The simplest definition of ignorance is a lack of knowledge. Given that definition all of us are ignorant. I know nothing about nuclear medicine, or asian music, or any number of other subjects. There is a broader definition of ignorance, which is choosing not to know. This is the derogatory use of the word. Obviously, people who choose not too learn are making a mistake. Still, not learning about things outside of our profession and interest is perfectly reasonable, and inevitable. There is a good side to ignorance. Ignorance is where all new scientific and philosophic though comes from. Ignorance keeps us humble. The double doctorate professor who has too take his car to a mechanic without a high school diploma, is reminded that despite his knowledge there is still much he does not know. So like all things there is a good and bad to ignorance.
What then can we say about faith? What is faith? Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing. Again given that definition we all have faith. When you stand up you have faith that the floor will hold you. You have faith that the Sun will continue to warm the Earth. You have faith that time will continue to run, etc. So faith, like ignorance is a matter of fact. Not something one can avoid. So how do we come by faith? We trust the floor because the floor has always held us up. We trust time because we have never experienced it to vary. Faith typically come from experience. Faith does not typically exist without support, just not with empirical support. Faith is confidence that is not supported by logic or reason. This does not mean that faith is not logical or reasonable, it means that faith is the set of beliefs that are not supported by logic or reason. Faith is all the things you believe without proving them.
Do scientists have faith? Yes, there are many things that scientists have faith in. The most obvious is the scientific method. Why is science done the way it is done? Because we believe it to be the most successful process for achieving knowledge and understanding. Scientists have faith that the universe is a very consistent place. That is they believe that the same rules of physics work here and in other galaxies. We have only limited evidence that this is true. We have never been to other galaxies after all. Scientists trust their observations. Observations are notoriously unreliable and scientists have come up with ways to help mitigate the errors, still what we see is often not what really happens. So we see that science relies a great deal on faith.
Still there is faith and there is Faith. What is Christian Faith? Let's start with the Bible definition of Faith. Hebrews 11:1 say "Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen." I think this is the same thing as faith in the floor. I am confident that God has a plan and that it will be for my benefit. I am convicted by the power of God. Even when things do not appear to be going my way. Is it foolish, or ignorant of my to have faith in God? Let's assume for the moment that there is a God and that he is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and omnipresent (everywhere at once), what else would there be to have faith in? Given an all knowing, all powerful, God present everywhere at once, there is no other logical place to put ones faith. So it all comes down to the question is there such a God. I believe there is, but that is based on my experiences.

You will have to ask God for yourself.

Pat O

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