25 September 2005

And the obvious follow-up question...

...is: "OK, smart-ass, so you think faith is like a marriage. Then you must have some claim to knowledge (either present or future) that there's actually someone to be married to. On the question of God's existence, at least, isn't it a matter of fact or fiction, knowledge or lack thereof?"

Well...maybe. At the very real risk of producing a post that could only be understood by someone who's had college-level studies in both theology and computer science, it's true that faith is a little like being married to someone on the other side of a really good Turing Test. This is a proposed test for artificial intelligence: allow a human to freely question both a computer and another human. If the questioner can't tell which is which, then arguably the computer is truly intelligent. If the only way you could interact with your spouse were through the Turing Test interface, how would you ever know if the "person" you were married to were "real" or just an artificial, man-made construct? Similarly, it's possible I'll never know whether the God I have faith in is "real" or just a human invention. Never, even after death. It's possible that, after death, "I" won't have enough in common with the "I" of this earthly life for the question to be meaningful.

But as in the case of the possibly-silicon spouse: in the final analysis, what difference does it make? Apparently something attracted you sufficiently to the entity on the other side of that interface to make you fall in love and marry them. So enjoy your life and live your commitment!

Also, in the case of faith in God, Christians do have something that tips the balance on this question: Jesus Christ. How do we know the object of our faith is "real" and not "artificial"? Because he was real. He walked the earth, healed the sick, welcomed the outcast, loved the unloved, gave his life for his friends, and (so we believe) rose again to life. We know our God is not artificial because our God was a real, live human being.

So how, then, do we know that that human being was God?? Nyeesh, you are just full of questions, aren't you? Maybe some other time....


Jayce from Rochester said...

I think you're falling into a common trap: that just because you can talk about logic and faith using the same language doesn't mean the two can be compared.

One might express faith as a logical proof might begin with "given: God exists" and go on from there. Such a "proof," however, doesn't make logical sense.

Likewise, a faith-based explanation of a logical proof might be that "we have faith that (x)(y) = (y)(x)." That doesn't make sense as a matter of faith for it can actually be proven logically, so there's no point.

In other words, it doesn't make sense to have faith in that which can be predicted -- or, for that matter, even have a probability assigned. Like, it doesn't make sense to say you "have faith" in gravity in the same way that it doesn't make sense to "have faith" that you can fly.

However, it's impossible to prove the existence of God through logic and science. It is also impossible to prove that God does not exist through logic and science. Curiously, you've got to take it as a matter of faith that you can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God.

I think that's pretty much the end of comparing faith and logic.

Well, with one last thing: this is why a faith-based government is a bad idea. Governments, like all man-made systems, are inherently stupid. Combining stupidity, faith, and power is just a bad idea. If you have stupidity and power combined, you better not have faith as well -- lack of faith is what will save your ass.

Mike Croghan said...

Hey man, you're the one who wanted to talk faith and tautologies. I know logic is a limited thing; it wouldn't even work for the Vulcans if they didn't have so much faith in it. ;-)

So I raise a glass to the end of comparing faith and logic. I also agree that faith + power + stupidity = Very Bad Things. However, I disagree that lack of faith will save the stupid and powerful--they and those under them are probably ass deep (neck deep? higher?) in filthy flood water either way. (Though perhaps you're thinking of a little less faith in their own infallibility--you've got me there.)

And faith may well help those *afflicted* by the powerfully stupid/stupidly powerful, as long as it's not blind faith in their government.

(Also, both faith and faithlessness serve us poorly if they motivate us to complain about inept leadership but not do anything to improve the situation. That's me much of the time.)