Arguments from Faith – Debunked (Appeal to Faith Refuted)

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Of all the words in the English language,
faith’ is among the most confusing, and the reason for this is because there’s a
least five active definitions used in everyday life, and people unfortunately rarely realize
which definition they’re using at a particular time… This, is Arguments from Faith – Debunked. The single greatest bit of advice that I can give to someone who has been presented with
an Argument from Faith, is to get the proponent to first very clearly declare which definition
of the word ‘faith’ they’re using, and to then help them put their argument into
a syllogistic form. The reason for this, is because the word ‘faith’ means many things
to many people, and if we want to effectively communicate with one another (which is the
very point of rational discourse), then we simply must make sure that we first understand
each-other, by ensuring that we’re using the same language and definitions. And so,
let’s start by putting a few of the most relevant definitions on the table. A first
is, ‘a particular religion’ – as in, ‘he has a Christian faith’ or ‘my faith
is Hellenic Polytheism’. A second is, ‘a strongly held belief’ – as in, ‘I have
a strong political faith’ or ‘I have faith that Floyd Mayweather will defeat Conor Mcgregor’.
A third is, ‘belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of something or someone’,
which is actually the definition of the word ‘trust’ – as in, I have trust (I mean,
faith) in the scientific method’ or ‘I will walk across this bridge because I trust
(I mean, have faith) that it will support my weight’. And while we’re on the topic
of ‘trust’, a fourth definition is, ‘trust or confidence in a person or thing’ – as
in, ‘I’m putting my faith in you’ or ‘I have faith that the fire alarm will go
off in the event of a fire’. And a fifth is, ‘belief without sufficient evidence
(and often in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary)’, or, as Matt Dillahunty
puts it, ‘the excuse people give when they believe something and don’t have a good
reason’, or, as Aron Ra puts it, ‘the belief that if you believe something hard
enough then reality will somehow change – that you can wish things to happen’ – as in,
‘I know that Xenu exists because I have faith’ or ‘I have faith that when I die
I will be consciously reunited with my loved-ones’. Now we could continue to list more definitions,
but, honestly, there’s no need – the point has been made; there are many definitions
of the word ‘faith’, and people frequently use them interchangeably, which makes them
extremely susceptible to committing Equivocation Fallacies… and that, good Sirs and Ladies,
is the primary flaw with Arguments from Faith… they quite simply are the embodiment of the
Equivocation Fallacy. An Equivocation Fallacy occurs when an argument alternates between
two or more different definitions of a word or term throughout its premises in order to
achieve its conclusion, and thus it renders the conclusion invalid. For example; Trees
have branches; My bank has branches all over the world; Therefore, my bank is a tree. In
this case, during premise one we are using a definition of the word ‘branch’ that
is ‘a part of a tree which grows out from the trunk or from a bough’, whereas in premise
two we are using a definition of the word ‘branch’ that is ‘one of the offices
or groups that form part of a large business organization’, and hence, we can’t conclude
that my bank is a tree, because in doing so, we’re equivocating the word ‘branch’.
Now in the case of Arguments from Faith, the Equivocation Fallacy isn’t always as easy
to spot, and that’s why I recommend that you help the proponent put their argument
into a syllogistic form. For example, if a proponent was to assert that ‘you have faith
in science like they have faith in god’, you could layout their argument as follows:
Alice has faith that science works, like; Robert has faith that god exists, and; Therefore
both Alice and Robert have faith. From here, you can point out that they are (either consciously
or unconsciously) using a definition of ‘faith’ that is ‘belief in the reliability, truth,
or ability of something or someone’ during premise one, but a definition of ‘faith’
that is ‘belief without sufficient evidence (and often in the face of overwhelming evidence
to the contrary)’ during premise two, and hence, their conclusion is invalid. There
bank isn’t a tree. Now it’s worth nothing that, in response to this, they might insist
that you’re wrong, and that they’re actually using exclusively the first definition throughout
their entire argument, but if they do this, all you have to do is explain that people
(including them), believe in the reliability, truth, and ability of science because it consistently
produces effective results and because it’s based on objective, verifiable evidence, and
then simply point out that their belief in god isn’t based on such rigorous objectivity
– and that if they insist that it is, then they must provide such evidence, because,
if they can’t, then despite their protestations to the contrary, they are believing in a god
without sufficient evidence. Moving on, let’s look at another Argument from Faith – a
proponent might say that you have faith that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, in just
the same way as they have faith that the earth is less than 10,000 years old – which syllogistically
would go as follows: Alice has faith that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, like;
Robert has faith that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, and; Therefore both Alice
and Robert have faith. Now as you’ve likely noticed, within this argument they’re conflating
the method that you used to arrive at your conviction, with the method that they used
to arrive at theirs – by simply labelling both methods ‘faith’. Now, assuming that
you can’t personally present the evidence or articulate how scientists have determined
the age of the earth, it would be fair to say that you have ‘trust’ or (to use their
deliberately confusing word) ‘faith’ that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, but the
reason that you have trust in this claim is because it has been heavily peer-reviewed
by scientists from all over the world and from countless fields of study… or in other
words, it’s a claim that’s entirely predicated on the extremely and demonstrably reliable
scientific method. While, conversely, they have trust or ‘faith’ that the earth is
less than 10,000 years old ‘without sufficient evidence and in the face of mountains of evidence
to the contrary! Or in other word, their claim is entirely predicated on the extremely and
demonstrably unreliable religious method. And finally, I want to very briefly tackle
a particular definition of ‘faith’ that’s sometimes used by Christians. In Hebrews 11:1,
faith is defined as ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’,
and what makes this definition extra tricky is that its proponents often commit an Equivocation
Fallacy with just the word ‘seen’, and so you’ll have to ask them politely to define
it. If they define it to mean, ‘to discern or deduce mentally’, then they’re unwittingly
redefining the word ‘faith’ to literally mean ‘understand’, which is a disingenuous
and confusing move that can be best exposed by presenting them with several sentences
with the word ‘understand’ replaced with the word ‘faith’. For example, ‘I understand
that one plus one equals two’ becomes ‘I have faith that one plus one equals two’
or ‘I understand how evolution by natural selection occurs’ becomes ‘I have faith
that evolution by natural selection occurs’. But if they define it to mean ‘perceive
without vision’, then technically they have faith that the oven is hot, that certain food
is spicy, and that their farts don’t stink… they’re doing everything they can to avoid
the incontinent truth that they are believing without sufficient evidence. Now just before
we recap, I want to quickly announce the winners of the two books that me and Cosmic Skeptic
are giving away as a thank you for listening to our conversations, as well as the winner
of my patron of the month. Mike , you’ve won The Moral Landscape (I hope it improves
your well-being); Squat001, you’ve won Free Will (and you had no choice). And Jared Yelton,
you’ve won, of all things, a Christmas book in July – ‘The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas’.
Congratulations all, and thank you all so much for your support! Anyhow, to recap, Arguments
from Faith are flawed because; They commit an Equivocation Fallacy. And the proponents
of Arguments from Faith are flawed because, despite their protestations to the contrary,
they are believing in things without sufficient evidence (and often in the face of overwhelming
evidence to the contrary)… they are playing, like it or not, a bait-and-switch word-game.
As always my fellow apes, thank you kindly for the view, and I’ll leave you with this
overwhelmingly powerful argument to consider. My faith tells me that you have faith in me
having faith that you’ll faithfully subscribe to my faithful channel. A channel that’s
faithfully faithful to faithful faith!

 

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