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All knowledge is contextual.

Knowledge is logically consistent.

Taking these two items as logical givens, would a major scientific advancement (i.e. discovering proof of parallel dimensions, understanding the origin of the universe, etc.) lead to the elimination of the need of some people for faith? To put it another way, lets say a scientist has a theory that he believes is correct, he has faith in the theory, but he has only anecdotal or circumstantial evidence to back up his theory. If a major scientific advancement were to occur that changed the way the scientific community viewed something previously seen as a given or provable scientific law then the scientist's theory would have the empirical evidence or at least the scientific understanding to advance his theory into a testable state. He would no longer need to have faith in his theory as he can now have evidence. Is it our context for things scientific, religious, philosophical, that creates faith? Could things that people have faith in actually be real and because of our context we reject them as false because either we cannot understand the evidence or even perceive the evidence.

asked Jun 05 '12 at 10:06

sergius89's gravatar image


Unfortunately, I think there are two kinds of "faith" these days. You mention faith in one's abilities. For example, I may not be able to articulate why I think X is true right now, but I have the feeling that it might be and therefore worth investigating to prove it. This faith is established trust in my abilities because I have demonstrated in the past that I know what I'm talking about.

The other faith is constructing an explanation in the absence of fact. For example, I've never seen a human lift a car off his grandfather before, I cannot do this, therefore it must not be 'normally' possible. Since my senses have perceived this event, and I cannot explain how this could normally happen I declare it a miracle. Since humans cannot create miracles I must assign this ability to some form of super human and so I have faith that this super human exists even though I do not have senses or instruments to detect this super human.

The first faith is internal and based on experience. I have seen the sun rise every day since I could first perceive it and so I have faith I will see it tomorrow morning. The second faith is external (and pure fabrication). It assumes an explanation in order to explain itself. Only a God can create miracles. The catch here is the correct sentence is, "Assuming a God exists, only that God can create miracles."

So, yes, people can have internal, rational faith in something and it may be real even if they haven't been able to quantify the subject yet. This is often referred to as an hypothesis and it awaits proof or refutation. People who have external or self-referential faith, however, often use faith as a synonym for fact. Those folk must maintain the perspective that they cannot understand the evidence or even perceive the evidence. They must also maintain the perspective that focusing on the 'miracle', and ignoring unintended consequences, can be disastrous.

answered Jun 06 '12 at 02:39

Douglas%20Thom's gravatar image

Douglas Thom ♦

Something else occurred to me. Your premises at the beginning might need a bit more expansion.

All knowledge is contextual. But fact is not. Knowledge is integration of fact into your current context. Therefore,

All knowledge is internally logically consistent. This means it is built upon prior knowledge (premises) integrated prior to the integration of some new component of knowledge. But if any premise is faulty then the conclusions and connections built following that are also faulty.

(Jun 06 '12 at 02:45) Douglas Thom ♦ Douglas%20Thom's gravatar image

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Asked: Jun 05 '12 at 10:06

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Last updated: Jun 07 '12 at 11:39