The Opposite of Faith is NOT Reason

I understand the limits of language in small spaces; and I understand how language choices on complex topics can be made to make or break an argument.  The word choices in this small article on what Neil deGrasse Tyson said, starting with the title, are unfortunate. [Re: “Neil deGrasse Tyson: Science and Religion Are Not ‘Reconcilable,’ So Stop Trying“]

When it comes to categories, “reconciliation” is a matter of degree, not a statement of absolutes.  Reconciliation does not mean one thing becomes the other or that one is subsumed by the other.  It means there are harmonies, with each component remaining itself with concessions in tuning.  Religion and Science, on the surface of the words, can indeed be reconciled.  And Faith and Reason are made polar and mutually exclusive opposites willfully, not necessarily.

I can certainly sympathize with an argument that reconciliation means something like “make align.”  I favor the definitions that focus on making “exist or be true at the same time.”

For reason to operate, it requires assertions whose truthfulness is filtered structurally (formally) and substantively (informally).  Reason is a faculty, not an operation or machine.  Logic is the machine and operation.  Reason is not science – science, also, is an operation, an approach.  Reason as a faculty is about giving thought to, and due processing and consideration beyond faith in, concepts and perspectives.  It is the ability to comprehend and to make comprehensible.

Matters with more faith than science can be approached reasonably.

Just as importantly, the substance of reason requires measures of faith.  Not all details in a concept are known or even “correct” before we build our next hypothesis or theory on it.  There is a considerable measure of trust in both what we think we understand and our ability to understand it.

The opposite of Faith is not Reason; it’s not Science.  It’s distrust.  Science isn’t about trust or distrust – it’s about grounding of concepts in the physical.  Continuing to learn about the physical can be as fulfilling to the mystic as the atheist.  (I think there is such a thing as anti-learning, which is a type of effort masquerading as learning but really is layering of willful ignorance over the soul to simulate spirituality.  Agnotology?)

Reason isn’t always right.  But extremism is always wrong:  faith to the exclusion of grounding, and science to the exclusion of faith.  Progress requires both.

Extremism is a type of blindness, whether individually willed or part of a tidal wave that overwhelms the non-critically thinking.  Extremes cannot be reconciled.  And this is what Neil deGrasse Tyson is referring to.  (Suspicion: am I making an “iron-man” argument?  I don’t think so: « “It’s the fundamentalists who want to say that the Bible is the literal truth of God…»)

About his statement, « zero confidence that there would be fruitful things to emerge from the effort to reconcile them », if I focus on that as more of a question possibility, I can agree that the effort to reconcile might be of little value especially considering who we’re making the attempt for.  “Lipstick on a pig”  comes to mind.  That there are extremes in the perspectives on faith and reason is grounded in the believer, not the concepts.

Considering miracles, to me, belief in miracles is inconsequential in and of itself.  You do not have to “first remove all miracles and turn them into a philosophy.”

I found myself in Provo UT to work (and live part-time), and went in to sign up at a gym.  The manager, realizing I wasn’t Mormon, took me into his office and felt free to ask me how I can stand all the “weirdities” regarding the faith.  I told him thus: the core trajectory is shared by most faiths of good will.  Everything else is fringe and fluff that add to the character of the faith & creed.  As long as the fringe/fluff does not actually change or supplant the core (whether in weight of belief or practice), it remains inconsequential.

And circling back to my second paragraph: “reconciliation” is not an all-or-nothing proposition … except in the extreme.

One Response

  1. […] humanity.  We could point to the fringes of humanity and say that really, it’s the fringes — the extremists — that are walling us all in with their fire, intolerance, and resulting turmoil, urging all the […]

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