Monday, August 23, 2010

faith, truth, & evidence

Just read a tweet that reminds me how much I enjoyed presenting the "Will to Believe" essay it fell to me (as session chair) to read last Sunday in Chocorua, NH for the "Footsteps" Symposium. Its author Mark Franklin was unable to attend, so I got to collect by proxy the many expressions of admiration directed his way for his excellent work. The spotlight was all his, but I lucked into basking in it. 

The re-tweet from @DJGrothe asserted, in the dogmatic form imposed by 140 characters (if not in fact by a dogmatic frame of mind, on this issue), 
that faith, belief without evidence, is something to be admired is probably the most dangerous idea in the world today.
Mark's paper, to the contrary, pointed out very persuasively that sometimes,
by deciding not to commit ourselves until sufficient evidence arises, we might actually end up working at cross purposes with our own truth-seeking aspirations... 
Waiting for conclusive evidence that you can scale the heights, defeat the enemy, win the Presidency, or meet the deadline (to pick a few random cases) is liable to be self-defeating. Truth isn't out there waiting to be found, it's waiting to be made. Or not. Truth happens

Yes, we can. Well, maybe we can. Who knows? -In advance, nobody does. That's why James wrote that
 a rule of thinking which would absolutely prevent me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth if those kinds of truth were really there, would be an irrational rule.
It's just not always as simple or black and white as "faith versus evidence." So many of the contentious squabbles surrounding so-called New Atheism  would benefit from a deliberate and reflective reading of "Will to Believe," and an appreciation that many "faith-heads" (Dawkins' term of opprobrium) value truth too.

But few of the more prominent contenders seem to have bothered reading it at all.

Mark's excellent essay, along with audio of the entire Symposium on MP3 CD-ROM (and video of much of it), is available for purchase at 

Tell your local librarian.

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