Faith – against all evidence

Theologists perform all sorts of mental gymnastics (their favourite pastime) to justify faith. They will even claim their faith is based on evidence and reason. This begs the question: “If you have evidence and reason why would you need faith?”

When it comes down to it, faith is what you use when you don’t have evidence – when you have a strong desire to believe something without any supporting evidence, or even in the face of all evidence. This is common not only to religious believers but also to other believers in the “supernatural” or “paranormal.”

I have just finished reading Christopher Brookmyere’s novel Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks. The term unsinkable rubber ducks is used to describe people of faith – those who want to believe supernatural claims and will do so whatever evidence is produced to show the tricks and fraud behind these claims. The book is a mystery thriller and a great read. It also describes well the mind sets of both the supporters and debunkers of supernatural claims. It is logical that the author dedicated this book to Richard Dawkins and James Randi.

This brings me to James Randi – a delightful personality. He has a background as a magician and devotes his time and resources to exposing supernatural claims. Magicians and illusionists seem to have more success at this than do scientists – apparently because scientists are not as equipped to deal with deception and fraud. I saw this while working in a Scottish research institute during the 1970s. Yuri Geller’s spoon-bending was big news at the time and debate at work revealed most scientists either believed Geller was genuine, or possibly genuine (they were keeping an open mind). The sole person convinced of Geller’s fraudulence was a performing magician!

In the video below Randi describes his work to an audience at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, CA last August.

James Randi Authors@Google (58 min)

See Also:
Christopher Brookmyre talks about his novel
James Randi Educational Foundation
Joe Nickell – paranormal investigator talks to Point of Enquiry

Related Articles:
Concorde religion
Delusions about Dawkins
Why do we believe?
The Enemies of Reason
Richard Dawkins and the enemies of reason
Debating science and religion
Putting Dawkins in his place
“I’m an atheist, but ……”
Can science enrich faith?

3 responses to “Faith – against all evidence

  1. You write: This begs the question: “If you have evidence and reason why would you need faith?”

    No, sir; it raises the question. Begs or begging the question is the name of an informal fallacy. I realize that many people make this mistake and that some day the distinction will probably disappear because of usage, but it is my job to delay that day for as long as possible!

    On a substantive note I would argue for a distinction between “faith = trust” and “Faith = belief without evidence”. I have faith my car will start this morning. I have faith at least one commentator will use “begs the question” incorrectly today. I no longer have Faith in Osiris.


  2. I have to concede to your better knowledge on this Bob. Is this a mistake in logic or philosophy, rather than English?

    Yes, faith is used in different ways and theist apologists do play with the word.


  3. English usage problem; in logic begging the question is the name of an informal fallacy as in, e.g.,arguing that God’s existence is proven by presupposing that the bible is divine (Godly) inspiration. That’s argument in a circle: one type of question begging.

    But all North American newscasters insist on using “begging the question” to mean something different, to mean “the question needs or begs to be asked”.

    Perhaps only retired curmudgeons are exercised by the mistake!


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