FidesIn a fictional quote attributed to a fictional character, Jack McDevitt has Gregory MacAllister write:
Faith is conviction without evidence, and sometimes even in the face of contrary evidence. In some quarters, this quality is perceived as a virtue.The McAllister character is being deliberately provocative here, but this version of "faith" is one widely bruited, mostly by people who don't think they have one. A contrary view comes from Christoph Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna, who stated in one of his lectures:
-- Jack McDevitt, Odyssey (2006) Ch. 12
A blind faith, one that would simply demand a leap into the utter void of uncertainty, would be no human faith. If belief in the Creator were totally without insight, without any understanding of what such entails, then it would likewise be inhuman. Quite rightly, the Church has always rejected "fideism" -- that very sort of blind faith.But faith, of course, is simply the latinate version of "trust" or "truth." To keep faith simply means to trust someone or something. To trust the "evidence," for example. Usually, evidence gathered by someone else far away and reported by some third party medium. Unless we have our own particle accelerator in the basement -- TOF does not -- we must have faith in the folks at CERN or some other lab when they report, not the facts, but their interpretation of those facts. Even for first-hand facts, we must have faith that our senses are for the most part trustworthy. Of course, the extreme skeptic, perhaps fearing that You Know Who is lurking at the end of a syllogism, will quickly point out that there are cases where this is not the case. There are. But if it is usually not the case, the whole basis for our faith in natural science collapses; so these folks ought to be more cautious regarding the arguments they deploy.
-- Christoph Cardinal Schönborn,
"Creation and Evolution: To the Debate as It Stands"
(First Catechetical Lecture for 2005/2006: Oct. 2, 2005, St. Stephan's Cathedral, Vienna)
Conviction in the face of evidence has many noble, historical examples:
- Galileo maintained his belief in heliocentrism despite the lack of stellar parallax, headwinds, Coriolis effects, etc.
- Maxwell and his followers maintained their faith that magnetism was caused by electricity despite the falsifying existence of permanent (i.e., non-electro-) magnets.
- Darwin stood true to his belief in natural selection even though any new beneficial trait would be diluted out of the population within a few generations. Most of the blending of paternal and maternal traits in the first few generations would be with individuals that did not have the trait.
So much for 'falsification.'
|Did Wellington win at Waterloo? Or did Blücher?|
Or did Napoleon lose, which is not the same thing?
Historical events grow simplified over time. Accounts are shortened, complexities sloughed off, analogous figures fused, traditions “abraded into anecdotes.” Real people become culture heroes: archetypical beings performing iconic deeds (Vansina 1985). In oral societies, this horizon typically lies at eighty years in the past, perhaps three generations. In literate societies, the horizon may lie at three hundred years. Professionals often know better, but in the popular imagination, events older than three centuries take on the legendary status of "origin time." These legends of the past often enthrall people committed to an Idea.
Of course most of you will answer “No way!”, and I do, too, but accommodationists and science-friendly believers make this argument often.
The denizens of Dr. Coyne's commbox immediately fell to, telling one another how bright they were and lofting disparagement at the humanities and other notscience. Curiously, two of the "accommodationists" mentioned -- Davies and Whitehead -- are physicists (TOF has a copy of Whitehead's Principles of Relativity to hand) and physicists have sometimes been known to pat biologists patronizingly on the head.
That blog post elicited a response by Alex B. Berezow and James Hannam: Coyne's Twisted History of Science and Religion, taking Dr. Coyne to task for his stereotyped understanding of the complexities of history.
Historians have long realized that the great conflict between science and religion is a myth. But it continues to be an article of faith among the New Atheists. In contrast to his views on evolution, Dr. Coyne thinks that he can ignore the evidence from history and disregard the settled view of experts in the field.Commentators in that comm box grew distraught, naturally; but there was more of a debate than one normally finds over on Dr. Coyne's site. Let us explore the question Dr. Coyne raises.
See the following posts for details (links to be added)
Question I. Whether Christianity promoted the rise of science
Article 1. Whether there was a scientific revolution
Article 2. Whether the scientific revolution was exclusively Western
Article 3. Whether Christianity enabled the rise of science in the West