June 8, 2007

Reason and Faith

A week down in Mumbai and here are my first words on a word file. This has to do with one of my own previous posts, Reason.

In the course of that argument, I tried to present the idea that reason was paramount and everything stemmed from that. Even though even now I hold that thought dear, I was shown that reason, though being paramount is not absolute. The reason being there is a limit up to which reason can go.

During the course of this present argument, I shall play the devil’s advocate, a role I do well. The defendant is one who thinks that reason is paramount, namely, me.

Devil’s Advocate (henceforth DA): Which is bigger faith or reason?

Poor Ol’ Me (henceforth POM) : Reason

DA: Why?

POM: Because faith arises when reason fails

DA: Elucidate

POM: Go and read my article called Reason, or something like that

DA: Have read that and that is the reason I come to you

POM: In spite of reading that, do you still have doubts? You must be one gigantic *!@%$#~^&*

DA: We’ll see who is that *!@%$#~^&*

POM: How will this go? Will you ask the question or will I have to? Aka Shivaji in Thiruvilaiyadal (Kaelvigalai nee kaekiraya, ala, naan kaekatuma?)

DA: Me will ask, I cannot answer, aka Nagesh (Nanne kaeakaren, ennaku kaeka than theriyum)

Curious Onlooker: Great, this is a good competition (Ballae, seriyana poetti )

POM: Ask on

DA: Why is reason greater than faith?

POM: Because when reason comes in faith disappears

DA: What is the base of reason?

POM: Reason does not have a base, reason is, therefore, reason is

DA: There you go again, with your lines that no one follow. Who decides reason and how to apply it?

POM: Each individual

DA: Does each person know everything?


DA: Then how can his reason be perfect?

POM: I have no clue what you are trying to say

DA: I will ask a question. What is the world made up of?

POM: Matter

DA: What is matter made up of?

POM: Protons, neutrons and electrons

DA: What are they made of?

POM: Quarks and neutrinos

DA: Have you ever seen a quark?


DA: Have you ever seen a neutrino?


DA: Have you ever done any experiment to show that matter consists of those three particles, protons, neutrons, and electrons?


DA: Then how can you argue with me that matter has that?

POM: I know this because I read it somewhere that someone did some experiment. The name of those people who did the experiment is not important, but the result is. The conclusion of that experiment is that matter has those particles.

DA: That means that you are taking it on the belief that person was faultless in the experiment, and so where the thousands who followed him and did the same thing.

POM: Yes

DA: That means that you are going by faith, faith on that person and his scientific abilities

POM: I think so

DA: Even that, my dear, you thinking so, is faith

POM: Cut the crap and tell me what it is you are trying to say

DA: Like, how in religion, faith departs when reason comes in, there will come a time when reason shall fail. This can be because the knowledge of man which he has to apply to arrive at the reason shall become null and void, or the cognitive ability, that which makes him think shall dry out, or the limits that are enforced on his activities by his environment will take a turn for the worse. When I say this, I mean that he will not be able to reason further than what he has so far. When such a state is arrived, reason fails. Any progress that man makes after this is based not on reason, but only faith. It is faith that makes me think that the universe is a result of a big bang, just as it is faith that tells you that there is a god.
Faith is not supreme, neither is reason. It is a loop. One cannot exist with the other, but then one cannot exist without the other as well. Faith, even though blind, needs to have a reason, a cause, and a justification. Reason, even though more objective, even though more cognitive, needs faith, faith on works done before and faith on us, for it is us who reason.

Faith in reason,
Reason in faith.
Both are alone,
Both are together.
Bring one,
The other dies.
Remove one,
The other is dead.

Disclaimer: I had this actual conversation with two people, one showed me that reason is faith, and the other showed me faith is reason. I guess that I shall be forever indebted to them for this post.


Lazy Lavender said...

I can even agree to this-> Faith is not supreme, neither is reason, but not -> Reason does not have a base, reason is, therefore, reason is. I believe reasoning does not work without bases, correct or incorrect. Nor does fate.

Also, faith is arrived at from reason. You have faith in the scientist's abilities because you've seen his works before and your rational mind says he'll be correct this time as well. Also, in such cases, one doesn't tend to probe into the details or try finding it out for oneself unless it is of some value in his life. The knowledge of neutrinos and quarks helped only score a coupla marks in my exams. But had this been an issue that holds immediate consequence in our lives, in what we want, would we sit tight and just believe whatever a third person had to say about it?

If I am right, by faith in religion, you mean faith in God. Accepted that this faith departs as reason comes in, not because reason and faith can't coexist, but because the faith did not have a proper/correct base. We develop faith because we see the elders and others around us having it. We tend pick up things our elders tell us, because we have faith in them, we believe that they advise for our welfare/benefit. And even this faith is not blind. It grows right from our childhood when we see them doing things for our good.

Why us? Even pets believe their masters only if the masters prove to be good. Try ignoring/ill-treating your pet and expect it to do things at your first voice of command. I don't know if animals are capable of reasoning, but definitely faith didn't come just because one bought/owned the pet.

The topic of "blind faith" comes when one doesn't directly analyze the concerned issue, but directly takes another's word to be true. yet again, this faith in the other is because one thinks the other is correct. Thinking happens to be a part of the reasoning process, and not the believing one.

Bring reason, faith follows automatically. Successive results got out of correct reasoning steps, build up faith in the right thing. We wouldn't want to invest our faith in things that are not right, would we?

Lazy Lavender said...

Let's take a situation when reason jumps in and destroys the faith we had since birth. How? Because we find something, a fact, an observation, that contradicts our earlier belief. The mind recognizes a clash between something that we just saw, and something that we've been believing all life. Why does it have to de-root the faith? Because we reexamine the beliefs taking the new observation into consideration. Sometimes, we even go for additional information outside to get a better picture. We try to tear the mental image in bits and analyze each piece. When we find that the pieces don't go together after the addition of the new observation, we declare the faith as incorrect or improper, and kick it out of our heads.

This -> I mean that he will not be able
to reason further than what he has so far.
arrived as a result of the thought that "What if we run out of knowledge?", which again happens to be a "question", something that's plays the major role in reasoning. When we are no longer capable of reasoning things, DA says man will resort to faith. But hey, in the absence of reason, a hundred thousand theories will pop up on each issue, thanks to the creativity of the human mind. Which one of them will man believe in? Which one will prove the be worthy of one's faith? The theory that seems most logical, without too many strong contradictions, will get the maximum supporters. Then, entrusting the theory becomes an act of choosing, the result being a logical choice, arrived at after considering each one of the available choices. This again would be a cognitive process.

Reason may not be supreme, plainly because we don't utilise it fully in every aspect of life. But hey, if reason is not supreme, then faith is nowhere close to it.

Rajaraman said...


Anonymous said...

This post actually made a lot of sense. Thinking about it, I found an example that illustrates this point, it involves a Rubik cube. When you give a scrambled Rubik's cube to a layman and ask him whether it can be unscrambled back to the one-colour-on-each-face format, his response should typically depend upon his previous knowledge of Rubik's cubes or mathematics. If he says 'yes' with this knowledge, the faith of his yes depends upon his reason. The key point here is, at any given time, if challenged, he can show exactly how, and in how many steps he can unscramble the cube.

However, with no knowledge of math or Rubik cubes, if he says 'yes' (based on a guess, or based on someone's assertion that indeed the cube can be unscrambled), the faith is blind. He cannot prove it himself.

I have not seen quarks and neutrinos, I take it on the faith of words of the scientists who worked on it. But I know that if I have the inclination, means and time, I can go over all their experiments again and verify the results for myself. That is where my faith is brilliantly underscored by reason.

When I have faith, it cannot be without reason. And surely, my reason cannot exist without faith., the faith that what I do, and what has been done is correct.

When I talk about faith in God, I ask for the reason. The reason you give, and my verification of the facts, help me decide if it is true faith or blind faith.

I don't have a problem with faith. All I condemn is blind faith.

One thing I could not stand about this post was the comparison of the Devil's Advocate and Poor Ol'You to Nakkeeran and Lord Shiva from Thiruvilayadal. The two characters who were talking were supposed to be trying to get and answer objectively, whereas Lord Shiva was portrayed as someone who knew all the answers already. Such an attitude is completely against the spirit of enquiry. I don't know what was the motive behind the comparison with the movie, but it stuck out sorely.


Lazy Lavender said...

if he says 'yes' (based on a guess, or based on someone's assertion that indeed the cube can be unscrambled), the faith is blind.

How does "guessing" fall under faith?

If he says "yes" based on someone else's assertion, it implies that he has faith in the other person, and hence he takes the other's word for granted. It would still follow reasoning.

Anonymous said...

It is not faith. It is blind faith. The probablility of either outcome is 0.5, and believing (here comes the faith) in either without significant proof is what makes it blind.

Lazy Lavender said...

I'm sorry, but I still don't understand. Call it a blind guess, I may agree. Giving out a guess would be taking a chance. Do people actually believe their guesses? And the question of significant proof will not involve a guess in the first place.