virus: Faith

Eric Boyd (
Tue, 23 Sep 1997 02:39:08 -0500

David wrote:
> >What evidence? My point is I don't have any for some of these new
> >subjects I'm learning about. I guess, technically, I don't have to
> >"believe" them... but I do have to do the homework. I gotta pass, after
> >all.
> What about the fact that your professors are teaching this stuff at
> a reputed university as part of an degree in engineering? Doesn't that
> count for anything? Aren't your profs any more credible than someone
> teaching aromatherapy or iridology in the back of your local new
> age book store?

Yes, slightly. But there are entire religious institutions too, you
know. Should I trust the pastor at my local Church to spout the Truth,
the whole truth and nothing but the truth just because he's a certified
member of _____ (denomination name here)?

Arguments from authority have a big list of provisors on them in
critical thinking. Is the authority recgonized by others in his/her
field? Is the topic of discussion debated in that field? (or is it
accepted by all?) Is the topic under discussion actually *part* of the
authorities field? (advertisments fail this one a lot)

I'm really not sure of any of these in some of my courses. Like last
years Linear Algebra course. Was the Prof. supported in his field
(linear algebra)? Probably, although I don't know for sure. Was any of
the material he discussed controversial? Damned if I know! He did
teach linear Algebra, though. From his own text book (this is either a
good sign -- important enough to be used as the standard -- or a bad
sign -- so out of it he needs to hide the truth with a non standard
text). Really, can I trust this prof?

The only real way to check would be to buy another text and confirm;
tack on another course and check up on all of the material. But I don't
have time to *double* my schedule.

> >If you like, I'll yeild. I don't have to use "blind faith", as you seem
> >to define faith. But "Provisional Acceptance", based on what Paul
> >Prestopnik talked about ("partial verification"), and "authority" memes
> >from the Prof, is faith in my books.
> Please tell me what you think your level of belief is compared to
> your acknowledged evidence on the t-grid (,
> then we can see if your idea of faith is different from mine.

My belief in the material... I'm really not sure. Does use constitute
belief? No. But use can compell belief. Really, I'd say what I've
learned is a good model. I believe my prof's: this is the way
[engineering thermodynamics] really works... I'd give you ten to one
odds it's correct (belief: 90+%)

But evidence? A few labs (4 or 5), a bunch of "practical examples" in
class. Common sense (I hear this ain't gonna work too much longer). The
authority of the Prof. But does that get the evidence high enough? I
don't know. Perhaps.

As long as you count "authority" as part of "evidence", then I probably
do "beleive" in accordance with the "evidence" (for the single biggest
factor in my belief is how convincing the prof is, and *that* is
directly related to his precieved "authority" in class...). But is
authority *really* evidence? (again I remind you of the organized
religions around the world)

... who is thinking of "The Church of Reason" from that Zen book...