Friday, September 09, 2005

Reason vs. Faith

Right off the bat, I'm pretty firmly agnostic. By that, I mean I don't go to church, I don't have pretensions of knowing the hows, whats, and whys of the universe, and the issue of God doesn't have an effect on my daily life. I'm not atheist because as a logical thinker, I realize that I cannot logically disprove His/Her/Its existence, but neither can I logically prove His/Her/Its existence. So I don't really let it weigh on my mind, unless I'm arguing/debating with somebody.

But here's what really gets my goat, so to speak. An argument you might hear from a fundamentalist Christian, against the Big Bang, might go something like this:

It's more likely for a tornado to sweep through a junkyard and leave in its wake a fully assembled 747 than for the Big Bang to have randomly created the universe we all know and love.
Basically, the thrust of the argument is that if the chances of something are slim enough, we can conclusively rule out the probability of its ever having happened. I'd take issue, and say "highly improbable" doesn't equal "impossible," but we'll leave that for now.

Here's another argument you might hear from a fundamentalist Christian, in favor of Jesus' being the Messiah:
There are 456 prophecies that Jesus had to fulfill to conclusively be the Messiah. Scientists have determined that the likelihood of his fulfilling just 48 of those 456 prophecies is 1 in 10^157. The likelihood of this is so small that Jesus must be the Messiah.
Do you see the disconnect here? In one case, they use statistical improbability as proof against something's having happened, and in the other they use statistical improbability as proof positive of something else's having happened. This is the kind of shoddy intellectualism that results when religious folks cling tenaciously to their beliefs in the face of science to the contrary.

Just thought I'd throw that out there.