Vacula 1 Justin Vacula Philosophy Capstone Dr. Johnson May 11, 2011 A Defense of Reason [v 5.1] CONTENTS Introduction.....................................................................................................................................

2 Holding Justified True Beliefs is Important................................................................................ 3-5 Important Properties of the Belief-Generating Process and Intellectual Virtues......................... 5-8 Criteria of Adequacy.................................................................................................................. 8-10 Myths of Reason and Skeptical Problems............................................................................. ..10-17 Expert Opinion........................................................................................................................ 17-18 Defending First Principles....................................................................................................... 18-24 Conclusion............................................................................................................................... 24-25 Works Cited.................................................................................................................................. 26

Vacula 2 Introduction Philosophy is the quest for knowledge. Philosopher Jonathan Kvanvig notes that getting to the truth of the matter in question is the goal of inquiry that is typically regarded as “the search for truth” (Kvanvig 9). Since the dawn of philosophy in Ancient Greece, philosophers have tackled questions of how knowledge can be acquired and justified, but there appears to be no 'theory of everything' in epistemology because of widespread disagreement amongst philosophers, different schools of thought, and various challenges. In light of the difficulties facing justified true belief and knowledge, people assert that faith is a reliable and justified reason to believe in various truth claims. I will argue that faith (belief without evidence) is unjustified and that it is important to arrive at justified true beliefs that can be acquired through an entirely reason-based process. To defend my conclusion, I will argue that beliefs guide actions and can have positive and negative consequences; discuss important aspects of the beliefgenerating process and what intellectually virtuous belief consists of; propose a criteria of adequacy that can distinguish truth from falsehoods while considering multiple hypotheses; rebut various 'myths of reason' and discuss skeptical problems; consider whether accepting experts' opinions are justified, and defend 'first principles' of logical reasoning from objections alleging that using logic to justify logic is question-begging. In their book How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking in a New Age, authors Theodore Shick Jr. and Lewis Vaughn note that faith, “belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence,” is not sufficient grounds for belief and does not constitute knowledge (7778). Those who invoke faith, Shick and Vaughn note, believe even though there is lack of evidence to justify a position (77). Faith does not help one evaluate the truth value of a claim,

Vacula 3 does not offer any justification, and is an admission that there is no good reason to believe a claim (79). Holding Justified True Beliefs is Important Beliefs often inform actions and have the ability to help, harm, or inform others' beliefs. Kvanvig writes, “Without beliefs to guide decisions about what actions to perform, we would be reduced to the position of random selection of actions, hoping that one selected was useful” (Kvanvig 29). Humans do not live in 'moral vacuums' in which beliefs and actions have no effect on others. There are practical benefits for being concerned about holding justified true beliefs and globally applying a skeptical attitude toward all sorts of claims about reality: skeptics are less likely to be swindled, less likely to look like fools, more likely to arrive closer to the truth, and skeptics are likely to encourage others to think. Philosopher Richard Taylor argues that truth is worth seeking because “it saves one from the numberless substitutes that are constantly invented and tirelessly peddled to the simpleminded, usually with stunning success … it saves us from these glittering gems and baubles, promises and dogmas and creeds that are worth no more than the stones under one's feet.” (Taylor 7) Taylor notes that beliefs that people can hold may not be the product of a quest for knowledge and evidence, but rather false illusions based on faith; he stresses, “Many persons spend their lives in a sandcastle, a daydream, in which every answer to every metaphysical question decorates its many mansions. … They find, in other words, a comfort born of ignorance” (Taylor 7-8). Holding false beliefs can often have pernicious consequences. People who are not properly skeptical about certain claims can empty their life savings, contribute to unsavory causes, wager their entire lives on one idea or a group of ideas, and can even die. Members of the

Vacula 4 Heaven's Gate cult, a group of people who believed that 'the earth was going to be recycled,' committed suicide because they had believed on insufficient evidence that an alien spaceship was behind a comet. Those who believe Harold Camping's May 21, 2011 doomsday prediction are not concerned with the future and have abandoned their 'regular lives' because they really believe that the world is going to end. One doomsday believer, according to a National Public Radio article said, “I no longer think about 401(k)s and retirement. I'm not stressed about losing my job, which a lot of other people are in this economy. Another doomsday believer has experienced a rift in his relationship with family members who do not believe that the world is going to soon end and is also emotionally troubled because he is unsure if his family members will be raptured (Hagerty). Proper skepticism and concern for evidence, rather than faith, can provide a sort of mental armor for a person to be less likely to fall prey to harmful beliefs. Milder beliefs can also cause disastrous consequences. In April of 2011, the United States government almost shut down because opponents wanted to defund Planned Parenthood and could not reach a compromise on the nation's budget. Although Planned Parenthood provides abortions, abortions are only a small fraction of the services provided by Planned Parenthood; the majority of services offered by Planned Parenthood include pap smears, breast exams, STD testing, sexual education, and birth control. Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, notes that one in five women in the United States have visited a Planned Parenthood clinic and says, “For more than half our patients, Planned Parenthood is the only nurse or doctor they will see all year” (Rovner). If Planned Parenthood were defunded and the government were to shut down, millions of people would suffer because of actions that were motivated by insufficiently justified claims.

Vacula 5 Richard Taylor notes that many people do not really consider issues without regard for research and evidence; Taylor writes, “Now the intellects of people are not as strong as their will, and they generally believe whatever they want to believe, particularly when those beliefs reflect upon their own worth among others and the value of their endeavors. Wisdom is thus not first what they first of all seek. They seek, instead, the justification for what they happen to cherish” (Taylor 3). Instead of holding positions based on faith, people should look for evidence to support their claims and be sure that adequate reason justifies their claims. Important properties of the belief-generating process and intellectual virtues Kvanvig notes various valuable properties of the belief-generating process: “It is valuable not to reason through false premises; it is valuable to have a justification that is undefeated or that presupposes no falsehoods; it is valuable to be a truth-tracker; it is valuable to have a warrant that would remain in relevant alternatives to the actual situation” (Kvanvig 48). Knowledge, Kvanvig notes, requires justification (50). Beliefs, Kvanvig notes, are not simply voluntary; He writes, “[W]e must be careful not to assume that beliefs are voluntary in the way that actions are. We do not choose to believe as we choose which shirt to don when dressing” (64). Using valuable properties of the belief-generating process should lead one away from faith and toward reason-based beliefs. Beliefs should not be held 'just because,' but rather should be held because of proper justification. Love of knowledge and intellectual firmness, two intellectual virtues, should lead one to a justified belief-generating process. Some philosophers known as virtue theorists focus on the belief-generating process and assign intellectual credit to persons who display 'intellectual virtues' such as love of knowledge and intellectual firmness (Roberts and Wood). Philosophers Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood sketch a caricature of the intellectually virtuous person,

Vacula 6 The epistemically virtuous person values, cherishes, seeks, and appreciates intellectual goods. She wants to know how important truths and to understand how things work … she wants to “see for herself” in some kind of striking, relatively unmediated way ; she is not satisfied with operating on mere hearsay. … She needs approaches to questions that will yield answers; she needs epistemic habits and skilled faculties that will accomplish the work of justified believing, seeing, and understanding. … She needs education and training and formation to these ends. And she needs practices that are well designed for harvesting the epistemic goods (Roberts and Wood 72). A person like this should be well-suited and more likely than others to arrive at justified true belief. Philosopher John Greco writes that “Persons who believe out of intellectually virtuous character are by definition reliable in the circumstances we normally find ourselves. They are the sort of person you can trust to deliver the truth, in the situations you need to trust them” (Kvanvig 83). Roberts and Wood more specifically define an intellectual virtue as “an acquired base of excellent epistemic functioning” (Roberts and Wood 85). The intellectually virtuous person should reject faith out-of-hand because faith is unjustified and it not indicative of proper well-trained epistemic functioning. Roberts and Wood describe the lover of knowledge as someone who is free from prejudice. They note that people suffer from prejudice if they hold beliefs for inadequate reasons such as simply liking a belief, not wanting to experience negative consequences because of fear of anxiety, appeal to tradition, and lack of willingness to investigate whether or not the belief is justified (162). Roberts and Wood note, “One sign of insufficient concern for truth is that when such people are given an opportunity to test their more cherished beliefs, they decline it, or apply

Vacula 7 it too casually, or offer defenses of the beliefs that are weaker than any that these people would accept in other contexts” (170). Persons who hold faith-based beliefs may often show this insignificant concern for truth, but rather should reason more appropriately by defending their beliefs, encountering objections, and not accepting beliefs or offering defenses of their beliefs that are the products of weak support that otherwise would not be accepted for other beliefs. Roberts and Wood note that aversions to loving knowledge are morally substandard such as not wanting to understand and hear arguments against one's religion or not wanting to consider anomalies that threaten one's scientific hypothesis (179). Love of knowledge, willingness to face and consider objections to one's cherished beliefs, and intellectual courage are key components that make a person a well-functioning epistemic agent. Intellectual firmness, according to Roberts and Wood, is an important intellectual virtue that people display when they do not relinquish beliefs at the first sight of contrary evidence, but rather carefully consider the objections and look for ways to refute the objections if possible. Roberts and Wood note that conservativism, in the sense of holding beliefs, should not be completely rigid and the intellectually virtuous person should seek perceptual input, support for beliefs, and be open to epistemic change (183). Those who change their beliefs without careful deliberation or 'choose what to believe' are not acting as intellectually virtuous agents (187). Roberts and Wood note that “a belief that is not believed, an understanding that is not taken to be correct … is hardly a belief, an understanding, or a perception for the subject who adopts that attitude toward it” (190). Roberts and Wood write that the intellectually virtuous person “needs to be always learning, thinking, taking in new information, intelligently encountering views different from and even opposed to his own, and applying his own framework in new situations that it may fit …

Vacula 8 the agent needs …openness” (194). Dogmatism is one feature of a person who embodies rigidity and thus lacks intellectual virtue. Those who refuse to face compelling contrary evidence that provides a defeater to their beliefs are acting in a dogmatic fashion (194-195). Dogmatists respond irrationally, Roberts and Wood explain, to oppositions to their beliefs while others have an “intelligent, communicative, open, listening attitude toward criticisms” (195). Those who hold beliefs based on faith are generally not open to change and are unwilling to face compelling contrary evidence. People who hold faith-based beliefs are often dogmatic or casually assume that their dogmatic principles are correct while lacking intellectual virtue. Criteria of adequacy Shick and Vaughn propose criteria that can help justify a belief and act as suitable guidelines for evaluating competing hypotheses. Using the criteria of adequacy as a methodology does not involve faith and can even be used to evaluate supernatural claims. The better a hypothesis meets the criteria of testability, fruitfulness, scope, simplicity, and conservatism, Shick and Vaughn explain, the more understanding it produces (172). Shick and Vaughn explain that if hypotheses cannot be tested, there is no way that it can be determined to be true or false. If one posits, for example, that gremlins cause fluorescent light bulbs to illuminate, one should be able to break open the lights and find the gremlins; simply seeing the lights turn on and off is not enough. If the gremlins are said to be invisible, incorporeal, and disappear when someone tries to detect them, the claim is unfalsifiable and thus ad hoc; continuing to provide reasons to save a hypothesis is not a legitimate move unless such reasons are justified (172-174). Many faith-based positions can simply not hold up to the criterion of testability and thus fail in this area. If the belief can somehow be tested, the tests can fail and thus will not meet the criteria of testability.

Vacula 9 Another important criterion is fruitfulness, the ability for a hypothesis to successfully make novel predictions outside of the hypothesis itself in the context of a larger body of information. Einstein's theory of relativity, for example, predicted that light rays would appear to be bent when they traveled near massive objects because the space around them is curved. This bending was a prediction that was made using the hypothesis, but the reasoning behind the bending was an application of the hypothesis that generated a novel prediction (174-175). Shick and Vaughn write, “Other things being equal, the best hypothesis is the one that is the most fruitful, that is, makes the most successful novel predictions. If two hypotheses do equally well in regard to all the other criteria of adequacy, the one with greater fruitfulness is better” (176). Ideas based on faith can be evaluated based on fruitfulness. If a faith-based belief is not fruitful, it fails in this criterion. The scope, the explanatory power of a hypothesis, is another important criterion of adequacy. Shick and Vaughn write, “the more a hypothesis explains and predicts, the more it unites and systematizes our knowledge and the less likely it is to be false” (177). Simplicity, the characteristic of a hypothesis to contain the least amount of assumptions or entities, is another important criterion of adequacy. Shick and Vaughn write, “Other things being equal, the best hypothesis is the simplest one, that is, the one that makes the fewest assumptions” (180). The final criterion of adequacy is conservatism. The most conservative hypothesis is the one that does not conflict with already well-established beliefs about the world (180-181). Faith-based beliefs typically fail in the realm of scope because they raise more questions than they answer and are often not likely to explain phenomena. Faith-based claims often are not simple because other entities typically need to be assumed such as gods or supernatural realms. Faith-based claims are typically not conservative because they conflict with already established knowledge; faith-based

Vacula 10 claims may posit that people live after their brains and hearts cease functioning even though we understand that life does not continue once the brain and heart ceases functioning. Shick and Vaughn explain that one measure of adequacy cannot always settle a debate and one measure can't lead to the conclusion that a hypothesis is justified. Two competing hypotheses may, for example, not be conservative, but one can be more fruitful while the other can be simpler. Some criterion, depending on the situation, may rate higher than others, thus deciding which hypothesis is best relies on judgment. The process, though, Shick and Vaughn note, is not subjective because disagreement in some cases regarding certain matters would be irrational. Many 'borderline cases' may exist, but this does not disqualify the criteria of adequacy from being reliable, effective, and likely to justify hypotheses because of good reasons (181). Instead of merely considering one of the criteria of adequacy, faith-based claims should be evaluated in respect to all of the criteria. If competing hypotheses fare better, faith-based claims should be rejected. Naturalistic explanations, when compared with supernatural explanations, typically have greater scope, are more conservative, simpler, fruitful, and testable. Myths of reason and skeptical problems Some may try to deny the value of truth by stating that reaching truth is very unlikely because our cognitive capacities are limited. Kvanvig calls this sort of sentiment “philosophical sour grapes” that “denies the value of a thing simply because we can't have it” (Kvanvig 38). While truth may be outside of the reach of humans, justified true belief can still be had, or at the very least, humans can try their best to reach the truth and make justified claims about reality based on evidence. Kvanvig writes, “[T]here is no reason whatsoever to think that believing the truth is always impossible; the best that could be claimed is that there is no guarantee in any given case that we have achieved the state of believing the truth. Perhaps it follows that we

Vacula 11 should not hope for the chimera of infallibility” (Kvanvig 39). Even if reaching the truth is impossible and infallibility cannot be had, one is not justified in holding a position based on faith. Absolute certainty is a red herring in the search for truth; the popular phrases 'you can't know for sure' or 'you can't be certain' are mere distractions. When philosophers speak of knowledge, they never claim '100% certainty,' but rather make claims about reality based on the best interpretation of the given evidence. If absolute certainty is needed to claim knowledge, almost no claims can be made. While it is possible that humans can be wrong about everything, this possibility is very low for certain claims based on a tremendous amount of evidence. The idea that something might be wrong because it is not certain knowledge does not entail that it is or take away warrant from a claim that is justified. Kvanvig writes, “[K]nowledge simply has little to do with infallibility” (Kvanvig 114). Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci discussions various objections to reason which he calls the 'myths of reason' in a 2009 lecture. The myths of reason, Pigliucci says, are quite widespread amongst the public. The first myth of reason that Pigliucci presents is “Reason is limited, therefore...” and discusses that this is true and no philosopher denies this. We have various epistemic limitations, Pigliucci says: we don't have the brain power to arrive at some conclusions, we often lack access to certain information, and are bad at arriving at some conclusions. The sentiment that reason is limited is a non-sequiter because it does not pose a real challenge to reason. What should be the alternative to reason? Pigliucci says that those who say that reason is limited often assert faith as another option, but this is a false dichotomy; if option one fails, option two does not automatically follow, become justified, or somehow gain credence (Pigliucci).

Vacula 12 The second myth of reason is that “We need to go beyond reason.” Pigliucci asks what 'beyond reason' means and asks “What sort of non-reasoning activity has helped humanity solve its problems? Did non-reason discover medical cures, invent computers, draw up the US Constitution, give us the Daily Show?” (Pigliucci). The idea of going beyond reason is a vacuous concept because the person claiming this cannot justify what “beyond reason” means. Faith might be going beyond reason, but a mere assertion does not justify the claim. Pigliucci notes that the third myth of reason is that there is too much emphasis on reason and people overplay it. Pigliucci says, “Last time I checked we have a government-sponsored national day of prayer, not of reason. When was the last time we checked society and said, 'Yup. Too reasonable here, we need a little bit of craziness and irrationality!” (Pigliucci). Pigliucci believes that this myth is a leftover from the romantic period as a reaction to the enlightenment. He notes that the historical record is quite doubtful and there was a profound lack of reason even during the Enlightenment (Pigliucci). Even if it is the case that there is too much emphasis on reason, faith is not suddenly justified or desirable, but rather is an unsupported assertion. The fourth myth of reason is that reason discards feelings and emotions, but this again is a false dichotomy; even if reason discards feelings and emotions, this does not entail that someone can automatically justify some other alternative. Reason also does not have to discard feeling and emotion because a very reasonable person can be a balanced human being. Pigliucci cites a neuroscientist who says, “Emotions and the feelings are not a luxury, they are a means of communicating our states of mind to others. But they are also a way of guiding our own judgments and decisions. Emotions bring the body into the loop of reason.” Pigliucci notes that those who merely follow emotions do not consider long-term planning and will not be properly balanced human beings. Pigliucci notes, using a quote from David Hume, that reason alone won't

Vacula 13 motivate action because an emotional involvement is needed (Pigliucci). 'Purely rational people' who are balanced human beings simply do not have to discard feelings and emotions in order to be reasonable. Even if reason were to totally discard feeling and emotion, this does not justify feeling and emotion to be reliable properties of a belief-generating process. Feeling and emotion can lead to all sorts of unjustified conclusions like supernatural experiences and may generate faith-based beliefs, but even if feeling and emotion led to a proper conclusion, feeling and emotion would not be the standards by which the truth value of the belief is judged. Pigliucci says that the fifth myth of reason is the tendency for people to say that everything is mere belief. People often utter the phrase, “But I bet you believe in evolution, don't you.” Pigliucci says that he doesn't believe in evolution, but rather considers the evidence and thinks that evolution happens for good reasons. He says that there can be no reasonable disagreement stating that evolution did not happen, but there may be small quibbles on certain pieces of evidence. His belief is not a faith-based belief because acceptance of evolution is based on evidence (Pigliucci). A popular understanding of belief, a position that someone holds to be true, does not put all ideas at the same level of justification. If everything is mere belief, it would appear that no belief would be justified and our actions would be random; however, this is not the case. Appeals to evidence, argument, and reason can indicate that something is more than a mere belief. Faith-based beliefs are not at the same level of justification as beliefs that are held with evidence. The sixth myth of reason is, “No matter what you say, surely you have faith in something.” He responds by saying “Once again, no I don't” and discusses common examples such as love and belief that the universe is real. Love is not a matter of faith, he says, but rather a matter of behavior and evidence; the belief comes directly out of the behavior of that person. The

Vacula 14 belief may be wrong if someone misreads the evidence, but the initial belief is not a faith-based claim. Pigliucci says that he doesn't know that the universe is real because skeptical problems posed throughout the history of philosophy cannot be refuted, but he can act in accordance to the most reasonable interpretation of the evidence; the most logical and rational conclusion is that the universe is real and he can “go with that assumption until someone proves it wrong.” Belief in the existence of the world, Pigliucci believes, is still not a matter of faith because it is a consideration of the evidence (Pigliucci). Even if Pigliucci did have faith in something, this would not justify religious faith. Beliefs that the world exists and other persons exist are often uncontroversial assumptions that people take for granted and typically do not deliberate. Pigliucci explains that beliefs that the world exists and that other persons exist are products of reasonable interpretations of the evidence and when technically speaking, he can't know that the world exists or other persons exist, but absolute certainty is a red herring here. When we start to explain reasons why we believe the world and other persons exist, this claim is no longer a faith claim, but rather is appealing to reason, argument, and evidence. The most reasonable interpretation is that we are not being fooled by some sort of evil deceiver or are in a constant dream state; we have good reasons to suggest that world and other persons exist. Belief that the world exists, in comparison with other hypotheses such as an evil deceiver is fooling us or we are in a dream state, is the best interpretation of the available evidence. Considering Shick and Vaughn's criteria, belief that the world exists is a fruitful hypothesis while alternative hypotheses are not. When we assume that the world exists, we can interact with the world and find new information, while if we posit an evil deceiver or a dream state no new information is gained and no novel predictions are made. Fruitful hypotheses, Shick and Vaughn

Vacula 15 note, “make predictions only in the context of a larger body of background information” (Shick and Vaughn 175). The hypothesis that the world exists has great scope or explanatory power; if we believe that the world exists, we can interact with the world and experience sensations as a result of this interaction. Alternative hypotheses raise more questions than they answer such as “Why am I experiencing sensations in accordance with what is already known about the world rather than something else,” “Why is there an illusion that the world exists?” , “What is causing the world to be an illusion?” , and “Why are my senses generally reliable when I interact with the world, yet I don't realize that the world is an illusion?”. Belief that the world exists adequately explains why our senses are generally reliable. Belief that the world exists, when compared to other hypotheses, is simpler, more conservative, and only makes one assumption, while other hypotheses, such as an evil deceiver is fooling us or we are in a dream state requires other assumptions. Alternative hypotheses are not conservative because they posit new beliefs about the world that are not supported. The evil deceiver hypothesis posits another entity that we have no good reason to believe exists and the dream hypothesis is quite controversial because it goes against what we know about dreaming and waking states; neuroscientists can compare brain activity if they were merely given information with no background information of whether or not a person was dreaming or sleeping and determine which of the brains was either in a state of dreaming or wakefulness. If someone were to assume that dreams were part of another dream, the idea of a meta-dream, another entity is posited and this fails in the area of simplicity. One might believe that other persons do not exist, but rather are figments of the imagination or are zombies. This hypothesis may appear to be simpler, but it is not conservative

Vacula 16 because we realize that other people are very much like us, have the same basic needs and desires, and react to sense data much like we do. If I were to fall from a large height and hit a hard surface, for example, I may die or experience a large amount of pain and bodily dysfunction. I understand that this would happen to other persons who are similar to me and thus have good reason to suggest that other persons exist. I can interact with other individuals, question individuals' deepest beliefs, and even hurt other people. In doing do, I would elicit responses from others and would justifiably, then, believe that other persons, just like me, exist. This 'solution' to the problem of other persons is called the analogical inference (Hyslop). Although it can't be believed to be certain, it is a very reasonable explanation of the given evidence and thus is not a faith-based claim. We should discard notions of requiring absolute certainty to make knowledge claims; just because a claim can be doubted and can't be proven does not mean that the claim is suddenly unreasonable and lacking in justification. Some alternative hypotheses may not fail when considering some of the criteria for adequacy, but all of the criteria should be considered to make an inference that best accounts for the given data. The last myth of reason is “at least keep an open mind,” which Pigliucci calls “the last refuge of the epistemological scoundrel” (Pigliucci). Pigliucci quotes Carl Sagan who said, “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.” We do want to keep open minds, Pigliucci says, and keep even our most cherished beliefs below the threshold of absolute certainty so that our beliefs can change if evidence is presented to warrant a change. He notes that people are often gullible and are too open-minded, but the goal should be to follow Sagan's idea (Pigliucci). Those who hold faith often make this move in the form of an ad hominem attack by alleging that skeptics are closed-minded, but the skeptics are anything but because they are considering the evidence and asking for justification. Open-mindedness is not the willingness to

Vacula 17 accept a belief at face value just because someone else believes it to be true; it is the willingness to consider different perspectives, arguments, and beliefs without causally dismissing them. Another common myth of reason that Pigliucci did not mention is 'there is no evidence either way.' People mention this and believe that since 'there is no reason either way,' they are justified in holding a belief. This process of thinking is tremendously flawed. 'No evidence either way' is a vacuous concept because it tries to create a third category and is, for some reason, not identical with 'no evidence.' If there is no reason to support a position or no reason to disbelieve in something, this is really equivalent to 'no evidence' instead of 'no evidence either way.' Some theists create this cognitive smokescreen in matters of religious belief when challenging the justification of non-theists' claims, but actually refute their own position and admit that there is no good reason to hold their beliefs. Lack of evidence does not imply that one is justified in holding a belief in God (or any belief); this is the classic logical fallacy known as the argument from ignorance. Beliefs require justification to be sufficiently warranted. Those who hold faith positions often make this move in the form of 'You can't prove or disprove God; there's no evidence either way.' No evidence either way is a false category that is actually equal to no evidence and if there really is no evidence to either support or refute a position, the position simply shouldn't be held. Expert opinion Some may consider believing based on what authority figures and experts believe is a faith-based initiative, but this is often not the case. Someone may assent to a belief just because a figure of authority endorses it, but this is not an intellectually virtuous move. Beliefs should not be held just because authority figures hold them, but rather should be held because experts have sufficient reason, argument, and evidence justifying their claims. The intellectually virtuous

Vacula 18 person can examine the given evidence and can come to a conclusion that holding a belief that is a consensus opinion is justified. If a person cannot understand evidence supporting a position because of a lack of familiarity or some other reason, a person can still be justified in holding a belief. Experts are experts for a reason – they are sufficiently trained to make claims about knowledge that pertain to their fields. In many disciplines, many experts exist and arrive at consensus opinions, so one need not assent to the belief of one expert. Shick and Vaughn discuss expert opinion and appeal to philosopher Bertrand Russell's three criterion regarding expert opinion: “ (1) that when the experts are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain; (2) that when they are not agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non-expert; (3) that when they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exist, the ordinary man would do well to suspend his judgment” (Shick and Vaughn 71). Shick and Vaughn write that we do not defer to experts because they are always right, but rather because they are more likely to be right because they have more information than we have, they are better judges of the evidence, and they are generally more knowledgeable than we are (72). Shick and Vaughn note words of caution, “Just because someone is an expert in one field doesn't mean that he or she is an expert in another” and also explain that if one were to make an appeal to an expert who is a non-expert in another field he/she would make a fallacious appeal to authority (73). Defending 'first principles' Some may consider 'first principles' such as modus ponens, modus tollens, induction, non-contradiction, and the idea that evidence leads us to justified true belief to be based on faith, but none of these items are based on faith because they can be supplemented with good reason to show that they are adequately justified. “Elementary beliefs...,” Richard Taylor notes, “are the

Vacula 19 product of philosophical reflection and usually result from the attempt to reconcile certain data with each other. They are instead the starting points of theories, the things we begin with; for in order to do anything at all, we must begin with something, and cannot spend forever just getting started” (Taylor 2). Logical principles such as modus ponens (If P, then Q. P. Therefore, Q) and modus tollens (If P, then Q. Not Q. Therefore, not P) can be justified because every test of these principles shows that an argument is valid. If we assumed that modus ponens or modus tollens were incorrect, a contradiction would derive. For example, if we consider the classic deductive line of thinking, “(1) All men are mortal, (2) Socrates is a man, (3) Therefore, Socrates is mortal” and assume that modus ponens is incorrect, we could not possibly derive that Socrates is mortal, but Socrates is a mortal. Consider the following line of thinking: “(1)If I am a student at Harvard, I am listed as a student in the registrar's office at Harvard. (2) I am not listed in the registrar's office at Harvard. (3) Therefore, I am not a student at Harvard.” If we assume that modus tollens is incorrect, I would be a student at Harvard, but this simply is not the case. If logical principles such as modus ponens and modus tollens are denied, one would not be able to make sense of basic logical reasoning and would experience many contradictions. The world would cease to make sense and while we can understand why modus tollens and modus ponens work, we would have to deny the conclusions. Someone can go to the registrar's office at Harvard, for example, and fail to find my name after careful searching and verification from the staff in the registrar's office. If the person assumes modus tollens is incorrect, the person must believe that I am a student at Harvard, but he/she has just realized that I am not a student at Harvard because my name on the registrar's list is a necessary and sufficient condition for me being a student at Harvard.

Vacula 20 Someone may object and say, “Well, isn't using logic to show that a basic logical principle is justified just arguing in a circle or begging the question? Non-contradiction is yet another logical principle.” The demonstration of accurate results of logical principles that have worked in the past may provide justification, but this is inductive reasoning that falls prey to Hume's problem of induction - a problem that everyone must accept and face. Even if it was the case that people employed faith in believing in basic logical principles or that the future will resemble the past, this does not suddenly justify faith in any given claim. Recent attempts at circumventing the problem of induction involve thinking of induction by using Bayesian methodology; people can set prior probabilities and eventually arrive at likelihoods that are probably justified by appealing to Bayesian methodology (Okasha). If someone, for example, believed that there was no good reason to suggest that the next swan he/she sees is white, he/she can observe many swans and revise his/her prior probabilities with every white swan and adjust his/her belief using Bayesian analysis. Although prior probabilities can be arbitrarily assigned, the probabilities are revised when new information is presented that warrants a change in the probabilities. A conclusion, of course, cannot be certain, but a conclusion arrived at in this manner is nonetheless warranted. Some may say that all knowledge claims consist of a degree of faith, but is not the case. Right now, as I am writing this essay, I believe all sorts of claims: my keys on my keyboard are going to register characters on my screen, my telephone is going to work when I try to use it, and my chair is going to be stable throughout the night. None of these claims are 'taken on faith,' but rather are an appropriate response to the given evidence. I have no good reason to doubt any of these claims and have good reason to suggest that all of these claims are true. While I may be wrong about any of these given claims, I am by no means 'taking them on faith.'

Vacula 21 I may hold a belief, for example, that when I enter a restaurant I will be approached by wait staff, receive food, and will be able to use cash to pay for my food. While I have not yet entered the restaurant, I am still by no means 'taking these claims on faith.' I have good reason to believe that I will be served at a restaurant, will receive food, and will be able to use cash to pay for my food because I am aware of the nature of restaurants and have no good reason to believe that I will be refused. Even if all of these ideas are wrong (the restaurant may indeed not serve me and may abruptly close when I enter), I am still not 'taking these claims on faith because I initially had good reasons to support my beliefs. If I approach the restaurant believing that I can order pasta, for example, and have no information regarding the restaurant, I still don't have faith, but rather am making a probabilistic judgment based on the frequency of pasta in previous eateries. If someone would still consider some or all of my ideas to have a faith component, this would still not be the same sort of faith as those who believe in supernatural claims without good reason nor would this justify faith in the supernatural. To say that my 'faith' in induction, for example, is the same sort of 'faith' that people hold in the supernatural is to equivocate; the word 'faith' is being used in two radically different contexts and doing so is committing a logical fallacy. We simply can't help but believe that first principles are reliable methods of reaching the truth. If I believed that evidence, for example, was not a reliable means to reach the truth, I could have no justification for believing any claims and my beliefs and actions would be utterly random; what reliable alternative to reason and need for evidence can possibly guide my actions and inform my beliefs? If a tremendous amount of evidence was put forth to support a conclusion and I believed that evidence was not a means to reach the truth, how would I possibly

Vacula 22 function? What other way of knowing could possibly be justified? If I intentionally sliced my finger with a knife and started bleeding, I'd be an utter fool to doubt simple induction and assume that I would not bleed if I sliced another of my fingers. In order to function as human beings, we need first principles, like Taylor notes, that result from philosophical reflection. First principles are quite uncontroversial. Mere lack of controversy or mere agreement by a majority of persons does not guarantee that something is true, but philosophers who are rightly experts in their fields and are among the most eligible to make conclusions about these claims have realized that there is no good reason to doubt that first principles produce truth. Induction, reliability of evidence, modus ponens, and modus tollens, for instance, are constantly confirmed and one would be quite foolish to doubt these. If one were to not believe in the efficacy of first principles, one would clearly be acting in an irrational fashion. One cannot justifiably assert that faith in any given claim can be may be justified as a first principle if one imagines it to be necessary for their survival. First principles may only be justifiable if and only if they are fundamental for human functioning. Some may allege that believing in certain faith claims is necessary for their survival and claim, “I can't possibly imagine life without belief in God,” but such a sentiment may be illusory, an over-exaggeration, and certainly does not apply to every human being, thus it does not qualify as an essential first principle; millions of people can operate without belief in the afterlife. If people still believe that first principles are ultimately based on faith and don't need to be essential to human survival, belief in God still is not warranted just because it is faith and arguments would need to be presented in order to warrant belief in God. Academic theists mostly realize that 'I have faith' is no good reason to justify belief in God. Contrary to this sentiment is one academic theist, popular respected Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig,

Vacula 23 who believes that God can be known “wholly apart from the evidence,” (William Lane Craig – Dealing With Doubt) although he constantly debates atheists and provides reasons to those who disagree with him. He admits that even if all of his evidence turned against him, he would still believe in God. He notes that doubt is not always an intellectual problem because “there is always a spiritual dimension to doubt” (William Lane Craig – Dealing With Doubt). Once Craig starts providing reason for belief, though, he is no longer operating in the realm of faith and, if Craig honestly thinks that these arguments are sufficient to warrant belief in God, Craig shows that his belief really is not faith. The reasons given for belief in God, just like any other claim, can still be evaluated. The reasons commonly given for belief in God such as the fine-tuning argument, the moral argument, the cosmological argument, and miracles have constantly been refuted and cannot possibly show that a specific god or a group of gods exist. If the universe was indeed created by something supernatural, how can one possibly epistemically arrive at the conclusion regarding the source of the universe and believe that one being created the universe rather than another being or a group of beings? If objective moral values indeed exist and require a lawgiver, how can one possibly justify believing in the Christian god rather than some other being? Even if miracles indeed happen, how can we come to the conclusion that the Christian god is responsible and rule out advanced alien technology or other gods which we may not know of? Common arguments can easily be the focus of longer essays, but I won't pay too much attention here because they are beyond the focus of my essay. Theists constantly pose unfalsifiable reasons (I'm not suggesting that they're necessarily intentionally lying or being dishonest, but rather am suggesting that the methodology is deeply flawed) that attempt to save their God hypotheses from presented evidence. If an atheist were to

Vacula 24 object to one of the central Christian claims that God created humans in his own image and that humans are special beings set apart from creation by appealing to natural evil, 'design flaws,' and ways that the universe looks indifferent to human existence, a theist such as John F. Haught might assert that God creates stories in the universe and that if life were perfect, there would be no 'drama,' (Haught) but this is not an adequate explanation because it is an ad hoc assertion. What evidence suggests that the universe is a 'created story?' (And what evidence is there to suggest that God exists? We certainly can't justifiably assume this.) If a claim is unfalsifiable, believers can constantly continue to save their hypotheses by positing assertions, but such a move is not warranted unless there is good reason to suggest that the assertions are true. When giving reasons to justify induction, reliability of evidence, modus tollens, and modus ponens, such persons are not saving hypotheses from contrary evidence by proposing unfalsifiable assertions, but rather are giving good reasons for their claims. Conclusion Fear and discomfort, Roberts and Wood note, may be two reasons why people do not want to critically relinquish their own beliefs and consider objections to their beliefs levied by others. Roberts and Wood write, “We who teach philosophy know that some of our students will experience cognitive dissonance, maybe even distress, ... [b]ut truth, intellectual maturity, and self-understanding are more important than their momentary discomfort” (Roberts and Wood 227). Rather than fearing temporary discomfort, people should have the courage to face objections to their beliefs and be concerned with holding justified true beliefs. Admitting that one is wrong today means that one can be happy tomorrow; knowing that a false belief is disposed of makes one closer to approaching the truth and makes a person more likely to hold justified true beliefs. Relinquishing false beliefs is a sign of intellectual maturity and intellectual honesty that

Vacula 25 the intellectually virtuous person should embody. The pursuit of the truth can be very liberating and can open one to new avenues of thought with great benefits. Faith is simply not a valid pathway to knowledge. Those who hold faith-based beliefs have no good reason to hold their faith-based beliefs, otherwise they would not claim to have faith and instead cite reasons. All sorts of believers in supernatural claims hold faith as a valid pathway to belief, but faith is not reliable; believers arrive at different conclusions when they invoke faith. Those who assent to faith positions effectively end any sort of discussion based on rationality, evidence, and intellectual honesty. Simply because people believe that certain propositions are true does entail that they are. People should not take leaps of faith when there are no good reasons to do so; if there were good reasons to justify claims, faith would never have to enter into the picture. The more honest position is to consider the evidence, review the arguments, and arrive at beliefs based on reason rather than faith.

Vacula 26 Works Cited Hagerty, Barbera Bradley. "Is the End Nigh? We'll Know Soon Enough." National Public Radio, 07 May 2011. Web. 10 May 2011. Haught, John F. "Evolution and Faith: What is the Problem?." King’s College Center for Ethics and Public Life. King's College, Wilkes-Barre. 12 Apr 2011. Lecture. Hyslop, A., "Other Minds", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Kvanvig, Jonathan. The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Learning. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print. Okasha, Samir. "What did Hume Really Show about Induction?." Philosophical Quarterly. 51.204 (2001): 307-327. Print. Pigliucci, Massimo. "Reason: What is it? Who needs it?" CFI Leadership Conference 2009. Center for Inquiry. Amherst, NY. 27 Jun 2009. Lecture. Roberts, Robert C., and W. Jay Wood. Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology. Paperback. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print. Rovner, Julie. "Planned Parenthood: A Thorn in Abortion Foes' Sides." National Public Radio, 13 Apr 2011. Web. 10 May 2011. Shick, Jr., Theodore, and Lewis Vaughn. How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print. Taylor, Richard. Metaphysics. 4th. Eaglewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992. Print. "William Lane Craig- Dealing With Doubt." Web. 10 May 2011. <>.

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