Wednesday, April 17, 2013


What Is Knowledge? How Do WE Know Anything?

What is the relationship between faith and knowledge?

I do find it difficult, if not impossible, to see any connection between faith and reason, or between religion and science. I realize that there are many who claim that there is no conflict between these ways of thinking. There is a professor here at the College of Charleston who sees no conflict because, as he says, religion and science are just two different ways of looking at life. One has nothing to do with the other. I do not follow his logic. He seems to make it work for himself by what I would call “compartmentalizing” his life. He avoids dealing with the conflicts by not taking up both sides at the same time. He apparently can explore, and give credence to, the scientific idea that humans are the result of evolution from earlier forms of life, then shift gears and say that God created man, and then woman, relatively recently. If a person does not want to discard either of these possibilities, then he may keep both—separately.

Would you call this a “reasonable” way of thinking--rational? logical? I guess that all of these terms are relative; thus there will always be disagreement. For myself, this professor’s way of thinking has no value, is not helpful. It feels like a cop-out. Rational?—not for me. Is he an irrational person? He might be rational when it comes to math or economics or biology. But as to philosophy?—not to my way of thinking.

Can any person “know” some truth that no one else “knows”? How so? If truth exists, why is it not readily accessible to all—without any need for a “leap of faith”? Doesn’t an idea, or concept, require “faith” in order to believe it only because it is not provable, or replicable, or unequivocal, or “Knowable”? If so, how is faith different from fantasy or wishful thinking?

I use the term “knowledge” to mean information that is universal and unequivocal. I do not include ideas or concepts which are not replicable. For example, we “know” that if an airplane’s engine shuts down, the plane will come down. We “know” that, if a broken bone is reset and held in place for a given length of time, it will heal. We “know” that, if we don’t eat and drink, we will die. But we don’t “know” the origin of life, and we don’t “know” whether any kind of existence continues after we die. We can only speculate, and, if we wish to draw conclusions, we do what we call “having faith”. We choose to believe (hope?) in the unknowable. Is this latter different from fantasy? If so, how?

All this is not to say that faith, or fantasy, has no use. It surely makes life more bearable for some, but I, personally, have no use for it. Further, there have been too many times when people have killed others because they did not hold the same “beliefs” and saw them as a threat.


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