Challenge Response: Knowledge Is the Enemy of Faith

Here's my response to this week's challenge:

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The claim that knowledge is the mortal enemy of faith is a scientific fact, according to this challenge. I want you to think about that for a moment. The claim that “knowledge is the enemy of faith” has been scientifically demonstrated. How so? How do you demonstrate that scientifically? 

The claim that knowledge is the enemy of faith is not a scientific claim; it’s a philosophical claim. You may be able to do research where you study believers, and they claim to have faith, and they report to you that they don’t base it on any kind of knowledge, and knowledge is the enemy of their faith or something. But that’s not scientific fact. That’s not scientific evidence. That’s sociological evidence. Sociology can’t give you any evidence of this philosophical claim that knowledge is the enemy of faith. 

For those who believe that faith is the enemy of knowledge, philosophy can help us out here. Specifically, we need epistemology, the branch of philosophy that helps us understand knowledge claims. We need to figure out what is knowledge and and faith are.

 Here is my definition of faith: Faith is trusting. It’s personal trust in what we have good reasons to believe is true. Knowledge can be broken up into three different parts. There’s propositional knowledge, or the stock of propositions that you know. Then there’s experiential knowledge, or knowledge through acquaintance. There’s also skill knowledge where I learn how to do things. Propositional, experiential, and skill knowledge. 

Let’s stick with propositional knowledge for a moment. I have different propositions that I think I know. Let’s take the claim, “God exists.” I take that as a knowledge claim. I think I’m justified in that claim. I think it’s true, I believe it, and it’s justified. Therefore, it counts as knowledge. How faith or trust comes in is that I ultimately have to put my trust in what I think I know. 

A simple analogy would be my relationship with my wife. There are all kinds of things I know about this person, my wife. I know she’s loyal, loving, kind, a woman of character and virtue, etc. I have all this knowledge about her. I put my faith, or trust, in that person who I have knowledge of. The object of my knowledge becomes the object of my faith. 

I have knowledge, good reason to think she’s trustworthy, so I put my trust in her. I think we can see with that analogy that knowledge and faith are not mortal enemies. In fact, the Big Think website has a video of atheist Richard Dawkins talking about how he has faith. What he says is that he has faith in the physicists because he’s not a physicist, he’s a biologist. He has faith in the findings of the physicists. He trusts their findings and views on things. Even Richard Dawkins has admittedly said that he has faith. 

If you don’t define faith as believing in that which common sense tells you not to, then you can see how faith and knowledge go hand-in-hand. 

The claim in this challenge is that the basis of any religion is believing in what someone else tells you is true even though your mind tells you it is a lie, and it makes no sense. I’m a counter example to that. You don’t have to simply believe in what someone else tells you even though your mind tells you it’s false. That’s what we would call “blind faith.” Blind faith is the enemy of knowledge, but not any faith. The way I define faith is trusting in what you have good reason to believe to be true, so it’s not the enemy of knowledge. 

What we know about this world, we ultimately have to put trust in. We’ve all put our faith, or trust in something, what we think is true. For me, a religious person, the basis of my trust is my knowledge of what I think is true. So no, they’re not mortal enemies unless you define faith in such a way that it’s blind. 

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Brett Kunkle

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