Friday, September 07, 2007

Strength To Doubt Or Believe

A new book of her letters, "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," published by Doubleday, show her struggling for decades against disbelief. "If I ever become a saint," she wrote in one letter, "I will surely be one of `darkness.' " ... "I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe," wrote Flannery O'Connor, the Roman Catholic author whose stories traverse the landscape of 20th-century unbelief. "What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe."

(Robin Hanson)Being proud of having the strength to resist religion in the face of social pressure is just as biased as being proud of having the strength to resist doubt in order to retain religion. Not everything is about your strength! Your beliefs should reflect the world out there, and not just inner qualities you want to show off. I will be proud of you if you can find the strength or weakeness, as the occasion demands, to just believe whatever the evidence supports. Link

(Cure of Ars)This assumes that we have enough evidence to make a conclusion. If you don’t know if you have enough evidence then other considerations should also weigh in. There can be virtue in perseverance, even in the face of doubt, if the possible pay off is high enough. No Guts No Glory

(Robin Hanson)Cure, we always have enough evidence to choose an intermediate state of uncertainty; you should choose the state of uncertainty that best corresponds to your evidence. I see no glory in adopting stronger beliefs than your evidence can justify.

(Cure of Ars)Sometimes we don’t have the luxury to choose uncertainty. To live a fully human life demands adopting stronger beliefs than the “evidence can justify”. You can try to fit your life into the tiny box of science but to me that is no way to live. It leaves no room for glory.

Making uncertainty home base is, in my view, escapism. It is to focus on the small questions at the exclusion of the big questions. With the only motive being that we can be certain in regards to the small questions. The big questions are really the question about meaning. What I am looking for is not a truth to serve me, but a truth that I can serve. Without finding a truth to serve there is no opportunity for heroism and glory. Mother Teresa found this truth to serve and persevered with heroism and glory. She gives witness to something that a lot of people don’t have and this bothers some people.


Robin Hanson said...

I don't see why uncertainty prevents one from living a fully human life, or is escapism, or distracts from big questions. This has nothing to do with science vs. not, this is a basic issue in decision theory.

Cure of Ars said...

Uncertainty prevents the leap of faith which is needed if we are to ever come close in getting answers to the big questions. The leap of faith is not the end but just the beginning. It’s like a tight rope walk toward the transcendent. But uncertainty prevents the journey.

In regards to the small questions (scientific questions) taking a position of uncertainty can be fruitful. It is probably the most efficient thing to do in regards to the small questions. But in regards to the big questions we do not have this luxury.

This is a little off topic but you described Mother Teresa’s motives as “having inner qualities you want to show off”. I think this is ludicrous to say this. The letter was a personal letter sent to Mother Teresa’s confessor. Mother Teresa asked that all her letters be destroyed. Surely this is not an example of Mother Teresa showing off.

Anonymous said...

great post & blog....