"Faith means lack of critical thinking"
Below, Robb responds to this claim, showing the flaw in Maher's statement. Thanks, Robb, for making your thoughts available to us!
Examining the claim: “Faith means lack of critical thinking” – Bill Maher (on The View September 30, 2008)
We proceed by proof by contradiction. Assume that the claim “Faith means lack of critical thinking” is true.
To begin, let’s examine the notion of critical thinking. Critical thinking serves as a logical operator on an argument. Now in order for the operation of critical thinking to function it must first have an input parameter (or parameters).
The definition of faith from the Oxford American dictionary is:
Faith – 1. A complete trust or confidence. 2. A firm belief, especially without logical proof. 3. a religious belief or spiritual apprehension of divine truth apart from proof.
With the aforementioned definitions, faith in and of itself is accepting a claim as true based upon incomplete knowledge.
For the operation of critical thinking: if a priori logical knowledge is incomplete, then the resultant argument from the critical thought process is subject to some uncertainty which is not necessarily quantitative – and therefore the critical thought product does not serve as a sufficient condition to insure the truth of a claim. (It is important to note that in mathematics and logic, the terms necessary and sufficient have important precise definitions with respective implications.)
As mentioned previously, critical analysis of incomplete information yields an output – though the output is subject to uncertainty.
If faith is based upon incomplete knowledge or ‘knowledge with an associated uncertainty’, then critical thinking was required to provide the analysis used to determine that an uncertainty does exist. Addressing this uncertainty ineluctably aligns with one of the following conclusions:
- Accept as false by claiming insufficient information - i.e., the uncertainty is too large to account for.
- Accept as true based upon the likelihood of truth from a priori evidence.
- Declare the analysis inconclusive.
The mathematical sciences of probability and statistics are based upon forecasting with incomplete knowledge. Science itself puts faith in the metrics produced from probability theory. Note that Probability theory is used to construct models whereas Statistics is used to interpret the models.
So having faith does not serve as a sufficient or necessary condition to imply absence of critical thinking.
Faith is the result of critical thinking – if critical thinking is not present, then there is no foundation or reason for (or in) faith. Thus a contradiction.
Mr. Maher’s definition of critical thinking may indeed be defined as: conclusive arguments that cannot be logically disputed. If this is the case then most phenomena in nature and science do not qualify as meeting Mr. Maher’s criteria. The structure of the atom is based upon theory and likelihoods – not indisputable logic. Quantum mechanics is itself stochastic physics based on empirical evidence.
The insinuation of Mr. Maher’s thesis is: an individual who has faith - has no critical thinking ability or critical discernment. The more appropriate and declawed representation for Mr. Maher’s statement is:
”Faith means belief in a claim without complete foreknowledge or complete a priori logical proof”
However, again with this clarification, Mr. Maher’s claim does not allow the premises of modern sciences and evidences of the human experience.