Faith and Reason

It is undeniable that the prevailing opinion in modern America is that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. We live in an era of unprecedented scientific advancement. The advent of electronics has paved the way for massive breakthroughs in nearly all fields of science, the impact of which are rivaled only by the scientific revolution itself. At our current rate of progress, a single lifetime is sufficiently long to observe radical change in world: my grandfather's life as a 23 year old was certainly different than mine is now. Regrettably, however, as our knowledge of the universe increases, so does the notion that logic necessitates the abandonment of religious beliefs.

I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am.
-René Descartes

Permit me a question, if you will: is the sum total of knowledge, of all science in the universe finite? Given enough time and enough resources, will we as a race eventually discover and explain every aspect of the natural order? Or will there always be another level of precision to unravel? It is certainly observable that every recent scientific discovery has presented us with more questions, and it is my contention that we will never be able to fully understand the universe we live in. Is this any more ridiculous than the suggestion that we will one day be an omniscient race? The pattern of all known scientific discovery lends itself more easily to my claim than the counter.

I must remain consistent with my defense of reason, however, so I will begin by assuming that the Naturalist view is correct: knowledge is finite, and every event in the universe can be explained scientifically. Logically speaking, a single counterexample, any one event that can not be explained by science, is sufficient proof to destroy the Naturalistic worldview. The notion that some observable phenomena are impossible to prove already exists in the scientific community - see Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem, or the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. I, however, seek to expose a contradiction in a much more fundamental concept: our ability to think.

Certainly sentience is the single characteristic that distinguishes humans from all other known life. Our ability to reason, to draw conclusions from observation is what separates us from simple animals. While I'm loathe to cite it as anything other than entertainment, The Matrix has brought to the masses the idea that our five senses could be fooled, at which point we are forced to admit that observation of an event is insufficient as proof of the event. Instead, truth is validated by reason, by our ability to think and infer and prove. Indeed, Descartes' famous assertion of "I think therefore I am" is a cornerstone of Western philosophy.

Unless thought is valid we have no reason to believe in the real universe.
-C.S. Lewis

Thoughts, then, are the building blocks from which all other truths are constructed. Further, since we are to use them in defense of other events, we must regard thoughts themselves as natural. This presents the cardinal difficulty with Naturalism: the origin of thought. If all events must be explainable, and thoughts are the only viable means of explanation, then how can we explain, naturally, the first thought? All events prior to it are indefensible, because thought did not exist to validate them. The simple and immediate response is that the first thought "just happened," which is to say that it cannot be explained, because the only acceptable cause would be another thought. This admission is a supernatural one - the first thought must have arisen from some means that cannot be explained naturally.

Indeed, from this point many theories present themselves, but they are beyond the scopes of this article. My primary objective is to show that belief in a Supernatural event (in this case, the emergence of sentient thought) does not inherently contradict science - that faith and reason can coexist. My argument does not prove religion as truth, but it does succeed in allowing me to be both a scientist and a man of spiritual convictions. The assumption that faith is a crutch for the weak minded is foolish: every man places his faith in something. The claim that an athiest's faith in science is fundamentally more legitimate than my faith in religion is, ironically, illogical.


These thoughts I've held in failure; My paper champion, false savior

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