Graphic by WayneSL
WayneSl 2008 (revised in 2014 for the Day of Reason)
Reason – logical conclusion based on what I find to be substantial and reliable premises -is how I make every decision when possible. When I do not have sufficient premises, or my reason is unable to discern a logical conclusion, I prefer to defer any judgment, simply saying, “I don’t know.” There are a great many things about which I am comfortable saying that I just don’t know. There are also situations wherein I must make a decision or a judgment without that surety, and then (and only then) I use a further criterion. When whatever reliable facts I do have are subject to differing, equally plausible conclusions, I choose the one which offers the hope of a preferred result. That seems to me to be the one way in which faith can be useful to a reasoning person. When reason reaches its limit, and IF a decision is still required, faith recommends the path that offers hope.
One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of faith is: “firm belief in something for which there is no proof,” and Christians define faith as “. . . being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, New International Version, © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society) making it clear that if any proposition were provable, it would not be a matter of faith. One is sometimes confronted with two mutually exclusive possibilities. If neither possibility can be discounted empirically and deductively, there remains a decision as to which is VIABLE.
The relevance of hope can be seen in an incident that occurred at Naval Air Station Cubi Point in the Philippines. The runway there is bounded by water on three sides. A patrol aircraft took off and began to climb out over the bay. It had not yet reached pattern altitude when all four engines exploded into flames, and were immediately shut down. In the cockpit, both pilots and the Flight Engineer struggled to turn the dying aircraft back toward the runway, but it was obvious they would not make it. The calculations had already been done. They were going to land in the water, and a P3 does NOT float. Nine of the ten sailors back in the “tube” instinctively cinched up their harnesses and helmet straps and remained facing aft in their assigned seats. The Navigator tore off his helmet, laid his head down on his map desk, and wept. He did not share the faith his fellow crewmen had in the procedures the Navy had developed for such emergencies. The rest of the crew had no absolute knowledge that they would or would not survive the event, but they chose the alternative which at least had HOPE. The water off the end of that runway was only about six feet deep, and the aircraft settled quickly to the bottom, level and intact. The crew all swam to shore before the rescue team arrived. That is, all except the Navigator who knew he was going to die. The radar operator dragged his body ashore, and later told me this story.
Faith uses hope to break the tie between two otherwise equally-balanced possibilities. As such, it CAN be a logical solution. When two alternatives are equally likely, by every intellectual test, the clear thinker acknowledges them both as possible, but may proceed to one further test, provisionally choosing the assumption which offers more or better options. Of course, such faith can turn to fallacy if one totally discards the less-attractive alternative. The discovery of new information or a new line of reasoning may vindicate a distasteful reality. The reluctance of some people of faith to consider new evidence and to entertain new possibilities has earned well-deserved contempt, which has often been incorrectly generalized to ALL of the faithful.
I propose that while being closed to logical discourse is superstition, faith is often the reasonable, logical choice.