Quick discussion

The other day I posted this cartoon to twitter. A buddy responded. I think it is interesting to see the wildly divergent paths we come at the cartoon.

Me: I have no clue http://xkcd.com/1163

I found the cartoon funny because of the juxtaposition of the brain and a computer system.

I found it interesting because in my experience the human brain really sucks at self-diagnosis. If you cut yourself there is pain. If you have the flu, there are sweats, nausea and aches. But if you have a mental illness one of the first things to go is your ability to know you are ill.

Not even a serious illness. Alcohol, sleep deprivation, and stress all have the same effect. Your body might tell you you are drunk, tired or stressed, but you’ll often still trust your judgement even though you should know it is flawed.

Those are trivial cases though. I’ve met and talked with families where a family member has severe anorexia. Even when presented with evidence that their habits are damaging their health – perhaps permanently – they can’t make the jump to their needing to change the behaviour. It is one of the biggest worries of the family. They can’t trust the anorexic. And the anorexic doesn’t see that their behaviour is abnormal.

The punch line of the joke is “I don’t know how to tell. “. I think it would have been awesome to know when my brain is malfunctioning.

Him: It’s called faith… you don’t have to understand everything to know something is there and working

It took me a while to figure out where he was coming from. It is such a different response to the same cartoon. And with only 144 characters there was no way to relate what I had seen there.

Obviously from my POV I disagree with the statement above. If my brain isn’t working, I might think it is fine. Faith or no faith I am misreporting to myself my own state.

On the other hand I also agree with the statement above. There are 180 degrees in a triangle whether I know it or not. The world will spin and rotate around the sun regardless of my knowledge of gravity. And directly to faith, God will love us whether I understand God or not.

Additionally even if I dedicate myself to math, physics, theology or psychology/psychiatry there will be a level beyond which I still don’t understand. At some point we will need faith.

Me: πŸ™‚ that is a very serious answer to a joke. Beyond the scope of twitter to respond to.

Twitter. I saw absolutely no way to respond to my friend’s statement without sounding argumentative. But I can’t just let things go.

Me: but try this – my faith asserts that it must be supported by reason. So trying to know is still important

My attempt here is to move to faith and reason. Then I would show how reason can be flawed. Then I could loop back to the brain not being a reliable self-assessor. All without actually disagreeing.

But still this point is critical to my own identity. I can accept that I need faith. But I always have to try to understand why. It is the way I’m built.

My Mom told a story this week. When I was young – three or four – we went to visit grandma. I found a screwdriver and used it. I disassembled drawers, clocks, and cupboards. Anything I could reach. I wanted to see the springs and hinges and figure out what the did. I guess Grandma was a bit annoyed as the house needed to be put back together behind me.

I’ve done a whole blog about faith and reason in the past. But suffice it to say that even considering my own biases, I think we are called by God to try to understand as much as we can.

Him: heard this somewhere this weekend πŸ™‚ “I can’t see sub-atomic particles, but I believe they are there”.

And here I gave up. πŸ™‚ this conversation wasn’t going to follow the path I wanted. We were still coming at it from a different angles.

Plus I also had the issue that I do disagree with this statement. It was made by our parish priest during his sermon that week. I disagreed with it when it was said and I still do.

Not the argument which is a still a call to the importance of faith, but the actual statement that sub atomic particles are there.

Protons, neutrons and electrons. I’m confident they exist. The circumstantial evidence is too strong. All chemistry and thermodynamics depend on them and if they aren’t there we have an issue.

But the next level down – the particles of the standard quantum model. Quarks, leptons, gauge bosons – everything is different here. And the standard model is not yet conclusively proven. Evidence and experimentation are getting closer but aren’t there yet. For instance we only proved the existence of the Higgs boson in the last year. And it still isn’t positive that it is only a ingle particle. (Although starting to look pretty sure). That there is something there? Yep. I’m down with that. What those something’s are? I figure it is still our responsibility to question that.

On the other hand, I’m not the one conducting the experiments. I’m not even analyzing the results. I just read some of the commentary on those results. So even here I’m taking a lot on faith.

Me: touchΓ©! πŸ™‚ there’s a whole blog here

And thus we see a blog!


One thought on “Quick discussion

  1. boethius61 says:

    What I find super interesting is that this cartoon nicely encapsulates one of the deep agruments between certain athiests and belivers. And, in a converstation about faith and reason it never came up.

    (To sum up the argument)
    The believer points out that the athiest has established a paradigm that holds that the brain is the result of chance and accident. Like a computer that is programmed by throwing golfballs at a keyboard, how can you trust anything that computer produces. Certainly the computer can’t test itself to see if it is flawed. Yet, it is this same brain that has both convinced you that there is not God and resoned that it was the result of accident. Even if the brain were functioning perfectly there is absolutely no way of knowing that it is functioning perfectly. Essentially, the ateist is relying on his reason under a self-imposed system that dictates that his reason is approaching certain unreliablity.

    My intent is not to open this debate but point out that it is interesting. Obviously the atheists positions is rife with problems. So to the believers critique is not without some small difficulties. I’m not paticularily concerned. I just find it intersting that the cartoon, your twitter, the responses, and this blog that seems aimed right at this point all skipped by this aspect of it.

    I guess . . . I just see the whole thing from a THIRD path. Neat.

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