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The Brain and the Meaning of Life 2: Evidence Beats Faith


Thagard is defending the use of evidence for making decisions, as opposed to faith.

He points out three problems with faith: contradicting faith claims (with no way to reconcile them), the falsity of things believed on faith, and horrors done because of faith.

He also acknowledges the fallability of naturalistic evidence based reasoning, but points out that the relevant difference is that evidence based thinking can be corrected with more evidence. Faith is immune.

Kindle Notes:

Religious faith is enormously important to the lives of billions of people, but it faces three serious problems as a means of deciding what to believe or what to do: variations among religions, falsity of religious beliefs, and evil actions based on religion (247).

Evidence-based thinking can also lead to false beliefs and evil actions, but there are crucial differences. When disagreements occur, scientists do not have to resort to empty pronouncements about whose faith is stronger; instead they can attempt to assess competing beliefs with respect to the available evidence (300).

Faith-based thinking provides no basis for resolving disagreements by changing minds, but evidence-based thinking does (304).

In sum, the scientific use of evidence is radically different from and more effective than religious faith. Science uses explanations that are mechanistic and mathematical, observations that are systematic and made by instruments more powerful than human senses, and experiments that generate evidence acutely relevant to the choice of the best explanatory hypotheses (403).

The fact that inference to the best explanation of evidence can go astray is no reason to reject it, as long as it often gets things right and there is no alternative method that has a better record of achieving important truths and avoiding errors (462).

Note: Reason is what has corrected those errors, not faith.

although evidence-based thinking is fallible, it has an effective method of correcting errors, by systematically collecting new evidence, developing new explanatory hypotheses, and selecting the best (576).

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