Nin and Faith / Nin and Doubt (2)

“Let me explain my thoughts on the matter,” said Nin. But he found this difficult, as he wasn’t entirely sure what his thoughts on the matter were.

He hopped around for a minute until he had a reasonable starting position: “I think that people who try to justify their belief in god with evidence are fundamentally mistaken in their endeavour. Faith implies a lack of evidence—and the search for evidence implies that, deep down, the so-called believer still has his doubts.”

“If we had sufficient proof of god we wouldn’t need faith?” asked the lizard with a smile.

“Yes, exactly,” said Nin. “I, as a skeptic—”

“But there is faith in everything,” said the lizard. Nin started to protest but the lizard raised a finger and said: “Let me explain. Evidence is never complete, proofs are never absolute. We can never be absolutely sure of anything. At best we can say that all currently available data indicates a certain conclusion. You can refine the test, develop new methods and new tools, but you can only ever shrink the doubt, never erase it entirely.”

“I suppose that’s true,” said Nin.

“You call yourself a doubter and a skeptic, but the truth is you take many things about the world on faith: that the sun will come up tomorrow, that the earth will not open up under your feet and swallow you whole.”

Nin made a noise of protest but the lizard made a motion for silence. “Ah, I know what you are thinking,” said the lizard, “that these are not matters of faith, that you have sufficient evidence for your conclusions, that 99% confidence is essentially the same as 100% confidence. But—and here’s the rub my rabbit friend—you are taking on faith that the evidence you have acquired is sufficient evidence.”

The lizard scratched his side with a bony claw for a moment before continuing. “There is always the possibility of some factor you are unaware of—an unseen variable, or a flaw in your analysis. If you were in a dark room how would you know if you were blind?” asked the lizard.

Nin could only furrow his brow at this line of thought. He started to suggest that you could have sufficient evidence that your evidence is sufficient, but he instantly realized this would lead to an infinite regression.

“There was a time when I was paralyzed—afraid of everything,” explained the lizard. “I doubted my eyes, my ears, my senses and everything I knew and took for granted. It was god that saved me.”

“That is hardly rational thinking,” replied Nin.

The lizard could only shrug at this. “If it was, it wouldn’t be faith.”