Humanity's first sin was faith; the first virtue was doubt. Carl Sagan. Is he right?
- jpopelishLv 71 month agoFavourite answer
He is exaggerating for effect,
but it is a pretty good,
thought provoking line.
Faith (unsupported emotional certainty)
is an excuse
for not discovering
the errors in our thinking.
Doubt leads us
to those discoveries.
- jon pikeLv 71 month ago
Faith is not a sin. No, he was dead wrong.
- YodaLv 61 month ago
No and I have a specific reason.
There is another pretty good reason why faith is necessary. Take String Theory as an example. I think it's fair to say that String Theory (and the Maths that's arisen from it) have greatly benefited the physics and mathematical communities indirectly. String theory has been unproven since it's conception. Nobody who studies it expects to experimentally validate String Theory any time in the next 200 years. There is just not enough energy to probe the depths of reality to the plank scale. They study it with the faith that it will come good or that something good will come of the work.
So, researchers in that field operate entirely upon faith in the mathematics of string theory: it's so called symmetrical beauty.
That faith in String theory has yielded unexpected benefits in many areas of science and maths: so far.
So there is a place for faith in science---even though the basis of it is more conjectural than speculative.
Science starts with Speculation:1) Speculation/conjecture (theory)-->2) Doubt-->3) Experiment-->4) Evaluation 5) Mutation or end of Theory-->back to 1) etc etc. This cycle is how theory develops or how they die.
So, theory can be completely speculative initially, or it can be based upon other theories or ideas that have some empirical or evident basis (conjecture).
Scientists are human.....
From a human perspective: There has to be some level of faith at the individual level in one's theory in order to motivate the desire to spend grant money on it. It's publish or die: scientists need rational estimates of how likely a theory is to pan out, so they can take a measured risk that their career will still be there 5 years from now.
What is faith anyway?
Really what is faith? It is internalized theory: precisely, it is theory that has yet to be extrinsically validated. Even the root of the word faith (Pitho - from Gk. Pio "to intake, internalize" + theo "arrangement, theory") implies internal. At the extremes are theories that can't be validated (the so called infinite theory of G*d), and theories which are totally validated (again, this is supposed to be impossible). Most scientific theories start with faith and end in disappointment or more concrete faith (faith validated by data).
Later, the theory might be so well validated that we can call the theory objectively validated (so useful in application that even if it is somehow wrong at a deeper level, we still get so much practical use that it's no longer considered a matter of faith).
In Popper's philosophy of science, Scientists are supposed to design experiments to try kill their theory. In practice, that's not how science works because funding structures promote positive results over negative ones. Most scientists are looking for evidence to support their theory.
Scientists are human, and do not pursue ideas which they doubt will pan out---their careers are at stake. The financing of a lab requires that projects eventually publish. Usually the time-frame for publication is 5 years for a large grant multi-million dollar block grant and 1-3 years for a smaller grant.
Therefore, you really need positive data or the funding bodies will judge your work to have been a failure, even if that failure ruled out theories that needed to have been ruled out.This situation with funding systems has led to most scientists opting to pick areas where you can expect quick results and lots of data.
Only a very small number of researchers pick a really hard question to study or a really difficult area to experimentally approach---i.e., one that might take 10 years to deliver on. You see this in Professors who have to rely on teaching to keep them afloat: their labs tend to be poorly furnished but they pick areas of research that are hard to get quick results from.
In both senses, people have faith in their theory or in their avenue of research. Nobody starts out any project in science thinking: "I think this is probably pants", even though they might suspect it probably is.Source(s): Etymology of faith for those interested: Eng. Faith-->Mid. Eng. Feith-->Old French Feid-->Vulgar Latin Fides-->Fido (Old Latin)-->Attic Greek Phido--->Doric Greek Peitho--->Ancient Greek Pitho. Prefix: Pio (to intake, internalize, drink) Root: Theo (to put, place, arrange)
- Annsan_In_HimLv 71 month ago
Past tense for Carl Sagan. He was not right because Carl went beyond doubting God to disbelieving God, then denying God, and now he's dead. Well, God warned that disobedience to Him would lead to death. The God of the Bible does not punish doubt, however. Doubting Thomas had a personal encounter with the resurrected Christ who appeared in front of him a week after Thomas had expressed his doubts, just to squash his doubts. That restored Thomas's faith. If doubt makes us check further, that's absolutely fine. Carl really didn't know squat diddly about God, did he?
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- Bulky_BobLv 71 month ago
No, actually Carl Sagan is dead and knows the truth that doesn't help his situation at this point.
- FireballLv 71 month ago
WRONG WRONG WRONG. FIRST SIN WAS EATING FROM THE TREE OF LIFE...HAVEN'T YOU EVEN READ GENESIS?
- LailaLv 61 month ago
No...the first sin was desire
- OlegLv 71 month ago
Then you must doubt Carl Sagan's words too.