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Juan Manuel Jaramillo Lleras

Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of using faith as a basis for knowledge in religion and in one area of knowledge from the ToK diagram. Faith is indubitably one of the most controversial subjects when discussing knowledge issues. According to the ToK diagram, faith is not considered to be a way of knowing, nevertheless, it shares certain aspects with some that are, such as emotion. Whether faith is a valid base for knowledge depends on the perception of each person; some people who have faith in things, concepts or people, are confident that they are correct and so, they believe that they posses knowledge without needing evidence or valid explanations. On the other hand, many attack faith for being irrational, since they believe that knowledge is only acquired through rational evidence and proof. In religion, faith is the basis of all knowledge; almost everything that religions defend, such as the existence of a Supreme Being, is largely based on faith, since there is no actual evidence to prove it. Within this field of religion, there are both strengths and weaknesses of using faith as a basis for knowledge, which is also the case with all areas of knowledge. This essay will explore specifically the area of natural sciences; however, other areas such as ethics may be mentioned and exemplified to further analyse the thesis. It may be that, to certain extent, we need faith in every aspect of our daily lives, every knowledge issue and every area of knowledge. In religion, for example, faith is absolutely necessary, since it allows people to believe in unproved things, but, wouldnt it be right to say that in natural sciences faith is also necessary? After all, there is no certainty that what scientists believe to be right is actually correct and what they consider as evidence actually is. Throughout the years, science has changed; theories which were once thought to be the absolute certainty have been proven wrong. Such is the case of the geocentric model, which suggested that the earth was the center of the universe and all other planets orbited around it. This was the commonly accepted theory, even by scientists, so when Copernicus and Galileo presented their heliocentric models, they were though to be crazy and heretic. Now, the geocentric model has been superseded by the heliocentric model, proving that science is not always correct, and it does not hold the absolute truth and certainty. It is true then, what Oscar Wilde once said, Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions.1 This would mean that faith is the beginning of truth and knowledge since, without faith in themselves, their capacities, and their pre-existing knowledge, scientists would not even bother in investigating and experimenting. Albert Einstein, for example, often relied on faith. He was not part of a specific religion or church, nevertheless, he believed in a god who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a god who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind2. The father of modern physics was a man of faith; he had faith in science and in the structure of the world and this shows
1

Wilde, Oscar. Phrases and philosophies for the use of the young. First published in the Oxford student magazine The Chameleon (December 1894) 2 Einstein, Albert (1929).

that science and faith are not opposites, they often complement each other. This would definitely be a strength of using faith as a basis for knowledge within natural sciences but there are also certain weaknesses. Basing all knowledge on faith could be an enormous mistake in the field of natural sciences. When someone cannot find an explanation for something, they usually create an irrational explanation, since there are no limits to the irrational, and have faith in it. For example, 2500 years ago, someone thought it was logical to perceive a lightning as the anger of a god; Zeus. Nowadays, we know that it is more along the lines of an atmospheric discharge of electricity. This shows how, in natural science (and that is the case with other areas of knowledge too) it may be wise to use faith moderately as a driving force, in order to develop theories and work on them, nevertheless, relying on mere faith to provide an explanation for something would be a mistake and the knowledge acquired by doing so would be useless. In the field of religion, it is difficult to say which are the strengths and weaknesses of using faith as a base for knowledge since faith is the actual base of all religions. According to religious people there would be no weaknesses in using faith for this because they believe that the knowledge they posses is correct and usually, this is irrefutable for them. Basing knowledge solely on faith is a mistake, as I said previously, and this applies to the field of religion. Experience has showed me that religion (and therefore faith) and reason oppose themselves because faith has been so abused of, that it has transformed into an irrational concept, leading to the creation of irrational worlds, entities and experiences. The use of deduction, reasoning, reflection and analysis are all useless in the field of religion; intelligence is its ultimate enemy. The whole ToK idea of exploring and recognizing different areas of knowledge and ways of knowing is invalid in the field of faith (related to religion). You are told what to perceive, how to reason, how to feel; history is written in a Bible or a Quran or any other religious book, the Arts are all dedicated to a god, Ethics are dictated by holy men, mathematics and natural sciences are heretic if they suggest that there is no God, no Adam and Eve, no Genesis. This is ultimately supported by the example provided by French philosopher, Michel Onfray: in the Garden of Eden, Eve used her reason to take the forbidden fruit and acquire the knowledge of evil. For this not only she, but all of mankind, was punished. Evidently God, the Catholic Church and religion in general, are enemies of reason and knowledge. Arguments against this point of view may include a criticism towards extreme rationality. It is true that reason does not always lead to truth and righteousness: many times have horrible tyrants committed genocide with the use of reason, arguments and theories. During the French Revolution, reason was idolized, and so, if someone was considered to be unreasonable, they were decapitated with the guillotine. Because of this, saying that faith and religion are unreasonable would not be a valid argument, nevertheless, basing every knowledge one has on mere faith would be as wrong as basing it all on reason. Faith is useful, and always present, even in those who claim to have none. We had previously arrived to the conclusion that faith is the beginning of truth, we now arrive to the conclusion that, quoting Oscar Wilde again,

scepticism is the beginning of faith3, after all, to be a sceptic, one must have faith in ones disbeliefs. Once again, this is proof of the strengths of using faith in ones life and within several areas of knowledge, in this case, ethics, the area of knowledge which religion is part of. To further exemplify how faith can be used in the area of ethics, I will present the idea of William James. This psychologist and philosopher claimed that any belief that assists in an individual's functionality is good and should be maintained, even if it is unprovable or even nonsensical. This suggests that, even if someone believes something that is absolutely wrong, if this belief helps him survive and live a better life, it should be maintained. This, if considered to be true, would provide a strength of using faith as a basis of knowledge: even if the knowledge is incorrect and nonsensical, the faith that a character has in that knowledge help him to function well. Opposing this idea, one could argue that allowing anyone to create and alter reality based on their own thoughts and perceptions (or misperceptions) is unethical and should not be allowed. We have seen how faith can be somehow considered to be a way of knowing, depending on the context and the area of knowledge one is working with. In religion, faith is everything, and therefore, it has created an unreal world filled with unreal entities and experiences which have often lead to wars and violence. The faith of religious fanatics has led them to think that they posses a knowledge that is correct without the need of proof, and they often use violence to express their self-righteousness. On the other hand, natural sciences can have a slight support on faith to acquire knowledge. It can be used as a driving force for scientists and as a surviving force for people whose faith raises their life quality but it can also affect knowledge by providing people with unproved explanations for things that humans have yet to understand. Conclusively, I believe that one should have a balanced opinion when referring to knowledge. Reason and faith can complement each other into a new scientific theory and, along with other ways of knowing such as perception, language and emotion, knowledge can be acquired and knowledge issues can be solved. There are strengths and weaknesses in the use of faith, as there are in the use of any way of knowing, nevertheless, an adequate balance of these, research capacity, and an analytical, critical and reflective mind, may lead to interesting and useful discoveries of and on knowledge, which is, after all, the goal of ToK: getting to know the nature and scope of knowledge. Word count: 1573 Bibliography Onfray, Michel. "Reason." Antimanuel De Philosophie. Madrid, Espaa: EDAF, S.A, 2005.
Print. "Faith." Wikipedia. 17 May <http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith>. 2011. Web. 18 May 2011.

Wilde, Oscar. The picture of Dorian Gray. Ward, Lock and Company, April 1891.