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Viking ZX


Author of Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels! Oh, and some fanfiction from time to time.

More Blog Posts1063

Aug
3rd
2020

Being a Better Writer: Religion and Faith · 10:59pm August 3rd

Hello and welcome back readers! I hope your weekends treated you well?

Well, if not, then I’ve got a bit of lighthearted humor to share with you before we get down to today’s post. As long-time readers will know, I’ve forever been a proponent of always do the research, and have noted before cases where authors have done a Google search and rather than click the results simply skimmed the page of results and drawn entirely incorrect conclusions for their work.

Well, this weekend someone made international news with an exceptionally impressive flub (which you can read about in more detail here if you feel like granting The Guardian your clicks) that proves once again that skimming Google results is not enough research. Especially for a historical novel.

What happened? John Boyne (a name some of you might recognize) listed a number of ingredients used to make red dye in his latest novel, The Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom (which, given what you’re about to read …). Such as keese wing, leaves of the Silent Princess flower, octorok eyeballs, lizalfos tails, and of course, Hylian mushrooms.

Some of you are wondering “huh?” while others in this audience have already started to giggle. Because you’ve recognized those items for what they are: fantasy ingredients and species from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Yes, it would seem that this book was in the process of being written around the time Breath of the Wild released, and as such when Boyne Googled “red dye ingredients” the current most popular result was … how to make red dye in Breath of the Wild, using ingredients from the fantastical fantasy realm of Hyrule.

Whoops.

According to the story, prints of the book will be amended to offer an acknowledgement and credit to The Legend of Zelda. But for the rest of the writers and authors out there, let this be a lesson to you.

And let’s have one more giggle that, as a title from a well-known and respected author, this gaff made it past who knows how many editors over at Penguin Random House. Oops.

All right, that’s the last giggle. It’s time to talk about today’s Being a Better Writer topic! Which is both a reader request, and as many of you have likely thought upon seeing the title, a bit of a hefty subject. But don’t fret, and don’t panic (that’s right, the old hitchhiking logic). This isn’t nearly as painful a topic as it sounds. Well, unless you’re reading a book that handles this topic badly, which, well, I doubt any of us want said about our works.

So let’s knuckle down and talk about religion and faith in fiction.

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Comments ( 7 )

I know this isn't what the post is about, but it hits a pet peeve of mine, so bear with me. This is regarding "belief in science." It's generally understood that in the overwhelming majority of scientific fields, there is a worldwide, overwhelming consensus among all the experts on how that particular field of science works. This can be anything, from how gravity works, to the composition of the Sun, to evolution, climate change, or how viruses work, literally anything. This consesus is generally perpetually verified and fact-checked, empirically, repeatably, independently around the world by completely unrelated, unconnected teams and individuals, and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, new findings reaffirm the existing consensus, which is why it became a consensus in the first place.

It's also plain to see that coincidence or conspiracy of such magnitude as to span not only the globe, but decades, sometimes centuries, even millennia is exceedingly unlikely, bordering on impossible. So it stands to reason that at any given point, the most reasonable thing to do for the layman is to believe the scientific consensus -- even if it should later turn out to be wrong. That's the point, as you too point out: science adjusts its views based on what's observed; faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved.

That is why, if anyone tries to equate "belief in science" (belief in the currently accepted consensus in a particular field) to belief in whichever religion or superstition or deity of their choice, they either do not understand science or are actively trying to deceive you. "Belief in science" is based on following the most likely possibility in any given subject, which is the opposite of the sort of "blind faith" that such people tend to equate it to.

In other words, science is not a belief system; it is a means of procuring knowledge.

Anyone who truly, genuinely believes that facts about how the world works cannot be ascertained beyond reasonable doubt is welcome to leave their home not through the front door, but through the window on their second floor.

5329837

That's the point, as you too point out: science adjusts its views based on what's observed; faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved.

That was not the point, and nowhere in the post was it declared that "faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved." Such a blind statement is in and of itself a blind misconstrued belief of what "faith" actually is, particularly with regards to belief.

Blind faith is a blind pursuit often associated with denial of observation, but that is a negative (which you have conflated with "actual faith"), and people can have blind faith in wrongful science just as easily as in religion (as the post very well pointed out), as by most modern definitions faith is just "belief." Even the average person who doesn't understand how a light bulb works places a bit of blind faith in it when they flip the switch, because they haven't bothered to understand how the bulb works, or the science behind it, they just assume that it will. There's a bit of trust involved as well.

However, a much better definition of faith that simple "belief in something" is that faith is 'hope of things one doesn't yet understand, which are true,' a definition that applies to both science and religion. Both seek findings of truth. Both allow one to lay down steps along that path. Both allow for missteps as well, but both can work hand in hand to seek a better understanding of the universe as a whole.

In other words, science is not a belief system; it is a means of procuring knowledge.

You're conflating the scientific method, currently the best way of procuring knowledge, with the actual validity of knowledge. Furthermore, you're again misunderstanding faith with regards to science. One can walk out a first floor door secure in the faith that gravity is a truth, same as if they were to walk out a second floor door. They can produce new scientific tests to refine their understanding of gravity, something we do not fully understand, while still holding that it is a truth, and that what we understand about it has proven true thus far. Thus, they have faith in the science they pursue.

Arguing otherwise just proves the point Extra Credits made so many years ago: That one doesn't understand what "faith" or "belief" really mean, and often are trying to hold themselves above such "blindness" while ultimately being blind themselves.

5329944
I may be misunderstanding you. Are you implying that my faith (for whatever definition of the word) that the lightbulb will light up if I flip the switch is equivalent to my faith in walking out the second floor window and not falling down? Surely you're not saying the two are meaningfully comparable. And if you understand why they aren't comparable, you understand my point, and you'll understand why it's disingenuous at best to conflate faith in things with overwhelming amounts of empirical evidence with faith in things that have little to no empirical evidence.

can have blind faith in wrongful science

If by that you mean that people can believe things that are not true and scientifically unsound, yes, that is obviously true and I never disputed it. A quick Google search will give anyone a laundry list of scientific beliefs that were considered true by consensus that have by now been rejected, and I would of course agree that dogmatically sticking to disproven science is bad (I have a personal soft spot for aether theory because I just consider it a great example of widely accepted, obviously true science that has turned out to be completely wrong). I never meant to dispute this and I apologise if that's what you got from my post.

My point is that there must be a distinction made between "blindly" believing in "science," vs. reasonably believing things that are true beyond reasonable doubt based on the available data at that particular moment. Equating reasonable belief that can be demonstrated to be correct (people fall out of windows) to things that cannot be demonstrated (there exists a conscious higher power with an interest in the human race) is harmful to intellectual development because it trains you to believe that ideas with no evidence behind them are exactly as valid as ideas with mountains of evidence. Hence the funny example of the window: rationally, you must concede that certain things are just far more likely than others, and conversely believing in things that are obviously far more likely than others is not "blind" faith. (With the caveat that one must reserve the possibility that one is wrong, of course, and not reject observation, even if it should disprove what you held to be "obviously" true before.)

EDIT: They say brevity is the soul of wit, and I can never seem to keep my posts short, so make of that what you will. I think I realised how to sum it all up in a single question, though, so please let me try. Here goes:

Do you believe that believing something that has been demonstrated to be true countless times by other people, but something that nonetheless one has not personally verified themselves, is in every way equivalent to believing something that has never, ever been demonstrated to be true by any person in the history of the world?

5330011

I may be misunderstanding you. Are you implying that my faith (for whatever definition of the word) that the lightbulb will light up if I flip the switch is equivalent to my faith in walking out the second floor window and not falling down?

No. The problem is you aren't understainding because you're determined to be self-blinding. Sands, if that's what you think, you clearly didn't understand the post I wrote with clear definitions. Your issue is that you are not using a definition of faith. You're ascribing it to willful blindness when the truth of the definition is anything but (and while you may not see the irony there, others reading your posts will).

Faith that a lightbulb will light up if the proper conditions are applied is the same as faith that if one walks out a second story window gravity will remain constant. Where you appear to be confused is in placing your own understanding as inviolate and ironclad. It is possible for someone to walk out a second-story window and not plummet to their doom. While they may have faith in gravity, they may also have faith in a rope harness holding them up, or a VTOL craft they've stepped onto. It does not mean that "gravity doesn't exist!" it just means they've got a means to keep from being pulled down by it. It also doesn't mean they lack faith in gravity because they used an airplane, they simply have faith in the principles of lift.

My point is that there must be a distinction made between "blindly" believing in "science," vs. reasonably believing things that are true beyond reasonable doubt based on the available data at that particular moment. Equating reasonable belief that can be demonstrated to be correct (people fall out of windows) to things that cannot be demonstrated (there exists a conscious higher power with an interest in the human race) is harmful to intellectual development because it trains you to believe that ideas with no evidence behind them are exactly as valid as ideas with mountains of evidence.

And then there's this pile of mess, which is the real issue. Your problem is you have belief that such things cannot be demonstrated. Which is you having "blind faith." Gather 100 people with a belief in a higher being in a room and question them, and you'll find a wide range as to the why of their belief. This does not mean that their faith is somehow invalid because you haven't experienced such. For many of them, their faith is a product of a lifetime of seeking to understand. Your belief that everyone else must be wrong and you must be right because you lack that lifetime of seeking and the evidence isn't some sort of proof that you're right, it's just a conceit. You may as well tell a crying child that their pain isn't real because you don't feel it, therefore it cannot exist.

Which again, comes back to you, in these posts, demonstrating that you don't understand the concept of "faith" in the first place. You equate "cannot be proven by ME" as "harmful" and yet any theologian would tell you that in order to develop in any regards, one must first place trust in being able to experiment on something.

Take the Wright brothers. Science of the day, IE as you state it the "reasonable believing of things true beyond a reasonable doubt," mocked them incessantly and declared the whole matter of heavier than air flight 'impossible to the degree that no reasonable man would devote himself to it.'

But the Wright brothers had faith that their understanding of science and the world eclipsed that of "reasonable doubt." They persisted anyway, and proved "science" (as you hold and explain it) utterly wrong. They had faith in their process, their science, and their dream.

To argue that anyone who looks past "reasonable doubt" is "harmful to intellectual development" because "it trains you to believe that ideas with no evidence behind them are exactly as valid as ideas with mountains of evidence" is clearly foolhardy, as if "science" took you at that statement, we would not have the airplane. Nor space travel. Nor the seaman's clock. In every instance "science" insisted such was impossible, that the "reasonable" laws prevented it, and that the "blind faith" of those few investigating it was misplaced.

And that's quite simply bad science.

5330028
I think I'm misunderstanding you. Let's stick to a simple example, for the sake of my understanding. I have a belief that has been demonstarted to be true by countless people in the past: people tend to fall from windows. (Naturally coded in this belief is the assumption that there are no unaccounted-for variables, like ropes, or aircraft; it's just you, the window, and the Earth. Keep it simple.) This is something I strongly believe. At the same time, I have not personally verified that this is true: I have never tried jumping from the window. I simply believe it.

At the same time, I have a second, similarly strong belief, that has never been demonstrated to be true by any person in the history of the world: there is an invisible pink unicorn behind me in this very moment. Again, this has never been verified by anyone, including me. Yet I strongly believe this, just as strongly as I believe that if I were to step out of my second-floor window unsupported, I would fall down.

Do you believe that in this particular example, my two beliefs are of exactly equal merit?

5330038
You do realize you've made a false conflation to support a logic trap, right?

Furthermore, you're once again refusing any definition of faith (to a degree that's almost, to use an amusing term, a "bad faith argument") in favor of blind belief.

Sands, even your first example is ultimately flawed and showing the blindness of your reasoning, because as you yourself stated, it's a blind belief never tested or examined, and you're attempting to compare it to another form of blind belief (again, false conflation for a logic trap).

So both examples show an actual lack of scientific understanding or approach in favor of blind belief, by design (because again, it's a logic trap, just not a good one).

Now, given the multitude of logical hoops jumped through to even arrive at the question posed at the end, there's no purpose to an answer, as we've already disregarded logic and common sense to get that far. The closest answer could be that seeing as you've disregarded all logic and faith in both examples, no answer would prove anything except that the examples themselves are flawed.

So ultimately (as I really don't feel like being Farnsworth repeating the same thing over and over again for the rest of my day), there's not much further point to this discussion.

5330045
I'm sorry, please don't misunderstand, I'm genuinely trying to understand your thinking. I've been wishy-washy with my definition of "blind faith" because I'm more than willing to go with whatever definition you have. It's also why I switched over to not-at-all-sensitive and ridiculous examples, like falling from windows and invisible unicorns.

because as you yourself stated, it's a blind belief never tested or examined

I specified that my belief (people tend to fall from windows) has been tested and examined countless times, just not by me personally. Yet you say it hasn't been tested or verified, and you call it blind belief. So I have to conclude that according to you, my belief that I would fall from my window and hurt myself if I were to jump out, despite having never actually jumped out of my window, would qualify as "blind belief." Is that correct? Or in other words, because I've not verified something personally, my belief in that thing is what qualifies as "blind belief" according to you? Is that right? If not, where did I misunderstand?

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