Belief Without Factual Basis is Fraudulent
Debate Rounds (5)
To begin, I wish to clarify some words. If we're going to discuss what facts, beliefs, and fraud are then we should define our terms. I'm going to defer to Merriam-Webster and propose the following:
Fact - something that truly exists or happens; a true piece of information. - http://www.merriam-webster.com...
Fraud - the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable from another person; a person who pretends to be something her or she is not. - http://www.merriam-webster.com...
Belief - (when referring to religious belief) a feeling of being sure that something exists or that something is true; a tenet or group of tenets held by a group http://www.merriam-webster.com...
Given this, we can examine the proposition that "Belief without factual basis is fraudulent." Using our terms we can re-write this as "feeling that something is true without information to confirm it is dishonest." The problem with this idea is that it frames people who hold sincerely held convictions as being dishonest; that is that they do not actually hold the beliefs that they proclaim to hold. To prove this proposition requires the ability to read minds. Someone who would propagate something they know to be false would be fraud. However beliefs are tricky in that without a confession from the person in question we can never know if they are promoting something that they do not believe in. We can conjecture all we want whether someone is lying about their beliefs, but it's impossible to determine that they are a fraud without an admission of lying.
Well perhaps they are intellectually dishonest? This is more to the point as it is much more evident that people hold biases and use fallacious arguments to support their beliefs as opposed to people propagating a belief system that they do not actually believe in. Having a confirmation bias is dishonest thinking. However is it fraudulent? That's trickier.
The question of whether or not it is dishonest to hold beliefs without a factual basis is muddied by what we are wiling to hold as a fact. A Christian may use the Bible as their reference point for everything and describe its contents as "fact." They often do this by stating that the Bible must be true because it is the word of/inspired by God. God is a supernatural entity that can not be tested or falsified. It's fairly evident that this line of reasoning is intellectually dishonest as it reduces to a non-falsifiable unknown as its final proof. However it is also quite true that this proposition has not been disproved and thus it becomes impossible to say it is not true. This is the difference between not evidently true and evidently untrue. The former is how inductive reasoning works and the former is dishonesty. If someone claims to have facts that support their worldview then are not doing anything dishonest even if those facts are insufficient or plain wrong (in which case they are not facts at all).
Additionally we have the problem that we can lack factual evidence for something and still be correct in our conclusions. We live our lives as human beings and we form models of reality based on our experiences. If a plant falls off a window in my house I can reason with a high degree of certainty that my cat knocked it over. I can do this based on my experience of seeing my cat knock over plants in my house and never seeing a plant fall over for any other reason. Thus if I come across a plant that"s been defenestrated in my house I can logically assume the cat did it without having any evidence that the cat did so. I can still be correct without evidence or facts directly relating to the incident in question and be sincere in my belief about it.
This ties into another problem: do we have any facts that show that anything at all is definitively true and not a product of imagination? No one has solved the problem of solipsism yet, however we can all live our lives and build successful models of our reality using inductive reasoning. Not having facts that provide definitive evidence does not render everyone's model of existence a fraud. Instead we use available facts and we evaluate their veracity and weigh their importance. A person holding a religious belief can certainly pick out facts that support their world view and dismiss those that do not comport with it. That does not make them a liar; it means they have cognitive dissonance. The path they use to find truth may be fraught with intellectual dishonesty if they ignore inconvenient facts and only select ones that prop up their worldview, but if they sincerely believe their conclusion then they have another problem altogether.
The bottom line is that one can not be labeled a fraud for propagating sincerely held beliefs. If they believe something, it means that they hold it to be true. If the facts they use to support a belief are wrong then they are mistaken. If they lack sufficient evidence to validate their belief then they may be illogical or irrational. If someone has a belief that contradicts all available evidence, then they suffer from cognitive dissonance. Someone can only be a fraud if they claim to believe something that they do not actually believe.
You have the wrong idea of my argument. I am not saying that believers are frauds. I am saying that there is one way to truth in reality. Take truth and accept the bitter with the sweet, or take what may seem to be comfortable but is really falsehood. It's each individual's choice, but it means their life.
As for your chair analogy: how do I know in which chair to sit? The answer is I don't. The apparent "newness" of an object is not a fact that favors the idea that it has superior loading bearing properties. That perception I have about it being new is an item I file away in my mind and use inductive logic to sort. Is something new in better condition? Based on my experience: yes. Will a chair that is newer support my weight better? I have no idea, but my experience would tell me it"s less likely to fall apart than an older model. However if I were to choose the "incorrect" chair and hurt myself, it would not be because I had some kind of blind belief in the ability of a piece of furniture to hold my weight. Instead, I either made a judgment error in evaluating the available facts or there were insufficient facts to make a sound judgment (or both, or neither). I could be presented with all the facts and be wrong due to external factors (I"m drunk/distracted/concussed) or a flaw in my reasoning. Nowhere do I have faith in an inanimate object, but rather my own ability to make a decision based on past experience.
It goes without saying that someone who teaches things to they know to be false is a fraud, however that did not seem to be the main thrust of your proposition for a debate titled "Belief without factual basis is fraudulent." You mention that your main gripe is with those who propagate false beliefs, but who are these people? Are they cult leaders, known charlatans, or are you referring to the clergy of an established religion? You mentioned Jim Jones, but it"s hard to say that he was a fraud when evidence points to him believing his message. One can safely say that he was crazy and wrong, but it"s difficult to say he was dishonest when he killed himself along with his followers. That seems like the ultimate act of sincerity of belief. Moreover if this is your only assertion, that frauds commit fraud, then where is the debate? How do we determine who is a fraud? I have asserted that it is nearly impossible to determine fraud when it comes to belief and I have yet to hear an argument against that.
However I think my biggest question is: what is this one way to truth you speak of, how does it provide factual evidence for belief, and why did you not lay it out in your opening argument? I really get the feeling that there is a world view that you are assuming here, yet you have not stated what it is. What is the one way to truth?
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