How Do We Distinguish Fact from Fiction?

The scientific method has been vastly more successful at telling us what's real than the methods of religions. The reason being that imagining how the universe should be, or armchair philosophy, is no substitute for going out and taking a look at how the world is. There are a billion things I can conceive of in my imagination, but I have no reason to suppose that all or any of those things is real.

The point is that if science doesn't have any hope of ever answering a given question about reality, religion and mysticism don't stand a chance of answering it.

We can sit around imagining Vishnu, Amaterasu, the primordial being Ymir, etc. and many people have believed in these gods. But there is no evidence that any of them is true. Even if you assumed one was true, how would you decide which one is correct if you were coming to planet earth for the first time? What methodology would allow you to discern the truth?

Vast numbers of people today believe Hinduism, Islam, Supernatural varieties of Buddhism, and Judaism, and each group believes with the conviction of faith that their way is the truth. They all claim that their version of a god or gods is true, and they all find confirmation all around themselves for their beliefs. That's how confirmation bias works.
But what technique would allow you to separate fact from fiction?

You may believe that someone of a different religion is wrong, but he or she believes just as confidently that you are wrong.

The skeptic looks at all these beliefs and finds no objective evidence for them and treats them in the same way as pink unicorns and sapient doughnuts monsters.

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Comment by jay H on February 23, 2014 at 4:42pm

Interestingly, I think that an element of doubt is at the core of finding truth. Some years ago the edge question (www.edge.org) was "what do you believe is true that you cannot prove?"

Even scientists may believe things that turn out to be false, but one of the differences is the framework of belief, there is (hopefully) the essence of a test that could, in theory, change belief. By contrast, to the dedicated religionist, the very concept of imagining such a test is anathema. To admit such test could exist, to define such a test is in itself an admission that the 'faith' is incomplete.

I believe a number of things that I cannot prove. But I also accept that my knowledge may well be incomplete.

Comment by Michael Penn on February 18, 2014 at 8:07am

The biggest and most misunderstood idea of the theist is that he believes once you know something to be a demonstrable fact, you are exercising "faith" that it works! Therefore, he wants to believe that faith and fact are the same. They simply are not!

If I drop a ball to demonstrate the law of gravity, this experiment will work the same every time. Not most of the time or some of the time, but every time. This is scientific fact and has nothing to do with "faith" which is excepting something without any evidence.

The ignorant theist will not give up! He starts in again with "let's suppose that we didn't live on Earth, but we lived on Jupiter." The mofo wants to go through this ball experiment with you again. They just don't get it do they?

Hey, theist. You do not live on Jupiter. You cannot confuse me with Jupiter's laws or god's laws. Your god does not live on Jupiter. I do have a pretty strong idea where he does live however.

Comment by Clarence Dember on February 17, 2014 at 3:26pm
I must agree that faith based notions of reality can not provide the certainty of reasoned assurance when the facts about one's situation are allowed into the appraisal.

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