The will to believe is not a will for the truth

(from atheism to agnosticism and back) [II]
[Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, translation by Silvia Palade, Curtea Veche, 2009]

by Ştefan Bolea
translation from Romanian by Alina-Olimpia Miron
click aici pentru versiunea română

Collins’ approach is circular (A => B, B => A) and can be debunked through a Nietzschean image: “When one hides something in a bush, then goes back and finds it (m.n.) in the same place, the search and finding are not worthy of praise. However, this is exactly how things are when it comes to searching and finding «the truth» in the field of reason.” Collins sets out to reach a rational demonstration of God‘s existence by using scientific hypotheses. The title of his book is a euphemism for an indemonstrable platitude: “If a man of science proves God exists, he must know what he’s talking about.” Actually, Collins’ approach is a completely different one: “I believe in God, therefore I must find Him anywhere, even in science.” Just like in geometry, the result is given beforehand, one just has to “confirm” it via an elegant demonstration.

Psychologically speaking, what is the cognitive value of an approach starting from A=A, passes through A=? and still gets to A=A? That ? is hypothetical and practically inexistent. I am sorry, but when I find what I have hidden in the bush (who hid it? I?), I can neither rejoice nor be amazed, if my memory and attention are intact. Atheists who become religious people believe because they want to believe, they are convinced because they wanted to be convinced: it’s just the effect of controlled autosuggestion. If, however, one considers lacunas and caesura, faith (not the will for the truth) will suffer because of discontinuities.

The scheme is the following:

a)   God exists. (An authoritarian, compelling observation.)

b)   Science is characterized by the search for the truth.

c)   Therefore, the truth of God’s existence must be proven scientifically.

But how does one prove a)? If one uses scientific and philosophical means, it’s impossible to prove a) (as well as non-a)). Therefore, one turns to biography (but even an atheist can use this method – see Beauvoir’s biography). One reaches an aporetic movement of faith one’s own tastes, in the territory of inclinations:

1.   Lampedusa’s character believes in God due to the mathematical observation of the pre-eminence of universal order.

2.   Tyler Durden, a disciple of Freud, determines that „Our fathers were models for God”.

3.   A disciple of Sartre will determine God’s inexistence, unlike prince Fabrizio Salina, on the basis of contingency and the immense universal arbitrariness: nothing seems necessary.

4.   A disciple of Eliade will determine that the exigency of signs and the directness of coincidences are suggestive of divine will.

Regardless of how one goes about it, the issue of theodicy poses the gravest of problems: why does suffering occur randomly? why does it hit anyone, good or bad? Just like the principle “if you can’t beat them, join them” (as major trauma leads to neurosis), faith takes one into the realm of the irrational. Faith is a Stockholm syndrome where Prometheus falls for Zeus. The issue of suffering can lead either to the hypothesis of a bad demiurge, or to that of a god lacking omnipotence. Rather than investing God with these two attributes (malice, inability / impotence), we might as well give Him up altogether.

The will to believe is not a will for the truth

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