Thursday, April 21, 2011

Faith & The Iron Box

A certain Luke Chilton has claimed that you cannot distinguish truth from faith without absolute, perfect knowledge. Let's examine this with a thought experiment.

Imagine that you wake up and find yourself lying in the middle of a grassy field in a stadium. 5 paces away from you stands a person. Truthfully, where you are in the absolute framework of the stadium and relative to the other person is cursory to our thought experiment. All that really matters is that you are close enough to be able to see and hear the other person.

Now for the more interesting part. Next to you is an iron box that has been welded shut. Suddenly you hear a ringing cellphone. The other person answers the call. After a short moment the person turns to you and says:

"I just got a call form a bomb squad outside the stadium. There's a bomb in the box! We have to do exactly as they say!"

Is it true? It's certainly true that there's an iron box next to you. But is there a bomb inside it? Do you do as the person claims the bomb squad is telling the two of you to do?

Now let's start altering the experiment a bit. Imagine the exact same scenario, but the other person is wearing a clown suit. Now alter it again. Instead the person is wearing a police uniform. And finally, we change the person into a priest. Do you react differently depending on what the other person is wearing? Now comes the final alteration and test.

The other person, who appears to be a priest, or a Zen master, an imam, a guru or something similar, turns to you and says:

"I just received word/enlightenment from God/Brahman/InnerTruth. There is eternal damnation/samsara/falsehood in the box! We must do as I have been informed!"

What do you do? And how is it different from the bomb squad case?

Oh, and by the way, the stadium is of course in lockdown. And it's a pitch black night. It's difficult to see and there's no way out. It's you, the holy dude and a lot of empirical trepidation. And...the Iron Box.


Spartacus said...

Clowns wear funny hats, bears shit in the woods, water is wet and the pope is Bavarian... I rest my case, I'm a believer... happiness is a warm gun.

mr graves said...

It really depends on how much you trust the institution the other person represents. It's fascinating to juxtapose the police with the Church and with a religion I may actually respect/listen to.

I kind of want to make a table with multiple commanders and commands just to see how my beliefs shake out.

Dreas said...

That's the most coherent argument against Catholicism I've heard since Martin Luther.

Anonymous said...

If he seems like a reasonable sort of chap, you do what he says. Otherwise, you can only blame yourself if you get blown up...

Hasan Sonmez

Anonymous said...

A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction.