The Great Pumpkin

pumpkinJoseph and Albert were both very intelligent 9-year-olds. They both had pumpkin gardens. They both planned to win 1st prize for “Largest Pumpkin” at the county fair now only 3 days away.

Joseph spoke confidently as suggested by this font.
Albert spoke more pensively as suggested by this font.
The boys spoke as they walked home from school.

I have faith that I’m going to win 1st prize for “Largest Pumpkin”!

So you’re entering a pumpkin too? I’m actually quite sure I will win.

What makes you so sure?

Why do you have faith?

Because I just feel it. You know when something is true.

Well, I can’t say I’m that sure about winning. I’m just really confident.

Can I ask a question?

Sure.

Do you know you will win, or do you have faith you will win?

They’re the same.

But isn’t faith applied only when there is insufficient evidence?

Yeah.

Then can you “know” something based on insufficient evidence?

Sure!

How?

Evidence is not necessary if you feel it in your heart.

So, your internal feeling of confidence is your basis of knowledge?

Yup.

But isn’t that just an emotion?

Not really. The fact that my pumpkin will win that gives me faith that it will.

But isn’t that rather circular?

What do you mean?

Never mind.

Well, you have faith too.

No, I just have a high degree of confidence.

No, you have faith. It’s the same.

No, it’s not.

Yes, it is.

Okay, I have faith. But my faith is different from yours.

No, it’s not.

Yes, it is.

How is it different?

Well, there are several reasons.

Name one.

Well, there is the matter of definitions.

Definitions?

Yeah, I’m quite confident that the vegetable in my garden is indeed a pumpkin, not just any old vegetable.

How do you know?


Well, I bought my seed from a reputable pumpkin seed distributor, plus, I’ve compared it to picture of the pumpkin that won last year. You did that too, right?

There is also the issue of logic.

Logic? For pumpkins?

No, for my eligibility. The rules state that you must have lived in the county one year prior to the first day of the fair. I moved here 11 months ago. A year is 12 months. Therefore I’m eligible. When did you move to the county?

And the issue of falsifiability is also rather important. I’ve allowed all my friends to view my pumpkin. If any of them can show me another pumpkin to be entered in the fair that is larger, I’ll concede that my pumpkin will not be the largest. Can I take a look at your pumpkin?

Well…it’s rather hard to get to.

Do you at least have a photo of it?

My garden is too dark for photos.

Well, how big is it?

It’s so big that it can’t be measured!

So, neither its size nor its existence can be verified?

It just makes my faith stronger!

So, your faith is strengthened when there is less available evidence?

Well, yeah.

evidence-faithThen this is the point where our 2 types of faith are different. My faith, if you insist on calling it that, increases as the evidence increases. Here’s a stick. Let me draw a chart showing your type of faith. See, your faith increases as evidence decreases.

But you can never know for sure that you will win 1st prize for “Largest Pumpkin”!

That is true. I can however, with other tools of science, reach a high degree of certainty about whether I will.

What tools?

Well, there is precedent. While the size of winning pumpkins in our county has been increasing over the years, none has been over 900 pounds. Couple this with measurement. Based on the circumference of my pumpkin, it must weigh well over 1,100 pounds.

But you’re still not sure.

No, I’m not sure. But I’m quite sure, especially since I’ve also done a statistical study of all the winning pumpkins in county fairs all around the state.

Statistics can be used to prove anything!

So I’ve heard, but the fault is seldom the statistics. It is the misapplication, misinterpretation or misunderstanding of statistics. Here I can let you critique the study if you’d like.

I won’t believe it anyway.

evidence-beliefSo your lack of faith in something such as this study also has no relationship to the evidence? Let me draw another chart. There. Does your faith remain at zero even as evidence increases?

Well, you’re wrong.

Yes, I’ve heard you say that before. But how do you know?

I just feel it. Plus my mother said I would win 1st prize.

Someone’s opinion is a possible piece of evidence provided that the someone is an authority on a subject and has no vested interest in what you think or feel.

My mother wouldn’t lie.

Well, perhaps she wouldn’t. I think there is a chance you’re correct. But I still think your faith is very unlike mine. And I’d just as soon call it “belief” instead of “faith”.

My faith will be vindicated this weekend. Bye.

See ya.

Three days later Albert won 2nd prize for the Largest Pumpkin at the county fair with a pumpkin that weighed 1,206 pounds. He had cut his pumpkin from the vine the day before, not realizing that large pumpkins can lose up to 7 pounds a day after being severed. The 1st prize pumpkin had been rushed to the fair immediately after being cut, and had weighed in at 1,209 pounds.

Joseph walked home in tears from the fair carrying his 30 pound squash after being disqualified for not having been a legal resident of the county.


Religious faith is not even close to confidence in science.
Commentary on Faith


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