Tag Archives: university

Opinion

‘The Faith Fallacy,’ and other fallacies

A few days ago one of my friends notified me of an op-ed publication in her university’s (Grand Valley State University’s) paper Lanthorn titled “The Faith Fallacy: Why belittling believers makes no sense.”  The piece of course attempts to defend faith, particularly religious faith, particularly by showing how everyone else has ‘faith’ in something else.  If everyone else has ‘faith,’ then religious people are at least safe in, maybe justified in, their faith.

Gee, haven’t heard the old “you do it too!” one before.  It’s a very difficult argument to construct well, and has to be premised on actions from non-believers that really do mirror religious faith in one critical aspect: lack of evidence for these beliefs.  In accordance with this argument’s tradition of throwing things at the wall until they stick, the action-flavor of the month is getting a college education:

“College, like religion, is an institution. […] In both cases believers in these institutions take a gamble, hoping their investment makes a return: most students believe they will leave college with a degree/career potential and most religious people believe when they leave this earth they will be rewarded for their faith.”

Before addressing this basic premise though, I would be amiss to not mention a following line that struck me as out of place (my emphasis):

“Believing in something, so long as it is not blind faith, should be commended– not chastised.”

That’s basically the whole point, the crux of one of the most important reasons why non-believers don’t believe in a god or in religion.  Right there is a written rejection of the ‘critical aspect’ of religious faith I mentioned earlier.  I would ask why this statement was put into an article that is trying to refute non-believer arguments against religious faith; it’s not clear from the rest of her article, however, that Christine Colleran has an understanding of what non-believers even mean by ‘blind faith.’  I think that a useful illustrative tool here would be contrast to something else we might believe in: college.

“Despite evidence proving that great success is attainable without college, we continue to have faith in the power of a degree.”

Christine’s cited evidence is a handful of (admittedly extremely) successful people: Mark Zuckerberg (who actually did attend college – Harvard no less! – but dropped out because he developed Facebook while in school), Richard Branson of Virginia Atlantic, and computer entrepreneurs Michael Dell and Steve Jobs.

oscar_reutersvard_impossible_13

I suppose that this technically is proof that success is possibly attainable without a college education.  I’m not really sure whoever said that you’re guaranteed to fail; I would bet money that Christine was told at one point that you’d be more likely to succeed with a college education.  Is there evidence that around 90% of Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs have college degrees?  Is there evidence that unemployment rates for college graduates is lower than people without college education; that Master’s degree holders have lower unemployment still; that PhD graduates have even lower unemployment?  Why, yes there is.  It’s not proof that you’ll get a job – these rates are progressively lower, but none of them zero.  It’s a belief without total certainty, but a very justified belief to hold.

Since we’re contrasting, we might ask the same questions of religious claims: is there evidence that being religious gets you into heaven?  Is there evidence that a particular religion is correct?  Is there evidence that there’s even a deity to worship in the first place?  Why, no there is not.

Encompassed in the questions for religion is also a distinction that warrants its own mention: you can make judgments throughout your college career about whether or not it will actually be beneficial to you in the long run.  If you notice that your major’s unemployment rate is almost up to 20%, you can factor that into your decision to pursue your education.  Demand for jobs in particular industries is reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and there is research you can do in general to find if jobs are available.

The potential outcomes for religious beliefs, however, are only realized after death.  There is no indication while you are living of whether you’ll be successful, whether there’s something you should perhaps do differently that will cost you in the end.  Adherence to a belief system that has no evidence and no means of validating itself along the way is definitionally blind faith.

If a belief makes you a better person, then more power to you.  Worthwhile to consider, however, is if you even have reasons for believing in what you do.  It’s a good way to get people off your back who think that uncritical belief was, is, and/or will be a detriment to society; think of all of the help it would be in writing op-eds too!

 

Guest post by Alexander Coulter from the University of Michigan. Cross-posted with permission from U of M SSA’s blog: http://michiganssa.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-faith-fallacy-and-other-fallacies.html

General

Want to make your life as a campus group leader a whole lot easier? Read this.

You have a great event idea– you have the funds needed, picked the perfect date and have started writing a press release. Everything is just freaking awesome! Until your university finds out.

Suddenly you have miles beyond miles of red tape to work through. Those assholes! How dare they make your life infinitely more difficult with all their silly rules and regulations?!

We’ve all been there. While we all get that paperwork and the likes are in place for a reason, dealing with university authorities can be a hassle, to say the least. However, it’s important to maintain a good relationship with these people, no matter how stupid you think the hoops they make you jump through are.

It is inevitable that at some point during your school year, as a group leader, you will have to interact with these people, be it in person or over email. Below are a few tips to keep in mind while doing so, to make your life easier and to make the people who grant you permission, happier.

1. Know how your university works. For example, at my school, you need several forms filled out and signed by officers for fundraising, to spend money, to hold an event, to travel somewhere, or to breath (practically). While it can get annoying, I’ve made myself knowledgeable about each and every form so whenever I need to do something, I know where to start.

2. They’re busy too. While it can be incredibly annoying to have to run around getting a bazillion different forms signed in between classes and a job, keep in mind that whatever university officials you’re dealing with manage this process everyday- with hundreds of students orgs. It’s stressful for EVERYONE.

3. Kiss up. Hello! Being the teachers pet works. Each university handles things differently– maybe you’re lucky enough to only need a single signature, or maybe your every move is monitored. Either way, try to kiss a little you-know-what. Do they need to find a certain phone number, or get a form faxed over to your speaker? Offer to do it for them. By going above and beyond during the legwork of your event, or even just being willing to do so, your group will be remembered as incredibly helpful, which will benefit you at some point- I guarantee it.

4. Give everyone enough time. As soon as you know details, fill out whatever paperwork you need to. Don’t wait! Give any university office plenty of time to process things. Not only will this cut down on stress levels for everyone, but they’ll be grateful, meaning next time, when you DO wait until the last minute (on accident, of course) they’ll be more willing to cut you some slack.

Every school is different, which means only you know what works best for your group during the beginning processes of an event, but by being responsible and doing things the right way no matter what those things are, you’re likely to build bridges, and not burn them.