Pulling Myself Down By My Bootstraps


Here's Sam Harris's final contribution to our blog-dialogue on faith and reason. Apologies for the delay in posting because of my vacation. I'll finish up shortly. Here's his tough opener:

Well, we have reached the end of our debate, and still we do not agree. We'll have to leave it there for the time being. I think, however, that our stalemate conceals some important asymmetries. For instance, I feel that you should have been convinced by my side of the argument. Can you say the same? You seem, rather, to have argued in a different mode. In your last essay you admit that your notion of God is "preposterous" and then say that you never suggested I should find it otherwise. You acknowledge the absurdity of faith, only to treat this acknowledgement as a demonstration of faith's underlying credibility. While I have yet to see you successfully pull yourself up by your bootstraps in this way, I have watched you repeatedly pull yourself down by them.

You want to have things both ways: your faith is reasonable but not in the least bound by reason; it is a matter of utter certainty, yet leavened by humility and doubt; you are still searching for the truth, but your belief in God is immune to any conceivable challenge from the world of evidence. I trust you will ascribe these antinomies to the paradox of faith; but, to my eye, they remain mere contradictions, dressed up in velvet.

The rest can be read here.