Something that has alway bothered me is the opinion expressed by moralistic politicians that faith and belief are virtues. Why? Doesn’t the skeptic who searches for evidence and rejects wishful thinking embody real virtue? Would you be persuaded by someone’s belief that aliens crashed in a volcano and spread to infect all of humanity causing our combined ill-fortunes? Oh, wait some people do believe that even though most of us would call that belief silly. It is not backed by evidence and without evidence is not worthy of serious consideration. Which brings me to the quote of the day.
“I don’t ‘believe’ in string theory”, Brian Greene (the popular face of string theory and author of The Elegant Universe) in a Discover interview here.
Of course he goes on to make the distinction between belief and the virtuous pursuit of scientific skepticism in examining string theory. This balance of conviction and skepticism is the hallmark of good science. Greene is clearly a proponent of string theory and has written much about it but he is making a point about thought hygiene that ought to be applied broadly.
So the next time you are asked to vote for a politician who professes “faith” ask yourself if that lack of intellectual rigor is a good thing in a leader. Faith is generally not a virtue.