Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Irrational Faith of Ricky Gervais

(Bald eagle flying over our home in Monroe)
I don't watch late night television (Fallon/Kimmell/Colbert). But I saw this - Colbert talking with comedian Ricky Gervais on religion and faith.

From the article:

Colbert opened up about his struggles with consistent faith while challenging Gervais' assertions that there is no evidence for the supernatural.
"I don't believe in anything supernatural," Gervais said.
Later, Colbert asked, "[Are] magic and faith the same to you? Because they're different things to me."
"No, I don't believe in anything without evidence," Gervais said. "That's it. That's all they have in common. I have no problem with faith or spirituality. I feel it when I see nature."

Gervais believe the following statement is true: Don't believe anything without evidence. I assume Gervais means physical (empirical) evidence.

But in making that statement Gervais shows his core belief to be non-evidential. That is, no physical evidence can be given to empirically verify the statement Don't believe anything without evidence. So, Gervais believe in something without evidence. And this "something" appears to be foundational.

In philosophy, this is the old "verification principle" of Hume and A.J. Ayer, which was shown to be self-contradictory by Wittgenstein and others. And mostly rejected as logically inconsistent.

The verification principle said this: Only statements that can be empirically verified are true. But that statement cannot be empirically verified. Therefore it is false that only statements that can be empirically verified are true. So, the verification principle is self-contradictory. 

Gervais says: I don't believe in anything without evidence. Gervais believes in not believing in anything without evidence. But Gervais has no evidence for that belief. Therefore, Gervais believes in something without evidence.  His foundational belief is irrational because self-contradictory.