Is science faith-based?

By Phil Plait | February 18, 2008 11:36 am

No.

Oh, you want details? OK then.

If you read any antiscience screeds, at some point or another most will claim that science is based on faith just as much as religion is. For example, the horrific Answers in Genesis website has this to say about science:

Much of the problem stems from the different starting points of our divergence with Darwinists. Everyone, scientist or not, must start their quests for knowledge with some unprovable axiom—some a priori belief on which they sort through experience and deduce other truths. This starting point, whatever it is, can only be accepted by faith; eventually, in each belief system, there must be some unprovable, presupposed foundation for reasoning (since an infinite regression is impossible).

This is completely wrong. It shows (unsurprisingly) an utter misunderstanding of how science works. Science is not faith-based, and here’s why.

The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules. That’s it. There is one corollary, and that is that if the Universe follows these rules, then those rules can be deduced by observing the way Universe behaves. This follows naturally; if it obeys the rules, then the rules must be revealed by that behavior.

A simple example: we see objects going around the Sun. The motion appears to follow some rules: the orbits are conic sections (ellipses, circles, parabolas, hyperbolas), the objects move faster when they are closer to the Sun, if they move too quickly they can escape forever, and so on.

From these observations we can apply mathematical equations to describe those motions, and then use that math to predict where a given object will be at some future date. Guess what? It works. It works so well that we can shoot probes at objects billions of kilometers away and still nail the target to phenomenal accuracy. This supports our conclusion that the math is correct. This in turn strongly implies that the Universe is following its own rules, and that we can figure them out.

Now, of course that is a very simple example, and is not meant to be complete, but it gives you an idea of how this works. Now think on this: the computer you are reading this on is entirely due to science. The circuits are the end result of decades, centuries of exploration in how electricity works and how quantum particles behave. The monitor is a triumph of scientific engineering, whether it’s a CRT or an LCD flat panel. The mouse might use an LED, or a simple ball-and-wheel. The keyboard uses springs, the wireless uses radio technology, the speakers use electromagnetism.*

Look around. Cars, airplanes, buildings. iPods, books, clothing. Agriculture, plumbing, waste disposal. Light bulbs, vacuum cleaners, ovens. These are all the products of scientific research. If your TV breaks, you can pray that it’ll spontaneously start working again, but my money would be on someone who has learned how to actually fix it based on scientific and engineering principles.

All the knowledge we have accumulated over the millennia comes together in a harmonious symphony of science. We’re not guessing here: this stuff was designed using previous knowledge developed in a scientific manner over centuries. And it works. All of this goes to support our underlying assumption that the Universe obeys rules that we can deduce.

Are there holes in this knowledge? Of course. Science doesn’t have all the answers. But science has a tool, a power that its detractors never seem to understand.

Science is not simply a database of knowledge. It’s a method, a way of finding this knowledge. Observe, hypothesize, predict, observe, revise. Science is provisional; it’s always open to improvement. Science is even subject to itself. If the method itself didn’t work, we’d see it. Our computers wouldn’t work (OK, bad example), our space probes wouldn’t get off the ground, our electronics wouldn’t work, our medicine wouldn’t work. Yet, all these things do in fact function, spectacularly well. Science is a check on itself, which is why it is such an astonishingly powerful way of understanding reality.

And that right there is where science and religion part ways. Science is not based on faith. Science is based on evidence. We have evidence it works, vast amounts of it, billions of individual pieces that fit together into a tapestry of reality. That is the critical difference. Faith, as it is interpreted by most religions, is not evidence-based, and is generally held tightly even despite evidence against it. In many cases, faith is even reinforced when evidence is found contrary to it.

To say that we have to take science on faith is such a gross misunderstanding of how science works that it can only be uttered by someone who is wholly ignorant of how reality works.

The next time someone tries to tell you that science is just as faith-based as religion, or that evolution is a religion, point them here. Perhaps the evidence of science may sway them. Perhaps not; it’s difficult to reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into. But the next time they get on a computer, maybe they’ll take a slightly more critical look at it, and wonder if its workings are a miracle, or the results of brilliant minds over many generations toiling away at the scientific method.


*The irony of Answers in Genesis denigrating science on a website is not lost on me.

Comments (478)

Links to this Post

  1. Negligible Knowledge Base | February 18, 2008
  2. Two excellent contributions to the “pseudoscience FAQ” | Geoff Arnold | February 18, 2008
  3. Atheist.nu » Science is not Faith-based. | February 18, 2008
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  7. Bad Astronomy Blog » Is science faith-based? | February 18, 2008
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  10. investigativeblog.net » Blog Archive » links for 2008-02-19 | February 19, 2008
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  1. Quiet_Desperation

    Quote from “god Is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens (atheist):

    And here is the point, about myself and my co-thinkers. Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake. We do not hold our convictions dogmatically: the disagreement between Professor Stephen Jay Gould and Professor Richard Dawkins, concerning “punctuated evolution” and the unfilled gaps in post-Darwinian theory, is quite wide as well as quite deep, but we shall resolve it by evidence and reasoning and not by mutual excommunication.

    Give it as a gift to all the religious people in *your* life:

    http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/0446579807/

  2. Quiet_Desperation

    If your TV breaks, you can pray that it’ll spontaneously start working again, but my money would be on someone who has learned how to actually fix it based on scientific and engineering principles.

    As long as it’s within warranty. :-)

  3. In actuality, there is an omnipotent and omniscient deity watching over all of the Universe, coordinating all of the myriad interactions between objects to make them seem to be collections of particles and waves that behave in perfect harmony with an inviolate set of natural laws. This is all an illusion, however; this deity is the Great Comedian, Shecky. At some point, known only to the mind of Shecky, He will abruptly drop the facade that causes the Universe to appear to make sense. This will happen at the Moment of Greatest Comedic Effect, when all will know Shecky’s Truth, and there will be much wailing and moaning and gnashing at teeth. So perfect and pure is the Comedy, however, that mere days later everyone will think back to the MGCE, nod their heads, and with a thoughtful and appreciate grin remark, “Yeah, that was pretty funny.”

  4. That should have been “gnashing of teeth,” of course. Oh, and “appreciative.”

    *sigh*

    It’s true what they say — Comedy is hard.

  5. Phil, I completely agree with you on this one. Faith cannot be proven at all but in science one can prove or disprove any theory by adhering to certain strict principles.

    I am a scientist but I also believe in God as the creator of everything we see. I regard the young earth creationists as plain stupid and the publishers of Answers in Genesis even more so. I find solace in my relationship with my Lord although I cannot see him or cannot prove him to exist. My faith in God in no way detracts from my responsibility as a scientist.
    Bottom line is that one can be a great scientist and still believe in God. I have come across many over the years

    Philip

  6. JackC

    Aside from the aforementioned irony, I personally love the “Since an infinite regression is impossible.” line. Of course (Phillip, maybe you can back me up on this one?) “God” itself (the concept as generally expressed) is just such an infinite regression. Of course, for some reason, THAT doesn’t count.

    I can certainly understand what they think they are saying (in AIG) – even though completely incorrect, it is what you would get from nearly any “off the street” person who would admit to any time spent thinking about it.

    It would still be wrong, but that doesn’t stop the viral effect of a silly phrase such as “science is faith-based”.

    JC

  7. Christian X Burnham

    It is possible to be religious and a good scientist to the extent that it is possible to be a smoker and run marathons.

    Yes, a few great scientists believe in God, but many more are atheists.

  8. Kirk

    Of course fundamentalists & creationists believe in science even though they won’t admit it …. Why go to doctors to get help when “faith” would cure you. Good Grief we Americans waste an extraordinary amount of valuable time on this issue while the rest of the world is getting on with educating their kids for the 21st century. If our leaders continue to pander to those promoting this tripe then the next 25-50 years won’t be pretty as we lose the real war — science & economics.

  9. Actually Phil I kinda disagree. I’m pretty sure it was Feynman who said that science does not require the initial assumption that the universe follows predictable, observable, and “knowable” laws. I believe it was part of the same interview where he talked about how an experiment does not have to give the same results here as in Australia, as is often claimed in highschool science classes (i.e. look up at the stars, they’re different).

    Feynman says that if we ran experiments and observed weird and irregular behaviour from the universe, then we would conclude that it does not follow regular laws, and that would be perfectly scientific.

    The only assumption that science asks of us is that we generally trust our senses and our memory. Not all the time, every scientist knows fully well his own ability to be fooled by his brain. But in general, if a bunch of people see the same phenomenon or read the same result off their instruments, we can be confident in their observation.

    I actually think the only fundamental difference between scientists and dogmatic supernaturalists is the word “generally”. Where a scientist is aware of his/her brain’s ability to fool itself (pattern seeking, confirmation bias, optical illusions, gambler’s fallacy, and myriad etc) the faithful zealot takes him/herself TOO seriously, so when they feel a presence, they believe that means there most certainly IS a presence. It is why a scientist does not see Jesus in a piece of toast but a fundamentalist does.

  10. Science has only one assumption? You mean when you perform an experiment you don’t assume the results are real and not an illusion in the mind of a dreaming butterfly?

  11. Now think on this: the computer you are reading this on is entirely due to science.

    I’ve had a creationist argue that a computer is technology not science and then try to argue that there was some way to separate them. They simply would not hear that the technology was developed from scientific research and couldn’t be separated from it.

    That’s the day I learned that you can’t simply use reason to debate a creationist.

  12. Doc

    I sometimes suspect that the science of the modern world is becoming so complex that it is on the verge of being out of the reach of the average Joe (or perhaps is already so). This means that Clarke’s third law goes into effect, and they can’t distinguish between technology and magic.

    A couple of decades ago, my grandmother pointed at her TV and said to me, “Do you know how that thing works? I don’t. To me it’s all black magic.” Grandma was a pretty sharp cookie, and I could tell it irritated her that she didn’t know how it worked. However, she’d seen technology go from the horse and buggy to the space shuttle in her lifetime, and there just wasn’t any way for her to keep up with all the changes.

  13. BA writes:

    [[The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules. That’s it. ]]

    And that the Universe is real in the first place. And that it’s worth worrying about. And that it will continue to obey the same set of rules in the future that it has obeyed in the past (see David Hume for an extended discussion of that particular assumption). And so on.

    Science is based on evidence, and science is based on assumptions, which are based on faith. Sorry, you can’t confine faith to religion or to “antiscience.” All worldviews are based on faith at some point. Including yours. Arguments have to have premises.

  14. In many cases, faith is even reinforced when evidence is found contrary to it.

    That’s the part that really blows my mind, that followers of many religions interpret evidence that contradicts their beliefs as a test of their faith, and that clinging to that faith — even when common sense and evidence shows it wrong — somehow strengthens their conviction.

  15. Christian X Burnham writes:

    [[It is possible to be religious and a good scientist to the extent that it is possible to be a smoker and run marathons.]]

    After all, look at Isaac Newton — his deep religious beliefs prevented him from making any worthwhile contributions to science. Ditto James Clerk Maxwell. And Louis Pasteur. What a bunch of morons.

  16. g

    “Science is not simply a database of knowledge. It’s a method, a way of finding this knowledge.”

    it seems to me that the biggest leaps in science came from people that were open to both sides. shunning the intuitive half of your brain, or vice versa, doesn’t get you anywhere, kinda like a boat with the rudder jammed to one side. it’s hard to believe that evolution could be sloppy enough to create a species where half of the population is stupid and half are geniuses. both sides have their place and until people get off their asses and genuinely try to understand their opposites, we will stay exactly where we are.. buried in hate until our society self destructs.

  17. Quiet_Desperation

    MikeMarsh: “This is all an illusion, however; this deity is the Great Comedian, Shecky. At some point, known only to the mind of Shecky,

    I am interested in your religion, and would like to join.

    Christian X Burnhamon: It is possible to be religious and a good scientist to the extent that it is possible to be a smoker and run marathons.

    HA HA HA HA! Religion = smoking. :-) OK, C.X., you win the thread.

    Kirk: Good Grief we Americans waste an extraordinary amount of valuable time on this issue while the rest of the world is getting on with educating their kids for the 21st century.

    Good Grief we Americans forget the there’s more to “the rest of the world” than Europe. A major portion of the world is hopelessly poisoned by religion. It isn’t that we here in the Colonies are much above amateur status in such things, it’s that we don’t want to “go pro”. You savvy?

    And failing to educate our kids for the 21st century has little to do with religion and much to do with an educational system that was broken way before the creationist loons started getting vocal.

    Doc: A couple of decades ago, my grandmother pointed at her TV and said to me, “Do you know how that thing works? I don’t. To me it’s all black magic.” Grandma was a pretty sharp cookie, and I could tell it irritated her that she didn’t know how it worked.

    Well, the real key question is: did she ever try to find out? There’s plenty of “How Things Work” types of books on the market, and television broadcasting is pretty much a staple of such tomes.

  18. Again, science most certainly does not require us to assume that the same set of rules will apply at any point in the future. If tomorrow we started observing light travelling at 314,159,265 m/s then scientists would incorporate that bizzare and unexpected change into their worldview. They wouldn’t start burning ‘heretic’ physics labs. Why is it such a common belief that science requires homogeneity? We find homogeneity, but we don’t presuppose it.

    I think I can basically summarize my long earlier comment in one sentence: science requires us to believe that we do not live in the Matrix.

    Religion requires that we do.

  19. Gary F

    Godless Geek:

    I’ve come across creationists who take that one step farther: All our technology is invented by people who are inspired by God. I find it strange, then, that God only inspires people to invent new electronics after they’ve been spent years learning about electronics, while people who get inspired to build perpetual motion machines never get them to work.

  20. Michelle

    “And that the Universe is real in the first place. And that it’s worth worrying about. And that it will continue to obey the same set of rules in the future that it has obeyed in the past (see David Hume for an extended discussion of that particular assumption). And so on.”

    Geeze Barton, I think you’re really struggling here.

    Let’s keep our two feet on earth here and stop being overcomplicated. The universe is real enough. Lay off the Matrix.

  21. TheBlackCat

    It is kind of sad to think of what Newton might have discovered had he not become obsessed with Biblical literalism. Although I don’t think that was the point you were trying to make.

  22. Barton Paul Levenson:
    “And that the Universe is real in the first place. And that it’s worth worrying about. And that it will continue to obey the same set of rules in the future that it has obeyed in the past (see David Hume for an extended discussion of that particular assumption).”

    Actually, that’s not true.
    “And that the Universe is real in the first place.”

    Um what? First of all, science doesn’t require that the universe is real (as opposed to a dream, or something). If we all exist inside The Matrix, that doesn’t mean science, within this computer-generated realm doesn’t work. Second, even if I actually agreed with you on this point, it is really a big leap of faith to say the universe exists?

    “And that it’s worth worrying about.”
    Science doesn’t require that it’s worth worrying about. Science works whether or not you happen to be suicidal and disinterested in it.

    “And that it will continue to obey the same set of rules in the future that it has obeyed in the past”
    That’s already covered under “the Universe obeys a set of rules.”

    The other unspoken thing going on here is that you are trying to conflate “unproven” with “faith”. Obviously, there is a continuum of positions ranging from “unsupported ideas” to “almost certainly true”. You could claim that the belief that the world is spherical is based on faith because it cannot absolutely proven to be true. And you could claim that intergalactic reptilian aliens are controlling the world’s population through mind-control fields. The fact that neither are proven doesn’t put them on the same level. That’s what you’re trying to do here – put the wild, unsupported speculation of religion on the same level as the well-established evidence from science – by calling them both “faith”. How ridiculous.

  23. QD writes: [[A major portion of the world is hopelessly poisoned by religion. ]]

    And the rest of it is hopelessly poisoned by atheism.

  24. Michelle writes:

    [[Geeze Barton, I think you’re really struggling here.]]

    When I feel a need for your advice, kitten, I’ll drop you a line.

  25. TheBlackCat writes:

    [[It is kind of sad to think of what Newton might have discovered had he not become obsessed with Biblical literalism.]]

    Observe the “reason” with which atheists of TheBlackCat’s stripe will save the world:

    C: Scientists can’t be religious.
    B: Newton was religious, and he was a great scientist.
    T: If he hadn’t been religious, he would have been a greater scientist.

    In other words, there’s no possible way to falsify the hypothesis in question. Any possible evidence is evidence for the theory. If poor scientists are religious, it’s their religion that made them poor scientists; if great scientists are religious, they would have been better still without their religion. Honestly, anything fits! Any observation you can make proves the theory!

    Excuse me if I’m not impressed with atheist “reasoning.”

  26. Quiet_Desperation

    Barton: After all, look at Isaac Newton — his deep religious beliefs prevented him from making any worthwhile contributions to science.

    Not a very good example. Newton was more of a mathematician, and lived in a time when NOT believing in God could be bad for your health. He was a product of his times. One wonders what more he could have accomplished if he hadn’t been distracted my mysticism and his interest in occult topics like alchemy.

    How about: “Science and religion, as they stand now in modern times, are incompatible.”

  27. Tom Marking

    “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules. That’s it. There is one corollary, and that is that if the Universe follows these rules, then those rules can be deduced by observing the way Universe behaves.”

    For a minute there I thought you were going to claim that science has no assumptions. It seems to me that there are a great many assumptions that the scientific method makes, not just one, but I understand why it would be convenient to limit it to just one or a few for agumentative purposes. Some other assumptions are:

    1.) The universe is real (i.e., my senses give me information about a real external universe).

    2.) The universe has order (i.e., is a cosmos as opposed to chaos).

    3.) My five senses (vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch) are sufficient to find out all the data I need about the universe.

    4.) My brain is capable of recognizing all relevant patterns brought to me by my senses.

    5.) If I see event A happen just before event B many, many times then I know that event A causes event B (although “many, many” is never defined).

    6.) I can construct a mathematical function relating feature A (e.g, time) to feature B (e.g., distance) by plotting a curve fit through data points. The random variations of the actual data points from the curve fit are observational error and may be ignored.

    .
    .
    .

    And on and on. All of these assumptions must be believed without proof and thus, constitute faith.

    And as to the argument that science is true because technology works, I can imagine 500 years ago the Aztec high priest making some kind of similar agument: “See, we cut out the hearts of 5,000 people at the Great Pyramid yesterday so that the universe could continue. And it worked! The sun came up today. I shudder to think of what would have happened if we hadn’t conducted the bloody rituals.”

    .
    .
    .
    And there is one final assumption that I’m sure science students of now or days gone by can appreciate. And that is this: You’d better get the expected result in your Chemistry 101 lab or it means you screwed up and you’re going to get an F.

  28. Barton Paul Levenson:
    “look at Isaac Newton — his deep religious beliefs prevented him from making any worthwhile contributions to science.”

    Isaac Newton made contributions to science precisely because he had a commitment to testing things and his methodology was sound. He succeeded precisely because he kept God out of his scientific method. He might’ve explained things philosophically by referencing God, but that doesn’t mean his experiments or ideas were intrinsically tainted by thoughts of the supernatual. Further, Newton could’ve been a greater scientist had he not wasted so much time to trying to figure out when Jesus Christ would return according to the book of Revelations.

  29. As many people pointed out, science does not require that the universe obey regular, rational rules. In merely requires that we do.

    It also works just as well in a solipsist universe (the dreaming butterfly someone else mentioned), because science does not presume to describe metaphysics.

    Science makes controlled observations, and then draws reasoned conclusions from them. If the universe is a carefully constructed illusion, there are two possibilities:
    1) The illusion can be revealed by careful inspection. That is to say, the illusion is incomplete; like the Matrix, there are “exceptions”. In that case, the best approach to uncovering the illusion is to carefully inspect everything we observe, and the best tool for that is Science.

    2) The illusion is utterly complete and we can never gain information about the real world. Well, when you put it that way, your statement is never provable. We can never know, with any degree of confidence, what the “real” world is. If the illusion is complete and inviolable, how, exactly, is it not “real”? In any case, the hypothesis is untestable, and hence unknowable. Since we’re stuck in the illusion with no escape hatch, we had best make ourselves comfortable and learn as much about our confines as possible. And the best tool for that? Science.

    It’s not a materialist worldview, it’s an empiricist worldview. The belief that we can observe something (possibly an illusion) and draw conclusions from those observations, and test those conclusions.

    Science gets a bad rap for being a materialist worldview, and that’s wrong. Science works just as well if you’re a metaphysical idealist (there is no matter, everything is ideas/information). I fall into that category. The only thing empiricism doesn’t play nice with is Dualism- the blending of a Spiritual and a Physical world- because Dualism tries to hide anything spiritual behind a non-rational, non-testable facade.

    If it’s observable, it’s testable. That’s science’s core claim. If someone observes spiritual phenomenon, we can test those observations.

  30. Christian X Burnham

    You know, it’s impossible to exactly define what science is, but the BA did a pretty good job.

  31. Jason W

    I’ve always translated that argument from creationists as a very solipsistic or post-modern argument…that they’re arguing that you, personally, have to take on faith the instructions from your teachers, and that most folks who ‘believe’ in science do just that, to one extreme or another.

    Which I suppose is true, after a fashion, but seems to dilute the word ‘faith’ to the same level as the kind of ‘faith’ I have that Albuquerque exists even though I’ve never been there, or that the back of the room is still there, even though I can’t see it at the moment.

  32. Tom Woolf

    BPL – think of BlackCat’s comment more along the line of [[It is kind of sad to think of what Newton might have discovered had he not become obsessed with (creating the perfect pasta).]]

    Newton did so much to advance humanity before he got sidetracked by an obsession that had relatively little gain to humanity, such as the literalism of a collection of parables written over the past few thousand years.

    As to your “poisoned by atheism” comment – most poisoning of mankind has been done in the quest for power. There have been societies where atheism was condoned (or required) by the rulers (20th century Communism comes to mind), but most abusive societies have been aided or propelled by religious fervor as opposed to atheism. That fervor may have been over a single god, or many gods, but the ease in which a leader claims to be powered by their god of choice is scary.

    Oh, and your comment of “When I feel a need for your advice, kitten, I’ll drop you a line” is nonsense. You posted on a public blog, opening yourself (as I am here) to public comment – including advice when someone thinks you are reaching.

  33. Frumple

    Well, Barton, we don’t have many examples of atheist scientists from Newton’s time because your precious religions would have persecuted and murdered them all. How’s that for plain old black and white, “kitten”?

    Religion is POISON. Your own attitude here demonstrates it clearly.

  34. QD repeats himself:

    [[How about: “Science and religion, as they stand now in modern times, are incompatible.”]]

    How about: “QD doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” That seems more likely.

  35. Frumple writes:

    [[Well, Barton, we don’t have many examples of atheist scientists from Newton’s time because your precious religions would have persecuted and murdered them all. How’s that for plain old black and white, “kitten”?]]

    For a black-and-white example of a fantasy of yours, it does fine. As a logical argument, it’s a little sickly.

    [[Religion is POISON. Your own attitude here demonstrates it clearly.]]

    No, the attitude of prejudiced people like you is POISON.

  36. Good luck trying to convince Mike Huckabee of this. By the way, Phil, you do realize that if he somehow manages to become President, you’re going to be shipped off to Guantanamo Bay?

  37. Christian X Burnham

    Newton was also a committed alchemist of the really weird and mystical kind. That doesn’t mean that an interest in alchemy is helpful for doing science.

    Barton: You seem to have misread my post. I explicitly stated that a few great scientists believe in God.

    It is plainly false that a belief in religion is compatible with science, for exactly the reasons outlined by the BA above.

    The religious consider that belief without evidence is a good thing. Science is completely the opposite approach in which evidence is valued over belief.

    There is also the sticky question over what religious people do when they find out that the Bible is in error wherever it makes scientific claims. For example, the Biblical account of Genesis cannot be literally true unless evolutionary theory and modern cosmology are false.

    ——————————————————————-
    To avoid confusion, I’d like to point out that the BA has never to my knowledge claimed that he is an atheist (or that he is religious). Nor has he claimed that all religion is wrong.

  38. Quiet_Desperation

    Barton Paul Levensonon: How about: “QD doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” That seems more likely.

    I bow to your well reasoned intellectual discourse.

    Would you like some more rope, by the way?

  39. Aerimus

    Barton:

    “How about: “QD doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” That seems more likely.”

    Wow Barton, thanks for providing us with that wonderful insight while making it more difficult for those of us who do follow science yet still hold religious beliefs to actually be taken seriously. With childish comments like that, no wonder we can’t get any respect.

  40. Tom Marking

    “Science is completely the opposite approach in which evidence is valued over belief.”

    Assumption 7.) All reasonable people looking at the same piece of evidence will interpret it the same way.

    Corallary 7A.) In case they don’t, our interpretation (i.e., the interpretation of the scientific elite) should be considered the correct one. If they still persist then that is proof that they are unreasonable.

  41. Frumple

    Aw, poor little Barton-kitten. Reduced to one line insults because his intellectual capacity is all tapped out.

    C’mon. Hit us with another strawman where you fallaciously turn isolated comments about Newton into a generalized argument no one made. Quote us a relevant passage in the Bible or Torah or Koran or whatever your personal poison is. How about another trite, hoary, long-debunked example?

  42. Ender

    [[Assumption 7.) All reasonable people looking at the same piece of evidence will interpret it the same way.]]

    I don’t suppose you’ve heard about relativity then?

  43. g

    religion is a poison?

    i think what you mean is that greed, hatred, ignorance, & desire are poisons. the things that lead men to use religion as a weapon are the poisons. religion is something to be used on a PERSONAL level to conquer your own self-destructive states of mind. if the masses don’t realize it, you can’t hold it against them…there isn’t anyone leading by example.

    why not wage war on the real poisons? all you’re doing is making it worse for everyone.

  44. Christian X Burnham

    Ender: You mean quantum mechanics. There are many wildly different interpretations of QM, which all give the same predictions and all fit the data.

  45. Ender

    [[You mean quantum mechanics. There are many wildly different interpretations of QM, which all give the same predictions and all fit the data.]]

    No, I meant relativity. Quantum mechanics I’d use as an example of science coping with events that don’t have simple A-causes-B explanations. Relativity I use to show how science can explain problems where different observers see different results.

  46. Quiet_Desperation

    @Tom MArking

    1. If it’s not real then what is it? This is a silly abstraction.

    2. The whole order thing went out the window with the advent of quantum theory. There’s an entire science of chaos now.

    3. Relying on “what I can see or feel” is the realm of religion. cience builds devices capable of seeing and sensing things far outside the realm of normal human physical or temporal experience.

    4. Science long ago learned that perception can be untrustworthy, and has devised methods to mitigate the situation.

    5. No, the next step is to find a causal link between A and B. Leaving it like it is give mere correlation without causation. In fact, simple correlation without causation is a common cause of accusation of junk science.

    6. Well, this is statistics now, and it’s a much more complicated situation than you describe. It depends on the particular situation, the nature and frequency of the outlyers, and so forth. Far too much to go into here, but there are many books.

    7. Nonsense. Look up the Dawkins/Gould punctuated evolution debate mentioned in the Hitchen’s quote I posted. There is always debate. Debate is the lifeblood of science. Conformity is the lifeblood of religion.

    7A. Requote from above: “but we shall resolve it by evidence and reasoning and not by mutual excommunication.

  47. Tom Marking

    “I don’t suppose you’ve heard about relativity then?”

    I was thinking more along the lines of blackholes versus gravastars, emergent complexity versus natural selection, etc., etc.

  48. Matt Penfold

    I forget where I first got it from (it certainly was not an original thought of own) but I subscribe the idea that there is an axiom that science relies upon and it is this: “The Universe does not lie”. It is not really much of an axiom, as unless we assume that the universe is not something that was constructed with the appearance of age then there is nothing to be learnt by looking at it.

    On a totally separate points. Phil, any idea when your new book is planned for publication in the UK ? I finally gave into to my ban on buying any new books until I have made inroads into the pile I have waiting to be read, and ordered your first over the weekend.

  49. CXB writes:

    [[It is plainly false that a belief in religion is compatible with science, for exactly the reasons outlined by the BA above. ]]

    Sorry, but that’s “plainly false” only to you. Repeatedly making the same assertion does nothing to prove it. In fact, it’s dead wrong.

    Modern science was actually made possible by the Christian worldview, and when that worldview is gone, modern science won’t survive it for very long.

  50. Aerimus writes:

    [[Wow Barton, thanks for providing us with that wonderful insight while making it more difficult for those of us who do follow science yet still hold religious beliefs to actually be taken seriously. With childish comments like that, no wonder we can’t get any respect.]]

    Was I not deferential enough to my superiors, Aerimus? Should I have tugged the ol’ forelock a little bit more? Maybe you can give me lessons in ass-kissing.

  51. Ender

    [[“I don’t suppose you’ve heard about relativity then?”

    I was thinking more along the lines of blackholes versus gravastars, emergent complexity versus natural selection, etc., etc.]]

    Oh you’re saying sometimes scientists disagree. Well duh…

    However guess what the solution to the problem is… MORE SCIENCE! My science knowledge isn’t up to the level of black holes vs gavastars, but I do remember something about light being a wave… no a particle… no a wave… and somehow some more scientific investigation discovering a better explanation that explained both observations.

  52. Tom Marking:
    You’re trying remarkably hard to come up with a list of assumptions, aren’t you? Well, I don’t find them very convincing.

    “3.) My five senses (vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch) are sufficient to find out all the data I need about the universe.”

    No science says my senses are sufficient to find out *some* things about the universe – and only in the cases of well-designed experiments. No one claims that you must believe your senses can tell you “all the data”.

    Number 5 is a joke: “If I see event A happen just before event B many, many times then I know that event A causes event B (although “many, many” is never defined).” Science tries to tease-out the cause and effect. All you’ve done is try to make scientists and the practice of science into something stupid.

    Your numbers 4 and 6 are remarkably similar:

    “4.) My brain is capable of recognizing all relevant patterns brought to me by my senses.”

    “6.) I can construct a mathematical function relating feature A (e.g, time) to feature B (e.g., distance) by plotting a curve fit through data points. The random variations of the actual data points from the curve fit are observational error and may be ignored.”

    You’re number 7 is wrong, too. “Assumption 7.) All reasonable people looking at the same piece of evidence will interpret it the same way.”

    Actually, science is a way of teasing out the truth. If you don’t believe it, then do another, different experiment. It’s about finding arguments that convince people (or at least people who have a reasonable idea about the facts). Your “Corallary 7A” ignores the fact that science does accept that some things are merely hypotheses or that some things simply aren’t known. You’re obviously trying too hard to make science look authoritarian.

    All of this raises a question: why is is that the religious people on this thread are FAR more likely to attempt to tear-down science with stupid arguments, and then try to turn around and say they aren’t anti-science? This thread alone provides some interesting evidence for religious people’s anti-science views.

  53. Mike Torr

    Wow, Phil – this is one of the best things you’ve ever written. Thanks! :)

  54. ["it’s difficult to reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into."]

    Phil,

    That one line says it all–it’s not only succinct but apt.

    I’ve never commented here before (if you don’t count pingbacks, which you curiously post as comments), so let me take this opportunity to say that I absolutely loved your book, Bad Astronomy, and have thoroughly enjoyed your appearances at the Amaz!ng Meetings over the years–I’ve never been able to attend, but I purchase the DVDs “religiously” (sorry!) from the JREF.

  55. Ty

    “Modern science was actually made possible by the Christian worldview, and when that worldview is gone, modern science won’t survive it for very long.”

    Huh. That will come as a great surprise to the Greeks.

    “Modern science was actually made possible by the Christian worldview, and when that worldview is gone, modern science won’t survive it for very long.”

    I will reply using your own words, “Repeatedly making the same assertion does nothing to prove it. In fact, it’s dead wrong.”

  56. Aerimus

    Barton:

    “Was I not deferential enough to my superiors, Aerimus? Should I have tugged the ol’ forelock a little bit more? Maybe you can give me lessons in ass-kissing.”

    It’s not a matter of ass-kissing. But responding to someone that you disagree with just by saying “You don’t know what you are talking about” without actually saying anything of merit is about on the same level as a third grader in a school yard argument resorting to saying “well, you’re a poopy head!” In the end, you say nothing important and just make the rest of us look like immature morons.

  57. Beowulff

    Barton Paul Levenson said:

    When I feel a need for your advice, kitten, I’ll drop you a line.

    Way to show your misogyny. Is that mandatory where you come from? Did it come for free when you signed up with whatever religion you’re with? Most of what you post here seems nothing more than ad-hominems, and you seldom seem to respond to the arguments.

    As for your arguments, you don’t need to assume that the universe is real if you don’t want to. You don’t need to worry about how it works either. I just don’t think that if you did that, you’d be very successful at living at all. So your arguments are actually in favor of science: assuming the universe is real and trying to understand it works, which is why we do it.

  58. Christian X Burnham

    Hmm, modern science was made possible by the Christian worldview?

    Might want to tell that one to the (ethnically) Jewish physicists who dominated physics in the 20th century.

    Or maybe Abdus Salaam, the muslim Nobel prize winning physicist.

    Or the numerous great Indian physicists and mathematicians.

  59. Tom Marking

    “2. The whole order thing went out the window with the advent of quantum theory. There’s an entire science of chaos now.”

    Modern chaos theory is not the chaos I was talking about. Chaos theory still allows predictions. Philosophical chaos means totally unpredictable.

    “3. Relying on “what I can see or feel” is the realm of religion. cience builds devices capable of seeing and sensing things far outside the realm of normal human physical or temporal experience.”

    Hmm, I wonder how human beings know about the data those devices generate if not via their senses. Could it be telepathic communication?

    “4. Science long ago learned that perception can be untrustworthy, and has devised methods to mitigate the situation.”

    That said methods actually work is yet another assumption adding to the growing body of scientific faith.

    “5. No, the next step is to find a causal link between A and B. Leaving it like it is give mere correlation without causation. In fact, simple correlation without causation is a common cause of accusation of junk science.”

    And how to do you propose to find this causal link without observation of event A happening before event B? Whatever method you come up with is yet another assumption which must be believed in based on faith.

    “6. Well, this is statistics now, and it’s a much more complicated situation than you describe. It depends on the particular situation, the nature and frequency of the outlyers, and so forth. Far too much to go into here, but there are many books.”

    Whatever statistical methods you devise are yet more assumptions to add to the scientific faith pile.

    “7. Nonsense. Look up the Dawkins/Gould punctuated evolution debate mentioned in the Hitchen’s quote I posted. There is always debate. Debate is the lifeblood of science. Conformity is the lifeblood of religion.”

    Yeah, when I want advice about reasonable debate I need look no further than the reasonable Mr. Hitchens who is a paragon of tolerance for other viewpoints.

  60. Question everything and do away with preconceived notions.

    As long as religion and science stick to their ‘spheres of influence’ (or magisteria) there doesn’t need to be a war.
    Religion hasn’t anything useful to say about the physical universe, and science hasn’t anything (at all) to say about the supernatural, it just doesn’t deal with that stuff.
    I mean, how do you falsify a concept like God?

    Modern science was actually made possible by the Christian worldview, and when that worldview is gone, modern science won’t survive it for very long.
    Tell that to Galileo.

  61. SLC

    Re Barton Paul Levenson

    I find it interesting that all of Mr. Levensons’ examples of great scientists who were also religious are from the pre 20th century. In the 20th century, most of the great scientists were agnostics or atheists. Some examples below.

    Richard Feynman
    Murray GellMann
    Julian Schwinger
    Werner Heisenberg
    Paul Dirac
    Albert Einstein

    I suppose that Mr. Levenson will argue that those listed above were not really great scientists.

  62. SLC

    Re Barton Paul Levenson

    I would add Steven Weinberg to the above list.

  63. Pat

    Solopsistic sophistry ftl!

    Real: Immaterial. We use simulations all the time.

    Senses: see above.

    Can we test it, and repeat the test. That’s it. Model works, until test fails and we rework the model until again test and repeat the test.

    Faith: Can we test it? No. It’s not faith, then. If we rework it, we have a schism, fundamentalists, and probably two charismatics as a result rather than a modified faith. Faith is fissionable at best, but not pliant.

  64. alex

    dear dr.plait and bloggers:
    do you know that there is a thing call “Epistemology”????
    have you ever read something about that “thing”??
    do you know who was Thomas Kuhn?? do you know that he wrote a book called “The Structure of the scientific revolution”??? and the “paradigm shifts”??’
    and do you know something about his ideas of the “irrationality” of sciencie?
    what about the school of Edimburg???
    please take a read, and then, if you are sure of what are you saying, write.
    NOTE: i’m an agnostic, i also think that the modern science is the greatest achievement of western europe, and that “science” was always under attack from the “right” (religion) but to from the left too. (now under the name of “social sciences”
    again, i’m an spanish (in truth “castilian” spanish don’t exist) speaking person, so i’sorry if i make some mistakes

  65. Tom Marking

    Scientists of the 20th century who were religious:

    Francis Collins – director Human Genome Project
    Arthur Eddington – died 1944, British astrophysicist
    George Lemaitre – died 1966, Roman Catholic priest, cosmologist
    William Phillips – received Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997
    .
    .
    .

    I’m sure we can find many others. The point is not that religion involves faith. Duh, we all know that it does. The point being asserted by the original post is that science does not involve faith.

    I think people are confused by the word faith and are assuming it can only mean faith in a God or in a religion. There are many kinds of faith but at the root level they all involve belief without proof.

  66. Pat

    Alex, again – solopsism is a navel-gazing exercise for new philosophy majors. Science doesn’t have to care about philosophy; it really doesn’t. Science has no truck with meaning.

  67. semi

    Barton writes:

    “Modern science was actually made possible by the Christian worldview, and when that worldview is gone, modern science won’t survive it for very long.”

    You mean the Christian worldview that:

    1. Forced Galileo to recant helioscentrism, banned his book, and placed him under house arrest for his (correct) scientific deductions?
    2. Tortured and executed thousands of innocents under bogus charges of witchcraft, despite there being no real evidence of their guilt?
    3. Gave us the Spanish Inquisition and several thousand more people tortured and burned at the stake for ridiculous religious reasons?

    Here’s a good quote from Wikipedia on the effect of Christianity on science in the middle ages:

    “Christianity asserted religious certainty at the expense of scientific knowledge, by giving more explicit sanction to officially correct views of nature and scripture. Similar developments occurred in other religions. This approach, while it tended to temporarily stabilize doctrine, was also inclined toward making philosophical and scientific orthodoxy less open to correction, as accepted philosophy became the religiously sanctioned science. Observation and theory became subordinate to dogma. In Europe, scientists and scholars of the Enlightenment responded to such restrictions with increasing skepticism.”

    Well, you are correct in one aspect: modern science exists because of a Christian worldview. In fact, modern science is essentially a reaction *against* a Christian worldview full of superstition, dogma, supernaturalism and hearsay.

    So you got *that* going for you..

  68. Pat

    Tom: Faith is unprovable. Assumptions are testable. The fine difference is what makes up thumping on tomes.

  69. Ty writes:

    [[“Modern science was actually made possible by the Christian worldview, and when that worldview is gone, modern science won’t survive it for very long.”

    Huh. That will come as a great surprise to the Greeks.]]

    The scientific revolution began in four places and times: ancient Greece, the middle east of the dark ages, midieval Europe, and midieval China. It petered out in all of them except one — midieval Europe. That wasn’t because of random chance. The midieval Christians had come up with the doctrine of secondary causation — that God created a nature that could bring things to pass on its own, without constant divine intervention. That, and the belief in an orderly universe ruled by laws given by a law-maker, were what permitted modern science to succeed.

    In ancient Greece, nature was viewed as capricious — plants, animals, the Earth, the sky were alive, and could do things at any moment for any reason. The Earth was not an orderly place. And in discussing nature, Greek science held that you must proceed from first principles according to pure logic — NOT consult the evidence. Experiment was work, and work was fit only for slaves. Contrast the Christian idea of vocation, that all types of work were respectable, and that “ora labora est” (“work is prayer”).

    In the middle east, secondary causation was explicitly rejected. The pen moves, wrote one Arab philosopher, because Allah moves it, and the ink appears on the page because Allah puts it there — the two things are not connected; they only seem to be. With a philosophy like that, empirical science was stillborn.

    In China, experiment was considered a novelty, a novelty was a bad thing — the only learning worth having was knowledge of the classics, and if you had that, you could reason out any conclusion you needed about nature or anything else. Again, empiricism for empiricism’s sake was ruled out.

    So yes, the Christian worldview was what permitted modern science to arise, and the elimination of the Christian worldview will eventually take science with it. We see the signs already — multiverse theories are increasingly held instead of creation at the Big Bang because creation ex nihilo is “religious.” No matter that there’s zero empirical evidence for the multiverse — theory is more important than evidence. That’s the death knell of empirical science right there. Once the facts are bent to fit the conclusion, science per se is doomed.

  70. Beowulff writes:

    [[When I feel a need for your advice, kitten, I’ll drop you a line.

    Way to show your misogyny.]]

    Ah, so it’s okay for Michelle to be condescending and patronizing to me, but if I respond in kind, I’m wrong? Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t a double standard like that make you a flaming hypocrite?

    Way to show your misogyny.

  71. Tom Marking

    “Can we test it, and repeat the test. That’s it. Model works, until test fails and we rework the model until again test and repeat the test.”

    Then I guess the ancient Aztec worship of Huitzilopochtli (Hummingbird of the South) must have been science then:

    Test 1: Rip out hearts of 5,000 victims on steps of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan. Universe is saved. Expected result: Sun comes up next morning.

    Result 1: Sun came up the next morning. Model works.

    Test 2: Rip out hearts of 5,000 victims including some captured Spanish conquistadors who died screaming. Universe is saved. Expected result: Sun comes up next morning.

    Result 2: Sun came up the next morning. Model works.

    .
    .
    .

  72. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    The scientific method makes one assumption,

    Formal methods makes assumptions, empirical does not: the proof is in the pudding. (I.e. it works.) I learn from Jolly Blogger that I claim the same as Feynman – I could have worse predecessors.

    While the scientific method is the only known way to get to knowledge (which can be defined as “validated beliefs”, when dropping unnecessary philosophical presumptions, as noted here it shouldn’t be confused with unknowns such as metaphysics. Pretty much all we can say there has been summed up here – dualism is not an option, solipsism is unparsimonious, and religious views are either falsified or improbable.

    a metaphysical idealist (there is no matter, everything is ideas/information).

    As information is relative and any given measure can’t capture all structures, and ideas are contingent, I couldn’t accept such a view. I’m however sympathetic to Tegmark when he notes that matter is an unnecessary middle man between the math of physics and its observations.

    Which kind of sucks, because platonism sounds like another faith. (“Oh, math – math is great – it works surprisingly well (since we molded it after empirical observations of counting, grouping in sets, and what not) – let’s worship math.”)

  73. semi writes an extended ad hominem argument:

    [[You mean the Christian worldview that:
    1. Forced Galileo to recant helioscentrism, banned his book, and placed him under house arrest for his (correct) scientific deductions?
    2. Tortured and executed thousands of innocents under bogus charges of witchcraft, despite there being no real evidence of their guilt?
    3. Gave us the Spanish Inquisition and several thousand more people tortured and burned at the stake for ridiculous religious reasons?
    ]]

    I specified the Christian worldview of the middle ages, did I not? If you check — i.e., if you go by evidence, empirical research, rather than dogma — I think you’ll find that the heyday of the witch trials was the Renaissance, not the middle ages. Intellectuals of the middle ages did not believe in witchcraft. Thus a book like De Tonitruorum, arguing against the popular superstition that witches could affect the weather. Witch burning was a popular, bottom-up mass movement, which swept the professors out of the way. Thus the faculty at Tubingen issuing their famous declaration that it was “better to cure the mind than to torture and kill the body” where witchcraft was concerned.

    Do you understand why a belief in witchcraft which had been rejected during the middle ages might suddenly be embraced during the Renaissance? Can you think of anything which changed?

  74. “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules. That’s it.”

    Actually, I don’t think science even makes that assumption — at least not directly.

    I believe the assumption is “if we are to be able to understand the Universe, the Universe must obey a set of rules”.

  75. I don’t think it matters too much what assumption you start with: it’s what you do when you get feedback from following it that counts.

    What AIG seem to be relying on is the fallacy that assumptions must be self-confirming: if you start with ‘materialistic’ presuppositions you are incapable of discerning evidence for God. That sort of thing can work in mathematics (change the axioms and you get a different self-consistent system) but the real world hurts your toe no matter what you are believing when you stub it.

  76. Tom Marking:
    Then I guess the ancient Aztec worship of Huitzilopochtli (Hummingbird of the South) must have been science then:

    Your experiment is missing a control, in which no one is sacrificed, to see of the cause/effect still holds. Without verifying cause/effect, it’s not science.

  77. SLC

    Re Barton Paul Levenson

    Mr. Levenson also neglects to mention many of the French scientists of the 18th century who were not particularly religious. For instance , Laplace, who famously responded to Napoleons’ query about the contribution of god to the stability of the solar system by saying that he had no need of such a hypothesis.

  78. Test 2: DO NOT rip out hearts of 5,000 victims…

  79. And that the Universe is real in the first place.

    Whatever real is… If the universe is not real, then neither science nor religion matter. That “assumption” is a non-sequitur. In any case, one need not assume that the universe is real to carry on with science.

    And that it’s worth worrying about.

    As above, whatever “worrying about” it means. If the universe is not relevant, then neither science nor religion matter. That “assumption” is a non-sequitur. The statement is also factually incorrect because the universe is clearly worth worrying about simply BECAUSE some people do worry about it.

    And that it will continue to obey the same set of rules in the future that it has obeyed in the past (see David Hume for an extended discussion of that particular assumption).

    No, the scientific method would detect a change in the rules. In fact, the scientific method has SOUGHT changes in the rules, such as a changing speed of light, to explain some facets of the universe. And even though that turned out to be a dead-end, it was considered as an hypothesis, tested by experiment, and discarded.

    Science may PREDICT that the rules of the universe as they are today are the same as yesterday and will be the same tomorrow, but that is not assumed.

    Science is based on evidence, and science is based on assumptions, which are based on faith.

    On which faith is science based? You have shown no evidence that this claim is true, and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

    Sorry, you can’t confine faith to religion or to “antiscience.” All worldviews are based on faith at some point. Including yours. Arguments have to have premises.

    Your statements are factually incorrect. You have no argument.

  80. Tom Marking

    “Tom: Faith is unprovable. Assumptions are testable. The fine difference is what makes up thumping on tomes.”

    Yes, faith is unprovable but so are assumptions/axioms/postulates. I think I said this on another thread. If you didn’t have principles within the system that were not provable from within system, then all arguments within the system become circular and fall apart.

    Let’s take one of my original posited assumptions, say 3:
    My five senses are sufficient to find out all the data I need about the universe.

    Now, you might use that assumption to go off and study the workings of the eye, ear, etc. to find out how they work. Your conclusions would be dependent on that assumption (in mathematical terms your theorems would depend on your axiom). Now, let’s say you turn things around and you’re going to prove assumption 3 based on your research of the sensory organs.

    Well, now your research results become your new axiom but they were proven assuming axiom 3. Your new axiom proves the old axiom 3 which is essentially circularity. So if all assertions in the system are provable from within the system then all arguments within the system become circular. I don’t think that’s what you want. So you need your axioms/assumptions/postulates in science and that’s where faith comes in. There is no other basis for believing them.

  81. midieval

    I think you mean medieval. Of course, I’m making an unfounded assumption…

  82. Barton Paul Levenson :

    Frumple writes:
    [[Religion is POISON. Your own attitude here demonstrates it clearly.]]

    No, the attitude of prejudiced people like you is POISON.

    Wonderful example of the situation on the old BBSes that allowed me to derive The Rule Of (Neo)Conservative Correctness #14:
    Always take everything personally.
    Summary: Two neocons were debating two ‘liberals’ (def: non neocons) over who was a ‘bigot’. I posted a dictionary definition of the term to “all”.
    Immediate response: both neocons attacked me as claiming they were bigots. I saved their comments for about a week, then re-posted the entire thread in a message (only editing was to remove details, e.g. time and date of post and other redundant materials) including my observation that the original post I made was to “all” – not to either of them, and that it was no more than a dictionary definition.

    To their credit, both of them immediately dropped the thread after a post similar to the quote above from this blog… one more “well, I still say you’re a bigot”.

    J/P=?

  83. Tom Marking

    “Your experiment is missing a control, in which no one is sacrificed, to see of the cause/effect still holds. Without verifying cause/effect, it’s not science.”

    Was a control specified in Pat’s definition? He just said test the model to see if it works and it does in the Aztec case. Is there a control when we formulate our theories about dark energy, dark matter, etc.? What is the control when we dig up a dinosaur bone and theorize about what species it belongs to?

  84. And the rest of it is hopelessly poisoned by atheism.

    Which part would that be? I can look all over and see the damage wrought by religion.

    Where is the atheist damage?

  85. TheBlackCat

    The scientific revolution began in four places and times: ancient Greece, the middle east of the dark ages, midieval Europe, and midieval China. It petered out in all of them except one — midieval Europe. That wasn’t because of random chance. The midieval Christians had come up with the doctrine of secondary causation — that God created a nature that could bring things to pass on its own, without constant divine intervention. That, and the belief in an orderly universe ruled by laws given by a law-maker, were what permitted modern science to succeed.

    I was under the impression that in Europe that modern science began in the Renaissance with the translation of Greek manuscripts (about the same time as the loss of the stranglehold the Catholic church had on religion in western Europe) but didn’t being to reach maturity and being flourishing until the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century. This also corresponded to a period of increased religious tolerance and decreased influence of religion on society. Deism became particularly popular during this era. Overall the middle ages, although not devoid of scientific progress, produced considerably little scientific progress compared to the renaissance, age of reason, age of enlightenment, and the modern era that followed. Each produced considerably more progress than the previous, and for the most part each having less overall influence of religion on society and increased religious tolerance and diversity.

  86. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    The scientific revolution began in four places and times: ancient Greece, the middle east of the dark ages, midieval Europe, and midieval China.

    The scientific revolution was a long process, but not that long. Most would place its beginnings at the 16th century. This coincides with mercantilism, and while I’m not a historian I would assume that the necessary technology got its boost with capitalism.

    However we cut the cake, religion and especially Abrahamic religions had very little to do with empirical science. They mostly suppressed it, as knowledge is dangerous to faith and new knowledge is dangerous to an existing societal order.

    In China, experiment was considered a novelty, a novelty was a bad thing — the only learning worth having was knowledge of the classics, and if you had that, you could reason out any conclusion you needed about nature or anything else. Again, empiricism for empiricism’s sake was ruled out.

    Again, I’m not a historian, but I can’t square that with chinese mathematics which by all accounts was much more empirical than greek. Instead of relying on formal models they developed a method and then applied it exhaustively in an empirical fashion. Quite like scientists may choose to do today at times.

    On the contrary, trying to learn more I find this:

    Needham argued, and most scholars agreed, that cultural factors prevented these Chinese achievements from developing into what could be called “science”.[3] It was the religious and philosophical framework of the Chinese intellectuals which made them unable to believe in the ideas of laws of nature: [...] [My emphasis.]

    But later:

    More recent historians have questioned political and cultural explanations and have focused more on economic causes.

    which of course seems to tie in with my speculations above.

  87. Pat

    Ah, funny Tom. Funny you always come up with absurd extremes, but really never argue a point.

    That’s not a test.

    Their faith makes them believe there is an association; testing it would be stabbing somebody at midnight (does the stabbing really cause the sunrise?), or not stabbing them next morning.

    You know; apostasy. Sacrelige. The same accusation that killed Socrates, put Galileo under house arrest, and threatens to mire Florida in the 1840′s.

  88. Quiet_Desperation

    Well, Tommy, your main point seem to be that “we cant trust any observation whatsoever” so I give up. It’s an utterly anti-intellectual position. It’s really just a (barely) more sophisticated version of closing your eyes, plugging your ears and chanting to yourself that nothing exists.

    But I’ll bet you can play a mean pinball. ;-)

    And the Aztecs were not conducting expereiments. They were following their religion. If they had been scientific, a control experiment where they DIDN’T tear out a heart, and the sun still came up, would have put an end to their brutal sacrifices.

    Bemusing tangent: In Alan Moore’s “Tom Strong” comics, there’s a parallel Earth where the Aztecs *were* scietifically minded. When the Spanish came, the Conquistadors were met by Aztecs weilding automatic weaponry. The Aztecs went on to conquer the world and a couple thousand other parallels before being stopped. They had a facade religion, and even a serpent god that they built themselves. It was subversive actions by the serpent god’s artificial intelligence that was theur undoing.

  89. JimV

    BPL, in re:

    “The midieval Christians had come up with the doctrine of secondary causation — that God created a nature that could bring things to pass on its own, without constant divine intervention. That, and the belief in an orderly universe ruled by laws given by a law-maker, were what permitted modern science to succeed.”

    I liked the little essay of which that is a part, when I first saw you use it over at “Deltoid” (where you do good work rebutting climate-change denialists, by the way). However, granting its factual status (which I am in no position to refute), it does not lead in my mind to the conclusion that science owes a debt to Christianity in general, but rather to some specific Christians who were open to reason and empirical evidence. To this day there are professed Christians who are quite hostile to science (yourself not among them), so it is hard for me to accept that science gained a critical mass of acceptance at a time and place where Christianity dominated due to the innate benificience of Christianity rather than as an historical accident.

  90. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    If you didn’t have principles within the system that were not provable from within system, then all arguments within the system become circular and fall apart.

    If you insist on making non sequitur arguments on formal systems, I will use Gödel and claim that the methods used in his first incompleteness theorem not only provides such results but show that any sufficiently advanced formal system can be extended to cope with all observations.

    But we shouldn’t confuse formal methods with empirical science. A theory and the facts that it contains by its predictions are circular (if it is complete). Going full circle back to the argument that which makes observational science work is that it … is observed to work.

    [Oh, you can make up elaborate schemes whereby observational data are pulled back from nature by observations. But instead we can note that if a complete theory is circular by definition, and hopefully isomorphic to the underlying nature, doesn't it mean that nature is "circular" too?

    So maybe anthropic principles tell us the correct physics because they too work by observations, avoiding the formal dilemma. :-P ]

  91. Pat

    Tom, solopsistic sophistry.

    Nothing is certain; but you know what?

    Science doesn’t care about meaning.

    Again, Tom – science doesn’t care. It doesn’t care that you worry that all assumptions are predicated on one assumption, and therefore a stack of lies upon also lies.

    You equate this with faith.

    Faith would be screaming in terror and soiling onesself that the lies and also lies would collapse and take one’s worldview with it.

    Science insetad is getting up in the morning and shaking that stack. If it doesn’t fall down, one gets on with one’s day.

    Why do you think Einstein wondered about people in elevators, on trains, and in spaceships? Why wonder about that? Faith would say you see the same thing. Science asks and tests. Constantly.

    Science is not faith. It might be based on the shared assumption that things exist, but at that point it ceases worrying. Paralyzation through endless navel-gazing is not going to get you that grant or cure polio.

  92. g

    everyone here sounds pretty faithful to me

  93. Tom Marking

    “That’s not a test.”

    How is it not a test? It’s a repeatable action which has a predicted result. The observed result agrees with the prediction. Now, you may say they are obligated to try all sorts of actions to see what the result is in each case, but why should they bother to as long as their model accurately predicts what will happen? And how many modern scientists spend their time trying to come up with alternative explanations for time dilation when they know full well that Einstein’s special theory of relativity adequately explains the data?

    And the reference to “mire Florida in the 1840’s” has flown over my head into the stratosphere. I’m racking my brain thinking … Florida … 1840′s… Hmmm. Wasn’t Florida a Spanish colony at the time? So when you say “mired like Florida in the 1840′s” I know just what you mean as I frantically turn the dial on my AM radio searching for someone who puede hablar Ingles. Not sure if that’s what you were referring to.

  94. Pat

    Funny, G. Next time you attend wherever, ask if you can perform some experiments like drinking the font of whatever, or reversing the ceremony. See what it gets you.

    Science says knock yourself out. You might find something new.

  95. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Maybe I should add to my last comment that I sincerely hope nature is “circular”, implying complete and self sufficient. Not that my absent metaphysics care, but I would sleep better at night…

  96. Todd

    Mr. Levenson,

    I find your comment that a Christian worldview, particularly that of medieval Europe, made modern science possible and is essential for it to continue rather perplexing. Modern science is the collection and incorporation of all scientific discovery since humans first made observations. It is built on past discoveries and moves forward regardless of any particular religious worldview.

    You mentioned scientific revolutions in areas outside of medieval Europe. Modern science incorporates many discoveries from these areas/eras because of what they have found and explained, not how they fit into a Christian worldview. Take, for example, rocketry. This field would not have been possible without the scientific work undertaken by non-Christian China and their discovery and development of gunpowder.

    You claim that scientific revolutions petered out in the dark ages middle east, China and ancient Greece, but did not in medieval Europe. Actually, scientific discovery never really flourished in Europe until the Renaissance, when a totalitarian control over knowledge by the Christian church gave way to free inquiry and acceptance that the individual actually mattered. Mediveal Christians destroyed a hell of a lot of knowledge that did not fit with their worldview or threatened their control.

    Your claim regarding ancient Greece and their view that experimentation is work and work is only fit for slaves is false, in some degree. Experimentation led to the observation that the Earth is, in fact, round. Further, the view that nature was chaotic likely was a result of a young grasp of scientific knowledge about the world, one that we have now, though still limited.

    As for China, the squashing of novel experiment [which did not directly benefit those in power] may have arisen from a dogmatic reverence for the classics. A similar phenomenon can be seen in the Bible literalists of today: a discovery does not fit a literal interpretation of the Bible, therefore it is either a) false, b) useless triviality, or c) both.

    I guess what I’m trying to get at, is that the view that the universe is rule-driven and that nature can run on its own without any divine intervention is not necessarily a Christian viewpoint (and indeed runs contrary to a stricter, dogmatic Christian interpretation). Also, that bursts of scientific discovery occur and will continue the world over, until they are stopped and suppressed by dogma and totalitarianism.

  97. Pat

    Tom, if you don’t get why that’s not a test, I suggest you stay far away from science. And yes, we do constantly test Einstein, and refine the measurements for the actual effect to check his calculations.

    Pay attention: creationism trying to turn back to before Darwin.

  98. TheBlackCat

    Let’s take one of my original posited assumptions, say 3:
    My five senses are sufficient to find out all the data I need about the universe.

    Now, you might use that assumption to go off and study the workings of the eye, ear, etc. to find out how they work. Your conclusions would be dependent on that assumption (in mathematical terms your theorems would depend on your axiom). Now, let’s say you turn things around and you’re going to prove assumption 3 based on your research of the sensory organs.

    Well, now your research results become your new axiom but they were proven assuming axiom 3. Your new axiom proves the old axiom 3 which is essentially circularity. So if all assertions in the system are provable from within the system then all arguments within the system become circular. I don’t think that’s what you want. So you need your axioms/assumptions/postulates in science and that’s where faith comes in. There is no other basis for believing them.

    This only works if you are using a deductive argument and not an inductive one. A deductive argument starts from initial premises and using formal rules draws conclusions based on those premises. If science was based on that sort of system than using the conclusions to prove the premises would indeed be circular. But science does not use deductive logic, it does not use proofs and it does not use premises. It uses evidence. Evidence can never prove a given conclusion (or disprove it if you are willing to get really picky), it can only increase or decrease its likelihood of being correct. In this case using something assumed initially as evidence to support that assumption is valid in some cases.

    For instance, to use your example if our five senses were not sufficient to learn about the universe then there would be situations which are five senses are not sufficient. We have numerous such examples, for instance seeing outside of the visible spectrum, so we developed mechanisms to expand our senses. To give a more concrete example, evidence indicated communicable diseases were real but were being causes by something invisible to our senses. Expansions of our senses (microscopes initially) allowed us to observe these organisms directly. We have been very successful at determining when our existing sensing capabilities are too limited to answer certain questions and have then gone about expanding our sensing capabilities. Space telescopes like Hubble are a great example. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN is another.

    If there were things that were fundamentally inaccessible to our senses no matter how were to expand them then we should be able to detect that by means of evidence we cannot collect. And we do that all the time. We know that we cannot directly observed particular events prior to a certain point (for instance we cannot directly observe the extinction of the dinosaurs). We know that we cannot simultaneously measure the velocity and position of a particle past a certain resolution for both. We know we cannot directly observe the behavior of animals for which no DNA is left. We know we cannot observe events that have not happened yet.

    So the problem you describe is not at all a concern for inductive logic since it does not rely on premises, only evidence, and it does not rely on proofs, only probabilities.

  99. Tom Marking:
    “I’m racking my brain thinking … Florida … 1840’s… Hmmm. Wasn’t Florida a Spanish colony at the time?”

    “The Adams-Onís Treaty was signed between the United States and Spain on February 22, 1819 and took effect on July 10, 1821. According to the terms of the treaty, the United States acquired Florida and, in exchange, renounced all claims to Texas. Andrew Jackson formally took control of Florida from Spanish authorities on July 17, 1821 at Pensacola.”

  100. Tom Marking

    “A theory and the facts that it contains by its predictions are circular (if it is complete).”

    Huh? Speaking scientifically, that would mean finding the T. rex bone (a fact) proves the theory of natural selection AND the theory of natural selection proves the T. rex bone. Hmmm, I’ve got to think about that one. I thought observations, facts, whatever you want to call them stand by themselves. They are not provable from the theory as far as I know. I’m not even sure that would have any meaning.

  101. alex

    pat:
    sorry, i’m not agianst you, but 1) “science” is a “brach” of philosophy (don’t you remember socrates, plato, et.al??), as ethic, esthetic, etc. 2) epistemology studies science and it is teach in my university (and i think in yours univesities too) My professor (i think all the rest do the same) said that “sciende” is a “paradigm” made by the society to cope with the external world. and have the same value of a religion!!!! and he is marxist!!!!
    and if you think that science don’t need etimology i think you are right, but if the univesitaries begin thinking that science = religion, we are in a big trouble…
    i think that all of you must read and take note of social science teachings…

  102. g

    it’s obvious that there is no other approach to take Pat. no one here has the desire to actually better anything other than their own egos. mending our society, who would wanna do such a thing? the bigger the ego, the bigger the shadow. the more you swear your faithfulness to the Scientific method, and don’t bother to understand what life has taught any of your other brothers… the bigger the cultural rift grows until we all fall down.

  103. I want to second Jolly Blogger (and Dr. Feynman), above. You have one too many assumptions, Phil.

    Imagine we lived in a universe in which the law of gravity had a random element. If I built a catapult to carefully launch an object with the same force every time, the height and distance it would travel would vary every time in an unpredictable fashion. Heck, sometimes, when you launched the object, it would shoot *down* and break the catapult!

    I could still use the scientific method to determine that the universe does NOT “obeys a set of rules” (at least where gravity is concerned). In this example, I am obviously glossing over the fact that life would be likely to arise or exist long in such a universe…

    The only assumption of science is that the observations I make have a direct (albeit imperfect) relationship to reality. Obviously, a very early and obvious conclusion of science in the universe we actually live in is that it IS a universe of rules. But, that’s not an axiom of the scientific method – just a very, very early conclusion.

  104. Ender

    [[Ah, funny Tom. Funny you always come up with absurd extremes, but really never argue a point. ]]

    To be fair he is arguing the main point of this thread: is science faith-based. He’s saying, form what I can work out, that because currently our scientific knowledge doesn’t explain everything, everything that science has proved so far is based on assumptions at some level – even if that is “causality will continue to work” – and thus is based on faith.

    Scientific investigation may well be able to prove that the 5,000 hearts theory is wrong, but that doesn’t mean that when science says something positive it isn’t based on some level of assumption. Classifying dinosaur bones makes many assumptions.

    Remember the argument here isn’t “which is a better method of discovering knowledge: faith or science” but whether science, or scientific theories, are based on some level of faith.

    Personally I don’t think science is based on faith, given that science will always change whenever an area of assumption, or faith, is explained. However I’m sure Tom will tell us why that involves an assumption itself…

  105. TheBlackCat

    Speaking scientifically, that would mean finding the T. rex bone (a fact) proves the theory of natural selection AND the theory of natural selection proves the T. rex bone.

    Read it again. He said “predictions”, not “proofs”. Finding the T rex bone (or, rather, the fact that the T rex bone exists) provides evidence for natural selection specifically because it fits with the predictions made by natural selection. Hence the circularity (I think that is what he meant).

  106. Tom Marking

    “Faith would be screaming in terror and soiling onesself that the lies and also lies would collapse and take one’s worldview with it.”

    LOL. Don’t know where you’re getting this one from. Perhaps the same place as: FATALITY! FATALITY! FATALITY! Remember that one?

    Anyway, take a look at
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faith

    Function: noun
    1 a: allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1): fidelity to one’s promises (2): sincerity of intentions
    2 a (1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust
    3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

    I’m using definition 2b(1). Which one are you using?

  107. TheBlackCat

    My professor (i think all the rest do the same) said that “sciende” is a “paradigm” made by the society to cope with the external world. and have the same value of a religion!!!!

    I see. Of course if one professor says it then it obviously must be true, right? No professor has ever been wrong before, right? No need to actually deal with the arguments or evidence put forth in these comments and countless others, just citing one professor is enough.

  108. bassmanpete

    the proof is in the pudding.

    No, the proof is in the EATING.

  109. TheBlackCat

    I’m using definition 2b(1). Which one are you using?

    The one that doesn’t make the existence of the universe a matter of faith. That is, every other definition there (or your definition if you replace “proof” with “evidence”).

    You are using the standard equivocation fallacy. We are talking about faith in a specific sense, that is accepting something without (or directly contrary to) the evidence. In fact Phil specifically states this right up front:

    Faith, as it is interpreted by most religions, is not evidence-based, and is generally held tightly even despite evidence against it. In many cases, faith is even reinforced when evidence is found contrary to it.

    Yet you ignore this, ignore the definition used by everyone else here. Instead you pick a definition that, in the manner you are using it, everything must be faith. And of course you don’t actually tell anybody that you are changing definitions on them, you just secretly pick a different definition that fits your purposes and then start debating that while everyone else thinks you are still using the definition they are using.

  110. William

    I agree that ‘science’ is not faith-based, as a process. That being said, I am sure you have met individual scientists or groups of scientists that seem to latch onto particular paradigms pretty damn hard. You almost have to wait for the old guard to die off before the new models can start making progress.

    Would you disagree with that?

  111. Tom Marking

    “To be fair he is arguing the main point of this thread: is science faith-based. He’s saying, form what I can work out, that because currently our scientific knowledge doesn’t explain everything, everything that science has proved so far is based on assumptions at some level – even if that is “causality will continue to work” – and thus is based on faith.”

    Not only that, I would argue that ANY system of human thought, whether it be science, religion, mathematics, etc. involves principles that are assumed to be true without proof.

  112. Todd

    Tom,

    By your definition of faith, “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”, and adding in the definition for proof “noun 1. evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth” (from dictionary.com), science actually is not faith-based.

    Through science, we observe a phenomenon, make a guess as to how that works, make a prediction based on the evidence, then test our prediction against more evidence. If something doesn’t fit, we change our guess and our prediction, then test again. Once there is sufficient evidence to establish the truth of our guess/prediction (i.e., proof), then belife in that guess/prediction is not based on faith.

    Science, therefore, eradicates faith, by definition.

  113. Tom Marking

    “The one that doesn’t make the existence of the universe a matter of faith”

    Which one was that in Webster’s again?

    “ignore the definition used by everyone else here.”

    And which one was that in Webster’s?

  114. Todd

    And, since we’ve started dealing with definitions, here’s one for “science” from the American-Heritage Dictionary, which I believe is what most in the thread mean when they say “science”:

    “n. 1. a. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.
    b. Such activities restricted to a class of natural phenomena.
    c. Such activities applied to an object of inquiry or study.”

  115. TheBlackCat

    Which one was that in Webster’s again?

    Please read what I posted again:

    The one that doesn’t make the existence of the universe a matter of faith. That is, every other definition there (or your definition if you replace “proof” with “evidence”).

    (emphasis added)

    You seem to really like asking questions that have already been answered, especially questions that are answered in the sentence after the one you quote.

    And which one was that in Webster’s?

    Why should we have to follow one of Webster’s definitions when the definition we are using is in the original post? And why Webster’s when there are many other dictionaries out there. And who gave you the right to pick which dictionary we are using? How about the American Heritage Dictionary:

    faith (f?th) Pronunciation Key
    n.

    1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
    2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief, trust.
    3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one’s supporters.
    4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.
    5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
    6. A set of principles or beliefs.

    Definition 2 there matches Phil’s definition exactly, and it would match yours if the used “evidence” in place of “proof”.

  116. TheBlackCat

    It seem italics don’t show up on block quotes, what I was trying to emphasize was the sentence immediately after the one Tom quoted:

    “That is, every other definition there”

  117. Potterbro

    Language is created by man and is used under the assumption that when it is communicated to another person they are properly relayed the information that was intended to be conveyed.

    Tom Marking has put out an argument about how anything involving human thought, including language, relies on faith and despite how many times we can read various books… we really can’t say that we know what the person is trying to say. To say we know exactly what they are saying is to have faith that we can comprehend language.

    So, while I see him making some argument about the role of human perception in science… he could just as well be telling us a delicious recipe for cookies… and we are just biased and driven to believe otherwise.

    Try French… i’m really interested in this recipe!

    Merci Beaucoup

  118. Kevin

    Well, I’m not usually one to comment on these things but I think that this article has a logic flaw at the very beginning.

    Our good friend Phil quotes the following as incorrect:

    “Everyone, scientist or not, must start their quests for knowledge with some unprovable axiom—some a priori belief on which they sort through experience and deduce other truths. This starting point, whatever it is, can only be accepted by faith; eventually, in each belief system, there must be some unprovable, presupposed foundation for reasoning”

    So, apparently, science does not need any starting axiom. He then follows with the line:

    “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules.”

    Which is… an axiom. Admittedly, it’s a very reasonable axiom (along with the underlying axiom that there is such a thing as the Universe) but it is still an axiom.

  119. TheBlackCat

    @ Kevin:

    It is not an axiom in the conventional sense because it is backed up by evidence. It is not just “presupposed”, it is not only accepted by faith, it is accepted because it works. There are no known instances where the universe does not obey rules, no matter how closely or how broadly we look at the universe. An axiom has no evidence behind it, it is a basic rule on which a system is built. That the universe follows rules is a basic rule on which science is built, but it is also backed up by evidence.

  120. I am amazed that in the 120+ comments here, there has been not one mention of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems.

  121. Christian X Burnham

    (Uh, I’m just echoing my agreement with the BA in this comment. I think he got it exactly right the first time. The BA really nailed it on this one.)

    It’s true that inductive logic is a bit of a puzzle to philosophers of science and that we can’t really be sure that the universe operates according to natural laws.

    It’s possible that a magical leprechaun moves all the particles in the universe with a little stick. It’s also possible that Satan buries dinosaur bones under the ground to tempt the unfaithful into believing evolution. Maybe God set up the photons from stars to make it look like the universe is billions of years old when in fact it was created only a few millennia ago. It’s also conceivable that we’re all floating brains in briny tanks and that ‘life is but a dream’.

    So yes, it’s true that individual scientists accept, probably without giving it much thought, that the universe runs according to physical laws and isn’t deliberately set up to deceive them.

    Yes we can’t prove that leprechauns don’t make electrons spin around atomic nuclei. But that’s not the point.

    The point is that we only make progress if we assume that the universe is rational. It’s a demonstrable fact that science has got us to the Moon and back, whereas prayer has not been shown to have any effect whatsoever.

    We will never be able to disprove the existence of miracles or magic, but we do know that belief in supernatural causes is of no help when trying to make a toaster, or in making predictions about quantum tunneling in nuclei.

    Answers in Genesis may be excellent Biblical scholars (I doubt it), but it’s a sure bet that they and their adherents won’t be making any progress in solving our energy crisis, or developing nanotechnology, etc. etc. Studying the Bible just doesn’t get us anywhere when solving scientific problems.

  122. TheBlackCat

    I am amazed that in the 120+ comments here, there has been not one mention of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems.

    Torbjörn actually mentioned it here. [Link edited by The Bad Astronomer for formatting reasons]

  123. Glo

    I’ve struggled with a couple of thumpers over time. What I see in many thumpers is that they have zero tolerance for the unknown. Rather than try a rational explanation or simply leave it as “science has not explaned that yet”, they make “the leap of faith” and declare that their deity did it. At that point, the conversation is over. Any further discussion is disrespecting their religious beliefs.

    I’ve given up. Thumpers are delusional psychotics and should be institutionalized.

  124. Alex:
    My professor (I think all the rest do the same) said that “science” is a “paradigm” made by society to cope with the external world. And has the same value as a religion!!!! and he is Marxist!!!!

    Fashionable post-structuralist humbug. Never trust a French philosopher.
    (And Marxism is fashionable 19th century humbug. Never trust a German philosopher.)
    I’m sure that that professor doesn’t teach science, and knows preciously little about it.

  125. Brett, I don’t think the assumption is unwarranted. There is randomness in the Universe, of course: quantum mechanics demands it. But that randomness still follows rules. We don’t know when a particular uranium nucleus will decay, but put a few x 1020 of them together and we can predict how many will decay over time with high accuracy.

    Even randomness follows rules.

    As far as solipsism goes, feh. I think it makes for fine discussions late at night in college bull sessions, but as a real philosophy it’s a dead end. If you cannot study it, and it has no evidence or effect, then how is that any different than it not existing?

    People have been making lists of other things we need to assume, but I don’t think any of that is terribly relevant. Observations don’t have to be the same everywhere, but the set of rules governing those observations does (I don’t see the same stars in Boulder as I do in Sydney, but that’s because the Earth blocks my view; other wise I would see the same stars). Local effects can be counted for in observations (like light aberration, parallax, the fact that we live in a spiral galaxy, and so on).

    I am talking about basic stuff here, not nitpicks. Think globally!

  126. In short, philosophy is humbug.

    Equal opportunity dis. :)

  127. Christian X Burnham

    Einstein said it best: “God is subtle, but he is not malicious”.

    (Of course, this being Einstein you have to translate God=laws of physics.)

    Famously, Einstein also claimed that “God does not play with dice”, to which Bohr apparently responded “Stop telling God what to do!”

  128. jake

    You’re preaching to the choir, friend.

  129. revmonkeyboy

    Well, we have no need to have “faith” that the universe will follow rules. We need only have that as a hypothesis. If the universe did not follow any rules that hypothesis could be flushed down the drain. It is not faith, it is tests that have shown this to be so. Many wild ideas have been tested and failed, and abandoned. Others have passes the tests repeatably. Evolution, math, physics have many theories that have passes every test thrown at them. If anyone doubts the tests, they only need to test it themselves. The basic theories have been doubted, and retested. That is the ONLY reason that these theories are held in such high regard. Not faith. It seems odd that the people who will doubt so much proof, refuse to doubt their own faith. Doubt is the basis of advancement in science, other world views only pay it lip service.

  130. Tom Marking

    “I am amazed that in the 120+ comments here, there has been not one mention of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems.”

    I was going to bring it up but I have been severely chastised for equating science to a formal system even though I believe there are close similarities. Of course, Godel said that given any formal system there are true statements that are unprovable from within the system. It supports my position but I am forbidden from using it. Drat.

  131. @Tom Markingon 18 Feb 2008 at 1:07 pm

    You said a bunch of stuff – I’ll to address them…

    [quote]… It seems to me that there are a great many assumptions that the scientific method makes, not just one… Some other assumptions are:[/quote]

    I don’t mean to quote mine or anything, forgive the ellipses please.

    [quote]1.) The universe is real[/quote]

    Actually, I don’t think this assumption is necessary. It might be real. It might be unreal. If I can devise a test to tell, I test this and mark it done. I don’t need the universe to be real. Just to operate according to a set of rules.

    JBS

    … BA – is there a way to turn on previews for comments? I always find spelling and grammar errors after hitting submit!

    [quote]2.) The universe has order[/quote]

    I suppose that is contained in the one assumption that the universe operates according to rules.

    [quote]3.) My five senses … are sufficient to find out all the data I need about the universe.[/quote]

    Are you suggesting we don’t need radio telescopes? I don’t make this assumption.

    [quote]4.) My brain is capable of recognizing all relevant patterns brought to me by my senses.[/quote]

    Specifically not assumed. My brain and senses can easily be tricked. So tests are designed to determine when that is occurring. In fact, there is a whole branch of science that deals with that.

    [quote]5.) If I see event A happen just before event B many, many times then I know that event A causes event B[/quote]

    Actually, you’re pushing too hard for causality. We devise a test to see if we can may B happen without A. We devise a test to see if A always precedes B. We test it. We don’t assume it.

    [quote]6.) I can construct a mathematical function relating feature A (e.g, time) to feature B (e.g., distance) by plotting a curve fit through data points. The random variations of the actual data points from the curve fit are observational error and may be ignored.[/quote]

    Er, what? Math isn’t the be all, end all, though it is a very useful abstraction. But how is that an assumption. Sometimes we find we can’t make a nice curve that fits the data. We don’t ignore that data! We also note that we apparently don’t know enough yet to describe the feature (such as once upon a time when Sir Newton noted the aberration in the orbit of Mercury and couldn’t make the math work). If we have error bars needed to include all the data, then we know we need to do more research. We don’t give up and say, well that’s as good as we can measure it. Even the speed of light is constantly retested to refine the accuracy.

    [quote]And on and on. All of these assumptions must be believed without proof and thus, constitute faith.[/quote]

    I disagree. Wholeheartedly and without reservation. None of any assumption is required to be believed with out proof. Now on the initial assumption, we work with it as a basis, but we are testing that assumption all the time. Any time we find something that invalidates that assumption, we will work to find out why and refine our base precept. But we don’t accept it on faith and faith alone. That would be absurd.

    [quote]And as to the argument that science is true because technology works, I can imagine 500 years ago the Aztec high priest making some kind of similar argument: …[/quote]

    Except the Aztec Priest would never test that assertion to see if it is true. Science would. Does.

    [quote]And there is one final assumption that I’m sure science students of now or days gone by can appreciate. And that is this: You’d better get the expected result in your Chemistry 101 lab or it means you screwed up and you’re going to get an F.[/quote]

    Possibly as an undergrad. They better not in real research! But again, that is not an assumption. Or were you just trying to be silly. I never can tell with sophists.

  132. baryogenesis

    Very late to add to this thread, but Ed Minchau, you must have missed T. Larsson’s comments @ 3:27pm.

  133. Tom Marking

    faith

    “2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief, trust.

    Definition 2 there matches Phil’s definition exactly, and it would match yours if the used “evidence” in place of “proof”.”

    O.K. Definition 2 is acceptable to me. I forget where you stand. Were you the one who said “faith” as defined here is not part of science at all? If so then it seems to contradict the initial post which talked about an assumption – which is nothing but a proposition taken on faith as defined in definition 2.

  134. Care to post some referers, Phil? From the first round of commenters, it seems you’re being linked from an ignorance society.

  135. baryogenesis

    Drat, very late indeed. Much more added btt I posted.

  136. Gary Ansorge

    I see you’re still trying to teach pigs to sing. How frustrating that must be.

    I guess this just proves Arthur Clark had a point. In this case we have a classic example of technology too advanced to be seen as anything other than magic, to most folk,,,I guess this also applies to the Scientifc Method.

    Bummer.

    GAry 7

  137. Melusine

    Bart Levinson said: Do you understand why a belief in witchcraft which had been rejected during the middle ages might suddenly be embraced during the Renaissance? Can you think of anything which changed?

    It was the Church, who usurped property and money in their pursuit of witches, as well as downsizing women’s role in society. That is the time the Catholic Church and its Popes became over-bloated with jewels. Nice, huh?

  138. TheBlackCat

    O.K. Definition 2 is acceptable to me. I forget where you stand. Were you the one who said “faith” as defined here is not part of science at all? If so then it seems to contradict the initial post which talked about an assumption – which is nothing but a proposition taken on faith as defined in definition 2.

    Read Phil’s post again. The whole point is that there is evidence that the universe follows rules. Therefor it does not follow that definition, which requires that there not be evidence.

  139. Tom Marking

    “If science was based on that sort of system than using the conclusions to prove the premises would indeed be circular. But science does not use deductive logic, it does not use proofs and it does not use premises. It uses evidence.”

    I did want to go back to something BlackCat posted which was that science is 100 percent inductive. I think there are two phases to science: 1.) model building, and 2.) model usage. So, let’s take gravity for example. Newton went out and collected data and tried to come up with a theory that accounted for it. That part of the process is indeed inductive. It involves a collection of observations, anything from the apple falling on his head (probably an apocryphal story), observations of the moon, sun, and planets. So he uses it to come up with the equation: F = GMm / r^2.

    The next part is model usage which is not inductive, but rather deductive. You use the model to make predictions. For example, where will Mars be in the sky on January 1st, 1690? Well, you can plug in a few parameters like the semi-major axis, eccentricity, position on some previous date, etc., etc., do some calculus and arrive at the prediction for the date in question.

    Now to be sure, phase 1 and phase 2 are locked in a loop. Observations are compared with predictions from phase 2 and any discrepancies can be used to tune the model developed in phase 1. But to say that science has no deductive logic to it at all is just not true.

    And as such, it should adhere to the same restrictions as any logical formal system insofar as its deductions are concerned. For example, the theory cannot predict that Mars will be a declination +5 deg on January 1st, 1690 and at declination -5 deg on January 1st, 1690. That would be a logical contradiction of the deductive system. So having the deductive part of things causes certain restrictions in the valid predictions.

    So science is a hybrid beast, not purely observational, and not purely theoretical/deductive/formal but somewhere in between.

  140. @ Tom Markingon 18 Feb 2008 at 3:49 pm

    [quote]I’m using definition 2b(1). Which one are you using?[/quote]

    Since I do not find that 2b(1) fits the endeavours of science particularly well, and I do not find any of the other definitions do, I’m not using a definition of faith concerning the endeavours of science.

    jbs

  141. Tom Marking

    BC: “Read Phil’s post again. The whole point is that there is evidence that the universe follows rules.”

    BA: “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules.”

    Gol darn it. Now look what you made me do. I have to go and use that dictionary again:

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assumption

    5b: a fact or statement (as a proposition, axiom, postulate, or notion) taken for granted

    If there’s evidence then you don’t have to take it for granted or treat it as an axiom. You folks are getting mighty slippery to pin down.

  142. IG

    I just spent 20 minutes formulating a response, prequiled with, “Note: I didn’t bother reading the above 140-odd comments, so if something is repeated here, I apologize.”

    Then I read a bunch, and realized everything I wanted to say has been said.

    In short, assuming regularity in the universe is bad philosophy but necessary of science. BA falters when he claims that science is different from the religious group’s definition, as the assumption of regularity is circularly logical (i.e. assuming the universe is regular/deterministic/causal/whatev’s, then we can use said regularity to predict future occurrences of regularity).

    However, he makes an excellent point with, “Faith, as it is interpreted by most religions, is not evidence-based, and is generally held tightly even despite evidence against it. In many cases, faith is even reinforced when evidence is found contrary to it.

    This, to me, is the pivotal difference between science and religious faith (not science and faith-without-the-religion). Science is pragmatic and draconian and wonderful and rational this way. Religion is the very opposite.

    So, given science must make certain assumptions about the regularity about our universe and thusly requires (what I like to call “small f”) faith, it is by no means a religion (as our observations have clearly shown, but so many religious folk claim).

    To this I say, “Ain’t science grand!”

  143. TheBlackCat

    So science is a hybrid beast, not purely observational, and not purely theoretical/deductive/formal but somewhere in between.

    Even if true, that doesn’t support your assertion that science depends on faith.

    If there’s evidence then you don’t have to take it for granted or treat it as an axiom. You folks are getting mighty slippery to pin down.

    Once again, you take a quote out of context and completely ignore the rest of the post which directly deals with what you said. Phil does say this, but then goes on to say this just two paragraphs later:

    From these observations we can apply mathematical equations to describe those motions, and then use that math to predict where a given object will be at some future date. Guess what? It works. It works so well that we can shoot probes at objects billions of kilometers away and still nail the target to phenomenal accuracy. This supports our conclusion that the math is correct. This in turn strongly implies that the Universe is following its own rules, and that we can figure them out.

  144. @ Tom Markingon 18 Feb 2008 at 6:35 pm

    [blockquote]I was going to bring it up but I have been severely chastised for equating science to a formal system even though I believe there are close similarities. Of course, Godel said that given any formal system there are true statements that are unprovable from within the system. It supports my position but I am forbidden from using it. Drat.[/blockquote]

    Funny, that. I laughed out loud. You are not forbidden to bring up Godel’s Incompleteness theorem. You may do so at your whim. However, it will be thoroughly trounced as irrelevant to the current discussion. That’s calling your bluff, not forbidding it.

    Godel’s Incompleteness theorem only applies to systems that can be proven solely using the logic and rules of that system. The universe, unlike logic and mathematics, is not an abstract invention of man designed to model aspects of the universe. It IS the universe. The universe does not attempt to describe itself using man made rules of logic and mathematics! It is not subject to Godel’s law. Science isn’t a system of logic – though it does make heavy use of various forms of logic in it’s pursuit, it is a system of refining models to explain the universe. Short of replicating the entirety of all existence, Science by definition will always be incomplete.

    And by definition, your argument is incomplete.

    JBS

    (Eventually I’ll figure out this quoting thing).

  145. Tom Marking

    “Through science, we observe a phenomenon, make a guess as to how that works, make a prediction based on the evidence, then test our prediction against more evidence. If something doesn’t fit, we change our guess and our prediction, then test again. Once there is sufficient evidence to establish the truth of our guess/prediction (i.e., proof), then belife in that guess/prediction is not based on faith.”

    The initial observation is a sensory perception. The prediction is a foretelling of a future sensory perception. You compare the predicted sensory perception versus the actual sensory perception. Everything is based on sensory data. You are still assuming my assumption #3 which is that your senses are adequate and giving you good data. If the prediction says that such and such object will be straight ahead, but there is something screwed up with your vision so that an object at an angle of 15 degrees appears to be straight ahead, then your observation will agree perfectly with the prediction, even though the real object is off by 15 degrees. Your theory will be verified even though it is false.

  146. Tom Marking

    “Science isn’t a system of logic – though it does make heavy use of various forms of logic in it’s pursuit, it is a system of refining models to explain the universe.”

    The deductive part of science is indeed a system of logic. The proof for this is that it is forbidden to make predictions that are logical contradictions. A prediction may NOT be like one the following:

    The fluid in the beaker will turn blue and the fluid in the beaker will not turn blue.

    The earth rotates counterclockwise as seen from Polaris and it also rotates clockwise as seen from Polaris.

    The average density of the earth is 5.5 gm/cm^3 and the average density of the earth is 0.5 gm/cm^3.

  147. Tim

    Guys try to remember that theres a big difference between fundamentalist / creationist and people who believe in religion normally.

    For example, I believe in God. Yet I have no issue accepting the findings out science.

  148. Tom Marking

    “So, given science must make certain assumptions about the regularity about our universe and thusly requires (what I like to call “small f”) faith, it is by no means a religion”

    I never claimed that science was a religion or equivalent to religion. If you want to call yours faith and theirs Faith, that’s fine by me. I never claimed that faith and Faith were the same anyway. Probably ‘nuf said on the topic.

  149. You touched on the particular thing that I always like to bring up.

    Let’s see them living without all the modernity that science has brought us.

  150. rguinn

    Evolution is faith-based. For example, all dating systems (especially potassium-argon dating) are trusted to be just as valid at any time in the past as it is now, even though we can’t go back in time and make sure of that. So the reliability of many dating systems are based on more faith than facts.

  151. Zach

    I’m not for organized religion, but I gotta say, logic and rationality are way overrated. Science may not be based on faith, but its based on another set of principles, which I find highly disagreeable for reasons I won’t explain myself right now. Try reading the dada and surrealist manifestoes.

  152. Erie

    What religious people who comment about the belief of science don’t understand is that if a system is built that works with evidence upon a foundation that is essentially a mystery, it still works. Even if we don’t know why quarks or whatever do what they do, we can still build a completely accurate system of knowledge around it. We can prove things with our mysteries–religion cannot say the same.

  153. TheBlackCat

    The initial observation is a sensory perception. The prediction is a foretelling of a future sensory perception. You compare the predicted sensory perception versus the actual sensory perception. Everything is based on sensory data. You are still assuming my assumption #3 which is that your senses are adequate and giving you good data.

    It is not an assumption. If our senses were giving us bad data then information based on this data would be wrong and so any predictions based off of it would be false. Even if our senses were somehow wrong that does not explain why we can move single atoms around with scanning tunneling microscopes. The only way all the predictions could be right yet our senses be giving us completely wrong information is for the universe to be specifically set up to give the same results as if our senses were correct. We are getting back into Matrix territory with that.

    If the prediction says that such and such object will be straight ahead, but there is something screwed up with your vision so that an object at an angle of 15 degrees appears to be straight ahead, then your observation will agree perfectly with the prediction, even though the real object is off by 15 degrees. Your theory will be verified even though it is false.

    That is why you compare your results to those of other people. If their vision is messed up in the same way then we would know because people would be unable to agree on the location of the object. If you try to triangulate the position based on the perceived direction of a bunch of people then the directions won’t line up on a single point. If they move these intersection points will move as well instead of staying stationary at the target. If we add a sound source to the object our hearing must also be off in the same manner. If the object hits us in the head it will hit us on the side of the head not on the front. If we move straight at it the it won’t hit us at all, but if we move off fifteen degrees to our right it will still hit us. If we add a radio beacon to the object the tracking device would tell us it is 15 degrees off to the side. If the object is metal and we aim a directional microwave transmitter at it the directional transmitter would only cause a reflection if it was straight ahead. We can attach a laser pointer to our head so that it shoot a beam straight ahead, but it won’t appear straight ahead. We can ask someone else to put their hand directly in front of our face, but it won’t appear to be directly in front of our face. There are numerous inconsistencies that would be evident if our visual perception was off by 15 degrees to the right.

    What would have to be the case is that our wrong perception fluctuates in such a way that when a group of people are looking at an object their perceived directions all intersect at a single point. These perceptions would have to change so that no matter how they move they all remain intersecting at the same, wrong point. It would have to be that our movements and other senses are also off by the same amount (and also that we somehow miss obvious, constant medical problems due to always walking funny). It would require that all our instruments are off in the same way, and that the amount and direction they are off is perfectly tuned to the constantly changing discrepancy of the one using it. If multiple people are using it they must somehow get different readings from the same device. The list of absurdities goes on and on. At a certain point you have to say that we have tested it enough, the evidence supports the conclusion that what we perceive as straight ahead is most likely fairly close to what is really straight ahead.

  154. Christian X Burnham

    Cool. This page has reached #1 on Digg. Doing pretty good on Reddit too.

  155. Quiet Desperation

    I see you’re still trying to teach pigs to sing. How frustrating that must be.

    And it annoys the pig.

  156. Yeah, and I think the server is on fire, too. :-)

  157. Soichi Hayashi

    >The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules. That’s it.

    Well, that means that science is also “faith-based”… Weather we call it an assumption or a fact, you have to believe that God is not in control your scientific experiments skewing results in ways that appear to follow its own rules.

    What the “Answer in Genesis” meant to say was that there are those who believes in what they believe (in religion), and those who “assume” that universe obeys its rule that we can understand. Whatever the method of understanding this world is, they are all based on some form of faith. (Have you prayed during your last science-lab just in case that doesn’t skew the result? Why not?)

    If I have to choose which method to use to understand this world, I would choose scientific method. I have a “faith” that it is the best tool available after all these millions of years of human evolutions. Religion, however, is as dead as astrology or alchemy.

  158. TheBlackCat

    Evolution is faith-based. For example, all dating systems (especially potassium-argon dating) are trusted to be just as valid at any time in the past as it is now, even though we can’t go back in time and make sure of that. So the reliability of many dating systems are based on more faith than facts.

    Now the creationists start coming out. First, evolution does not require dating methods period. It can be directly observed in the lab. Second, data systems are not trusted to be just as valid. This has been confirmed by comparing dating systems based on totally unrelated principles (like ice cores, carbon-14, and tree rings). If they were wrong then they wouldn’t be able to agree on the date for specific events. Some dating methods, particularly those that look very far in the past, have built-in checks. If there was a problem with the dating method then the data would not be self-consistent. Other methods, if there were a problem, would require fundamental changes in the nature of the universe which would be easily detectable. Further, if there were discrepancies then the our extremely sensitive analysis of the principles underlying these events (like radioactive decay) would have detected changes over time. So in order for these techniques to be wrong then both very closely related and very distantly related techniques must all be changing in completely different manners that still somehow always give the same wrong dates and those changes must not have affected very similar physical processes and these changes must have stopped just before we developed the technology needed to detect the changes. Forgive me if I consider that just a tad improbable.

  159. jay

    Dear author,

    A few things struck me as I read your thoughts.

    “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules.” A careful observer would ask how does this differ from, “The Universe was created by God and He created all the laws of physics, biology, chemistry, ect..

    You then go into a fair amount of detail of the scientific method but offer no reason why this denies faith. This Red Herring argument only prove there is, currently, an established method for doing scientific research. The concept of science suffers from Argumentum ad Verecundiam; science itself cannot be an authority only those working within science. I understand this may sound like splinting hairs but an argument which states science is not faith based cannot, therefore, say science is faith based because science says so.

    You also stated:

    “All the knowledge we have accumulated over the millennia comes together in a harmonious symphony of science. We’re not guessing here: this stuff was designed using previous knowledge developed in a scientific manner over centuries. And it works. All of this goes to support our underlying assumption that the Universe obeys rules that we can deduce.”

    “Are there holes in this knowledge? Of course. Science doesn’t have all the answers. But science has a tool, a power that its detractors never seem to understand.”

    Again, the universe obeys rules and the scientific community placed their faith in the scientific method to understand those laws, but this offers no tangible evidence for your argument. The whole argument seem based upon “post hoc ergo propter hoc”, a logical fallacy.

    Science does stem directly from religion, but hardly an evolution of it. Until the 19th century learned individuals used science to understand the world better, and thus God. Science has a stronger “mathematical” structure which sprouted from philosophy.

    This is where I start to rant:

    A better position to take on this issue would be science bases itself upon…err…science has an internal logic that does not allow outside “supernatural” being’s wills to shape. The law of gravity is itself the law of gravity untampered, unmovable by sentient life. Religion, itself, grounds itself within text that accept a consciouses force capable of manipulating the “the laws of physics” by two possible ways. One, working within those rules; two, as being the source of those rules capable of negating them entirely.

  160. Jake

    Tim wrote:

    “Guys try to remember that theres a big difference between fundamentalist / creationist and people who believe in religion normally.”

    Are you saying that fundamentalists and creationists are not normal religions?

    This website is a bunch of scientists who have a faith.
    http://www.asa3.org/

  161. jcarp

    So what is wrong with saying God set in place all of these laws that make up the Universe and then gave us the knowledge and ability to unravel his creation and figure out why things work the way they do? Why can’t you say that God himself is somewhat of a scientist and he wants everything to fall into place and work the way it is supposed to? Sure some people might disagree, but I think in this way, faith and science can be related to each other.

  162. James

    Science is based on faith. Science, as you stated, is based on the assumption that the universe obeys certain laws. That is a very vague way of saying that the universe has some kind of uniformity about it. That is, when you throw a ball up in the air, it comes back down. When you stub your toe, it hurrts. Science would be impossible if there were no unifimity. Philosophers call it the uniformity of nature and skeptic and philosophical great, David Hume, noted that this uniformity (what Hume called induction) has no rational warrant.

    Let me explain. Hume was well aware that we all assume that nature is uniform. That is, based on our past experiences we make inferences to the unknown future. If I stub my toe, it hurts and I try not to stub my toe again. But Hume also noted that we have no rational basis for making such an inference. The reason for this is because to say that tomorrow will be like today because the past was like today is to beg the question. When you beg the question (viciously) you argue in a circle and the conclusion assumes the premise in question. It is an error in reasoning. Well, hence it is with the uniformity of nature (also called the problem of induction).

    This may sound silly to the average reader (because of ignorance of the true problem), but philosophers have struggled with providing a rational justification for induction for centuries and it is a huge problem in philosophical circles.

    The point here is that, contrary to your claims, while science may be evidentiary in nature, the basis of all of science is in fact faith based. You have no rational warrant to assume that tomorrow when you stub your toe that it will not be the greatest feeling ever! You may respond and say that the probabibilty is high that tomorrow will be like today but a quick reflection reveals that this is just as question begging. When you use probability, you are assuming the past event to make an inference into the future, i.e. begging the question of induction.

    Yeppers, you have faith. You may not admit it and you may place science and rationality on your side (“we have science, facts, logic, etc. and you have faith.”) but that is only rhetoric. It places reasoning, facts and logic on your side *at the start* so that any disagreement with you amounts to a disagreement with reasoning, facts, and logic. We all have faith, some are just honest enough to admit it.

    Thanks

  163. What your article says is true. In theory.

    In practice, many so called scientific believers don’t practice what they preach. They are rank ideologues, as bad as any fanatic.

    Because many people misinterpret what they have perceived as the “rules”.

    Scientists are constantly having to change their definition of the rules. Which is fine, except many people blindly accept whatever rules they were taught as the (pardon the pun) gospel truth.

    Hence, we have the Anthrogenic Global Warming believers who take theories adn see whatever they want in the tea leaves of the weather.

    Hence we have Darwinists who believe in evolutionary theories Darwin himself later discounted.

    The universe is a lot stranger and harder to pin down than we thought. We are finding this out as we go along.

    So called science believers have a tendency to undermine their own arguments by behaving like religious followers. Thus, the confusion.

    Me, I believe in science, but I’m a skeptic of what we believe to be true. Because in my 50 years on this earth I have seen scientists change their stories a lot.

  164. Ron

    There is no real conflict between religion and science. To many engineers and scientists I know, science studies the universe around us. Faith explains why its all here and governs other concerns (like morality , write and wrong, etc, that aren’t really applicable to the scientific method. To say that a scientist is held back by faith is not correct. Faith usually makes a better person and that can play an important role in the quality of a persons life and work. For many, its a motivating factor -to understand the universe God built. Just like I would not turn to faith to explain a scientific phenomenon, I wouldn’t turn to science to explain morality or other similar questions.

    But that’s enough on this topic. One thing that this blog and all of the comments show is that there are lots of extremists in the faith and scientific camps.

  165. TheBlackCat

    What the “Answer in Genesis” meant to say was that there are those who believes in what they believe (in religion), and those who “assume” that universe obeys its rule that we can understand. Whatever the method of understanding this world is, they are all based on some form of faith. (Have you prayed during your last science-lab just in case that doesn’t skew the result? Why not?)

    The problem is that the AiG crowd also has to make the assumption that the universe follows rules. Otherwise they have no way of being sure that they won’t fall through the floor and sink to the center of the Earth when they step out of bed in the morning. Otherwise they have no idea that their car won’t turn into a walrus that eats their house when they turn on the ignition. They have to assume the universe follows rules. They just make the additional assumption that there is a being that is not bound by those rules, and then add a whole heap of other assumptions as well. But in the end they must make the same assumption (consciously or unconsciously) that science makes in order to even begin to function in the world.

  166. Bertrand

    You should read more. Living and breathing requires presuppositions. Try starting with Descartes. You’ll see that “faith” has many definitions in relation to philosophy, science and religion. Your attempt to distill hundreds of years of thought into a blog post is admirable. Unfortunately, you are as smart as the people you ridicule.

  167. Christian X Burnham

    OK, for those of you think that science is faith-based:

    ——————————————————————————
    I’m right now denouncing my faith in science and all of its axioms.
    ——————————————————————————

    Is my microwave oven still going to work?

    To quote Philip K. Dick (who was a complete nut):
    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

  168. Ryan

    I’m aware I’ll get buried under the comments here, assuming I’m even read, but here goes. Science does involve an element of faith. The faith involved is the faith in your senses. You believe that they do not lie, be they your sight, hearing, or your electron microscope (space telescope may be more appropriate here :) ). You believe that the data they relay to your consciousness is reliable. You believe you are not living in a perfect reality simulation ala the Matrix. There is no way to prove or disprove this, and thus we take as an article of faith that what we observe IS in fact reality. Now, given that first assumption everything Phil said follows. If your senses are truthful then you can do math and get everything from your basic machines to LCD TVs to space probes. If we assume that reality is real, then no other leaps of faith are necessary given time to observe and apply logic. However, we still must take on faith that reality is real because there is no way to prove or disprove this postulate.

    Now, I’m quite aware that I’m arguing for an invisible pink unicorn. The point here is that we assume we exist. Cogito ergo sum. We take this as an article of faith and build upon it. Given that assumption, all else falls into place. But you have to admit, it’s a pretty big assumption.

  169. David Vanderschel

    I’d like to veer away from the primarily metaphysical bent of most of the discussion here and get back to what scientists may or may not take on faith.

    For the most part, I do agree with the BA’s position. However, there is also a sense in which much of what a scientist believes may have been taken on faith. Phil talks about the “rules”. But how do we learn those rules? We could, in principle, perform the experiments by which other scientists have inferred them. But we do not. We accept the results as reported and we often accept the interpretation put on them by those other scientists. In other words, when we apply rules that were inferred by others, we are doing so without having independently confirmed them ourselves. This strikes me as an acceptance of the validity of the rule based on a faith that the scientists reporting the rule have behaved responsibly. This does not strike me as being all that different from the way one acquires beliefs in a religion-based context. You accept what you are told by someone who you believe. The real issue for a thinking person is how one decides which authorities are to be believed and which are less credible. For me, those who have been pursuing the methodologies of science are the ones who deserve the most credibility; but we must remain wary of those who would cloak themselves with the appearance of science while trying to delude us.

  170. Someone above stated that induction was an assumption of science – it is not. Induction has since long been replaced by the method of hypothesis and deduction as well as falsifiability. As the blog post mentions, David Hume discussed causality and that we cannot directly experience it, thus we cannot rely on induction to generalize observations to principles or rules.

    Science and solipsism aren’t necessarily incompatible either, your own personal universe (or dream or psychosis) can be observed empirically and may exhibit quite rational principles. Solipsism is simply rejected by many. See Wikipedia for an in-depth discussion of solipsism.

    Science says that the sun doesn’t rise because it has always done so, or God made it so, no it does so because our planet orbits it, which is a result of physical forces. Religion relies on ad hoc hypotheses that are mean’t to patch up the holes in a faulty theoretical framework. Contrary to religion that just gathers inconsistencies, science appears to evolve through paradigm shifts that occur when previous theories have turned out to be burdened by too much non-supporting evidence and a new set of theories take their place.

    In the end, we cannot know for sure whether God does, or does not exist. Logically, agnosticism is where you end up. Personally, I cannot accept the Christian notion of God which I find absurdly bizarre given the reality we’re facing every day – conclusion would be that God does not exist or is negligent or perhaps even morally corrupt. Religion should be a personal matter, you cannot generalize based on it.

    It’s also worth noting that some philosophers have been better than others at finding room in the universe for both, for example Kant. Remember that all that believe in Christ aren’t necessarily nutcases, the former arch bishop of Sweden didn’t believe in miracles and virgin birth. You don’t have to accept everything you’re told or read in your holy books just because you cling to the hope of there being a/many benevolent supreme being(s), though sadly many people seem to through in sanity with their hope of “salvation”.

  171. Michael I

    Disclaimer: I have a PhD in Physics from an Ivy League institution and I love science

    To the Author,

    This argument is very weak. You are re-hashing simplified forms of the philosophy called ‘Logical Positivism’.

    Logical positivism was championed by someone called Karl Popper around the 1930′s. Essentially they claimed that science was privileged when seeking “truth” because the scientific method subscribed to the principal of ‘falsifiability’. That is, the method of making predictions and allowing science to be revised when those predictions fail to materialize is the lone path to truth.

    Unfortunately, positivism has been dismissed by virtually all Philosophers of Science since then. There are a number of issues with it. For example, a philosopher named Lakatos observed that there really is no objective reality we can confirm outside our perceptions of it: falsifiability goes down the drain if all of our testing is a victim of our own subjectivity. Thomas Kuhn further observed that the revision of scientific theory has more to do with the culture and posturing of scientists of the moment than it does with anything else.

    I am not scholarly enough to enumerate all of the reasons why Positivism is considered debunked, but if you are interested any good book or course on the Philosophy of science (with excerpts from those Philosophers mentioned) should provide a great overview on modern thinking.

    By the way — I have many friends which are scientists. Most have not studied the Philosophy of Science…many fall into the trap of the author and subscribe to some sort of simplified Positivism. I myself believe in science, it is a faith-system that has served me too well to abandon.

  172. Christian X Burnham

    Let me dispel one argument that keeps cropping up.

    Doing science has nothing to do with trusting your senses!

    Most astronomy and biology is done with electronics these days. The scientists aren’t spending their lives looking through optics at stars.

    It doesn’t matter if a scientist is color blind or even blind. She will still be able to collect and interpret the data.

    Nobody can see into the infra-red and ultra-violet. That doesn’t mean that we are limited to studying the visible spectrum.

    Nobody has directly seen (or felt!) a water molecule. That doesn’t mean that we can’t understand the chemistry of water.

  173. pbhj

    “If tomorrow we started observing light travelling at 314,159,265 m/s then scientists would incorporate that bizzare and unexpected change into their worldview.”

    If it were possible to flick that switch I suspect we wouldn’t be observing it any longer. Indeed there probably wouldn’t be a universe to observe.

    Anyhow:

    “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules.”

    It’s amazing that this current scientific method was established by the belief that in nature there must be order because God created it. It’s a response to pure intelligent design. The idea that if it’s designed we can categorise it and abstract the principles of the design and in doing so learn about the creator.

    How do you do science without [mathematical, logical] axioms? Which set of axioms forms the true algebra (read on Gödel’s incompleteness theorems? Is the speed of light fixed (ensuring relativity is consistent) or not?

    You may not have the answer to that last one, but I’ll bet you have a default that you acknowledge a priori as the truth.

    One last quicky: have you already proven that the world existed before you were achieved consciousness / were born? If yes, please share. If no, do you believe it did? If you don’t (perhaps only because you haven’t sat down to do a rigorous proof, well done scientist), if you do … that’s faith.

  174. choppa

    This is a bad argument, an inflammatory piece of writing, and contains major fallacies.

    The author states “Science is not based on faith. Science is based on evidence.” Faith and evidence are incomparable. Evidence is a testimony about natural phenomena; faith is belief in the validity of a testimony. The author of this work presupposes that evidence must have validity in order to attack the cited passage–but evidence need not be valid.

    The evidence of bloody gloves in OJ Simpson’s trial did not have any ‘inherent validity,’ in fact there were enormous argument made over the validity of that evidence.

    In the realm of science, Physicists often disagree on how to assign validity to the evidence of observed natural phenomena. Consider contemporary disagreements between those for String Theory and the Standard Model and how disagreeing Physicists will provide competing interpretations for evidence of observed (or unobserved) natural phenomena.

    Moreover, not everybody believes in determinism, as phrased in the claim that “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules.” Society’s stance on determinism (or more importantly–the _degree_ to which the world is determinism) is not clear nor unanimous, so it is improper to presuppose determinism is correct and then use it as a basis for arguing against the cited passage.

    One fundamental commonality between science and religion is that both dogmas require constructing far-reaching arguments grounded in unprovable axioms. Perhaps we may argue about how “scientific faith” and “religious faith” differ, but it would be hard to avoid the observation that all explanations of natural phenomena presume some sort of set of axioms or premises that are not unanimously intuitive to the entirety of mankind. The passage cited from the Genesis website is a more enlightening piece of writing and thus does mankind more service than the rant posted here.

  175. pbhj

    CXB >>> Doing science has nothing to do with trusting your senses!

    Er, how do you know anyone said that?

  176. I agree with Betrand above. This is an “attempt to distill hundreds of years of thought into a blog post”.

  177. ugh

    Where do those rules come from? What the hell is gravity?

    not religious.

  178. boatboy

    D minus. Author has faith in “general reliability of the senses”.

  179. ugh

    Where do the rules come from? What the hell is gravity and how did it come about?

    not religious.

  180. Jeffersonian

    “@ rguinnon
    “Evolution is faith-based. For example, all dating systems (especially potassium-argon dating) are trusted to be just as valid at any time in the past as it is now, even though we can’t go back in time and make sure of that. So the reliability of many dating systems are based on more faith than facts.”

    Your conclusion doesn’t follow from your premise. Evolution follows form observed evidence. If it were faith-based, we’d simply say “there’s zero evidence and we’re not gonna follow up on it, we’re just going to say somebody else liked it over a century ago”. By definition, evolution is science-based, which is the opposite of faith-based (belief regardless of what actual evidence shows).

    @Soichi Hayashion
    “Well, that means that science is also “faith-based”
    Actually, that’s not what that means. For ti to mean that, it would have to suggest that we’ll have belief in something even when evidence shows otherwise
    “you have to believe that God is not in control your scientific experiments skewing results in ways that appear to follow its own rules.”
    Nope. You don’t have to.

    “What the Answer in Genesis meant to say was…”
    If we get to decide what Aig meant to say, then I suggest they meant to say “Because we want our specific religion to maintain/gain its power structure, we’re going to spew irrational argument and make it look like controversy because we’ve learned that it helps support our erstwhile socio-political agenda.”

    @Ryan
    “Science does involve an element of faith. The faith involved is the faith in your senses.”
    When I was younger I loved that philosophical argument. But, from a realist standpoint, it argues that science can only be practiced by non-humans. What would be the point?

  181. hmmm

    “A simple example: we see objects going around the Sun. The motion appears to follow some rules: the orbits are conic sections (ellipses, circles, parabolas, hyperbolas), the objects move faster when they are closer to the Sun, if they move too quickly they can escape forever, and so on.”

    What you fail to mention is that there are no explanations for the two planets rotating in the opposite direction.

    Evolution is faith based, debate has shown this as well as increasingly ridiculous scientific “claims.”

    I will agree with you on one part of this argument that science has provided us with computer and the means for me to even leave a comment here. (That is physics (non theoretical) and engineering that has done that and a large amount is from engineering). What has evolution given us other than dumber and dumber scientists (seems to go against evolutionary though…)?

  182. Aaron W

    Your claim is not a parallel argument. Your definition of science being based on empirical findings is largely correct, but you do not address the argument that, to describe something such as “the big bang” what most hold as “science” is an approximation, extrapolated from known/empirically gathered data. To accept this extrapolation DOES take faith. As many technically/science minded readers should acknowledge; extrapolation is never an acceptable form of proof. Until a point of reference can be established and dirty little points of interpolation can be shoe-horned into your hypothesis to form a trend, you’re taking a guess.

    The quote that you used:

    “…some a priori belief on which they sort through experience and deduce other truths. This starting point, whatever it is, can only be accepted by faith; eventually, in each belief system, there must be some unprovable, presupposed foundation for reasoning (since an infinite regression is impossible)…”

    Is arguing that empirical evidence can only take us so far back. Eventually, to guess our origins “Scientists” had to take a guess by breaking a rule of Science, and EXTRAPOLATING backwards. …All points beyond known, verifiable data is…NOT SCIENCE!

    So, while you can be proud that Engineers and Scientists have made snazzy gadgets. I’ll rest at night knowing they’re playing within the physical boundaries of God’s design…And then go to work the next morning as an Engineer.

    -Aaron

  183. mick

    You should read Michael Polanyi’s “Tacit Dimension”. He was a physical chemist turned philosopher of science- did a lot of work discussing the personal component to knowing. A good read, if thick, and might aid the conversation of “faith-based” science. He didn’t refute science, or findings as products of science, but noted that “doing” science doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Rather, science requires a personal component, and is not strictly objective (he also broke down the objective/subjective dichotomy of science and faith). Anyway, really good stuff and I highly recommend the read.

  184. autumn

    Science is what happens when philosophy grows the hell up and realizes that it has to pay the bills.

  185. autumn

    Science is what happens when philosophy grows the hell up and realizes that it has to actually work to pay the bills.

  186. johnnytran

    I agree with you that science is based upon a person’s experience, however, I disagree with you when you suggest that faith is not evidence based. There are three major arguments that suggest science provides evidence for the existence of God, the ontological, cosmological and physico-theological (argument from design). Obviously these arguments bring up tons of arguments but nevertheless, they make use of science to prove the existence of God. That is if we all agree on what you mean by science.

  187. HalfDeadDavid

    I just finished reading all comments and found it very interesting and entertaining. It seems to me however the whole debate relies on defining faith. As originally defined by BA faith is believing something without ANY proof/evidence or even contrary to it. Even a small insignificant shred of evidence is still evidence and eliminates faith.
    Anyone who has ever seen a miracle, or believes that they have, no longer has faith. They have an evidence based belief. Anyone who actually hears god talking to them, on top of being delusional, has no faith they now have an evidence based belief.

    Science requires no faith. Trusting your senses is not faith no matter how poor your senses might be.

    I’ve often wondered how science has survived for so long with so many and so much against it. Then one day I either read it or heard it or thought of it myself. Reality is a powerful ally and it seems to trump all of our wishes.

  188. Lyfte

    I believe in white unicorns, and the sparkly pink faeries that ride upon their backs. Yet I have no issue accepting the findings of science.

  189. jeff

    science is based on faith in the evidence
    religion is based on faith in the evidence

    see? they’re the same. Religious people just have a broader and more widely accepting definition of what “evidence” is. This article is stupid. we should just call it”I need science to be the antithesis of faith or I will cry”

    I care a great deal about how this shouldn’t even be a question amongst adults who have an appreciation for discovering how the universe works. This article is about how the scientific method isn’t faith based (not science itself). But hey, what if (and I’m sure this probably NEVER happens) you believe the results of a tested hypothesis, then what is that called? oh yeah, FAITH!!! ahhhh!

    Tested theories can be disproven. they are every year. perhaps even every day. science is a ever changing search for fact. When facts are pliable and some change often how can you call that anything but faith based?!

  190. Rand

    Bah, two words for you when you say that science only makes one assumption: infinite density.

  191. Jeffersonian

    @David Vanderschel
    I like your comment.
    One of the differences, however, is that, in Science, any experimenter is allowed to repeat the results and support/disprove (see recent Cold Fusion claims). In faith, there is no experimentation, there’s just belief in what you were originally told.

    @Michael I
    Good stuff. Thing about Logical Positivism, though, is that it was debunked by Philosophers. If I recall correctly, the proposition isn’t that science is practically deficient outside of the LP construct? (nod to @autumn)

    @hmmmm
    “Evolution is faith based, debate has shown this as well as increasingly ridiculous scientific claims.”
    People claim this and then when you ask them to supprt this claim with evidence…
    There are increasing claims. Thousands and thousands. And they all support evolution. If one, just one succeeded in debunking evolution, it would be a BIG deal. It wouldn’t be a small notice on Page 10, it would be massive world-changing news. None have.

    @Aaron W
    Again, though. Evidence we have gathered continues to support, not disprove the model. This evidence continues to accumulate. Why not accept the evidence and rest at night, too?

    @johnnytran
    “That is if we all agree on what you mean by science.”
    Actually, you’ve changed the definition of “faith”, not the definition of “science”.

    As for our only using our senses to observe fact:
    Fermions

  192. HalfDeadDavid

    “”"I care a great deal about how this shouldn’t even be a question amongst adults who have an appreciation for discovering how the universe works. This article is about how the scientific method isn’t faith based (not science itself). But hey, what if (and I’m sure this probably NEVER happens) you believe the results of a tested hypothesis, then what is that called? oh yeah, FAITH!!! ahhhh!”"”

    Uh no. “Having faith based on the evidence ” is kinda impossible. if you have evidence you don’t need faith in fact once you have evidence its impossible to have faith in that which you have evidence for. I don’t see how this can even be argued.

    Faith is the belief in something for which there is no evidence. or belief in something contrary to the evidence.

  193. Tim

    I find this whole great “debate” a bit amusing… on the one side, we have the “religious zealots” and on the other side we have the “stalwarts of rational thinking” with each side out to prove the other wrong.

    These types of articles are nice for those that are like-minded — the premise being “Did you see what wrote? [He/She] really made a number of great points! Why, oh why can’t just see the err of their ways and admit that they are wrong and our side is right?”

    My point is that true enlightenment never comes out of these quid pro quo antics.

    Science is the search for understanding of the physical laws of the universe, but it is not the realm of science to provide answers to the questions of “why are we here?” and “what is the meaning of life?” and “does God exist?” To my knowledge, there is no “scientific” explanation for why one person loves another. It is as if to say that only things that can be measured, tested, or proven are to be given a measure of “worthiness” above all else. For those people who subscribe to this notion, science is your religion. It is to this gestalt that you ascribe all value and sense of worth. “If it cannot be proven, it must not be so!” That may be fine for you, but understand that it is not so with others.

    Please understand that there are others who do not hold science in such regard. I am not in any way intimidated by science — on the contrary, I fancy myself to be quite the technologist. It’s just that in my view, there is room for both the notion of science and religion and they are not mutually exclusive to one another. I don’t go to the field of science to search for the meaning of life any more than I try to pour a cup of coffee into a thought. I am completely fascinated by the new revelations of our universe that science has provided, yet I hardly find any of this new information to be conclusive evidence that there is no more to the universe than the narrow understanding science offers.

    Why must these topics always be treated as mutually exclusive ideas? Maybe we should draw a lesson from this topic from the field of science itself. Consider the duality of light. Does light exhibit the properties of a particle? Yes. Does light exhibit the properties of a wave? Of course. There was a period of time in science in which only one concept was thought to be true, not both. Had you been the type of person to choose sides, you would have only been partially correct in choosing one or the other.

    So, the real question is this… if there is more to the universe than just that which is “observable”, does God give partial credit? :)

  194. dareck

    scientific findings neither prove nor disprove phenomena, science produces results that either are in accord with, or against, empirical data. however, it is the best tool civilization has to understand or try to guide phenomena.

  195. Tim

    Sorry… I need to revise a paragraph from my previous post… apparently using certain characters results in words being parsed out… Below is the way I intended the paragraph to read…

    These types of articles are nice for those that are like-minded — the premise being “Did you see what [He/She] wrote? [He/She] really made a number of great points! Why, oh why can’t [the other side] just see the err of their ways and admit that they are wrong and our side is right?”

  196. headlice

    Holy crap! Nobody in their right mind would argue with biochemistry, microbiology, nuclear physics, botany, human physiology, etc…

    Evolution is what is on trial here, not science. See, you people constantly get these 2 things confused…buying into what your public education has blended and offered you.

    “Hey kids, here is a plant and all its intricacies and it has been here for millions of years.”

    Did you see how subtle it is? Now comes the hard part- learning to distinguish what is science (observable) with what is fantasy (a long time ago…)

    But please tell me how evolution has advanced your knowledge for observing microorganisms, using evolution to fix a tv or build a plane, learn what chemicals react with each other, ect…

  197. Michael I

    Follow up on my previous comment. I stand by it…but my Philosophy of Science is a bit rusty and Wikipedia helped me catch a few incorrect labels:

    When I said ‘Logical Positivism’ I meant ‘Critical Rationalism’. (Popper’s Falsifiability actually was a criticism of Logical Positivism).

    When I referred to Lakatos, I really meant to refer to Feyerabend. Both were students of Popper. Feyerabend is well known for maintaining that you cannot differentiate between myths and science.

  198. APL

    Science makes observations, and reports on results. Reading the New Testament if find people reporting first hand observations. This is called evidence. The Greek word translated “faith” also means “trust”. Trust is something that is not blind and most people think of “faith”. If I tell me child I have a gift for them in the closet, they would stop, think, then go to the closet because they have built up a trust in me that what I say is true. Trust develops from evidence. But then, I’m only an engineer, what do I know about science and evidence?

  199. Seneca

    Three problems confront this discussion.

    1) Two fundamentally different social institutions–with differing social functions–are being compared, at the insistance of an organization pushing a political agenda, which uses religious terms to frame its ultraright political positions.

    2) The genesis and development of religious institutions and of scientific practice can be shown to flow from changes in the material development of society over millenia, and yet both are primarily discussed here as rootless abstractions hovering above the human society which produced them.

    3) The perceived need–by some of those wielding the scientific method in their work–for the solace that religious belief provides them from their individual worries–is being crudely abused in this discussion to denigrate these people on a personal level.

    The scientific method has been of irreplaceable value in our ability to understand, explain, and predict natural phemomena. There is no question that scientific progress in our understanding of nature has fueled economic developments that have improved our ability to withstand nature’s caprice and prosper. Defending the scientific method from reactionary politicians is certainly progressive.

    But there is nothing progressive in demanding that defenders of Darwin et al renounce their personal religious beliefs in order to prove their mettle. There is nothing to be gained from denouncing Newton’s inability to attain a consistent materialist outlook.

    Religious belief is a throwback to an earlier age, but the alienating conditions of life that make religious solace useful to millions have not been eradicated. Once society can attain the higher levels made possible by advances in production, the need for religious solace will fade away. (I would even assert that religious thought has a hold on a lesser proportion of human society today than ever before in history.)

    But until that need for religious solace is gone, those who would defend a scientific outlook against political rightists are shooting themselves in the foot–cutting themselves off from millions of potential allies–if they fall in with this clever rightist maneuver to frame debate over their reactionary political proposals as “religion vs. science.”

  200. lj

    Just some thoughts:
    1. Science does require that one “believe” in inductive logic. Whether you classify that as faith is not impt.

    2. A personal opinion, but I think that “good” science concerns itself with stuff that can be repeated.

    3. Science is in a crude sense, curve-fitting. As such, individual theories in it may be disproved, but “science” as a whole is not falsifiable.

    4. Hence, I do not believe that evolution (in the sense of -creationism arguments) is good science, because (1) history is not a repeatable thing, and (2) evolution can always refine its hypotheses to accomodate new historical evidence — can someone who supports the idea of evolution (again, only in the sense of historical evolution) as science state an evidence for falsification of it?*

    * I do not have any problems with the sense of evolution to do with like bacteria “evolving” antibiotic resistance, or evolutionary methods for optimization working.

  201. Butkus

    >> Frumpleon
    Well, Barton, we don’t have many examples of atheist scientists from Newton’s time because your precious religions would have persecuted and murdered them all. How’s that for plain old black and white, “kitten”?

    Religion is POISON.<<

    It sure is poison, look what happened when we took the poison of the ten commandments out of the public schools- Kids killing kids has become an everyday occurence.

  202. Daniel West

    Science is faith-based in the same way that all knowledge is faith-based (not in the same way as religion), because in order for us to derive any knowledge from our surroudings we rely on sensory perception. You must have faith that our senses are indeed telling us the truth and that we can believe our interpretations of them. For a much more extended and eloquent version of this statement, read Berkley. BTW his arguments have stood up to rigourous tests of contemporary analytic philosophers (i.e. ninja badasses when it comes to formal logic and arguments based on such. I’m not saying I think it makes sense to doubt your senes (that you are indeed viewing a computer screen and all of that), but that in the realm of conceptual possibility, it is imaginable that this is not the case. You much make a (albeit very small and subtle from most people’s perspectives) leap of faith. Again, this assumption is recognized by many prominent thinkers; read John Mcdowell’s works.

  203. Adam

    @Aaron

    I agree that this article goes about itself the entirely wrong way, The fact that science has nice toys behind it is indeed a fallacy. Religion does a myriad of good things (indirectly or directly is not the point), as well as some less desirable side effects… Using the results of a methodology is NOT grounds to support it.

    While your argument re: “scientists having nice toys” is completely valid, your attack on the big bang is somewhat unfounded. Extrapolation is based on something called Bayesian statistics, and before you begin to argue the validity of the big bang, you should come to know it better than you know anything else.

    The big bang is the result of a specific cosmological model. The model (given certain parameters) yields a very specific state of the universe at a given age. Thus, our ability to measure the strength of a model can be done by looking at the night sky, and testing our observations against the model. If the model and the evidence agree, then we chalk it up as a win; if not, we change the model. Scientists LOVE when they’re wrong, because it gives way to a deeper understanding. 2 pieces of evidence screaming for the big bang: Redshifting and the CMBR (Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation).

    Cosmologists are careful: They do not argue that we KNOW the cause and universe down to the very beginning, They argue only their model. Their model has rigorous requirements placed against it (99.997% of the time it must correctly predict the outcome of an experiment) before it is accepted as an observed feature of the universe. Religion on the other hand does no such thing. THIS is the key difference between science and religion; one is the act of reverse engineering the universe, the other is the act of believing that which makes most sense to you. There is a difference between what makes sense and what is right, and it’s a very important one.

    -Adam

  204. autumn

    lj,
    Yeah, I can state dozens of possible refutations of a given evoloutionary hypothesis which could be found in historical (fossil record, climate record, astronomical record) data. Evoloutionary theories could predict specific pathways that one discovered historical structure has undergone on the way to another discovered historical structure. If evidence for the hypothetical morphological changes is found in the fossil record, a particular evoloutionary theory is strengthened, and others are weakened or abandoned.
    If, on the other hand, you wish to find a falsification of the changing of species over time, resulting in the abundance of genetic diversity (which all uses the same molecules to do its various jobs), then you are asking something akin to asking for the falsifiability of gravity. Not the falsifiability of a particular theory of gravity, i.e., Newton’s, but a falsifiability test of the notion that things fall down. There is one, but it is an absurdity; if tomorrow morning nothing was falling down, I daresay that you would have much greater concerns than blogging triumphantly about it.
    Likewise, if evoloution was suddenly found to not be happening, the complete collapse of modern medicine, geology, physics, and, of couse, all of biology, would be causing large disruptions in the life of everyone.

  205. JoeTheJuggler

    I admit I haven’t read all these comments, so I hope this hasn’t already be said.

    The whole “science is just a kind of faith” thing is pretty much arguing, “You’re as bad as we are”, isn’t it?

    And unsuccessfully at that.

  206. Pat

    Tom:
    Science fits none of those definitions. Seriously, it doesn’t. The very basest assertions of science can be called into question and tested by anyone. That’s not trust. Faith does not imply testing, in any of those definitions. It’s “complete” trust – science may make many assertions, but nearly everything is couched in terms of “we think” “we assume.” Now, these are very firm assumptions, but science well knows it sits on sand, and shakes it regularly.

    Faith doesn’t question. Questioning is not faith: it is apostasy, inconstancy, or sacrelige; anathema, doubt, what have you. There is a reason a “doubting Thomas” is a bad thing, why questions lead to schisms, excommunication or worse.

    There will no doubt be attempts to make parallels with poor Ben Stein, but there is a crucial difference: refusal to accept the data presented is more faith than science. Trying to force data to fit to predetermined conclusions is faith, not science. If you accept the method, you accept the assumptions, and accept that conclusions can be confusing or challenging to your worldview.

    Faith is incapable of science, as science is incapable of faith. Science accepts risks, like the risk that all protons will spontaneously decay. Given our experience, we can’t say it will never happen, but we can reasonably assert that it probably has a very low chance of happening. If we didn’t dismiss negligible risks, nothing would get done. And solipsism endlessly circling on itself is a roadblock, a sphinx, and does nothing for science.

    Summary: science is not faith, not by any definition; science accepts a premise, but that premise is up for grabs, as is everything in science, including science itself. Science cannot contain itself, but it does not insist on itself either. If a better method was found, science would drop away; unlike faith.

  207. William

    Let me see if I can say a few intelligible words on this subject. You may
    tell me if they are intelligent…;)

    Premise:

    We must assume (some form of) logic. And that is your faith, bitch!

    Math and science both follow from logic. (But what is the basic
    curiosity? why bother to apply the logic? Answer: survival.

    Math is more fundamental than science in that it exists in and of
    itself. ie. It is a self contained/internally consistent set of rules
    which could exist without, say, biology.

    Science is an iterative process that is used to construct theories which
    describe what we observe.* The operand is not necessarily defined.
    Science exists as a process independent of it. Nothing more, nothing
    less. Science figures out the “rules of the game.” The game you apply
    it to is your choice, as far as it applies, of course. ;-) **

    0) Predictions of Theories are represented by mathematical operations
    and logic.
    1) Theories change over time due to refinements in what
    we observe. There can be and have been discontinuities observed in
    both Theory and observation (experiment).
    2) Can everything be built from logic? You need to answer questions
    like how creativity follows from logic, etc.
    3) What if the game changes, can science still describe it?

    * the scientific process or method, relies only on the assumption that the processes, as it’s self, is sufficient to describe our reality.

    **How science came to be, and how, if ever, it would need to be modified
    I believe is a separate topic.

  208. Peter

    Reading many of the comments above and The BA statement read so true

    “Faith, as it is interpreted by most religions, is not evidence-based, and is generally held tightly even despite evidence against it. In many cases, faith is even reinforced when evidence is found contrary to it.”

    Great Work BA !

  209. Icthus

    Wow–I am really late in commenting, I just wanted to say I understand the quote not to mean that science s faith-based but that your “worldview” (earth is 4.6 billion years old, life arose by evolution via natural selection etc.) is faith-based. I am not a fan of AiG but I will say that most “mainstream” creationists do not feel they are in anyway rejecting science just your philosophical presuppositions of how science explains the natural world. I think that is what they are trying to say.

  210. dave

    science is what will bring knowledge and understanding into greater frontiers. but judging by just an anecdotal history of science, anybody should know that there is a lot more in this universe, the earth, and ourselves, that has yet to have light shed upon it by science, whether its flying cars, cures for cancer, or new math that explains the universe.

    science keeps disproving our set of rules and replacing them with new ones, and more recently is giving us more than one et of rules that both work, or work intermittently.

    if you accept that science will reveal things that have yet to come, then I think it is pretty hard to make a claim that science, evolution or whatever proves that god or anything ‘higher’ does not exist without invoking some sort of faith. the rationality of science should allow you to accept the possibility, (the strength of that possibility at your discretion) that god or gods or big bang or gravity or all of the above may have something to do with how the universe operates.

  211. Campbell

    Interesting discussion – seems to always happen whenever anyone puts up a science vs faith article.

    Just a couple of tidbits: regarding the “dichotomy” (religion being diametrically opposed to science). This is only true if you presuppose CONSISTENCY in an individual’s world view. It is inconsistent to base one part of your life on faith (which by definition operates without regard to ‘empirical’ evidence), and the other part on accepting only those models that have been rigorously tested by a multitude of people. But human beings hold inconsistent worldviews all the time. As has been pointed out, many famous scientists have spent lifetimes in trying to prove or disprove theories with empirical evidence, while believing that if they used the wrong name for god they would spend an eternity in infinite torture, without any evidence whatsoever. Plenty of good people are inconsistent in their worldview – very few people are black and white.

    Also, everyone who posted here should read Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. It’s about the immense momentum behind existing theories in science; not only from people accepting what their professor says “on faith”, but also from people crafting the experiments/questions to be asked based on their existing paradigm, and the extraordinary psychological defenses put up against new competing theories. Have a look at the life of Lavoisier “the founder of modern chemistry” for an example. Or if you enjoy irony, look at Kuhn’s life – even in philosophy, a field with very little empirical fact, he faced every obstacle he described in trying to get his theory of “paradigms” accepted. Fascinating reading.

    OP should change a little wording to be precise: the scientific METHOD is not based on faith – in fact, it is diametrically opposed to it. This does not mean that millions of human beings can’t hold both concepts in their heads and use them interchangeably to describe situations as they please. Inconsistency of worldview seems to be a tolerable, even invisible, error to our brains.

  212. Matt

    Let me see if I can summarize your argument:

    You argue that the scientific method’s only assumption is that the universe obeys certain rules that can be deduced by observing the behavior of the universe because the rules are revealed by the behavior.

    Methods of describing and predicting the behavior (e.g. The Scientific Method, Math, etc.) spring forth from prior observation of the universe and strongly implies the truth of what had previously been assumed.

    From there, we use empirical data and the scientific method (applying the rules of the universe itself) to create all sorts of technology. As you said:

    “All the knowledge we have accumulated over the millennia comes together in a harmonious symphony of science. We’re not guessing here: this stuff was designed using previous knowledge developed in a scientific manner over centuries. And it works. All of this goes to support our underlying assumption that the Universe obeys rules that we can deduce.”

    Apparently, it “works” because by using the methods and data that describe the very rules of the universe itself, we can design all sorts of wonderfully complex tools and technology.

    Why again is the Universe not designed?

  213. Sean

    You made one assumption as the basis for your argument. That assumption is faith based…
    There is nothing in this universe that ultimately says that everything does obey the rules we set out for it. And we are frequently proven wrong as our new methods of experimentation and knowledge grow, and our “rules” are shattered. Galileo once calculated the speed of light to be infinite, which we now know is false. Many physicists now question the nature and even existence of time. So, if “rules” can be broken, who says that they even exist in the first place? What method can you use to prove it?
    Just because something follows a certain set of equations, it doesn’t mean it is CAUSED by those equations. Correlation and causation are very different. The leap between the correlation of behavior to equations and the causation is a leap of FAITH.

    Now, I’m not saying religion is right, or that science is wrong. I’m merely stating that faith is required in both. Science didn’t create the universe, science is just one method we use to attempt to describe the behavior we observe.

  214. Gary

    Perhaps what that quote was trying to portray was the fact that no matter who you are, spiritualist or scientist, all our logical reasoning starts from a basic assumption about how all of the universe began.

    Science, for all its greatness is based solely on a ‘mystical’ assumption that matter simply always existed in the universe (then the big bang happened). From any logical perspective we as humans are only capable of understanding things that have both a beginning and an end, so trying to justify that the big bang is scientific is flawed – it’s based on the faith in an illogical hypothesis.

    So both spiritualists and scientists are indeed faith based.

  215. Greg

    If you must agree that both science and religion have beliefs, make sure you state that religion is belief without any expectation of proof. (i.e. faith). Science is beliefs that DEMAND proof.

  216. Interesting

    There are some things that we are not able to subject to the scientific method. If you believe anything with regard to those things it is called faith.

    If you believe there is a God, it is by faith that you do so.

    If you believe there is no God, it is also by faith.

    As for me I believe in God!

  217. Shari

    Science does operate from a variety of preconceived notions and embracing those notions can be seen as equivalent to a form of “faith”.

    The main point that I believe is an indication of “faith” in science is that it universally accepts that all that exists can be measured or sensed by either human senses or devices. It does not allow for the possibility that not everything that happens can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, felt, or measured by technology. Given the limits of human sensory apparatuses and technology, it seems the height of arrogance to believe that everything either can be measured or recreated scientifically or that it simply does not exist.

    That doesn’t mean that the baby needs to go out with the bathwater. Science is the best we’ve got, but it sure isn’t perfect and part of what leads to its difficulties is the close-minded nature based on various assumptions that all scientists put faith in.

    Science is a tool, but all tools have limits. The main problem where with science in this current era is that there are a lot of folks hell-bent on applying it to proving or the existence of religious elements or “disproving” religion or God. This is just not the right job for this tool and it’s a big reason why Christians (I’m not a Christian, btw) get their hackles up and start interfering in the education system.

  218. That Highschool kid

    Um, after reading what I think was 200+ posts (I started at 9, its now 1 at night) I couldn’t find time to read all of them… (i missed the last 20 or so) so I’m not even sure I’m going to be read. but here it goes.

    First off, the whole discussion of science vs religion is sort of counter intuitive. There are evidence where a person has indeed started a scientific endeavor because of religion, but like wise, there are still as much, if not more evidence of religion tempering with scientific discoveries. So arguing about which is better, which caused what, or whether science stems from religion, or is under the same concept, cannot be really accepted. Because science and religion are BROAD TOPICS!!!

    I myself is a Buddist. I’m religious. I don’t believe in god. My religion does not require I believe in anything, actually, it requires I disbelieve even my own reality, and question everything, and look at the “reality” as it is, not with some meaning mouth fed to me by society. I don’t need faith to be religious. You can be good buddist and not believe in any of its teachings. (because buddism is the one of the few religion in the world not to beleive in deity,because its more about being humane, and because buddism doesn’t have contradictions that church sometimes displays [I think the 10 commandments says no killing, yet people in christianity kill under the god's name, or the church sanctions killing, or goes off murdering masses *crusades, spanish inquisition*, or go to war all the time]) Buddism also asked me not to question other people’s beleifs, but im not a very good buddist… but ignoring my buddist past, im puzzled by why someone would put faith as a requirement for a religion. can’t you use emperical evidence for religion, and like wise isn’t it possible many of the scientific evidence we use are in fact faith based? also is it fair to use religion as synonym for christianity? buddism has no argument with the evolution, microbiomechenics, or astronomy. yet as a religion, buddism is generalized to being essentially the same as christianity, which i beleive many people would disagree.

    so stop saying “science vs religion” and just come out and say

    “protestant and catholic views of the genesis” +(?) creationism vs “evolution”…

    second of all, the scientists side of arguments has some flaws, but they are humans too. the main issue is the fact that some people used some logical fallacies (wiki logical fallacies) and were called upon logical fallacies by their oppositions, so i will let that slide. and don’t do definition debate, just don’t. you just can’t win. just drop it. let the arguer have the definition they want. don’t argue against religion. you can’t prove it or disprove it by DEFINITION. goodness, irony. argue instead that science is fundamentally and essentially different in its nature from Christianity and their beleifs, and even then, not necessarily against the ENTIRE religion (if you learned sociology, you would have learned that religion has 2 functions, 1: to instill a moral many people will conform to 2: to explain the unexplainable.) religion has its function in society, and people have needs that religion provides.

    the main issue i see with the creationism side, or the religious side is that they are using extremely generalizing terms with extremely specific detail. like definition for example, or the assumption that religion must be Christian one. If you are going to argue with science, go ahead. THAT IS WHAT THEY ADVOCATE, THAT IS THE BASIS OF SCIENTIFIC METHOD, WHICH IS WHAT YOU ARE PUTTING DOWN. If religious rights are going to argue definition, why bother? It would either look like your being a jerk, or they would deny the definition, which both side did repeatedly. If you are going to argue history, then that is using logical fallacy to prove(?) your logic, which is that everything must be faith (then why argue?). sorry the religion side is so long, but some things just don’t make sense. IF you do believe in faith so strongly as to argue, why do you do it? by faith alone, you have no need for making other believe as you do, and when you argue, that means your faith is weak enough that you need to reinforce it by making others conform to your own beliefs so that you have evidence that your belief looks more valid. second of all, how is it possible that any believer in bible argue against the natural religious block on scientific advancement? (starting with ancient mathmeticians, astronomers, physics geniuses, to modern day example, stem cell researchers) the truth is science and religion is NOT mutually exclusive. its just that the Christian mindset that anything out of the norm, and out of their belief system must be wrong and be righted IS in fact against the fundamental aspect of science that makes scientific advancement work. its the mind set of being afraid of new things, being afraid of change, being afraid of the future, and of death that leads the religious right to argue against science, and to say science is faith based. sorry I’m not making any arguments here. but what I want to say is, its not religion that is against the science here. its people’s MINDSET.
    as proven by both sides, there are prominent scientists who are religious. there are many. but these people were those who embraced change in its most natural form … in DISCOVERY. the fight is between mostly old guard, and those who introduce new ideas. not ideology.

    what I am saying is that argument on both side is kind of useless, never ending war. They usually aren’t even arguing with logic, but with specifics the opposition has provided. stop it! that good will come out? if you like god, go on liking god. no one will (or can ) stop you. but if scientists wants to make your life better, don’t make his life harder for your sake. unarguably, EVERY MODERN LUXURY (even lumber, oil, and food stuff) is made or collected using some sort of discovery and invention someone made, that has basis in SCIENCE (not faith. you don’t need to believe that god made the wrench to screw on the nut), and religion has helped millions of people feel like (or not part of) a group, and carried out its intended specifics. science is not against religion, and religion is not against science. but that does not prove science is religious, or that religion is scientific. just simply leave it at that.

    third of all, the arguments/generalizations for religion are mostly in Christian/catholic view. they may constitute many of the people in US, but the majority of the world actually aren’t Christian or catholic (look at china and India). therefore any religious assumption in Christian/catholic views are inherently flawed because they do not even approach representing the majority of the beliefs. this goes for both sides. yes YOU SCIENTISTS.

    now I am very into science, and to those representing the science side, on the most part, SHAME ON YOU!

    1) don’t assume what science is. specify what exactly you are arguing about. science is an unbeleivably large topic area. and you can’t even assume the science you are talking about is the same science your opposition is talking about

    2) in fundemental levels, its undeniable that some form of faith may be in science, but instead of arguing against that, the pro science side could have just as easily argued (and some did so) that the WAY the scientific method works is against the DEFINITION OF THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF FAITH. talk about effects, not abstracts. abstracts and definition debates cannot be won, and will never be truly won by either side, even if human lives were as long as the galaxies.

    3) some arguments were very petty, and nonargumental, and even sometimes illogical. nice portrayal of the scientific community.

    4) if you are going to make assumption, make sure you specify that its your opinion that those assumptions exists, because you CAN’T POSSIBLY SAY EVERYONE IN SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY IS GOING TO AGREE WITH THOSE ASSUMPTIONS (thats why I’m against the author)

    any way, its now 2 am, and i have test tomarrow… good night…ZzzZZ

  219. Dark Jaguar

    I think I’d add that “the universe obeys a set of rules” can be tested for by just observing it for a while and seeing if it behaves in a consistant manner. Not even that need be an assumption.

  220. evanname

    Most of the posts I have read overlook the true difference between religion and science: absolute faith versus doubt.

    A religious person has absolute faith that at least one thing they know is correct.

    A good scientist knows that he or she might be wrong about absolutely everything.

    Of course, there are bad scientists (who claim that we can ever be really sure of anything), as well as bad religionists (who have doubts about their faith), but we shouldn’t judge science or religion by their practitioners.

    It’s not science or religion’s fault that humans are imperfect.
    Personally, I blame the flying spaghetti monster.

  221. james

    You are correct to assert that science is not faith based but the reasons you give for your assertion are wrong.

    SCIENCE MAKES NO ASSUMPTIONS. Science consists of only hypotheses not assumptions. Over time empirical evidence is gathered that supports or refutes these hypotheses through experimentation using the scientific method. This is all science is. All of current scientific knowledge is a vast mountain of emprically supported hypotheses. This is why it is not faith based. There is no final answer that must be taken on faith and not questioned. All of scientific knowledge is utterly PROVISIONAL. Every scientific fact is PROVISIONAL – awaiting a new experiment to be devised to confirm or refute it.

  222. David

    My head is spinning.

    Or… maybe I should say that I believe I possess a head, and that I am experiencing the sensation of it spinning, etc.

  223. Poster

    go back to bed america

  224. Gelsamel

    This is a reply I wrote up to a copy-paste of this on my Uni forums!
    ——————————————————————–

    Haha – they called it an “a priori belief”

    Notice they try to take the discussion away from Empirical/Non-Empirical thought and steer it towards A priori/A Posteriori Knowledge?

    As with everything, at the base of it there is an A priori assumption – this is true. However just like you can be an agnostic theist and an gnostic atheist there are differences in between A priori knowledge.

    You can have Empirical a priori knowledge, Non-Empirical a priori knowledge, Empirical a posteriori AND Non-empirical a posteriori.

    The rest of this article is really describing these differences mentioned above.

    “The Universe Obeys a Set of Rules” is an Empirical a priori assumption that can be EVIDENCED (not proven, nothing can be) with EMPIRICAL a posteriori knowledge!.

    “God Exists” is a NON-empirical a priori assumption (cannot be falsified, unless you’re a gnostic then you think otherwise. But I’d like to see you show how it can be proven/disproven).

    And because it’s non-empirical it cannot be evidenced by ANY empirical a posteriori knowledge. It can only be evidenced by NON-empirical a posteriori knowledge (like anecdotal evidence, which by the way is terrible evidence).

    That’s basically what the article describes.

    Science, math, everything does have an underlying a priori assumption. The thing is Science and Math’s axiom is SIMPLE, VERY probable AND Empirical. Not only that, but they’re HEAVILY evidenced by empirical a posterior knowledge.

    Answer in Gen is a seriously pathetic.

  225. Arkham

    What about the Big Bang? I can’t see no evidence of it, but it is a clear scientific argument.

  226. Spuddddd

    Christian X Burkman
    “Yes, a few great scientists believe in God, but many more are atheists”

    You can’t make claims like this without evidence (an integral part of the scientific method).
    e.g. in 1916, 42% of (US) Scientists believed in “a living God who could answer prayers”
    in 1996 this number had only dropped to 39.3%.
    This is only in prayer-answering theism, there are many more who believe in simple theism.
    Don’t make uncited claims.
    I am a scientist and a Christian and i’m not sure about some of your arguments. Your initial premise “Scientists assume everything is universally constant” sounds a lot like a kind of faith.
    However I think that science and faith/religion ask different questions and hence arrive at different answers, neither of which disproves/excludes the other.

  227. Beowulff

    Barton Paul Levenson wrote:

    Ah, so it’s okay for Michelle to be condescending and patronizing to me, but if I respond in kind, I’m wrong? Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t a double standard like that make you a flaming hypocrite?

    I will correct you, because you are wrong: she was not condescending, just maybe a bit snarky. She definitely did not use gender-stereotyped derogatory terms to address you, like you did to her. Pointing this out is not applying a double standard, nor is it hypocritical. And your defense is “she started it”? Does that work often for you?

    Way to show your misogyny.

    My misogyny? You do know what misogyny is, right?

    And as expected, you did not address my actual on-topic arguments. That’s OK, several other people have expressed similar criticisms, often better than I did, you can address those. I’m going to stop troll-feeding now.

  228. Doubting Thomas

    I am looking for alternate ideas to influence the debate, because we’re not making much progress against the forces of ignorance by repeating the old verbiage. One angle I am experimenting with goes like this:

    It is easier to be incorrect than to be correct, because there are many more ways to be wrong than right. If we are not very careful about what we believe, then we will almost certainly believe something that is incorrect. If we choose to believe an idea just because we like it, then we will almost certainly be incorrect. If we blindly believe what we are told, then we will almost certainly be led into error. Fiction is trivially easy to create, whereas truth is terribly difficult to uncover.

    The general theme of this approach is to emphasize the great asymmetry between truth and error. Truth is overwhelmingly obscured by fiction. If we are not very careful, i.e., if we slip into sloppy thinking, we will be overwhelmed by error.

    The main reason why intelligent life can make any progress at all is because we have a memory for what has been discovered to actually work, i.e., what behaviours produce predictable desirable results. We are agents of selection in an evolutionary process that accumulates useful knowledge.

    Religious people who pray to non-existant gods and who preach fictions to each other have not figured out that their methods are horribly inefficient at getting provable desirable results. They need to practice more thinking, which is basically all about identifying alternate ideas and then choosing the best.

    Given the vast asymmetry that favours creation and propagation of erroneous fictions rather than useful truths, we need to practice idea filtering methods such as skepticism, testing, rejection of theories not supported by substantive evidence, the Scientific Method, rational arguments, etc.

    We also need to make it socially acceptable and honourable for people to admit that they were wrong, or might be wrong. And socially unacceptable for people to swear that they are absolutely correct or infallible on any particular subject. Dogmatism is dangerous, doubt is not, because error can lead to bad mistakes, and unfounded faith can lead to dangerous behaviour. Doubt is healthy and safer because it encourages cautious behaviour. “I don’t know”, or “I’m probably missing some information”, are much better states of mind than, “I am absolutely certain!”

    If you can mutate these thoughts into successful arguments, please do so!

  229. Beowulff

    Gary: Science does not stand or fall with the Big Bang theory being right or wrong. In fact, before the Big Bang many scientists thought that the universe had always been there – until the evidence showed that this was not likely, because the universe is expanding. The Big Bang was not invented from the assumption that the universe must have a beginning, but to explain why the universe is expanding, so it is a result of observations.

    Evedince so far suggests that the Big Bang is a plausible but not complete explanation of the evolution of the universe (I did not say “origin of the universe”, because science can not (yet?) say what caused the Big Bang in the first place). The theory is also not holy: it is still being changed and revised to fit the evidence better (Inflation, dark matter, dark energy, etc). And if more evidence comes along that refutes the whole theory, or evidence comes along that supports a whole different theory that is better, it will be discarded. Maybe not without a struggle, but in the end, science will happily continue without the Big Bang theory.

  230. Christian X Burnham

    Spuddd:

    If you had read the statement I quoted you would find it’s correct.

    A 5 second Google search turned up an article verifying that religious belief is very small amongst ‘greater’ scientists:

    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html

    93% of these greater scientists do not believe in a personal god who answers prayers.

    The facts are straightforward. The more intelligent and better educated you are, the less likely you are to believe in God. I’m not aware of any credible study which shows otherwise.

  231. Chris

    We do not need to believe that the universe follows a set of rules. We just need to work under the hypothesis that pretending it does we can create models that can be used to derive worth for us. A hypothesis that has been proven over and over again(all modern technology).

    So while we need the assumption that the universe is governed by a set of rules that can be derived, it does in no way require us to actually believe this is the case.

  232. Beowulff

    Doubting Thomas: I like your comment that we should make it more socially acceptable to admit we were wrong. Also I agree that our education system should encourage critical thinking and having an inquisiting mind more, rather than having kids accept everything on authority.

    Unfortunately, I have to disagree with you on something else: religion is not bad at arriving at “desirable outcomes”, except that the religious have a very different view of what is desirable than most sceptics. You have to admit, religion has been quite successful at being passed down the ages. It is really effective at protecting and preserving itself. In this sense, religion does “work”. I therefore don’t think the argument that religion doesn’t work is very compelling.

    One of religion’s often used defense mechanisms has always been keeping people from learning of the “wrong” ideas. I consider this a harmful practice. What I would like to see is for society to move towards more openness of information and for society to more strongly oppose any suppression or misrepresentation of information. I’m mildly optimistic that we might head that way eventually.

  233. I’ve heard the argument that we have to take the existence of the universe on “faith,” and while it’s facetious at best there is a good response to it.

    We have the language to describe what we see, feel and experience; in other words, everything that we can tangibly define and share. I know my hand because I can see it, feel it, taste it, smell it (even if I’m not cognizant of its scent) and hear it as it interacts with other objects. I can relate these experiences with other people who come into contact with me and confirm with them that they have similar experience with their own hands and with mine. Thus we have the basis of common understanding.

    It’s possible to question our experiences even further, but such metaphysical discussions are pointless for this conversation to the degree that the question of God becomes meaningless.

    Now we turn to the world around us. We can describe water and trees in such a way that everyone understands what we mean. Even if we don’t share the same language, we can still make ourselves understood for simple concepts like that. We are sufficiently rooted in a common reality that communication becomes possible at high levels until abstract concepts become possible. This, then, gives us the foundation for establishing what satisfies the criteria for empirical data for our physical bodies.

    Furthermore, every culture on earth has the foundation for mathematics to some degree, which is largely abstract, and all mathematical concepts thus discovered have been compatible. This means that our common reality is not restricted only to the physical world, but also the abstract.

    Then we turn to the concept of God. Every culture on earth has some sort of supernatural creation myth, although not one of them shares common elements when developed in isolation. Thus, the common reality model fails. None of us share a common reality with regard to the supernatural, creating an impossible situation with regard to empirical data. In the millennia, probably eons of human experience with thousands of disparate cultures, we’ve discovered evidence of a multitude of common discoveries, but not one god or creation myth in common.

    This is not proof of anything, nor does it disprove anything. It only suggests that we are a species that instinctively seeks patterns in the world around us, and we try to fill in the gaps when we have incomplete data. This is where the role of the supernatural enters our lives.

    This lack of a common frame of reference for God or the supernatural creates severe problems when trying to justify our beliefs. Commonality only arises when we start indoctrinating cultures into our own beliefs; thus people become predisposed and any empirical evidence becomes tainted. Since we know that we have no problems with independently developed abstract concepts, there should be no reason for the human race to have developed such disparate concepts of God and creation.

    In conclusion, the argument that science is something based on faith is simply a projection of intent by people who wish to justify what they can’t verify. We have the tools to establish that we live in a common reality; suggestions that this commonality is an even deeper illusion renders the entire debate moot, since even God is irrelevant once you get sufficiently metaphysical.

  234. dirigible

    “So while we need the assumption that the universe is governed by a set of rules that can be derived, it does in no way require us to actually believe this is the case.”

    And if it is disproved, it would be abandoned as an assumption. Which is how science works. Burning people who refuse to accept disproved assumptions is how religion works.

  235. Sam

    You wrote it – “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only” Is “assume” not faith?

  236. Tom Marking

    Lots of good stuff being posted now which supports my position and blows the doors off the initial post. But let me briefly respond to BlackCat:

    “It is not an assumption. If our senses were giving us bad data then information based on this data would be wrong and so any predictions based off of it would be false.”

    No, the validation of the prediction is also based on sensory data. So if you have some systematic error in your sensory apparatus (either human senses or human senses combined with scientific apparatus) then the data used to build the model will be flawed in a given direction, the predictions made by the model will be flawed in the same direction, and the validation of the prediction will also be flawed in the same direction. Everything will appear to be working but in reality it will be in error.

    “What would have to be the case is that our wrong perception fluctuates in such a way that when a group of people are looking at an object their perceived directions all intersect at a single point.”

    Dang, you took your sweet time bringing up the social consensus aspect of science. The sensory perceptions are validated by comparing them among people in a group (i.e., different scientists doing the same experiment). Of course, how many scientists do you need? How close do their observations have to be? The answers to these questions are all assumptions which the evidence doesn’t tell you. A growing body of faith for science.

  237. Tom

    Who in the world is saying science is faith-based. It’s atheism that’s faith-based, not science.

  238. Tom

    You can apply math to find objects in the universe, yes. You can’t apply math to prove how the universe came into being or that there are parallel universes. Torture numbers, and they will tell you anything.

  239. Faith is believing something you know isn’t true. Science is proving, through testing, that something is true.

    Join the Revolution: http://www.atheistrevolution.com

  240. StevoR

    Way , way, way further up the page using scroll up

    - & yegods are there ever too many posts here !
    (So what’s one more! ;-) )

    - the Bad Astronomer wrote :

    “The irony of Answers in Genesis denigrating science on a website is not lost on me. ”

    I wonder if its lost on _them_?

    Not so incidentally, on religion vs science – I like Galileo’s quote which went something like this :

    “The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven – NOT how the Heavens go!”

    Each has different intent and purpose, each is useful in different ways, each field has its flaws.

    I, for one find the polarised extremes on both sides tedious.

    I don’t claim to *know* either way – and certainty seems dangerous esp. when dissing other peoples deeply held views.

    Some very good people I know claim to have found Jesus and that He has made a difference in their lives. Who are we to call them liars?

    Personally, I’m an agnostic verging on athiest and see many issues with relig. effecting politics, etc .. but .. I leave myself open to the possibility I’m wrong.

    I don’t think the likes of Dawkins or Hitchens or some others here do
    that -and I think that shows a narrow-minded, dare I say fundamenalist mindset on their part .. :-(

    Shrill tactics and gross disrespect and rudeness for others are not effective means of persuading those like me who are in the middle ground.

    (Am I an angel myself here? Heck no – but then I’m not writing huge books slagging off the cherished faiths of 9/10ths* of the world either …)

    Hitchen’s for one I find absolutely off-putting – I regard him with disgust & disdain as an ex-intellectual who sold out to the Bush II Neo-conservative form of neo-fascism. I gather the BA knows Hitchen’s personally. Well, BA, please aks him about this personal credibility issue of his – & whether he really thinks insulting people will change their views – from me & others – politely but don’t pull your punches! ;-)

    —————-
    * 9/10ths or perhaps more ..? My guesstimate of the religious versus atheist breakdown among the global populace.

  241. Timothy

    I agree. Like you stated, science is just a tool the explain how universe works, like your example gravity. But that’s it. Religion tries to do totally different thing. It embeds meaning and context into our universe.

    The fact that my grandmother died can be explained using this wonderful tool called science, presumably biology. But when it comes to dealing with my sorrow and grief, science is a horrible horrible tool. (Yes, even science, this time neurological psychology, can be used to explain why I’m grieving, but it’s still a horrible tool to use when in dealing with death.)

    Religion is not the opposite end of science. It tries to do two different thing. Stop trying to compare apples and oranges.

  242. The inquistion(s) had rules protecting subjects from harm that were rarely exceeded, and then only by violators. The deaths that occurred were due to treason, a crime still punishable by death. People frequently petitioned to be tried under the rules of the ;religious inquistions rather than be tried under the prevailing secular rules, which were more vicious. Atheists who invoke the inquistions are ignorant of reality.

    All propositions of logic and rational thought require verifiable and valid sub-propositions, which require verifiable and valid sub-sub-propositions, ad infinitum. This infinite reqression can be dealt with in two ways.

    First, it can be ignored, as suggested above, and this results in a probabilistic outcome still based on an infinite regression of unverifiable propositions.

    Second, the regress can be halted by determining which of the First Principles apply, and at what level of the regression. This places more certainty on the outcome, yet is based on intuition of the validity of the principles. If intuition is denied, then no experimental design can be thought to be valid. Also if intuition is denied ala’ Hume, then cause and effect cannot be accepted as a valid principle.

    Science has two components: empiricism and forensic historicism. Empiricism is entrenched in that which Hume denied: cause and effect. Forensic historicism is based on individual finds of single instance facts such as a grouping of fossil evidence. Forensic historicism is entrenched in the extrapolation (without evidence) of stories connecting single instance fossils to other single instance fossils, thereby fraudulently forcing a theory to be considered fact.

    Science is a human construct. It is a pursuit, an endeavor which has human rules. It cannot extend beyond materialism due to its own voluntary restrictions.

    Atheism, on the other hand, is not scence. Atheism is a cooption of the voluntary restrictions of science, and placing them into a metaphysical statement of Truth, which extends far beyond the auspices of science. This metaphysical statement of Truth, as Huxley said, cannot be proven (a negative never can). So Atheism is an empirically unverifiable item of faith.

    In fact, per Popper, if Atheism is a material concept, it must be falsifiable. What would falsify Atheism? While there are some types of evidence available for this, Atheists deny them all. This, according to the empirical falsification concepts of empiricist Popper, places Atheism cleanly and clearly outside the realm of empiricism, and into the metaphysical. In other words, it is clearly demonstrable using the understanding of empiricism that Atheism is an unfounded faith; a religion.

  243. John

    Torture numbers, and they will tell you anything.

    I have some friends who are astrophysicists and they love that term. They constantly have to battle for funding against scientists with half finished fomulas and get so frustrated in scientists who do put too much faith into their hypothesis and leave good, testable science in the streets.

    Faith comes in all forms.

  244. Robert

    Great article, as usual. However, I would make one small clarification as to the nature of faith, because there is more than one definition of the word and religion follows one, while science another.

    One type is “blind.” It requires no evidence, but merely belief. This is the foundation upon which religion is built. Take Christianity, for example: No one alive today witnessed the events outlined in the Bible. The only account is the written word and that account can’t be verified by any known method. Belief in that account must therefore suspend any requirement for proof (and is therefore also conveniently freed from needing to account for anything in the “real” world that varies from that original theory).

    A second definition of faith is evidence-based; it’s the faith of confidence, the faith of proof. I can have faith in the knowledge that if I drop my coffee cup filled with coffee, I’m going to have a mess to clean up. I don’t need to “re-prove” gravity to know this to be true. Although a very simplistic analogy, what follows is that I can use my faith — my confidence, if you will — in the equations that illustrate the force of gravity to build upon that knowledge without having to go through the process of recalculating the how and why of those original equations.

    The fundamental difference between these two kinds of faith (and it’s this difference that gives science its power), is that science has the capacity to change its “faith” when new evidence comes in to challenge it. What is a hypothesis if not having faith in an outcome? But unlike religion, the faith is tested and if the outcome differs from the hypothesis, the scientist doesn’t say “oh well, God works in mysterious ways.” Rather, the scientist examines why the outcome was different and therefore gains better understanding.

  245. BS

    Some scientists as well as some religious people can be stubbornly irrational in their views. There many examples of times where the prevailing theory is stubbornly adhered to, despite grow observational evidence against it. Conversely, many a successful theory is seeded from very little or no evidence. Eventually, the scientific consensus will fall in line with observation. Science evolves: but so does religion.

    I think it’s slightly unfair to paint all religious people with one brush, based on a tiny group of nut jobs. It’s a bigoted attitude: don’t be a nutjob yourself, have a more considered opinion! But then again, it’s nice to have a rant!

  246. no , its totally wrong !

  247. Not Sure if this has been mentioned

    In two days the number of posts is incredibly large. Science is not faith based. If it was, we’d still be waiting for God to let us know if 2+2=4. Atheism is a response to religion, in the same sense that education is a response to ignorance.

  248. debussy

    “the Universe obeys a set of rules”

    Does it?

  249. cd

    “Science is faith-based” is an extremely broad statement. There are many different scientific fields. Physics, for example, deals with very verifiable things, gravity, inertia, and so on; things that can be demonstrated by repeatable experiments.
    Some things, like large scale evolution, that which occurs over millions of years, cannot be demonstrated by repeatable experiments. Fossil records are not complete. There is, by necessity, more educated guesswork involved with paleontology and related fields than with physics. By that token, you have to have some faith in the abilities of the scientist. There is some room for interpretation, human error, etc.
    That is not to say the theory is wrong, but the evidence is less straight forward to demonstrate than something like gravity.
    In some fields, like theoretical physics, there is more idea and less concrete fact (it is theoretical). It is, by definition, a very different animal than more pedestrian scientific fields.
    I have heard statements from some scientists that there “has to be” a grand unified equation for everything. That statement sounds more like faith than science. It sounds a little like the Greeks insisting that pi must be 3, because 3.1415926… would not fit their world view.
    Also, unfortunately, science appears to be more and more swayed by political concerns than by science. There are many issues (medicine, the environment, energy, and on and on) where money and political power influence, and thus taint, in my opinion, scientific results.
    Science is carried out by humans, so anything that affects humans, including faith (religious and otherwise) and politics, can affect science.
    There is value in science and in faith (and even in politics) but co-mingling them indiscriminately can lead to bad results.

  250. Mark L

    THE LARGER ISSUE: Just as enlightenment philosophy reinterpreted religion as ultimately subjective, post-modern philosophy reinterpreted other disciplines (including science) as equally subjective. Those who over value the scientific method should read any of the following:

    “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn, or
    “The Logic of Scientific Discovery” by Karl Popper, or
    “Against Method” by Paul Feyerabend.

  251. Gelsamel

    @Arkham:

    You said..

    “What about the Big Bang? I can’t see no evidence of it, but it is a clear scientific argument.”

    Just because YOU can see no evidence of it doesn’t mean that the evidence isn’t there. That’s called an “Argument from personal incredulity”.

    The fact is, there is a HUGE amount of evidence for the big bang. Just look up COBE. The guys who worked with COBE won the nobel prize for essentially evidencing beyond reasonable doubt that The Big Bang happened.

  252. Seneca

    The scientific method is dispassionate; the method is the same no matter the subject of investigation. The results of its use on a set of data or observations vary as does the skill of its employers in maintaining a modicum of objectivity towards the subject matter. The insights revealed by use of this method are of practical use if they are repeatable by independent practioners.

    The body of knowledge gained over centuries through this approach has provided us with solid starting ground for further investigations. It is not necessary to repeat all the work of the past in order to safely assume certain ideas to be generally true. New work that improves on some of those assumptions is always welcome, but generally requires heavy peer review to gain general acceptance.

    But there is nothing irrational about starting from assumptions solidly based on past scientific work. It is completely rational to count on those assumptions–gravitational force, heliocentricity, planetary rotation, axial tilt, natural selection, whatever.

    It is also unnecessary (and impossible, for that matter) for practitioners of scientific investigation to be of a single mind on every subject. Disagreement and controversy help drive the search for a deeper understanding of nature.

    But not all assumptions are of equal value in trying to understand nature’s workings. Insights gained from use of the scientific method against observation and measurement of natural phenomena are generally useful. Hypotheses that are developed to explain a set of observations are welcome and testable. Theories that coalesce from the testing of hypotheses can be safely counted upon as generally true, and solid starting points for further investigation.

    Assertions made up from whole cloth by wild speculation, recitation of ancient stories, or reference to newer works of fiction, do not–cannot–carry the same weight in a scientific endeavor.

    Curing HIV requires a different set of tools than does the attempt to save souls.

  253. Matt

    Just to start you reading, a dear family friend who used to baby-sit my sister and I as kids has seen a thumb that had been amputated grow from a stump to full length, complete, except for an empty space for a nail to grow, in 1/2 an hour. Reminder: This is not possible according to physics. She and a group of other Christians were praying to Jesus for this lady’s healing and the lady was screaming because the thumb began getting really hot and over that time God just created new bone, blood vessel, nervous system, muscle and skin cells in perfect place, with a little baby nail just beginning to grow. More stories from people I actually know follow. I would love to answer any questions you need answered so that you may believe these things; I will leave my email address at the end.

    So let’s talk about Science. I am a scientist by the way (Molecular Dynamics) but the above evidence makes it hard for me to believe in evolution, which requires only physics and not God, since the above points to only God and not physics! I have to admit, some things I don’t know (yet!) and some pieces of evidence I can’t reconcile — but here it stands.

    Science is a system which derives its information from materially reproducible events. These can observed by anyone who chooses to look or can be accepted by anyone who chooses to trust the accounts of those who do.

    Christianity derives its information from events which originate outside the natural, and so are not materially reproducible. These can be observed by anyone who chooses to look or can be accepted by anyone who chooses to trust the accounts of those who do. Because part of us is actually supernatural (our spirit; “breath”; from God), we can interact with this realm. There is only One true God since there is one consistent design to this universe, and He made it to give each of us the best chance (in God’s perspective) to begin to uniquely interact with Him. God is a person, not a vending machine, but He does love to relate to us and give us good gifts!

    So you have a method of interaction and God to interact with, but because it is a relationship formed on the terms of One with the Highest perspective, not physics, no callous attempts to induce natural events will work. This is why science, and more specifically, rationalism, although it is very good at discovering the natural world, cannot discover God. How much hand-waving will you endure to accept a naturalistic explanation for miracles? Miracles may not happen in the way we would like them to but they do happen when we use the name of Jesus – a subtle difference which is not understood by rationalism.

    Ad break! My mum, who is actually a medical doctor, in 2006 organised a “Healing Happening” at her surgery (after work hours of course!) and a number of miracles were done by Jesus there (who was not visible but certainly present). One of her patients, Justine, who had recently broken her ankle (a proper break), was there and agreed to be prayed for. This lady was/is a journalist, cogent as expected, she came to the event with her friend, and both were non-Christian until that night. The pastor (who I also know) simply asked Jesus to heal her, and gently laid his hands on her broken ankle (she had hobbled in on crutches). Over the next few seconds, the ankle bones began being rearranged by no action on her or his part nor with any pain (they both could feel the bones being rearranged as if by invisible hands underneath the skin). After these seconds, her ankle was totally healed: she was jumping for joy on it! I later met her in person and she confirmed this miracle. Broken ankles normally take several weeks to heal. Praise God!

    So how can we relate to God? We need to understand that God is infinitely above us in every way. Not to make you feel bad, but He really is. It’s called being “Holy”; it’s a given for God. So how can a tiny person (us) with a teeny weeny supernatural part of us (our spirit) begin to interact with a Holy God? To make it even more difficult that teeny weeny spirit of ours is actually dead, cut off from connecting with God because we chose to a long time ago. The answer lives in Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, equal to God, who in a special way performed a transaction in God’s eyes between Himself and us, so all our choosing to ignore God (which we do) was swapped for Jesus’ righteousness (he never ignored God, nor did ever He want to). When we agree to this transaction and begin to live under Jesus’ authority (and rule), God puts his own Spirit within ours, giving us complete spiritual life, fullness, power; everything! Uplink established! And also that thing about living forever with the Most Amazing Person in and beyond every universe. We know that this substitution was done out of love for the whole world and that it was the only way to make salvation available to everyone. It is all summed up nicely by Smith Wigglesworth: “Only believe”. We believe in the existence of God and that His character is what He says it is (Jesus means “God saves”).

    God colours outside the square, alluring even scientists such as myself. If you want to know more about Him just ask Him with a childlike expectation: “Lord Jesus, Please come into my life and show me who you are”.

    My email is backwards (with a forwards ‘at’): moc. liamg at ezeerbm
    I have plenty more supernatural testimonies to relate.

  254. Nostromo

    I am a bit peeved that nearly everyone seem to equate ‘faith’ with ‘Abrahamic Religions’, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Hinduism doesn’t have any problems with Science, because one takes care of the Spiritual, the other of the Material. Neither does Buddhism. Religion is a tool of social control.

    So, really, it’s back to ‘Religions of the Book’ vs Science. How usual. And boring.

  255. Lew Glendenning

    All Science Is Connected

    Because nuclear power plants and computers work, I KNOW evolution happened.

    This is because information and insight produced by one area of science is used and cross-checked by other areas. The information that allows engineering nuclear reactors also is used to date rocks in paleontology.

    You don’t get to pick and choose what areas of science to believe, it is all or nothing.

  256. From philosophy, not religion, we know that there are other assumptions that science makes:

    -The information we get from our senses is reliable. It might not be.
    -The logical fallacy of “affirming the consequent” (If a, b, therefore c; then c therefore a and b) can be overcome with repetition.
    -The scientific method is a reliable method of determining the rules that the universe runs under. It could be that it’s mostly reliable, totally unreliable.

    Is that not the case?

    Paul

  257. Dumbthought

    Science clearly is as good or as bad a faith as any other. There ain’t scope for the slightest doubt. The very fact that you adamantly claim it to be not so does not help either. It only illustrates how typically followers blindly follow their faiths refuting any evidence to the contrary.

    You say:

    “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only…”

    I Say making one assumption or three assumptions, how does that matter. There is no God-given rulebook which says, any assumptions more than one count as faith and less as not!

    You also say:
    “There is one corollary, and that is that if the Universe follows these rules, then those rules can be deduced by observing the way Universe behaves. This follows naturally; if it obeys the rules, then the rules must be revealed by that behavior.”

    I Say: Ha! nothing can be farther from truth then to consider that “this follows naturally”. Also to assume (again shows faith) “then the rules must be revealed by that behavior” is ridiculous. It also shows that Science relies on not one but multiple axioms (like any other faith).

    As a matter of fact, science is worse than most religions in some ways one being that while most religions clearly cherish the faith on which they are founded, science prefers to push them under the carpet or state them as “self-implied truths”.

  258. Phreakeo

    Exactly right.

    Science is not Faith-Based,

    But I have Faith in Science.

  259. Jared S

    I unfortunately did not have time to read all of the posts. If I’m repeating I apologize.

    While I have never been to the Genesis website and am not familiar with their beliefs, I think the author of the article missed the point of what they were saying. At some point life and the universe came to exist. What caused them has not been proven by modern science. Something caused the Big Bang, was it God or was it chance? Either way, here we are, so something made it happen. It’s one or the other, and because there is no proof for either, it takes as much faith to believe that we came from chance as it takes to believe in God.

  260. TheBlackCat

    Dang, you took your sweet time bringing up the social consensus aspect of science. The sensory perceptions are validated by comparing them among people in a group (i.e., different scientists doing the same experiment). Of course, how many scientists do you need? How close do their observations have to be? The answers to these questions are all assumptions which the evidence doesn’t tell you. A growing body of faith for science.

    *sigh* Once again you take a single sentence out of context and completely ignore the entire substance of my argument. I give up. It isn’t worth it.

    It’s atheism that’s faith-based, not science.

    Atheism, or not believing in God, is faith-based the same way not believing in gremlins is faith-based. A lack of belief in something for which there is no evidence is not faith. Nor is it faith to lack belief in something that is directly contradicted by the evidence (which some definitions of God are).

    The main point that I believe is an indication of “faith” in science is that it universally accepts that all that exists can be measured or sensed by either human senses or devices. It does not allow for the possibility that not everything that happens can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, felt, or measured by technology. Given the limits of human sensory apparatuses and technology, it seems the height of arrogance to believe that everything either can be measured or recreated scientifically or that it simply does not exist.

    This is flat-out wrong, as I have already explained. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, for instance, tells us that there are fundamental limits to what science can tell us about the behavior of particles no matter how good or technology is. There is no way to directly observe events that are beyond a certain point in the past (that point defined by the speed of light and the distance to the location at which the events occurred). There is no way to observe events that have not occurred yet. Science has shown us that there are limits to what we can know. But those limits are based on evidence. There are many people throughout history who put artificial limits on what we can and cannot know. They have been almost universally shown to be incorrect. This is still the case today, making predictions about what science will never discover are common. In the long term, and often in the short term, these predictions have been shown to be wrong.

  261. Many of you misunderstand what an axiom is. You’re not alone. Most people don’t understand what axioms are. I’m a working mathematician, and I have to revisit the concept once a year or so to make sure I still understand it. Let me try to explain:

    In Euclid’s Elements, axioms are split into “common notions” and “postulates”. Common notions are ideas that are impossible to prove, but necessary for any logical framework. An example from Euclid is the notion that if A equals B, and that B equals C, that we may presume that A equals C. Impossible to prove in the general, but no logical system will get far without such an assumption. An example of a postulate is that, given two distinct geometrical points, one may construct a line segment that joins them. Without such an assumption, there’s no geometry. Common notions are assumptions about the way that logic works. Postulates are assumptions about the way the branch of science or mathematics we are dealing with works. Today, we call both axioms, and make no distinction between common notions and postulates. In my opinion, the two notions are somewhat distinct, and they are handled somewhat differently cognitively. Common notions are the closest thing to faith that exists in logic. The great geometer, H. M. Coxeter, invited his students to play the following game: pick a single mathematical term, like “point”, or “number” or “plane”, and look up its definition in a common dictionary. Pick the subject noun of the definition and look up its definition in the same dictionary. Continue this process until the subject noun of the current definition is a word you have already looked up. It usually takes three turns to repeat (Please try this for yourself).

    Once you have played this game, you will see that nothing can be defined absolutely, but only relatively, compared to a small group of undefined terms. In math, we try to make this group as tiny as possible, and define everything else in terms of these few, and we have been pretty successful at this (look at Edmund Landau’s _Foundations of Analysis_ for a beautiful example of this).

    But calling the cognitive principle in play that allows me to assume that all right angles have the same measure “faith” is totally disingenuous.

  262. Anansi Weaver

    Mr Livingston said

    “Science is based on evidence, and science is based on assumptions, which are based on faith. Sorry, you can’t confine faith to religion or to “antiscience.” All worldviews are based on faith at some point. Including yours. Arguments have to have premises.

    Anansi weaver: Actually worldviews are based on an idea(s) not faith. When an idea on how something works or should work is formed from there springs faith, science and everything in between.

    Faith, having faith, religious faith does not have to have a basis in fact or have to be proven. For example you either believe that 1+1= fish, or you don’t. If you have any questions about 1+1=fish they are either outrightly dismissed or bogged down by circular logic. Any evidence to the contrary of said fatih is ignored and the bearers of this evidence is shunned as a non believer or worse.

    Science, while based on an idea, has to follow the evidence and facts to get it’s answers. For example a scientist has an idea that 1+1=fish. said scientist has to prove his hypothosis so he begins a series of tests to see if his idea has merit. At the end of the testing the scientist discovers that 1+1-2. Scientist then admits 1+1does not =fish but 1+1=2. Scientist then published a paper on how 1+1=2 and gains recognition in the scietific field and the nobel prize for his ground breaking work.

  263. You must have faith that our senses are indeed telling us the truth and that we can believe our interpretations of them.

    Not correct. Science doesn’t care if our senses are telling us the truth. All that matters is whether observations are repeatable, testable, and predictable. Observations that meet those criteria can be used to form hypotheses and theories. No faith is involved.

    The whole “science is just a kind of faith” thing is pretty much arguing, “You’re as bad as we are”, isn’t it?

    Yes, it is the “I know you are but what am I” defence.

    If you believe there is no God, it is also by faith.
    It’s atheism that’s faith-based, not science.

    Not correct. It is possible to conclude by reason that there is no god based on a complete lack of evidence for the claim that there is a god, and the preponderance of evidence that nature works without supernatural assistance.

    I don’t have faith that there is no god, I am 99.99999999999999% certain of it based on the available evidence. All a god needs to do to change my mind is produce irrefutable evidence to the contrary and I’ll revise my theory.

    When a god shows up and starts tossing his uberness around, the atheists will be the first to convert… I guarantee it. An example, a god could show up, announce His presence, and on a well announced night, under observation by anyone who wishes to watch, instantaneously swap Jupiter and Saturn in their orbits (correcting orbital velocities so they don’t fall into the Sun or mess up the solar system), and leave them there (so there’s no “well I did it and put them right back, nyah”). Maybe there’s a natural way to do that, but that would rock my understanding of the way the universe works enough that I’d be prepared to cast my worshipping lot behind a critter that was so powerful He could do that. I ask only 1 thing of candidate gods: that they earn my worship through evidence. It’s not much to ask really, and it helps eliminate those charlatans who would pretend to be gods and messengers of gods. If a candidate god did that, atheists would line up to worship, mark my words! And Christians and Muslims would decry the guy as an evildoer…

    Of course, I also think that if such a being existed, he’d be pretty annoyed by people supplicating themselves. Because you can’t really respect anyone that kisses your gluteal regions.

    The main point that I believe is an indication of “faith” in science is that it universally accepts that all that exists can be measured or sensed by either human senses or devices.

    Not correct. Science recognizes that our ability to measure and sense changes over time and that old explanations must be discarded in favour of new evidence. That’s how we progressed from Newton’s gravity theory to Einstein’s gravity theory, for example, or from the ether explanation for light propagation to wave and quantum theories for light.

    What about the Big Bang? I can’t see no evidence of it, but it is a clear scientific argument.

    There is a great deal of evidence for the big bang, not the least of which is the cosmic microwave background.

  264. Tom Marking

    “SCIENCE MAKES NO ASSUMPTIONS. Science consists of only hypotheses not assumptions. Over time empirical evidence is gathered that supports or refutes these hypotheses through experimentation using the scientific method. This is all science is”

    I retract my previous statement about the recent posts being so great. Most of it on both sides of the debate has turned to junk. Well, I knew it was coming. BA’s ONE assumption in science (plus ONE corallary) has now been decremented to zero. Now, please tell me how this evidence matching comes about. Given a piece of evidence and a hypothesis that makes a prediction, how is it determined that the evidence matches the prediction or fails to? Is it the evidence itself that is doing the matching? Or is it a human being who is doing it? If it’s the human being doing the matching then what procedure does he use to do it? Where did that procedure come from? Is it evidence or an a priori assumption?

  265. Tim

    Perhaps Dr. Tegmark expressed it best. To paraphrase: “We begin with the External Reality Hypothesis.” ( As opposed to impotent Solipsism).
    If Hypothesis = Faith, then I guess, as scientists, we have faith.

    Science is simply a method of exploring that external reality.

  266. coleen

    Of course i believe in science.
    of course i believe in God.
    why is that a problem?

    please look for a new study by elaine howard ecklund.

    “After interviewing 1,646 faculty members at elite research universities, asking 36 questions about belief and spiritual practices, Ecklund found some surprising results. In general, two thirds of scientists (studied) believed in God. ”

    the article i read continued with…
    “A separate study, to be released in June, conducted at the University of Chicago, shows that 76% of doctors said that they believed in God, and 50% believed in
    an afterlife. ”

    i believe einstein said it was God who gave him his ideas. he just had to listen. paraphrased.

    i’m tired of reading that scientists do not believe. they do.
    .

  267. coleen

    Of course i believe in science.
    of course i believe in God.
    why is that a problem?

    please look for a new study by elaine howard ecklund.

    “After interviewing 1,646 faculty members at elite research universities, asking 36 questions about belief and spiritual practices, Ecklund found some surprising results. In general, two thirds of scientists (studied) believed in God. ”

    the article i read continued with…
    “A separate study, to be released in June, conducted at the University of Chicago, shows that 76% of doctors said that they believed in God, and 50% believed in an afterlife. ”

    i believe einstein said it was God who gave him his ideas. he just had to listen. paraphrased.

    i’m tired of reading that scientists do not believe. they do.

    please see the definition of faith to understand more.
    perhaps it’s not supposed to be something that can be proven.
    perhaps it’s a faith thing.
    believe or not.
    but… don’t belittle.
    i mean… alot of scientic laws were belittled.
    you can debate… but… don’t belittle another’s faith.
    .

  268. HalfDeadDavid

    “”you can debate… but… don’t belittle another’s faith.”"

    I always love when people say you shouldn’t question other peoples faith, or belittle it.

    Perhaps I don’t understand the definition of faith.

    Faith to me = Blind unquestioning belief in something that has either no evidence at all or evidence against it. Is this not the meaning of faith in the context of this topic?

    How can anyone with this kind of faith not expect to be questioned? or belittled?

    There is not 100% proof of anything. Does that mean believing anything at all to be true is “faith”? Thats absurd, and except for the philosophy majors here, everyone knows it.

    Science requires no faith at all, assumptions are not faith since they are based on evidence.

  269. That highschool kid

    sigh… its midday at school, and test is coming up… so tired.

    So, about the science being faith based…

    No one yet disputed the fact that the fundemental difference “faith” in science and “faith” in religion is different in nature, as well as meaning.

  270. Given a piece of evidence and a hypothesis that makes a prediction, how is it determined that the evidence matches the prediction or fails to? Is it the evidence itself that is doing the matching? Or is it a human being who is doing it? If it’s the human being doing the matching then what procedure does he use to do it? Where did that procedure come from? Is it evidence or an a priori assumption?

    Hypothesis: That two objects with mass will, in the absence of other forces, fall toward a common centre of mass through an interaction which I will call “gravity”.

    Evidence: I drop a rock from a window and it goes “thud” into the ground below.

    Matching: I know the mass of the rock. I have inferred the mass of the Earth. I can calculate where the common centre of mass is through simple arithmetic. I can observe the path my rock takes. The observed path matches the direction predicted by the hypothesis based on the math, ergo, I conclude that the hypothesis may be true. I can repeat this experiment with different sized rocks. In fact, I can send someone to the moon and drop rocks there too. Always the observed path matches the arithmetic. When I’ve repeated this the results enough times, I conclude that my hypothesis is a strong explanation for two objects and the gravity interaction between them, and promote it to a theory.

    And the assumption is?

    Of course, along comes someone who says “but if I fire the rock at really high speeds, it doesn’t work that way.” Ok, so that guy goes and fires rocks at high speed and modifies the theory based on new evidence.

    And the assumption is?

  271. Aaron W

    @Jeffersonian

    You are assuming my belief in God does not permit the acceptance of Science? Even Einstein seemed to think the two were not exclusive. It’s interesting that humans can’t fully comprehend -relatively- simple concepts such as infinity or zero, yet we think we can understand an entity such as God -funnier yet, is to presuppose God’s motives-, and then rationalize whether he exists or not based on what his motives should be.

    @ Adam

    Herein lies the divergence of science and “science” (please visualize using the quotation marks like Dr.Evil). You are speaking as/like a scientist with a model that although well founded has the possibility of an inaccuracy. Not a “scientist” -or worse, someone who has read the work of scientists and think they are now a scientist- with “proof” of exactly how everything happened. -If you need an example, take the response of an average person who watches “An Inconvenient Truth”-

    I wasn’t trying to question the Big Bang but was using the question of the root cause as an example. I suppose if I drop a reference like that I should clarify it with a follow-up sentence, lest I appear uninformed and arguing over my head.

    @People who Flame
    Based on your animosity towards each other, It sounds like you may need to have some Thetans removed. Contact Tom Cruise for clarification.

    -Aaron

  272. Tom Marking

    “In fact, per Popper, if Atheism is a material concept, it must be falsifiable. What would falsify Atheism?”

    Yahweh/Allah/etc. could show up in the atheist’s living room and kick his/her ass. That would pretty much falsify it from the viewpoint of the atheist.

    “Can someone who supports the idea of evolution (again, only in the sense of historical evolution) as science state an evidence for falsification of it?”

    I’m not sure about evolution in general, but the theory of natural selection could be falsified if you could demonstrate the evolution of a trait in a species that benefited another species only and not its own species. For example, there might be a species of antelope growing fatter and slower for the sole benefit of lions who feast on them. That’s not supposed to happen according to the theory of natural selection. I’m sure there are other cases that would falsify it too.

    There was some brouhaha a few years ago where some folks were claiming to have found such a thing in some species of ant, but I think it was later disproven. I’m not sure if anyone else remembers that article or not.

  273. TheBlackCat

    @ coleen:

    I already read the Ecklund study. Did you? I tend to doubt it, because your statement on the results of the study is flat-out wrong. A direct quote from the paper:

    you studied believe in God? When asked their beliefs about God, nearly 34 percent of academic scientists answer “I do not believe in God” and about 30 percent answer “I do not know if there is a God and there is no way to find out,” the classic agnostic response. This means that over 60 percent of professors in these natural and social science disciplines describe themselves as either atheist or religiously agnostic. In comparison, among those in the general U.S. population, about 3 percent claim to be atheists and about 5 percent are religiously agnostic.

    Which is the exact opposite of what your quote said.

    Some other direct quotes:

    My findings, however, do not reveal vast discrepancies in religious belief and practice among disciplines and fields. The true difference lies between academics in these scientific disciplines and members of the general public. With little doubt, scientists at major research universities are less religious—at least according to traditional forms of religion—than members of the general public.

    When comparing scientists who do have a religious identity to those among the general population, there are still big differences. According to data from the General Social Survey, a national survey of U.S. adults, 14 percent describe themselves as “evangelical” or “fundamentalist,” while less than 2 percent of scientists identify with either of these combined labels

    The study also explores what scientists think about the place of religion in their specific fields. When asked to respond to the following statement, “In general I feel that the scholars in my field have a positive attitude towards religion,” about 23 percent agree compared to 45 percent who disagree with this statement (about 32 percent of the sample had no opinion about the question).

    Ultimately the paper found the same thing every other study on the subject from the last 100 years has found: a much smaller percentage of scientists are religious than the general population, those that are religious are less religious overall than religious people in the general populations, and although this study didn’t check this other studies have found that the best scientists (either by election to elite organizations like the National Academies of Science or by the decision of their peers) are less religious even than scientists in general.

  274. you can debate… but… don’t belittle another’s faith

    I disagree wholeheartedly.

    As a culture, we belittle discreditable ideas all the time. We think nothing of belittling the Raelians, the Scientologists, the guy on the corner who wears the sandwich board that says “the end is near”, new-age mysticism and a whole host of other ideas that are considered crazy because they are not mainstream and are not backed up by any kind of reason.

    Why is mainstream religion offered a special place that is beyond belittling? In fact, it is this special place afforded to mainstream religion that is its life’s blood. If it was possible to openly debate religion so it could be put in its place, it is very unlikely that religion would survive in any civilized place… but we can’t openly debate mainstream religion because when the debate gets even slightly warm, let alone hot, religion gets Mr. Sulu to raise the shields of “respect my beliefs.”

    Respect is earned, not owed. Isn’t that a lesson in most mainstream religions?

  275. AndyD

    Science purposefully limits itself to describing the natural world – whatever can be measured via senses. It makes no attempt to explore or describe the metaphysical, or even to comment on the existence of the metaphysical. It is rather unscientific of anyone to use science for or against religion. As others have mentioned, science could care less if we are in a “real” universe or a matrix type reality (or dream). If we can sense things and so conduct experiments, then science can do its thing, no matter what the fabric of reality may actually be. Maybe God created everything, maybe He didn’t… what does science have to do with that? It is religious people who try to create this face off between religion and science, and it is simply a stupid fight. But, sometimes I see scientists reacting and trying to use their science to disprove God. Look, if God is a purely metaphysical being who created the physical world but exists outside the physical world, then science doesn’t even claim or want to prove or disprove or otherwise have anything to do with God… Such a God either exists or doesn’t exist, regardless of what people think, and regardless of what science measures.
    As for me, I put confidence in scientific progress being made in frontiers where experiments can be performed and hypothesis can be verified or rejected. When I think about the computer sitting in front of me, I realize thousands of theories were both proven right and proven wrong (and thus adjusted) to get us to this point of technology. I do not accept “science” where it is impossible to prove or disprove a theory. While I am open to the possibility of a future approach being developed to test certain theories, my present stance is great skepticism.

  276. Tom Marking

    “Matching: I know the mass of the rock. I have inferred the mass of the Earth. I can calculate where the common centre of mass is through simple arithmetic. I can observe the path my rock takes. The observed path matches the direction predicted by the hypothesis based on the math, ergo, I conclude that the hypothesis may be true. I can repeat this experiment with different sized rocks. In fact, I can send someone to the moon and drop rocks there too. Always the observed path matches the arithmetic. When I’ve repeated this the results enough times, I conclude that my hypothesis is a strong explanation for two objects and the gravity interaction between them, and promote it to a theory.

    And the assumption is?”

    Assumptions are as follows:

    1.) Mass of rock is Mr
    2.) Mass of earth is Me
    3.) Formula for common center of mass (presumably (Xr*Mr + Xe*Me) / (Mr + Me)) (or is this part of your hypothesis?)
    4.) Your observations of the path of the rock (and also the earth) are correct because your senses are giving you good data and your scientific instruments used to measure them are flawless.
    5.) “Enough times” means N times where N is 100, 1000, (take your pick)

  277. TheBlackCat

    Even Einstein seemed to think the two were not exclusive.

    Einstein’s “God” was simply the fact that the universe follows invariable rules. Not only was his God not actively involved in the affairs of the world, as best as I can tell it wasn’t even intelligent.

    It’s interesting that humans can’t fully comprehend -relatively- simple concepts such as infinity or zero, yet we think we can understand an entity such as God -funnier yet, is to presuppose God’s motives-, and then rationalize whether he exists or not based on what his motives should be.

    Standard cop-out. You are simply defining God to undetectable by any means whatsoever. You are simply defining away the whole issue.

  278. Rich

    Holy-smokes. Not that I expect this to get read this far down, but I just had to comment after the first 190 or so posts I read.

    Phil, I tend think of the differences here by attempting to reduce science a bit: Science is nothing more than a [bold]tool[/bold]. The tool either works for the purpose it is created for or it does not. From the mountains of evidence in our medicine and technology and successful predictions about any number of the workings of our universe, I would argue that it does.

    But no matter what it’s still just a tool. The same as any common hammer. I don’t have to believe in any object in my toolbox for it to work. My hammer… well it hammers. I don’t have to take as a matter of faith that it will put nails into wood for it to do so. Either it does or it doesn’t. Further, it hammers for me, for my neighbor, my father-in-law, a buddy from the office regardless of what else any individual believes or whether one thinks the wood, the nail, or the hammer itself are “real”. It works the same way no matter who picks it up and pounds away on nails all day. If you flip it around it pulls nails out and it does it the same way everytime, but I’m not entirely certain how that fits into my anology. It may work more effeciently if wielded by an expert, but an amateur once familiar with the process can quickly become quite good and make important contribution to the process of building.

    By the same token science simply does what it is meant to do as a tool; separate that which is more true from that which is less true. Does light have the properties of a particle or a wave? Hopefully, anyone who has taken a high school science class has been through how this was tested and re-tested in all manner of ways, perhaps even repeated some of the basic experiments themselves. What a wonderful suprise that light can demonstrate the properties of both… even in the same experimental framework. The tools worked, even if the result was different from what would have been expected. This may even be a hallmark of good science; findings which defy expectations.

    I think too many confuse the process, the tool science with results or data that they do not like or wish to be not true. Or perhaps they get confused and see that concepts have been overturned and don’t understand how better data can replace older less precise data, a process which sometimes completely changes our perception of the workings of the universe. It isn’t difficult to understand how more precise tools can lead to more precise measurements, but it may be very hard to understand how more precise tools can lead to whole new ways of measuring! And new ways of measuring can open up whole new avenues information to parse with our better tools.

    Can the same be said of religions? Can I use them to learn something new or unexpected about how the world works? Does they stop working if I stop believing? Does they work the same way for everyone, everytime? Can they even be tested? Or do the principles vary from person to person and time to time, depending on the culture and the context of the dogma? Finally, after thousands of years have they made predictions with limited data (do they even produce data for that matter… testability I suppose) that later turned out to be correct or told us anything new about the universe that we didn’t know before?

    After any lengthy argument the answers to the above questions are all “No.” Yet, the tool of science does exactly all those things. The tool work regardless of cultural context, regardless of any “belief” in the process, it makes successful predictions, it unexpectedly reveals new information and whole new areas to explore. Over time the tool or science, wielded by experts and amateurs alike, builds a framework of information which, even if never complete, provides our best picture of how our universe works. And if I don’t understand it? Well, I can pick up a hammer and get to work myself to see which pieces can be recreated. I can poke and pry to find lose bits, things that don’t quite fit right and then attempt to use my tool to make a more precise construction of data and information.

    No religion works this way. You are not encouraged to examine and pry into the articles of faith, the foundations of dogma. In public or in private point out a contradiction or flaw, pieces of information that don’t quite fit correctly or that plainly disagree with observable facts and platitudes and a knowing smile that someone else has it all figured out will greet you. Thinking about these things isn’t to be encouraged. Do so often enough and be prepared for ridicule, excommunication, or worse.

    Of course, this is a point that may confuse the religiously inclined or devotees of strange new theories. They see scientific institutions and individuals parse over data and experiments looking for obvious flaws or mistakes, errors of mathematics both simple and complex, or unfounded assumptions. How can others set to work with their own toolbox to pry apart that which is shoddily constructed or to attempt to recreate that which seems sound in order to better understand it? Such investigation is anathema to dogma, but it makes sense how those not familiar with the process might confuse it with the ridicule and exile imposed by dogmatic faith. After all, humanity has thousands of years of experience with the former process. Not understanding how it came to be found unsound can lead to resentment and an inclination to see the individuals who made such a determination to be no different from inquisitors of both old and modern times, summarily rejecting that which they find personally, politically, or contextually distasteful. Of course, they are totally incorrect in their analysis of the situation because they don’t understand the process. But, I can really see how easy it is to retreat into these assumptions when something cherished is rejected or challenged.

    Anyway, this whole mess above got me going and I unleashed my typing skills. Going a little overboard, perhaps, but when I get moved to share… I just gotta share.

    Keep up the good work Phil. I look forward to the new book and hope to have some pictures of both the old and new book in new and (appropriately) interesting places later this summer!

  279. Assumptions are as follows:

    1.) Mass of rock is Mr
    2.) Mass of earth is Me
    3.) Formula for common center of mass (presumably (Xr*Mr + Xe*Me) / (Mr + Me)) (or is this part of your hypothesis?)
    4.) Your observations of the path of the rock (and also the earth) are correct because your senses are giving you good data and your scientific instruments used to measure them are flawless.
    5.) “Enough times” means N times where N is 100, 1000, (take your pick)

    The mass of the rock is not an assumption. It is a number that describes a physical property that is observable. Unless you are saying that the assumption is that the rock is real – in which case I say that you are being obtuse. It doesn’t matter that the rock is real or not, only that I can observe it. Ditto for the mass of the earth.

    The formula for the centre of mass is part of the hypothesis being tested. My apologies, that wasn’t clear in my post.

    It is not an assumption that my observations and data are correct. The raw data merely goes in. If my data are incorrect, that will eventually show in repeated trials. If ALL the observed results are incorrect in the same way so it makes all the numbers work, then are they really incorrect? At that point we’re arguing the definition of “correct”. In fact, there is no specific assumption that the observation and instruments are flawless because a scientist also tries to calculate the errors in sensing and instrumentation. By calling it an assumption that ones sensing is not lying is actually making an assumption that there is some greater, absolute truth to which we may not be party – a truth that could make, say, 2+2 really equal 22, but we see 4 in error. It doesn’t matter if 2+2=22 in some higher plane… what matters is that every time we look, 2+2=4. There is no assumption. However, when it should occur that we are able to perceive and measure that higher zone of truth, our hypothesis that 2+2=4 will fail because we’ll see that 2+2=22… Just like Newtonian mechanics gave way to Relativity.

    Enough times isn’t an assumption because someone can always come along and verify one more time, no matter how many times it has been done before. This property overcomes the idea that perhaps my instruments always give an error the same way because someone else with different instruments should get a different result unless his instruments happen to be in error exactly the same way. Statistically, it is highly unlikely that an arbitrary number of observers testing an hypothesis will get exactly the same error.

  280. TheBlackCat

    Look, if God is a purely metaphysical being who created the physical world but exists outside the physical world, then science doesn’t even claim or want to prove or disprove or otherwise have anything to do with God… Such a God either exists or doesn’t exist, regardless of what people think, and regardless of what science measures.

    If this was actually what most religious people believe then there would not be a conflict between science and religion. But very few people actually believe this (at least in the U.S.). They believe in a God who is actively involved in the world, who is at the beck and call of his followers, who punishes and rewards both in this world as well as the next. This sort of religion is in opposition to science because it says things about the natural world, things that are not true. If religion really limited itself to only dealing with things outside of the universe we inhabit and that do not have any physical manifestations in our universe then the conflict would not exist. The conflict exists because religion does not limit itself in this way. So it comes down to a conflict between faith and evidence. Some people think faith is more important than evidence. Others don’t. These are incompatible ways of dealing with the world, and conflict is going to arise between them.

  281. Tom Marking

    “The mass of the rock is not an assumption.”

    All right, your original post said “I know the mass of the rock. I have inferred the mass of the Earth.” I think you meant to say that you have measured these values in some previous experiment. Perfectly acceptable. Assumptions 1 and 2 drop out. Assumption 3 drops out because it’s part of your hypothesis – you predict the rock and earth to meet at this point defined by the formula.

    “There is no assumption. However, when it should occur that we are able to perceive and measure that higher zone of truth, our hypothesis that 2+2=4 will fail because we’ll see that 2+2=22…”

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim that our sensory experience must be uncritically accepted as given, and then at the same time claim that some day we might reach a higher “zone of truth” that reveals that our previous sensory experience was bogus. It’s either one or the other.

    In point of fact, science does worry a great deal about sensing data and that is why enormous effort goes into the design of scientific instruments to prevent erroneous data from being generated. If all sensory data must be uncritically accepted then why expend any effort at all in this area?

  282. HalfDeadDavid

    “In point of fact, science does worry a great deal about sensing data and that is why enormous effort goes into the design of scientific instruments to prevent erroneous data from being generated. If all sensory data must be uncritically accepted then why expend any effort at all in this area?”

    Tom, do you always just ignore the rest a post and take only what you wish to argue out of it? even if it answers what you are arguing?

  283. TheBlackCat

    Tom, do you always just ignore the rest a post and take only what you wish to argue out of it? even if it answers what you are arguing?

    Yes, he does. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has noticed this.

  284. MixMastaMike

    If Jesus returns to save us all, I’m not going to get defensive.

  285. “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules. That’s it. There is one corollary, and that is that if the Universe follows these rules, then those rules can be deduced by observing the way Universe behaves. This follows naturally; if it obeys the rules, then the rules must be revealed by that behavior.”

    Sorry, man, but that assumption *is* technically faith, as you can’t prove the universe follows a set of rules. Furthermore, the assumption that the Universe follows a set of rules implies a “Rule Maker”… you’ve actually accomplished the total opposite of what you set out to do – not only have you proven that science is faith based, but you’ve demonstrated there is “room” for God in the worldview.

    You can argue that the rules are somehow “self-existent” but then you’d still be implying they are non-manifest and non-physical, which implies a realm “beyond” where science can reach.

    The idea that science is somehow meaningless or worthless if there is a God (or Gods, or Goddess or Goddesses) is the saddest part of this whole pointless debate. That’s like saying its not worth getting to know people that you’ve already met.

    It is possible to revere Existence simply for the miracle it is that it exists (forgoing “gratitute towards a personalized deity,”) and seek knowledge about our Universe simultaneously.

    The debate isn’t science versus the concept of a Creator of the Universe, its science versus the concept of a bunch of cranky old white men burning scientists alive for daring to seek knowledge (and the modern incarnations of such outrage in all of their glarious bloggarythmic forms)

  286. Tom Marking

    “Tom, do you always just ignore the rest a post and take only what you wish to argue out of it? even if it answers what you are arguing?

    Yes, he does. I’M GLAD I’m not the only one who has noticed this.”

    So why are you glad? :)

  287. I’ve been thinking for some time that the scientific method really boils down to constantly asking two fundamental questions:
    1) What does the world look like?
    2) How do I know this isn’t garbage?

    The first question is basicaly, if Smith says that Minnesota hummingbirds migrate south for the winter, and Jones says they don’t, how can we figure out who is right? By looking at the birds, of course. If your textbook says that carbon has an atomic weight of 12.0193, how can we find out whether this is correct? Not by asking the book’s author or another authority, but by looking at carbon.

    The second question is basic skepticism, of course. It’s the humble acknowledgment that it’s very easy to make mistakes. The reason for a lot of experimental procedure (like double-blind tests and control groups) is that, over the years, scientists have discovered an awful lot of ways to make mistakes. I understand that the intense grilling a grad student gets in defending a thesis basically boils down to “how do we know your results aren’t garbage?”

  288. DS

    BPL: “And the rest of it is hopelessly poisoned by atheism.”

    I may be poisoned by atheism, but I wouldn’t say I am HOPELESSLY so. If I witnessed any phenomenon that was a physical(1), independently observable (2), and falsifiable (3) manifestation of God, I’d rethink my position on the matter in a heartbeat.
    (1- not in my mind)
    (2- visible to some device like a camera so I can make sure I and someone else in the room are not hallucinating)
    (3- not a matter of faith that can’t be disproved)

    Meanwhile, theist hopelessly continue NOT observing such a phenomenon, most of them not changing their minds anytime soon.

    And sure one could argue that if God showed itself, it would ruin all the fun and beauty of faith and belief in religion. Good luck with all that. It’s not for me.

  289. Tom Marking

    This was posted as a link to another link that was posted here. It is an article written by noted science author Paul Davies which bears on the topic:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/opinion/24davies.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

    “…The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified. …”

  290. Agnostic

    @ Jameson 18 Feb 2008 at 9:02 pm – fully agree with everything u said

    @Jakob Perssonon 18 Feb 2008 at 9:26 pm
    “Science says that the sun doesn’t rise because it has always done so, or God made it so, no it does so because our planet orbits it, which is a result of physical forces.”
    false: Science can never answer the question “why?” !!!!

    Science only provides models of what we call “reality” that explain past observations and have predicted – now also past, but then future – observations with a certain accuracy.
    to say: “the sun rises BECAUSE of certain FORCES” – in a purely scientific way – is not correct.
    Correctly you could only state sth. like this: “Our model, certain structural elements of which we call “physical forces” like “gravity”, predicts, that the sun will rise, BECAUSE all past predictions of this model have been fairly accurate.”

    There IS no such thing as “physical forces” per se, or “the sun”, or even “the universe”. These are all human constructs we lay upon certain regularities or structures we observe in nature in order to communicate with one another or to predict future events in our surroundings in order to get along with them.

    @ John B. Sandlinon 18 Feb 2008 at 7:34 pm
    “Godel’s Incompleteness theorem only applies to systems that can be proven solely using the logic and rules of that system. The universe, unlike logic and mathematics, is not an abstract invention of man designed to model aspects of the universe. It IS the universe. The universe does not attempt to describe itself using man made rules of logic and mathematics! It is not subject to Godel’s law. Science isn’t a system of logic”
    Funny, that. I laughed out loud. :-) )
    “Science is no sytem of logic”… rotfl
    are you kidding
    of course it isnt…its even worse…it only attempts to be… but the beauty of gödels theorem is, that EVEN IF it was as perfect as a purely logical system, it would still have to incorporate either some inconsistencies or some unprovable axioms, i.e. “faith”

    therefor the quote that is the basis for the BAs article is perfectly RIGHT!!! and the BA is WRONG!!

    he even proves it by himself only a couple of lines later:
    “The scientific method makes one assumption”
    q.e.d

    It doesnt really matter what this unprovable assumption actually is, but anyway… he states:
    “and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules.”

    I am no religious person, i am agnostic, but i have to say, that anybody was perfectly in the same right as the BA and his fellow “believers”, to make a slightly different assumption, e.g.:
    “The universe follows the will of GOD (or the FSM or whatever) and it is his will that humans and especially the stupid scientists – at least for now – observe a mainly regular universe”

  291. Agnostic

    @ John B. Sandlinon 18 Feb 2008 at 7:34 pm
    “The universe does not attempt to describe itself using man made rules of logic and mathematics!”

    see…there it is…one of these inconsistencies in scientific thinking – at least in yours… ;-)

    From a “scientific, perfectly mechanistic “the universe follows rules”- kind of thinking you would have to say:
    “Of course it does!!”
    Or do we not happen to be part of the universe?!?

    (…and therefore following its “rules”? Which is btw one of the most ironic parts of the whole debate :-) )

    i´m dead serious on that…just in case you wonder…

  292. coleen

    this is much too much to take in. but… i, for one, am glad that the discussion has finally taken a non-offensive turn.

    i don’t consider myself “religious”. but.. i do believe in “God”. i don’t care to discuss what that means to me. it means different things to different people.

    to “Evolving Squid”: i try more than you know not to belittle others religious beliefs. as for scientologists… whatever. i am not a scientologist. but… as long as 1) every other “religion” gets the same federal (i.e. tax and other) benefits, no problem with me. and 2) they don’t hurt anybody (i.e. the disconnect thing), o.k. with me. i just think a person should be allowed to believe what he/she will without ridicule. isn’t that a freedom i should be allowed?

    i watch mahr, et. al. make fun, no… really destroy…. anyone who believes in a higher power. no kidding. mahr? who the helll is he to decide?

    yeah… he’s a comedian. the problem is that i know several young (i mean 10 to 16 year olds) who say that believing in God is unscientific therefore it isn’t.

    i DO believe that MOST scientists (over the age of 45) believe in “God”, in whatever word they choose to use. Maybe it takes that long?
    Maybe you go through a period of searching? If you think about what you know now, compared to what you thought you knew when you were a teen. i mean… Wouldn’t you come to the conclusion that you know now that you don’t know near as much as you thought you knew way back when?

    to Halfdeaddavid: if science required no faith at all, once an experiment or hypothothesis failed, would not the scientist give up? he/she would have to have “faith” to continue”.

    as for science in general … yeah… a hypothosis MUST be proven. good.
    as for faith… it’s what it is. it probably CAN’T be proven. believe or not. it’s ok. either way. just don’t hurt anybody else. we’ve had enough of that.

    i’ve asked the folks i know in science fields about this question. it seems to be more of an age thing to me. i hope someone would check that out. you seem to get to a point where you think there is more than you originally thought. good. maybe that’s how it should be. that’s how you start…. that’s what happens later.

    .

  293. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim that our sensory experience must be uncritically accepted as given, and then at the same time claim that some day we might reach a higher “zone of truth” that reveals that our previous sensory experience was bogus. It’s either one or the other.

    No, it isn’t one or the other. It never has been in science, and it never will be. We once thought the earth was flat because observations lent themselves to that conclusion. Over small distances, that is effectively true – certainly it was true within the limits of the observational capabilities of, say, cavemen. But some Greeks figured out that “the earth is flat” doesn’t work sometimes and couldn’t explain some of the observations they made. They threw out that old theory and moved to a new one: that the earth is spherical… we reached a higher “zone of truth”. That worked for a lot of things, but as we got better at sensing, we learned that it didn’t allow for predictions as accurately as we learned to measure. So that theory was thrown out – someone put forward the notion that the earth is an oblate spheroid… we reached a higher “zone of truth”.

    Knowing, as we do that the earth is a very slightly lumpy, oblate spheroid does not change the possibility that in the future, we might figure out that a better shape for the earth can be described, nor does it change the fact that over small distances, the earth can STILL be considered flat and calculations that you might perform will pass the “good enough” test, even though we know that it is technically wrong.

    No assumption.

  294. isn’t that a freedom i should be allowed?

    No. Nobody should have a right to freedom from ridicule. To say otherwise is to restrict freedom of speech, and indeed, freedom of thinking. It would drive underground rightful dissent.

  295. Agnostic

    just some other thoughts:

    science only acknowledges phenomena that are repeatable or at least repeatedly observable.
    So if, for example, there were godly interventions…science would – by definition – be blind to them, as they would each be unique, with no underlying hypothesizable regularity.

    also: science only acknowledges fasifiable theories. So – again by definition of the scientific method – phenomena that have no PREDICTABLE observable consequences cannot be part of the scientific world view. Nevertheless, they COULD exist… no (good) scientist could deny that.

    What one can clearly see by these two arguments is that it is the scientific method itself that causes/reinforces the mechanistic worldview of “the universe follows rules” it is based upon. It is caught in the boundaries defined by its own underlying assumption(s)…. which is true for science as it is for religion.

  296. Jacob Turner

    “Science is not simply a database of knowledge. It’s a method, a way of finding this knowledge. Observe, hypothesize, predict, observe, revise.”

    1. Observe: To experience reality through perception.
    2. Predict: To calculate a result based on current knowledge.
    3. Observe: To experience reality through perception.
    4. Revise: To calculate a result based on current knowledge and to test its validity against previous knowledge.

    Repeat 3-4 infinitely.

    truth = time(experience)

    “Truth is what stands the test of experience.” -Einstein

    Not 1 or 0. Somethings are more true than other things. Shades of gray. Beyond true or untrue. “Mu” as the Japanese say.

    Derivatives:
    Observations come from perception.
    Predictions come from knowledge.

    Questions:
    Where do hypotheses come from?
    How do you decide what to observe?
    If reality is limited by perception, how can you know what your perceiving is real?

    Science believes something it can not know. It has faith that what is perceived is indeed reality.

  297. zelrik

    Why are people still debating about “Is science faith-based?” ???????

    Saying that Science is faith-based is like saying that Bush is smart.

    Faith = ignorance, science comes when faith stops.

  298. Me

    As much as I agree with pretty much everything based on science, I think the point here is that there is no way to fully understand the origins universe through faith or science. The fact is that we will never know how the world began. If it began with god, how did god get here? If it began with the big bang or universes colliding how did they come to be? Are we to assume that everything that is, always was? We will never be able to answer these questions. To this degree everything is based on “faith”.
    But is that any reason to discount science? Like everyone has said time and time again the answer is no.

  299. Hm…. Who made the rules?

  300. J

    You are an idiot,

    You just claimed that science was not faith based, because there is no base case assumption, and then go and provide science’s only base case assumption..

  301. Richard

    I haven’t read this whole debate (since it’s pretty long) so if I’m repeating someone, I apologize.

    Science is faith-based.

    You take it on faith that every written record of a scientific experiment before you has resulted in a certain way and that it will happen again if tried again. This is like the sun rising argument. You take it on faith of written record that every day before today, the sun rose, and every day after today, the sun will rise as well. It’s all well and good that someone else did this experiment, but how do you KNOW that their results (or any repeated results), or observations (or any repeated observations) are accurate? You don’t. You can’t. You therefore must take it on faith. Also, just because something can’t be repeated, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, or couldn’t possibly be true.

    Why trust that Halley’s comet was actually observed in the 16th century, and not the bible? Since NONE of us observed the comet back then, we have to TAKE IT ON FAITH that it actually came. Much like the stories of the bible, we have to at least consider that MAYBE this actually happened. Why believe one written record and not another? What makes one credible and not the other? You’re thinking in your head: “because we can see it now, and it comes back every time it should”. Usually the answer is repeating an experiment. But you can’t EVER go back to the first one and say it did what you said it did (why should anyone believe you?). Can you tell me with ABSOLUTE certainty that the comet came in the 16th century? If yes, HOW? The only possible answer is that you take it on faith that it did. That’s all you could possibly have. Moreover, you can’t ever guarantee ABSOLUTELY that something will happen again in the future. You CAN’T. We know this from quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle. You can be very very very sure that you can’t walk through a wall, but it could still happen.

    I’m a scientist myself, but have to admit that what I know, and what I’ve learned, I usually have to take on faith that it’s true. I can do math and everything from first principles, but I have to trust those first principles. I have to have faith that observables are actually observed, and that written record is at least mostly true. But who’s to say it is, and will always be?

    Good debate though.

  302. Tom Marking

    Evolving Squid,

    Who gets to decide which theory is better? Who gets to decide what is a higher “zone of truth”? Do you think all members of the species Homo sapiens agree on these things? Group A will say that their theory matches the evidence better. Group B will say that their theory matches the evidence better. We already see this with ID versus evolution and in numerous other areas. You seem to believe in my axiom 7, which to refresh your memory was:

    7.) All reasonable people will interpret the same evidence in the same way.

    BTW, you, BA, et al need to get together and get your story straight. Is it ONE assumption with ONE corallary, ONE assumption which isn’t really taken for granted since it can be supported from the evidence, or ZERO assumptions? Those are three different arguments.

  303. al morgan

    You guys…don’t get. Science is faith based not be because it isn’t “scientific”. Its faith based because most of the people who put their trust in science do it essentially on “faith”. Who really has the time, inclination, and smarts to understand the logic, math, and proofs of science? Not many, even not many scientists understand all the fields, and can say they have absolute certianity of all the findings of “science”.

    Therefore, they must place their faith that others have done the work and believe that their deductions are correct.

    Finnally, why can’t God create a universe with rules?

  304. Radwaste

    Jeremy, thank you so much for the clear and unique post. It was informative, unlike so many of the combative things surrounding it, and useful. I think it will be generally ignored. People are so eager to speak…
    I’m one of them. I would rather not be wrong.

    You above have talked all about what you think, but you haven’t scratched at why you think that way.

    Essentially…

    Although beliefs come in different “sizes” as perceived to individuals and groups – there are “big” ones like one’s faith, and “small” ones like the worth of a motorcycle helmet – they are all collections of ideas arranged with respect to each other and to one’s ego according to an individual’s judgment of their worth.

    Ideas are acquired by observation. The individual can seek out data, or it can be thrust upon them. It is in the acquisition of this data that individuals fail, and frequently.

    All of us tend to accept ideas readily from what we have determined is a trustworthy source. This is especially true when we are young; so much of what we are told is correct-enough to get by, and it carries authority. Of course, it is only with great effort, and later in life, that we can realize that the value of any statement does not stem from the identity of the source.
    When you research an idea, you are limited by time and ability as to the amount of consideration you can devote to the task. Family and other distractions take time; sometimes, investigation requires special tools unavailable to you; the mental acuity and agility you can bring to bear may be insufficient to the task. At some point, the perceived return on investment – effort expended vs. gain achieved – reaches a zero, and investigation stops. At this point, the belief is “filed” as a mental “base” upon which future decisions can be made.

    I think our perceptions have two major factors acting to distort them: PREJUDICE, which includes everything a person thinks he or she knows, and ACUMEN, the capacity with which we can investigate something brought to our attention.

    So: because of physical limitations and the innate process of judgment, your investigation cannot be complete. This means that whatever the belief, it cannot be the “whole story”.

    Fortunately for us, it doesn’t have to be. Community provides a buffer against fatal mistake, in that 1) not all members of a community may be victims of a mistake, or 2) the belief held by the individual is diluted by incongruence with the beliefs of others, and social interaction acts as a buffer if an urge to act grows from belief.

    Community can also be a buffer against error – if the community knows how to do that and is so inclined.

    In a representative democracy, activism appears as interested groups seek the backing of government. Activists can use their knowledge of how beliefs are formed in order to manipulate voting and thus legislation. When activists buy ink by the barrel, as for newspapers, they can accent things they know will appear positive and ignore or minimize negatives, knowing the above limitations of individuals in determining fact from fiction.

    Magicians know what we expect as well as our limitations, and delight in showing us harmless, new ways to display our gullibility and their ingenuity; in the process, they show us how clever we could be if we worked at it as long and hard as they.

    But some stop looking for how things work. It never occurs to them that they could be the “magician”.

    That brings me to two excellent questions for those who have endorsed a charlatan:
    “How do you determine the difference between fact and fiction?”
    “How you you decide when to stop questioning an issue you have engaged?”

    When you ask such questions, you should be generally aware of the state of the investigative arts. I don’t mean you should memorize The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. You should be aware of some of the fundamental things represented in it and other publications, though. Some examples and short statements to begin:

    1) “Statistics” and “probability” is not what people commonly think they are. For any event, there is an “event universe”. For a coin toss, the “universe” is “heads, tails, edge”. For the universe itself, at least four fundamental forces compel matter and energy to act in certain ways: magnetism, gravity, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. This means that events in the universe are NOT truly random – they just occur in an unimaginably large number of combinations/permutations. Your inability to predict an outcome is not an indication that a process is random!

    2) “Certainty”, like “safety”, does not exist in nature, despite anguished longing for them. This is confused constantly by our own perceptions. We do not realize that what we are looking at today, this hour, this moment, is the current status of an on-going process. We don’t connect being shown wrong by a magician that our perceptions are fooled about the nature of life itself. Our eyes tell us lies all the time, but we let them tell us that something is “certain”, even as we do not know where we came from, what is going on or where we are going!

    3) Mankind, as an investigative team, has the ability to produce things which you yourself will never learn to build. This is the key insult technology utters to those who wish for a simpler time: they cannot understand it. Therefore, a product of technology must be false for people so insulted, and every measure will be used to devalue or disregard it.

  305. Tom Marking

    “Science believes something it can not know. It has faith that what is perceived is indeed reality.”

    Near as I can tell the opposition is arguing that whatever ultimate reality there may be is irrelevant. You make your scientific model using what you perceive at the time. If later on you perceive something else entirely then guess what?, your model was wrong, too bad, throw it out and get the new-improved model.

    And this is the system of thought controlling thousands of nuclear weapons right now as you are reading this. Kind of makes you stop and think, now doesn’t it.

  306. jimmi

    Somewhat interesting article here, and I will say I agree with what Jacob and Richard say, nice…
    However my overall impression from this is that you(the author) are trying to defend something you know very little of its depth. Looks like you are caught in the middle of a endless and pointless debate.
    And as far as this Genesis site is concerned, I havent looked it up, but it seems they may be speaking toward the “anti faith based religions people”, whoever that may be(atheists??). So to insert yourself into that cat fight is utterly silly. No pun intended.

    Now to answer the question, “Is science faith based?”-Of course it is!

    The notion that i must believe that what a particular scientist is telling me is true based on his knowledge of rules that another scientist has deduced and so forth would be for me to act on pure faith. Especially since the majority of those rules are based on underlying principles that exist only in the minds of people per se. And take Darwinism and the like, Newton’s theory, quantum mechanics, the general theory of relativity, string theory and all the other theories and hypothesis and new theories etc, etc; sure some may work out for what they intend, but many of them clash on so many different levels. Just know you have to dig deep usually to uncover the errors or simply there is never proof.

    So enough with the declarations about this “science is based on evidence only!” Just because people being scientific made a computer and you are able to use it, does nothing to say anything about what is known in the darkest, furthest reaches of our scientific knowledge. So what if we can push our studies to do more than what we expected it to do, that is the result of the “mother of invention” principle coupled with “look what i just found!” Not to discredit the hardworking people who do great things following the rules we have accepted for our physical world. But we do tend to force things until they work for us, using far too many resources in the process(a whole other subject).

    Don’t you know that what man has believed and scripted into text books in that the sun is a giant ball of burning hydrogen(nuclear fusion) is only an opinion? I’m sure most of you would agree with our text books right? It makes sense as we look up toward the sun, cuz thats what has been hypothesized from men, studied with a rather simplistic approach for years. Thats what we put our faith in as was right. You wanna put all your chips there? Thats never been “proven as evidence”. BUt its in the books as “science”
    I’m leaning to the newer studies saying the sun behaves more like a electrical conducting mechanism powered through own galaxy.(To put it bluntly).
    Whatever, That makes it really easy for people to attack and say its “faith” that we are forming beliefs and truths on this stuff. Not that it is right to say so, but in your terms it is.

    Sure you know science isnt really this fool proof, know all method of getting everything right, because like has been said just previously before me, science and its methods believe in what we observe as reality in our own little dimension that we can observe and measure that can support the rules we come up with for it and what they mathematically seem to follow. Which btw works great for stuff that we need daily to operate survive, cuz thats where we are physically right? enuf said!!!!(srry if i narrowed it down too much there, but oh well)

    The point is its lame to argue that since science produces “this” and “that” then that proves that it isnt faith based. lol

    As for religion and the all of its mysteries, its in a totally different category thats up to the individual to decipher and “study”(take nothing for granted), and to take upon ones own self. Anyone who argues otherwise is plain foolish.

    Its probably ridiculous to say here in this forum, but I only know that if left alone with the choice of the either of the two indefinitely, I would without a doubt, choose my faith in my religion simply because science or any product from science has not the capability of love and forgiveness (which is completely immeasurable anyway). The rules of man and the universe would just gobble you up with all that you were worth when it got a chance(and usually does).

    So I’ll leave with the notion saying that science is a highly useful motivating subject that has its function & purpose in this life for me and that i will continue to hold my faith in science, tho loosely, as it changes. And also religion or “My faith in my religion” or likewise for any other person, dually has its function & purpose.

  307. zelrik

    Grrr stop debating. Science is logic based, that is,not , faith based!!!!

  308. kirlez

    !!!desab htiaf , ton,si taht ,desab cigol si ecneicS .gnitabed pots rrrG

  309. Who gets to decide what is a higher “zone of truth”?

    The person who makes predictions based on existing theory, but whose predictions don’t match observations made when they are tested.

    7.) All reasonable people will interpret the same evidence in the same way.

    One need not assume that. Using your example, the ID people are free to interpret, say, the fossil record as they see fit. From that they can draw inferences and make testable predictions.

    That they haven’t been able to do so speaks volumes, and strongly suggests that their interpretation is incorrect. It is possible that there is some grand theory that remains unrevealed that makes testable predictions based on the ID interpretation of the evidence. No scientist would deny that. However, the evidence leads to the conclusion that it such a theory ever being developed is highly unlikely.

    It is arguable whether or not you might consider someone who holds such an interpretation “unreasonable”. I would, because to cling to faith in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is, to me, pretty much exactly described by the word “unreasonable.”

    But is a person who uses string theory to describe the universe unreasonable compared to a person using brane theory to describe the universe? That’s a much harder call. Perhaps, in time, as more evidence accumulates, one theory will be shown to be very likely incorrect. Holding on to that theory will be considered unreasonable. It’s even possible that BOTH theories will be found to be incorrect and a new theory will take hold. Time will tell.

  310. Nailed Saviour

    “Science is not simply a database of knowledge. It’s a method……”

    That quote is so important I thought I’d put it in print again.

    It seems to me that both Science and Religion are a method of finding knowledge, it’s just that religion is such a terribly bad method, one that the vastly superior ‘science’, should have displaced long ago. Sadly it just seems to hang on through sheer weight of cultural significance.

  311. gregory

    help find the source of this quote anyone?

    “science doesn’t tell us about the universe, science tells us what the mind can know about the universe.”

    i love the quote, cannot find the source.

    thanks, gregory

  312. Will

    I once taught a beginners Internet class to adults. Remember it was basic, like how to use email and how to use a search engine. Well, part of the course material had people use a search engine to find the altitude of the Dead Sea. After I gave the project, one of the ladies in the class started thinking out loud. “Dead Sea, Dead Sea, why does that sound familiar?” I said, “Well, the Dead Sea is in the Middle East, it’s mentioned in various religions sacred texts. From Christianity to Judaism. Not that any one is more legitimate than any other that is.” The lady then responded “Oh, I believe everything in the Bible. Completely.” It was at that point I thoroughly realized exactly how dangerous faith is. Here was a woman who didn’t even know where the Dead Sea was even though it’s mentioned in her religions sacred text. A text that she ‘completely’ believes in without even looking on a map to see where the geographical features mentioned are located, and did not even have the passing interest to conduct any interest in her own religion. That there was a textbook case of ‘blind faith’.

    Faith can be an inspirational tool. It can give people comfort in times of difficulty. But, faith is a double edged weapon. Nefarious people can guide peoples faith in a less than altruistic path, leading to only misery.

  313. Radwaste

    Ahem. A bunch of you guys need to look up the term, “fallacy”.

  314. john

    Good shooting Phil.
    There is some faith in the scientific method, which is testable and that is why theologians such as Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo and many others have used this method to test their theology.
    I suspect a lot of ‘faith based theology’ is against science because it is testable, just as lots of ‘faith based’ churches can’t handle the Catholic church which has the book, the faith and the analysis, using the same methods as the ancient (ungodly heathen) Greeks and built on them.
    I understand Francis Bacon and Nicholas Copernicus used the analytical methods from their theology training to examine matters more concrete than spiritual or ethical such as ‘why does the earth go around the sun?’
    I know people who treat ‘science’ as a religion. I ask are they as afraid of ‘God’ as much as ‘faith based church’ members seem to be?

    Footnote; Catholics admit they are sinners ( make testable assumptions and often screwup badly, read church history and lives of the saintly to checkout some monumental messes done in God’s name). I meet too many people from faith based churches who assume that they are saints (sinless after divine forgiveness at conversion ). Science and some forms of Christianity require faith, testing of hypotheses, and modification of assumptions, followed in many cases with modification of an attitude, ideas or behaviour.

  315. SLC writes:

    [[Mr. Levenson also neglects to mention many of the French scientists of the 18th century who were not particularly religious. For instance , Laplace, who famously responded to Napoleons’ query about the contribution of god to the stability of the solar system by saying that he had no need of such a hypothesis.]]

    I neglected to mention them because they were irrelevant to my point, which is that many devoutly religious people have been first-rate scientists. I didn’t say ONLY devoutly religious people have been first-rate scientists.

  316. DC

    I agree totally, but I think you stated the problem yourself.

    If the base assumption of science is ‘the Universe makes sense’, then one has to accept that the religious assumption is ‘the universe doesn’t make sense’.

    To believe in an omnipotent being, is to have a base assumption that there are no Laws, because the omnipotent being wouldn’t be bound by them.

    Christian believers seem proud to state ‘God moves in a mysterious way …’. That is , they are proud they can’t understand reality.

    If something bad happens, they claim it is either a test, or that they aren’t privy to the reasons.

    It all boils down to ‘The universe makes no sense’ from a religious viewpoint.

  317. Squid writes:

    [[***Sorry, you can’t confine faith to religion or to “antiscience.” All worldviews are based on faith at some point. Including yours. Arguments have to have premises.***

    Your statements are factually incorrect. You have no argument.]]

    Oh, really, Squid? Tell me, which argument doesn’t have any premises? Can you give me an example?

  318. Squid writes:

    [[I can look all over and see the damage wrought by religion.
    Where is the atheist damage?
    ]]

    Well, let’s see. The USSR and PRC were officially atheist, and between them they murdered some 140 million people. You might try reading what V.I. Lenin said about how atheism is fundamental to Communism. Or just bits like the Red soldiers in the civil war driving chopsticks into the little boys’ ears in the catechism class. Or the Jehovahs’ Witnesses being shot in the back of the neck by KGB guards. Or the Falun Gong members being beaten and tortured in the Chinese labor camps. All positive atheism in action, you might say. Of course, in the west, atheism is more humane — Richard Dawkins just wants to treat religious faith as a mental illness. “Slow schizophrenia,” maybe.

  319. DC

    Oops, I forgot my own last line.

    If the base assumption of religion is that the universe makes no sense, of course they can’t accept science as a means to understand reality.

  320. Todd writes:

    [[Mediveal [sic] Christians destroyed a hell of a lot of knowledge that did not fit with their worldview or threatened their control.
    ]]

    Which knowledge did they destroy? Can you cite an example?

  321. TheBlackCat writes:

    [[It is not an axiom in the conventional sense because it is backed up by evidence.]]

    Then it’s not an axiom at all.

    [[ It is not just “presupposed”, it is not only accepted by faith, it is accepted because it works.]]

    How do you know it works?

    This should be good.

  322. CXB writes:

    [[Studying the Bible just doesn’t get us anywhere when solving scientific problems.]]

    Neither does playing a musical instrument. Should people stop creating or listening to music?

    Studying the Bible isn’t supposed to solve scientific problems. That’s not what it’s there for.

  323. Glo writes:

    [[ Thumpers are delusional psychotics and should be institutionalized.]]

    Or euthanized? Or maybe it will be enough to just have them re-educated. They might resist, so it might be necessary to use medication, maybe even neurosurgery. Or conditioning, classical or operant. Might seem a bit cruel, but you’re not torturing them, you’re helping them. For their own good.

  324. Melusine writes:

    [[It was the Church, who usurped property and money in their pursuit of witches, as well as downsizing women’s role in society. That is the time the Catholic Church and its Popes became over-bloated with jewels. Nice, huh?]]

    Wonder why they didn’t do that in 500 AD, 900 AD, or 1200 AD, but did it a lot around 1500-1600 AD? Did it just take that long for the Church’s intrinsic evil to germinate?

    If witch-hunting somehow flows organically from Christianity, you’ve got to explain why it didn’t exist for most of Church history.

  325. TheBlackCat writes:

    [[The whole point is that there is evidence that the universe follows rules. ]]

    What kind of evidence, TBC?

  326. Soichi Hayashi writes:

    [[Religion, however, is as dead as astrology or alchemy.]]

    “Dead” in what sense? No practitioners? That doesn’t seem to be the case. Same for astrology; it’s thriving. Alchemy seems to be dead, so 1/3 of your statement is correct.

  327. That Highschool kid writes:

    [[buddism is the one of the few religion in the world not to beleive in deity,because its more about being humane, and because buddism doesn’t have contradictions that church sometimes displays [I think the 10 commandments says no killing, yet people in christianity kill under the god’s name, or the church sanctions killing, or goes off murdering masses *crusades, spanish inquisition*, or go to war all the time]) ]]

    And yet Japanese Buddhists managed to kill a million Chinese in the ’30s, and the Dalai Lama’s assistant was assassinated because Tibetan Buddhists are waging war against one another. Then there’s Chinese history…

    In practice, I don’t find that Buddhists are any less violent than the followers of any other faith or non-faith.

  328. CXB posts:

    [[The more intelligent and better educated you are, the less likely you are to believe in God.]]

    Don’t conflate “more intelligent” with “better educated.”

    And I wonder if the poll would have had the same results in 1200 AD.

    “Greater scientists” being mostly atheists nowadays may just reflect that the fact that it’s currently fashionable for scientists to be atheists. If you check what some of these “greater scientists” say about religion or philosophy, it doesn’t make you very confident in their grasp of the subjects; nor in their vaunted intelligence.

    And when did polls determine truth, anyway? If some theist floated the fact that 90% of Americans believe in God, would you take that as evidence that God exists? I’m guessing your answer would be a loud and profane “NO!”

  329. dirigible writes:

    [[Burning people who refuse to accept disproved assumptions is how religion works.]]

    Sterilizing people so they don’t pass on “idiocy” diagnosed by IQ tests is how science works. Proving the relative worth of different races by measuring skull size is how science works. Wiping out cities with nuclear explosives is how science works.

    Some equally valid statements.

  330. Atheist writes:

    [[Faith is believing something you know isn’t true. Science is proving, through testing, that something is true.]]

    Your understanding of science isn’t any better than your understanding of faith. Science isn’t in the business of proving things. It can only disprove them.

  331. Squid writes:

    [[It is possible to conclude by reason that there is no god based on a complete lack of evidence for the claim that there is a god]]

    Science deals with nature, the empirically observable universe. The religious question is whether something exists OTHER THAN, IN ADDITION TO, nature and the empirical universe. The atheist asserts, out of faith, that that is a null set.

    Saying that God doesn’t exist because there’s no empirical evidence of Him is like saying that physics doesn’t exist because you can’t play it on a piano. You don’t use music to validate physics. You’re using the wrong tool.

  332. Rich

    Is it just me or are the individuals arguing that science is faith based constantly misrepresenting what science is and how it works?

    Richard (not me), said that you must take on faith that previous experimenters did their work right and reported the results accurately. “It’s all well and good that someone else did this experiment, but how do you KNOW that their results (or any repeated results), or observations (or any repeated observations) are accurate? You don’t. You can’t. You therefore must take it on faith.” This is simply not so. It is a clear misunderstanding or deliberate misrepresentation of the scientific process. I can ALWAYS go back and repeat the experiment and see if I get the same results, the same data. In science the previous examiner of reality makes their methods and their data available, I can check it and repeat it as necessary. No need at all to take on faith the information. If I don’t there is something wrong with my process or the previous experimenters. The is a typical canard that is so wrong and so easily disputed that it frustrates me whenever I see or hear it.

    ” Also, just because something can’t be repeated, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, or couldn’t possibly be true.”

    Ah! But that what does that event tell us about reality? Nothing. If it really happened then there would be some evidence of it. Something that could be tested. If it can be observed, it can be examined. But, to turn your contentions back on you, if it can’t be re-examined then you MUST take on faith that it really happened. You have no way to know if the event you want to believe in was a fairy tale, parable, hoax, or real event conflated and aggrandized beyond all recognition to reality over years and centuries. You simply can not know. And how useful is that really? On the other hand any scientific data can always, always, always be rechecked and retested to see if the results are still valid. Not so sure about gravity? Check it. Don’t believe past experimenters got the properties of light correct? Check it. Find me a religion that works this way and the next box of cookies is on me.

    “Why trust that Halley’s comet was actually observed in the 16th century, and not the bible? Since NONE of us observed the comet back then, we have to TAKE IT ON FAITH that it actually came.” Patently absurd. I can make modern day observations of its movements and with other knowledge of gravity and motion can determine exactly where Halley’s was in the 16th century. I can determine with a great degree of accuracy in exactly what years and what places on earth an individual could have seen the comet, thereby supporting or refuting individual reports of having seen the comet.

    “Usually the answer is repeating an experiment. But you can’t EVER go back to the first one and say it did what you said it did (why should anyone believe you?). Can you tell me with ABSOLUTE certainty that the comet came in the 16th century? If yes, HOW?” I’ve already answered these but I wanted to quote you here for the next part:

    “I’m a scientist myself…”
    I wonder what kind of scientist or researcher you are with such a basic lack of understanding of what science is and how it works. I have no problem stating that I am not a scientist, yet I seem to have a better grasp of the scientific method. Disheartening.

    “…but have to admit that what I know, and what I’ve learned, I usually have to take on faith that it’s true. I can do math and everything from first principles, but I have to trust those first principles. I have to have faith that observables are actually observed, and that written record is at least mostly true. But who’s to say it is, and will always be?”

    Again and again, the same mistake. You HAVE to take nothing for granted, nothing on faith. You can go back and repeat those tests, check the math from the 1+1=2 on up! Everything is checkable, verifiable. Nothing is sacred! This is the great difference. Goodness, if the religious subjected their own faiths to 1/1000th of the skepticism they cast upon the scientific method and its findings the world would be nothing but agnostics and athiests!

    You can repeat this canard over and over again, but it does not get any more true. But, I’ll bite on at least a small portion of this, though other have covered it: If in your experiments or attempts to validate prior work you discover that things do somehow operate differently now than they did then, you will have made one of the great discoveries of all time! Quickly following your results would be attempts to determine for how long principles have varied, and by how much. Are the changes small, on the quantum level only, or do they affect the large scale universe? Are the variances following any particular order or scale; are they local or everywhere; do they seem to be getting bigger, smaller, stablizing?

    I ask again; tell me of one religion, faith, or dogma that operates in such a manner, that encourages active and ongoing examination of even its most basic principles? It’s ok, you’re not making me wait, I already know the answer to that one.

  333. TheBlackCat

    Well, let’s see. The USSR and PRC were officially atheist, and between them they murdered some 140 million people. You might try reading what V.I. Lenin said about how atheism is fundamental to Communism. Or just bits like the Red soldiers in the civil war driving chopsticks into the little boys’ ears in the catechism class. Or the Jehovahs’ Witnesses being shot in the back of the neck by KGB guards. Or the Falun Gong members being beaten and tortured in the Chinese labor camps. All positive atheism in action, you might say. Of course, in the west, atheism is more humane — Richard Dawkins just wants to treat religious faith as a mental illness. “Slow schizophrenia,” maybe.

    Those people were murdered because of specific political/economic ideology. It did not stem from atheism, it was never justified in terms of atheism, there was nothing within atheism that would indicate that sort of behavior is recommended or even acceptable. In the USSR, China, North Korea it is justified by nationalism and class warfare. They didn’t say “we are doing this to promote atheism”, they said “we are doing this to support the proletariat”. The Khmer Rouge justified in terms of a mythical history. They may have considered atheism important to their particular sociopolitical ideology but it was never the key component or even a main component. If you look at a great many religious atrocities, religion is explicitly used as the reason, or at least a central component. Reclaim the holy land, for the benefit of God’s chosen people, “never suffer a witch to live”, kill the heretics. Atheism has no counterpart to any of these. It is merely a lack of belief.

    How do you know it works?

    Because I saw it work. I just threw a pencil up and it fell to the ground. Gravity works. My computer screen is working. The internet worked when I refreshed this page a couple of minutes ago. The sun is still shining outside. I can still breath. My keyboard didn’t grow a mouth and bite off my fingers.

    What kind of evidence, TBC?

    You do the same thing over and over with properly controlled conditions and it behaves in the same manner each time. That is evidence of rules.

    And yet Japanese Buddhists managed to kill a million Chinese in the ’30s,

    No, Japanese who worshiped the emperor as the descendant of the sun goddess killed a million Chinese in the ’30′s. That is a religion that far predates Buddhism.

    and the Dalai Lama’s assistant was assassinated because Tibetan Buddhists are waging war against one another.

    I am not familiar with this incident.

    Then there’s Chinese history…

    Confucianism with the predominant philosophy in China, and still has a major role in the culture of the China and its neighbors.

    In practice, I don’t find that Buddhists are any less violent than the followers of any other faith or non-faith.

    That depends on the particular brand of Buddhism. Some or less violent than others, just like The Society of Friends is less violent than other brands o

  334. K. T.

    There were just too many words in that. I edited it down for you:

    If you read any antiscience screeds, at some point or another most will claim that it can only be accepted by faith; This is completely how science works.

    The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: we see objects going around the Sun.

    From these observations we can apply mathematical equations Guess what? It works. It works so well This in turn strongly implies that the Universe is following pray.

    All the knowledge we have accumulated over the millennia guessing here

    Are there holes in this knowledge? Of course. Science doesn’t have all the answers.

    Science is not simply a database of knowledge. Science is even subject to itself. (OK, bad example)

    science and religion part ways. Science is based on faith. Science is based on a tapestry. faith is even reinforced when evidence is found

    science can only be uttered by someone who is wholly ignorant of how reality works.

    The next time someone tries to tell you that science is just as faith-based as religion, or that evolution is a religion wonder if its workings are a miracle

    (I kid.. Very good article.)

  335. TheBlackCat

    Well, let’s see. The USSR and PRC were officially atheist, and between them they murdered some 140 million people. You might try reading what V.I. Lenin said about how atheism is fundamental to Communism. Or just bits like the Red soldiers in the civil war driving chopsticks into the little boys’ ears in the catechism class. Or the Jehovahs’ Witnesses being shot in the back of the neck by KGB guards. Or the Falun Gong members being beaten and tortured in the Chinese labor camps. All positive atheism in action, you might say. Of course, in the west, atheism is more humane — Richard Dawkins just wants to treat religious faith as a mental illness. “Slow schizophrenia,” maybe.

    Those people were murdered because of specific political/economic ideology. It did not stem from atheism, it was never justified in terms of atheism, there was nothing within atheism that would indicate that sort of behavior is recommended or even acceptable. In the USSR, China, North Korea it is justified by nationalism and class warfare. They didn’t say “we are doing this to promote atheism”, they said “we are doing this to support the proletariat”. The Khmer Rouge justified in terms of a mythical history. They may have considered atheism important to their particular sociopolitical ideology but it was never the key component or even a main component. If you look at a great many religious atrocities, religion is explicitly used as the reason, or at least a central component. Reclaim the holy land, for the benefit of God’s chosen people, “never suffer a witch to live”, kill the heretics. Atheism has no counterpart to any of these. It is merely a lack of belief.

    How do you know it works?

    Because I saw it work. I just threw a pencil up and it fell to the ground. Gravity works. My computer screen is working. The internet worked when I refreshed this page a couple of minutes ago. The sun is still shining outside. I can still breath. My keyboard didn’t grow a mouth and bite off my fingers.

    What kind of evidence, TBC?

    You do the same thing over and over with properly controlled conditions and it behaves in the same manner each time. That is evidence that it is following some sort of rule that determines the relationship between cause and effect. It is not proof that there are rules, but it is certainly evidence. As you say, science doesn’t work in proofs.

    And yet Japanese Buddhists managed to kill a million Chinese in the ’30s,

    No, Japanese who worshiped the emperor as the descendant of the sun goddess killed a million Chinese in the ’30′s. That is a religion that far predates Buddhism.

    and the Dalai Lama’s assistant was assassinated because Tibetan Buddhists are waging war against one another.

    I am not familiar with this incident.

    Then there’s Chinese history…

    Confucianism with the predominant philosophy in China, and still has a major role in the culture of the China and its neighbors.

    In practice, I don’t find that Buddhists are any less violent than the followers of any other faith or non-faith.

    That depends on the particular brand of Buddhism. Some or less violent than others, just like The Society of Friends is less violent than other brands of Christianity. But unlike other religions a major branch of the religion is explicitly non-violent. Although there are some exceptions within the group it is followed far more generally than similar rules in other religions.

    Don’t conflate “more intelligent” with “better educated.”

    There are statistics support both. However, the statistics on intelligence and religion are questionable. The statistics on education and religion are not.

    And I wonder if the poll would have had the same results in 1200 AD.

    That is because at that time they lacked explanations for basic phenomena. At that time it was not an unreasonable belief because there was so much that did not seem to have a natural explanation. That excuse does not exist today.

    “Greater scientists” being mostly atheists nowadays may just reflect that the fact that it’s currently fashionable for scientists to be atheists.

    Idle speculation. Evidence please.

    If you check what some of these “greater scientists” say about religion or philosophy, it doesn’t make you very confident in their grasp of the subjects; nor in their vaunted intelligence.

    I would say the same, perhaps even more so, for religious scientists.

    And when did polls determine truth, anyway? If some theist floated the fact that 90% of Americans believe in God, would you take that as evidence that God exists? I’m guessing your answer would be a loud and profane “NO!”

    No, but this isn’t a question of whether God exists. It is a question of how compatible a belief in God is with being a scientist. This assertion has nothing to do with the position people here are actually taking.

    Sterilizing people so they don’t pass on “idiocy” diagnosed by IQ tests is how science works. Proving the relative worth of different races by measuring skull size is how science works.

    These were social movements, supported as much (if not more) by religious institutions as by scientists.

    Wiping out cities with nuclear explosives is how science works.

    Yeah, science is a powerful force. It can be used to make nuclear weapons as well as nuclear power plants, bioweapons as well as vaccines. That is because it can be used to influence the physical world. Tell me when someone blows up a city, or runs a car, solely through prayer and then I will take notice of religion. But as far as I can see the only thing religion can be used to influence is peoples’ perceptions.

    The atheist asserts, out of faith, that that is a null set.

    No, the atheist asserts, based on the lack of evidence, that there is insufficient reason to accept its existence.

    Saying that God doesn’t exist because there’s no empirical evidence of Him is like saying that physics doesn’t exist because you can’t play it on a piano. You don’t use music to validate physics. You’re using the wrong tool.

    What?! No, absolutely not. Physics can explain a piano. The vibration of the strings follows physical rules perfectly. Saying God doesn’t exist is like saying ether doesn’t exist because there is no physical evidence of it and there is nothing that cannot be explained without invoking it. As you may recall, ether was abandoned as a scientific hypothesis specifically for this reason.

    There is nothing in the universe that we can find that requires the existence of a deity to explain. There is nothing in the universe that we can find that requires the existence of Santa Claus to explain. There is nothing in this universe that requires the existence gremlins to explain. Therefor, atheists ask why we should invoke any of these as an explanation when there is no reason to other than wishful thinking? If we find such a thing at some point, then we will change our minds. But right now there is no such thing.

  336. JB

    “It is simply not true that religious faith has no counterpart in science. Scientists routinely use their personal experience, subjective appraisal, hunches, and intuition as guides for selecting research directions. Indeed, when the outcome is unknown, as it must be in choosing a fundamentally new direction for research, subjective thinking must dominate, sometimes even a faith-like insistence that there must be a pattern to phenomena. So the subjective decision to interpret the Universe as containing a God is not fundamentally different from the subjective decision that it’s worth investing a career in, say, searching for extraterrestrial life.”

    (http://www.uwgb.edu/DutchS/PSEUDOSC/BigMiscon.HTM)

  337. TheBlackCat writes:

    [[How do you know it works?
    Because I saw it work. I just threw a pencil up and it fell to the ground. Gravity works.
    ]]

    So your evidence that empirical evidence is accurate is itself empirical evidence? You use empirical evidence to prove that empirical evidence is valid?

    Isn’t that arguing in a circle?

  338. TheBlackCat posts:

    [[***Sterilizing people so they don’t pass on “idiocy” diagnosed by IQ tests is how science works. Proving the relative worth of different races by measuring skull size is how science works.***

    These were social movements, supported as much (if not more) by religious institutions as by scientists.]]

    Nope. You are 100% wrong. Eugenics was supported by atheist scientists like Francis Galton, Herbert Spencer and R.T. Fisher. It was opposed by religious believers like William Jennings Bryan and Aimee Semple MacPherson.

    But you missed the point in the first place. I wasn’t saying there was anything wrong with science, I was parodying the “religion means burning unbelievers” comment of a previous poster. Read for context.

  339. I’ve been working on this essay, which directly addresses this problem. Criticism will be appreciated:

    Science in the Spectrum of Belief:
    It’s All About Models and Weighted Skepticism

    Mankind entertains a wide range of beliefs. Public and private educational systems, and science itself, generally fail to teach just where, and how, science falls within this spectrum of belief.

    Science focuses on beliefs about ‘reality’. It tries to generate order from – and to reduce the uncertainties generated by – the welter of mental ‘images’ we develop about both the natural and man-made worlds that we explore with our senses. Science is steered by a generally skeptical attitude. But skepticism doesn’t equal pessimism. Depending upon the degree of uncertainty, and on the problem at hand, a skeptic can be pessimistic, agnostic – or even optimistic. The way science and its skepticism fit into the wider landscape of beliefs will be reviewed briefly. Much of this story should be persuasive.

    Belief and Deductive Reasoning

    The application of conventional languages (and such special ‘languages’ as logic and mathematics) to the description of our mental images is the source of most shared knowledge, including that of science. (Instrumental music and non-representational art, are two ‘unconventional languages’ encompassing rather different kinds of shared experience.)

    Conventional and logical languages can help their users to cooperate to achieve some common objective only if the users commit themselves to the discipline of ‘trust’ in, or ‘belief’ in a set of ‘fundamentals’. The commitment, by convention, is to consistently adhere to a fundamental set of rules and definitions, in order to reach shared goals by the communication of shared meanings. When the axiomatic rules are followed fairly consistently, languages make it possible to model and exchange some, but not all, information about our mental ‘images’. Typically, information about only very few details of personal visual images are exchanged or are stored in memory for later use. Our sense experiences are very much richer than those we verbalize. And we use many sense experiences automatically and subconsciously. Thus, models end up being heuristic sketches; they seem never to be identical to, nor as detailed as our ‘transient’ mental images.

    The fundamentals are used to build the models by carefully following the rules. The discipline of explicit (spelled-out) or implicit (not stated, but implied) commitment to rules and definitions (that are themselves, either spelled-out, or implied) is essential, otherwise, the Tower-of-Babel-effect would prevail; no one would understand anyone else; communication of shared meanings would fail.

    Models about the world and humans, derived from our sensations of ‘reality’, are the ‘descriptions’ of conventional language; they’re typically individual sentences – or collections of logically connected sentences – word ‘pictures’ of varying complexity and precision. They’re constructed with the axiomatic fundamentals (defined words or symbols, and grammatical and syntactic rules). Such models are conceptual tools that are designed to try to communicate consistent meaning for analysis and discussion.

    By following the rules of deductive reasoning, a model (in mathematics, a conjecture) can be proven either to be true – to be a logically consistent tautology that follows from adhering to the rules (a theorem) ; or false – to conflict with the rules; or undecidable – if the model, or its set of axiomatics, is incomplete or poorly-specified (note: undecidable is more inclusive and general than K. Popper’s “falsifiable”).

    The commitment to the axiomatic fundamentals, themselves, is equivalent to taking them as ‘true’, although unprovable – usually in principle, as part of a convention, or because no more primordial base from which they might be derived has been found (otherwise they would be merely ‘theorems’, derived from those more primordial axioms).

    Even with good intentions, in the arguments of ordinary conversation, UNDECIDABLE conjectures may constitute a considerable portion of verbal exchange. This is due to marginal attention to details of consistency (leading to incompleteness of argument), to the ambiguity of simile and metaphor and to the regular use of always-incomplete, factual definitions derived by inductive reasoning (to be discussed below).

    But in the deductive reasoning of math and formal logic, great pains are taken to evade incomplete definitions and poorly-posed arguments and therefore to avoid undecidable conjectures. Until 1931, it was widely believed that, with great care, incompleteness in deductive reasoning always could be avoided. Then Kurt Gödel showed it’s not possible to guarantee completeness for other than the most simplistic axiomatic systems. Although he shook the foundations of mathematics and formal logic, his Incompleteness Theorems have impact on the truth of only very few of a vast number of proven theorems.

    When the commitment to fundamental axiomatics is implicit, the commitment either is to rules and definitions which we’ve learned so well that their application has become automatic and subconscious (as in most conversation). Or it’s derived from other inherited, built-in, neural, language-enabling, ‘intuitive’ and subconscious mechanisms that have evolved ‘because’ they’ve enhanced human survival. Since implicit commitment depends upon an automatic, physiological base, it may be somewhat less reliable than conscious, ‘willful’, explicit commitment.

    But all such commitment, explicit or implicit, has the important feature, shared with a religious act of faith; we accept the axiomatic rules without logical proof of their truth. In this quite general sense, all deductive reasoning and the “proving of absolute logical truths”, is ultimately faith-based.

    Belief and Inductive Reasoning

    Over two hundred years ago, David Hume taught that some uncertainty about the truth of ‘facts’ always must persist because of the unavoidable incompleteness of observation:

    Since we can never have observed all of the past, all of the present – let alone the future, there’s no way (to use axiomatically-based deductive reasoning) to justify absolute belief in any facts. With inductive reasoning, we try to establish a complete definition of an object, class or process, by extrapolation or interpolation from observation of only a sample of its parts. But it’s not logically possible to guarantee that the definition will also be true for any unobserved parts. This necessary logical incompleteness of all empirical inductive reasoning therefore must be an inescapable source of residual uncertainty.

    Despite this, we all ‘believe in’ the ‘truth’ of many facts. This belief necessarily depends upon a commitment to a kind of ‘faith’ in the ‘truth’ of some conjectures that, in the strictest, logical sense, are deductively undecidable because of the obvious and necessary incompleteness of the supporting evidence.

    Science and Faith

    Science depends completely on both deductive and inductive reasoning. Therefore the argument that science dispenses with the need for any elements of faith or belief – supposedly in contrast to religion – is overly simplistic. Since faith and belief are defined as metaphysical, this argument also is equivalent to the questionable claim of the extensive literature of the Positivists; that science is, and must remain, free of metaphysics.

    But such arguments are really just straw men; they have nothing to do with THE important differences.

    Degrees of Belief Across the Spectrum

    Disciplines can differ considerably with respect to the degree of required commitment. Most theists are enjoined to commit to unchallengeable, absolute faith in at least the ‘fundamentals’ of their religion – as are the slaves to some political and economic ideologies. At another extreme, Cultural Relativists and most Post Modernist claim to be committed to undiluted skepticism about all that others believe is fundamental. They argue all ‘truths’ are suspect because of the necessary biases of local, cultural points of view and they seem to reject the possibility of any useful global points of view.

    Weighted Skepticism: The Core of the Scientific Method

    Science is strikingly different. Whereas Gödelian incompleteness directly effects the logical truth of only a few of the deductive models of math, logic and theoretical science, Humean incompleteness effects the ‘truth’ of every inductive fact, including all those of experimental science. This might mistakenly seem to give some special priority to deductive logic. But science needs them both.

    Science requires the commitment to fundamental rules, in order to design robust models of reality (by carefully following the rules) so that when communicated, those models may be universally understood. But science always adds the injunction: a degree of belief in each model can be established only with the weight of supporting, factual evidence; the more and the better the evidence, the greater the belief. This attitude is not unique. It shares its origin with general,‘common sense’ attitudes about how varying strengths of such evidence support or refute ideas. However, it’s THE important distinction between science and religion – and even between science and mathematics. And it helps to assure that all proposed or established models (heuristics) remain distinguishable from the ‘reality’ they attempt to simulate.

    External or internal (biological) worlds, are accessed through our senses – either directly, or ‘through’ intervening ‘instruments’. All the models (ideas, hypotheses, theories, laws), constructed by theoretical scientists to generate order out of such observations – preferably, but not necessarily, carefully reasoned – start with a conjecture about some ‘stand-in’ for some observable(s), as an operational (algorithmic) recipe, and often end with a proven theorem.

    Nonetheless, all remain agnostically tentative guesses about the nature of reality. To inspire any degree of belief that a model ‘explains’ such reality, science requires separate evidence that the model, to some significant degree, matches some previously unobserved (but observable – empirical) aspect of those worlds. That’s to say, to receive anything more than the most tentative consideration, most apparent deductive truths about the ‘world’ must be supported by (usually ‘new’) matching, empirical, inductive ‘truths’. Prior similar evidence is largely discounted as support, if it has contributed to the abduction and construction of the model. Note that such inductive support is never required for establishing belief in the purely deductive proof of a typical theorem in mathematics or formal logic.

    The number of provable mathematical conjectures (consistent models; theorems) is enormous. But the fraction of those that can be matched to worldly observations is infinitesmal. Theoretical scientists sometimes discover, and in any case, typically use this tiny fraction of mathematics as extremely valuable tools to construct models. Experimental scientists often use some fraction for designing experimental tests of models and regularly to measure impact of experimental observations on consequent levels of uncertainty.

    But it’s a mistake to consider most of mathematics as a kind of science. Most of the time, mathematics avoids logically-undecidable models, and therefore needs no empirical matching and testing. It ‘gets away with’ “pure reason” to prove absolutely true theorems. Science, as almost universally practiced, can’t! It ‘must’ tie all of its models to messy, logically-undecidable facts – and always ends up with at least some residual uncertainty.

    To replace such qualitative terms as “a few”, “some” and “most”, measures of degree of match – for example, “confidence intervals” or “margins of error” – probability-like weights – by convention, now often are used to provide a numerical scale for quantifying degrees of belief in facts, to make them more ‘objective’ and communicable. Such weights vary, for example, between 0 to 100%, (or 0 to 1). Belief, as ‘used’ in science, is effectively analog – shades of grey. Belief, in the non-scientific disciplines, is more typically binary – black and white.

    Extremely well-established models of empirical processes (like those built on the Central Limits Theorem), are used to compute the weight of evidence from measured variations among – the number of – and measures of how ‘representative’ are – repeated sample observations. Careful accumulation of evidence, slowly but inevitably, reduces residual uncertainty – with one reservation:

    An earth-shaking, quantitative caveat with respect to our understanding of inductive uncertainty was provided by Werner Heisenberg in 1926. He noted that the axiomatic ‘conceptual entanglement’ of the definitions of certain pairs of what are now called non-commuting, canonically conjugate observables, (that are the Fourier transforms of one another; like, in mechanics, the position and momentum of a particle; or in spectroscopy, energy and time interval), guarantees that the more confidently we establish the measured magnitude of one of the pair, the more uncertain we must become about the other. This Uncertainty Principle has had an enormous impact on our understanding of microscopic and high-energy observations, and lies at the foundation of quantum theories of physics. It got us around some of the singularities, the intractable ‘infinities’, of the attractions and repulsions of the classical field theories, as particle separations approach zero. Paradoxically, it’s permitted some of the most precise (most certain) measurements so far made by physical science!

    Because of the already-discussed, unavoidable, sampling incompleteness in attempts to establish facts, it follows that calculated degrees of belief may only approach, but never equal, 0 or 1 (or 100%). Belief that flows from experimental science (and from observation, generally) can sometimes be very strongly supported by evidence. But no amount of evidence can ever provide absolute certainty about any model’s match to reality. This residual uncertainty distinguishes the ‘factual truths’ of scientific disciplines from the ‘absolute’ truths of mathematics, formal logic, religions and the claims of many other non-scientific intellectual disciplines.

    Challenging the pervasive, black-and-white mind-set of typical reasoning, inherent uncertainties of conversational deductive reasoning, and of all inductive reasoning, set limits to certainty in all intellectual disciplines (e.g., religion, law, history and science). Among these disciplines, and despite the uncertainties, only the weighted, skeptical, agnosticism of the scientific approach, using these two reasoning tools, continues to discover, and ever more firmly establish, increasing numbers of empirical ‘truths’. These ‘truths’ include models of the world, its parts and its processes that have been demonstrated to deserve the very highest levels of confidence. Some even have been promoted as probable “Laws of Nature”. Such well-established models are our most valuable tools for reducing worldly uncertainty.

    Yet-to-be-established- and Pseudo-Science

    Even the most carefully constructed models remain indistinguishable from good science fiction (tantalizing and artfully constructed “just so stories”) – until they’re matched and confirmed by experiment or other pertinent empirical observations that support some significant degree of confidence. With this mindset, scientists generally have a low degree of belief in unconfirmed speculative models about ‘reality’. Searches for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), stimulated by very weakly-supported hunches and ‘hopes’, and for the Higgs boson, ‘predicted’ by the Standard Model of particle physics – both ‘awaiting’ confirmation – currently fall in this science-fiction-like category. Individual scientists may differ considerably with respect to how much they might be willing to ‘bet’ that such models will be confirmed. This usually depends upon the level of pertinent experience and training, and how well each believes such a model fits in with already well-confirmed, scientific models. Most physicists support the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), at least in the hope of demonstrating the Higgs; many fewer scientists show interest in SETI.

    In instances of pseudo-science, or of myths about demonstrably false models (like those of homeopathy and astrology), it’s the responsibility of scientists to ‘teach’ the public how they can be distinguished from ‘established’ science. We should expect the tolerance of scientists to be especially low for models that, as a consequence of the way they conflict with those models already most confidently established, appear to concern not only unobservable, but unconfirmable entities – like perpetual motion machines, creationism, and most likely, multiverses and anthropic landscapes.

    Confidence usually builds with the accumulation of increasing amounts of supporting evidence. Therefore, it’s not unreasonable for confidence in an unconfirmed model to diminish (for scientists and non-scientists), the longer it takes to present plausible, confirmatory evidence for a theory; and especially the longer it takes to supply even descriptions of how evidence, for, or against it, might be obtained. Some scientists are concerned that public support for science and it promise for further contributions to civilization – and especially for high-cost, high-profile science – could be placed at some jeopardy by repeated hype coupled with undelivered, promises. This can provide motivation to inform the public, with some vigor – but preferably without hype – with the small, but finite risk of nonetheless turning out to be wrong – about the uncertainties of such unconfirmed, and perhaps unconfirmable models (for example, string theories of particle physics).

    What Does Science Have to Offer?

    As time passes, in a stumbling manner, science increasingly explores many accessible details, from among the enormous numbers of sensed experiences previously ‘ignored’. At the same time, it develops new instruments to sense new detail beyond our own acuity. And it develops other instruments to explore whole new ‘territories’ that we’ve never experienced.

    Much of the useful technology of applied sciences (like engineering and medicine) carefully exploits the scientific knowledge base by using it to design and ‘construct’ civilization’s most reliable and tangible fruits and tools (themselves ‘models’), as well as for predicting new risks – and unfortunately, for creating a few unplanned risks.

    In the face of worldly uncertainties, science helps humans to cope with survival with a generally optimistic self-confidence as a result of:

    the widely-valued technological fruits of science,

    the utilitarian promises of, and the intellectual fulfillment arising from, the continuing drive to further reduce uncertainty and to discover new empirical ‘truths’ about the world, and

    the general social tolerance engendered by the mind-set of weighted confidence and weighted skepticism.

    These are science’s gifts to civilization.

    Careful evaluation of uncertainty is important. For many purposes, 99.99% certainty of avoiding failure may appear to be ‘practically’ indistinguishable from absolute reliability. But it depends upon the magnitude of risks. Neither with respect to a bridge, an airplane – nor some political decisions – is even 99.99% an acceptable level of certainty. And it’s only the method of science that shows us how to do better.

    If democratic ships of state are to be navigated safely and effectively, it’s essential for populations and their leaders to be educated to a broad understanding of how to use science to manage risks and uncertainty – and how science fits within the spectrum of beliefs.

    But when estimating real-world risks and rewards, unchallengeable religious or ideological beliefs are very poor substitutes for the weighted skepticism of science. This is one of the best reasons for the very strictest separation of church and state.

    The value of reducing uncertainties ties in closely with beliefs about survival value and ethical values. The complex way that survival and ethics fit into the spectrum of belief is still another story, neglected here for ‘brevity’.

  340. SkepticTim

    By the way: science (natural philosophy) does not assume that the universe (external reality) follows rules. That the universe appears to follow rules; specifically, mathematics; is a tentative conclusion of applying the scientific method to our observations of a subset of phenomena within the universe.

    If the universe did not follow rules, the scientific method would still work: it would eventually conclude that the universe does not follow rules.

  341. Tom Marking

    BPL:
    “Isn’t that arguing in a circle?”

    Barton, apparently you missed it. Someone from Sweden? says that circularity in arguments is a good thing and BlackCat backed him up.

    Torbjörn Larsson:
    “A theory and the facts that it contains by its predictions are circular
    (if it is complete).”

    TBC:
    “Finding the T rex bone (or, rather, the fact that the T rex bone exists)
    provides evidence for natural selection specifically because it fits with
    the predictions made by natural selection. Hence the circularity.”

    Sort of reminds me of a novel I once read. “We are at war with East Asia. We have always been at war with East Asia”.

    There is 1 assumption and 1 corallary in science. There has always been 1 assumption and 1 corallary in science.
    .
    .
    .
    (a few posts later)
    .
    .
    .
    There are no assumptions in science. There have always been no assumptions in science.

  342. Fish, or alpha particle?

    Has anyone considered the definitions of faith and religion ? Hehe – i know what ive just done there -assumed that faith and religion are different because that is my view. But seriously, consider it.

    Oh, and another thing, before bashing religious people for their apparent stupidity and incoherence, the way we use words is quite often different to the way atheists etc. use words. This is partly due , from having a translated Holy Book, and being constantly reminded of the fact that the original hebrew and greek have many different connotations. This probably makes me subconciously understand certain words to also mean things that the relevant hebrew/greek word means.

    I hope i’ve thrown a interesting bone btw

  343. Tom Marking

    Len,

    Truly great post. I agree with probably ninety percent of what you had to say.

    “Science depends completely on both deductive and inductive reasoning. Therefore the argument that science dispenses with the need for any elements of faith or belief – supposedly in contrast to religion – is overly simplistic. Since faith and belief are defined as metaphysical, this argument also is equivalent to the questionable claim of the extensive literature of the Positivists; that science
    is, and must remain, free of metaphysics.”

    As you are probably aware, it has been argued on this thread that science is 100 percent inductive, that circular arguments are good, and similar nonsense. I particularly like your arguments concerning language and I’m extremely jealous that I never thought of them. :)

    “Models about the world and humans, derived from our sensations of ‘reality’, are the ‘descriptions’ of conventional language; they’re typically individual sentences – or collections of logically connected sentences – word ‘pictures’ of varying complexity and precision. They’re constructed with the axiomatic fundamentals (defined words or symbols, and grammatical and syntactic rules). Such models are conceptual tools that are designed to try to communicate consistent meaning for analysis and discussion.”

    Right on there. There is not and never will be any empirical evidence for the definitions of words such as “velocity”, “force”, “gravity”,
    “planet”, “galaxy”, etc. That’s how to show ‘em. Way to go.

  344. Rich

    Fish,

    A decent point. Yet I think, your point I think is mostly lost on a large subset of the religious, particularly christians. They have no idea that the bible isn’t in the original english, many have no concept that the translation they are familiar with is but one english translation derived from a Latin (un-ironically often called the “original Latin” text), itself derived from Greek, in turn partly derived from Hebrew and Aramaic. That some words, they hang a great deal on, had alternative or even entirely different meanings in those other languages is largely un-acknowledged and not understood. That some words that are more appropriately translated had a different meaning in the context of the time and place they were originally written is also lost to them. Many that do acknowledge this wave it away with the pat anwer that, “God inspired the translaters to ‘get it right’. God wouldn’t allow such gross misrepresentations of his Word.” etc.

    Whole books have been written on the constant christian misunderstanding of Revelations and what the ancient Hebrews and earliest Christians created and used apocolyptic texts for. Having experienced the panic of a co-worker whose preacher convinced her the end days were imminent, I can’t understate just how badly most Christians, especially evangelicals, misunderstand a text like Revelations by taking it entirely out of the context it was written in and ignoring the audience it was written for.

  345. Rich

    “Right on there. There is not and never will be any empirical evidence for the definitions of words such as “velocity”, “force”, “gravity”,
    “planet”, “galaxy”, etc. That’s how to show ‘em. Way to go.”

    Lol, balderdash. Super balderdash when you can define what you mean with equations. “F=mv” for one. A succint definition that I can test. Does what I mean when I say “Force” really equal the mass of an object times its velocity. Yes. I can even tell you the direction of F since a component of v is direction. As for emperical, I can test these equations over and over again and find that the formula holds over and over again. Now if you define Force as something else do the results and and the equation necessarily change? Of course. But that can simply be resolved by coming to agreement about what we are trying to define; the measurable I call Force you call Empellation… fine. Agree upon what we are measuring and move on from there. That you MEAN something else when you say Force, doesn’t change the correctness of my equation for Force.

    It is easy to see what you are doing and the reductionism you have devolved to (pun not entirely intended) is ludicrous. By your standards nothing could be defined definitively. Which is simply useless. One has to accept that within certain margins of error what works all the time everytime aside from some possible exception that has never been demonstrated, is true. Yes, there is a infinitessimally small chance that driving your car towards a brick wall will result in the car and all material occupants passing through the wall unharmed; but you could repeat such an experiment once every second for the age of the universe and never actually achieve the exception. So, what use is it to define marco-physics by the remotest possible exceptions? Seriously, I’m asking.

    It is important to note such interesting exceptions, but it is neither necessary no wise to bank on them or build say technology or medicine on them. If you feel otherwise you are free to use medicines that may work one time in a literal eon, or you can use those that are based on how the universe works 99.999999999999999999%. Ditto for cars and brick walls, boats, or airplanes. Because if I want to get there I drive, fly, or ride. I don’t attempt to alter the quantum properties and probabilities of my body and the universe to get to work or London, England for that matter. I bet you don’t either.

  346. Tom Marking

    “Lol, balderdash. Super balderdash when you can define what you mean with equations. “F=mv” for one.”

    Good, then please tell me if T $ Q1 & *P4 @ Z5 is a valid equation in physics. Also, please show me the empirical evidence for what T is, what Q1 is, what P4 is, what Z5 is, what $ is, what & is, what * is, and what @ is.

  347. Rich writes:

    [[your point I think is mostly lost on a large subset of the religious, particularly christians. They have no idea that the bible isn’t in the original english,]]

    After many years as a Christian and acquaintance with a vast number of Christians, I have never met one who thought the Bible was originally written in English.

    [[ many have no concept that the translation they are familiar with is but one english translation derived from a Latin (un-ironically often called the “original Latin” text), itself derived from Greek, in turn partly derived from Hebrew and Aramaic.]]

    The KJV, if that’s what you’re referring to, was based on the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts available at the time. And there’s great dispute about whether the Greek mss had Hebrew or Aramaic predecessors. I personally think they probably did not.

    [[ That some words, they hang a great deal on, had alternative or even entirely different meanings in those other languages is largely un-acknowledged and not understood. That some words that are more appropriately translated had a different meaning in the context of the time and place they were originally written is also lost to them. Many that do acknowledge this wave it away with the pat anwer that, “God inspired the translaters to ‘get it right’. God wouldn’t allow such gross misrepresentations of his Word.” etc.

    Whole books have been written on the constant christian misunderstanding of Revelations]]

    The name of the book is “The Revelation of Saint John.” Singular.

    [[ and what the ancient Hebrews and earliest Christians created and used apocolyptic texts for. Having experienced the panic of a co-worker whose preacher convinced her the end days were imminent, I can’t understate just how badly most Christians, especially evangelicals, misunderstand a text like Revelations by taking it entirely out of the context it was written in and ignoring the audience it was written for.]]

    You deduced this about “most Christians” from a sample size of one?

  348. Rich, proving that his physics is just as good as his sociology, writes:

    [[“F=mv” for one. A succint definition that I can test. Does what I mean when I say “Force” really equal the mass of an object times its velocity. Yes. I can even tell you the direction of F since a component of v is direction. As for emperical, I can test these equations over and over again and find that the formula holds over and over again.]]

    Actually, I think Newton’s law is that “f = ma,” where a is acceleration. The product of m and v would be the momentum.

  349. Tom Marking

    “Actually, I think Newton’s law is that “f = ma,” where a is acceleration. The product of m and v would be the momentum.”

    Oh, man! I missed that one. ROFLMAO.

  350. DAV

    BA: ” There is randomness in the Universe, of course: quantum mechanics demands it. But that randomness still follows rules. ”

    An interesting statement. It gets right down to the philosophical foundations of science in the epistemological sense. Randomness is nothing more than an expression of lack of knowledge — unless one wants to concede that things happen without cause. Perhaps you really meant that QM accepts randomness vs. demanding it>?

    There is plenty of interesting discussion above but it’s disconcerting that many here apparently don’t really know the basic differences separating science from pure philosophy.

    In fact, many here can’t seem to separate faith from religion. I sure many above would vociferously argue that science is based solely upon evidence. This may be true for science as a whole but it does not, in fact, cannot carry over to scientists as individuals — if only because it’s impossible for any individual to have access to evidence of everything. At some point, especially as the subject drifts further from an individual’s personal endeavours, the existence of evidence; it’s quality and conclusions based upon it (if it, in fact, does) exist must be taken on faith.

    It may come as a surprise but it’s often scientists themselves who are the quickest to apply what they think they know instead of examining the evidence. One of the reasons, perhaps, why some eventually recognized advances were initially scoffed at.

  351. DAV

    A Case in point:

    Rich: “Lol, balderdash. Super balderdash when you can define what you mean with equations. “F=mv” for one. A succint definition that I can test. Does what I mean when I say “Force” really equal the mass of an object times its velocity. Yes. I can even tell you the direction of F since a component of v is direction. As for emperical, I can test these equations over and over again…”

    Please note that you had to resort to the word “define.”

    You can never prove the equation, F=ma (which I assume you meant). It is true by definition. A definition can neither be proven nor disproven — at least not from within any system that uses it. It just is. Basic assumptions (axioms) are often definitions. An example from plane geometry would be the definition of parallel lines. You can never show this to be false because, if you have two line that meet, they are not parallel by definition.

  352. Richard

    A response to Rich:
    Ignoring the unnecessary personal attack, I’m a Chemist. A physical chemist – which makes an interesting difference when these debates come up (although that’s a different debate altogether. lol).

    I think the problem that you’re facing is that you are under this impression that only the “provable” sciences are science, and that only those based on repeatable observations fit the “scientific method”. Many things studied in science can never be proven in the same way that 1+1=2. Science, much like history itself, is the accumulation of empirical data in order to develop models of the world we live in, and the world we have lived in. But there’s a very important distinction there.

    You say: “I can ALWAYS go back and repeat the experiment and see if I get the same results, the same data. In science the previous examiner of reality makes their methods and their data available, I can check it and repeat it as necessary. No need at all to take on faith the information. If I don’t there is something wrong with my process or the previous experimenters.”
    What if the experiment was measuring the air temperature in London on July 12th 1776 and every day following that until now? The purpose would be to collect the empirical data in order to make a model of where we are moving today, and where we moved from before that. This is scientific data (recorded at the time). This is the scientific method. Observe, conclude. Unfortunately, this CANNOT be repeated. Does it make it not science? You cannot go back in time and measure this. You cannot repeat this experiment. You can model, and make predictions, but it simply cannot be done.

    Much like the comet idea, despite the fact that you can make models and predictions (and they probably will be correct given the lack of randomness at large length-scales), you cannot repeat this observation. Ever. You say this is absurd and that you can make “modern-day measurements”. Therein lies your problem.
    There’s nothing wrong with the experimentalist, and what they observed is what they observed. If YOU could go back in time, you would see the comet too and make the same observation, the same measurements, the same conclusions, and the same predictions. But you CAN’T. It’s one of those limitations currently imposed on mankind.
    But remember, science is the past accumulation of empirical data.

    Also, you say that if something happened, there should be some evidence of it. I agree in principle, but this isn’t always true. This is like saying that we will be able to eventually find the existence of every dinosaur species that ever lived. It takes a very special set of conditions for a skeleton to be preserved (evidence of their existence). I’m sure, and every paleontologist is sure, that we have only discovered some small fraction of them, because the others LEFT NO EVIDENCE of their existence. Just like if you were cremated, and all the world’s written and electronic records were destroyed, there would be no proof you existed. Ever. Now I admit that this doesn’t change anything about science or the scientific method, but it shows that predictions have to be made even when no evidence (or spotty evidence at best) is found.

    I urge you, if you get the chance, to read a paper by the late Stephen Jay Gould – a man that understands the scientific method more than my own “disheartening lack”: Shades of Lamarck. (you can find it in The Panda’s Thumb – a fantastic collection – , pg 76, i’m not sure if it’s online anywhere). It talks about how Lamarckian evolution currently exists in science itself – this says that we rely on previous knowledge passed down to us through the written and spoken record that we cannot inherently test, but know to be working, and true.

    Finally, you say that there is no faith, religion, or dogma that actively analyzes itself as critically as the scientific method does, but I submit that History itself – even modern history – relies on this skepticism and continued study about the past. Otherwise, a degree in history would be a big fat waste of time (it’s not). You can even think of history as a religion if you want – atheism. A story about our past based on the written and paleontological record of a few select individuals (pre-18th century) and occurences.
    Religion itself is outside the power of the critical analysis that the scientific method gets, purely because you can’t go back in time, much in the same way that people don’t still try to figure out what temperature it was in London on any given day in the past. Exactly why people say history is not science (i don’t think it is either) although it’s as reliable as it needs to be.

    PS. out of curiosity (and not for name-calling purposes, i promise), what field are you in? I always find it fascinating to see what side of this debate different academics will take.

    Cheers.

  353. TheBlackCat

    So your evidence that empirical evidence is accurate is itself empirical evidence? You use empirical evidence to prove that empirical evidence is valid?

    Isn’t that arguing in a circle?

    We have already discussed this at length. I am not going to waste my time repeating it. Please read the posts above.

    Nope. You are 100% wrong. Eugenics was supported by atheist scientists like Francis Galton, Herbert Spencer and R.T. Fisher. It was opposed by religious believers like William Jennings Bryan and Aimee Semple MacPherson.

    It was supported by many atheist scientists, and it was opposed by some atheist scientists. It was supported by a large number of religious people and religious leaders, and it was opposed by some religious people and religious leaders. It is a myth that it was entirely, or even predominately, promoted by scientist and that religious leaders were entirely, or even predominately, the ones opposed to it.

    Here is a good overview:

    http://www.ethicsandmedicine.com/18/2/18-2-durst.htm

    But you missed the point in the first place. I wasn’t saying there was anything wrong with science, I was parodying the “religion means burning unbelievers” comment of a previous poster. Read for context.

    Scientists do not kill unbelievers. Religions do. Your parody does not change that, ignoring the fact that it is wrong. The only way science can kill people is by it working. Religion kills people based solely on belief.

  354. Richard

    Dave says: “It may come as a surprise but it’s often scientists themselves who are the quickest to apply what they think they know instead of examining the evidence. One of the reasons, perhaps, why some eventually recognized advances were initially scoffed at.”

    Here Here! I deal with this on a daily basis (whether I’m the scoffing or the scoffee).

  355. TheBlackCat

    Before you bring it up, I know there are a few exception (Lysenko is an example, although once again it more due to ideology than the actual science in question). But they are few and far between, and have never been the normal or even remotely common way of dealing with scientific dissent. They have been a normal way of dealing with religious dissent in certain areas at certain points in history, and even today either violence or threats of violence are routinely used to settle religious disputes. I am not aware of such events in science today. Although I suppose they may happen occasionally they are never considered an acceptable way to settle scientific disputes.

  356. Richard

    Rich says: “It is important to note such interesting exceptions, but it is neither necessary no wise to bank on them or build say technology or medicine on them.”

    Maybe not, but it proves that you can’t be sure of anything. This is why science takes it on faith that we can work within the rules we’ve made and be allowed to ignore the minute exceptions. Knowing that and ignoring that is faith in statistics.

  357. Got tons more to say but want to chime in here because my family suffered directly under atheistic regimes:

    From BlackCat: “Those people were murdered because of specific political/economic ideology. It did not stem from atheism, it was never justified in terms of atheism, there was nothing within atheism that would indicate that sort of behavior is recommended or even acceptable.”

    Of course there’s nothing within atheism that would recommend killing behavior. It’s the void created by atheism that allows it! “Nature abhors a vacuum,” remember? The worst of human nature filled that vacuum and the results were one of the bloodiest centuries in recorded history.

    By the way, one could also use the same argument for Christianity or any other religion and say, “It’s an idealogy within Christianity/Buddhism/etc. and not justified by the religion itself.” that persecuted others. One always needs to separate the true tenets of a religion from how it’s used.

    On another point, there is some great material at http://www.faithscience.org ; a group of scientists and others who see no reason for science and faith to be opposed to each other. From their mission:

    “The Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (ITEST), launched in 1966 and incorporated in 1968, studies the advances in science and technology and their meaning for the Christian understanding of the human being and of creation.

    ITEST has a long history and mission as an international, interdisciplinary, interfaith community of Christians concerned with one of the most promising but urgent issues facing the churches and the civil society, namely, the revolutionary advance in scientific and technological capability, particularly as it is directed toward living systems. Religiously, these developments are important relative to human dignity, freedom and bodily integrity. Socially, the technologies and industries developing from advances in the life sciences have the potential of being used to create either a far better society or one in which the human being is perceived as merely an interchangeable part of the social machinery.”

    A great article on the topic of this blog is here: http://www.faithscience.org/Articles/Articles%20Pdfs/KEILH001.pdf

  358. TheBlackCat

    Of course there’s nothing within atheism that would recommend killing behavior. It’s the void created by atheism that allows it! “Nature abhors a vacuum,” remember? The worst of human nature filled that vacuum and the results were one of the bloodiest centuries in recorded history.

    It wasn’t a void caused by atheism. Atheism was a result, not a cause. Marx’s writings included a rejections of religion, thus anyone who wanted to claim to be instituting his ideas similarly had to reject religion. But the void wasn’t caused by atheism, it was caused by a lack of leadership and social concern from the political leaders of the time that allowed a ideological group, that had atheism as an accidental and not particularly important component, to take over. They replaced the existing feudalistic ideology with a ostensibly Marxist one.

    The atheist component could be seen as merely an attempt to eliminate another competitor for control of the people, that is the powerful religious institutions in the area, allowing the socio-political ideology to control all aspects of life. Note that other groups, when trying to increase their political control, have also used the tactic of either manipulating, taking over, replacing, or eliminating some or all existing religious institutions to do so. It’s standard tactics for those who desire power.

    You seem to be implying that religion leads to moral behavior and the absence of religion people just do whatever they want (the only way your “void” makes sense is in terms of a moral guide). This is a common argument, but one not supported by the evidence and certainly not supported by your examples. Norway, for instance, currently has a “void” in religion. It is the most secular country in the world. It is also one of the safest and was ranked as the top country in the world in the recent “peace index”. Atheist are strongly underrepresented amongst prison populations. Further, people did not just do what they wanted under “communist” regimes, they had strict order and

    People seem very good at killing each other even with religion, and I have yet to see any evidence that a lack of it leads to worse behavior. In fact the evidence points quite clearly in the opposite direction.

    Ideology of any sort can make people do horrible things. But atheism is not an ideology, it merely the lack of one particular type of ideology.

    By the way, one could also use the same argument for Christianity or any other religion and say, “It’s an idealogy within Christianity/Buddhism/etc. and not justified by the religion itself.” that persecuted others. One always needs to separate the true tenets of a religion from how it’s used.

    I am not familiar with Buddhist writings, but there are passages in the Bible that specifically call for executing unbelievers, killing witches, conquest, genocide, and pretty much any other atrocity you can imagine. You can debate all you want whether this is the true message of the religion, but it is certainly justified within Christian scripture and as well as in early Christian history. There is no such justification in atheism.

  359. Peter Teiman-Franklin here,
    Einstein certainly spoke of Spinoza’s Spiritual belief system, which implicitly implied the concept of Cosmic experience.
    Peter Teiman-Franklin,
    Sweden

  360. Peter Teiman-Franklin here,
    It seems paradoxical however causal intent so often seems to be displaced within the context of human conscious evolution.
    Peter Teiman-Franklin,
    Sweden

  361. Kevin M.

    Neither pure scientism nor pure spiritualism are correct. I reject pure creationism as I reject that the universe is purely matter-based, both are outright untruths. Science does not grasp “Reality”, but only the physical subset of reality. To reduce all reality to mere physics is plain dishonesty. The first fact of science is that only a tiny fraction of the full evidence can ever be grasped at a time. Science is based on a long string of assumptions and regularly ignoring the majority of the evidence. Those who run from “tiresome” philosophy or metaphysical questions are simply denying their failure to refute or grasp the full nature of “reality”.

    The social problem lies when either religionists or materialists reach beyond their proper sphere and try to dictate that the other side does not exist. An honest religion does not reject science, but embraces it as something useful. An honest science does not attempt to deny the vastly unobservable and undemonstrable mystery that is ALL of nature and supernature. Science has made great material strides only in the most recent decades, and our traditional religions are catching up to date with this. But science has no grounds therefore to declare spirituality non-existent or obsolete.

    Death is also reality, an all-consuming, persistent, undeniable fact of reality, and science is powerless to grasp or reveal almost anything about it. To therefore deny the existence or persistent reality of death or the possible existence of a state of eternity “because we cannot percieve or measure it” is simply dishonest and a sweeping, ideology-based assumption.

    And all the evidence shows that this purely material development has in no way created greater spiritual happiness. We are not necessarily better than we were before, there are just more of us, so in the end, what real good has “science” done? What real significance does it have? It could all be consigned to “stupid matter tricks” which allow some people to dominate and abuse others more than they could before.

    Religion rightly rejects the dishonest position of a scientism which misrepresents the full nature of reality for illusory goals of self-delusion, pride, power or control over others. These ends, left unchecked, will only bring about the self-destruction of mankind. A pure scientism, like a pure spiritualism, cannot be allowed to dominate our politics or social life, and must be avoided at all costs.

    Life is not merely physics or matter based. There is a super-nature. A significant portion of life is immaterial or incorporeal. Matter is part of our life and reality, but not the whole of it, or necessarily the best part.

  362. The atheist asserts, out of faith, that that is a null set.

    No, Barton, that’s not true and you know it isn’t true.

    The atheist asserts that there is no evidence indicating anything other than a null set. To draw a logical conclusion from evidence isn’t faith. As soon as evidence appears to invalidate that conclusion, it will be discarded in favour of the conclusion supported by evidence.

    There is no faith involved, and no amount of semantic perversion will make faith appear.

  363. I always thought of science as simply exploring and explaining the methods of the creator – so what possible problem could there be?

  364. what do you call science that depends on faith….Ah yes MAGIC!
    science is based on facts and things u can’t explain means that they are governed by a set of other rules we yet are not familiar about

    Science is just that….Science
    faith’s part in all of this comes in believing ur gonna discover smthg scientifically, or get a break or a clue that leads to a new scientific rule
    when the femtosecond was discovered it was due to the correlation of facts and science, faith comes here in believing that if you try hard enough I’ll do smthg, or a state of mind and sudden clarity to which new perception is then advised, not the ….tada…a new thing comes to existence called the fimtosec…(again that is called magic, making smthg out of nothing at all)

    The reason I’m using this reference (in case someone was wondering, is cuz I’m Egyptian as the Nobelist Dr.Ahmed Zewail who discovered the fimtosec ;)

  365. Science/Religion Dude

    BlackCat, I agree with you in some ways, but I would venture to say that without an atheistic bias, the idealogical systems in question would not have been as ruthless as they were. One can’t separate out the atheism as being incidental (I don’t intend to be trite here) to people’s actions. There was a moral void in the Soviet Union, the systematic elimination of religion, other than token state sponsored one’s, created a society that was the historical pinnacle of the human spirit being bludgeoned into the ground.

    Now, I won’t say that atheists have no moral compass, or that religion is required to be moral. We both know that’s not true. We’re human beings and there is something internal to evolved (and evolving) humanity that guides us, when we listen. Perhaps Humanity is evolving away from being spiritual..I don’t think so. I do think that it is part and parcel to humanity (which shows “religiousness” since the dawn of when we call them humans) and that introspection (and being able to examine the universe) and deciding to be theistic or atheistic, will always be part of the human spirit. Judeo-Christians (and others) would say that the freedom to make that fundamental decision is because we’re in God’s image and likeness.

    DAV, you wrote: “A definition can neither be proven nor disproven — at least not from within any system that uses it. It just is.”

    In the Religious non-atheistic framework, “God” is a definition by our definition of “definition”. Perhaps this is faith? Interesting thought….thanks!

  366. Tom Marking

    “- Jews are scientists
    – atheists are scientists
    – Muslims are scientists
    – Evangelical Christians are scientists

    All of the above statements are true”

    You might want to consider taking a college course in logic. None of the assertions listed is true (nor false) in a rigorous logical sense. You need a categorical qualifier at the beginning of each statement which may be one of the following:

    All (universal affirmative)
    No (universal negative)
    Some (particular affirmative)
    Some with not after the verb (particular negative)

    Thus, for example:
    All Jews are scientists (false)
    No atheists are scientists (false)
    Some Muslims are scientists (true)
    Some Evangelical Christians are not scientists (true)

  367. Tom Marking

    “This only hastens religion’s inevitable demise as a set of ideas with continued meaning and relevance to our daily lives. The adherents of many faiths can’t even produce any more inspiring works, and so they instead resort to trying to tar and feather the new “competition” for this form of mindshare.”

    Concerning the imminent demise of religion I wouldn’t hold your breath too long. This mode of thought has been around for thousands of years and it will probably be around for thousands of years to come. So science is competing with religion for mindshare? And I thought y’all claimed science isn’t another religion.

    BTW, in the United States anyway it is increasingly difficult to find natives who want to study science and engineering at least at the graduate level. That is why if you go into any major public university and look at who are the graduate students in the sciences you will find that a majority of them are from China, India, etc. and not from the United States. So I wouldn’t be throwing out predictions of the imminent demise of religion when your own system seems also threatened.

  368. TheBlackCat

    BlackCat, I agree with you in some ways, but I would venture to say that without an atheistic bias, the idealogical systems in question would not have been as ruthless as they were.

    You are just speculating without any evidence whatsoever to back it up, and your position is directly contradicted by extremely brutal religious ideologies from throughout history. There were a great many religious-based ideological systems that were just as ruthless, if not more so. Hopefully I don’t need to bring up the witch hunts, which is thought to have killed millions (but we can’t be sure because the people at the time didn’t think the people being killed were worth counting).

    In the Religious non-atheistic framework, “God” is a definition by our definition of “definition”. Perhaps this is faith? Interesting thought….thanks!

    Wrong. Even amongst people within the same branch of the same religion there is wide disagreement about what properties their god, or gods, has. There are countless, mutually inconsistent definitions of “God”. In fact there are many definitions that bear no resemblance to each other whatsoever (Spinoza’s god is a good example, it isn’t even intelligent). In order for “God” to be a definition there has to be some sort of widespread agreement about the properties that definition correspond to. There isn’t, far from it.

    I always thought of science as simply exploring and explaining the methods of the creator – so what possible problem could there be?

    That assumes that there is a creator, a position not supported by the evidence..

  369. DAV

    SRD: “In the Religious non-atheistic framework, “God” is a definition by our definition of “definition”. Perhaps this is faith? Interesting thought….thanks!”

    Yep. In philosophy, the starting points are givens. All else is derived by deduction. The primary difference between science and philosophy is that scientific knowledge is expanded through induction.

    Yes, science uses some philosophy as a tool and, indeed, has its roots in philosophy. F=ma is a given in the mathematical models of physics. But, even though physics uses math, math itself isn’t a science. Think of the math model as an ongoing hypothesis that is continually affirmed or refuted by real-world evidence. In math, the hypothesis derived from F=ma is the reality. Don’t confuse the two: hypothesis=prediction; facts=reality. Facts are NOT derived from prediction. In philosophy, proven statements (i.e., those that can be shown to be logical consequences) are often taken as fact. Not the same thing.

    One of the misconceptions about science that many (especially fundamentalists and surprisingly, some atheists) have is that science does not say “there is no God.” Instead, the question of the existence of God is irrelevant because it is untestable: there is no method that can prove that God exists or has any influence in reality.

    It’s not without irony that atheists reach an equally unprovable opposite stance. They don’t seem to realize that that stance, too, is a matter of faith.

    IMO, there is nothing wrong with having a belief in God and no one should denigrate you for holding one but, OTOH, understand that such a belief has no basis other than itself. I think that trying to influence others on unprovable because-of-God-this-or-that is very wrong.

    Be careful with word games. Fundamentalists in particular like to say Darwin’s theory is, well, a theory. They are confusing philosophical theory with scientific theory. In philosophy, any theory can be shown true if it has the proper givens and, once shown true, there is no point in testing it further. Science expects theories to be backed up by facts and a scientific theory is constantly tested. The fundamentalist is forced into his position as Darwin’s theory is backed up by fact and the fundamentalist’s is not. Having your world view bubble burst can be devastating.

    BTW: if a scientist enters into a public policy debate and starts chanting “the science is settled,” you should recognize that as anti-(or at the least un-)scientific rhetoric . The so-called scientist is no longer acting as one.

  370. Plish

    BlackCat, with regards to God being a Definition, please recall what I quoted: A definition can neither be proven nor disproven — at least not from within any system that uses it. It just is.”

    You’re reading what I said incorrectly. I am not defining God. I’m simply saying God falls into the realm of being a definition as DAV defined it. Thus, “God can be neither proven nor disproven-at least not from within any system that acknowledges God-God just is.” Although I know people will try and prove that God exists, but proofs are subjective in this case.

    And yes, I am speculating about atheism’s role in over 100 million deaths, and yes, religious motivation has resulted in many deaths as well throughout history. (I wonder about your numbers on witchhunts..numbers I’ve seen range from 10000 t0 100000 with around 40000 or so being most accepted)

    I’m not saying atheists are more evil than religious folks. There are planty of religious folks that do their share of persecuting. But in the world views of those times (witch hunt eras, etc) religion was part and parcel of people’s lives (factoid: Kepler taught at a seminary and saved his mother from being burned as a witch). Religion wasn’t a parcelled out portion of someone’s day to day life–it was a worldview (heck-most cultures don’t even HAVE a word for religion though they were religious folk by our standards-they use a translation/transliteration of “religion” when speaking today about it.)

    If one understands this religiously permeated worldview of the past, one can understand why things happend that way in hindsight. This same understanding will get us far in understanding why there are still killings in certain areas of the world based upon religion. What frightens me is that the communist regimes are in OUR times; we understand the worldview they sprung from -we lived in it- we (as a people) accepted it and we’re still feeling the effects of it and will for years to come. It wasn’t good, that much I know. To simply claim religiously driven societies are bad and to claim atheism can’t share blame in Communism based slaughters-quite frankly- is a copout. The need to eliminate God was a necessity in the idealogy, it was written and promulgated by those who already had those leanings, and it was enforced viciously because it was tied into the idealogy and was seen as an objective “GOOD”. Kinda sounds like religiously motivated killings only the same phenomena were present under the guise of enlightened behavior.

  371. TheBlackCat writes:

    [[Scientists do not kill unbelievers. Religions do.]]

    Tell it to the Soviet Darwinists who were tortured and executed because they disagreed with Trofim Lysenko.

    Or to Carrie Buck.

  372. TheBlackCat writes:

    [[a ideological group [sic], that had atheism as an accidental and not particularly important component,]]

    You’ve never read Lenin, have you? Atheism was hardly “an accidental and not particularly important component” of Communism. It was a fundamental part of it. Marxism was based directly on dialectical materialism. Any religion was a direct rival.

  373. Squid, still not getting it, writes:

    [[***The atheist asserts, out of faith, that that is a null set.***

    No, Barton, that’s not true and you know it isn’t true.

    The atheist asserts that there is no evidence indicating anything other than a null set. To draw a logical conclusion from evidence isn’t faith.
    ]]

    Let me try and get through to you about this again.

    Evidence pertains to nature.

    The religious question is whether something other than nature exists.

    Saying there’s no evidence for the supernatural is a true statement, but it’s also a stupid statement. It’s like saying that music doesn’t exist because you can’t take a photograph of it. Wrong instrument.

    Empirical evidence is irrelevant to whether something other than the empirical world exists.

    The atheist who says nothing exists but nature is making a statement on faith, because there is no other basis on which to make such a statement.

    As Carl Sagan said, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

  374. TheBlackCat posts:

    [[Hopefully I don’t need to bring up the witch hunts, which is thought to have killed millions (but we can’t be sure because the people at the time didn’t think the people being killed were worth counting).]]

    You know, rather than make stuff up, you might want to research this kind of thing some time. There are people who have studied this stuff — they’re called “historians.” Figures of millions dead in the witch trials have been mooted (in the 18th century) but have not stood up to historical examination; to kill millions you generally need railroads, which is why genocide became so prevalent in the 20th century. Modern estimates of deaths in the witch trials cluster around 60,000.

    There are trial records of about 15,000 executions of witches from about 1450 to 1650. For various reasons historians estimate about 75% of the total may have been missed — not because “people at the time didn’t think the people being killed were worth counting,” but largely because the records from that time haven’t survived very well. We don’t have most of the written output of the past, especially before printing took off.

    Some good recent sources on the subject are:

    Gibbens, Jennifer 1999. “The Great European Witch Hunt.” PanGaia 21, 25-34.

    Levack, Brian 1992. The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe. NY: Longman Group.

  375. Jim O'Flaherty

    How is holding the basic premise, “the Universe obeys a set of rules”, not an act of faith?

    To hold an axiom is to root one’s faith. What one does that with the completely dynamic nature of associations, emotions and impulses is one’s own business, and the business of those one attempts to persuade.

    There is no getting away from the core issue of ANY belief system, and it is that the root itself, the axiomatic base, that which is not proven but upon which all other proof must depend, is itself an act of faith, a belief held without evidence or proof.

    Jim

  376. Peter

    Science does not care if the Universe obeys a set of rules. The certainty that it does, is evidenced by repeatable experiments and the historical record. If the gravitational constant was ever different, for instance, how could the solar system even form? On the Plank scale things do get weird though.

    I’m pretty sure religions (or lack of) don’t kill people, people kill people. Usually for economic or power reasons. So it’s pointless to claim the other side’s members have murdered more.

    There is no “before” the big bang, time began with it, therefore it has no cause. It just is. “Is” because it is still exploding.

    Religion can’t prove there is a God and science can’t prove or disprove it, at least not yet. Maybe one day, we can peer into other dimensions or leave the Matrix. Until then, Atheists have a pragmatic perception of reality. It makes no sense to say they have faith that God does not exist therefore a faith. They are confusing terms (big F and little). There is simply no evidence, period. If it quacks like a duck…

    Creationists are simply in denial of overwhelming mountains of evidence. Anti-evolutionist claims are weak at best.

    Science is “faith-based”? Sure, but as long as we drop that term for religion and use the term LIE-BASED instead.

  377. Some very good points are made here, but I still think science is faith-based at its deepest core. It’s true that the vast majority of science is based on evidence and experimental inquiry and actively tries to disprove itself in order to advance (as opposed to insisting upon unchanging doctrine), but at its very core is the faith-based belief that the most accurate way of learning about the world around us is by examining it through repeated testing, the scientific method. It’s not provable, but we’ve had fantastic results following it so far. :) Consider it an axiom. Unprovable, but accepted as true, much like the mathematical axiom “a=a”.

  378. Let’s hope the post gets through this time.

    Peter posts:

    [[Science does not care if the Universe obeys a set of rules. The certainty that it does, is evidenced by repeatable experiments and the historical record.]]

    You’re arguing that empiricism is proved by empirical evidence, which is arguing in a circle.

    [[Science is “faith-based”? Sure, but as long as we drop that term for religion and use the term LIE-BASED instead.]]

    If you can’t believe that someone could honestly disagree with you about something, and insist they must secretly agree with you but be lying about it, it’s a sign that you don’t understand the issue in question and have never seriously thought it out.

  379. Peter

    You’re arguing that empiricism is proved by empirical evidence, which is arguing in a circle.
    No, I’m arguing that Determinism is evident, as Newton and Co. demonstrated.

  380. Peter

    If you can’t believe that someone could honestly disagree with you about something, and insist they must secretly agree with you but be lying about it, it’s a sign that you don’t understand the issue in question and have never seriously thought it out.

    OK I regressed into name calling, my bad. I do understand and I have thought about it, thank you.

    Common usage of the term “faith-based” is for established religions as in “faith-based initiative” promoted by the president. To somehow compare science to established religion is insulting and unfair at best. I realize this comes from misunderstanding and suspision. Afterall, knowledge is sort of frowned on in religion (remember that apple?). Believers are taught to see it as evil or and not just empirical aquisition of knowledge that started with our earliest survival on the African savannah.

    We face extreme challenges to our survival. Earth could be our Easter Island, our future depends on science (and it’s acceptance)!

  381. Peter writes:

    [[knowledge is sort of frowned on in religion (remember that apple?). Believers are taught to see it as evil or and not just empirical aquisition of knowledge that started with our earliest survival on the African savannah.]]

    Knowledge is not frowned on in religion. That is a grossly ignorant statement. Try reading the book of Proverbs where chapter after chapter praises Wisdom.

    The fruit Adam and Eve ate in the garden was the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There are two ways to know something — by understanding, and by experience. French is a more fortunate language than English in that regard, it has two words for “to know” — savoir, to know by understanding, and connaitre, to know by experience. What Adam and Eve gained by eating the fruit was knowledge of evil gained by committing evil; the sort of knowledge no one needs to have. I don’t have to murder someone to know that murder is wrong, but until I murder someone I don’t understand (connaitre) what committing murder is like.

    Note the kind of “wisdom” Adam and Eve gained by eating the fruit — that it was shameful to be naked and that they could evade God by hiding behind trees.

  382. Plish

    If there’s one thing that’s come out of these discussions is how much religion/faith, and Christianity in particular, gets caricaturized.

    Unfortunately, these caricatures are often the result of different vocabularies and worldviews and oftentimes discussions that talk past each other. There need not be an adversarial relationship between the religion and science for when one or the other takes an ivory tower approach, societies and cultures – people – suffer.

    Cultures/people don’t exist in vacuums- people’s lives are intertwined with science, and faith. The question then should not be “Is science faith-based?” It should be, “Can science and faith help the people of the world, of whatever religion or academic persuasion, grow towards becoming humans that love, respect, care for, and nurture, one another and the cosmos?”

    Judging from discussions on this board, unfortunately the immediate answer is “no.” But, if all people (scientist/non-scientist/religious/non-religious) can dig deep to touch and appreciate that which we all are, I can see the answer being “yes.”

    I say that, because I have faith…..

  383. Peter

    Knowledge is not frowned on in religion. That is a grossly ignorant statement. Try reading the book of Proverbs where chapter after chapter praises Wisdom.

    Was Galileo Galilei praised?

    Thanks for the clarification about the Genesis story…

  384. Plish

    Geez Peter,

    You know? History is filled with walls built because of collective memories of past injustices.

    Loking back at the mileau of Galileo’s time (religion and science intertwined in interesting ways) , such sanctioning can be understood though not condoned from the 21st C. perspective. The Catholic Church apologized for that regardless. Heck even the pope at the time was uncomfortable with keeping him in a dungeon and changed his sentence to house arrest.

    That said, Galileo was a Catholic (who thought about becoming a priest even)and argued using Augustinian (like St. Augustine) arguments that the Bible was not to be taken literally with regards to astrophysics. He essentially fleshed out Copernicus (a Catholic Cleric from the prior generation who WASN’T ostracized like Galileo) so it makes one wonder what other forces were at play especially since Galileo had friends in the higher ups and it was the Pope himself who wanted Galileo to write a book that gave both sides of the argument on heliocentrism.

    Bottom line, if organizations are made of humans there will be abuses, agendas, and points to be made. The church is no different. Today we have the IRS and FDA that “make statements” with various cases just to flex muscles and say “don’t mess with me”. Perhaps Galileo lacked some modicum of something that Compernicus had, hence the different treatments.

    Regardless, it was an abuse, it’s been acknowledged, and it shouldn’t be considered as a hallmark of religion per se. It’s an example of broken human nature and exercises of power and a man who respected the church, was highly educated in Catholic culture (and was religious!) and played by its rules even though he thought it was wrong.

    Thank God he continued writing and summarizing his work in other fields…

  385. Jacob Turner

    We need to let reason take us as far as we can go and to do so, we will, above all, have to maintain open minds. Lets focus less on taking sides and more on a deeper understanding of everything.

    I’m sure we all agree to the above statement. Now we just have to do it.

  386. Peter

    I read meny desperate comments.
    It reads like “i know i am wrong but i have invested to much”
    Just an observation

  387. michael

    …and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules…

    I don’t think there are any ‘rules’ – just particles with properties (charge, mass, etc.). The rules are statistical products of the interaction of the particles.

  388. German guy posts:

    [[most religious people dont realize that scientists are not against the religios theory, because they dont like it, but because there is no relighable evidence for it. There have been thousands of religions and thousands of “prophets” and millions of sitings of wonders, all telling different stories. This fact proves, that things said by Humans, without any evidence the supports the context, are not relighable sources of information. if there were facts, that would actually prove the bible true, then this theory would be the scientific theory.]]

    I think your discussion here is predicated on a false premise — that religion is some kind of alternative scientific theory of how things work. It isn’t.

    As for proving the Bible “true” — true how? Containing a lot of straight history? That was proved a long time ago, by middle east archaeology. Giving the correct portrayal of God and man’s relation to God? I think it’s true, but I can’t prove it, and it’s certainly not something that can be examined scientifically.

    Science and religion are not rival explanations of reality. They deal with different subdomains of reality; nature and the supernatural, respectively.

  389. Tukla in Iowa

    This thread has helped me a great deal. It has shown me that the word “faith” encompasses so much (everything in fact) that it is meaningless. I had faith for breakfast, I drove my faith to work, I’m typing on my faith with my faith using my faith that I’m seeing faith. So next time someone tells me to have faith, I’ll be able to tell them to stop using nonsense words.

  390. Tukla — Faith has the following meanings:

    1. To believe something on faith is to accept it as a premise. To do Euclidean geometry, I take it on faith that there can only be one straight line (B) parallel to another given line (A) through a point external to A.

    2. Loyalty. I will be faithful to God, faithful to my wife, etc.

    3. “A faith” can mean a religion, e.g. the Jewish faith, the Hindu faith, etc.

    Those are really the only possible meanings for the word.

  391. [...To say that we have to take science on faith is such a gross misunderstanding of how science works that it can only be uttered by someone who is wholly ignorant of how reality works...]

    From an Atheist, Absurdist, Cognitive Scientist, Technical and Fiction Writer, who has spent a lot of time trying to figure out ‘how reality works’ (and still doesn’t), be advised that that statement is, in itself, an expression of the ignorance of… well, how reality ‘works’. From one ignoramus to another, so to speak. It also occurs to me that, if anything, the statement itself is exactly the kind of proof required to substantiate the ‘science is based on faith’ claim.

    The point could be argued at infinitum, but I’d like to suggest that if anything should give those smugly and fuzzy-warmly ensconced in their “science is based on evidence” nook a hint that their world-view is based on a great existential irony it is this: that everything that comes out of the current, very scientific!, work on neuroscience and its relation to cognition and our very understanding of what we _can_ mean by ‘reality’, only goes to undermine any notion that there actually _is_ anything in the cognitive realm that isn’t, in some way, based on whatever is the underlying mechanism of that we sometimes label ‘faith’, but which really is just one of many…well, let’s call them ‘existential assumptions’; because that’s what they are.

    That the very ‘evidence’ coming out of ‘science’ should serve to continue to progressively undermine the notion that this same ‘evidence’ is anything but an arbitrarily chosen (albeit very useful) set of ‘credible evidence’, if you will, from a vast pool of possible ‘evidences’… I mean, doesn’t that tell you something?

    At the very least you got to be able to have a chuckle at it. I know I do. Often.

  392. Katy

    I do agree with what you are saying… to an extent. Science DOES work. But why? How come there are exceptions of miraculous healings and unexplained natural phenomena? Science had to come from somewhere, and that somewhere it came from has the authority to disrupt it sometimes… but not all the time. The advancement of science in our culture has killed our ability for faith. It takes one who is completely saturated with reality to really believe. Science doesn’t explain everything in that occurs… so how can it be reality?

    I am not trying to shoot your ideas down, just hoping that you’ll think about this.

  393. Erin

    I just came across your article and was intrigued. You state at the beginning that science is not based on faith, then in the very next sentence, you contradict yourself by saying that science makes one assumption. To assume, according to dictionary.com, is “to take for granted or without proof; suppose; postulate; posit”. Faith is defined by the same source as “belief that is not based on proof”. I see little difference in these two definitions.

    You can’t *prove* conclusively that the universe obeys a set of rules. You can only look at the *evidence* and interpret it to make a reasonable *assumption*. I can’t *prove* that there is a God, but I can look at the *evidence* and choose to believe based on reasonable interpretation.

    The quote from answersingenesis.com does not criticize or deny the scientific method. Nor does it make any claim that science is bad. It simply points out that no matter where you start from, it takes a leap of faith to get going. Human are “hard-wired” for faith; we choose in what deity we place our faith.

    I don’t know any Christians who would think that the scientific method is inherently wrong or that the Universe is an inherently illogical place. On the contrary, most believe that the Universe was created by an intelligent, logical, reasonable and reasoning God, who has in turn given us the gifts of intelligence, logic, and reason, through which we are able to interpret our surroundings and gain knowledge and which allows us to build upon that knowledge in order to continue to strive toward a better society.

  394. Kenn M

    The only thing that I can disagree on is that much of science is still theory. So when you make an assumption, this still requires at least a small amount of faith.

    As far as evolution and creation goes, evolution also has not been fully proven. However, in my personal opinion I have a hard time believing that we just evolved or if we did that we just came from just a blob of amino acids in the ocean. I feel that life is way too precious for it just to happen, even science cannot prove how life came to be on Earth. But I do disagree with religious zealots who have nothing better to do than to go around and ignore science to fit their religion. I think that rather ignore science they should embrace it and try to add science to their belief.

    Therefore, I feel science is just as much of a faith just because the core topics of science (such as evolution and the creation of Earth) are still theory based, so this still requires faith (believing without seeing) .

  395. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Old thread, no time. FWIW, @ Tom:

    I thought observations, facts, whatever you want to call them stand by themselves.

    Oh yes. But I was describing a complete theory, which predicts its facts, and so is circular in this view as the observations are confirming the axioms that the theory builds on. (such as that the universe have rules, to use on mentioned here.)

    New facts would then need a new theory with new predictions, and so on.

    Of course, Godel said that given any formal system there are true statements that are unprovable from within the system. It supports my position but I am forbidden from using it.

    No it doesn’t, see my earlier comment. All it means is that we can build larger theories, by adding those statements as new axioms, if necessary to explain new observations.

  396. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ Erin:

    You can’t *prove* conclusively that the universe obeys a set of rules.

    We never *prove* anything in science, it isn’t a formal theory like math. Observations have uncertainties, theories as well, and theories can be falsified if they are wrong. The best we can do is to validate a theory beyond reasonable doubt by testing it thoroughly. (And most often quantify that with a number, an uncertainty.)

    I don’t get why you go on about assumptions and others about axioms. They aren’t proved either, but validated beyond reasonable doubt together with a theory. If the assumption is that the universe follows rules, well, guess what, repeatable observations have allowed us to build predictive theories that validate that assumption beyond reasonable doubt.

    You shouldn’t confuse a method (science) for a formal theory (math).

  397. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ Kenn:

    evolution also has not been fully proven.

    29+ evidences for evolution. Note that the references tells us that evolution has been verified beyond reasonable doubt. For example, in physics it is standard use that if a theory predicts its main observations within 3 sigma (i.e. with less than 1 % uncertainty) it is acceptable. But for example the evolutionary phylogenetic standard tree is predicted to a remaining uncertainty of 38 decimal places! (I.e. instead of 10^-2 uncertainty we have only 10^-38.)

    So both in its math and in its number of verified predictions (150+ years of them) evolution easily trumps all physical theories in predictive power and passed tests.

    Make no mistake, evolution has been both verified beyond reasonable doubt and accepted by the biologists.

    or if we did that we just came from just a blob

    But this is abiogenesis, which is not relevant for evolution theory – it neither require or predict abiogenesis, it works on already existing populations. This is the case with all our theories, they work on an observed or assumed initial state onwards. And evolution is a theory among others, validated, living and much useful.

    Note that we don’t have a quantum gravity theory with which to fully explain the initial state of the universe, nor the existence of masses. Nevertheless we have both a bigbang cosmology predicting fully the subsequent expansion, as well as a classic gravitation theory (GR) predicting the behavior of masses.

  398. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Uups. Sorry about the unclosed tag.

  399. Kenn M

    To Torbjörn Larsson, OM:

    Thanks for the link to the website, it is a very good read.

  400. Jack

    “This in turn strongly implies that the Universe is following its own rules, and that we can figure them out.”

    The Universe as a set of rules, so, who or what created those rules?
    (assuming rules are not self-created)

  401. Christian X Burnham, you said well. :)

  402. Oh Dear!

    How very, very sad to see all this rancorous and vitriolic disputation between religious people and the scientifically minded. Science and religion need each other so desperately. Without religion and religious people who would scientists turn to for their smug and critical sense of intellectual superiority? At whom could they truly laugh with such unfettered glee? About whom could they really make such broad, sweeping, and largely ill-informed generalizations? What straw man? What whipping boy? What invention of the scientific community could serve so well to bolster the self-satisfied image of these purely rational beings?

    And what of that monolithic and entirely nefarious religious community? As it is the well attested and often stated goal of every religious tradition to ruin everything for everyone, to bring death, darkness, and destruction on all people at every opportunity – how far will they get without their scientifically minded brother and sisters? Why, without science religious people would have to beat each other up with sticks. I mean, can anyone really imagine any modern religion worth it’s salt without its requisite stockpile of machine guns, chemical weapons, and nuclear warheads? What good is it being completely and irrationally dedicated to poisoning the world if no one has invented any effective poisons? Clearly religious people could never carry out their plans to subvert reality without the aid of science.

    So please, let us learn to tolerate our differences even if we cannot appreciate each other’s gifts. I for one don’t want to live in a world where religious people have to live without rational creations such as medicines, indoor plumbing, and reality television. Nor would I care to live as a scientist in a world without such irrational benefits as love, altruism, or art.

  403. James

    Maybe I have been out of the loop, or have missed some politically correct points of late, but I am not aware that science was ever at risk of being labeled “Faith Based” as you describe it ?

  404. Perhaps science begins with an assumption – one made due to the patterns we can observe in nature with our own senses and, for the most part, without the assistance of holy books, prophets, priests and ministers – however, it is an assumption that is confirmed over and over again. As the author says, it works. As we say colloquially – “The proof is in the pudding.” Perhaps better than saying “Nature obeys or follows certain rules” is to instead say “Nature exhibits certain predictable patterns.” I think the use of “rules” confuses many because there is no clear distinction in their minds between “prescriptive” rules versus “descriptive” rules. Nature does not dictate the rules, we deduce the rules from the patterns we see in nature. The “rules” are human invention. The patterns are there whether we describe them or not. If we assume nature follows certain rules, what we are really saying is nature behaves in predictable patterns AND we are competent to invent rules from those patterns to aid us in our understanding of nature and in our penchant for predicting what it will do ahead of its doing. Our scientific assumption is still based in real experience. Unlike supernatural religions, this experience isn’t elitist. One doesn’t have to believe what others are telling you about nature. One doesn’t have to worship authoritative books. One doesn’t require special paraphernalia or need to attend special temples. One doesn’t have to obey scientific prophets or priests or ministers. Anyone with their own senses and often with the right tools, can see the same patterns, deduce the same rules – assuming their personal intellectual honesty and the will to do so. There will be no scientific inquisition if you choose not to believe in gravity. Scientists do not have the final word, they cannot hold you accountable to “what goes up must come down” – nature, the real, the true, facts have always been, are, and always will be the final arbiter of the rationality and reasonableness of your thinking and behavior.
    If you assume “god” will keep you safe in the storm, let’s hope you find adequate shelter just in case “god” is on holiday OR your assumption is just simply wrong.

  405. I might also add that science, or rather rational and reasonable inquiry starts from two self-evident corollary axioms (self-supporting or requiring no further evidence than themselves) – reality and consciousness – i.e., something exists and you are conscious of it therefore you exist. Science begins with irreducible so, I would suggest that science doesn’t begin with an assumption at all. It begins with the self-evident.

    If “god” were merely the religious name for “reality”, we’d only be quibbling over labels rather than engaging in any substantive debate over what is true, however, supernatural religions do far more than begin with and deduce from the self-evident. They traditionally make claims regarding nature and humanity that cannot be deduced from reality OR from consciousness of reality. In other words, they make grossly unsupportable claims. They call this “knowing.” I call it dysfunctional intellect or plain insanity.

  406. ganv

    Those of us who are scientists need to be careful when making philosophical declarations such as “Science is not based on faith.” Some people want to claim that science is based on faith and therefore equivalent to religion. Phil and others have adequately debunked that idea.

    But to go furthur and state that there is only one presupposition of science is just bad philosophy and bad sociology. First of all, it makes the foundationalist mistake by assuming that knowlege is organized by deductions from presuppositions and observations. To me, the coherentist philosophies of science by people like Imre Lakatos make much better sense of how the many varieties of assumptions used by individual scientists actually are built into a coherent research program. And here we see why it is bad sociology. Science is an activity pursued by humans and humans are complicated. There are a variety of philosophical and practical assumptions driving different participants in the scientific enterprise. The methods and assumptions of science have evolved over the centuries based on observations of the kinds of thinking and activites that work to produce understanding and control. Like almost any evolved thing, the assumptions of science are not easily reduced to a sentence.

    I agree with Einstein that it is truely amazing that the universe is comprehensible. The fact that current theories provide comprehensible explanations of such a vast array of observations is amazing–and attempts to explain this fact often look like religion–so I see no problem with those who see a God behind science.

    We clearly need to oppose ignorant people who need science to fail in order to support their religion. But science is not the clean black and white thing that many who post here seem to envision. To be provocative, one might claim that my scientific work does depend on faith–but it is a faith that is tightly coherent with such a wide range of observations that it is quite a different kind of thing than the “belief without evidence” that is sometimes meant by the word faith.

  407. smart peter

    After many years as a Christian and acquaintance with a vast number of Christians, I have never met one who thought the Bible was originally written in English.

  408. Dear Phil Plait:

    this is my answer considering the spanish translation.
    I added it here because maybe you are interested in knowing what other people think about your document. This is a critic, I hope constructive one. Please read it with my best intentions for you!

    Best regards,
    Michel

    Estimados lectores que están en busca de la verdad y en contra de la manipulación de la verdad:

    permítanme brevemente unos comentarios para corregir ciertos errores fundamentales del texto y lo voy a hacer fácil para que nadie se confunda. Creo que el asunto se está poniendo repetitivo pero conviene evitar confusiones e interpretaciones desafortunadas.

    En http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science aparece lo sgte: In its broadest sense, science (from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) refers to any systematic knowledge or practice. ) y la traducción es: “en el sentido amplio de la palabra, ciencia (del latin scientia, que significa conocimiento) se refiere a cualquier conocimiento sistemático o práctica. Ver la parte etimológica para entender el origen de la palabra para no confundir con el mal uso que se le da para describir cosas que no son. Según la definición, todo ser humano adquiere conocimiento dado que todos, en mayor o menor medida usamos sistemas, estrategias, prácticas y modos de conocimiento. El que estas sean más o menos acordes con la realidad ya es otro problema distinto, pero cada ser humano adquiere un conocimiento más o menos cercano a la realidad. Por ello cada ser humano participa de la ciencia, que no se restringe al método científico (que no es lo mismo que ciencia (ver http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9todo_cient%C3%ADfico o http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Método_científico )) que es un método particular e incluso un grupo de métodos, pero no el único método de conocimiento.

    En http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciencia aparece un esbozo de disciplinas científicas propuesto por el epistemólogo Rudolf Carnap, quien las separa a grosso modo en ciencias formales, ciencias naturales y ciencias sociales. Cito lo que dice esa web para que los lectores puedan informarse adecuadamente y no dejarse engañar por algunos tecnócratas que intentan darle solo un sentido a un término (ciencia) que es más general y no tan particular ni restringido como el marco inflexible del pensamiento de algunos personajes en especial escépticos que tratan de adueñarse de la definición de ciertos términos para marcar territorios en donde ni siquiera tienen competencia.

    “-Ciencias formales Estudian las formas válidas de inferencia: Lógica – Matemática. Por eso no tienen contenido concreto, es un contenido formal en contraposición al resto de las ciencias fácticas o empíricas.
    -Ciencias naturales En ellas se encuadran las ciencias naturales que tienen por objeto el estudio de la naturaleza. Siguen el método científico: Astronomía – Biología – Física – Química – Geología – Geografía física
    -Ciencias sociales Son todas las disciplinas que se ocupan de los aspectos del ser humano – cultura y sociedad- El método depende de cada disciplina particular: Antropología – Ciencia política – Demografía- Economía – Historia – Psicología – Sociología – Geografía humana”.

    Aunque el documento es solo enciclopédico y a modo ilustrativo y ninguna convención, esta muestra claramente la realidad del tema, a saber, que aquellas disciplinas que no siguen el método científico no dejan de ser ciencias como algunos pretenden, incluso tampoco son pseudociencias ni protociencias. Con ello intento frenar la discriminación totalitarista de algunos personajes que creen que los ovnílogos y parapsicólogos somos unos ignorantes y no conocemos lo que es ciencia que según ellos solo estos, los escépticos, creen estar más cerca o incluso en la posesión casi única. Faltaba menos!

    Nótese el siguiente texto sacado de esa wikipedia en español “La ciencia factual se encarga de estudiar hechos auxiliándose de la observación y la experimentación. Por ejemplo la física y la psicología son ciencias factuales por que se refieren a hechos que se supone ocurren en la realidad y, por consiguiente, tienen que apelar al examen de la evidencia empírica para comprobarlos. El objeto de estudio de la ciencia formal no son las cosas ni los procesos, sino las relaciones abstractas entre signos, es decir, se estudian ideas. Son ciencias formales la lógica y las matemáticas.”

    Con lo anterior quisiera brevemente destacar los errores del texto de Phil Plait o en su defecto, de quien hiciera la traducción aunque me queda claro que aquí por lo general no es problema de los traductores sino una idea casi imperialista de un grupo de personas que tratan de imponerles a los demás lo que deben ser las cosas (casi a modo epistemológico pero partiendo de una apropiación de las ideas y no de la utilización de los términos según sus definiciones etimológicas básicas que se encuentran en muchos diccionarios.

    Ante la pregunta de si la ciencia está basada en la fe, habría que preguntarse cuáles de todas las ciencias. En este sentido, parte de la religión está sustentada efectivamente en lo que llamamos fe (ver su definición en http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fe_(desambiguación) y especialmente en http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fe ) y por ello la fe y su contexto es fuente de conocimiento religioso. En ese documento último aparece una cita que explica bien ciertas cosas que al parecer algunos personajes a mi entender maliciosamente han intentado una y otra vez dejar de mencionar casi de manera sistemática. Por ello indico el siguiente texto que se ve más objetivo y menos sesgado:

    “Fe es la firme convicción de que algo es verdad, por la absoluta confianza que hemos depositado en algo o alguien….El conocimiento religioso: En origen, tanto el conocimiento científico como el religioso parten de lo mismo: Hechos pasados que establecen verdades observables por el entendimiento humano relativo a una época. La diferencia se establece con el paso del tiempo. La religión trata de ‘congelar’ esas verdades, razonan para tratar de conservar lo que resultó evidente en un pasado y no para tratar de incorporar nuevos patrones de razonamientos adaptados al medio. Cuando encuentran la lógica que justifica conservar el mismo conocimiento, se refuerza su deseo por otorgarle a un poder superior al hombre esa revelación y, desear que ese poder considere ese conocimiento eternamente bueno…. Cuando el medio cambia somete a los individuos a nuevos desgastes, tanto físicos como emocionales. En esos instantes es cuando se distancia la religión de la ciencia. La religión busca como hacer perpetuo un conocimiento demostrado cierto en una época sin tener en cuenta el cambio del medio… La complejidad de algunos vericuetos filosóficos establecidos para conservar la integridad coherente del sistema dogmático, convence a los religiosos devotos de que su fe es verdadera y eterna. Por otro lado, cada vez son más las personas que observan que esos vericuetos no aportan soluciones prácticas a sus vidas cotidianas; es en ese punto en donde aparecen dos tipos de comportamientos distintos: El comportamiento coherente (tendente al cambio) y el comportamiento crédulo (tendente al fanatismo).”

    Aunque no estoy 100% de acuerdo con el texto anterior, lo que si rescato es que el origen del conocimiento es en parte el mismo, hechos. Por alguna razón que desconocemos y que es parte del misterio, algunos hechos del pasado no se pueden volver a reproducir en laboratorio como algunos usuarios del método científico pretenden para darlo por un conocimiento válido. Pero el error que cometen estos usuarios del método científico está en no entender de que la fé no es un asunto relacionado a la fe ciega sino a un sentimiento inicial de seguridad de que efectivamente hay cosas que no se ven aparentemente pero que se relacionan con un creador de todo, una inteligencia que todo lo hizo, a saber DIOS, y que si es posible entrar en contacto o comunicación con DIOS aunque los modos en sí implica la aparición de misterios y la aceptación de estos como algo natural, cosa que el usuario del método científico desestima pues pretende llegar al conocimiento sólo por si mismos y según sus criterios y métodos mientras que el creyente en DIOS puede llegar a entender que el creador de todo es el que mejor conoce su obra y por ello indirectamente se confía de manera inicial más en DIOS que en aquello que proceda de seres humanos, aunque la mención misma de la existencia de DIOS ha sido comunicada por seres humanos aunque el entendimiento de “quién es DIOS” es algo que se descubre de manera personal y quizás también colectiva pero de modos que no están definidos por el ser humano sino que están bajo la decisión de DIOS a través de los misterios. Por ello el conocimiento religioso se basa en una fuente y un modo de ser mistérico o misterioso.

    Por su parte, un usuario del método científico puede incluso creer en DIOS pero ha decidido en parte que ciertas áreas del conocimiento están a su alcance sin tener que recurrir directamente a DIOS pues están ya accesibles y por ello manipulables, lo que no significa necesariamente que por ello llegue a entender “el porqué han sido creados” (cosa que nuevamente solo puede responder DIOS) sino sólo saber cómo están formados o constituídos o cómo mutan y en especial qué rol juegan dentro de un sistema aún mayor de elementos integrantes. Por ello los usuarios del método científico basan más su conocimiento en una manipulación física de lo ya existente mientras que en el otro extremo, los religiosos se basan en un conocimiento más fundamentado en el seguimiento de una intuición personal que les indica en qué sentido estás más o menos próximos a lo que DIOS quiere de ellos pues en primer término se interesan más en DIOS, el creador, que en lo creado por DIOS, el mundo objetivo al que se orientan los usuarios del método científico.

    Entre estos dos extremos, que incluso muchas veces se tocan porque conviven en un mismo mundo, en un mismo momento y espacio y condicionado por un contexto que afecta a todos los investigadores, se van conformando las demás ciencias incluso las demás puedan ser variantes o suplementos o complementos de estas dos ciencias mencionadas, a saber religión v/s ciencias basadas solo en el uso del método científico. Nótese que a veces miembros de ciertas religiones y credos incorporan como elementos de verdad el conocimiento adquirido a través del uso del método científico a materias que son de su interés.

    Volviendo a la pregunta de si el conocimiento basado en el uso del método científico (que no es lo mismo que ciencia) está basado en la fe, considerando que esta se define como “la firme convicción de que algo es verdad, por la absoluta confianza que hemos depositado en algo o alguien.”, tecnicamente habría que decir que sí pues esta escuela del conocimiento y sus integrantes postulan que el método científico y el buen uso de este método son modos válidos (y por ello contienen algo de verdad o se orientan en una verdad en la que ellos creen) de llegar a la verdad o que incluso son en sí una verdad, vale decir, no solo obtienen un fin o una meta verdadera sino que el mismo camino hacia ella está basado en la verdad (el la consideración de antiguas metas o fines verdaderas ya estudiadas o validadas por otros). Por ello la ciencia basada en el uso del método científico como lo son las ciencias naturales, también se basan en la fe. Decir lo contrario es pasar por alto consideraciones humanas básicas que son cosas cotidianas de cada ser humano, y justamente lo son en especial porque somos entes subjetivos más que objetivos y no máquinas.

    Por ello es bueno responderle a aquellos que indican que muchos de nosotros leemos “peroratas anticientíficas” y en esta misma alusión de términos se demuestra el poco conocimiento que tienen estos de lo relacionado a la ciencia en términos generales pues sino no cometerían errores tan infantiles y en cierto sentido sesgados y que reniegan incluso de lo aportado por la filosofía de la ciencia, la misma dentro de la cual se fueron desarrollando las herramientas y consideraciones que han ido conformando a lo que hoy conocemos por “método científico”.

    Como ya es tradicional, muchos escépticos del tema OVNI y paranormal tratan de ridiculizar estas áreas del conocimiento e incluso peor aún, la realidad de estos fenómenos (osea los hechos) sólo porque ellos no creen en que estos sucesos puedan ser posibles o incluso dudan de su existencia y por ello actuan de maneras fanáticas y poco objetivas y alejadas del mismo espíritu con que fue creado, concebido y conceptualizado el método científico. Parte de esta campaña de ridiculización pretende exhibir solo ejemplos extremos tratando de inducir engañosamente al lector de que todos los que no piensan como ellos se basan en este tipo de información sesgada para argumentar sus decisiones y para ir conformando su conocimiento. Por ello es que los fanáticos cientificistas que de usuarios del método científico muchas veces poco y nada tienen y que incluso desconocen en su totalidad práctica pues solo la adquieren de manera teórica, cometen errores fundamentales en el entendimiento del porqué existen diversos conocimientos en esta humanidad y en esta época y que no necesariamente son productos del error o del fanatismo sino simplemente de intereses distintos y en especial de la consideración de distintas naturalezas de lo investigado, a saber un ser espiritual en el caso de los religiosos o espirituales a diferencia de lo concreto-factual-medible y por ello observable que es lo creado por esta inteligencia superior llamada DIOS por los espirituales y todos aquellos que creen o incluso constatan su existencia. En este sentido conviene recordar un texto en latín que se refiere al credo cristiano, como se indica a continuación “Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem caeli et terrae,visibilium omnium et invisibilium. Et in unum Dominum Iesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo, Lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero. Genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri, per quem omnia facta sunt. Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem caeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium.”

    En ese texto anterior se indica en parte un credo que alude a la creencia en un DIOS creador de todo el universo, de lo visible y de lo invisible. Incluso lo invisible es en parte materia de investigación para algunos usuarios del método científico como lo son quienes estudian las ondas electromagnéticas.

    Por ello que muchos religiosos valoran más el hecho de conocer al creador de todo, DIOS, que quedarse solamente en lo creado, es decir, valoran en parte más una relación hacia la inteligencia suprema del universo, DIOS; que a objetos y fenómenos y condiciones relacionadas a mundos concretos inanimados pero creados de manera inteligente, inteligencia que se trata de descifrar a través de representaciones humanas simbólicas limitadas que solo abarcan algunas parcelas del conocimiento pero claramente están reducidas a un marco de acción limitado en tiempo y en espacio.

    De esta diferencia de valoraciones surgen dos fe distintas, la fe en el creador inteligente de todo (DIOS) casi en una desafortunada concepción de una oposición basada en una fe en cosas observables, controlables y manipulables especialmente para efectos de reproducción y replicación en laboratorio, con cierto afán inconsciente de creerse deidades o capaces de manipular el universo como si fuesen ellos los creadores del mundo cuando en realidad son simples mortales que viven un pequeño lapso de años en el que se cree poder llegar a obtener una verdad absoluta en base a los estudios orientados hacia lo objetivo y manipulable, que a lo más puede dar cuenta de que existen leyes que regulan la existencia de objetos y sus fenómenos asociados y que no hacen más que volver a recordar que esas mismas leyes así como también los objetos, fueron creadas por una inteligencia la cual no es manipulable pero si adorable y venerable, como lo hacen los religiosos quienes creen que en la obediencia de ciertas leyes emanadas de DIOS, está la base del conocimiento de todas las cosas.

    Por ello no solo hay una diferenciación en cuanto a orientarse hacia al creador de todo en vez de orientarse hacia lo creado y sus espectáculos, sino también en creer y tener seguridad que la intuición misma indica que la verdad y la realidad de las cosas parten por DIOS y no por objetos o fenómenos secundarios que son parte de la creación de DIOS pero que no lo contienen necesariamente, y dado que DIOS es un espíritu, una inteligencia y no un objeto, la verdad y la realidad se basa en una apreciación orientada en la inteligencia en vez de una realidad y verdad basada en probar cosas secundarias, indirectas, aunque parecen directas del origen de la verdad y de la realidad. No son los objetos los que contienen un valor de verdad y/o de realidad sino su origen previo que surge de la creación de estos objetos y fenómenos para demostrar la grandiosidad de la obra de DIOS.

    Por ello olvidar a DIOS es no entender el porqué fueron creadas las cosas en el mundo, y sin la comprensión del porqué se ha llevado esta creación de las cosas por parte de la inteligencia de DIOS es valorar las cosas secundarias y no las primarias y quedarse atrapado en el fenómeno y no en el nómeno, el ser que se manifiesta también a través de su creación pero que está no solo en un grupo particular de objetos y fenómenos sino en todo el universo y por ello la sola consideración de una parcela de la creación es entendible por nuestras limitaciones a la hora de conocer en base a los métodos tales como el método científico pero no es un fundamento válido para creer que ese modo de ver las cosas es el único que tiene relación con la verdad misma.

    El gran problema que existe en la actualidad en este sentido es el hecho de que un grupo de poder intenta apropiarse no solo de recursos y bienes y la participación forzada del ser humano para varias actividades diarias orientadas a lo material, sino que además requiere apropiarse de la manipulación de la definición de las reglas y de las cosas que se deben hacer, y que justamente para ello necesita manipular la verdad y no se puede manipular la verdad sin manipular con ello la realidad. Por ello es comprensible el intento de muchísimas seguidoras fanáticas del uso del método científico, sus consecuencias y de un mundo tecnocrático, ya que en ellos existe implícita una idea de un mundo que solo puede ser perfecto en la medida que ellos estiman como posibles y necesarias y suficientes, pero no en base a lo que los demás sienten que debe ser necesariamente, incluso a veces diametralmente opuesto a las pretenciones de los cientificistas.

    Aquí existe una suerte de demonización implícita por parte de ciertos cientificistas (fanáticos del método científico y sus contextos) de modo de ridiculizar todo aquello que no cumple las expectativas coherentes con la utilización del método científico, y por ello el modo más simple de indicar su descontento y sus pretenciones imperialistas (tecnicamente hablando, de igual modo que lo quisieron los nazis y otras ideologías totalitaristas) se basa en apropiarse de la verdad y de la realidad y decir que solo ellos están en posesión de estos dones máximos, y que para que los demás puedan estar a su altura y valer la pena vivir, deben seguir lo que el método científico indica y muy especialemente lo que sus usuarios y cultores imponen como normas. Vale decir, estamos frente a un mundo basado en el mito del método científico, que no solo surge de una idea errónea de la realidad y de la verdad, sino que también lleva implícito el fracaso y su autodestrucción puesto que sigue leyes antinaturales por mucho que pretendan hacerlas pasar por positivas y necesarias para la sociedad, pero aún peor, siguen leyes alejadas de la ley de DIOS que ya en su pasado mostraron el peligro para toda la humanidad de permitir que una cúpula de personas defina lo que es de lo que no es verdad.

    Por ello mismo el rol de los médicos psiquiatras y de los psicólogos y en especial de los especialistas de la salud mental es tan delicado porque un error de apreaciaciones y un modo sesgado de percibir la realidad puede llevar a controlar a los seres humanos imponiéndole normas y modas que son presentadas como cosas naturales y obvias a seguir pero que están lejos de verdad y de la realidad.

    Por eso invito a advertir la intención de algunos en cuanto a desvirtuar el rol del método científico como una herramienta más en la búsqueda de conocimiento, por un rol en el cuál el método científico pasa a ser un instrumento de verdad y realidad única en la que los que no la siguen pasarán sistemáticamente a ser aislados y denigrados de diversas formas pero especialmente bajados en valor social y relevancia humana, y por ello es que el rol del método científico está siendo orientado como una herramienta de poder y control y manipulación en vez de una herramienta de conocimiento. Por ello es que les pido que noten esta sutil tendencia que es propia de grupos totalitaristas, los cuáles no se basan en las verdades y realidades universales sino en sus propias ideas de lo que debe ser real y verdad, osea, definen “cómo debe alumbrar un astro” siendo que el sol alumbra para todos igual día a día. Son ellos el mayor peligro para la vida, y el principal enemigo de la verdad y de la realidad. No se dejen demonizar por estos seres que viven en una oscuridad espiritual y solo se dejan alumbrar por la luz que se “refleja” en lo objetivo pero que inicialmente tampoco proviene de allí sino a partir de la voluntad de otra naturaleza, a saber, la espiritual que está en pleno control de DIOS. Por ello, de manera quizás difícil pero no por ello menos cierta, los invito a descubrir como algunos fanáticos del uso del método científico (no necesariamente los que la usan día a día) tratan de imponernos sus ideas que indirectamente nos indican que ellos pretenden o se creen a si mismos deidades poseedores de la verdad y de la realidad.

    Por ello invito a comprender que el problema no está en el método científico, sino en quienes lo usan desafortunadamente como un modo de poder y apropiación de la verdad y de la realidad.

    Volviendo al texto original que sirve de elemento de discusión en este texto, quiero comentar otros aspectos desafortunados citados en este documento de Phil Plait llamado “¿ESTÃ? LA CIENCIA BASADA EN LA FE?”.

    El autor de este texto indica lo sgte.: “Todos, científicos o no, deben empezar sus búsquedas de conocimiento a partir de axiomas que no se pueden probar” y he aquí el primer error, pues asume como verdad el hecho de que no se puede probar siendo que DIOS puede determinar a su voluntad a quien concederle la posibilidad de probar una o varios hechos relacionados con su ser como inteligencia suprema. La fe religiosa existe pues efectivamente mucha gente está de acuerdo en dar por real el hecho de que sí existieron (y quizás existan) seres que han vivido la experiencia de estar en contacto más cercano con la fuente de todo, incluyendo la vida, la verdad y la realidad, DIOS. Por ello, en esta creencia existe un sentimiento de seguridad, quizás una intuición que al asimilarla nos indica una verdad quizás universal de que es DIOS quien decide manifestar sus misterios más buscados por aquellos que valoran lo espiritual, actitud que se diferencia de la individualidad perseguida por el usuario del método científico que basa su conocimiento en la posibilidad de poder replicar por si mismo una realidad y por ello manipular incluso la verdad a su gusto como si se tratase de un juego en el cual se puede de pronto cambiar las reglas solo por antojo. Por ello, lo religioso-espiritual consiste en creer que si tuvieron algo de ciertas las experiencias de otros con lo divino, y por ello son estos fieles representantes de la existencia de DIOS y por ello del sentido real y verdadero de vivir una vida espiritual basada en la total confianza en el creador, DIOS, quien decidirá qué es lo importante que los seres creados por EL, deban conocer dentro del universo de cosas que el creador ha hecho, y no al revés de estar basado en normativas de grupos elitistas que deciden qué materias del conocimiento son más importantes que otras o cuáles dejan de ser útiles y cuáles pasan a ser útiles y válidas.

    Por ello, el creer que la experiencia de otro es real y que por ello también se puede llegar a vivir da pie para comenzar a buscar posibles verdades y realidades que de ella derivan. Esto es una muestra de fe y que va conformando un sistema de creencias que presupone ciertos fundamentos que sabe que no son fáciles de probar de manera normal sino que requieren de un compromiso especial y una aceptación a entrar en un camino misterioso para entender estos fundamentos, y más aún, en este sentido “una regresión infinita” es perfectamente posible si DIOS así lo deseara.” No es el ser humano el que le impone reglas a DIOS de cómo EL debe ser sino que es el derecho de DIOS de indicarnos qué espera de nosotros y qué quiere que hagamos. Por alguna razón EL es DIOS y no al revés.
    Respecto a otras apreciaciones del texto del autor Phil Plait, cabe comentar la suposición de que “El método científico asume una sola cosa: el Universo sigue un conjunto de reglas.”. En realidad el método científico no asume nada porque no es una entidad inteligente, no es un ser, es solo una suma de reglas y concepciones y convenios para llevar a cabo un modo de conocimiento. En este sentido también conviene comentar que si bien nos parece que aquello que llamamos “universo” sigue ciertos comportamientos o relaciones que algunos denominan reglas, puede que en este aspecto no esté el conocimiento trascendental que el ser humano requiere para llegar a la verdad y a la realidad, a diferencia de lo que profesan algunos cientificistas.

    Del mismo modo el autor menciona la existencia de un corolario que no es más que una abstracción para imponer una condición, no necesariamente una realidad ni una verdad, sino simplemente una suposición que incluso puede estar errada en su concepción y consideración, osea, en su fondo mismo. Del mismo modo este corolario también es posible ponerlo en duda si consideramos que aún siguiendo el universo un conjunto de reglas, no siempre debe ser cierto que dichas reglas sólo puedan deducirse observando el modo en que el Universo se comporta. Puede que incluso sea necesario algo previo para poder siquiera considerar lo anterior, y esto es, que el ser humano obtiene su hálito de vida, su inteligencia y su deseo de conocimiento por parte de DIOS y que esto es previo y anterior a cualquier corolario. Por ello puede que un ser humano no tenga acceso a un contacto con ciertas realidades pero que aún así lleve consigo mismo un fondo de conocimientos innatos que le indican la “existencia de ciertas cosas” y el “cómo estas cosas interactúan” o incluso más importante aún, “el porqué estas cosas fueron creadas”. Por ejemplo un ciego de nacimiento quizás nunca verá del mismo modo que aquellos que tengan la capacidad de observar de manera tradicional, pero no por ello la percepción interna que el ciego pueda llegar a tener, va a ser una limitación para que el no pueda conocer las cosas más trascendentales de la vida, especialmente la verdad y la realidad. En este sentido para los creyentes la realidad es que DIOS existe y además la verdad nace de EL porque EL es a su vez la verdad y el origen de todo, lo real y lo supuestamente irreal. Pero además de estas consideraciones, junto con conocer las verdades que se obtienen casi exclusivamente bajo una búsqueda espiritual, un ciego también puede conocer las verdades más o menos objetivas de la realidad “física” usando los medios de percepción que tiene a su disposición e incluso puede tener en si mismo la capacidad de imaginarse el mundo externo así como abstraerse de su mundo y tratar de contemplar lo que su cuerpo físico no le permite conocer directamente dentro del mundo físico, y que por ello su contacto con el mundo físico sea paradojicamente a través del mundo de la abstracción, de la imaginación, que no deja de tener una parte de realidad así como de verdad, sino que es uno de los mundos accesibles por aquel que está ciego. En este sentido es una paradoja que los recursos físicos de una persona estén condicionados de tal forma que parecieran ser justamente un impedimento para conocer la realidad física, pero que no son más que un ejemplo de una condición que se sobrepasa usando otros recursos que el ciego tiene y dispone. Acaso no es en parte este el mundo de los matemáticos o de muchos investigadores teóricos?

    Por ello no tiene un único sentido natural aquel corolario expuesto que indica que “si algo sigue reglas entonces las reglas deben revelarse por el que las sigue.” pues puede que el que las sigue solo descubra un grupo de reglas pero no siempre las reglas más fundamentales que gobiernan otras menos fundamentales, así que el problema no es necesariamente seguir algo buscando estar atento a que se manifieste sino quizás vale la pena preguntarse en el intertanto si es que no será mejor dejar de esperar ese suceso y valorar un poco más el porqué se supone que eso tiene que ocurrir necesariamente y quizás aún más, si es que haciendo eso se llega a descubrir lo que se busca? A veces incluso uno tiene todo a mano pero no lo advierte y sale al mundo esperando encontrar aquello que ya tiene pero como no se ha observado a si mismo (por ejemplo a un espejo) no logra entender siquiera qué es lo que verdaderamente busca, el fondo del asunto y no meras apariencias que toman las manifestaciones de ese fondo. Por ello es importante ir descubriendo el valor de ciertas preguntas así llamadas filosóficas por ejemplo en cuanto a preguntarse primero de dónde procede uno, antes de tratar de descubrir de dónde procede lo demás aunque en este proceso uno mismo se vea como el objeto a investigar. En este sentido vala la pena valorar lo que llamamos “la propia identidad”, quién es uno. Estas preguntas quizás sólo se encuentran en ciencias tales como la filosofía, la psicología y la psiquiatría pero que resulta ser considerara como algo intrascendente en aquellas ciencias que tienen por fundamental “lo otro” y no “lo propio”, lo que en parte puede llegar a considerarse como una búsqueda por conocer cosas externas y objetivas que no son más que la proyección inconsciente de nuestro deseo de conocer lo interior y subjetivo pero debido a ciertas frustraciones e inseguridades no llegamos a descubrir siempre desde un principio.

    Otro de los mitos que introduce el texto de Phil Plait es el hecho de mencionar la necesidad de “predecir” cosa que puede resultar necesaria para todo ser humano en especial cuando busca resolver una duda que se relaciona con hechos futuros en los cuales aún no tiene “control” alguno aunque lo busca. Aquí el problema no está en el buen uso del conocimiento para descubrir las maravillas creadas por DIOS, sino de buscar argucias para independizarse de DIOS y tratar de ser personas autosustentadas, como huéspedes en casa ajena que han decidido quedarse en casa tanto tiempo como se les da la gana sino también imponer las reglas de la casa no solo para con ellos sino para con los futuros visitantes de esta residencia. Aquí hay una muestra de la búsqueda inconsciente de ser auto-deidades, lo que no es más que la ridiculez extrema porque nos alejamos del origen de nuestra vida, de la verdad y de la realidad que está en DIOS y no en definiciones propias antojadizas según nuestro desconocimiento de la vida.

    Otro de los mitos que expone subterticiamente Phil Plait es la noción de que “el método científico funciona” cosa que parece un hecho aislado pero que no considera el hecho de que en cuanto a funcionamiento otras cosas (en nuestro caso otros métodos) también funcionan, con condicionantes y contextos y naturalezas y observadores en una predisposición distinta. Lo que se pretende con la mención de que “con el método científico las cosas funcionan” es decirnos que “lo “otro” no funciona”, lo que es falso. He aquí un recurso literario para manipular la verdad y la realidad, cosa común en los cientificistas fanáticos.

    Otra argucia peligrosa que usan los cientificistas fanáticos es llevarlos a consideraciones que por lo general son más probables en el mundo basado en el uso del método científico pero que no son objetivos ni pretenciones de los otros mundos del conocimiento, lo que no significa que estos otros mundos del conocimiento no valoren ni celebren la posibilidad que a través de otros diversos métodos es posible lograr otras de las tantas pretenciones humanas, pero que no son las únicas. Pero otro de los peligros que presenta este texto de Phil Plait es que llega a una conclusión suponiendo cierta una premisa tal como la alusión de que “Esto fortalece nuestra conclusión que las matemáticas son correctas” y luego otra conclusión como “Lo que a su vez implica que el Universo sigue sus reglas y que podemos desentrañarlas”. Ambas sentencias son, según la lógica, perfectamente analizables como elementos no relacionados pues las matemáticas son simplemente herramientas que en ciertos contextos y bajo ciertos procedimientos pueden llegar a dar conclusiones correctas, pero que no tienen nada que ver con el hecho de que por ello todo esto implique que “el Universo sigue sus reglas y que podemos desentrañarlas”. Ciertamente el universo así como lo consideramos y así como nos ha sido enseñado desde niños, pareciera mostrarnos que sigue a veces ciertas regularidades así como ciertas irregularidades que la caracterizan y por la cual la conocemos tal cual como la percibimos a grueso modo pero eso no tiene relación alguna con que las matemáticas sean correctas pues estas son solo un modo de representación de la realidad que presenta varias alternativas matemáticas distintas y algunas se acercan o ajustan más a la realidad y otras no, pero son meros instrumentos simbólicos y no son argumentos para suponer que el universo sigue sus reglas cosas que ya sabemos más por intuición y asimilación cognitiva que por simbolismos y representaciones nuevas y que nos permiten concebir la realidad desde otras perspectivas facilitadoras pero que no son por ello la realidad en sí sino solo un medio hacia la realidad y no el único ni el último medio tampoco. Además, el que “el Universo siga sus reglas” no significa por ello que “podamos desentrañarlas necesariamente” desde una perspectiva total como es lo que ciertos cientificistas fanáticos nos tratan de hacer ver, pero no solamente en el sentido de que se pueden usar las matemáticas sino que especialmente desde una búsqueda por imponer una tendencia única y negar la validez de otras. Esa actitud es necia y además anticientífica. Nuevamente, el problema no está en las matemáticas sino en aquellos que las presentan como único medio para conocer el universos y sus reglas.

    A mí entender, otra de las trampas conscientes o inconscientes que el autor Phil Plait indica es la mención de que lo que está “alrededor” nuestro son todos productos de investigación científica, cuando en realidad son en una parte de todo el medio ambiente (una parte mínima y no una parte sustantiva) pero si está diferenciada porque se nota que es artificial lo que contrasta con lo evidentemente natural. El problema de esta alusión no está solo en decir que todo esto es solo producto de la investigación basada en el método científico (aunque de paso también es investigación que genera conocimiento y por ello científica, como todo en la vida), sino en que es una frase que pretende ser la antesala de lo que viene: validar el hecho de que “es ridículo esperar todo esto a través del rezo, incluso que los desperfectos se reparen solo con rezar”. Aunque la frase pareciera ser ridícula porque en ningún momento se ha dicho que la mayoría de los creyentes asuma una actitud de esas características para poder lograr que una condición cambie (de hecho se entiende de que en parte hay que unir y en parte también hay que separar los mundos espiritual y mundo físico), lo que en el fondo se pretende con esta frase es ridiculizar a aquellos que no consideran al método científico y los productos de su uso. Pero aquí viene implícita la consideración o suposición de que los creyentes en aspectos espirituales casi negarían el valor del conocimiento basado en el método científico y aquí se ve nuevamente implícito el desconocimiento por parte del autor del hecho de que muchos usuarios del método científico (los así incorrectamente denominados “científicos”) son además de buscadores de conocimiento físico, también buscadores de conocimiento espiritual, y por ello creyentes o seguidores de credos religiosos o prácticas espirituales o esperanzas místicas. Con ello vemos que aquí se pretende llamar a los usuarios del método científico a sólo buscar el conocimiento de lo físico y dejar de lado el conocimiento de lo espiritual, o por otra parte indicar que el conocimiento de lo espiritual no sirve para el mundo de lo netamente físico. Un pensamiento de este tipo es recurrente por parte de personas que viven alejadas del mundo real del uso del método científico, en el que conviven personas de todas las nacionalidades, razas, credos, clases sociales, ideologías y creencias, pero que se juntan o comparten contextos en comunes por búsquedas intelectuales comunes.

    Esto muestra nuevamente que el autor de este texto pareciera desconocer a propósito esta realidad cotidiana del mundo de los así denominados “científicos”, o simplemente lo desconoce porque no conoce este mundo, cosa que suele ser un denominador en común de muchos cientificistas fanáticos, especialmente varios escépticos de los temas de lo OVNI y paranormal y en especial de todo aquello que se relacione con lo espiritual.

    De paso el creyente en DIOS sabe que no debe tentar a DIOS para pedirle que por ejemplo “arregle una ampolleta” porque esas cosas triviales no son lo sustancial de una relación espiritual con DIOS.

    Volviendo al texto de Phil Plait, descubrimos una nueva curiosidad: indica que “todo el conocimiento que hemos acumulado en milenios forma una sinfonía armoniosa de ciencia” cosa que en realidad no debería ser ningún problema en la medida que entendamos por “ciencia” aquello que definimos al principio y no aquello que ciertos cientificistas fanáticos pretenden imponernos como única acepción del término. Pero sí descubrimos un error cuando indica que “lo que sabemos fue diseñado usando conocimiento previo desarrollado de manera científica por siglos” con lo cual nos queda claro cuál es su concepción de la palabra “científica” y de paso su concepción de la palabra “ciencia”. El error que yo creo observar está en la afirmación de que “halgo fue diseñado” cuando en realidad fue más que nada “descubierto y asimilado en base a ciertas limitaciones de la época y en base a ciertas concepciones de la vida”. Si a esto se le llama un diseño, a mí personalmente me parece cualquier cosa menos eso. El otro problema que se nota aquí es que el autor nos quiere hacer creer que “el método científico” ya existía hace siglos, cuando cualquier historiador podrá aclararle al autor que aquello que conocemos por “manera científica” que a mi entender el autor quiere aludir a “método científico” no fue sino instaurado como concepto hace algunos pocos siglos atrás sino quizás hace especificamente un siglo y medio y por ello no alcanzamos a juntar siquiera 2 siglos. Esto muestra nuevamente que el autor de este texto no conoce la historia del “método científico” ni de la “filosofía de la ciencia”.

    Creo que está no demás mencionar que por todo lo anteriormente expuesto por el autor anteriormente tampoco podemos asumir necesariamente que “Todo esto demuestra lo que asumimos inicialmente: que el Universo sigue reglas que podemos deducir.”, cosa que puede ser incluso válido sin lo anteriormente indicado incluso aún siendo la premisa “todo esto” no necesariamente verdadera.

    Pero quiero continuar a la próxima trampa, que el autor Phil Plait presenta en el siguiente texto: “¿Hay agujeros en este conocimiento? Por supuesto que los hay. La ciencia no tiene todas las respuestas. Pero tiene una herramienta poderosa que sus detractores parecen nunca entender.”. El punto es que “nadie” (ningún organismo internacional) le ha pedido a la “escuela del método científico” que sea perfecta o que contemple todas las respuestas a lo que pueda plantearse como preguntas, ni mucho menos, pero el autor realmente nos quiere indicar solo que existen “detractores” del método científico que “parecen no entender” la calidad de “herramienta poderosa” de este método. El autor asume aquí una defensa y presente (nombra) a sus enemigos, los supuestos detractores. Creo que en realidad los usuarios del método científico en sus laboratorios no vislumbran a ningún enemigo porque existen suficientes proyectos de investigación (que obviamente no se consiguen facilmente y que de hecho son motivo de disputas agrias y duras entre distintos científicos interesados en donde los métodos científicos dejan paso a las leyes del más fuerte y de la política). Puede ser que nuevamente tengamos una razón para suponer que Phil Plait no conoce el mundo del “ambiente científico” real y que por ello siga con modos de expresarse que son más parecidos a los discursos de hace 100 años?

    Donde vemos un posible error conceptual está en el modo de entender la ciencia por parte del autor, especialmente cuando dice que “La ciencia no es sólo una base de datos de conocimientos. Es un método, una manera de encontrar este conocimiento” cosa que no tiene ningún error pero sí lo es cuando se subentiende que lo que él considera por ciencia no es lo que nosotros y la definición etimológica de la palabra ciencia, considera como definición. El texto del autor al que aludimos es la antesala a una defensa de otra idea. “….La ciencia es provisional; siempre está abierta a mejoras. La ciencia está incluso sujeta a sí misma. …Sin embargo, todas estas cosas, de hecho funcionan, espectacularmente bien. …por lo que es una forma asombrosamente poderosa para entender la realidad.”. Notamos aquí que aunque nadie pone en duda lo que el autor indica, lo que vale la pena remarcar aquí es la pretensión del autor de suponer que la ciencia es “la ciencia basada en el método científico” y ese es nuevamente un error repetitivo del autor. Con error no queremos indicar ignorancia, sino un conocimiento poco afortunado de una realidad compartida por otros de manera algo distinta que el autor en sí implicitamente indica que no estaría dispuesto a aceptar.

    Ahora bien, todo lo anterior se vuelve a repetir con el texto: “La ciencia no está basada en fe. Está basada en evidencias. Tenemos evidencia de que funciona” lo que no es correcto en cuanto a que la ciencia del método científico así como cualquier otra ciencia en el fondo también se basa en una especie de fe, pero por lo visto la palabra “fe” tiene una connotación negativa para el autor. El texto continúa sugiriendo que las ciencias religiosas no se basan en evidencias, y si así fuera estas al parecer no funcionan como si ocurriría en el la “ciencia basada en el método científico”. Y el autor refuerza estas creencias cuando indica que “La fe, tal como la interpretan la mayoría de las religiones, no está basada en evidencias, e incluso se mantiene a pesar de la evidencia en contra”. Puede ser que el autor no entienda lo que es una experiencia basada en una creencia religiosa o espiritual, pues presupone que esta se debe basar en una especie de evidencia similar a la que se busca o pretende en “la ciencia del método científico”, por lo cual estamos ante un autor que al parecer no entiende la naturaleza de lo espiritual y las supuestas formas como esta se hace “evidente” o que “presenta evidencias de su existencia”.

    Del mismo modo vemos que el autor hace una defensa poco afortunada de lo que él considera por “ciencia” pues de alguna manera directa o indirecta considera que los que no entiendan su posición están “completamente despistado sobre cómo funciona la realidad”. Lo que el autor no considera es que cada ser humano tiene una apreciación distinta de como funciona la realidad y esto no es un asunto que se pueda imponer ni obligar porque “no se puede tapar el sol con una mano” no esperar que la gente tenga que entender que la realidad es solo una cosa definida por otros, como si se tratase solo de una realidad accesible a través de definiciones epistemológicas.

    Por ello no extraña que el autor Phil Plait no entienda que sus intentos por hacer recapacitar a los que no entiendan su postura son aún más complicados si el mismo está claro en cuanto a que quizás no pueda lograr que otros recapaciten lo que él propone pues “es difícil conseguir que alguien razone fuera de una posición que ni siquiera han razonado por sí mismos”, cosa por la cual podría partir él como primer interesado en proponer a los demás considerar como últil la alternativa del uso del método científico como una herramienta interesante para poder explicarnos algunas cosas de la realidad. Si uno no se quiere poner en el lugar de los demás, cómo pretende que los demás se pongan en tu lugar? Acaso no es un asuto mutuo? Creo que falta que Phil Plait comienze dando el ejemplo.

    Otra de las apreciaciones que el autor muestra como representantes de su grupo de mundos antagonistas es lo que el considera como “milagro” y que lo compara con una contraparte basada en el “resultado del trabajo duro de mentes brillantes a lo largo de generaciones avanzando a través del método científico”. Creo que el autor aún no percibe que está criticando dos mundos distintos en base a una misma regla que encaja muy bien en el mundo del uso del método científico y especialmente en un contexto basado en la búsqueda de lo trascendental en el mundo físico exterior, pero que no tiene el mismo sentido en lo trascendente que se presenta en el universo espiritual que especialmente se basa en una oratoria hacia si mismo considerando que DIOS, su creador, lo escucha en el interior de su mundo espiritual y propio del que le reza, o desde su propio mundo interior hacia DIOS.

    Ojalá que este documento de crítica constructiva sea considerado como eso y no como una nueva ironía que denigra el método científico y a sus seguidores, entre los cuales (y al parecer un grupo bastante reducido) están los cientificistas extremos.

    saludos y que estén muy bien

    Michel
    esiomajb@gmail.com

  409. Dear Phil Plait:

    at http://esiomajb.blogspot.com/2008/04/est-la-ciencia-basada-en-la-fe.html you will find my answer for you considering the spanish translation.

    I added it there because it was interesant. my document is a critic but I hope a constructive one. Please read it with my best intentions for you!

    Best regards,
    Michel
    esiomajb@gmail.com

  410. Jeff Boyd

    I wonder if folks have checked out the article written by Alvin Plantinga s.v. “Religion and Science” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I know the original post here aims specifically to debunk the idea that science is “faith-based,” but the author and several of the respondents follow a route that meanders through some fairly complex epistemological territory. I think the “Religion and Science” entry clarifies and systematizes some of the more productive attempts by respondents to engage in fruitful and congenial dialogue.

  411. Luke Ender

    We don’t know everything, and whatever we don’t know we have to have faith that it behaves the way it will or happened a certain way. The quote you try to reject hits it on the ball.

  412. sofia

    Science has some sort of origin. You have to have faith that it started somewhere, or if you believe that it has always been there, that is completely unscientific, because everything has to have evidence to exist, if you take the scientific approach. You have to have a basis of belief for EVERYTHING!

  413. Gareth

    I recommend this book

    http://www.amazon.com/Physics-As-Metaphor-Roger-Jones/dp/0816619166

    I read it at university and it blew me away.

    I am quoting from the reviews but

    “Physics As Metaphor demonstrates in precise, readable, logical terms why the four cardinal metaphors of physics, number, space, time, and measure, are only human, self-referential devices.”

    and

    “scientists themselves, have forgotten the essential truth that the tools science uses are only metaphors of reality, man-made systems designed to bring order and understanding to the world”

  414. timur

    - Is science faith-based?

    - No, because there are many religious but great scientists, as religious people claim.

  415. Chris from NYC

    What nonsense. The author trots out the same tired horse (or ass) atheists usually produce in these discussions: we only believe what can be proved by the scientific method. And THAT is where many atheists’ faith beliefs stem from. They believe nothing of the sort. Science would have to trash many of its most cherished beliefs (and I use the word with intent) if they only assented to what has been proven by the scientific method. The Big Bang for starters, followed closely by Darwinism. I know that will cause the usual spittle-flecked rants, and smug, condescending charges that I’ve obviously never heard of the COBE findings or looked at researches done in baleen whale skeletons. None of those prove the theories by the scientific method. They are certainly scientific evidence, but they remain theories, unlikely to be ever proven– and yet so many of you operate as if they are fundamental truths. They may be true (I am not a Creationsist, at least not in the sense that so many of you would deride), but they are not proven by the scientific method.

  416. Mary A.

    I agree with this blog because faith itself is beleiving without seeing and trusting in it. Science needs proof and tangible explanations. But for the questions that do not have any answers for example “what was here before the universe was born about 14 billion years ago?” I beleive that the answer IS God.

  417. Hmmmm

    It seems to me that declaring science above faith goes too far. Human beings are imperfect, you said so yourself. So we can observe changes, we can make measurements, we can tabulate information: all these acts require inherent faith-based beliefs in the human condition. Our eyes work, the world is as we perceive it, our minds are capable of comprehending the universe… the list goes on. This article toes the line between your usually excellent standard of scientific writing and philosophy. That’s a line you shouldn’t cross.

  418. friedegg

    To Phil:

    Your arrogance is so admiring!
    Do you hear it coming?…

    Wait for it…wait for it…

    Oops there it is…Dogma.

    Isn’t that what they say about religious zealots?
    And did you not actually reference your own article to counter my comment in another thread?…Hmmm I wonder how the NIH would feel about your source?

    Have you had a bowel movement today, Phil?…Thank God!

  419. lamp

    I am. a firm believer an science. Yet I am also a believer in religion.
    Simply cannot see how adhering to one precludes adherence to another. They are not mutually exclusive. I recall that some of the outstanding scientists are recorded to have been very religious people.

    In my case, science brings me closer to God. The article rightly points out that the main assumption behind science is that there are rules which are universal. I am of the firm opinion that rules (and very rigid ones) are only a product of intelligence. It is most astonishing that we should live in a universe where very rigid rules render it comprehensible. Hence I understand why Einstein is reported to have one remarked that “the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible”.

  420. Dustin

    “Everyone, scientist or not, must start their quests for knowledge with some unprovable axiom—some a priori belief on which they sort through experience and deduce other truths.”

    “The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules.”

    As I understand it,the key word here is “unprovable.” This author is stating that his axiom, and only axiom, is provable, and thus not faith-based. If I am wrong on this, please correct me.

    For AIG, is an axiom’s unprovability the only criterion worthy of defining it? I understand that the “a priori” characteristic of an axiom implies self-evident. If self-evident, then unprovable need not apply. Am I wrong? All bachelors are unmarried. We don’t need to prove that, it is self evident. Also, a priori and a posteriori are types of KNOWLEDGE, not “belief” as stated. It’s knowledge because it is true inherently.

    So where does faith come in? It seems that a person acts on a belief, having expectations that the consequence of their actions will lead to a confirmation that their initial belief is true. If this is an adequate representation of faith, then are scientists actively trying to confirm their “one and only” axiom? The author is stating it is already proven, correct? They don’t need to confirm expectations, because time and time again those expectations have been confirmed. And yet, if anyone is familiar with Thomas Kuhn, they will recall the paradigmatic cycle that he claims is a scientific phenomenon. In other words, scientists’ expectations are occasionally being violated by anomalies.

    In quantum physics, there are probabilities and randomness factors that scientists can’t predict. Newtonian physics implied that the universe obeyed a set of rules, but those rules changed when quantum physics came on the scene, leading bright minds such as Einstein to refer to it as “spooky action at a distance”. Supposedly, physics itself breaks down at the center of a black hole. It is very possible rules have no existence in a black hole, but how would you convince me otherwise? Unprovable axiom, anybody?

    Also, the author’s claim that there is one assumption only is a matter of opinion. Every single scientist I’ve spoken with, every single book I’ve read, suggests at least more than one. The traditions of Plato and Aristotle form the root of at least three assumptions: man can understand the universe, the physical and mathematical universe are the same, and simpler laws are better. The first seems to hold the most weight. In my opinion, it easily transcends the author’s “one and only” axiom.

  421. goff

    To begin with I will unequivocally state that the scientific method is a very helpful tool for humans in their attempt inquire about the physical world.
    There is a lot of ignorance here stemming from the author to a significant number of users especially in regards to this false and propagandist dichotomy between science and religion. The true dichotomy is between naturalism and whatever non-materialist philosophy on the other hand. Any person that utters such misinformed statement (religion vs science) is only insulting his own intelligence. Case in point many people here who have spouted such nonsense along with none other than the biggest atheist tool of all, dawkins.

    The fact of the matter is the scientific method is ridden with faith. From start to finish. It is a practical impossibility to do science without any a priori assumptions that either are unproven or simply cannot be proven. Someone stated earlier that science is impartial to philosophy, which is rather laughable given that the main premise of the scientific method is the philosophy of empiricism.

    Having said that, not only is empiricism a faith-based philosophy it is also ridden with two central dogmas, that of reductionism and the problem with analyticity. But then again, one would not expect the followers of scientism to accept that but rather continue with the blind faith.
    If that’s not enough then we can also have a look at Godel’s incompleteness theorems, which practically nullify the false premise (or downright lie) that science is not based on faith. The issue becomes even more severe for those espousing the opinion of the author when one actually realizes the very internal limitations the scientific method faces… Let alone go toe-to-toe with Mr. Godel.

    A big lol @ Gelsamel who said that math is empirical (i.e. has been validated by the scientific method). Trying to prove math via the scientific method, when math is one of the assumptions of the scientific method is the epitome of circular logic. Petitio principii!

    On and one last thing… People need to stop treating science as an agent in the nature of ‘science explains this and that’. Science explains nothing! It’s human agents engaged with the scientific method that explain things. Fallible, subjective agents with their limitations and personal agenda.

    I am appalled every time I see this type of garbage thrown around as its only purpose is to dogmatize science… an action that serves as the very negation of the discipline itself. In other words, STOP TRYING TO TARNISH SCIENCE IN ORDER TO SATISFY YOUR METAPHYSICAL BELIEFS YOU DISENGENIOUS IGNORAMUS !

  422. So glad you linked to this on your post from yesterday. This was magnificent. :)

  423. Definitely, science is a process of replication
    And it seems that spirituality can be oriented into science because unity most always is better than seperation.
    There’s this book by Ken Wilber called The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes: Exploring the Leading Edge of Science (1982)

    In it he says,
    “Modern science is no longer denying spirit. And that, that is epochal. As Hans Kung remarked, the standard answer to “Do you believe in Spirit?” used to be, “Of course not, I’m a scientist,” but it might very soon become, “Of course I believe in Spirit. I’m a scientist.”

  424. Wally

    Scientific method makes one assumption, and that assumption is based upon faith. You must have faith that that universe operate on set rules, and faith to assume that understanding can be derived from observation. I do not find it beyond the realm of possibility that there are aspects of the universe at are unobservable. It helps explain the inability to develop a unified field theory, and why standard theories break down in the presence of black holes.

  425. DJ King KEV LOL

    Is there no middle ground in this? If all scientific knowledge lies within a spectrum of uncertainty (Humans are controlled by unicorns) and certainty (there will be a gravitational force between two things with mass)-notice even the two extreme ends are not 100% uncertain or certain-, then doesn’t there exist an interrelated spectrum of faith and no faith? Put into mathematical terms, if a theory has 87.34% certainty (certainty of theories can’t be quantified but this is solely for the purpose of the argument), then doesn’t that mean remaining 12.64% belongs to faith? After all, to say you believe in a theory is to say you trust it 100%. Let’s be honest here, if humans didn’t trust some theories absolutely, our society would not advance scientifically. Plus, it’s a little arrogant to say you believe in a theory but do not actually trust it 100%. So that 12.64% leftover is your taking the theory in faith. Visually, it would look something like this:

    where + is your theory

    Evidence and Reason Spectrum
    perfectly uncertain ———————————————-+———- perfectly certain

    Faith Spectrum
    trusting absolutely not based———————————————+———-trusting completely
    on faith____________________________________________based on faith

    string theory, for example would lie somewhere to the right of the spectrum. A string theorist, would believe the theory based on maybe ~95% faith and 5% Evidence and Reason (most of which is reason)

    The evolution theory, perhaps would be ~70% and 30%? (The numbers aren’t important for the point I’m making. You probably will come up with more appropriate numbers.)

    I am 100% pro science but I think a lot of scientific thinkers tend to be presumptuous. Science is a very proud profession. I know that marvelous rushing feeling of success when you make a scientific discovery. Perhaps it is that very feeling that pushes some scientist to think so provincially and defend their positions so emotionally.

    It is no surprise man would believe himself logical,for he can only reason his logic in a logical state.Once emotion dominates,he loses all ability to realize his own uncontrolled passions.

  426. DJ King KEV LOL

    Correction to image:

    Faith Spectrum
    Trusting not based on—–+————————————————-trusting completely based on

  427. Max

    I’m a son of two scientists. Raised in a Soviet family of rationalists and atheists. I was like them for the most part of my life. I went to study architecture and now i have faith. I would like to share my view, as my path gave me a chance to see the world from both sides of this argument.
    In my oppinion science has not done much but bring up a set of visual interpretations of what is already there. In a way it can be compaired with the work of an artist who’s life force is driven from continuous creation and analysis. I feel that science is an art piece stretched over millenia. Worked by the hands of generations. So careful and systematic, maybe even too careful. Due to it’s grand scale it is so well understood in detail and yet never makes sense as a whole. What is the final shape of this vast collection of kowlege? We are so close to finally placing the final sroke. Why is it not there yet? What makes an artist know that the work is finished? Nothing – he never knows, he just bleives in it. Im afraid that when we do finish this epic masterpiece of rationality, we will walk a distance from it, and find that it’s only a picture. Reality is outside the canvas. How could we not see it before we would say.
    When i was an art student, teachers would always tell me that i was working too close to the paper. With all the pedantism I was trying to make the details come out fine and accurate and yet it never looked good at the end. Then I finally listened to my tutors. I sat straight, pulled my eyes from the work and still fearing to make a mistake began to observe how my hand naurally followed the reality i saw in front of me. As i let go of my rationality, a new feeling of movement and rythm and colour has started to grow in me. It kept me up nights, let me go without food or drink only to feel the magic of transformation. And the more i’ve done it – the more sense it made. The images started to sprout in my head. My world was being enriched wrom inside of me. I still cannot put this in words. Only fragments. And it’s been my life force ever since. The well out of which I derive my aesthetical and moral values. And I even notice the world change around me to a better one since I became a faithful man.
    And having said all this I see no point in compairing faith and science. One is a force and the other one is an object.

  428. DJ King KEV LOL

    @Max
    Why isn’t faith, and human’s knowledge that arrives from faith a work of art too?
    Aren’t both knowledge from faith and scientific knowledge are masterpieces of art that stretch over MILLENNIA? Faith is a force? What force does faith have in our physical world? The only force it has is inside your consciousness. Faith is YOUR force. Plus, analogies are used to show a similarity between two things. Claiming science is “an object” is stretching the painting analogy too far and concluding irrationally. Being ignorant doesn’t get mankind anywhere. Although some knowledge are not applicable in our physical world, we should still pursue them.

  429. Max

    I’m not very familiar with the theory, but in quantum mechanics scientists derived that faith has a direct influence on the physical world.
    This might be an interesting reference – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSk51Lp-vHU
    and as i said – my world really started to change ;)

  430. Nommer

    But how does science know their findings will stay true not only today, but also tomorrow or until the world ends? How does science explain the consistency that exists in, for example, the boiling point of water? Or the degree in which the earth rotates around the sun? Doesn’t THAT require some form of faith then, believing that the values science finds today will hold true tomorrow? Please, stop confining yourselves to believing that faith is only for religion.

  431. what if—as frontier quantum physics is showing—all the rules to which we base science (method, theory, measurement, etc.) are all shown to be false? As we look deeper into the smallest areas of life, we’re noticing that the rules of science don’t apply there. Things like opposing newtonian laws and influence of outside intention are starting to shatter how we once thought the world acted. Obviously much more work needs to be done to extrapolate this into our physical existence, but it goes to show that even our “laws” of science are not concrete. Just as we can shape our thoughts, the world can be welded. It does not help to choose a stance, for it limits the possibilities of reaching a balance. In all of life, it is never black or white, but always gray. I challenge you to open your mind. Read some of these books: Biology of Belief, Intention Experiment, and there are many others. This is in no way an attack on you, it is only an offering of a different view point that I think could strengthen your understandings of what you already know. Thanks for the article =) and much love.

  432. Is science faith-based? Yes! Oh, you want details? ΟΚ. Find them here.

    http://crispost.blogspot.com/2012/01/scientific-creed_03.html

    Science is the faith that works!

    And here for the Scientific Creed:

    http://crispost.blogspot.com/2012/01/scientists-creed-with-explanatory.html

  433. Matt Miller

    So, I have a minor gripe, and I may even be wrong, but here goes:

    I don’t really like it being said that the universe “follows rules”, only because it gives some religious folks ammo to say “there’s a rule-maker” or ask “who’s enforcing the rules?”. I may be wrong, but I think it may be better to say that the only assumption science makes is “the universe operates consistently”

    I think that’s saying the same thing, but it doesn’t give someone the ability to claim you’re implying something that you didn’t actually intend.

    Really this was a bit of a tangent and unrelated to the specific topic you addressed, just wanted to throw that in there to cut off other potential religious arguments.

  434. Tim

    I don’t pretend to understand a lot of what science, physics in particular, is saying mostly because I have a degree in Business, not Physics. However, I love science and I believe that God created the universe. What really bothers me about the argument is that people of non-faith try just as hard to push their atheism on others as those with faith in God. I personally believe that science will never be able to prove the existence of God. On the same token, science will never be able to disprove the existence of God. (Have at it if you like)

    The science vs. faith conversation should not be held on an academic scale, but on a personal scale. Let the religious preach their message from the pulpit and let the atheists preach their message on Reddit.

  435. robert lindsay

    Wow –> Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Results.
    The whole notion of Science is based on this idea: that for practical purposes, reliable theories can be discovered within domains of interest.
    There are no intrinsic “Laws” or “Facts” of the Universe that Science can invoke to avoid the use of theories about observations.
    Because Science is based on observation it is always “outside looking in” at what happened and unable to guarantee (except in a practical sense) that any theory will absolutely predict future results.
    Because there is no absolute guarantee of future results the only rational basis we have for believing that Science will work (at least in a practical sense) is Faith QED.

  436. The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules. That’s it. There is one corollary, and that is that if the Universe follows these rules, then those rules can be deduced by observing the way Universe behaves. This follows naturally; if it obeys the rules, then the rules must be revealed by that behavior.

    Sure, Phil. Actually, you’d want to extend that, because science not only believes there’s a set of rules, but also that the rules are essentially homogeneous everywhere, and don’t change over time.

    And you believe in those assumptions, even though we can’t directly examine an infinitesimal fraction of the Universe, have only got data for about 4×10^-8 of the lifespan of the universe as we understand it to date, and regularly find ourselves with parts about which we basically have to say “well, okay, we don’t know the rules for that yet.”

    But we continue using those assumptions, because of our strong trust and confidence that those are good assumptions.

    “faith/fāTH/
    Noun:
    Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”

    (Google “define:faith”).

  437. Ryan W

    This article has somewhat of a “preachy feel” to it. Respect to all here and author. It feels more like an speech a devoted Atheist would say, not a scienctist. Charlie is correct about faith, is, or can be subsituted with trust. You must have some form trust in the logic, or in these “cases” or even these so called “evidence”, or any Law in physics. If trust or faith is not there then we have no legs to stand (so to speak). We all (no matter if you believe or not) need to take a “step of faith” to help us understand lifes more difficult questions. :-) There CANNOT be predictability when we live in a world with choas and quantum mechanics. Once again Charlie you are correct.

    There is a general fear amougst us, and this fear is in the idea of not having control of you own fate. Fear of the unknown and ones own death. We all die. Medician can be thanked for a “slightly longer” life expectancy. But we can also thank it for over population (idea). This now becomes a race for resources. Then we all turn to science and blame it for this, phenomenon. And thus we have acticle like this. No no not our fault we are nothing like religion, we only ever persue knowledge and get payed for it.

    Faith = Mystical
    Devotion = Mystical
    Belief = Mystical
    Atom = Mystical, no wait logical
    Evidence = Logical
    Religion = Mystical

    Why cant we see all of these? Not just the evidence of there effects, to our reality? Well I guess you just have to have a little faith. :-)

    Please excuse me for bad spelling and sentance structure. Im not payed to spell or to think, Ive been gifted like you with a 100% free mind. Never Stop asking questions, ignorance is the real enemy!

  438. Christian_X

    That one assumption is a BIG one – every bit as big as the assumption others make about the original Author of those laws. Until science coughs up a testable theory of the laws of the universe, any claims to be completely free of faith are utterly bogus.

  439. Name

    Fact is simple. There is no evidence of existence of god. Since there is no evidence, there automatically are certain possibility that god DOESNT exist. Since there is certain possibility that god doesnt exist, you have no rights what so ever to claim that he exist. I cant go telling people that there is undiscovered planet in our solar system, just because I believe in that. If person claims ANYTHING, he must provide proof for his claims. Failing to do that indicates irrationalism. Being irrational is threat to modern society and our achievements.

  440. Leo

    I’m not trying to troll here, this conversation just really sparked my interest. Every time people argue about science and religion it goes along the lines of all scientists are truth seekers and all religious people are fanatics. Scientists are good, believers are crazy. Yada, yada, yada… There are a lot of fanatics out there, no doubt, but not all people who believe in God believe the world was created in 7 days, or that evolution did not happen.

    I consider myself an admirer of science and a believer in God, in a force that created everything. Do I believe in evolution? Yes. Do I believe that the universe is billions of years old? Yes. I believe these things because I accept that the Bible was written by men with a very limited ability to understand what they were being inspired to write down. After all, this was a long long time ago. Our knowledge was much less developed back then. If I were God, I would be inclined to provide people a general overview of how everything came into being, rather than a very detailed explanation. Seven days could have really meant 7 steps to me, as God, and a step could have meant any length of time (if I had even created time yet). But maybe I knew they that these simple humans would more easily understand the concept of a day, so I said I created everything in 7 “days”. It doesn’t matter. I’m God, I can do what I want.

    And this is where people will start saying, “Oh you hypocrite, how can you be a true believer and discount the the exact words of the Bible!” This is where I get off the wagon and the fanatics keep on going. See, I don’t think the Bible was meant to be taken literally 100% of the time. That’s my belief. You can say I belong to a different denomination if it makes it easier for you. My point is, not all religious people are fanatics and it’s very simple-minded to treat them as such. Not all Muslims are suicide bombers, right? Ok then, moving on.

    Atheists love to base the bulk of their arguments against creationism on a few proven theories – evolution, the age of the universe, etc – as if it blows the whole religious system out of the water. I too can point my finger and say, “tell me what caused the big bang,” but guess what? No one can answer that question. Sure their are a lot of crackpot theories out their but are there real answers? Nope. Not a one.

    And this is what I think the article the author referenced to was trying to get at. At some elevated scientific level, our ability to understand things hits a wall. And we then turn to faith in order to sustain our belief system. So in that respect, science and religion are similar.

    That’s not saying the whole culture of science is faith-based, but it is saying that arguably the most important piece of science – understanding what caused the universe – is.

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