Is your trust in science based on faith or based on science?

What I mean is this: how much do you actually know about the science most atheists parrot? Most atheists know as little science as most Christians know as little theology. Just as a Christian trusts his priest to tell him what he believes, an atheist trusts scientists with a Ph.D. tacked to their name to tell them what they believe. But how many times have the scientists turned out to be wrong? I only ask this because it seems this is central to the problem that most atheists have. They are repulsed by the phrase “believe” – they are addicted instead to the phrase “know”. But honestly, do you really know, or are you just believing what you’re told? I would like to remind you that in the 1970′s the scientists of the day were seriously concerned that we were about to enter an ice age, and less than 30 years later they are now convinced Earth is about to turn into a desert.

Unless you’ve observed something yourself, or observed and interpreted the evidence yourself and drew your own conclusions, you are just as guilty as faith as any religious person.

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Just because the math fits the observations, doesn't make the scientific conclusions correct. Einstein was not always right.

It's not just a question of right or wrong, but new understanding and accuracy, and new abilities to predict what was once unpredictable. Einstein added to what Newton explained. Newton's laws worked perfectly, until we had to start explaining physics at speeds approaching light. Newton couldn't even have dreamed of this expansion of knowledge, even if his knowledge answered more questions than everyone before him.

The key to all of this is prediction that can be tested. Einstein's science predicted how the sun would bend the light of a star with gravity, in a way that we could test to prove or disprove. A test proved it. Our knowledge increased, and new questions were posed, considered, and new ideas tested to learn more, and more.

I don't know enough about Lorentze time-space to understand it or "believe in it". But I do know that predictions were made based on those theories and equations, which could be tested, and proven or disproven. Not all new predictions get proven. Just more and more of them.

I'll take the entire matter one step further, Roger - in ancient Judaism, as in most religions, sacrifices were made to appease "the gods," or in the Hebrew's case, a single god. For some reason, gods love the smell of barbecue.

For example, in "The Epic of Gilgamesh," written around 2800 BCE, Mesopotamian king Utinapishtum found himself in a boat, with his wife, in the midst of a flood that lasted for a week, and when the rain stopped and the boat ran aground, old Ut sacrificed an animal, and according to the author, "The gods smelled the savor, the gods smelled the sweet savor and collected like flies over a sacrifice." A couple of hundred years later, Noah had a similar experience and also offered a burnt sacrifice, and in Genesis 8:21: "the Lord smelled the sweet savor."

Now the purpose of a sacrifice to the gods, sweet savor aside, was to prove to the god in question that the god's favor was so important to you, that you were willing to give of your most valuable possessions to obtain it - no palming off a sick or injured animal you were going to lose anyway, the animal had to be perfect.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus, god's son, sacrificed himself for our sins - what satisfaction would a god get from the offering up of his own son as a sacrifice to himself, particularly when he had to make all of the catering arrangements personally!

There is he who does the sacrificing, the one who gets sacrificed, and the recipient of the sacrifice - if the recipient of the sacrifice is the same as the one who does the sacrificing - and the Council of Nicea determined that the Sacrificer and the Recipient were also the Sacrificee - how does that take anyone's sin away? It's like giving myself a birthday present (though a bit more macabre than the average gift for any but members of the Addam's family) - how does that obviate anything?

And Jesus wasn't even barbecued, hence the absence of the all-important "sweet savor"!

Atheism is a conclusion. Religion is a conviction. 

I don't 'have faith' in science. I don't pray that my Galaxy III will work all day long. I plug it the fuck in. 

If I really wanted to know the 'why' behind plugging it in, or how plugging it in makes it work, I could look up that information and educate myself. 

I can't look up 'why' prayer doesn't work, or how to make it work better. 

I don't have 'faith' that the vehicle for life is adaptation and evolution. I have transitional fossils and carbon dating and genome sequencing and mitochondrial DNA tracing. 

I don't have 'belief' that these things work. I have clinical studies and lab results. I have objects I can go and examine with my own eyes and my own hands. I can replicate expected results with accuracy and have those findings reviewed by other experts who want to prove me wrong. 

When prayer heals an amputee, I'll reconsider my stance on science. 

Until then, I'll keep letting the evidence take me where it leads. 

"Atheism is a conclusion. Religion is a conviction."

I definitely stealing that one. :D

I have arrived late to this post so I am sure my point is somewhat covered already. Most theists, especially the fundamentalists see their god as an Authority. Their beliefs are based on the authority of their special book. Science is not an authority based system. Everyone, even Theists can question or challenge it and Scientists on their work. Science is just a tool of discovery we use.  Whatever it may reveal to us is falsifiable and open to scrutiny.

Religion is based on faith and subjective experience while Science is based on the validation of objective evidence. So, unlike religion, scientific knowledge (or Truth) is never a matter of belief. It is always a matter of understanding based on education. You need to read more than one book for that.

 I would like to remind you that in the 1970′s the scientists of the day were seriously concerned that we were about to enter an ice age, and less than 30 years later they are now convinced Earth is about to turn into a desert.

Incorrect. There were a few studies that predicted an entry into a cooling period, but the majority predicted warming. Between 1965 and 1979, 7 papers predicted a cooling effect while 42 predicted warming (19 were neutral or undetermined). What everyone remembers, however, are the Time and Newsweek articles talking about 'A new Ice Age'. Oddly enough, Time and Newsweek are not scientific journals.

In addition, the studies predicting a cooling had as an assumption that the ongoing increase in atmospheric aerosol content would continue to a point 4 times its existing levels. Not unreasonable, as sulfur dioxide emissions had been increasing dramatically over the past couple of decades. However, then countries started passing and enforcing clear air laws and the SO2 levels started to drop in the late 70s. If we did something similar with CO2 emissions, we might be able to make a difference in the current climate change, if it's not too late.

Unless you’ve observed something yourself, or observed and interpreted the evidence yourself and drew your own conclusions, you are just as guilty as faith as any religious person.

So many people conflate the different definitions of faith, often deliberately. Faith without evidence (or in spite of it) is what is usually meant when talking about religious faith. Faith that when I press the brake on my car it will slow down, or that the sun will rise in the east, is better described as confidence. It's based on a large amount of evidence and that evidence is available for anyone who wants to look it up. 

Another common misunderstanding is that science claims to be 100% right about anything. It doesn't, by definition. Scientific conclusions are always provisional, always subject to being modified due to new data. There are scientific findings that are so well established and have so much evidence supporting them that it would take a monumental amount of evidence to overturn them, but that is because any new hypothesis has to be able to account not only for the things that the current conclusion cannot, but also for everything that the current conclusion already explains. 

@Prof Bob - Do you pray, and do you use the Rosary to help with prayers?


@Prof Bob - Is the Garden of Eden now being taught as a travesty, and now being taught that it is just a myth?

Is the snake in the Garden of Eden now taught as mythology?

Is it now being ttaught tha the Tree of Knowledge is the best tree to have?

Is the Virgin birth being taught as impossible.

Is the crucifixion now being taught as this was just the manner in which Pontius Pilate got rid of his enemies, and that there were thousands of people who died nailed to a pole.

Is it being taught that nobody can come back from the dead?

When will the leader of the catholic church in Rome be a woman, or even a priest or bishop, that would be a good start - as it is in the Anglican Church.

Is the Tower of Babel being taught as a totally evil act, perpetrated by a 'god' throwing a hissy fit.

@Suzanne, that's quite a list!  Is there a connection there that I'm not understanding? 

Ordinarily I'd tell my students that it's far better to develop your own knowledge rather than rely on mine.  There's plenty of sources out there where you can read about what my church teaches on various things.  Please keep in mind that for any of us who teach, what we teach isn't necessarily "true" in an absolute or pure sense.   I take my turn teaching freshman physics (actually I enjoy it sometimes... at least the major's course.  The pre-meds can be annoying. ;-) ).   For beginners, we teach simplified forms; for some things, we are really teaching our speculations or current best guess.   No different for what my church teaches. 

To speak generally about all your questions, my church would teach that the creation story in the book of Genesis is a story.  It establishes a common language and some important principles, but it's not a literal history.  Besides, it's really compiled fragments from an oral history, with edits down the centuries, so it's a bit of a mishmash.   Some years back when the first findings on genetic (mitochondrial) Eve were published, an old Monsignor friend of mine rolled his eyes and laughed and commented "now we may have to jump in bed with the fundamentalists!"

The point of Genesis is that God is Creator, and is reflected in Creation.  So new understanding of Creation, like emerging understanding of evolution or the discovery of mitochondrial Eve, changes the way we understand God and scripture.  All the original Christian faiths (Roman Catholics, other Catholics, the Orthodox Churches, etc.) are not fundamentalist in their reading of scripture.  That's a "modern" innovation in some of our protestant brethren.

When will we have a woman pope?  No idea.   Marriage of clergy is just a discipline, not something doctrinal.  That's a policy that could change relatively easily.  Ordination of women touches some slightly deeper issues, but none are really insurmountable.  I think what you have to realize is that we're a worldwide church, so some changes have to be right for everyone before they proceed.  It has to work in Baltimore and in Bangladesh.  It's much easier for the American Episcopal church which serves only middle and upper class North Americans, or even for the Anglican community which serves Britain's former empire. 

@Doc Bob - speaking of the Creator --


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