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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I wrote a lengthy reply having to to with the creative use of the words 'faith' and 'evidence' but I realized it is a futile effort.  You know these things already.

What I want to know is what is the point  you are getting at?  To get us to admit we have faith in science?  Or is it to show us that we have faith in something?  Either way, you're comparing apples to oranges.  I suppose I can admit that I believe some things without direct evidence.  I don't have a lot of faith though.  I have faith that time will pass and things will happen - that is the extent of my faith.  This is something I have experienced directly but it is in the future so I don't know for certain.  Time could go backwards and things could un-happen for all I know.  

And what if someone says he or she does have faith in science?  That still wouldn't prove anything, would it?

Hi @Diane.  I'm not sure there's any particular point I'm getting at.  I'm just sharing my thoughts and perspective.

I think that you and Reg are both using a relatively sophisticated theory of scientific epistemology and a relatively simplistic definition of "faith."   Then you are comparing the two and finding one lacking.

From my perspective, what you are calling "faith" doesn't accurately describe what I and my co-religionists actually mean by the term.  For us it is really another form of the faith you have in natural law - that there are rules, and the shoe will move according to the rules, and that the rules are discernible by humans through observation.

There's no reason to assume that.  I suppose shoes could have free will; indeed for much of human history people believed objects did have spirits and a form of free will. It could well be that even if there are rules, they really aren't discernible by human observation, because human observation changes the outcome.  (hmmm....)  Still, you have faith in the falling shoe, or at least expectation as Reg describes.   In fact, you believe in natural law so strongly that when you look at new situations, you try to find the operant natural law(s). I bet you never consider the possibility that there might not be any.

I know I don't.

That's the same dynamic for religious faith.  There are a few fundamental assumptions that seem tried and true, and the rest follows from observation and experience.   We observe over and over the pain of divorce and the long-term harm it inflicts on children, so we teach that monogamous marriage is a lifetime commitment that requires effort.  We see good people over the centuries, "saints" recognized and not, and we see that what motivates them most strongly is their sense of God and community.  We watch economic systems across the centuries and cultures, and so we teach that employer and worker have obligations to each other that go beyond the self-interest of capital markets, and include an obligation to provide a living wage and honest labor, beyond what may be defined by civil law or culture. 

All those theories are predicated in some way on the fundamental assumption of "faith".  Faith provides a basis for looking at the world in a certain way, so as to see those things which others may not.  Even to make those observations where others don't bother to even observe.

It was millenia before humans like Galileo even bothered to observe some scientific phenomenon.  It required the development of faith in natural law first - a belief that objects didn't have their own spirits, and were governed by rules.  That's what enabled people to start looking for those patterns and rules.

Religious faith works the same way.

It seems to me what you are talking about with religious faith is not so much it but its effects on individuals and society.  I understand what you are saying, but I don't know what to do with that information.  I've thought about it, so I suppose you've been successful as far as that goes.

Whatever positive benefits having religious faith may or may not have, I don't want it taught to my kids in science class.  I don't want it taught to other people's kids in science class either because whatever patterns, laws, or morality may result from people having it and being guided and/or manipulated by it, it's not science.  

I am not saying religious faith is all bad.  There have been times I wished I had some.  People rely on their faith and many times make good use of it.  I see it as a state of mind I could make a conscious choice to get to, but that still does not mean there is a deity.  

@Diane, RE: "There have been times I wished I had some." - much as Dorothy's friends learned in Oz, there's nothing you could do, had you religion, that you don't already have within you.

@Bob, know that I classify you far above the average, run-of-the-mill theist we usually get on the board, but there is one thing you seem to share in common. Visiting theists tend to discount our contributions to the discussions, while never actually revealing what they, themselves believe, so that we can examine those beliefs.

Don't you think this exchange would be more fair if you were to lay out your own personal beliefs to us?

Both science and religion are human endeavors, trying honestly to understand things that are much bigger than humans.

Well put. I would just add that their methods and outcomes are so different that they seem to apply to entirely different realms of human perception and "knowing".

Both science and religion are human endeavors, trying honestly to understand things that are much bigger than humans.

I don't agree: science does not depend on humanity - any thinking beings who can observe and interact with the world around them will develop their own version of science and will come to understand the same scientific phenomena that we do or will understand.  The way we approach it will be different, but we will come to the same answers ultimately.

On the other hand, the religion that even humans would develop if starting completely from scratch will be totally different and other beings in the Universe might not even think of developing what we call religion and if they did, it would be completely different as well.

Religion may be a human endeavor, but science transcends human endeavors.

I don't agree: science does not depend on humanity - any thinking beings who can observe and interact with the world around them will develop their own version of science and will come to understand the same scientific phenomena that we do or will understand.

I used to think this, @Jim.  In some ways I still do, but I confess the anthropologists have rather convinced me that the argument is pretty tenuous.  Yes, if we believe in universal natural law, then it should be possible for any sentient to discern it.

Except there's no evidence for that claim.  Modern science is really a western cultural phenomenon, that arose out of one culture.  It's not obvious to all sentient beings, or it would have developed much sooner.   In fact, despite Western imperialism most of the humans on the planet even now don't really grok science.  "Traditional" medicine is still practiced throughout China and Africa.  Even here in the heart of Western scientific culture large swaths of people deny global warming, reject evolution, turn to crystals and magnets and neo-paganism, etc.

...despite Western imperialism most of the humans on the planet even now don't really grok science.

Science doesn't depend on what the common human knows or understands.  If we had to vote on science using the knowledge of the average human, we'd still believe the Earth was flat.  Science advances in spite of what the average human understands about it.  The average human hasn't a clue about how their cell phone works or at best they have a cursory idea of what gravity is but if put on the spot would have little ability to describe the principals of even Newtonian Gravity, let alone something like General Relativity.  It would be nice if they did grasp at least a little of it.  But they'd rather pay attention to what Justin Bieber is up to.

Ahh, Heinlein, circa the Seventies - I'm impressed!

RE: "If I were born in an Arabic country, I would understand the Koran and Islamic culture much better than I do, to be able to make a less biased observation.  I would still have a choice."

That's absolutely true - conform or face charges of apostasy and die, your choice.

Wait, I'm thinkin', I'm thinkin' --

For humanity? Catholic parents raising their own kids as Catholics in private schools? Scratch that one off.

The Catholic schools in American urban centers like Cleveland and Chicago are educating kids who are 80% or more non-Catholics.  They're doing it with donated money just to try to give kids a safe and happy school environment in places where the public schools are failing.

Of course, worldwide there are many places where Catholic schools are the only schools, or the only schools that will admit girls...

That is, unless Bob is implying his Church invented education, public education, higher education, or most subjects taught in these institutions.

Have you ever been to a graduation?  Ever noticed that the graduates are all wearing ceremonial monks' robes?   Why, even when we give Ph.D.s in science I get to put a monk's hood on my students!   Who else do you think invented the western university system?

The medical expertise in those hospitals was provided by doctors who learned those skills in medical schools, not in Catholic seminaries.

Certainly, though some of them were in Catholic medical schools. 

However the hospital that they work in is provided by the Church.  In the U.S., of course we take insurance.  At the same time, we also offer insurance and have put together insurance pools to help get people insured.  That's how you do medical care in the U.S. 

Most of those Catholic hospitals of course got started because only the Church was available in those areas to provide medical care, just as right now in many countries across the world the Church is one of the few consistent on-the-ground organizations available.

There are lots of groups that do good work.  That in no way diminishes the work that we do as a Church, and of course many of our members are founders of such NGOs or volunteer for such NGO work in part because of what the Church has taught them.  Melinda Gates is a devout Catholic, and I think just about everyone knows that she is the driving force behind the founding and work of the Gates Foundation.  Doctors without borders is a wonderful group (with many Catholic physicians, and Catholic and Jewish co-founders IIRC); Oxfam is a great group founded by Quakers, Bread for the World by a Catholic, and Goodwill of course was founded by a Methodist minister.

I had no desire to "attack the character" of anyone, of course, and if @Suzanne took it that way I apologize.   My only point is that if you are going to accuse anyone or any group of not doing enough to help the poor in Africa, then it is perhaps worth considering what you yourself have done to help the poor in Africa first.

Well put. May compassion and objectivity win over anger. (Oh, even in atheists.)


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