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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The vast majority of those who are taught science choose to understand and "believe" it. 

Sometimes they would even be shunned or made fun of by peers and atheists if they didn't.

Does that make science wrong?

The vast majority of those who are taught science choose to understand and "believe" it.

Because science yields consistent results around the world, unlike religion around the world. Scientists don't even have to communicate with each other or read the same books to come up with answers that they'd precisely verify and agree on if they were to meet.

In fact, schools don't even have to use the same science books or authors, yet they're able to independently present consistent conclusions, no matter who the publishers are here or there, or this year or next.

Sometimes they would even be shunned or made fun of by peers and atheists if they didn't.

I've been to places where the first question a stranger asks you is "What church do you go to?". Scientists and atheists do not go around asking people what they believe, or provide weekly services based on thousand year old texts. Science upgrades its own knowledge every fricken day, consistently, and the whole world can say "Yeah, that's right, my own experiments and observations confirm it! Thanks for the new knowledge!".

@Pope, the majority of people don't go out and conduct experiments to verify what science teachers in their culture have told them.  They just choose to conform.

That's the only point I'm making. 

My religion, of course, is very consistent around the world. ;-)

Well, I "choose to conform" to what can be independently realized by independent paths, all around the world. Different forms or points of view of science exist in individual fields of study, but they eventually support each other in describing one, consistent reality. Your religion may be consistent within itself, but it's not consistent--nor is its priority to be consistent--with other religions.

It's quite clear how scientific culture "chooses" to rely on reproducible evidence regardless of origin, versus people who "choose" religion based mostly on their cultural origins.

Religion and science require very different thought processes, burdens of proof, and repeatedly inevitable, universal agreement.

Comparing science and religion that way is nonsensical.  Of course people's lack of belief in science would not make it wrong, but that does not imply that religious tenets are right or wrong based on whether or not people believe them.

Science has testable theories, while religion calls for faith.  They are also not mutually exclusive. Many people have faith in a divine being AND understand how science works.  I personally can test some scientific theories and not prove them false.  I predict if I drop my shoe 10 times it will fall to the ground 100% of the time, provided I am on the surface of the Earth.  I would not call that faith - I call that knowledge.

Of course some people might blindly think everything produced by "science" is real and true but that would be a mistake too.  One has to have a rational approach to science.  That is the beauty of it - science calls for theories to stand up to rigorous scrutiny while religion does not.  

Whether or not a person believes it, gravity, for instance, will have its effect on objects in the ways it has been proven to do so 100% of the time.  If it doesn't, then the theory has to change.  I guess you could say people believe in science, but that belief is based on facts which speak for themselves.  It is not so for religion.

I know you know all of this but I apparently needed to say it anyway.

I predict if I drop my shoe 10 times it will fall to the ground 100% of the time, provided I am on the surface of the Earth.  I would not call that faith - I call that knowledge.

Actually, @Diane, I would argue that it's both.

We have knowledge of previous observations and a theory that fairly reliably predicts those observations.

We also have faith that the universe is predictable; that the shoe does not have the ability to do something different.  One of the "faith" elements of science is that there are natural laws and that they are discernible.  Even the small violation of the assumption of predictability is what gave Einstein fits about quantum mechanics, because in some ways the shoe really can just do something different! 

Honestly, once you move away from the fundamentalists, religion is very much the same.  There are a few things which are taken on "faith", but most things are the accumulation of experience with the world, with people, and with divinity.  We have theories that we trust well enough to rely on them and teach them to our children, but they have been slowly modified over time or reinterpreted.  Many have been rejected along the way, or simply ignored as no longer being relevant.   Sometimes people cling to them perhaps when they shouldn't, the way Einstein argued with Bohr. 

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

Hi Bob - I think you are misrepresenting the word “faith” in the shoe analogy. We don’t have faith that it will fall to the ground. We have an “expectation” that it will based on previous experience. If it falls to the ground the first 9 times then we have an expectation that it will fall on the tenth occasion based on previous evidence (similar falsifiable experiments).


Faith in the religious context is not based on any evidential based objective experience. You have the Hope that what you believe through faith is true. It is not the same thing.


If we want to look at quantum predictability (your area of expertise?) then one day the cat might be in the box but do the math and the odds are so enormous as to make it meaningless. Maybe one day God will be in the box. The odds are the same.

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".

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