Science and Religion
2009-02-27 07:19:44 ET

In order to believe something, particularly something universal, it takes faith. The scientific method works something like this. If we perform a controlled action a great many times and have gotten the same results every time, then we can make the assumption that no matter how many times we repeat the experiement it will turn out the same.

Lets say that I make the hypothesis that that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I test this theory, and others test this theory over and over again. Say we test it a hundred thousand times. My hypothesis has always held true. However, I cannot, nor can anyone or all of sentient life combined make the claim to have witnessed every action ever made, being made, or ever will be made. We need a certain degree of faith in order to believe that this theory is true. This is also explained in The Philosophers Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods by Julian Baggini and Peter S. Fosl in the chapter in which they discuss logic and reasoning methods.

Religion, by definition, also requires faith. It requires faith because, again, it is defined by the action of belief in something. Certainly a stronger, more devout faith is required, but this is still a common link between Religion and Science.

Science can then be equated to a Religion because it requires faith. Faith in the system and faith in the results and faith in the experts who tell us what it is that Science and its scientific method deem to be true.

Consider for a moment this, from Lectures on the Philosopy of Religion by Georg Wilhem Friedrich Hegel:

"We know that in religion we withdraw ourselves from what is temporal, and that religion is for our consciousness that region in which all the enigmas of the world are solved, all the contradictions of deeper-reaching thought have their meaning unveiled. . . the region of eternal truth, of eternal rest, of eternal peace."

Now, compare that with this excerpt from Science and Hypothesis by Henri Poincare:

"Experiment is the sole source of truth. It alone can teach us something new; it alone can give us certainty."

Now, it seems to me that the attributes given to religion by Hegel and the those given to experiment, and science by way of experiment, by Poincare are awfully similar. That thing that provides us with truth. Truth that can only be believed through faith, in any case.


2009-02-27 07:45:42 ET

Great post. You've the misspelling, "geligion" in a quote.

My take on religion in that it's na´ve faith. I lean more toward the scientific side than the religious side of the spectrum. Further, I believe there is a spectrum and that science and religion don't converge onto one point of "faith" as you seem to imply. I can test science to be true. If there's one facet I question, I can test that facet. That's not the case with religion where, at some point, one needs to assume blind faith.

That's inherent to religion, however, and making the distinction between religion and spirituality-with-an-empirical-emphasis (e.g. meditation) might help with your argument. Though, on second thought, there's still that blind faith problem in the end.

Science does not have the blind faith problem but there might still be faith in that if a concept is tested to entirety, it will yield the same results. We are capable of testing but doing so is tedious. With religion, we are not capable of testing. We must rely on the assumption.

2009-02-28 21:43:25 ET

Misspelling corrected. Thank you.

What faith isn't blind? At some point we must simply accept something to be true.

More importantly, I have realized that this particular argument is fallacious. I believe that the fallacy involved here is 'non-sequiter', but I could be wrong. The argument is constructed like this.

1) All Religion requires faith.
2) Science requires faith.
3) Therefore Science is a Religion.

That doesn't actually follow in form. My bad.

2009-03-01 13:15:04 ET

Your logic doesn't follow. Example:

All airplanes fly.
Eagles fly.
Therefore all eagles are airplanes.

Also, you're hinting at brain in a vat in that we can never be sure that foo is always foo in every circumstance. It can be said that eventually we just have to assume but even if we were capable of being one hundred percent certain, there's the possibility that we're still wrong.

2009-03-02 10:30:46 ET

A lot of things in science also have the once exception rule as well. I'd say having hard empirical proof of something doesn't take faith though.

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