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Is Science Just a Matter of Faith? 1486

Hugh Pickens writes "Pastabagel writes that the actual scientific answers to the questions of the origins of the universe, the evolution of man, and the fundamental nature of the cosmos involve things like wave equations and quantum electrodynamics and molecular biology that very few non-scientists can ever hope to understand and that if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we accept the incredibly complex scientific phenomena in physics, astronomy, and biology through the process of belief, not through reason. When Richard Fenyman wrote, 'I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics,' he was including himself which is disconcerting given how many books he wrote on that very subject. The fact is that it takes years of dedicated study before scientific truth in its truest, mathematical and symbolic forms can be understood. The rest of us rely on experts to explain it, someone who has seen and understood the truth and can dumb it down for us in a language we can understand. And therein lies the big problem for science and scientists. For most people, science is really a matter of trusting the expert who tells it to us and believing what they tell us. Trust and belief. Faith. Not understanding. How can we understand science, if we can't understand the language of science? 'We don't learn science by doing science, we learn science by reading and memorizing. The same way we learn history. Do you really know what an atom is, or that a Higgs boson is a rather important thing, or did you simply accept they were what someone told you they were?'"
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Is Science Just a Matter of Faith?

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  • Re:No. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:33PM (#35746152)

    but you can. thats the bigger point.

    you can go and reproduce it, and if not that, you can go and check out how they do it at the labs.

    i have yet to see somebody reproduce "blind people seeing again by the touch of a hand" or any other things like that.

  • Re:Obvious? (Score:2, Informative)

    by internerdj ( 1319281 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:38PM (#35746274)
    There are plenty of religious factions that are based on understanding their holy writings in a logical and methodical approach. There are even religious organizations that seek to provide verification of the parts of holy writings that can be proven by our current methods of observation (archeology, history, textual criticism). Many religious people are intellectually lazy but most will accept that people might actually want to reason out what they believe.
  • by yuna49 ( 905461 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:49PM (#35746540)

    Read some Karl Popper [wikipedia.org], then add in a dash of Thomas Kuhn [wikipedia.org] and a soupcon of Stephen Toulmin [amazon.com] for good measure. The post-modernist take on all of this starts with Lakatos and Musgrave [amazon.com].

  • Re:No. (Score:3, Informative)

    by natedubbya ( 645990 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:51PM (#35746594)

    You are describing blind faith, not faith in general. If I wanted to be more direct: you are describing a straw man.

    When you posted your comment here, you didn't know it would appear on this page, but you had past evidence that you relied on, and assumed it would work. You had faith that it would appear, and that faith was based on some prior evidence that you deemed worthy. The point of this article is that people don't understand key aspects of science, but have evidence that the scientists haven't led them astray in the past, and so put their FAITH in what they are told. I am willing to bet that you don't know much about quantum physics, but have faith that the theory has some true groundings.

    The same is true of most religions. There is evidence that their claims are true (e.g., someone named Jesus did exist in the past, and there is significant evidence that he was executed by the Romans). You may dismiss this or believe that the evidence is not enough to believe in, but those who do believe it are a far cry from the strawman "blind faith" you describe. Have some respect, and realize that you put your faith in lots of things every single day of your life.

  • by cinnamon colbert ( 732724 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:02PM (#35746830) Journal
    Orwell examined why he thought the earth was round, and concluded that most of the reasons he had, reasons given by most educated english people of the time, were unreliable, and therefore his belief that the earth was round was just superstition.
    however, orwell did find one good reason that every educated (5th grade above) person should be able to understand (scroll down)

    pilots of ships and planes travel great distances, accurately, with a model that the earth was round. a plane flying from sydney AU to NYC USA would n't make it if the model wasn't accurate
  • by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:10PM (#35746994)

    There are theories and phenomena that are well tested and understood with exacting scientific precision as you say. There is also a lot of stuff that falls under the general umbrella of science (as most people understand it) that do not adhere to this standard (or anything resembling it). A good example is the origin of life, which many say has been explained through science despite the fact that it has not been reproduced in a lab (or anywhere else) and is therefore not "demonstrable, repeatable and self-correcting".

    That is the practical problem. But more fundamentally, all ways of thinking about the world are acquired through a system of belief, and science is not above that. The thing that sets science apart is that you check your result against a formal definition to make sure it actually works. Rigorous introspection can be applied to any way of thinking. People who are concerned with the truth have been doing it as long as they've been thinking. The trouble is a lot of people don't care if something is true or not, and scientists seem to be as susceptible to that as anybody.

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:26PM (#35747312)
    Guess what my Faith offers many "theories" that are useful. For example, my Faith tells me that I will be better off if I forgive those who wrong me. Guess what, in the last 50 years, psychologists/psychiatrists have done studies that show that people who carry a grudge have more health problems than those who don't.
  • by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:38PM (#35747540)

    Actually, it's equivocation, which is a logical fallacy.

  • Re:No. (Score:3, Informative)

    by maroberts ( 15852 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @02:20PM (#35748408) Homepage Journal

    Macro and micro evolution are the same thing on different time scales, and if one works, the other has to.

    By this logic if I can walk from my house to the store, I should be able to walk from Boston to London. They're just at different scales!

    Well, there are people who have walked across America and other continents, so the distance is not a problem. You're only making it more difficult/impossible by adding water, whereas the original argument does not have any significant hurdles to overcome.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Informative)

    by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @02:56PM (#35748960)
    As I've explained in a post above, science does not work by directly observing phenomena. Science works by examining evidence and seeing if it is consistent with a hypothesis. The big bang hypothesis makes certain predictions about the cosmic background radiation and the distribution of matter in the universe. If our observations are consistent with what the big bang hypothesis predicts, the observations confirm the hypothesis. This simple explanation is the basis of all scientific experimentation. You can read more about the scientific method [sciencebuddies.org].

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