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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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  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:25PM (#35746026) Homepage Journal

    Science is demonstrable, repeatable and self-correcting. Most importantly: Science Delivers. Not understanding the intricacies doesn't make it "faith".

    Faith is an idea with no evidence to back it up no matter how adept the 'experts'. Even more important, the 'experts' often don't agree on even the basics. Witness all the various religions and factions thereof.
  • by ab8ten ( 551673 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:27PM (#35746062)
    But it also requires doubt.

    That's what makes it special.
  • Absolutely not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GreyyGuy ( 91753 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:32PM (#35746122)

    Science is fundamentally different from faith in that science is reproducible. Faith is not.

    What this question asks is if you are too lazy to learn the details yourself then you have to have faith in the person telling you about it. Which is exactly the same as most people who can't be bothered to learn the details of their own religion and its history, and instead just take on faith that the person telling them what god wants them to do is actually the truth of it. But that similarity is that people not wanting to learn themselves are putting faith in a person of trust.

  • by maczealot ( 864883 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:32PM (#35746134)
    Well, when you use your sarcasm wand to paint the topic of spiritual belief like that I am totally won over to your side of thinking. Obviously anyone who believes in God believes in a "big bearded man in the sky" how silly of us not to have realized how silly that is. Thanks for your insight!

    /see what I did there?
  • Big difference (Score:5, Insightful)

    by putaro ( 235078 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:33PM (#35746162) Journal

    The big difference is that when someone says they see a miracle, all they can offer is "Because I said so."

    You may have to do a lot of studying and it may not be possible for you to learn enough to verify some things or the equipment is too expensive/difficult but it's at least theoretically possible.

    Anyone with a high school education should be able to do things like verify Newton's laws for themselves. You don't have to take it on faith. Many things we do take on trust, but that is different than taking something on faith. Taking something on trust means that you have the option of verifying it yourself. Taking something on faith means that you simply believe and you have no option of ever verifying it yourself.

  • I mean, if you're gonna believe in something, WHY NOT believe in the thing that makes cars, go, planes fly, drugs work, farms more productive, computers work, metals strong, i.e., EVERY BIT OF OUR TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY?

    I mean, if you're going to believe in something, WHY NOT believe in the thing that slaps you in the face with literally thousands of miracles a day? Oh, and yes, it's true that they stop being miracles if you bother learning how they work and understand it, and all the miracle performers (scientists and engineers) TELL you that.

    *NOT* to believe in science would require an incredible denial of reality. I mean, you'd have to be pretty much insane.

    Science == miracles on demand. *SHOW ME* anything else so worthy of my faith. SERIOUSLY.


  • by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:34PM (#35746182)
    People can have faith (believe, trust) in Science, but that doesn't make Science a Faith (recently developed synonym for a religion or religious belief.) This is just nonsensical word play, bereft of any real argumentative value; regardless of one's views on Science or Religion.
  • The only power of theoretical models is in making predictions. If I can can consistently predict the outcome of a set of experiments, you can trust that my theories are not wrong. You can never prove a theory right, of course. But you can throw so many tests at it that you can be sure that it's not completely wrong - and any contradictory evidence that comes forward will only modify your theory, not expunge it.

    You don't have to understand wave mechanics to believe that it works. You can ask a theorist to predict what happens when you put two slits in front of a laser. They make a prediction, and then you see it. You don't even need to see it yourself. You can trust people whose job it is to look at things, just as you trust that books and newspapers haven't invented whole continents out of fantasy.

    We can make transistors. We can make them very well. This shows we understand the principles of transistor-making, which we call quantum mechanics.

    This is either stupid or a troll - yet another attempt to build a false equivalency between proven methods of finding out the truth, and unproven magical thinking.

  • by adeft ( 1805910 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:36PM (#35746220)
    Well put. If scientists are wrong, they can start over. If religious folks are wrong, their whole belief structure is out the window.
  • by evildarkdeathclicheo ( 978593 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:36PM (#35746226)
    There are billions of people on this little blue marble. If we keep pandering to the ones who don't take the effort to understand the world around them, we're no better then the homo sheepiens. -W
  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:36PM (#35746228) Homepage

    Quite often certain people attempt to conflate trust and faith as if they are the same thing.

    Trust is earned and subject to revision. Faith is not. Faith is expected without justification and is expected to endure regardless of what facts may come to challenge it.

  • by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:37PM (#35746246)
    It is not about faith / understanding in science - science is not even the term that should be used. It is about understanding the scientific method - a very different thing. Understanding the scientific method is very possible for most people. From there one just needs to see that the scientific method is properly applied in order to accept the results (once peer reviewed.)
  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:39PM (#35746294)

    So you can reproduce quantum entanglements? Or find some dark matter? Dark energy? See an angel?

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dougmc ( 70836 ) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:40PM (#35746312) Homepage

    Except that you personally haven't demonstrated or repeated anything. When someone at FermiLab tells you it produced antihydrogen, you believe them.

    The fact that a scientist can do the same thing over and over again and call it antihydrogen doesn't make it any more real to you than someone who tells you that they see miracles attributed to God every day.

    That's the point.

    But antihydrogen is only one tiny part of science.

    When somebody at FermiLab tells you that gravity accelerates objects at 9.8 m/s^2 and uses this to calculate the trajectory of a ball very accurately, you believe them, because you can see this, and they can do it over and over and over. You can do the calculation on your own, and measure the dropping ball too. It works, and you can do it.

    When religion tells you that God answers prayers, and then you pray for something and don't get it. Or you don't pray for it and do get it. Or good things happen to bad people. As said, science delivers. Religion ... not so much. (And really, lots of religions have claimed that only the high priesthood could talk to their gods, or could understand them ... it's not like being complicated is restricted to science.)

    Perhaps not all of science is understandable and usable by the layperson ... but lots of it is. If you're going to use antihydrogen as an example, the burning bush would be a fine counterexample -- sure, we understand it as we're told, but what proof is there? What proof could there ever be?

    So no, science is not based on faith. Lay people certainly do have faith that what the scientists tell them is truth when it comes to the more esoteric stuff, but at least the scientists are always looking for ways to prove or disprove their beliefs, and if something is shown to be true, they'll try something else. Quantum mechanics is a theory -- fairly well supported, but science is ready to throw it out if it's disproven. Religion won't do that.

  • Re:Obvious? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Danse ( 1026 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:40PM (#35746316)

    I've always thought it rather obvious that Science is a Faith. If a word cannot be used to define itself, than how can Science ever be used to prove itself?

    Science doesn't "prove" anything, at least in the sense you seem to be using the word. It does allow us to find the most evident answer to our questions though. We've see science succeed in all sorts of endeavors. We've put men on the moon, we've built incredible structures, we've created the very computers and networks that we're communicating with now. We've created medical procedures and devices that have allowed us to extend both our lifespan and quality of life significantly. I've got a phone in my pocket that can do more than most PCs did 10 years ago.

    The results of the scientific method can be seen throughout our society, so we have vast amounts of evidence to support its efficacy. While many people may take the pronouncements of science on faith, there is no need to do so, as there is with religion. You actually can do the research and test the claims yourself. Those people that understand the methods of science know why they accept the answers that we get through science. They also know why those answers are subject to change. They also know there are some questions that may never be answered.

    Science is all about accumulating and building upon knowledge. No theory is ever completely proven or ever finished. They're all subject to change pending new information. Some people have a hard time with that concept. Some people seem to have more of a need to have a simple explanation for everything, and what could be more simple than "God did it"?

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:43PM (#35746382)

    The fact that a scientist can do the same thing over and over again and call it antihydrogen doesn't make it any more real to you than someone who tells you that they see miracles attributed to God every day.

    The fact is that I see the results of science every time I use a computer, ride a car, take a medicine, watch TV, etc, etc, etc.

    All the results I can see coming from god is that when someone burns a book about him someone else kills twenty innocent people at the other side of the world.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thePowerOfGrayskull ( 905905 ) <.marc.paradise. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:43PM (#35746390) Homepage Journal
    I thnk you're missing the point: if you don't have the knowledge to understand the science, then you must take on faith that those who do, a) do, and b) are relaying the correct information.

    You could study for a decade or two in order to attain the same knowledge and verify it for yourself... but until you do that, your only option is to place your trust (and faith) in those who have already done that.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Danse ( 1026 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:45PM (#35746450)

    But if you were able to reproduce the results (which is extermeley unlikely) then would you even understand the results? There are scientific principles that 99% of the population will never understand, no matter how many books they read and lectures they go to, and evidence is useless, because people won't know how to interpret what they are seeing. This means that for 99% of the population, what they say about a lot of things is based on the fact that they believe someone is telling the truth. Sounds like faith to me!

    I can't build a microprocessor either, or even fully explain how one works, yet I'm typing this right now using one. Science gets results that we can see. Maybe I don't have the specialized education necessary to produce anti-hydrogen. But I don't need to. It's either something useful that will result in some new device or process, or it's just something interesting that doesn't really affect me, but could be very useful to someone else down the road when they need something with the specific properties of anti-hydrogen. Either way, no faith required.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:46PM (#35746458) Homepage

    You want to conflate being burned at the stake with a little social discomfort?

    Really. This is precisely the sort of conflation nonsense I am talking about.

    This is precisely the stupid sort of crap that leads to the modern notion of false-martyrdom by American religious fundementalists.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:47PM (#35746482)

    Yes, yes, yes and no.

    If I want, I can educate myself enough to perform the necessary steps to produce quantum entanglement. I can verify the experiments on my own, given enough knowledge and funding. On issue of dark matter, I absolutely can measure the rotational speed of galaxies and perform the necessary calculations to arrive at the conclusion that there isn't enough matter in the galaxy (this calculation is easily done with readily available data, but I can produce my own given the right observatory).

    As for the angel, no. No matter how much education, equipment, or experiments I cannot reproduce an angel sighting. This is the critical difference between religion and science.

  • Re:Big difference (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord_Jeremy ( 1612839 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:47PM (#35746508)
    I think the point of the article is that it's the larger, more distant explorations of science that are a matter of faith. I don't think you would find many people who disagree with the existence of gravity as a point of religion. The difference is they would probably tell that God created the laws of gravity and physics, as opposed to a theoretical physicist who said that the laws of physics are a result of X, Y, and Z occurrence at the creation of the Universe. Neither of those are provable in a way that you could understand. It's the way that the physicist (hopefully) reached his conclusion that makes it more believable to you or I. We may not understand more than a fraction of the mathematical proofs and models that are used to describe something like the creation of the universe, but we understand that all of that math is built upon core concepts we can prove to ourselves. That makes a lot more sense to me than accepting Jesus as the son of an omnipotent god that created the world in seven days six thousand years ago.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:49PM (#35746548) Journal

    Science does not require faith, because science does not claim to tell you the truth. Truth is the realm of philosophers. Scientists offer something far less reified than theories that are true: they offer you theories that are useful. Science doesn't ask you to believe in its theories, it simply says that a theory can be used to give useful predictions. If these predictions happen to be correct, then that's great. If they don't, then the theory is due for revision or replacement - science as a whole has nothing invested in the accuracy of any given theory (other than the egos of specific scientists).

    Some scientific theories are known to be wrong, such as Newton's laws of motion. In spite of being wrong, they are still useful because, for common problems, the errors in the theories are significantly less than the errors from measurement.

  • Re:Big difference (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:51PM (#35746584)

    The big difference is that when someone says they see a miracle, all they can offer is "Because I said so."

    You really have no idea you just said a really, really funny joke.

    When basic algebra is used with most people, their eyes glaze over. Which means, for the majority of the world's population, if it wasn't taught in eighth grade, they believe you, "because I said so."

    Look, they are not saying science has less merit or that its merits are strictly that of faith. What they are saying is, by the time it trickles down to the layman, they only acknowledgement is strictly ONLY, "because I said so", from an authoritative source. Given that many people consider churches and/or religions to be an authoritative source , in the layman's eyes, its a difference without distinction. After all, in both cases, its completely a leap of faith.

  • Yes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by r00t ( 33219 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:52PM (#35746628) Journal

    Not understanding the intricacies doesn't make it "faith".

    It's faith to you if you accept it without understanding it. To all people, the vast majority of science is "known" by faith.

    This is why so many people persist in accepting the magic man in the sky. To them, it's not any less believable than some science that they couldn't possibly understand.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zeek40 ( 1017978 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:58PM (#35746736)
    It really is a sad testament to the state of education in this country that so many people have such difficulty understanding the basics foundation of the scientific method.

    "Is your hypothesis testable?" If the answer is "yes", it's science, if the answer is "no", it's religion.

  • Re:Big difference (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ciderbrew ( 1860166 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:59PM (#35746778)
    But as an above post said. A person can stop being a layman. But no matter how much they study that can't see a Jebus.
  • Re:No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jahudabudy ( 714731 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:00PM (#35746782)
    If I want, I can educate myself enough to perform the necessary steps to produce quantum entanglement.

    Or so you believe. Unless you have, you don't know that for a fact, you just take it, ahem, on faith.
  • Re:No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by daem0n1x ( 748565 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:03PM (#35746848)
    Science has to be "dumbed down" to make sure the common man can understand it. Religious speech is esoteric and full of loopholes to make sure the common man doesn't understand it.
  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ruke ( 857276 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:03PM (#35746868)
    But surely you can see the difference between science, which has a built-in method for self-correction, and the largely static tenants of a faith. If I discover that it is the rich, not the meek, who tend to inherit the earth, I have no avenue for correcting the Bible. However, if I discover that all life on earth is made of one of five base-pairs of DNA, rather than four, scientific journals would be falling all over themselves to publish my work.
  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:04PM (#35746878)

    To answer your question, "its all around you." Have you never heard anything of religious ceremony?

    But beyond that, whooosh! You completely missed the point. What you're arguing has exactly zero to do with anything. Shocking, I know.

    Try explaining relativity to a ten year old. At the end of the discussion, IF he believes you, its strictly because he's surrendered himself to your expertise. Its the same with religion. That act of surrendering higher logic and inability to comprehend, is exactly what faith is. Faith is the ability to believe when there exists no logical reason to do so. As such, the explanation of many advanced disciplines are far beyond comprehension to the layman. As such, its an equal leap of faith to adhere to religious doctrine as it is to believe in the big bang. Hell, I'm a pretty science savvy guy and smarter than the average bear, and there's some areas of quantum physics which makes my head spin like I just got off a caravel ride. I've literally seem layman go almost comatose with even dumb-ed down explanations of some of what science has to offer. Its at this point the difference between advanced physics and God is touching your with his hand becomes extremely small.

    I'll also add that your position also seems to be bordering on the beginnings of zealotry. It starts just this way. Technically, we have absolutely no idea of the big bang happened. We *think* it did. We don't have another theory which fits the evidence as well, but that's not the same as speaking in absolutes. We think a lot of unproven math with yet more unproven theories support that it did. But at the end of the day, even the high priests of science must still use a leap of faith.

    Really, the difference is strictly one of semantics.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:07PM (#35746930)

    We trust science because it works. In particular if you learn more about it, you trust certain parts more than others because they are more proven, they've worked more.

    I have a lot of trust in what is known about organic chemistry, even though I've never studied it myself. The reason is I've seen what it has delivered, I've seen it stand up to lots of falsification attempts. That tells me it is something worth trusting. Doesn't mean I believe it to be without error in every way, but in general I trust that it is right, though I do not have much knowledge of it personally.

    Now string theory I don't trust hardly at all. While it sounds like it is all nice and internally consistent, there's been no demonstration of it, and indeed no testable predictions (meaning it is really a hypothesis, not a theory). As such I don't trust that it is right. I am not dismissing it as wrong, just not trusting it yet.

    That is, as you point out, rather different than blindly having faith in something, saying "I believe this is absolutely right, even though I've no evidence."

    Same sort of thing with interpersonal relationships. If my dad says he'll do something, I trust he will. I don't have faith, I have trust. The reason is he's demonstrated that trustworthiness in the past. No, I can't predict his future behaviour with certainty, but it isn't a blind faith thing. I've good reason to trust him.

  • Very misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gambino21 ( 809810 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:09PM (#35746988)

    We don't learn science by doing science, we learn science by reading and memorizing. The same way we learn history.

    I think these statement are false. You don't learn "science" by reading an memorizing facts, you learn science by practising the scientific method. Didn't the author have any "lab" classes growing up? Unfortunately, the problem is that many teachers don't seem to understand the scientific method very well, and therefore focus on the learning facts part instead of the important part which is the method.
    This is quite different from learning history, and I'd add that maybe this author has never heard of archaeology? Which is basically using scientific methods to make theories about history?

  • On the comments. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toze ( 1668155 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:16PM (#35747130)

    Faith gave us jihad, crusade, and inquisition. Science gave us mustard gas, involuntary sterilization, and nuclear weapons. Faith gave us international charities that feed starving children. Science gave us clean water.

    Gregor Mendel was a Christian monk. Muhammed ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was a devout Muslim. Oppenheimer did not think of the Bhagavad Gita by accident.

    My point is, it's incorrect to characterize people involved in a community, or publicly claiming adherence to a certain way of thinking or doing things, as stupid, or evil, or blind. It's incorrect to characterize a way of doing or thinking as universally good or evil- it blinds you to the evil or good that exists in it. If your reaction to the above paragraph is to explain how these men advanced science in spite of having faith, then are you not interpreting the evidence to suit your assumptions? They were scientists. They had faith, and not inconsequential faith, in things many posters here evidently hate with a burning passion. Accept reality; for these men, at least, faith and science were not mutually exclusive, not demiurgic oppositional forces, but simply two ways. That doesn't mean you have to do the same, but maybe it means that you shouldn't dismiss faith as "magical thinking" that can't exist in the same mind as critical observation.

    /me dons an abestos suit and waits for a response

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:18PM (#35747184) Homepage

    You could study for a decade or two ...

    The point is that you can, in principle, do it. The chances are that you know people who have done it -- in some scientific field or another.

    Can you do that with religion (ie a faith) ? No -- that is the difference.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wealthychef ( 584778 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:22PM (#35747258)

    Then test and reproduce the big bang for me. Evolve a field mouse to an elephant. Recreate the moon. Make a star from scratch, complete with planets. Create matter from raw energy. Show me the curvature of space/time and recreate it in a lab. Prove that a space traveler does not age when traveling at the speed of light...

    This is more evidence of what is wrong with our science education. People just don't get it. "Recreate the moon"? WTF? How about "propose a hypothesis which is consistent with the existence of the moon and all other observed phenomena in the universe, which forwards our understanding of how the moon might have formed, and which makes testable predictions so it can be falsified?" "Evolve a field mouse to an elephant?" My god, we Americans are idiots. I'm embarrassed. How about "Get an education, you retard?" Sorry, but I've had it with the ignorant arrogance of American fundamentalist whackos who slow down human progress in the name of ancient superstitions.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Temujin_12 ( 832986 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:23PM (#35747262)

    Quite often certain people attempt to conflate trust and faith as if they are the same thing.

    Trust is earned and subject to revision. Faith is not. Faith is expected without justification and is expected to endure regardless of what facts may come to challenge it.

    I like your trust != faith comment. The two are similar and interrelated but not the same.

    However, when you say "Faith is expected without justification and is expected to endure regardless of what facts may come to challenge it", I have to disagree. What you are describing there is blind faith.

    Faith, as my comment tag line also says, is a willingness to accept something w/o total regular proof and act on it. From that perspective, every self-motivated action starts with faith. Getting out of bed to start the day, go to work, express love, turn on a car/computer, get on a plane, etc.), we make decisions and take action based in incomplete or uncertain information all of the time. However, science seeks to move away from faith and provides a systematic way to do so through the scientific method. Theories start from faith w/o proof--but then experimentation leads to the reformation or abandonment of that theory until repeatable experiments validate or falsify the theory.

    Religion differs in that it never seeks to fully eliminate faith. Different religions (and to a higher degree, people) will rely on faith to different degrees than others, but ultimately each has at its core a non-falsifiable lemma. This kind of underpinning of faith is usually what some people find unattractive about religion. Some find comfort or wisdom in this kind of foundation based in faith. Note that science also has somewhat of a foundation of faith since it too uses lemmas, but it has a much higher restriction on what a reasonable lemma is.

    IMHO, science and religion both have (or at least should have) the same end goal: the discovery of truth. However, both have different (and sometimes conflicting) methodologies to get there. But it's very important to separate the people claiming to be scientific or religious from science or religion in general since different people are better or worse at representing either than others.

    To answer the original question: No, science isn't just a matter of faith. In fact, it is a systematic methodology to move away from faith.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:25PM (#35747296)
    As must Darwinian evolution. While we can test and prove micro-evolution (adaptation and such), the same cannot be said for macro (one species to another). It is interesting how measuring rods are both dually convenient and inconvenient at the same time depending upon our preferences for what's being measure.
  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Korin43 ( 881732 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:36PM (#35747484) Homepage

    As must Darwinian evolution. While we can test and prove micro-evolution (adaptation and such), the same cannot be said for macro (one species to another). It is interesting how measuring rods are both dually convenient and inconvenient at the same time depending upon our preferences for what's being measure.

    Macro vs micro evolution is a distinction made for convenience, not to represent any special difference between the two. Macro and micro evolution are the same thing on different time scales, and if one works, the other has to. That's the great thing about science -- using small things that we can observe to understand big things that we can't.

    Your argument makes as much sense as saying that since we will probably never be able to watch a planet form up-close, we'll never understand how planet formation works. Who cares if we understand the basics (gravity, thermodynamics, radioactive decay, conservation of momentum), we haven't actually seen it so despite what we know, it must be magic.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by imgod2u ( 812837 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:38PM (#35747534) Homepage

    Of course, if that's your definition of "faith", what you're talking about here is the same as faith of existentialism. If you want to really expand faith to that level, the everything except self-existence is a leap of faith. And in that respect, there's no difference between me believing that I'm typing on an actual computer -- interacting with physical matter -- rather than just dreaming all of this.

    Do I commit absolute certainty to the fact that others exist in the world? What about history? Do I believe that historical documents describing the actions of Einstein is true? Do I believe that mathematics is consistent and axiomatic? Do I believe that the logic and reason my brain is capable of in any way corresponds with the workings of the universe? Do I believe that any empirical observations made by anyone ever isn't just the result of some invisible, intangible flying spaghetti monster mucking with the results?

    We've decided to narrow down the definition of faith with respect to religion to not encompass such a broad topic. Simply: religious faith is narrowed down to absolute certainty of the teachings of some organized scripture.

    Said organized scripture may even have scientific or archeological evidence associated with it. But the definition of faith is that, regardless of whether or not anyone can produce any observable, repeatable evidence, one accepts something as truth. And in that respect, science is never like that because every theory comes with the caveat: "this is simply what is consistent with recorded observations". Science relies on faith in the general case the same way that your belief that the reality you observe is real relies on faith in the general case.

  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:40PM (#35747576) Homepage Journal

    "Science is demonstrable, repeatable and self-correcting."

    If this is the standard, we have a problem.

    The Christain faith is founded on Christ's virgin birth, sinless life, death, resurrection, and return. None of these events is repeatable, unless God chooses to offer us another Christ, and the clever rhetorical device of 'if God wishes' we will set aside for now.

    So, if you wanted 'scientific' proof of Christ's validity, you are lost. It cannot be made. Much like some scientific theories of the creation of the Universe, which rely upon either the unobservable or unrepeatable, and sometimes rely on assumptions upon assumptions. But that corner of Science is a small one, and need not be considered as crucial to proof of the Scientific method or of Science itself. It can be speculative for now, and nothing is harmed in doing so.

    Left with empirical proofs, you are probably going to refuse to believe, and that is your choice.

    All I can offer for empirical proof is the testimony of several of Christ's contemporaries, most of whom went to their deaths defending their statements.

    Which of your quantum physicists, especially the string theory experts, will accept death rather than even admit to the possibility that they are incorrect? No, that's not much of a test, and I don't think it's entirely applicable, but that is the fundamental question, that many have gone to their deaths defending their religious faith. There is something there that is dismissed much too casually.

    But we are free to do so. And I do not expect to change anyone's mind. But just as I believe Fermilab may have found something very important recently, despite not seeing it for myself, I also believe the eivdence of my own eyes, and of my own body, when I claim to have witnessed and received healing in response to prayer. And without proof sufficient to claim objectivity, I won't ask you to believe based on such evidence.

    But to accept some Science on nothing more than faith in the Scientifc Method is, in the end, faith by any other name. Just a reminder. Science doesn't disprove God. It just doesn't explain Him. Which it should not be expected to.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shining Celebi ( 853093 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:44PM (#35747674) Homepage

    "Is your hypothesis testable?" If the answer is "yes", it's science, if the answer is "no", it's religion.

    You're missing the entire point of the article. The problem is in practice the average person is entirely incapable of testing many scientific hypotheses, let alone understanding the reasoning behind them and their ramifications. Yes, in theory, if I spent 7 years getting a doctorate in physics, I could be seeing and understanding actual evidence. Otherwise, I'm just taking everything on faith. It does me no good if a hypothesis is testable in theory. Priests can just as well tell me that they're able to replicate miracles all the time for all the difference it makes to me.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:55PM (#35747894) Journal

    > There is no faith placed in any one scientist.


    I trust science for the same reason I trust open-source. I know many different eyes with different motivations have scrutinized "the code" and haven't found any problems, and when they do find problems they report the "bugs" and submit "patches". Likewise many different eyes have scrutinized scientific theory and have agreed with the findings, where they don't agree they publicly says so and where they can they do experiments and submit new ideas to replace faulty ones.

    (this post is sure to get me mod points)
    (that comment is sure to lose me mod points)

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday April 07, 2011 @02:01PM (#35748020)

    The problem is that the results from tests in real-world science are often far from conclusive. There is debate about the results. Sometimes consensus can be reached, but sometimes the debate fractures into competing theories. That doesn't make it a "religion" but it does make it a lot less "hard" than many scientists contend (since it introduces human interpretation into the mix).

    "Is your hypothesis testable?" doesn't always have a simple "yes" or "no" answer. Sometimes the answer is "Well...sorta."

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zeek40 ( 1017978 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @02:04PM (#35748068)
    You're missing the point of science. It is not necessary that everyone on earth be able to understand a concept for it to be science, just that it makes falsifiable claims. If you accept the point of view of the article, science doesn't exist, because any time anyone can't understand a concept it moves into the realm of faith. That's stupid. You could choose to spend 7 years getting your doctorate in physics, at which point you would be able to test their hypotheses, the fact that you choose not to has no bearing on the falsifiability of a scientific claim. No amount of education or explanation can make a religious claim falsifiable, which is why it's not science.
  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @02:31PM (#35748580) Journal

    http://evolutionlist.blogspot.com/2009/02/macroevolution-examples-and-evidence.html [blogspot.com]

    Macroevolution has been demonstrated. The main problems with some people accepting it is both the squishy definition of "species" and the fact that anything significant in the animal kingdom would occur over thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of years.

    To get something "quickly", scientists need to use species that have super short lifespans, such as fruit flies or bacteria. Even then it takes many decades and most of the "God did it" crowd want to see it by next Thursday at the latest.

  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @02:37PM (#35748688) Homepage Journal

    I don't remember my philosophy classes in that detail (too long ago), but I think your argument went largely out of fashion about a hundred years ago.

    In a fanatical interpretation of the word, we do not "know" anything. But that is a trivial argument. The vital difference is not that only 255-255-255 is really the real white (knowledge), but that 250-250-250 (science) is not the same as 25-25-25 (faith).

    It is true that both faith and science require you to stop asking at some point and say "I don't know everything, but I think what I have so far is correct". But in science this step comes very, very late, when simply current technology can't yet offer the answers or the amount of time and effort you want to spend is exhausted. In faith, on the other hand, it is pretty much item #3 or so on the list.

    So, to your example: In the fanatical interpretation, I do not "know" that Columbus sailed to America. However, I can collect pretty much as much historical evidence that he did as I care to. I can likewise try to find evidence to the contrary. I can then compare them and make a judgement call. If the evidence is something like 99-1 for, then the argument the we don't "know" becomes a pure semantic.

  • Re:Big difference (Score:4, Insightful)

    by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @03:03PM (#35749056) Journal

    When basic algebra is used with most people, their eyes glaze over. Which means, for the majority of the world's population, if it wasn't taught in eighth grade, they believe you, "because I said so."

    Welcome to Amerocentricism... First, let's split the world up into two groups, the first group is the group of people who have no education, and thus no chance to know math, and thus no ability to evaluate algebra any better than evaluating the merits of the Big Bang theory.

    The second group though is the part of the world that does receive wide education, usually public. In this subset of the world America is actually part of the minority, such that while it is true that most American eyes glaze over once you start talking about basic algebra, the majority of the world's educated population doesn't glaze over, but actually understands basic algebra.

    If you want to make the claim that the majority of the world's population regardless of education doesn't get basic algebra, then I wouldn't say you're wrong, but I would say "that's because most of them were never received education at all."

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