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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 ) <> 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.
    • 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 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.

      • 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.

    • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

      I would disagree if one was to say there is no faith. The difference is where and why faith is placed. There is no faith placed in any one scientist.

      So yes, I have to take it on faith that wave functions and most of QM describes something that is born out in experimental evidence. Mostly because I haven't studied it and the math required to do much with it, and I have no equipment with which to test. However, I don't have to trust any one persons experiment, and in fact, if someone else is able to show that

      • 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:4, Insightful)

      by thePowerOfGrayskull ( 905905 ) <.marc.paradise. .at.> 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:5, Insightful)

        by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> 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 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.

    • Faith is an idea with no evidence to back it up no matter how adept the 'experts'.

      By whose definition? According to wikipedia: []

      Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, concept or thing.

      According to this []:

      confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.

      Although, getting to the meat of the argument, back in 2008 someone discussed this already [] over at Bad Astronomy.

      I have faith in science. That doesn't mean I blindly believe what science tells m

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by natedubbya ( 645990 )

      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

      • by lixee ( 863589 )

        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.

        No sir! This is not faith. If I assume that my post will appear, it is based on a proper scientific understanding of the technology behind it. Networking, computer science and the lot. You need to seriously reconsider your worldview.

    • Yes. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by r00t ( 33219 )

      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.

    • 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

    • Science is simply our agreement that when trying to learn about the physical world, we agree to let observations of the physical world be the ultimate mitigator of our arguments, rather than the authority of some powerful individual.

    • Science is a MODEL (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Talisein ( 65839 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:29PM (#35747368) Homepage

      Science does NOT say how things "really are." Science provides a model that provides an approximation of reality; the most complex models can predict real events with a high statistical accuracy, but the the universe (or God if you want) is the only thing that knows what is really going to happen. If you don't know what an "atom" is, then you simply do not have a model from which to predict molecular events. When you read in a book about "atoms" you are just memorizing a model, giving you a framework that allows you to make some predictions. There is no requirement of faith in the model. If you make a prediction from the model that fails to realize, then you need to use a different model! That's all. Science is explicitly not a guarantee, but our modern models give very accurate predictions in many situations.

      Faith on the other hand IS a statement of how things "really are". Faith is explicitly a guarantee and allows for zero prediction this side of death. And that's fine.

      When a scientist tells you what a boson is, you DO NOT need to "trust" or "believe" them. The world's best scientists are in fact the ones who do not trust or believe in the models (even their own!).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That does not mean science is not a faith.

      Historically, we can demonstrate the existence of Jesus, due to the historical events of Pontius Pillate and Ceaser and other shit happening around that time lining up, and something about some annoying beggar-preacher that they executed.

      Scientifically, we can demonstrate a lot of stuff. I've encountered a lot of science-followers, though: people who put the faith of God in science, somehow. It doesn't even actually make reasonable, rational sense.

      This comes

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rickb928 ( 945187 )

      "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

  • Obvious? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:25PM (#35746028) Homepage Journal
    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?

    Even if both Science and Religion have their roots in Faith, however, their differences are staggering. Religion is only about Faith. There is nothing more to it than belief, and not only is there no way to systematically test what is taught, but it is discouraged as indicative of too little Faith.

    Science is all about that very exploration. Challenging what is taught and verifying for yourself that it is true. It may, fundamentally, be a Faith, but then again, isn't our acceptance of our sensory inputs a Faith as well?
    • 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"?

  • by ab8ten ( 551673 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:27PM (#35746062)
    But it also requires doubt.

    That's what makes it special.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by adeft ( 1805910 )
      Well put. If scientists are wrong, they can start over. If religious folks are wrong, their whole belief structure is out the window.
    • So Thomas could have been a remarkable scientist, then!

    • 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.

    • But it also requires doubt.

      To be worthwhile, I assert religion does too.

      It's the process of facing it, not succumbing to it that's important.

  • 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.

  • 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 sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:48PM (#35746518)

      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.

      I have a degree in engineering and I have studied rather a lot of physics. I understand rather well the concepts of how an airplane flies, how a supertanker floats, and how a transistor works. If you fail to be astonished at those things, I'm not really sure you understand them. I'm MORE impressed the more I understand them, not less. A 747 flying overhead is a damn miracle no matter how jaded you might be.

      Obligatory XKCD []

  • 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.
  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:34PM (#35746186)

    If nothing else, the idea that everything will continue the way it has in the past is faith-based... at least, a completely naturalistic view. There's no reason, aside from it having been that way for a long time in the past, to believe that laws of various scientific disciplines (physics, biology, astronomy) will continue to be the way they have been, is there? One might argue that the fact they haven't changed in observed history is evidence... but I don't see how one could "scientifically" prove it. It may be a reasonable explanation, a reasonable conclusion, a reasonable belief/faith, but proving something is more than something being reasonable or even "making sense."

  • 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.

  • Not quite the same (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:35PM (#35746206) Journal
    Religious scholars argue vehemently over the interpretations of ancient texts (often haggling over ink blots that could change the meaning of words and translations) and then write books or long essays trying to prove their viewpoints. There is no evidence, no data, only opinion. Scientists argue vehemently over the interpretation of data and then do additional testing to prove their viewpoints. Because of the mentalities (and sometimes egos) of scientists, if someone is clearly wrong about their interpretation of the data, there will be a dogpile of experiments and work from other scientists to prove just how wrong they are.

    The Wakefield vaccine study is an example of this: He faked data, made a controversial claim from the results of the faked data, and other medical researchers have proven time and time again that he was wrong. His followers, the anti-vaxxers, are relying on faith when they continue to believe in him even after he was proven to be a fraudster and a liar. However, scientists and interested parties who kept up with the research and came down on Wakefield for his lies are NOT relying on faith. They are relying on evidence. And that is why it is science and not a religion.
  • by jjohnson ( 62583 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:37PM (#35746234) Homepage

    There's a basic, qualitative difference between faith and belief in science. Faith is, by definition, unconditional belief. To have your faith tested is to be given a reason to doubt your faith; to pass that test is to retain your faith despite good cause to abandon it. The core of faithful belief is wilful choice to believe, irrespective of the evidence for or against it.

    Scientific belief, for both scientists and lay persons, is ideally 100% conditional. It is totally dependent upon the evidence, and if the evidence changes, so should the belief. That lay persons believe scientists when they say "it's quantum mechanics", without understanding but just trusting scientists, that doesn't make it faith because if tomorrow the scientists say "whoops, it's string theory", then people would say "okay, now it's string theory." Crucially, no one would be lauded for scientific thought if they held onto that belief in quantum mechanics despite the scientific world moving on to something else.

    That faithful people dabble in proofs of God's existence, and scientists are frequently dogmatic about their pet theories, demonstrates only that humans are fallible, and neither perfectly faithful or perfectly rational.

  • 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.)
  • By that criteria? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mibe ( 1778804 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:37PM (#35746250)
    In that sense, what ISN'T a matter of faith? How do you know that Columbus sailed to America? I've read about it in a book, but have you ever met anyone who was actually on that boat? And if so, how do you know they weren't lying? You're just putting your faith in a bunch of books, just like in religion right? And in science, if you didn't personally conduct quantum mechanics research, how can you make any conclusions about anything without faith? Of course, you may have realized my point by now, which is that saying "X requires faith, and religion requires faith, thus X is no different from religion" is dumb.
    • 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.

  • by SpinyNorman ( 33776 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:40PM (#35746318)

    Advanced math is way over the head of 99.9% of the population, so in the same spirit we could say that math is based on faith for that (majority) portion of the population.

    However, I'm not sure what the point of making such an observation is though, especially using the emotionally-charged term "faith" rather than the more neutral and better applicable term "trust".

    Science isn't the same as religion. Science is not based on faith (or trust), but it goes without saying that if you're not smart enough to reproduce an experiment or test a theory yourself, then you do need to trust the results reported by others who are capable.

  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:40PM (#35746320)

    "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"

    Because of this, for its own protection, Science should be politicaly neutral in all things.

    It is one thing for Science to say this is happening or that is happening. It's quite another for it Science to say that we should re-order our society because of it. That is not the place of Science. And because your average individual is not able to reasonably question the science without a considerable amount of effort, if at all, they are left in a position of being told, "do this becase I'm an expert".

    Only when Science is perceived to have no stake in how the science is interpreted and acted upon, vis-a-vis public policy, can it be compeletely trusted by those who don't have the means to question it.

  • by yuna49 ( 905461 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:49PM (#35746540)

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

  • by bobs666 ( 146801 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:51PM (#35746606)

    Science is based on skepticism.

    Science is not facts. Science is a Method. Its the Method of making a guess and testing it. Then publishing your results. Finally letting others test your guess. It is the consensus that defines the truths of Science. All of Science is ready for you or anyone else to disprove. We learn by refinement. That is as time goes on we update what we believe to be true.

    This Method is what makes Science different from things that people just say are true.

    P.S. There are some that still go to the Church to get cured of disease. Do you go to a Doctor? I think most people go to a Doctor for there health. If so you believe the Doctor can help you. The Doctor's knowledge is based on Science. So I think you believe in Science too.
    • by hubie ( 108345 )
      These days it seems to be getting more and more (politically? socially?) acceptable for people to take the Chinese menu approach to science: they want to pick and choose which parts of science they like (e.g., molecular biology and genetics that comes up with Viagra and other things), and which stuff they don't (e.g., evolutionary biology, which is the basis for all that molecular biology and genetics). For the stuff they don't like, they simply choose not to believe it.
  • by koan ( 80826 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:56PM (#35746710)

    Speaking only for myself, just about everything has to be taken on faith, I neither have the time nor the intellect, in some cases, to understand at a fundamental level what is occurring, but it isn't just science, it's almost all knowledge and concepts that have this "taken on faith factor" because we built what know/think internally from other peoples training and knowledge as we grew and were "raised" (programmed?) by our parents, so how much can we actually verify?
    What if everything we learned growing up is just plain wrong?

    If you think about it how much "original thought" do you really have?

  • 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
  • When everyone involved in article is a idiot...and the previous posters don't notice it, giving everyone an fucking page of crap. It's astonishing how no slashdot readers KNOW WHAT SCIENCE IS.

    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?

    Those things ARE NOT SCIENCE. Those are the result of science.

    This entire article is incoherent nonsense. No one has to 'explain' is trivial to understand. Here it is. Here is the entirety of all of science, stolen from Wikipedia. There are probably better ways to phrase it, but this is good enoug:

    1. Use your experience: Consider the problem and try to make sense of it. Look for previous explanations. If this is a new problem to you, then move to step 2.
    2. Form a conjecture: When nothing else is yet known, try to state an explanation, to someone else, or to your notebook.
    3. Deduce a prediction from that explanation: If you assume 2 is true, what consequences follow?
    4. Test: Look for the opposite of each consequence in order to disprove 2.

    That. Is. Fucking. Science. That's it. It can be explained and demonstrated in a day to anyone.

    Oh, before anyone starts using your results, you have to tell other people what you do, so they learn what you have learned, and can repeat what you did. That is not, strictly speaking, 'science', but it's expected to produce output that way instead of just announcing it.

    There is no quantum physics in it, there is no string theory, there is no Schroedingerâ(TM)s equation. Those things are what people have come up with using science. Those are the result of science, they are no more science than you are driving around in a Ford manufacturing plant or eating a kitchen.

    As for the output of science? We don't accept it on faith, we accept it because it seems to work. Saying it's 'accepted on faith' is like saying we 'buy cars on faith in internal combustion'. Uh, not really.

  • by arikol ( 728226 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:06PM (#35746924) Journal

    1: Trust is not the same as blind faith (trust can be subject to provisos, and is based on knowledge and understanding of motives)
    2: Also, science encourages doubt.
    3: Adding to that, most people know the basics of logic and/or maths. Many complex phenomena need to be explored and verified through horrendously complex methodology which can then explained through simpler logic, analogies and visualisation. If that logic adds up then blind faith is not needed.

    And finally, science attempts to create predictions. Predictions can generally be tested. Some easily and others not so easily. Scientists then make predictions as to how electronics can be made to work and then put that specialist knowledge into practice by making something complex like a GPS satellite and GPS receivers THAT WORK.

    Many of us nerds here think we know how a computer works, but we don't (or most of us don't). Not down below certain levels of abstraction, at least (miniaturizing processors needs more than hand-laying copper wires onto a ceramic plate).
    That doesn't mean that computers work on faith... AND it proves the effectiveness of materials scientists and scientists who have worked on theories regarding electronics.

  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:08PM (#35746956) Journal

    "At this point an enigma presents itself which in all ages has agitated inquiring minds. How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality? Is human reason, then, without experience, merely by taking thought, able to fathom the properties of real things.

    In my opinion the answer to this question is, briefly, this:--As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." []


    It's amazing how many scientists and mathematicians conveniently ignore Einsteins's speech on this matter. It's almost as if they sweep it under the rug because it's too uncomfortable to face the fact that all math and science are based on axiomatic "a priori" knowledge, basically it's faith. I have no evidence that my brain is not floating in some vat somewhere with electrodes sticking out of it, but I take it on faith that it's not. My knowledge starts from faith that the world exists as I see it. I can't confirm that independently of my own experience.

  • 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?

  • by br00tus ( 528477 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:12PM (#35747042)
    If you go down this road, it doesn't have to be something complicated such as quantum mechanics that is understood, but could be anything. Take the existence of the city of Beijing - I have no proof it exists, people just tell me it does, and I've seen photos purportedly taken there, you could say I take the existence of it on faith.

    The big difference is if I became doubtful enough, I could always visit Beijing. If I doubt the results of a scientific experiment, I can reproduce it. Reproducibility is a cornerstone of the scientific method. You can not reproduce magicians who supposedly walked on water, or parted seas, or turned water into wine, or resurrected people, or rose from the dead themselves. That you must take on faith.

    "We don't learn science by doing science, we learn science by reading and memorizing." I disagree, in high school and then college, I had many science labs. True, we don't have the time and money to repeat every important experiment, but I've done enough to get the methodology if I want to do things myself. I learned how resistors and capacitors and breadboards and the like learned by my own experiments more than school.

    Another thing is the times. In the 1930s, there were prominent left-wing scientists like Lancelot Hogben who felt it was important that working class people could understand math and science, which is why he wrote popular science books such as Mathematics for the Million and Science for the Citizen. These were popular books among the poor, but intellectually active Jewish community who lived in the lower east side of Manhattan in the 1930s, many of whom went to CCNY and on to become scientists, mathematicians, engineers etc. In years past there was also a desire by working class people for education. I am quite confident a lot of the stuff coming out now in say biology could be written in layman's terms for popular science books and articles - and some of it is. But there is inertia on both ends - scientists are rewarded for indecipherable papers on obscure subjects and have less desire to write popular science, and anti-intellectualism is promoted among working people, in the USA anyhow.

    Marvin Minsky once described how he perceived the brain's frontal lobe as solving problems - by considering problems from different viewpoints. One type of viewpoint could be rationality and the scientific method - and the corpus of knowledge built up from the basis of cogito ergo sum and the basics of math and physics. It is usually a very helpful viewpoint.

    The original question is more of a social one than anything. I take classes at a college, and many professors there are familiar with complicated scientific concepts, and not only just in their own field. They don't take these things on faith, they learn them. That the average person in the US can not make heads nor tails from an integral says more about society and education than it does about faith and science. As James Watson says (paraphrasing): 'Very few Americans have rejected the theory of evolution, because very few who have been shown in detail how it works, and can show they understand what they have been taught, reject it. There are some people who know absolutely nothing about evolution and reject it, but they are rejecting something which they never knew anything about to begin with".

  • No one can personally test everything science tells us. But it is nice, and fun to test some of them. Will magnets float above a super conductor? Does Saturn have rings? Does a drop of water have tiny living things in it, do different elements give of light spectra?

    These are things I can personally vouch for.

    Religion doesn't test the truthfulness of anything. Questioning is discouraged or even outright banned. It is true we have to take some things science tells us as true only hopping someone else tests the truthfulness of the things that are said. Science is constantly testing. If new facts come to light that contradict a theory the theory is modified or even thrown out. Religion just throws out the facts in favor of it's dogma.

    Science relies of faith? Me thinks not!

  • 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

  • by scharkalvin ( 72228 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:20PM (#35747208) Homepage

    There are two quotes about the universe that come to mind:

    1: "The universe is not only stranger than we think, it is stranger than we CAN think".

    2: "There is a theory that if mankind ever completely figures out how the universe works it will be instantly replaced by something even stranger. There is a second theory that this has already happened".

  • by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:23PM (#35747266)

    Science is really in 2 parts.

    Established/measured science is, obviously, not faith based at all. (Gravitational coefficients, certain laws of physics, etc).

    But it's the discovery of new fields or questioning the established science that requires a certain amount of faith because you're essentially tilting at windmills until you find a test that works to prove your hypothesis (if ever).

    Flying machines were faith based. Flying machines going faster than the speed of sound were faith based. Finding a cure for cancer was entirely faith based.

    As you build on your knowledge you get less faith and more rationality to guide your "guesses" for the next batch of tests. But it still takes people willing to make possible fools of themselves to make that first leap of faith to study a field that may yield no benefits whatsoever.

    In short, some of our best scientists were probably the best gamblers as well...

    Whaddya wanna do with your life?

  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:28PM (#35747350)

    I'm amused at the clueless person who wrote this story. They apparently consider something 'difficult to understand', so they then turn around and sooth their bruised ego, by claiming that their ignorance is as good as somebody else's knowledge.

    Well, I've got news for you bucko. Sure, there's a lot to learn (get off your butt, stop reading Derrida, and do the study), but just because few people take the time to understand something, doesn't make the process that produced that knowledge any less valid (and by all accounts, the scientific method is one of humanity's greatest achievements). That process is extremely robust, and has produced everything modern that we take for granted.

    Clearly, somebody here is very uninformed, and needs to learn much more about how the world works.

  • by aprentic ( 1832 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:28PM (#35747360) Homepage

    Science can reasonably be considered a Faith because at its very core it relies on an untestable hypothesis.
    Hypothesis: My senses reflect some underlying reality.
    I happen to believe that this is true but I can't prove it. Rene DesCartes tried to address this question in his "Meditations on First Philosophy" but does not, in my opinion, settle it in a satisfactory manner.
    If my senses actually reflect some underlying reality then the scientific method will help me learn something about that reality.
    However if my senses do not reflect an underlying reality then the scientific method is useless.

  • by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @01:43PM (#35747640) is about non-falsifiable hypotheses.

    Now, a lot of "scientific" navel gazing ends up living on the "faith" side, be it imagining wormholes, or time travel, or any number of science fiction tropes, but at its heart, the scientific method is about saying "this is my best guess at how things work, and if you see *this* or *that*, I'm wrong".

    Science gains its power from a ruthless skepticism of ones' own ideas, and faith gains its power from a ruthless belief in ones' own ideas.

  • by segfault_0 ( 181690 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @02:07PM (#35748132)

    There are only two classes for human conceptions, the analytic and the synthetic. Analytic ideas are as they are by definition (like math), and synthetic ideas are those which are based on observation, perception and evidence.

    Everything else is simply a matter of degree.

    Putting science on a pedestal this way proves nothing. It is a false mode of thinking designed by people who find religious thought threatening. Thoughts are thoughts, plausibility is plausibility, tautologies are tautologies. Anything else is the product of the human ego and insecurity in one form or another.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor