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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Is Science a Religion?

Science explores the natural world and makes predictions, retrodictions and constantly tries to falsify itself. Very few religions make daily attempts to falsify themselves. Very few religions (certainly not Christianity or Islam) spend day after day trying to refute the very fundamental tenets of their beliefs. If we use Christianity as an example, Christians accept on faith that God is a holy trinity and that one of the godhead came to earth as man, died as a man and rose again as a god. That tenet is not tested, it is not testable and it is not science. When most people say that 'science is religion' most of the time they are speaking of evolutionary biology. In extreme cases it means everything from geology to chemistry to physics, but I find that extremists generally don't understand geology, chemistry and physics. Instead they view those sciences as supporting evolution, and they then reject them as religious.

What I find particularly odd is that the assertion 'science is religion' is actually used in the pejorative. It's not elevating science, it is denigrating science. That we all know, but how many of use pay equal attention to the fact that when calling 'evolution a religion', they are also denigrating their religion. The mocking tones are really saying 'evolution is stoopid' (to paraphrase inmate Kent Hovind). But if evolution is a religion and it's stupid, then aren't Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism etc all 'stoopid' as well? In calling science a religion, creationists are shooting themselves in the foot. Read these two sentences and tell me which one is more likely to be defended by a creationist.

(1) If science is a religion, then why should I believe evolution?
(2) If Christianity is a religion, then why should I believe Christ rose from the dead?

They will try to separate these two statements and convince you that you should believe in Christ even though it is a religion and should not buy into evolution because it is a religion.

Cheers

Joe Meert

15 Comments:

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post. I think the attitude behind "X is a religion" is that making things into a discussion about religion levels the playing field. Someone who uses that phrase is trying to move the argument into their own area of expertise. Put another way, "X is a religion. My religion is the one true religion. Therefore X is false."

 
At 6:32 PM, Blogger zip said...

The answer to the puzzle, I think, is that creationists are universally afraid of scientific knowledge. Even though most creationists do not understand science, some of their number have recognized that scientific explanations refute the Book of Genesis.

I think that most creationists *feel* threatened by scientific dismissals of creationism as being "religion" (which it is) and they are trying to weaken the scientific argument by diminishing its potency. They believe that science, like religious dogma, is simply a matter of believing what you are told to believe.

Of course, creationists don't see the illogic of this position. If they were truly logical, then they could not believe in their Special Creation or the promise of an Afterlife with their loving Father in Heaven .

 
At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Brad said...

And he spaketh, "take unto thee thy beakers and thy erlenmeyer flasks. Unto these addeth solutions that turneth colors and also addeth dry ice, so that they who watcheth on TV or on the internet, with knoweth that science hath truly been done."

 
At 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops... will knoweth not with knoweth

 
At 11:42 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

Kool blog -- pity u r not updating it. With regard to science as religion: empirical science as it has developed to date is not the same sort of "cult" as it used to be in pythagoras' times. i think what the religiously-minded people imply often though is that once you are inside the scientific community you get sort of estranged of other ways of knowing reality, other than your own. your mind gets fossilized that way. i heard paraphrases of that idea very often from believers. obviously, same criticism can be made towards the religious who despise scientific method: their minds can get equally stagnated by not exercizing some faculty of thought.

I think it's fascinating to have both: scientific thinking and theological one. And the fact that they got ultimately divorced from one another is also fascinating. This way each can do their own thing and then meet for coffee at the end of day and debate something neutral like philosophy or ethics :P

 
At 10:20 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Hi Joe

Having looked for a wile, it has not been easy to find information where religious entities have considered science as a religion. Personally it makes more sense for evolutionist to claim religious people call science a religion.

Science is a pretty big word an evolution is just a part of it. Understanding particular portions of evolution as a religion on the other hand does have some merit. Having Adam as a common ancestor from a Biblical point of view is completely expectable and that concept does have scientific viability, not to mention recorded history and eyewitness testimony. But on the other hand, life having descended from a single living filament as Darwin proposed, has numerous scientific problems, with the major contributing evidence to the concept being only imagination. The aspect of a common ancestor doesn’t sit well with most Creationist, or reality. But the pursuit and teaching of man’ accent form the apes does generate big bucks, so its not going away. (Governmental grants, foundational support, school book printers, etc.)

To consider even a small portion of macro evolutionary change or partial to people evolution in a Biblical stage, is unacceptable. For if Genesis chapter one is incorrect then the entire Bible becomes suspect. The book of Genesis is the foundational structure for the Christian faith. The book contains the creation events, the fall of man, the original sin, the flood of Noah, Tower of Babel, and four of the eight major covenants between God and man are in this book. Without sin there would be no need for a savior. And if death came before sin then the wages of sin in not death.

Evolutionary scientist are searching for evidenced to promote their theory, not Biblical history. The list of assumptions which make up the format for the theory is beyond reason. The study of this science is science, but to actually belief that man has descended from ape like creatures, is a matter of faith. And that aspect of this particular science could be a religion.

 
At 5:15 PM, Blogger connotation said...

No, science is science. You have 2basic beliefs: (1) God created everything (2)This happened by chance, time, and processes that we are testing (hopefully)and are still trying to discover. Advocates of both have used circular reasoning to justify their position...advocates of both, most of the time, already have their minds made up and so make everything fit into that particular set of beliefs-(neither has yet to be proven as fact). What needs to happen is purely looking at the facts of science and determine what best describes our past...be it a long, long, past or relatively short past. Once a decision has been made in those minds you have: the Theory of evolution on one side and the Theory (if you will) of creation by design on the other. In the middle remains science for us to pick at, discover, cross examine and interpret to the best of our abilities as to what it says about our past. To say that creationists are afraid of science (as one commentor wrote) is not acurate to the whole of that "community". And to say that evolutionists are blind to the truth (as i've seen and read many times) is only an angry attempt to turn one's back on what that "community" says is their truth. Lets examine the facts of science without circular reasoning or blatant ignorance and find out what it has to say. But throwing out insults and random generalities doesn't furhter anything but frustration in all the scientific community.

 
At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It takes faith to believe everything was created out of nothingness no matter how you slice or dice it, Christianity or what we call physics, geology or biological science. It rained on a rock and eventually created primordial soup which eventually turned into every living organism as we know them, including the ones we don't know about. That is the position the "sciences" suppose. Is this not correct? Or In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth. That is the position that three major world religions suppose. Is this not correct? Where the difference lies is that one of these views has a much deeper implication on the fundamental, metaphysical questions of life, I believe. So call one science and one a religion if you please this is really not the importance of the whole matter. The importance lies in the logic of each positions claims and the validity that can be derived. Ultimately each position has some foolish sounding tenets. However, some are more likely to admit these than others for a number of reasons. In the Apostle Paul's writings he admittedly stated "The foolishness of the Cross." He probably wrote this because he knew one would have to step out on a limb to believe in it on faith. Wouldn't it take just as much faith to believe in the other positions views as stated above? I think so. However, the "religous" view gives us more hope than the other in what is to become of mankind and the world as we know it. This probably is the significant difference.


Thanks,
Justin

 
At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

I think that religion as science have nothing to deal with.

While science is built from observation and refutation of theories, and nothing is a dogma until you prove it (and even then, some day it could change again, after newer observations), religion deals whith the concept of faith, that simply means that you believe something without having the minimun prove.

One could believe in God (we are rather free), but not take him as the only answer, because that way we would have never understood anything about matter, universe, etcetera.

Many science branches reach the confirmation that Earh is much older than only 6.000 years that says the Bible.

To believe that Earth is only 6.000 years old, is not to have a lot of faith, it is also to be ignorant.

To believe that God came down to the floor and made a man with his own hands, is not to have a lot of faith, but also any idea about what is that of RNA or aminoacids, or why thousand of fossils of transition species have been found.

Anyway, religion talks about faith. Science talks about facts.

Regards,
Joachim

 
At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Mike Clinch said...

As someone who is religious (liberal Episcopalian) and a scientist (Ph. D. in glacial geology), science is not a religion, except in the minds of a few deluded fundamentalists and a few deluded scientists.

A key feature of any religion requires adherence to some sort of faith propositions, which are unproven, or unprovable - the existence of God(s), the nature of God(s) and His/Her/It's/Their relationship with us. The only real faith assumptions we need to make as scientists is that we are independent observers of the phenomenon we study, and that what we observe is a true representation of reality. Hardly enough to make a religion.

I do tell my Christian friends that whenever a scientist is at work, he or she is a "methodological atheist", as we are deliberately looking for natural explanations for the phenomenon we observe. A supernatural answer to a scientific question is simply not allowed under the rules of science. It is not a legitimate scientific answer to conclude that a miracle occurred, or that fossils were found in a rock because god did it. If a scientist were asked to investigate a phenomenon alleged to be a miracle, the only two scientifically allowed answers would be: 1) I have found a natural explanation for the phenomenon, or 2) I cannot yet find a natural explanation for the phenomenon and more evidence (or study) is needed.

From within the scientific frame of reference, it is impossible to either prove or disprove the existence of God, as the study of a supernatural God is, by definition, outside of the rwalm of study of science. Those scientists who proclaim a militant atheism by saying there is no scientific proof of God ARE making their science a religion, and misunderstanding their science as well.

At the same time, my belief in science, and in the results of scientific research means that there are some varieties of religious expression that can be disproven. So while my science can't disprove of God, it can show that some approaches to believing in a God are nonsensical. I can't very well be a glacial geologist six days of the week, and a Young Earth Creationist on the seventh. That's enough to keep my fellow church members happy, and for them to let me be a methodological atheist part time.

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger Magus said...

The Law of Conservation of Energy states that Energy cannot be created or destroyed but can be changed from one form to another.

Without beginning and without end is a definition of God.

Change from one form to another is the Universe in all its manifestations.

Each seeks its origin. Science does so at Bern and Religion does so through prayer or introspection.

I think Science is a religion - therefore I AM.

 
At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question for Joachim. Thousands of fossils of transition species? Is it not logical to think that if we can dig up fossils from millions of years ago that we should be tripping over transitional fossils from the (millions?-I'm guessing) of living species we find in our present day world. I don't see them. Also, where did the material come from to start the Big Bang? How does science play any role in the theory of evolution when we have very defined food chains? Did all the herbivores evolve first? As plants are living things, would these not also have had to evolve from the same source? How long did it take to evolve a male and a female from the (millions?) of species before each species could multiply on its own? Science has been helpful in discrediting evolution by showing us the complexity of something small such as a single cell. How do we explain the survival, for any amount of time, of something that began less than perfect, when we can see how sick a human being can be when they have the tiniest defect in their cell makeup (cancer, etc). I could go on for years asking many more questions of this nature. I'm not a scientist, but as far as I can rationalize, the only way evolution can be used as an argument for the existence of life is to put more time on the clock, not by using any real scientific process.
Regards David

 
At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question for Joachim. Thousands of fossils of transition species? Is it not logical to think that if we can dig up fossils from millions of years ago that we should be tripping over transitional fossils from the (millions?-I'm guessing) of living species we find in our present day world. I don't see them. How does science play any role in the theory of evolution when we have very defined food chains? As plants are living things, would these not also have had to evolve from the same source? How long did it take to evolve a male and a female from the (millions?) of species before each species could multiply on its own? Science has been helpful in discrediting evolution by showing us the complexity of something small such as a single cell. How do we explain the survival, for any amount of time, of something that began less than perfect, when we can see how sick a human being can be when they have the tiniest defect in their cell makeup (cancer, etc). I could go on for years asking many more questions of this nature. I'm not a scientist, but as far as I can rationalize, the only way evolution can be used as an argument for the existence of life is to put more time on the clock, not by using any real scientific process.
Regards David

 
At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe science is a religion, not because they both rely on faith, but in the way i define religion. A religion is, at its simplest, a fundamental set of beliefs. It does not need to include any spiritual or metaphysical aspect in order to be so. Science, essentially rests upon the foundation of justified true beliefs. Nothing can ever be proven, because we can never 'know' anything trully. I am somewhat of a philosopher in this sense. The atom is a perfect example of this. We have no sense of the atom, we cannot see, hear, smell it, but evidence that we have gathered says that something like this must exist. In that sense, we are more 'believing' in the existance of the atom, rather than 'knowing'. With religion, while i doubt anyone will agree, religious people obtain their 'evidence' as it is, through their creeds and teachings. They do not just blindly accept things that make no sense. That is not faith, that is ignorance and stupidity. Whatever they are taught, they consider and think about and believe what is the most rational answer to them. Even within a religion, people will have many different interpritaions, representing how each individual has thought about and accepted their particular religion

Regards
Zach

 
At 5:45 PM, Blogger Joe Meert said...

Zach,

You don't get to define your own reality unless you accept that everyone else can define their own reality. If that's the case, there is no such thing as reality. Science is NOT religion any more than religion IS Science.

 

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