The science/relgion debate has exposed a disturbing tendency by some religious people to reject science. Not only scientific theories, such as evolution and the origins of the universe, but also the scientific method itself. Such people will often argue for faith as a better way of obtaining knowledge. Melanie Phillips, a daily Mail columnist, recently argued this way in her column: Arrogance, dogma and why science – not faith – is the new enemy of reason
Phillips’ claims that science has “descended into irrationality”, is arrogant and “As a result of such arrogance, the West – the crucible of reason – is turning the clock back to a pre-modern age of obscurantism, dogma and secular witch-hunts,” that “Far from upholding reason, science itself has become unreasonable.”
At a less aggressive level there are also attempts to redefine the scientific method to somehow include the supernatural. In essence, this is what the proponents of intelligent design are attempting. This was admitted in the Dover trial (Intelligent design/creationism IV: The religion – science conflict). Professor Behe, one of intelligent design gurus, admitted that such a change to the ground rules of science would also embrace astrology (Kitzmiller_decision, p 68). Just imagine a science which embraced superstition. Would you want to fly on a plane you knew was designed and built using superstitious or religious methodology?
Far from being arrogant the scientific method is one of humility. It acknowledges the limits of our current knowledge. It doesn’t provide explanations or answers from a position of ignorance, but investigates the unknown in an attempt to reach understanding based on empirical evidence. Surely it is the superstitious or religious approach which claims to know the answers without any evidence except “faith” that is the arrogant approach.
There is a timely posting entitled Atheist ‘Metaphysics’ and Religious Equivocation, in Black Sun Journal which goes into these issues. The whole article is well worth reading but the following extract gives some idea of the content:
1. Superstitions make unbounded and contradictory claims. Science tries to resolve conflicts and knows the boundaries of its knowledge.
2. Superstitions would like to crowd each other out of the picture. Science only sees one picture.
3. Superstitions make extremely specific claims about the nature of their gods (spirits, energy, law of attraction, etc.). Science does not claim anything about god or these other phenomena, other than to say it has failed to find evidence for their existence.
4. Superstitions make assertions about the nature of consciousness as spirit, and that it precedes (or creates, or can change) matter. Science investigates methods of information storage and how consciousness arises as an emergent property of matter.
5. Superstitions hold creation myths. Science pushes back the veil of time ever closer toward what seems like it might be the beginning (but we can’t be sure).
6. Superstitions promote dualism (mind/body, spirit/matter). Science sees the entire universe or multiverse as a natural, potentially explorable whole.
7. Superstitions deal in certainties. Science deals in probabilities, and aggressively pursues uncertainty.
Questions science cannot answer?
Debating science and religion
Solution to climate change?
Faith and terrorism
“I’m an atheist, but ……”
Putting Dawkins in his place
Limits of science or religious “fog”?
Can science enrich faith?
Miracles and the supernatural?
Should we teach creationism?
Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge?
Intelligent design/creationism II: Is it scientific?
Intelligent design/creationism III: The religious agenda
Intelligent design/creationism IV: The religion – science conflict
Intelligent design/creationism: Postscript