Belief, knowledge and science

This is a repeat of a post from 18 months back:

A pernicious feature of current attacks on science is the promulgation of the idea that scientific knowledge is “just a belief.” That it has no more validity than any other belief. That non-scientific beliefs should be given the same status or legitimacy as scientific theory.

This idea is promulgated by “secular” new age, post-modernist and similar ideologies. It is also promoted by some religious groups advancing creationist ideas. For an example of the latter have a look at the documentary video “In Good Faith” showing a “science lesson” at the Australian Pacific Hills Christian School (see also Teaching science in faith schools). In this “lesson” students were offered a range of beliefs about biology and told they should consider them and choose which best fitted their religious views.

Not just a belief

But science is not about belief – it’s about evidence, reason and theories which well summarize knowledge. Scientific knowledge is never settled – it changes as new evidence comes to hand. In contrast beliefs are often set in stone. Often beliefs are just dogma without any evidential support. They survive new discoveries because they are immune to them.

The real power of scientific knowledge lies in its evidential support and the resulting ability to change, to update. Our modern society and technology could not have been built on dogma, on just belief. Nor can modern society have any hope of the solving the problems we face by reliance on belief.

Those diverse groups who oppose scientific knowledge have the same aim – to replace that knowledge and the powerful scientific method with dogma. With “just a belief.” This is true of US creationists campaigning to “teach the controversy” and “teach the strengths and weakness.” This is the motive behind the “academic freedom” legislation campaigns. All this is aimed at giving religious belief and dogma the same status in the science class as scientific knowledge.

It is also true of “new age”, “post-modernist” “alternative health” and similar secular movements. Although in these case the motives are often commercial.

See also:
For an excellent outline of the scientific method given by Pamela L. Gay go to the Astronomy cast podcast Ep. 90: The Scientific Method
Download The Scientific Method podcast
Books and Ideas Podcast #14: Dr. Pamela Gay from Astronomy Cast

Similar articles:
Dembski, peer review and supernova
Teaching science in faith schools
Dissent from Darwinism list – further analysis
Lawrence Krauss – Richard Dawkins discussion
Richard Dawkins in Inverness


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One response to “Belief, knowledge and science

  1. I think of it this way–w/ religion diminishing little by little, and the tenets of indoctrination becoming more futile, there’s a lot at stake regarding the financial profits that religion is accumulating. They have to try their best to elevate the validity of faith based dogma on the same accord w/ science–otherwise, funding will be cut, and basically, there goes the church–danger is sensed indeed.

    Good stuff.


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