Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is Science a Religion?

There’s one statement that always makes me laugh when I hear a theist parrot it. No, not “If evolution is real, why aren’t monkeys still turning into people?” I’m talking about the confounding claim made by pinheaded pious fools the world over:

Science is a religion.

First of all, I’m not a scientist, though I am an atheist. In fact, I am affiliated with science in the same way Christians are: I enjoy the benefits of science, whether I’m driving my car over great distances at high speeds or I’m being cured by a doctor of a disease that would have probably killed me a few centuries ago

Saying that “science is a religion” shows me that this person thinks that I find religion offensive, that they think I “believe” in science, and that they are trying desperately to drag me down to their level.

I don’t believe in science, I observe its startling success and rely upon it. I am quite aware that there have been times when science has been wrong and that it most certainly has some things wrong this very instant, but I am particularly impressed at science’s ability to admit a mistake and change course. Religion takes centuries to do this, if it happens at all.

Which brings me to another point: science isn’t a religion, religion is a science. Science is observation, and good science is observation of repeatable events. Bad science relies upon circumstantial evidence, word of mouth, traditional views, faith in someone else’s account… basically all the things religion is based upon. Religion is a science, it’s just not a very good one.

So why do religious people think that atheists have any more “faith” in science than a theist? Do theists think that human beings have a set amount of belief, so that lacking belief in gods must mean a person believes something else? If so, why does a believer’s faith in God not prevent them from “blindly” taking the medication their doctor prescribes?

I just don’t get it…

And so I am left one final hypothesis. What if religious people are self-loathers? What if they realize how dumb and infantile they really are? Religion is always pounding into the heads of the faithful how sinful, bad, and naturally evil “the flesh” is. Perhaps it is a case of “misery loves company,” and religious people just want to believe that everyone is saddled with the burden of religion.

I’m sorry to disappoint.


  1. "Do theists think that human beings have a set amount of belief, so that lacking belief in gods must mean a person believes something else?"

    From my observations.... I would say "yep."

  2. I'll believe that. One of my religion teachers in high school wrote on one of my papers: "If you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything." Strange, because I imagine you fall more while standing then from sitting around.

  3. I think it's a matter of looking at surfaces instead of substance more than anything else. If all you see of science is a body of received knowledge, whose specifics are decided by a select group of people - in other words, if you have no understanding of the scientific method, or how/why science actually works - then it does look like a religion. You have your priesthood, the scientists, who understand the sacred secrets; you have a large body of followers, who accept their teachings without necessarily understanding everything that they do. You even have miracles - better miracles than Christianity currently produces: longevity, cures for disease, fertility or contraception, the ability to speak to people on the far side of the globe, or travel there in a matter of hours.

    It's an equivalency based on a profound failure to understand the fundamental nature of science, but I can see how people get there.


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