Sunday, February 19, 2012

Snippet: Science is a Religion?

I was trying to determine why some theists think science is a religion, when it dawned on me… as they understand it, science is a religion: a vague, inaccurate account of reality. To a devoutly religious person who doesn’t know anything about science, it is indistinguishable from a religion, in the same way that to some Americans, Africa is a country.


  1. I don't think it's quite that vague. Many Americans think science is a religion because most scientists present it as one. They treat science as unimpeachable fact when, in fact, it is only theory. Apart from gravity, I can think of no scientific "fact" that I was taught in school that hasn't since been debunked. When religionists show the same arrogance as scientists they are vilified by the scientific community as believing in unfounded hokum when, in fact, their own theories aren't any more sound.
    I am neither scientist nor religionist, but I am a philosopher and I really don't see where the two are that far apart.

    1. Well, two things:

      1. Plenty of theories beyond gravity are not debunked since your days in school. Plate tectonics, evolution, cell theory, the Big Bang theory, atomic theory, the theory of relativity... those are just off the top of my head. Many of those have been expanded upon and refined, but their basic premise holds true even today.

      2. Science does change as evidence presents itself, as you sort of pointed out, which makes it different from religion. Science doesn't base its views on what a hopelessly out of date book says. Scientists decide what is in science books, while a book tells religious people what is inside them. The two are precise opposites.

  2. Science is a methodology based on observation and testing. This doesn't mean that a scientists has never been wrong, or made a mistake, but science as a practice is designed to constantly include new evidence and then base theories on the amassed collected evidence.

    Religion posits theories and then searches for facts to support its theories. This is the wrong way about doing proper science.

    I hold that religious people have just mistaken the chronology of science to be identical to religion, which is why they often throw out the pejorative scientism for religious concepts which they aren't familiar with. To them it is all theory and no substance, and that would equate to religion.

    However, this only reveals a fundamental confusion about what science really is and how it works.

    1. This is a good point. Even if you ignore that science is right more often than religion and just point out that sometimes science is wrong, it's not about whether science is perfect and religion is flawed, it's about methodology and willingness to search for truth. Religion is unconcerned with truth, it is only worried about faith.

      "Faith is believing what you know ain't so." - Mark Twain

  3. It's easy for some people to call 'religion' that which they do not understand. A religionist will see someone else talking about a scientific principle, and because the religionist fails to understand said principle, labels it as a 'belief'. But to the person who understands the science behind the principle, it's not a religion.

  4. I forget where I heard it first, but the best explanation I've heard is that there is only a one-way conflict. Science doesn't conflict with religion because it simply looks at and tries to explain the natural world.

    But religion conflicts with science all the time because it considers everything and tries to explain everything. That often requires supernatural explanations.

    And science has a method for reconsidering past explanations when conflict arises. Religion is based on firm theology established centuries before, and there's no way to revise it without undermining the entire theology.


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