Science isn't based on faith

by Rudd-O published 2008/02/19 11:43:24 GMT+0, last modified 2013-06-26T03:24:31+00:00

I'm used to have conversations with a friend of mine -- a psychologist -- who is convinced that science is just another type of faith; an idea which, of course, never fails to poison our conversations. He is wrong, and here's why:

The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules. That’s it. There is one corollary, and that is that if the Universe follows these rules, then those rules can be deduced by observing the way Universe behaves. This follows naturally; if it obeys the rules, then the rules must be revealed by that behavior.

I'm going to quote two paragraphs from a rather excellent article in Bad Astronomy:

Science is not simply a database of knowledge. It’s a method, a way of finding this knowledge. Observe, hypothesize, predict, observe, revise. Science is provisional; it’s always open to improvement. Science is even subject to itself. If the method itself didn’t work, we’d see it. Our computers wouldn’t work (OK, bad example), our space probes wouldn’t get off the ground, our electronics wouldn’t work, our medicine wouldn’t work. Yet, all these things do in fact function, spectacularly well. Science is a check on itself, which is why it is such an astonishingly powerful way of understanding reality.

And that right there is where science and religion part ways. Science is not based on faith. Science is based on evidence. We have evidence it works, vast amounts of it, billions of individual pieces that fit together into a tapestry of reality. That is the critical difference. Faith, as it is interpreted by most religions, is not evidence-based, and is generally held tightly even despite evidence against it. In many cases, faith is even reinforced when evidence is found contrary to it.

Faith is belief without evidence. Science people never believe anything without evidence that supports said belief. To say that we have to take science on faith is such a gross misunderstanding of how science works that it can only be uttered by someone who is wholly ignorant of how reality works.

Thus, it's oxymoronic to say that science is a different kind of faith. It might not even be oxy!