Measured Against Reality

Monday, November 06, 2006

Trust Versus Faith

I have been repeatedly accused of having faith in science. The accusation is meant to say that my “faith” in science is no different from faith in religion. It’s a (fairly pathetic) attempt to equate science and religion.

The problem with that line of argument is that the word faith is being used with two different meanings. I don’t have faith in science, I trust it. I trust it like I trust that the roof over my head won’t cave in, or that the bridge I went over every day all summer wouldn’t collapse. I trust these things because they have a record of working, similar things have a record of working, and those records indicate to me that they will continue to work.

Faith, in the conventional, religious meaning, is completely different. Faith implies that there’s not necessarily a proven record, and in with religious faith there’s none at all. This means that you’re taking it “on faith”. You have no reason to believe that anything a religion says is true, it’s all faith.

Science is a method of gathering knowledge, and the knowledge that has been gathered through that method. Science works. It works every time you start your car, every time you flip a switch, every time you use GPS to find your location, every time you fly. The list is enormous, and a full description of the triumphs of science would fill pages and detail nearly everything we know about the way the world works. That is why I trust science, and whether or not you want to admit it, you do too: the conveniences of modern living are the results of science, you can’t trust them without trusting it.

But when I think of faith, I’m stymied. I can think of nothing it has given the world that couldn’t have resulted from something else. I realize that many good works have been done in the name of religion, but the goodness behind the act would be there regardless. In some cases, for example missionaries, the good is offset by bad works. How much time do they spend proselytizing that would be better spent helping? How many deaths in sub-Saharan Africa have been due to their advice on condoms? Secular organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders, do much of the same work, without any of the negatives. We don’t need faith to do good.

If any religion had a record of being right and useful, then I’d trust it too. But they simply don’t. Science does, so I’m going to be sticking with it.

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47 Comments:

  • Amen to that brother.

    By Blogger Mosilager, at 12:50 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • The trust we skeptics/agnostics/atheists have in science will always be morally superior to faith anyways, because

    1) Trust is testable, and
    2) Trust is earned.

    By Blogger Aerik, at 1:23 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • spread the good word!

    By Anonymous James, at 2:07 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • You are creating your own epistemological confusion. You trust that your car will start, and if it doesn't there is a way to find out why and fix it...your working definition of science. This is practical knowledge which makes no claims on figuring out who I am in the world, other than a person who drives a car. When it comes to theoretical physics, the science of consciousness, and the like which lean heavily on a hermenutical, philosophical perspective, you are dealing with something that looks just like religious faith. Show me a meme. What's a real hoot is that there are now scientists--Dawkins is the prime example now--whose tone, language, and claims not only sound like faith, it sounds like religious fundamentalists of any stripe.

    By Anonymous revgrant, at 3:00 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • Revgrant, I'm curious as to why science should say anything about "figuring out who [you are] in the world". Isn't that your job? Maybe you're a man of faith, a man who needs faith, but that doesn't change anything about the difference between trust and faith.

    I'm also guessing that you know nothing of theoretical physics. Bad example to pick, since I actually do. Right now there's not experimental evidence for most theoretical physics (hence the theoretical in its name), but we're working on that. Regardless, there's quite a bit of intense mathematics behind modern theories, and finding one that adequately describes the world while still being internally consistent is very, very difficult, which is why String Theory looks so promising. But they're not taken on faith any more than the Pythagorean Theorem is.

    As for memes, I might write about those some day, but I think everyone needs to shut up about them. If they have any relation to the real world, it's as a model for something that's actually happening. I think that Dawkins knows that, but doesn't make the distinction.

    Based on your assertion that Dawkins's "tone, language, and claims" sounding like faith, I'm going to guess that you haven't actually read any Dawkins, and missed the huge number of times he's said that if there were any evidence at all for any of the supernatural claims of any religion, then he'd believe them. Based on this fact, and based on many others, he comes to the conclusion that religion's claims are wrong. Show him (or me) the evidence for a religious claim, and I'll believe it. But there isn't any, and rejecting religion is most certainly not an act of faith.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 3:13 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • Gosh! Almost believable!

    Except you erred on the other side. You set up science as your perfect, religious God, ignoring hilarious examples of science turning out to be just what mankind thought was science at the time, like, say the earth being flat, or the sun orbiting the earth, or early tests with radiation, or nicotine, or . . . ahhhhh my hand is tired.

    But surely you get the point. Whatever you think is science could be just another disproven theory tomorrow. You're going to have to argue better than that, Stanford be damned.

    By Anonymous Bats, at 3:39 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • Your post is a fantastic argument for trust in science. But please do not assume that it is morally superior to religious belief. As a person of faith, I see no reason why I cannot trust in both.

    I turn to God for strength, loving support and reassurance when life is difficult. I turn to the reason and conscience God gave me when I need to answer a difficult moral question. And I turn to the scientific method when I have a quantifiable, empirical question that I need to answer.

    Those who polarize the debate about the big questions of our age into "religion vs. science" do a disservice to both disciplines.

    By Anonymous Teresa, at 3:42 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • Regarding your last point, as I understand it having faith by definition means 'trusting' in something which is not verifiable in scientific terms. That's what faith is.

    I read in your field as an amateur, so the mathematics behind string theory will never be something I can comprehend. I do know that if you gather any 25 randomly chosen theoretical physicists in a room and say "String theory will one day be proven correct" that you'll have what will pass a intellectual riot on your hands. The most recent article I read, granted on the internet so quality control is something I'm unsure of, gave the writer's point that string theory has now been discredited. I have read Dawkins. Yes he does still sound like a fundamentalist; read Sam Harris too. I listen to enough scientists engaged in this sort of conversation and find that indeed your sense of self in the world is directly tied to your scientific world view...sense of purpose, self-identity, role in life and so forth. The source of your knowledge is in your head, but the passion is elsewhere--your metaphorical heart. Just step back and hear your tone and rhetoric in your reply.

    And saying that perhaps is where I'm going to land the hardest and strongest. Human beings have been and always will be more complex than a solely rational,materialist explanation will ever explain.

    One of my litmus tests in thinking through things is to approach the questions around suffering, esp that caused by disease and natural disaster. We have the intuition I think that our best selves and our life 'should' be better than when sickness and hurricane hit. Science gives us (because to my mind, God blessed us with intellect gifts)wonderful means of helping alleviate suffering, from antibiotics to architectural changes to withstand high winds--the whole range is amazing. That people care about those who suffer, and put aside their own safety and material well being, that there is community of care and support is another matter altogether.

    I'm going to guess in turn that you have not really read in my field as an adult apart from the media driven extremes of fundamentalists, religious bigots, pederasts--all those terrible things done in the name of God (as if similar things haven't been done in the name of science--just less human history for that piece to play out in so far). Karen Armstrong is a religious writer, former nun, now actually an agnostic. Her book Battle for God, esp the first couple chapters, establishes some of what I find compelling. Marcus Borg, in Heart of Christianity, lays claim to a Christianity that is compelling for the 21st century.

    I rarely venture into realms such as this, so let me take the opportunity to apologize on behalf of all people of faith with whom I share a common set of perspectives for the hate spewed by those who call themselves followers of God in our day and time. It is an embarrasment and worse. God calls us to love, not judge.

    By Anonymous revgrant, at 3:56 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • I realize that many good works have been done in the name of science, but the goodness behind the act would be there regardless. In some cases, for example Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the good is offset by bad works.

    Perhaps it doesn't make sense to blame the tools? Science is a tool, religion is a tool - isn't it people who are responsible for how exactly they are used?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:05 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • Let me start off by saying that I'm an agnostic who leans towards Atheism (yes, I'm sure you see it coming).

    You are splitting hairs and playing semantics. Trust vs Faith? This makes about as much sense as a Marriage vs Union. It's nothing more than a symbolic name, but it represents exactly the same thing, only with different players.


    Stupac, the second you bring mathematics into it you're bringing in faith, or trust, or anything else you want to call it. Mathematics is nothing more than a system of logic that is required to be internally consistent. That's it. There's nothing that states that it has any relevance to the physical world (Indeed, I challenge you to relate 3-point Geometry to the physical world). You cannot find the value PI in the physical world, yet you expect us to believe your insistence that you can correctly predict the exact circumference of a tire. Not only does PI not exist in the physical world, it is a ratio of a phenomenon that doesn't exist in the physical world ( that being a perfect circle ). Indeed, there is an entire group of mathematicians who believe that math shouldn't use such tools.

    Science is nothing more than a method of observation. We have observed that the mathematical systems that we have created by "making up" axioms appears to be relatively consistent with the physical world. But that does not make it so. This is a subtle point, so let me use an example.

    For years it was believed that Gravity was the attraction of two objects of mass. The larger the mass, the greater the attraction. There are now theories stating that, while the observation is true, the explanation is not, and that Gravity has it's basis in more than simply mass ( I won't go into the detail as I'm sure you're aware of what I'm referring to ).

    You take it on faith that the observations are correct. You also take it on faith that the "mappings" (and I use that term loosely) between the system of Mathematics that we've created and the physical world are accurate. They may not be.

    Mathematics uses unproven axioms, and religion uses unproven beliefs. Both require faith/trust, or whatever label you choose to attach to it.

    Religion disagrees with Mathematics about the observations. Science can many times disagree with Mathematics about the observation. The only difference is the source.

    I choose to believe that Science is correct, but I have also chosen to educate myself. I suggest you (the OP) do the same before spouting such arrogance.

    By Anonymous Michael Reiland, at 4:07 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • "You cannot find the value PI in the physical world"---hahahaha!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:20 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • Revgrant, if those 25 Physicists are honest, the response will be "I don't know". We really can't say if String Theory is correct right now. We simply don't have the information. Some people are declaring it "dead", but those people are really just mad that most of our young talent is going into a field that they don't think will be the future. But as it stands, no alternative is any better, so these criticisms are not very strong. Brian Greene had an excellent rebuttal to the recent criticisms in the NY Times, here subscription required, but for the week it's free.

    Perhaps because I largely agree with Dawkins and Harris I don't find them to be fundamentalists. But they make some really good points. This is, however, not the thread for that discussion.

    Why wouldn't my sense of self be tied to my worldview? I can see no way for it to be otherwise. If I were a musician I would think music to be of utmost importance, or else I probably wouldn't be a musician. I'm not quite a scientist yet, but I think that the "scientific" worldview, at least mine, is a demand for evidence to back up claims, awe and respect for nature, and the goal to diminish human misery as much as possible. I doubt that any decent person is very different.

    Typically when one investigates cases of science being used for abject evil, one finds that there was some kind of dogma behind it. Science (in its ideal form) has no dogma (except the demand for evidence). Most common citations of evil science (or evil atheism) still have some form of dogma, and that dogma is what is truly dangerous. Yes, science, like all of human knowledge and tools, can be misused. But it needn't be.

    You'd also be correct in guessing that I haven't read many theistic works. I do get some theology secondhand, mostly as rebuttals from atheist blogs, but what I've read (in the form of apologetics) has been wholly unconvincing. I'm guessing that the books you're referring to aren't apologetics, but then I'm not sure what they would be. Personal philosophies perhaps?

    Also, there's no need to apologize for anyone else.


    Bats, that record of self-correction is what I'm talking about. I never said that science is always right, just that it's the best method for finding the truth that we have. We're probably wrong about many things right now, but I can tell that the scientific method is almost certainly what will reveal those mistakes. In fact, the ones you cited are almost all mistakes made before science was around that it corrected.


    Teresa, I suppose I should have made it more clear that I don't see any reason to trust in any religion. Perhaps you do, but there's not any good way for you to convince me to trust it too, while I could convince most reasonable people to trust in the results of science.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 4:20 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • "You set up science as your perfect, religious God, ignoring hilarious examples of science turning out to be just what mankind thought was science at the time, like, say the earth being flat, or the sun orbiting the earth, or early tests with radiation, or nicotine, or . . . ahhhhh my hand is tired."

    There's a big problem with this idea as stated, which I will get to.

    But before I do, I'd like to point out that this is one of those examples that drive me crazy (from both sides) wherein one of the persons in the debate says something that's SO OBVIOUS that it ought to shut the other person right up--but never does. Because it's usually only SO OBVIOUS to the person who's said it.

    Anyway, as far as the relevance of what you've said: From what I can see, all the things you've mentioned are correct. Science did once theorize the Earth was flat, based on observations of the world around them.

    That it, until enough evidence was produced that it was round, based on further evidence that was brought to light, and science accepted that.

    Now, of course, some folks don't accept it--Flat-Earthers, I think they're called--but the vast majority of people do.

    Okay, so the difference is that the theories of science are never finished products. There's no such thing as a scientist with "Unshakable Faith" who is not betraying what science is about.

    Dawkins tells a story about an old science professor who was a passionate believer in a scientific theory. Then one day, another young scientist made a presentation that conclusively proved the old fellow's theory wrong (I'm not saying the new scientist's idea was 100% right, it just proved the old one was wrong).

    And so, after the presentation, the old professor came up to the new scientist and thanked him for refuting something he had believed his whole life.

    Did it hurt? Probably some, but knowledge, maybe not ultimate knowledge, but a move toward greater knowledge, is always preferable to blind faith.

    So it's not SO OBVIOUS a refutation that science is wrong. What's SO OBVIOUS is that science is wrong all the time and moves forward with the vast information gleaned from that very wrongness. Religion does not.

    Two separate things. Completely.

    By Blogger kevin, at 5:28 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • For those who claim that people adhere to science as a religion, this is a largely nonsensical argument. Science is not a single entity or proclaimed set of moralities. Science is a process, and you can't have a process as your religion. Science is the process of discovery and truth. If something is proven to be wrong it's replaced with a new hypothesis. We continue this cycle until we have an answer that cannot be proven wrong, and therefore it becomes the current scientific fact.

    Again, the beauty of the process is that nothing is set in stone and we're constantly testing ourselves. It's the most highly efficient form of quality control.

    This is largely different from religion which subscribes to one explanation of the world that is never tested, and only blindly followed. Religion would be far more respectable if it was a tested and proven process, and not just a... gut feeling you get when you talk to God.

    That sounds more like a psychological condition to me.

    My 2c.

    By Blogger Joseph, at 5:29 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • "You set up science as your perfect, religious God, ignoring hilarious examples of science turning out to be just what mankind thought was science at the time, like, say the earth being flat, or the sun orbiting the earth, or early tests with radiation, or nicotine, or . . . ahhhhh my hand is tired."

    Buzz! Wrong again. Science is a method of acquiring and evaluating knowledge about the natural world. It's not a collection of facts, it's not in itself a world-view. It's not subject to anthropomorphism.

    Furthermore, science as we know it has only been around for a couple centuries at most. Claims like a flat earth and a geo-centric universe are not what can be called scientific claims, paradigms, or even mistakes.

    Please explain what you mean by "early tests with radiation, or nicotine."

    You seem to think that since scientists have made mistakes before, all of science is therefore invalid. But science is self-correcting. You see, you can state a true conclusion for the wrong reasons, state a true conclusion for the right reasons, state a wrong conclusion for the wrong reasons, and state a wrong conclusion for the right reasons.

    Science is nothing more than the best way we have for acquiring and evaluating evidence by the right reasons, through hypothesis, experimentation, and replication. Faith, as matter of definition, is belief in spite of a lack of evidence. And since there is no evidence of anything supernatural, anything supernatural is a matter of faith. This is why science is a naturalistic subject. Supernatural claims are void of experimental validation and replication.

    Given this, it is simply absurd to say that science sounds just like religion. It doesn't.

    This stigma of "science explains how, faith explains why" is complete bullshit. A decent philosophy must begin with the acceptance that claims about the natural world must be evaluated through natural means. A universe with a god would be much different than a world without one. The claim of god is a scientific one, but the fact remains that since god(s) is(are) supernatural, they are void of experimental validation and replication. So any decent philosophy must acknowledge that such claims are absurd.

    As for all this talk about how we feel about what we do and how we feel about science and "the passion behind" X, what a bunch of tripe. Since when does good intention validate anything that is obviously false/wrong given any objective evaluation? You're so full of shit, revgrant.

    And so we go back to the beinning, Michael Reiland. Trust is not the same as faith, for the very obvious reasons I pointed to in my first post to this comment thread.

    1) trust is earned; it is evidence based. Faith is not.
    2) Trust is testable -- faith rejects testing.

    By Blogger Aerik, at 9:11 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • re: revgrant's comment:

    What a total waste of a whole lot of big words. They don't make your argument any wiser. If anything, they make you sound dull.

    By Blogger Andy Dabydeen, at 9:55 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • I hate you guys. Im going home.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:57 PM, November 06, 2006  

  • In science we can ask WHY.
    In faith we should NOT ask WHY.

    By Blogger Jawahar, at 1:27 AM, November 07, 2006  

  • Religion more sexy than science. Let me count the ways:

    Water into wine
    Walking on water
    Virgin birth
    Rising from the dead
    Healing touch
    Hearing voices
    Seeing Visions
    Having Wings
    Getting Served to lions
    Really long boat rides in the rain
    Fire and brimstone deluge
    Temptations from Horn Head
    Gospel Music
    The Church Scene in the Blues Brothers.
    Parting the sea
    Manna from Heaven
    Yer Salome's and your Delilahs

    I'm sorry, but in a bazillions centuries, science never gonna measure up.

    By Blogger Noodler, at 3:23 AM, November 07, 2006  

  • 1. Implicit in your trust in science is the assumption that nature is essentially a mindless force that follows a fixed set of laws and is therefore predictable.

    2. Human beings, however, are not predictable because we have free will. But we are composed of the same physical elements and are subject to the same laws as everything else.

    3. This raises the question, where did our consciousness come from? Is it possible for a subset of nature to have capacities not somehow inherent in nature itself? Is it possible that the perfect order, structure, and design of science you describe is not the result of a greater consciousness that exists in the universe, of which we as humans have been endowed with a small share?

    By Blogger Adam, at 4:31 AM, November 07, 2006  

  • I don't usually do this as I think it's mostly pointless, but in this case I think it makes sense.


    dictionary.com: faith

    faith  /feɪθ/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[feyth] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun
    * 1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.

    2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

    3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.

    * 4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.

    5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
    6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
    7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.

    *8. Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.
    —Idiom

    9. in faith, in truth; indeed: In faith, he is a fine lad.



    1) Faith is known as confidence or trust?
    4) Faith is a belief in anything, such as a code of eithics, standards of merit (can we say Scientific Method?)
    8) Trust in God?


    dictionary.com: trust

    (in the interest of brevity I'll only list the relevant definitions)

    4. a person on whom or thing on which one relies: God is my trust.

    Again, Trust in God?




    Aerik, the fact that you believe science to be "morally superior" shows your blind bias.


    What we have here are two separate (I say this loosely as religion has many many faces) methods for belief.

    I'm going to make 2 points here:

    1) Look at your history, religion also changes.

    2) They are both philosophies.



    This is the reason that I consider myself an Agnostic, but that I tend towards Atheism. I'm a student of Science (currently working on my graduate study for Math, hoping to get my Ph.D. in Physics). I love science, and everything that it represents, so I tend to *trust* it, warts and all. But I'm not so arrogant that I'm going to proclaim millions of people wrong.

    That same arrogance is why Science has spent years & years running down the wrong path. Make no mistake, politics are a very involved part of Science, and it has caused as much harm to science as religious fervor ever did.


    So stop with the religious fervor Aerik. We neither want, nor need, such ignorance.

    By Anonymous Michael Reiland, at 4:40 AM, November 07, 2006  

  • I recently wrote my own essay discussing the same topic in different terms, kinds of faith.

    I like your way of putting it better, I think- and when I do complete my essay on "Why Faith is Evil" I'll probably be citing you on this topic.

    By Anonymous t3knomanser, at 7:08 AM, November 07, 2006  

  • The best part about science is that it deals in objective reality. Religion does not. You don't have to believe in it and "it" doesn't care if you do or not. The sun will still set in the west and the rain will still fall long after we have shuffled off this mortal coil.

    If your car doesn't start in the morning, its not because your faith wasn't strong enough, but because the spark plugs are fouled. Change them out, and voila, working car. However, when something is broken in some religious dogma, there is always a convenient answer. "Oh, that's not what god meant, he was referring to that other guy."

    Religious types offer nothing of merit to soceity yet are more than happy to bash the contributions of science. Intelligent design? Not on its best day.

    By Blogger SlimCady, at 8:22 AM, November 07, 2006  

  • First of all, you gave us your definition of "faith in the conventional, religious meaning" -- but most thelogians scholars would take issue with your definition. You might take a look at how religious scholars (not TV preachers) define faith.

    Second, I will never understand this idea that missionaries are complicit in AIDS deaths because they don't pass out condoms. If they were saying, "Go have unprotected sex with everyone you can" -- then, yeah, maybe. But that's not their message. They are encouraging people to limit sexual activity to faithful, monogamous relationships--which is a proven deterrent to the spread of AIDS. You may not agree with that message, you may not agree with their idea of morality, but they can't be blamed for deaths just because some choose not to follow their advice.

    Third, you asked "how much time do they spend proselytizing that would be better spent helping?" It's odd that you would offer an unanswered, non-researched question as a supporting argument for your position, but that's what you appear to have done.

    I don't think you have any idea (other than a hunch) what missionaries really do. Maybe a trip to Sub-Saharan Africa for personal observance would give you a better idea, or perhaps even a little reading on the subject from a variety of objective sources (both sympathetic and critical) could give you an idea of how the majority of missionaries do their job.

    Fourth, you mentioned Doctors Without Borders, a good organization. How many more can you name? The fact is that only about 33% of humanitarian work is done by secular organizations. Religious people carry the load of this responsibility. A little research would have revealed this.

    Fifth, you said that "I realize that many good works have been done in the name of religion, but the goodness behind the act would be there regardless." What is your basis for that conclusion? A hunch? A whim? I doubt it's the result of research.

    You apparently haven't considered the possibility that one's being shaped by religious values (such as the teachings of Jesus) is what put the "goodness" there in the first place.

    It looks to me like you've done what many religious people want to do: decide on a position and cherry-pick examples that offer a semblance of support, building straw men where they need to be built.

    To make it clear, I don't think religion and science is an either-or proposition, any more than you have to choose between using electricity and enjoying opera music. They're two different things.

    By Anonymous Dirk, at 9:11 AM, November 07, 2006  

  • Daniel Dennett recently wrote an essay about his near-death experience. In it, he has this to say:

    Do I worship modern medicine? Is science my religion? Not at all; there is no aspect of modern medicine or science that I would exempt from the most rigorous scrutiny, and I can readily identify a host of serious problems that still need to be fixed. That's easy to do, of course, because the worlds of medicine and science are already engaged in the most obsessive, intensive, and humble self-assessments yet known to human institutions, and they regularly make public the results of their self-examinations.

    I think it's one of the better responses to the accusation, "but science is just your religion".

    By Blogger Phil! Gregory, at 10:42 AM, November 07, 2006  

  • Faith is a belief in that which can't be proven, therefore it is as a trust/belief in the supernatural. (Science could prove everything in the physical world if only we had the tools at our disposal, and perhaps one day humans will.)

    Theoretical physics isn't supernatural, and although they it isn't well understood by the masses, the theories are based on the way the real physical world works. No matter how odd or bizarre science may seem, it is still a study of the actual physical world around us. I'd even allow that one day science might find our energy passes into another dimension when our bodies die, but this still wouldn't be religion if there is math & physics behind it. If a way to test string-theory became available, the matter would be settled only until a better way to test string-theory became available.

    Science accepts the wrongs when proven wrong. Science books change when new light is shed on any subject. (Name me one religious document that was changed based on new evidence?) Science teaches what we know now. I trust the sun will rise tomorrow (and by that, I mean the earth will rotate), but perhaps there's an asteroid I don't know about headed towards earth that will obliterate us before then. Just because we didn't see it coming doesn't mean it's not physically possible, if we had enough information we couldn't have predicted it. When religion is wrong, they just pile on the excuses (god can't answer everyone's prayers? but his book said he could? what's up with that?). When science is wrong, it's openly admitted.

    Both Science & Religion can be used as an excuse to inflict pain on others. Both science & religion can be used to bring comfort. If you're teddy bear, a therapist, your family, your belief in fairies, or your belief in god makes you feel better, that's great. I don't feel morally superior if I choose a different comfort system than you do; science doesn't dictate my morals, but that doesn't mean I am without morals. I don't need science or religion to have morals, my dog could teach me that.

    By Blogger new.atheist, at 11:58 AM, November 07, 2006  

  • I have a religious fanatic friend who insists that evolutionists believe that everything came together by chance. That's not what is taught. We're taught that it was a process of "natural selection" -- much different than mere chance. And yet, he insists on using kindergarten definitions of science so that he can argue against it.

    This is exactly what new atheist did when he said, "When religion is wrong, they just pile on the excuses (god can't answer everyone's prayers? but his book said he could? what's up with that?)"

    The problem with most arguments at this level is that each group wants to dispute the weakest, most inane (and sometimes non-existent) arguments of the other side. In doing so, you all but invalidate your argument. Do you really believe the above argument about prayer would confound a scholar? He'd just laugh at your ignorance.

    Try reading what a real theologian says about prayer -- not just some screaming pentecostal preacher.

    No theologian claims that God answering prayer means that he will do whatever we tell him to do. Neither does the Bible teach that. Yes, you can yank out a verse or two that seems to say that, but if you actually do critical analysis of Scripture, you'll find that idea doesn't exist.

    Also NA said, "Name me one religious document that was changed based on new evidence?" How about the Bible? (It's not "evidence" as much as it is "perception".) If you read the flow of Biblical history you'll discover an evolving understanding of the idea of God -- primitive in the early books, more advanced in later books. And the concept continues to develop. I don't suppose that we have it right yet -- anymore than science has all the answers yet (science still can't identify a first cause, can it?). Theology is a process, different than science like music is different than math.

    In order to argue against Scripture you have to actually learn something about it, which is far more than most people, religious and non-religous, are willing to do.

    By Anonymous Dirk, at 2:10 PM, November 07, 2006  

  • Dirk,
    You are right, arguing that "ask and you shall recieve" yet most prayers aren't answered is picking on a "weak spot" in religion, just as someone picking on science because at one time Copernicus thought the sun was the center of the universe.

    The problem is so many of those of faith are listening to those Pentocostal preachers. So many believe that the bible is the end-all/be-all of their faith. Every-day churchgoers are not theologians. They pull out verses of scripture to use against science. I choose to judge them with the same book they use to judge me. Luke: 6:38 ...For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

    I have read the bible, along with many other religious texts. I argue in extreemes with hope that middle ground can be realized by all. As an engineer, when I see design of weak nature, I pick on the weakest point, because often enough, that point is holding up others.

    By Blogger new.atheist, at 6:24 PM, November 07, 2006  

  • Dirk gets the idea. Religion, philosophy, and science should be mutually exclusive topics. My issue with Scientism (to give this a name) is that it is an amateurish extrapolation of science into the realm of philosophy.

    Once again it is philosophical materialism reworded for a new generation.

    I'll say it again as I've said it in a dozen different threads on this blog: The source of morality and reason, goodness, right and virtue is defined as God. Using the word God is to give a name to the goodness that every man strives for. It's that simple.

    By Blogger Mr. Fantastic!, at 12:36 AM, November 08, 2006  

  • Mr. Fantastic, that’s complete and utter hogwash. Are the Muslims who stone women to death for having sex outside marriage or lash them for being raped moral? They believe they are acting out god’s will, how can you say that they aren’t? Was the inquisition moral? The church thought rooting out heresy was moral, can you say that it wasn’t?

    Where is your absolute morality? Can you tell me, right now, what it actually is? Can you define your god? Can you actually give me a concrete definition that isn’t a bunch of abstractions like “justice” or “virtue” or “reason” or “morality”? Can you define any one of those words in absolute terms that anyone can understand? You never have, and I’m damn sure it’s because you can’t.

    Reason, goodness, morality, justice, virtue, and whatever else are just concepts that humans have made up. They are defined by the current generation. What you think is just and what I think is just and what Pope Urban II thought was just and what George Washington thought was just and what Jesus thought was just and what Muhammad thought was just are all going to be different. Which one of us is right?

    I’m not arguing for relativism here, but you need to realize that defining god as these absolutes (which are strikingly similar to Plato’s forms) is not advanced theology. It’s bullshit, it’s shoddy thinking, and it’s a pathetic argument. If you can’t stop spouting idiotic hogwash, then go somewhere else and do it.

    Incidentally, I like how this little prediction turned out: “You people are going to lose in November… Liberal self-flagellation and slogans (Bush Lied Kids Died!) will ensure that your party will continue to lose horribly in every election.” Anyone who didn’t have their head buried in sand (or up their own ass) could have seen that the Republicans were going to lose big time this election. But I guess when you think you’re doing god’s will that’s irrelevant.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 1:01 AM, November 08, 2006  

  • Stu, all you've managed to do is prove your understanding of theology and philosophy extremely limited.

    "Are the Muslims who stone women to death for having sex outside marriage or lash them for being raped moral?"

    No, they aren't. I can't believe you're asking me to answer for them.

    "They believe they are acting out god’s will, how can you say that they aren’t?"

    Because I can. I don't claim to speak for them, but I can make observations about the morality that their religion teaches. So can you, and you do. The Pope made some very astute observations of the immorality of contemporary Islam's conduct vis a vis reason earlier this year. They didn't go over very well.

    But that is Islam, which has essentially imposed a 7th century worldview upon 1/6th of humanity. I don't understand why I should be asked to answer for their immoral actions.

    "Can you actually give me a concrete definition that isn’t a bunch of abstractions like “justice” or “virtue” or “reason” or “morality”? Can you define any one of those words in absolute terms that anyone can understand? You never have, and I’m damn sure it’s because you can’t."

    You don't understand philosophy, Stu. All of these things are legitimately up for debate. Definitions of what constitutes goodness have been the debate of philosophers and theologians since time immemorial. My morality is personal, but it is grounded in Christian moral theology and the Constitution of this country (which is a good example of a deist morality).

    But these terms mean nothing to you because you refuse to take a philosophy class and learn the terms of the debate. It really would be helpful to you in making you more comprehensible when you struggle to find a distinction between terms as nebulous as "trust" and "faith" and then rail on me for saying that God shall be defined as "what is good".

    The terms have flexible definitions. We understand that. Let's move on.

    "Reason, goodness, morality, justice, virtue, and whatever else are just concepts that humans have made up. They are defined by the current generation."

    No, that reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of philosophical meaning. Take a philosophy class.

    "What you think is just and what I think is just and what Pope Urban II thought was just and what George Washington thought was just and what Jesus thought was just and what Muhammad thought was just are all going to be different. Which one of us is right?"

    That's a really shallow insight into plurality and a really shallow argument for relativism. I only claim to argue for what is right in my worldview. I'm not trying to impose it on anyone else, I just like having the philosophical debate. That's the whole point, and the Greeks got it thousands of years ago.

    "I’m not arguing for relativism here"

    That's exactly what you're doing and you know it. You're contradicting yourself again too.

    "you need to realize that defining god as these absolutes (which are strikingly similar to Plato’s forms) is not advanced theology."

    I agree with Plato on a lot of things, and I've said that before. If morality is not absolute, then what is it?

    "It’s bullshit, it’s shoddy thinking, and it’s a pathetic argument. If you can’t stop spouting idiotic hogwash, then go somewhere else and do it."

    You are so full of bile, it's incredible. It can't possibly be that hard for you to take a philosophy class so that you understand the terms of the debate before you start making prognostications about ethics and epistemology. I already have, and I use the vocabulary that you would have learned if you'd taken one.

    But you haven't. Until you do, you'll keep struggling to make judgements about the nature and extent of reality and I'll keep calling BS when I see it.

    "Incidentally, I like how this little prediction turned out: “You people are going to lose in November… Liberal self-flagellation and slogans (Bush Lied Kids Died!) will ensure that your party will continue to lose horribly in every election.” Anyone who didn’t have their head buried in sand (or up their own ass) could have seen that the Republicans were going to lose big time this election."

    I was proven wrong. So what? What do you want me to do, come out with a press conference and public apology? Write a concession speech?

    I'm depressed about the outcome of the elections, I'll tell you that much, but whatever. Life moves on you know.

    "But I guess when you think you’re doing god’s will that’s irrelevant."

    You're the only one who ever said that I was doing God's will. I never said that. You did. I don't think God has a will and I don't see God that way. I've made that very clear.

    My positions have been extremely consistent, and I won't back down from them.

    By Blogger Mr. Fantastic!, at 7:08 AM, November 08, 2006  

  • Where is your absolute morality? Can you tell me, right now, what it actually is? Can you define your god? Can you actually give me a concrete definition that isn’t a bunch of abstractions like “justice” or “virtue” or “reason” or “morality”? Can you define any one of those words in absolute terms that anyone can understand?

    Answer those questions. And if they're all "up for debate", then the meaning of your god is up for debate. How is that possible?

    Why, exactly, do I need to take a philosophy class? I've already shown that I understand where the bullshit you're spouting came from. Yes, I've read the Republic. I've also read a whole bunch of other Greek philosophers. And it all sounded like bullshit, just like your arguments. You know why? Because they were writing 3,000 years ago, they didn't even know why it rained. Why should we take them seriously when the pontificate on truth or beauty or happiness?

    By the way, accusing an atheist of a limited understanding of theology is a stupid tactic. If I don't understand your complicated god (which, by the way, I probably do. You get a surprising amount of advanced theology reading ex-apologists debunk it), then explain it. But you won't, because then you can't retreat into your little "You just don't understand me!" corner.

    And I am not a relativist. I simply recognize that morality, as defined by the current generation, changes over time. It's not a constant. Neither are any of the words you define your god as. They shift.

    And I didn't struggle at all. Trust is earned, faith is simply granted.

    As one last point, your wonderful little form-god might be impossible to ever shoot down (because it's meaningless, just like the forms), but that's not the one that America believes in. You've said before that you agree with 99.9% of right-wing christians, so start believing in their personal god.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 10:41 AM, November 08, 2006  

  • Mr. Fantastic,

    Not everyone who believes in goodness believes in god. People may believe that god is good, but god isn't universally "a name to the goodness that every man strives for" (it's like saying all squares are rectangles; you can't say the reverse). The term "god" is more universally a name given to an almighty creator, a being with super-natural powers, a being who humans pray to, or ask for supernatural influence in their lives. (Make it rain. Make him love me. Let me live. Make him die. etc.) Example: Buddhists believe in goodness without god.

    Religion & science are mutually exclusive topics because religion deals with the super-natural, science is all-natural. Considering that Philosophy can neither be tested, nor does it provide one with a set of dogma, I can agree that it is separate from both Religion and Science. Philosophy is people talking about the nature of reality, a child taught nothing of religion or science might still ponder "the meaning of life."

    Muslims who stone women to death are being moral: they are acting on the morals they were taught as children. "Because I can," is no way to say they aren't being moral. I can say I don't agree with their morals, but I can't say they aren't being moral. Like you said; what is good is up for Philosophical debate. So you can't say they aren't being good, you can only say you don't agree on their definition of goodness.

    If you have issues with Science exploring where we get our morals from, because you think that is a philosophical issue, you need to educate yourself some more on science, just as you suggest that others take some philosophy classes. From that suggestion I gather you must be a student (and of course your age in your profile tells me that you're probably not far into your college career). You can't put yourself in the place of others who may not be in school, or who cannot afford the education you may have. I don't mind telling someone to go pick up some books at the library, or read some info online, but don't tell people to "take a class," because that's very snobbish of you. (Even if you directed that remark at Stu, you don't know his major, you don't know if he has the time/ability to take a course that may be outside of his major.)

    Both Stu & "Fantastic," one day, you'll realize that at 19 you didn't have the whole Philosophy thing figured out as well as you thought you did. Go watch Good Will Hunting, & think about it. How do you like them apples?

    By Blogger new.atheist, at 11:59 AM, November 08, 2006  

  • "As for all this talk about how we feel about what we do and how we feel about science and "the passion behind" X, what a bunch of tripe. Since when does good intention validate anything that is obviously false/wrong given any objective evaluation? You're so full of shit, revgrant."

    So much for only religion being open to the charge of 'anti-intellectual.' The froth at the mouth tenor here: again, you sound like a religious fundamentalist. Just change the nouns from religious to scientific terms.

    Science aint about faith? The 'experts' here can correct me if I'm wrong, like I need to say that, right?, but particle/wave physics theory tells me that it's just a 'high probability' that I'll remain sitting here at the computer in the next nanosecond typing. I'd love to see a charming quark some day. Show me the meme.

    Now I'll get in my car later and drive to a movie--all gifts from science. But curses as well. Science (and science alone) has given us global warming. And why should we care? The Crusades and Inquisition were terrible; they didn't threaten to end all life. Any values scientists work with are smuggled into from originally religious values. Science doesn't prove values, doesn't truck in it all based on what I read here. It is just about what 'is.'

    By Anonymous revgrant, at 10:52 AM, November 11, 2006  

  • My reply is in this post of my blog.

    By Anonymous pandammonium, at 5:47 AM, November 12, 2006  

  • Brave thing to say out in America. Seems to be full of religious nuts out there. Can't any of them think for themselves instead of following their parents' religion like sheep?

    There's no evidence for god. Faith without evidence is an act of stupidity.

    FTM

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:40 AM, November 17, 2006  

  • Interesting postings, particularly, the one alluding to belief/trust and/or faith in science and God are mutually exclusive.

    That said, I encourage y'all to continue with this "intellectual" and/or "heart"-based dialogue at a location nearest you via http://alpha.org/default.asp.

    Blessings,
    a

    By Blogger angelita, at 8:13 AM, April 08, 2007  

  • I believe in science. I believe in it because I'm not an idiot. Basically everything you use and encounter in the modern world is created from knowledge gathered from science. How can you not believe in it when, all over the place, there's proof that it works? Doubt some of the more shakable theories (btw, evolution isn't one of it), but don't doubt science itself because you've all reaped vast benefits from it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:59 AM, August 17, 2007  

  • I was about to write a similar blog, but I Googled Faith, Trust, Science and found this. Well said!

    By Anonymous Aaron Boruff, at 4:19 PM, May 11, 2008  

  • I think in order to do good science, Scientist first need to have faith in their hypothesis.
    So, I think in this world...first comes the FAITH than comes the TRUST.
    You can trust on science today because someone(great scientists like Adison) has a strong faith in the past. And they were able to establish their faith as truth, which we can trust

    By Blogger Niti, at 8:31 AM, December 11, 2008  

  • [I disagree; they must have confidence in their hypothesis and it must be testable, and have the ability to accept whatever the end results might be. Faith and confidence are not the same. One does not have faith in the past. One can learn from the past because of the mistakes that were made and also the successes that were established. That establishes a body of evidence; faith has no such body of evidence. Faith is more at flying by the seat of your pants and hoping you’re belief (that has no basis of proof) that you will land safely is true. The rub is this; if you don’t land safely your belief was either wrong and you’ll walk away dejected (maybe not at all) or you will land safely and assume your belief was correct, even though it remains unsupported my nothing more than you landed safely in a field of hay. Landing safely may not be proof at all. You may have landed safely for all the wrong reasons or the right reasons; you will never know. What I find amazing is that people can never live with not knowing; they have to have some explanation and will fabricate some of the most amazing explanations; but hey, if that works for them, great, just don’t tell everyone else THEY have to believe too.]

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  • Also, the big difference between science and religion is that the first one is deductive and inductive. This means that we can create a scientific method both by setting up a hypothesis and then prove it by studying the matter, or the other way around, first we study the matter and then we create a thesis based on it. Faith is only inductive we can only create a hypothesis (usually based on emotions) and then we have no way of proving because there’s nothing we can study. On the other hand we can’t go the other way at all. This basically proves that science is an objective way of discovering the aspects of reality and faith is subjective.

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