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Science and belief

Believers often compare the process of doubt that they go through to scientific inquiry. They also compare science to belief systems.


 

First of all science is not a belief system, it is merely a tool for investigating phenomena by putting forth theories and testing them rigorously. Believers often point out that many scientific theories are 'only theories' and that a number have been 'proved wrong' in the past and supplanted by other theories. Well this is just how science works. It is best just to think of scientific theories as approximations and models that just gradually become more accurate. Technology (that obviously works) makes use of these gradually improving theories all the time. The really big stuff that captures the popular imagination, big bang, quantum mechanics, string theory, notions of spacetime and so on are all highly speculative. Yes they are based on networks of assumptions. They are exciting areas and scientists are prone to speculation like everyone else. Just because ideas change rapidly and on a grand scale in these areas does not mean that the underlying scientific method is at fault. The press does not help by printing sensationalist stories. The public is hungry for Hawkins' latest pronouncement, a public that is largely scientifically illiterate. The public thinks it can pick and mix ideas of many dimensions, black holes, worm holes and multiple universes without a basic understanding of even classical mechanics. Science is plagued by pseudo science and wild speculation and it is difficult for the scientifically illiterate to distinguish.

 

Belief systems do not operate like science. God and the spirit world are not theories that explain observed phenomena. If they were, upon formulating a god theory, you would be required to devise an experiment to falsify or confirm your theory. This is what science does. It does not point to random bits of evidence and leave it at that. Even sciences such as geology and astronomy, where is difficult to perform experiments on the subjects of investigation, do try to correlate data and cross reference to check theories. The theories are required to make predictions that can be confirmed by observation. Beliefs are not required to do this. However if you do adhere to a belief system that contradicts available science it does not help your position to simply try and discredit science as a tool. The only credible process open to you is to challenge the science by establishing a testable theory. I do not really consider this to be the function of belief but some believers might.

 

Science and belief need not operate in the same realms (however logic, philosophy and belief may well do). It is perfectly possible to believe in gods and spirit worlds that evade verification or falsification. However if your beliefs do enter the realm of science (such as claiming the universe is only 6,000 years old) be prepared to use good science to make your case. Merely using words like 'energy', 'vibrations' and 'dimensions' does not make statements of belief any more credible.

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