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Modern Science is like religion

April 16, 2008

Modern Science is like religion. To become its devotee, you must first convert. Unless you were a child already catechized in the particulars of its system, Modern Science requires you to repent from your old ways of knowing and to embrace its dogmas. Most people who are followers of Modern Science accept her axioms with very little or no evidence—i.e., by faith. Most people cannot prove that the earth revolves around the sun, but they accept it by faith. They may, based on a series of previously determined assumptions and relatively established theories, deem reasonable the prevailing theory that the earth’s relative position in its orbit around the sun causes varying amounts of sunlight and warmth in a given day, but they cannot really empirically prove that it is so. How many of the general public have taken the steps to prove that man’s use of fossil fuels is causing an alarming increase of the surface temperature of the planet? No, they accept it by faith on the testimony of a consensus of scientists, who themselves serve like priests to mediate this creed to the populace. People believe in fantastic invisible powers and entities (beings), like gravity and atoms. They undergo government mandated catechesis in the important dogmas of the cult (the aforementioned priests decide which dogmas are important).

Modern science requires conversion, has priests, espouses a strict system of doctrine, and, most importantly, requires the steadfast faith of its adherents. Modern science is very much like religion.

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. April 17, 2008 12:39 am

    Well said!

    Only I find far more reason to follow Christ than to follow Darwin–for one, His character is better. For another, there’s a great deal more evidence in His favor. Third, I know Him, and I don’t know Darwin.

    Thanks for a well-thought post,

    Cindy

  2. April 17, 2008 9:02 am

    Very interesting! I don’t think I’ve thought about science in that way before. I really like the comparison between scientists and priests.

    Admittedly, it is easier to empirically test things like gravity than religious concepts. Toddlers tend to be fascinated by gravity – you throw something off the highchair and it falls on the floor with a satisfying splat. It is possible to verify the acceleration of a falling object (9.8 m/s) in any basic physics lab. It is not so easy to test a spiritual invisible power/force.

  3. irrele permalink
    April 17, 2008 9:33 pm

    I’ve never understood that comparison, and I’ve heard it MANY times. The comparison treats “science” as the name of an established body of facts (rather than treating it as the name of a particular set of methods). That’s a definition of “science” that I think most people who “do” science would say is wrong, or at least very incomplete! It’s the “ways of knowing” (nice phrase), not the particular body of facts, that is central to the sciences.

    Also, what notion of proof are you using when you say that the Earth’s motion around the Sun cannot be empirically proved?

    Finally: the main thing that strikes me about the comparison is that regardless of what it shows us about “science”, it seems to make “religion” pretty unappealing and small. It becomes a matter of dogmatism, of cultishness, of deference to more-qualified others, of compulsion.

  4. April 17, 2008 9:55 pm

    Sunlize,

    The fact that we assume empiricism to be a more accurate or trustworthy standard for an axiom’s trustworthiness is another way science is like a religion.

    Irrele,

    Thank you for stopping by and your interaction. Part of my point is that the general populace treats science like a religion. I tried to make that clear with phrases like “Most people.” And, to “most people,” science is, indeed, merely “an established body of facts.” They have no more proof for what they hold to be true than most superstitious heathen. Even so, at the heart of science are a series of assumptions concerning method that are, you must confess, themselves philosophically based and even question-begging.

    Concerning your second point, I was again referring to the general populace who trust that the earth’s rotation around the sun, and do not prove it.

    Finally, my post turns on taking the attacks that Modern Science levels against religion, using those same attacks against science. Hence my portrayal of “religion” comes across in that way in this “cultish” way. Of course, I do not believe any of those things Modern Science says concerning religion; they are desperate attempts to deny what they fear may be real.

  5. Remis Ramos permalink
    April 17, 2008 10:34 pm

    After reading the kind of discussion you’re aiming, I’ll keep my long rant about how misleading and philosophically uninformed your post is, I’ll just throw a pun instead:

    “at least… we don’t have imaginary friends”

  6. April 17, 2008 11:14 pm

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum. Ryan Martin you wrote,

    “Modern Science is like religion.”

    This is a good observation. At NYU I looked at this comparatively and paired the components of traditional religion in the Abrahamic model, against modern science and without much struggle it has fundamentally the same motif as religion and for that matter any belief system. The only differences are the result sets in my opinion which is worth very little.

    -Saifuddin

  7. Joel permalink
    April 17, 2008 11:53 pm

    While I agree whole heartedly with your post, I think it is a little easier to tackle issues one at a time, like Darwinianism. That one is easy to tear apart (all thinking biologists and physacists must diregard this theory as a reasonable means of explaining life on Earth). I frequently wonder why it is shoved down the throats of public school students. The only reason for that is because it is because it is the dogma of the modern secular religion.

  8. April 18, 2008 1:12 am

    Oh dear. It seems empirical proof is just the same as faith. I have been mislead by these evil scientists who are only out to gain my immortal soul. I am going to make offerings to the FSM and hope I shall be forgiven!

  9. April 18, 2008 1:42 am

    You forgot to mention self-sacrifice.

  10. parallelsidewalk permalink
    April 18, 2008 2:54 am

    How can anyone ever invent or innovate anything technological if empiricism is the same as blind belief? Come to that, why can’t I, through sheer power of belief, fly, if my belief is just as good as empirical evidence? How did we send men to the moon if the scientific method is exactly the same as the religious dogmas that prevailed for millennia?

    If you want to argue follow a ridiculously simplistic and willfully blind version of religion, nobody can stop you, but when you take such arguments into the public sphere it shows that you’re quite out of your depth.

  11. April 18, 2008 4:49 am

    Thanks for writing this post. You’ve just convinced everyone who can think for themselves of your simplicity and stupidity. Generalizing people to the extreme, what a pityful list of “arguments”. Why shouldn’t you be able to prove that the earth revolves around the sun? Maybe not everybody can prove it, but that doesn’t make it less true. You cannot prove that the water coming from the tap is not poisonous and yet you have faith and drink it.

  12. a. nonimos permalink
    April 18, 2008 7:11 am

    False.

    Try again.

  13. April 18, 2008 7:18 am

    What a response. It seems like some responders want to make me saying more than what I said.

    parallelsidewalk,

    I am not arguing that Modern Science is right or wrong per se. My only point is how similar it is at many points with religion, particularly among the general public.

    The Lodge Keeper,

    I am not arguing whether or not the earth revolves around the sun. Nor am I saying that it is more or less true simply because most people accept it by faith. My only point is that most people do accept several tenants of Modern Science by faith, and that that is fine with and even at times encouraged by Modern Science, which itself has very many similarities with religion, and on several of the points for which Modern Science criticizes religion.

  14. April 18, 2008 7:43 am

    Let’s take a quick look at how science is different from religion.

    1) Reproducible results;

    With science, anyone at any time can go though the training and become a scientist and check the results of any scientific “proclamation”.

    With religion, you have to accept the results on faith, with no recourse to prove or disprove the validity of any religious proclamation. For as god said, “Without faith, I am nothing.”

    2) Self-Sacrifice;

    Science does not have a core tenet of sacrificing your self to a higher authority. You have to take facts into account, not edicts. This is why the global warming fiasco is falling apart.
    No matter how many appeals to authority Al Gore makes, his data is wrong and there is no “consensus” on the validity of anthropocentric global warming.

    Religion does have a core tenet of self-sacrifice. In every religion I can think of there are teachings to submit to the will of god, or at least to the self proclaimed mouthpiece of god.

    3) Values;

    Science does not impose a strong set of morals or value hierarchy on an individual. Simply, true over false. There is no call for world domination or teachings that geologists are better than aerospace engineers. Science is a framework for discovering facts about the world.

    Religion does impose a strict code of values and conduct in individuals. Off the top of my head, No eating meat on Friday, No homosexuals, Love your enemies, Spread our faith by the sword, Death to infidels.

    On the other hand, if you were to confuse pseudo-science, such as the anti-man venom spewed by Al Gore and his ilk, with real science, you could easily draw strong similarities. An infallible leader, a strict dogmatic creed that allows no dissention and threats of hellfire and brimstone for non-believers.

  15. April 18, 2008 7:55 am

    Science does not “attack” religion.

    Strictly speaking, science has no interest in religion – when we set out to find the “why” of something, what religion has to say about it really has nothing to do with it.

    Does religion get damaged by science? Sure – but that’s YOUR fault for believing nonsense.

    Yes, I see your point: stupid people believe things they have been taught by scientists just as readily as they believe things they are taught by religious leaders. That doesn’t make science like religion: it simply shows that stupid people “believe” rather than investigate and learn.

  16. Catana permalink
    April 18, 2008 9:36 am

    It took only your title and the first sentence to tell me that you know absolutely nothing about science.

  17. April 18, 2008 10:20 am

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum. Radicals4Reason you wrote,

    “With religion, you have to accept the results on faith, with no recourse to prove or disprove the validity of any religious proclamation. For as god said, “Without faith, I am nothing.”

    This is not a global truth with respect to religion. What I think you are describing is the Western model with respect to religion. Which I think most scientific people assume is the only way to approach religion. Further more most scientific people against religion are either coming from a Western background or education.

    There is a tendency to forget that many of the fundamental elements of modern science came from very religious and pious people, some would say saints, of Islam.

    The Islamic model, found in the branch of Islamic Science called tasawwuf, leads a persons faith and reason in a different direction than what most assume. In Islam the concentration is on Experience.

    Faith cannot truly exist with no Experience. It will essentially be an empty thing, now what that experience is and faith begins with these experiences is something that is a old and highly precise knowledge that is essential but in today’s environment almost entirely forgotten.

    I could go on but… this is enough for me.

    -Saifuddin

  18. April 18, 2008 10:47 am

    another mistake… I think faster than I type…

    the following…

    “now what that experience is and faith begins”

    Should read…

    “now what that experience is and where faith begins”

    Ryan Martin if you would be so kind as to moderate my comment once again. I would be grateful. If not its ok… as you like.

    -Saifuddin

  19. Joel permalink
    April 18, 2008 11:01 am

    Saifuddin, please, do go on! Imaging that, a Roman Catholic rooting on a Muslim.

    Catana, it is not that Ryan knows nothing about science, he may know a great deal about it. He may even have a doctorate degree. He is simply saying that much of what passes for science today has nothing to do with science and has everything to do with accepting on faith what others put out regardless of what they are trying to say or do and without individually verifying the facts. In some cases people call pure speculation “science.”

  20. Michael Searcy permalink
    April 18, 2008 2:58 pm

    Faith is the acceptance of a premise without evidence. Science is the antithesis of faith.

  21. April 18, 2008 3:56 pm

    I have previously blogged the science that all humans must believe. Faith is inherent in the human mind/brain. The issue of science and religion is not some antithetical notions but the issue of honesty in belief and the barriers beyond which each cannot pass. For both the aim is similar – to facilitate the development of the human being to a higher nature. Religion’s role in this is to ensure that the higher nature is called to mind on a routine basis to moderate the ego, to improve human relationships, to increase our susceptibility to higher intelligences. We are still babies in this field of endeavour. Science is an set of approaches which ensure that we are not drifting into realms of superstition but that propositions can be tested. Because of their specialist knowledge, the expert in science does stand in a precarious spiritual position, as does a leader of religion. To the extent that either lead their flock / students into conflict with other humans, and by representing their egos for domination in lieu of investigation of truth, they are truly damned and truly damn society.

  22. April 18, 2008 4:26 pm

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    Well said Owen59.

    -Saifuddin

  23. April 18, 2008 4:47 pm

    Faith may be inherent in YOUR mind, but it never was in mine.

  24. April 18, 2008 11:24 pm

    I suspect there might be a little bit of truth in your comparison of science to religion, Ryan. It does seem that some people who are not scientists themselves do take the word of scientists on faith in some matters.

    Yet, I’ve noticed many of the people who do that pretty much pick and choose which facts and theories they are willing to faithfully accept. So, I think the set of people who swallow everything they hear scientists say is actually comparatively small. In short, I think your comparison of science and religion would be more accurate if it were more specific and less sweeping.

  25. analyticphilosopher4commonsense permalink
    April 19, 2008 2:10 am

    I think that, despite I would rather have “faith in science” than “faith in religion”, I think that defense of science from gullible morons like the objectivist just doesn’t makes any sense… way to throw a totally unrelated topic in there, radicals4reason… I think your attitude just doesn’t fit in a scientific weltanschauung.

    Global warming deniers = Fundies

    dixit

  26. parallelsidewalk permalink
    April 19, 2008 10:33 am

    Some people appeal to authority on science. A big difference being, whenever I’ve asked a science teacher why X occurs, they have explained it to me, they haven’t said “That’s just how it is cos it’s in the book, k?” Working your way towards a conclusion is not the same as working back from one.

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