5. Science is No Substitute for Religion

This proposition is a little clearer if it is reworded as “science can be elevated to the position of a god, and it’s a bad one at that”. The Christian talks of the profundity some scientists find in the universe and of scientific discoveries. Scientists do use words like “praise”, and the Christian makes a big deal out of that. In order to make the point more clear, the Christian also point out the more unbelievable and farfetched hypotheses of science, like Sagan’s want for extra-terrestrials. The atheist (and I am persistently harsh on the atheist in this book, perhaps just because of the calibre of the atheist bloggers I follow) fails to get under why this matters, or whether it even does.

In the atheist’s defence, he does point out that religion is built on faith where science is built on doubt, confidence intervals and evidence. This is, obviously, a clear distinction. Evidence versus faith. Doubt versus confidence. A method that has its own immune system to cut out bad claims based on evidence and reason versus claims that crumple and mould and shape around new evidence to never be beaten. I don’t think anyone is confused about which discipline—science or religion—I’m talking about in each horn there.

But there is a language question here. I love science; it is an amazingly elegant and powerful tool. I have a great respect for the people who can do it, and an admiration for the capacity of understanding beyond our own intuitions. If I say praise, are people going to demand it’s a religion? What other word is there? I took literally 10 minutes to find the words I did use. Regardless of the truth of religion, our language is steeped in the culture. Praise is a word, and it’s not necessarily religious.

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2 thoughts on “5. Science is No Substitute for Religion”

  1. I have always found this quote by Eric Foltease useful in matters of Science V. Religion:

    “The reason science will always be superior to religion is the built in mechanisms for self correction: thesis + anti-thesis = hypothesis. Ideas and theories can be tested and changed as new information comes to light. Try that with Dogma, if you don’t mind the threat of excommunication, ostracism, ridicule, abuse, bigotry, seizure of property, prejudice, and if you’re really lucky, being burned alive at the stake.”

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