General Question

wundayatta's avatar

What understanding of science allows you to believe people can have "faith" in science?

Asked by wundayatta (58568points) May 18th, 2009

A lot of people compare science to religion. They seem to have a sense that scientists pursue their science with the fervor of someone with faith. I.e., that they will brook no opposition. Therefore they aren’t open-minded.

It’s very strange to me. Are they looking at the emotions surrounding science instead of the method, itself? Can anyone be more skeptical of science than a scientist? If science is built on skepticism, what does it mean to be skeptical about skepticism?

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88 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t understand why people would and should compare religion to science and I suppose people can have faith in science in a very BROAD way, in that they hope that what we know is really what we know – for example, that the way we build our bridges makes sense because otherwise we’d all fall off

CMaz's avatar

Faith and Science can work hand in hand. If you don’t let voodoo and the absolute of a faith that was biased on thousand year old fundamentals get in your way. Example: Evolution and creationism. Both can work together if you get it out of your head that God created the earth 6 thousand years ago. I mean could anyone comprehend what 6 thousand years meant 6 thousand years ago?

cwilbur's avatar

I think the way that you arrive at the thing you have faith in differs—experiment and hypothesis versus intuition and revelation—but I don’t think that, practically speaking, the actual faith differs.

Both science and religion have a lot of axioms that are unprovable. The scientific method assumes, for instance, that doing the same thing under the same conditions will produce the same result, and if it does not, there is something different about the process or the conditions. But this is only provable in the sense that the existence of God is provable: there’s an awful lot of evidence on both sides, but there’s no clear, objective proof that it must be so.

There are a lot of purely dogmatic approaches to religion. “God said so,” or “the preacher said so,” or “the Bible said so,” (often, “someone told me the Bible said so”). There can be similarly dogmatic people in science, but they tend to not get very far as scientists and researchers, because the scientific method is all about asking why, and “someone said so” is not a valid scientific reason for anything.

But religion is not necessarily about brooking no opposition—that’s either a sign of a very narrowly constructed view of religion or a sign that religion is being used for political or temporal power. A spiritual journey—the sort of thing that results in growth—necessarily involves a lot of “why do I think this?” “Is this true, or do I just believe it because someone else said so?” There’s a place for skepticism in religion too, and it all starts with understanding the standards of proof that you’re using.

kevbo's avatar

Admittedly I’ve not much of an affinity for science, but I’ve come to see quite clearly that politics dictates the size and rules of the sandbox occupied by science and that manipulation of that sandbox often keeps “liberating truths” largely out of the public sphere. If that weren’t true, we’d probably have abundant “free energy,” fuel our cars with water, and have abundant access to foods that are high in nutrition instead of nutrition deficient.

I clash frequently with science-oriented minds on this site and most of it on my end does boil down to my perception of their lack of open-mindedness.

They regard science as a vanguard of great discoveries. I tend to see its application as an obfuscator of wisdom and truth. They see the infinite potential in grains of sand. I see the sandbox.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@kevbo I agree, both science and religion are politicized and shoudln’t be

Jeruba's avatar

As a layperson, I have faith in science in the sense that I am taking someone else’s word for things that are presented as facts—empirically observed and scientifically validated hypotheses. I am not doing the observing and rigorous testing myself (although in school they tried hard to teach me how). But I trust the community of scientists who certify our knowledge to the extent that knowledge can be certified. I understand that the very nature of the scientific method means that what we think of as “facts” can be changed when more evidence is adduced.

One of the attractions of religion and superstition to those who believe in them is that they are not troubled by facts and therefore they do not have to change when new information comes along. Some require that kind of comfort. If you want something unchanging, you have to look to something not real rather than to something constantly subject to scrutiny and new discovery.

Both science and religion are human endeavors and suffer the limitations of the human mind and understanding. Science is open about that.

I have also known personally people who were both scientists and religious believers. Honestly, I don’t know how they did it. My grandfather was one, a distinguished chemist and a man of deep, genuine Christian faith. It is too late for me to ask him how that worked, but I respect that it did.

But I do think this supposition is wrong:

> a sense that scientists pursue their science with the fervor of someone with faith. I.e., that they will brook no opposition

I think there is a certain breed of religionists who brook no opposition, and I think that is not in their creed but in themselves. We find individuals of the same stripe who brook no opposition in politics, in business, in education, in the arts, and even in the scientific disciplines. This is not a fair characterization of religion. Within the field of theology there is room for open inquiry, challenge, and debate. Again, I don’t understand how they do it, but they do it, sincerely and with as open a mind as human beings are capable of having. I do believe that they separate their belief in God from what they think it is possible to “know” about God—and my quotes are not meant to insult them but only to reflect my own skepticism and atheism because I do not think it is possible to know much about a being that does not exist. I put the lore into the same class with what we “know” about elves and unicorns.

We also see many who are inveterate true believers. That is in their nature. Those folks will be true believers even if they change from one belief system to another, from Baptist to Catholic to cult sect to atheist—true believers all the way. If they brooked no opposition at every step, they would not constantly shop for the next great truth, but they do.

In short, I think the generalizations are faulty and do not take into account the great range of human behavior when it comes to belief and faith.

wundayatta's avatar

@kevbo Could you say more about how the application of science is an obfuscator of wisdom and truth? It would be helpful if you could say a little about what wisdom and truth are for you.

I think what you say is interesting and helpful in understanding this perception of science, but it only hints, and I’d love to hear it filled out.

@Jeruba Which generalizations are you saying are faulty?

Jeruba's avatar

It is necessary to distinguish between science and technology. @kevbo, aren’t you really talking about technology?

@daloon, those that characterize scientists as skeptical and religious believers as intolerant of opposition. I think we find the full range of open- and closed-mindedness in both camps. I would take care not to confuse the principles of science with the actual behavior of scientific practitioners. They are just as human as people who have faith in religion, and scientific believers can be as dogmatic as the most fervent religious crusaders. Believers of every kind fall short of the ideals of their core truths.

kevbo's avatar

Example: USDA regulations that govern food production and distribution are based on scientific best practices that have been studied and field tested at America’s finest agricultural universities. The result is that factory farming is ubiquitous, cows (which do not eat corn naturally) are finished with corn and antibiotics (to help them cope with the damage done to their digestive system, and chicken manure, because scientists determined it was high in protein has been a regular feature of cattle feed. In addition, we get the pleasure of waste lagoons, which leach into water supplies and present esteemed scientists with another problem to solve.

Conversely, a local/sustainable small farmer in Virginia who’s farming practices are based on the innate expression of each animal (pasturing cows, allowing chickens to feed on the maggots growing in the pastured cow dung, as well as employing pigs to turn up manure in their delighted pursuit of hidden, fermented corn) is hamstrung by food processing “best practices” that prohibit him from slaughtering and selling beef on-site or at a local butcher/game shop. Because science-based “best practices” require extra processing for cows that are older than 30 months (in order to reduce risk for mad cow disease) processing fees double for this farmer despite the fact that these cows have never dined on cow brains, which science has determined is the primary cause for mad cow disease. So the consumer gets easy access to a corn, chicken manure, and antibiotics fed cow and is denied access to a healthy and properly pastured cow thanks to the application of science.

Why is this so? Because politics makes bedfellows of agribusiness, the USDA, and universities.

Ivan's avatar

The phrase “faith in science” is probably the most illogical set of three words you could possibly come up with.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@kevbo perhaps, a distinctin should be made between science the process and science the institution

spresto's avatar

@Ivan You don’t have faith that science will reveal a truth. You can’t honestly say it is a fact. You don’t know if it will or not.

spresto's avatar

@Ivan You can’t prove that the universe is infinite, but you believe it is. Why? faith.

Ivan's avatar

@spresto

The only reason we use science is because it does reveal truths. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t use it. We don’t know that we are going to accomplish anything when we use science, but history has shown that it’s our best bet. It’s not about knowing, it’s about acknowledging history.

“You can’t prove that the universe is infinite, but you believe it is. Why? faith.”

You can’t prove anything. Instead, we can come to logical conclusions that are consistent with known evidence. These conclusions aren’t to be “believed.” “Belief” is not necessary in science. “Faith” and “belief” are things you have when you don’t have evidence. Science is based on evidence, and thus faith and belief are not necessary. On the contrary, faith and belief are diametrically opposed to everything science is and stands for.

kevbo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, I suppose we could do that. If that were the case, then my argument would shift what I perceive as the prevalence of myopia among science-minded folks regarding how science is used and controlled. That myopia (along with many, many other factors, including threatening coercion of “progressive” scientists) supports and contributes to the continued obfuscation.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@kevbo I come from a research background and am very into science and I agree with you

spresto's avatar

@Ivan I guess that depends on what is your definition of faith.

kevbo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, thanks, I appreciate that. What’s funny is that one can probably make the argument that we could regard the food system example as a macro-experiment that will lead us to a new hypothesis if and when civilization collapses ;-).

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@kevbo I’ll see you there, :) I’d want to be surrounded by intelligent people

wundayatta's avatar

@Ivan I’m not asking you to defend science. I’m asking you to put yourself in the mindframe of a person who thinks that science is something one can have faith in or believe in. As far as I’m concerned, science needs no defense. However, as a scientist, I am concerned with understanding people who don’t “believe” in science. I want to know where that comes from.

I think it is more than not having been taught science in school. I think there is something emotional about “faith” that makes people feel that others have faith, even when those people think faith has nothing to do with it. Understanding that you need evidence to support a theory, and that everything is provisional in science is something very difficult for a lot of people to do. They seem to think that a scientific proof means that something is objectively true.

I think people mistake the truth part of this as an issue of faith. Because, if you come from a religious background, then truth is a matter of faith. So, by analogy, that’s what scientists must mean when they speak of truth. I suspect that, to some degree, some so-called scientists make the same mistake.

But for science, there really is no absolute truth. There are only theories that explain well, and theories that don’t do a very good job of explanation. Faith is not required. The opposite, in fact. Skepticism is required. Every explanation must be questioned, early and often. Every theory is always open to question. There is always an alternate explanation, and sometimes they outdo earlier, well-accepted explanations.

Anyway, that’s my theory. As always, I could be wrong.

Ivan's avatar

@daloon

I agree. Many religious people are taught that faith is vital and necessary; they are taught that it is something to strive for. They are also taught that there are things that are objectively and undeniably true. They are taught that things are either true or false and that the things that are true are “proven” to be true. The language of science, which is based on skepticism, questioning, qualifications, hesitation, etc is often difficult for some to understand.

dalepetrie's avatar

To get back to what I perceive as the original intent of the question (though much of the tangential information here is certainly interesting, important, informative and valuable to this discussion as a whole), as I understand it, @daloon is wondering what a person’s perception of science would have to be in order for them to equate science with faith, and I’m not sure that was addressed all that well yet, the great responses that have been given notwithstanding. Essentially, as it relates to a couple of tangential issues that come up, yes, I believe it is not only possible but probably for people to have faith in religion and accept scientific fact…I think in fact most people of faith do not confuse the pursuit of science with the pursuit of spirituality, but consider them to be separate things which at times may produce different answers to the same questions. It is that inherent conflict where both areas of though seek to answer the same questions, but arrive at different results where one might begin to confuse science with faith. In the vast majority of cases, a person of faith wholehearted accepts the vast majority of what science has discovered and reached concensus on as fact. It is only when science says something antithetical to one’s beliefs where the two tend to be in direct competition with each other.

People in order to resolve the conflict in their own minds must evaluate what each field tells them, and to do so, they must make it an apples to apples comparison, ergo, the only way to really argue science vs. religion on a particular topic is to put them both on the same playing field, which to a person of faith is probably a faith based playing field. It comes down to what does religion “believe” and what does science “believe”. And when scientific discover precludes the faith based answer, it is hard for a person of faith to accept the rejection of that which they hold dear, and it is a natural outcropping of the power of faith that causes the faithful to view the exclusionary nature of science as a closed minded rejection of principle. That is one area where the two do not necessarily meet.

Now as for how a person who puts more stock into science might consider himself/herself to have “faith” in science, I believe @Simone_De_Beauvoir answered that one perfectly. Again, in the normal course of things, the person who “believes” in the power of science to answer the questions surrounding our natural world might be said to have faith in science inasmuch as they are not the ones actually making the observations or conducting the experiments, yet if we learn that science has come to a consensus opinion about something, we tend to have faith that science has “gotten it right”. And when these things which science proves come in conflict with things believed by those of faith, it might be with almost a religious fervor that those with “faith” in science will defend the observed, hypothesized and demonstrated, over that which is assumed via nothing but blind faith. In short, both faith and science deal in a form of absolute certitude….faith is not objective, yet it insists with moral certitude on its assumptions about the world around it. Science derives its certitude from observation, experimentation and data collection and interpretation. So, again, when the two square off to debate an issue, both sides defend their positions from a stand of being absolutely correct with no possibility of having gotten it wrong. Logic seems to me to dictate that science, being based on repeated observations of the same thing simply holds more gravitas (to me) than does something which is taken as a matter of course because you simply believe it to be so.

The only real delineation I think I can make above and beyond this is that as I said, most of us live in a world where science and faith co-exist. Those with a scientific mindset might point out that when science and faith have squared off, historically, science has won out, and faith has assimilated to the new understanding of the world. But there are those who have not assimilated their faith to be accepting of scientific discovery at all. These are religious fundamentalists…i.e. those who believe that the bible was written by God and is completely infallible and therefore must be defended as a literal interpretation of God’s will, and therefore it is unimportant if “science” has “discovered” something that was in conflict with the bible, and became accepted as fact over time even by the faithful, if it conflicts with the bible, then it is wrong.

To defend this, a number of intellectual contrivances must be performed to undermine science. If one accepts that science is the answer to the natural world, then it is impossible to poke holes in it’s credibility, but if one assumes that science is a tool used by God (or Satan) to deceive man, then one can arrive at the conclusion that if scientists are observing x repeatedly, it doesn’t mean x is fact, only that a) they haven’t come to a situation where y would be true yet or b) God wants them to think it is x…something along those lines. Take the debate over the age of the Earth and the Universe. It is accepted by scientists and most people, both faithful and unfaithful (but not by fundamentalists) that the universe is 13 to 14 billion years old and that the Earth is about 4 1/2 billion years old….we know that the dinosaurs died off 65 million years ago and what we would recognize as man appeared 200,000 years ago. But if your bible tells you that 6,000 years ago, God created everything, then that is inconsistent with the consensus reached over centuries of study of the natural world.

But as blind faith relies on a steadfast devotion to your way of thinking, and therefore one must “defend” against science. To do so you have to wholeheartedly reject science as just another system of faith, because after all you have to have faith that what you are observing is not a contrivance of God or Satan. If one believes that God holds power over all the laws of nature, it is equally plausible that all which has been observed by man is a ruse. There could be inherent flaws in radio carbon dating. The dinosaur bones could be planted by God as a source of future fuel for his children.

In summary, I say to really regard science as a faith, just like religion is something that only really occurs when the two are in conflict. Faith is a self supporting ideal in that to have faith, your faith must be absolute, and therefore faith is not something to be questioned, but to be accepted. The problem comes in to play in that we have some very universal things mankind seeks to know….where did we come from, why are we here and what happens to us when we die. Each of these involves numerous sub questions, and the relationship between science and religion is that ultimately, both seek to answer the main questions and the sub questions…thought the approach is often opposite. Religion answers the main questions with a sweeping assumption which leads to the answers to the smaller questions. Science breaks the big questions down first into all the smaller subquestions and seeks to fully answer each subquestion in hopes that it will some day lead us to the answers for the big questions. It is when these smaller questions (like when did dinosaurs go extinct and when did man arrive on earth…which is really a subquestion of “how did we get here”), that the conflict arises and science and religion square off, which is what gives people the idea that the two are both systems of faith, as they both boil down to “what do you believe”...the misunderstanding comes in with the question of “why” do you believe what you believe. If we don’t ask why, we are bound to miss the nuance and equate them as they are both seeking the same answers after all.

wundayatta's avatar

@dalepetrie I find your discussion very interesting, however, I am wondering if you could give examples of questions where science and faith come up with incompatible answers, other than for fundamentalist religions. For I see other people, besides fundamentalists, who consider it to be possible to have faith in science.

I think that it is also possible that the appearance of incompatibility could cause this dislocation in many cases. I.e., people believe that science is something different from what it is, and thus they think faith and science conflict.

Anyway, I’m wondering what you think about my hypothesis that there is something psychological going on here. Perhaps a sense of fairness; an unwillingness to dis their culture (of whatever religion they come from), or just this sense that if there are two poles to a discussion, the best place to be is halfway between them. That way, if it looks like one ship is going to sink, you can quickly jump onto the other.

cwilbur's avatar

@Kevbo: but when you talk about the stupidity that is USDA regulations, you’re not talking about science, you’re talking about government.

The university schools of agriculture determine that the most short-term cost-effective way to raise cattle is to feed them corn, antibiotics, and chicken droppings. This, in itself, is a neutral fact: its truth value can be tested objectively. Science is, at its heart, the search for the variables in “If I do X, Y happens, because Z.” If you feed corn to cows, they taste better, because it’s nutritionally richer than grass. If you feed corn to cows, they develop infections, because their digestive system is not suited to digesting corn. If you feed antibiotics to cows with the corn, they do not develop infections despite being fed corn, because the antibiotics prevent it.

It’s not reasonable to blame science for the depredations and crony capitalism of agribusiness. Agribusiness is about expedience, not science.

kevbo's avatar

@cwilbur, if you read my first statement- politics dictates the size and rules of the sandbox occupied by science. Moreover, the stupidity that is USDA regulations are wholly justified by science.

What, then, are examples of science that are separate from politics and government? What science does not obfuscate wisdom and truth?

RedPowerLady's avatar

I am one of those skeptics.
I took several classes in college designated to statistics and the scientific method.
And when you take these classes you learn about the all the intrinsic vulnerabilities in science.
Not only that but I have learned quite a bit about the bias involved in publishing scientific articles. And the bias that exists in the scientific community which essentially pushes some findings out.

People who do not recognize those facts urk me. And I’m sure I urk others by being so skeptical of what many consider to be so undeniably true. I think that people who follow science without recognizing those facts, that science is open to bias and is not pure truth, do follow it on faith.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@kevbo GA and very well articulated!

RedPowerLady's avatar

@daloon Understanding that you need evidence to support a theory, and that everything is provisional in science is something very difficult for a lot of people to do. They seem to think that a scientific proof means that something is objectively true.

I think people mistake the truth part of this as an issue of faith. Because, if you come from a religious background, then truth is a matter of faith. So, by analogy, that’s what scientists must mean when they speak of truth. I suspect that, to some degree, some so-called scientists make the same mistake.

I found this very interesting.

cwilbur's avatar

@kevbo: Newtonian kinematics. The theory of relativity. The germ theory of disease. The discovery of DNA and how genes work.

Of course, if your very premise is that science is that which obfuscates wisdom and truth, then none of these can be science.

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

“Science” is not some sort of institution. It is not a room full of guys in lab coats deciding what is true and what is not. Science is not an organization or a governing body or any sort of body at all. Science is a process; it’s a method. It’s something we use to develop explanations. “Science” is not a proper noun; you can’t “accept” science, you can’t have “faith” in science, you can’t be “skeptical” of science, science cannot be “biased.”

That’s like saying you’re skeptical of gardening or that people have faith in gardening. Science is not an object, science is something that you do. Science is an action, it’s something you take part in. How can you have faith in a process? The notion is literally nonsense.

Science was designed to develop viable explanations. These explanations, by definition, are supported by the known evidence. That is, they are the direct result of evidence; their very existence is due to our acquisition of evidence. Also, scientific theories are practical. That is, they make predictions and are put to use. For instance, if such-and-such theory is true, we should expect to find this, etc. If this theory is true, then when we do this, that should happen, etc. If a theory is false, it will be demonstrated as such. To say that we have faith in scientific conclusions is ludicrous; the very reason science exists is so that we can find explanations that do not require faith. If it requires faith, it is no longer science. By its very definition, science has nothing to do with faith.

Yes, scientists themselves are biased and make mistakes. But the scientific process corrects for this. A scientist cannot simply assert an idea as true. The idea must pass through peer review, experimentation, and replication. Unless there is some sort of massive conspiracy, the scientific method will seek out the correct answer.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Ivan I think we’ve already agreed to disagree.

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

No, we haven’t. I advocate discussion.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Ivan Haven’t we already had this argument, ehm… discussion.

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady Not to my knowledge.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Daloon – a bit pressed for time at this second so I’ll be happy to get back to you with more if this doesn’t cut it, but if you look at the first part of my comment, you’ll see that I’m saying it’s NOT just a matter of fundamentalism vs. science, but in fact any time religion and science conflict where we see that disconnect. It wasn’t as if you had to be a fundamentalist for example to be a member of the Catholic church in the 16th & 17th Centuries when Galileo proved that the Earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around, but was forced to recant. I do think that in the modern world, we have far fewer “breakthroughs” on these questions, and in most cases it IS fundamentalists who would see science as a faith rather than a study, if for no other reason than their way of thinking is steadfast, concrete, so that they are perhaps not even comfortable with the idea of uncertainty. But as for non fundamentalists, look no further than the debate about where life begins, aka – abortion. Science pretty much tells us that viability is the important concept, when an embryo becomes a fetus at 20 weeks, but religion (and often times emotion regardless of religion) tells us at conception. In a case like this, science is unwilling to accept the basic precepts of things like a “soul” and that can be viewed by some as a closed minded matter of faith. In my experience, it has been those of strong faith and conviction who have ideas which conflict with scientific discovery who are the most likely to make accusations about religion being a closed off faith.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Ivan Well it must have been another flutherite then. Sigh.

Essentially it is important to note that the scientific method itself is open to bias. So although it is healthy for research it is not an ultimate truth.

@daloon ‘s answer above is very well spoken I believe and a good middle ground:
So, by analogy, that’s what scientists must mean when they speak of truth. I suspect that, to some degree, some so-called scientists make the same mistake.

But for science, there really is no absolute truth. There are only theories that explain well, and theories that don’t do a very good job of explanation. Faith is not required. The opposite, in fact. Skepticism is required. Every explanation must be questioned, early and often. Every theory is always open to question. There is always an alternate explanation, and sometimes they outdo earlier, well-accepted explanations.

Blondesjon's avatar

You really only need to have faith in yourself. Any decision you make after that in regards to science, religion, or anything else in your life, is right.

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

Of course it is not the ultimate truth, no scientist in their right mind would ever say such a thing. The very nature of science is the realization that there is no ultimate truth, a notion that is captured well by daloon’s comment.

My point is this: Understanding the basis for scientific conclusions is not the same as accepting them with blind faith as if they were ultimate truths.

wundayatta's avatar

My thought on bias is that it is people who are biased. The world is not. It works as it works. People can have a vested interest in saying the world works one way, when, in fact, it works in another way. So they use all the power at their command (politics) to maintain a position of power. They discourage questioning of their explanation. They stomp out young researchers who come up with results that put the old scientist’s in doubt. And young researchers learn to mistrust their own data and results, because is goes against the current canon.

But, as Ivan (I think) said, eventually, the method cuts through the morass of human motivations and biases. This is because, underneath it all, the world keeps on working as it works, whether or not scientists or anyone else says it works in some other way.

If bias is seen as faith—I think that makes more sense than to say science is a matter of faith. People can believe in incorrect results. They can be convinced they are correct when they are not. This is a human thing, but it is not the fault of science if scientists practice bad science.

I think that people can use science in, shall we say, corrupt ways. Scientists know that most people are not educated, and don’t understand science, and so they have to take scientific results on faith, if they are unprepared to investigate the results personally.

I think it is usually reasonable to assume that scientists are generally honest, but it is always reasonable to remain skeptical. However, honest skepticism requires action to follow the words. You must investigate if you are skeptical. To raise doubts without doing anything other than raising doubts, in my mind, is dishonest and irresponsible.

The scientific method, as any scientist should tell you, will not provide ultimate truth for us. It is always possible that there is a better explanation for the facts. Science is not really concerned with ultimate truth. That is more the concern of religious folk. A scientist might say there is no such thing, although I doubt it. A scientist would most likely remain agnostic about the issue, or say they have never seen any evidence to support the notion of ultimate truth. Well, first they’d engage you in a definition of terms.

Any proposition or theory that is untestable, requires faith to support it. Scientist, if they are honest, do not propose untestable propositions. If they do have a theory that is untestable, they say so, and call it a speculative theory. They hope that some day there will be a way to test it.

It requires no faith, because we all remain agnostic until there is evidence to support the proposition, or we see there is no evidence, so far, to support the proposition. If a scientist is not a skeptic; then they aren’t really a scientist, at best, and, at worst, they are a politician.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Ivan Understanding the basis for scientific conclusions is not the same as accepting them with blind faith as if they were ultimate truths.

I can agree with that. But all to many times have I been in a discussion with someone who uses science as their weapon of knowledge. I use the word weapon poignantly. I also personally believe that science does not always trump other forms of knowledge. Perhaps that is where most people see fault in my reasoning, lol.

@daloon I really enjoy your logic on this. And I find it amazingly insightful.

In line with this question I do see a point where science is limited. And that is that science does not allow for certain phenomenon to be tested. An example would be that it can not test for many spiritual or cultural beliefs. Ghosts for example. Researchers have come up quite short when trying to test for ghosts. Perhaps that is a crappy example. Another one would be the power of prayer. And I think that is where religion and science butt heads often enough. (don’t get me wrong I am not a religious vs. science person). I am more of a cultural advocate and have seen people use science in wrong ways to trample culture. But I have also seen science just not be able to test for certain cultural beliefs and thus these beliefs are often disregarded as superstition by the larger community. I believe that cultural knowledge can be just as powerful as scientific knowledge but that is a whole different bucket of worms, lol.

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

“I also personally believe that science does not always trump other forms of knowledge. Perhaps that is where most people see fault in my reasoning”

Not perhaps, definitely. I think what you really mean here is that knowledge gained from the physical world is somehow inferior to knowledge gained via metaphysical means.

No offense really but when I read your comments I cringe at just about every other word. When I read things like…

“science as their weapon”
“other forms of knowledge”
“science is limited”
“trying to test for ghosts”
“use science in wrong ways”

…it leads me to believe that your perception of what science actually is at a fundamental level has been skewed somewhere along the line. We can disagree about physical vs. metaphysical evidence and the like, but please don’t mischaracterize science.

I think it’s also worth noting that daloon and I are essentially saying the exact same things, and he (she?) hasn’t said anything as of yet that I’ve disagreed with. I get the impression that I am just not articulating my ideas well enough.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Ivan
I get the impression that I am just not articulating my ideas well enough.

Perhaps not. And perhaps that is likewise. If you do not believe science can be used as a weapon then I do not know that we are on a level playing ground.

Now do not through the testing for ghosts thing in my face. As I said that may be a sh*tty example.

I think what you really mean here is that knowledge gained from the physical world is somehow inferior to knowledge gained via metaphysical means.

There are two misconceptions here.
In an attempt to clarify.

1. I would not say inferior. I would say equal.
2. However I am not only referring to physical vs. metaphysical. Some traditions have been used and effective for thousands, hundreds of thousands, of years but are still contrary to popular science. I believe these traditions, experienced physically, and the knowledge gained from them are equal to that of the findings of science. Example being oral tradition.

I also am curious to know what bugs you about the term “other forms of knowledge”?

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

Are you talking about alternative medicines and the like? Listen, if you believe there are explanations derived from other means, then put them through the scientific method to see if they are legitimate. Simply saying “this has worked for thousands of years” is not the same as saying “independent and repeated analysis shows that this is in fact a viable solution.”

“Other forms of knowledge” bugs me because I don’t see a realistic “other form” of knowledge. What other form of knowledge could their be other than empiricism? Divine revelation? Spiritual enlightenment? Anything derived from these would need to be verified via the scientific method anyways. You can’t get around it; if something is true, the scientific method will verify it. If the scientific method hasn’t verified it, we have no reason to believe that it is true.

DarkScribe's avatar

I have no faith in anything that I cannot fully understand the logic of or the potential for. Science is no more deserving of faith than Benny Hinn.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Ivan Again the scientific method is biased and does not always hold up and should not be regarded as the ultimate truth. Since we agree that science is not the ultimate truth why does something have to undergo the scientific method to be held as valid??

Simply saying “this has worked for thousands of years” is not the same as saying “independent and repeated analysis shows that this is in fact a viable solution.”

I agree. But I believe they are both equally valid.

if something is true, the scientific method will verify it. If the scientific method hasn’t verified it, we have no reason to believe that it is true.

I simply disagree. Science cannot prove everything to be true. In fact many times science has been “wrong” and later proven so. So what is stopping us from believing that science is “wrong” this time? Especially if years of non-scientific evidence have backed it up. Don’t get me wrong, I believe science is a valid method for determing what is true but it is not infalliable (i can’t seem to figure out how to spell that…). And science does not have the means for testing everything. Such as spiritual phenomenon. Before we had adequate equipment we couldn’t see the atom. Science is limited.

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

“scientific method is biased”

The method itself is biased? How? (???)

“should not be regarded as the ultimate truth”

No one’s saying that. There’s a difference between a verifiable conclusion and absolute truth.

“Since we agree that science is not the ultimate truth why does something have to undergo the scientific method to be held as valid??”

This question does not logically follow. Science is the only reputable method we have for verifying something as valid. Saying that something is ‘valid’ is not the same as saying that it is ‘proven.’

“I believe they are both equally valid.”

They aren’t.

“So what is stopping us from believing that science is “wrong” this time? ”

O.o

The fact that science is self-correcting and finds its own mistakes is the very reason we use science. This is the reason why science works. You just unknowingly stumbled upon the reason why science is the only valid method for explaining the universe.

“Science is limited.”

Science is only limited by time. Science has the capability to explain everything.

Your argument appears to be this:
1) Science is not perfect.
2) Therefore, you should accept non-scientific explanations.

You must realize what an egregious jump in logic this is.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Ivan

How about this?
The scientific method is open to bias. Meaning that just because someone uses the scientific method it does not mean their results will not be biased.

Science is the only reputable method we have for verifying something as valid.
And here I disagree. But I suppose that is a disagreement for another time. Or at least it fits a bit outside of this discussion.

My argument is more this:
Because science is not perfect we should not discredit those beliefs that are not validated by science. They may be “not validated” because of inherent bias in the scientific community or because science does not yet have the capacity to test said belief.

For example: The world was always round. But for a long time the scientific community stated it was flat. This did not make the belief that the world was round any less valid. In fact that was the truth and science was wrong. But in the name of science this belief was persecuted and many were condemned for believing it.

Now I understand your argument is that science did eventually prove it right so therefore science did triumph. But that is beside my point. My point is that the belief the world was round was still valid even though there was no known science to back it up at the time.

What I am suggesting is that such a phenomenon could happen on another level. Lets use my crappy example from before. Ghosts. ((I know that word makes me cringe a bit as well.)) But lets say that right now science does not have the tools available to test the belief in ghosts. Say 20 years from now we create a tool that allows us to uncover certain energy fields and we discover that there is some kind of residual energy that people may pick up on or that may disrupt present energy and thus be a “ghost”. Just because we can’t prove that now does not make the truth they exist any less valid. It just shows the limitations of science. My point is that we should not assume entire belief systems are invalid because science has yet to back them up. Or even that some of what science has used to condem these belief systems will be later found out as ‘wrong’. Therefore we should keep our minds open to the possibility that these beliefs are valid just yet to be backed up by science. And in fact where science “fails” we may use other methods to back up our beliefs.

I believe we should keep this in mind and not condemn those beliefs not yet validated by science.

Critter38's avatar

I think the problem is that words like faith can be used as shifting goal posts and can thereby be employed to obfuscate rather than clarify.

I suggest that there is a relatively clear scale by which we judge the support for a given claim. It is precisely because humans are fallible that those claims which have withstood multiple, peer-reviewed, double blind, controlled replicated studies are more likely to be true (eg. more accurately represent reality), than those claims which failed to be substantiated using such methods. The scientific method is merely the process by which such testing has been refined to become such a powerful tool. It is the best system fallible humans have invented to reduce such fallibility. To pass such tests does not confer truth (we do not prove claims in science, but rather tentatively disprove claims), but it places the claim further along the scale of substantiation than those claims which have not been or cannot be tested using this method, and even more so, than those claims which have failed to be substantiated using this method.

So when someone claims that science is a faith, what they are doing is purposefully pushing the meaning of the word faith to the end of the spectrum where it is so encompassing a term as to obscure any distinction between that which is accepted based on scientific standards of evidence, and that which is accepted based on the fact that people accept it (eg. faith).

If someone wants to claim that I am a man of faith because I am a publishing scientist who thinks that the scientific method is the best we have for testing the truth of a claim, they are welcome to do so. But the word faith has ceased to have any relevance to what is often actually being discussed, because it is no long referring to the process by which we determine what is true or not, but to whether or not we have a worldview that relates to the type of evidence we accept. This is a argumentative slight of hand often used as a last ditch attempt to obscure the vagaries and unreliability of those beliefs that are believed because they are believed. So the word faith in fact now hinders honest discussion, rather than helping it.

If science is based on faith then so is all knowledge, as that which defines everything defines nothing. At this stage you may as well cease using the term.

mattbrowne's avatar

Science and faith can complement each other. But in many respects science cannot be compared to religion. Science is based on the scientific method.

Definition: Scientific method refers to bodies of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.

Science is not about faith. The important aspect about scientific theories (i.e. proven hypotheses) is that it’s capable of making predictions about the future. And we can verify this.

We can’t predict an afterlife. We can’t use telescopes to locate heaven. We can’t measure the average temperature of hell. We can’t prove or disprove the existence of God.

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

OK, thank you, that comment clarified a lot of things.

“it does not mean their results will not be biased.”

I agree, but the nature of the scientific method as a whole serves to eliminate bias through peer review and repetition. One particular scientist or one particular organization may produce a biased result, but that result will be exposed eventually. The results of one particular organization are never implemented or accepted.

“Because science is not perfect we should not discredit those beliefs that are not validated by science. They may be “not validated” because of inherent bias in the scientific community or because science does not yet have the capacity to test said belief.”

OK, but by what arbitrary standard then do you decide what to believe in? I don’t think that science’s limitations are a legitimate rationalization for believing in supernatural phenomena. To me, if there is positive evidence for something, I believe it. If there is no evidence, there is no reason to believe it. Yes, eventually, we may find evidence. If we do, I will believe it. But as for right now, there is no reason to. Yes, we should keep an open mind to all possibilities. But there is a difference between having an open mind towards something and believing in something.

If you want us to have an open mind towards ghosts (or whatever), fine, that’s perfectly acceptable. However, it is still not justified to believe in ghosts because, currently, there is no evidence for ghosts. Believing in something for which there is no evidence is never justified.

wundayatta's avatar

I have, I think, an insight onto what @RedPowerLady is saying. She is saying that people experience phenomena that science can not verify. This is true at the moment. Many people report feeling a lot of things, and since they are personal feelings, that may happen once, and only happen to one person, we have no way of knowing whether they exist or not, much less verifying or understanding them.

Science is working on ways to understand these phenomena. They are using fMRI to see what our brains do when we report having spiritual or religious experiences. This still does not get at why people say what they say, or interpret these experiences as they interpret them. Of course, social science has something to say about that.

When approaching scientific study of spirituality, scientists might ask, “What good does reporting such experiences do for people?” In this way, they might come up with evolutionary or political or social or psychological reasons to explain the behavior. For a person who “feels the spirit,” this will not be adequate, because it somehow makes an ineffable experience seem so pedestrian, and those experiences feel anything but pedestrian.

To say, as I do, that belief in God helps people deal with the pain of not-knowing things; that it also allows them a way to think about the long term future, and to get away from the kind of short-term thinking that makes us use our planet in a way that may hurt us in the long run; does not honor what feels like something transcendent and to have an importance way beyond any mundane scientific explanation. Never-the-less, it is reasonable to hypothesize that spiritual experiences are related to what goes on inside our heads, and has nothing to do with anything outside us, except indirectly (social influences).

Yes, there are scientists who poo-poo all spiritual experience. They say there is nothing there. That seems like bias, and it may indeed be a bias against woo-woo kinds of things. Not all scientists are scientific all the time. We’ve said this before.

Personally, I’ve experienced many things that seem quite similar to what others report as spiritual experiences. I seek to explain them as functions of human behavior. I am reluctant to resort to magical outside things to explain them, because those things can not be tested, as far as I know. At least so far, no test that we have designed has shown anything. That doesn’t mean external spirits don’t exist. It just means they join a vast world of things that we can’t detect, but we can dream up—the great invisible pink dinosaur that runs the world of deja vu being one of them. You can’t prove it doesn’t exist. Go ahead. Try it.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Ivan I agree, but the nature of the scientific method as a whole serves to eliminate bias through peer review and repetition.

And still I think about the articles that don’t make it to peer review because they don’t support current literature and are thus never published. Or even the reviews that aren’t accepted by the scientific community at the time because they work against the common beliefs regardless of their validity.

One particular scientist or one particular organization may produce a biased result, but that result will be exposed eventually.

In all honesty, with this particular argument, it is the eventually that gets to me. Sometimes the time between now and eventually is overwhelmingly large. And in some circumstances that is okay. What gets to me is the persecution or even genocide of a belief system that can (and has) happen(ed) in between the now and the eventually.

OK, but by what arbitrary standard then do you decide what to believe in? I don’t think that science’s limitations are a legitimate rationalization for believing in supernatural phenomena. To me, if there is positive evidence for something, I believe it. If there is no evidence, there is no reason to believe it. Yes, eventually, we may find evidence. If we do, I will believe it. But as for right now, there is no reason to. Yes, we should keep an open mind to all possibilities. But there is a difference between having an open mind towards something and believing in something.

Great. You have a good reason to believe what you do. I can’t take that away from you and wouldn’t try to. As long as you keep an open mind and do not use science as a tool to harm belief systems that have yet to hold up to scientific rigor. In fact as an individual phenomenon it is much less powerful. As a societal phenomenon it is quite powerful. And as we know power is often misused. So if someone tells me that I shouldn’t believe in “ghosts” because they aren’t logical or scientific well poo on them but they have a right to that belief. But if the government tells me I’m not allowed to believe in “ghosts” because they aren’t logical or scientific then I say that is science being used as a weapon. And once the government declares this law we can be sure that the majority of science published at the time will be supporting the new law. Of course in time it may correct itself but that could be 200 years later after all the cultures who believe in “ghosts” have been persecuted. Okay well this is obviously a theme for me.

OK, but by what arbitrary standard then do you decide what to believe in?
I do not think that science is the only way of determining if something is justifiable to believe in. Like I said some beliefs cause no harm and have been around for ages. These belief systems have held up entire communities and cultures of people. I do not think that, is by any means, arbitrary.

I don’t think that science’s limitations are a legitimate rationalization for believing in supernatural phenomena.
Perhaps they are not but this is a good point of information. People don’t believe in something simple because science has limitations. They believe in something because they experience it to be true. Knowing that science has limitations is only a way to support the fact that these experiences may be justifiable and valid even if not backed up by science.

However, it is still not justified to believe in ghosts because, currently, there is no evidence for ghosts.
I disagree. In fact this has been the butt of my argument. It is justifiable to believe in whatever you want to believe in. That is freedom of choice. And just because science has not validated this belief yet does not make it any less important. Would you have said that it was not valid to believe the earth was round???

Believing in something for which there is no evidence is never justified
How is this keeping an open mind? This is my point exactly. You are telling me that I cannot believe in something that there is no scientific evidence for. That is a form of oppression. And you are using science as your tool to justify that.

@daloon good answer again, i think it is a good common ground, somewhere between the two ideas that are being discussed

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

“It is justifiable to believe in whatever you want to believe in. That is freedom of choice.”

You have the right to believe whatever you want, but that doesn’t make your beliefs justified. When I say that a belief isn’t justified, that doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t be able to believe it. There isn’t any evidence for the existence of ghosts, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to believe in them.

“How is this keeping an open mind?”

It’s keeping an open mind because my beliefs are determined by evidence. If, tomorrow, we find undeniable positive evidence for the existence of ghosts, I will believe in them. That is what open-mindedness is.

PS Science was invented circa 1500. The whole ‘round-vs-flat-earth’ thing happened well before that.

Critter38's avatar

As a side note, I’m honestly curious about the concern expressed regarding scientific understanding being actively forced on people to remove their cultural identity. If we look at the world’s religions today and compare it as best as possible with known faith based beliefs which existed say 1500 years ago (hard to do as so many have been completely wiped off the face of the map) we’d see an almost complete annihilation of many traditional beliefs due to active or forceful conversion of people to Christianity or Islam.

I have no doubt that societies which embrace the scientific method are likely to use the knowledge gained to improve their resource base, political power, etc. etc.. But there is nothing inherrent in science (it is a process of gaining knowledge) that relates to cultural conquest. The same cannot be said for many faith based belief systems which actively encourage and even demand proselytizing (the active replacement of other beliefs with the new belief).

It doesn’t have to be either or, but it certaintly seems to me that throughout history, and long before systemic science was taking place, it was and continues to be faith based belief systems that are the greatest threat to other faith based belief systems.

Looking around it appears to be far easier to keep a faith based belief system and be a scientist, than retain two fundamentally incompatible faith based belief systems.

RedPowerLady's avatar

You have the right to believe whatever you want, but that doesn’t make your beliefs justified.

You are right in that just because you believe something it does not mean your belief is justified. That is funny logic. Of course what I am trying to say is that science is not the only determining factor of what someone can justifiably believe.

It’s keeping an open mind because my beliefs are determined by evidence. If, tomorrow, we find undeniable positive evidence for the existence of ghosts, I will believe in them. That is what open-mindedness is.
I completely disagree. Open-Mindedness is not about believing in something once it is justified by science. That requires no open mind whatsoever.

Science was invented circa 1500. The whole ‘round-vs-flat-earth’ thing happened well before that.
Good point of information. Of course the example still applies but I am sure there are more “modern” examples that would be better suited.

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

“science is not the only determining factor of what someone can justifiably believe.”

I think we are struggling over the word “justified” here. When say “justified,” I mean ‘supported by evidence.’ I do believe that science is the only method we have to determine whether something is supported by evidence.

“Open-Mindedness is not about believing in something once it is justified by science. That requires no open mind whatsoever.”

Open-mindedness is about being willing to change your opinions when necessary. I could just say “ghosts don’t exist and there’s nothing that’s going to change my mind about that,” but I don’t. Open-mindedness is the ability to change your opinions in light of new evidence.

dalepetrie's avatar

I don’t want to interject myself too deeply in the discussion between @Ivan and @RedPowerLady, just don’t have the time or energy for another lengthy debate right now. I’ll just say, and take it or leave it, that some times people mention that science can be suspect because of the inherent ability of it to be subjected to bias. I agree with that, but would like to add, the scientific method is essentially to observe, propose a theory based on what you observe, test it repeatedly to form a hypothesis and test that hypothesis repeatedly until it become accepted. Bias can happen either purposefully (in the case of a study being funded by a special interest), or accidentally (the scientist desperately wants to be right and subconsciously rigs his experiment to succeed every time). Science is most open to bias at the point where the hypotheses are being tested. The problem I personally have when someone denies science in favor of religiously based or otherwise based unsupported opinion is that these deniers are often not taking on one scientist who repeatedly tested his hypothesis and arrived at consistent results, but they are taking on the established, widely accepted scientific answers that have been proven repeatedly by hundreds if not thousands of scientists of different backgrounds and with different funding sources, so as to eliminate even the illusion of bias to anyone but the most unhinged denier.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Critter38 Of course there is nothing in science that is inherent to cultural conquest. But science has absolutely been used as tool for cultural conquest and even moreso for just kicking cultural beliefs in the butt unjustifiably & in denying cultural beliefs the scrutiny of science.

But then again you are quite right that other faiths have been horribly detrimental to cultures outside of their own belief system. And this has occurred on such a large horribly invasive scale.

I just want to put some examples. Let’s keep in mind that some of these are outdated but of course the point is that , at that specific time this was thought of as the predominant science and was used to hurt that culture. The point of these examples is to provide information that science is indeed used, at times, to hurt cultures.

1. Oral Tradition – This is one example where the scientific community is doing little in regards to allowing it to be held up to the test of science. In fact some of the research that has been done has suggested that oral traditions in Native American communities have been amazing accurate. Example: Crater Lake. Yet I have been told by numerous people, that in the name of science, oral tradition is not valid.
2. Land Bridge Theory – This theory is often used as justification for colonization and often for continued racism. It suggests that Native American people were once immigrants themselves and this information has thus been used to suggest that they have no extra rights to American land than anyone else. The theory itself has been held up to much scrutiny but is still suggested as the predominant theory.
3. Peyote – This is used as a medicine for many Native people. Once science determined it was officially a drug Native people were forced to stop using it. Of course after years it was determined they could use it for religious purposes only but that is still under a lot of scrutiny.
4. Skull Size (craniology) – Do I really need to say more on this one?
In fact science has been used to prove that minorities, poor people, foreigners, and women are innately inferior.
5. Eugenics – Again need I say more?
6. Intelligence Testing and Theories Based from It – “The obsession with mental tests, however, left a scientific legacy that would continue to exert substantial influence on the field of education—the belief that “intelligence” was biologically innate and hence unchangeable, that is growth ended at biological maturity, that it could be directly assessed by performance on a series of tricky little problems that must be solved as rapidly as possible, and that this assessment determined not only what one did know but also what one could know.”
7. The Science of Anthropology Itself
8. The Construction of Race itself
10. Quoted: For example, in the late 19th centurey Paul Broca measured location the foramen magnum, the hole at the base of the skull through which the spinal cord passes, of blacks and whites. The foramen is located under the skull in humans but behind the skull in most animals; therefore, the further back a person’s foramen magnum was located, the more primitve that person must be. After measuring the location of the foramen and correcting for the length of the face, Broca found that in blacks, the foramen was actually farther forward than it was in whites, the opposite of the expected result.

Rather than reconsider the ranking system that placed whites on top, Broca merely redefined which result was “primitive” and which was “advanced,” arguing that the location of the foramen in blacks was a result of their lesser brain size and thus lesser intelligence

11. Quoted: For example, Hubbard (1994, pp. 14–15) criticizes modern studies that produce statistics stating that members of certain races are at a higher risk for various diseases than members of other races. She notes that these studies often only include data on age, race, and sex, without considering environmental factors such as income and employment. The studies imply that the increased risk of diseases is due solely to race, not to the fact that a larger proportion of minorities live in poor neighborhoods than whites. They therefore continue to construct the concept that problems experienced by some races are biologically determined, not due to environmental causes, and therefore can be used as a justification for racism

12. How the Theory of Evolution has been used:
“It also suggested that the different human races were engaged in a competitive struggle to survive. Thus, it justified such ignorant acts as the conquest, colonization, and extermination of entire peoples”

This was not my source for most of this information but it does provide some good examples:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism#Contemporary_usage

RedPowerLady's avatar

I do believe that science is the only method we have to determine whether something is supported by evidence.
And I disagree. So I suppose this is where our fundamental difference is.
How about just sheer evidence without scientific support?
Let me provide an example. Aspirin. For years Native people used willow bark as an herbal remedy. They had evidence to believe it worked, because it did. Later science supports this evidents and aspirin is invented.

Open-mindedness is about being willing to change your opinions when necessary. I could just say “ghosts don’t exist and there’s nothing that’s going to change my mind about that,” but I don’t. Open-mindedness is the ability to change your opinions in light of new evidence.
And I suppose I disagree with the definition of open-mindness as well. I think being open-minded does not require evidence. To me being open-minded is leaving yourself open to the possibilities not supported by science (perhaps in belief that they will be someday).

RedPowerLady's avatar

@dalepetrie
The problem I personally have when someone denies science in favor of religiously based or otherwise based unsupported opinion is that these deniers are often not taking on one scientist who repeatedly tested his hypothesis and arrived at consistent results, but they are taking on the established, widely accepted scientific answers that have been proven repeatedly by hundreds if not thousands of scientists of different backgrounds and with different funding sources, so as to eliminate even the illusion of bias to anyone but the most unhinged denier.

This is nice in theory but do you have an example so I can better understand where you are coming from? My claim is that most of these beliefs (faith based beliefs) cannot even be tested by science. So therefore people rely on other methods.

cwilbur's avatar

@RedPowerLady: one of your problems in this argument is that you are defining what the Native people did as not-science. But they had a hypothesis—that willow bark would help with certain ailments—and they tested the hypothesis—they gave a person willow bark, and he felt better faster than he would have felt without the willow bark. This is science.

dalepetrie's avatar

@RedPowerLady – I don’t disagree with you about your point that most of the faith based beliefs can not be tested (at least inasmuch as they can’t be tested yet). As for a specific example of what I’m talking about, global warming is one good example. Oil depletion is another. The two in fact often go hand in had…religious zealots think that it doesn’t matter if we use up all the oil or even all the easily accessible oil because a) God will make more or because it doesn’t take millions of years the Earth is only 6,000 years old after all, b) the rapture is coming so we won’t need it, and/or c) it’s just a liberal scare tactic using biased science. When you also add that burning oil causes the emition of greehnouse gases which warm the planet which will lead to catastrophic consequences, again you get the same arguments a) God controls the weather and you can see times in history when the earth was hotter and other times when it’s colder, this is natural, b) the rapture is coming so it doesn’t matter anyway, and/or c) it’s just a liberal scare tactic using biased science.

Without trying to open full debates on these topics, both the fact that we are within a few years of depleting our oil resources to the point where it will be at minimum much harder to get at than it is today (though we don’t know exactly how much oil there is or how long it will last, scientific consensus is that an energy crisis will come if we don’t reduce our dependence on fossil fuels), and the fact that our planet is getting warmer, the ice caps are melting, and that the results of this will be devastating to millions, perhaps billions of people if we can’t slow down the rate at which the planet is warming (though we don’t know exactly how soon the bad things will start to happen or what exactly form they will take/who they will impact).

So, people are often arguing that these are overblown, unimportant concerns when science, meaning the scientific community at large, collectively through years of research have reached a consensus conclusion, albeit an incomplete one, which is an example of rejecting science as just another belief in favor of one’s own system of beliefs.

Critter38's avatar

A sincere thanks for your thoughts.

My point was really this…when I travel the world I don’t meet people who’s faith based beliefs have been replaced by scientific thinking. That was really what I was getting at. I have worked with indigenous Bolivians, West Papuans, Australians, and with people from Borneo. All had Catholic, Muslim, Mormon, Evangelical, etc. domianted religious practices, world views, dietary constraints, rituals, celebrations, etc.

I only mention this to put some perspective on where the largest threat may lie to indigenous cultures. THis does not in any way deny that a tool like science cannot be used against the interests of a culture by the dominating culture (of course it can). I would only caution that whatever misguided attempts where made to use science to reinforce prejudice, it couldn’t be sustained by the scientific method. SCience didn’t provide an excuse for bigotry, it helped in some ways to overcome it.

I would also suggest (although perhaps for another discussion) that some of the examples you list are rather surprising.

Peyote is a drug by any definition of the word. Science provides facts. It is not the fault of the science if legislators decide to restrict usage of Peyote.

Are you suggesting that American Indians were created in North America and any scientific evidence to the contrary is racist? If this is the case then you’re venturing well into rather shaky ground where you potentially define racism or biogtry or cultural bias in science as any inconvenient truth it finds evidence for.

Oral tradition may or may not be accurate. The issue is whether what is claimed in that tradition can be verified using other means. If it cannot be verified, science simply can’t use the information.

Anthropology is the study of human beings. I don’t see anything inherrently racist in studying humanity. I have no doubt you can show examples of its misuse (as can I). That is not the same as stating that a science is inherrently racist.

With regards to the concept of race, as an ecologist I see gradations in within species characteristics in genotypes and phenotypes. I see no reason whatsoever to presuppose that humans are somehow above exhibiting between population differences. I see nothing racist in this concept regardless of whether we refer to different races or not.

May I suggest you look up syckle cell anaemia or taysachs disease. Some diseases are associated with specific human populations.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tay-Sachs_disease#Impact_on_Jewish_communities

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sickle-cell_disease

RedPowerLady's avatar

@cwilbur I agree. But it wasn’t recognized as such by many people.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@dalepetrie Good examples. I would have to agree with you in those circumstances.

RedPowerLady's avatar

My point was really this…when I travel the world I don’t meet people who’s faith based beliefs have been replaced by scientific thinking.

I think this is a very good point.

I would only caution that whatever misguided attempts where made to use science to reinforce prejudice, it couldn’t be sustained by the scientific method.

Yes but sometimes it is sustained long enough to cause harm. Case in point: hysteria. How long were women tortured for being “hysterical” by the medical community before they realized it was bull?

Science didn’t provide an excuse for bigotry, it helped in some ways to overcome it.

I won’t take that away from science. It has been helpful, very helpful. My only intention really is to validate the fact that science does not always trump other belief systems (because we find that sometimes science is wrong and these beliefs were right or sometimes these beliefs are right and untestable etc…...).

Regarding some of the examples that you pointed out. I apologize if I was a bit unclear. Perhaps I shouldn’t have mixed and matched. But some of the examples were to show how science is simply used as a tool to obstruct cultural beliefs, one example was to show how science cannot validate all cultural beliefs and because they aren’t validated they are disregarded, and other examples were about the science itself or rather the bias in the science itself. I have provided some clarification below.

Peyote is a drug by any definition of the word. Science provides facts. It is not the fault of the science if legislators decide to restrict usage of Peyote.

The point is that the classification as a drug (vs. alcohol which is a drug but not classified legally as one) has hindered religious beliefs. And it is not the fault of the scientists in this circumstance, you are right about that. But legislators are using science to hurt others in this example by stating that their classification system is more important that the religious beliefs. My point in all these examples is how science is used to hurt cultures. Not necessarily the science itself (although that could be certainly true in some circumstances as well).

Are you suggesting that American Indians were created in North America and any scientific evidence to the contrary is racist? If this is the case then you’re venturing well into rather shaky ground where you potentially define racism or biogtry or cultural bias in science as any inconvenient truth it finds evidence for.

I am suggesting that the Land Bridge Theory does not hold up to evidence. Not that all theories do not hold up to evidence. And that it should not be used as the predominant viewpoint when it cannot be adequately backed up. Until the time one can prove a migration happened it’ll just have to be one of life’s great mysteries ;)

Oral tradition may or may not be accurate. The issue is whether what is claimed in that tradition can be verified using other means. If it cannot be verified, science simply can’t use the information.

My point here, that I thought I made quite clear, is that we have yet to find a way to test Oral Tradition in a way that is useful. I would also like to state that it isn’t as simple as “science can’t use the information” but that because it lacks scientific validity at this point it is often disregarded.

I don’t see anything inherently racist in studying humanity.

Not inherently racist but inherently biased. And bias leads to racism more often than not.

I see nothing racist in this concept regardless of whether we refer to different races or not.

The concept of race is now widely accepted as an unuseful social construct vs. a scientific construct. Anything else hasn’t stood up to scientific rigor ;) Now keep in mind that race is differentiated from ethnicity especially when it comes to phenotype/genotype etc..

May I suggest you look up syckle cell anaemia or taysachs disease. Some diseases are associated with specific human populations.

Of course the point was not if it is possible for certain illnesses to occur more often in certain cultures. It is how that information is used to prove that these cultures are inherently inferior.

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

I was going to go through your 12 examples one-by-one, but I think the argument itself is inherently flawed. Sure, knowledge gained through scientific study might be used to justify unethical activity, but that says little about science itself and more about the nature of human beings. What would you suggest we rather do, not study the universe scientifically? That’s like saying “We shouldn’t invent fire because then people could burn stuff.” Yes, some people can take a good thing and do bad things with it, but that is no reason to abandon it altogether. Even if we accept each example you have provided here (which, by the way, I don’t), the benefit of science over the past 500 years has undeniably and easily outweighed it’s harm. And, as cwilbur alluded to, science is what corrects all of the problems it causes.

“being open-minded is leaving yourself open to the possibilities not supported by science”

That isn’t open-mindedness, that’s faith.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Ivan My argument all along has not been that science is inherently bad. In fact i’ve stated that several times. My argument has been that we cannot persecute other beliefs because science has yet to back them up. That perhaps they have a valid non-scientific reason for their beliefs (that later may become scientific). And my reasoning to believe that other ideas may be valid is the bias and fallibility possible within science. We spent some time arguing if that bias even exisists but I believe we came to the conclusion it does. Those examples were illustrating that persecution exists from science, rather the use of science. Another argument that we have discussed and I believe come to the conclusion that science can be used to hurt others. So now what is left is two points:
1. There are justifiable reasons to believe in something without the evidence of science.
2. We should not persecute (or belittle) others because their beliefs are not (yet) held up by science.

That isn’t open-mindedness, that’s faith.
Absolutely not. Faith is believing in possibilities with no evidence. (purposely leaving science out of the wording because I believe evidence can exist w/out science).

Open-Minded:
1. having or showing a mind receptive to new ideas or arguments.
2. unprejudiced; unbigoted; impartial.

It says nowhere anything about needing proof or evidence. It is simply allowing yourself to have a receptive mind (even if there is no science behind it).

Faith:
1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence
Open-mindedness is leaving yourself open to the possibility that this argument will one day be proven by science.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Oh I added some, so you might want to refresh

Ivan's avatar

@RedPowerLady

Thanks for the heads-up

This is getting trivial. Open-mindedness is the quality expressed by not ruling out alternative explanations up front. Saying that I would change my mind if new evidence arose assumes that I do not rule out alternative explanations up front.

“My argument has been that we cannot persecute other beliefs because science has yet to back them up.”

Sure, but I don’t think there’s much persecution going on. But I think it’s important to distinguish between things that simply have not been tested and things that are just plain wrong. The Earth is not 6000 years old; there wasn’t a great flood. These ideas are just plain wrong. This isn’t science persecuting a belief that has yet to be tested.

“my reasoning to believe that other ideas may be valid is the bias and fallibility possible within science.”

OK, but the key words here are “may be.” This might be justification for leaving these ideas on the table, but it isn’t justification for actually believing in them. But that brings us to your next point.

“There are justifiable reasons to believe in something without the evidence of science.”

What, exactly, are those reasons?

RedPowerLady's avatar

But I think it’s important to distinguish between things that simply have not been tested and things that are just plain wrong.

I agree but I would take it one step farther. Things that are just plain wrong and cause harm, i’m okay with requiring scientific evidence if harm is involved. We have to have some standards here. We could get into a debate about what is “harm” but lets just say this applies to the obvious and not get into that debate.

Now I would argue that just because science has “proven” something was wrong does not make it wrong. I.E. World Flat/Round But it should give us pause and make us think harder about why we believe what is contrary to science. I think we should keep in mind that science changes and progresses therefor these things that are “wrong” should be subject to an open-mind.

And if it doesn’t persecute a belief system then we can relax and let science take it’s natural course. If it is persecuting a belief system then we need to examine how “right” that science actually is and that there may be some validity as to why people believe otherwise. IE world flat/round

This might be justification for leaving these ideas on the table, but it isn’t justification for actually believing in them

So I cannot believe in ideas that are not backed up by science? Isn’t that persecution? How can an idea really be on the table if someone doesn’t believe in it? (dang this is getting frustrating, I think this is what I really don’t understand about this entire discussion)

What, exactly, are those reasons?

How about because your culture has practiced such beliefs for hundreds of thousands of years? And has seen benefits from it. Ex: Smudging. Ex: Oral Tradition

Ivan's avatar

“How can an idea really be on the table if someone doesn’t believe in it?”

Saying, “Well, let’s not rule out this idea completely, it might prove to be correct in the future” is much different than actually believing the idea. I simply don’t understand how you can make the jump from “Science can produce incorrect conclusions” to “I therefore believe in unsupported ideas.” I might be able to see the jump from “Science can produce incorrect conclusions,” to, “I therefore will not rule out alternative ideas which currently have no scientific backing,” but you can’t just jump straight to belief.

“How about because your culture has practiced such beliefs for hundreds of thousands of years?”

If that’s good enough for you, fine. It’s not good enough for me, sorry. We can’t base school material and new technologies on ancient traditions.

By the way, you are throwing around this word “persecution” a little too loosely. Just because we declare that something is scientifically false, that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to believe it. Something like 45% of the US population identify themselves as creationists.

RedPowerLady's avatar

We can’t base school material and new technologies on ancient traditions.

I disagree. In fact this has been done for thousands of years and in some cases without negative consequence. In fact in some cases it has led to great advancements. (i.e. astronomy, medicine)

Saying, “Well, let’s not rule out this idea completely, it might prove to be correct in the future” is much different than actually believing the idea.

I am not saying that you have to believe unsupported ideas. What I am saying is that I can believe it. And that we should be on the same playing level when it comes down to the nitty gritty. Meaning when a cultural belief system is on the line. My experience within the culture is just as valid as your scientific experience of the culture.

And as I said before that is not the jump. People believe in things because they have experienced it to be true. The fact that science is falliable is only a point of information that is used to prevent persecution or rather unequal treatment.

BTW, Since when was creation determined scientifically false? Perhaps anecdotaly. As a matter of fact you cannot prove something does not exist (i.e. god). (you can’t prove a negative).

Good brief discussion on that:
http://askville.amazon.com/prove-negative/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=6173899

Really we’ve already talked circles around this. Unless we can come up with new points or more clarification I don’t think we are going to get any farther. Perhaps we should be happy that we have found a way to come to some common ground and to better understand each others viewpoints/arguments. That is a very nice step.

Ivan's avatar

When I say creationism, I mean the notion that the Earth and everything on it popped into existence 6000 years ago.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Ivan Okay well I don’t know anything about all that so I won’t even go there.

cwilbur's avatar

@Ivan: you may want to distinguish that as young-Earth creationism, because “creationism” unadorned refers to the concept that God created everything.

Plain creationism is not incompatible with evolution, but young-Earth creationism is.

mattbrowne's avatar

@cwilbur – Creationism unfortunately has two meanings. The first one is older and refers to the concept of a Creator God (which is not incompatible with science). The second one is more recent and refers to a movement that exists mainly in North America rejecting evolution as an explanation of origins.

cwilbur's avatar

@mattbrowne: Yes, which is why I suggested that Ivan use the commonly-accepted term “young-Earth creationism” so that he could express his opinions as accurately as possible.

wundayatta's avatar

@RedPowerLady “Faith is believing in possibilities with no evidence.”

Why would one do this? I’d like to think that there is at least some evidence for everything I think that explains my world. My explanations of the evidence might be wrong, or they might be wild misinterpretations of the evidence, and if someone points this out, I would change my mind in many cases.

I can come up with an endless list of possibilities for which there is no evidence. Why would I privilege any of these ideas over any other? Is the fact that millions of other people “believe” this idea a good reason to hold it in more esteem? Probably not for the meaning of the belief itself. But if the belief serves another purpose, say bringing people together in a community, then I can see the purpose of people believing in the same idea, despite lack of evidence to support it. Then the belief is about something different entirely than the people understand it to be.

People say they have evidence of god, but none of the evidence is testable. I try not to use untestable evidence to make my theories about what is going on.

—————————————————————————
“What, exactly, are those reasons?”

How about because your culture has practiced such beliefs for hundreds of thousands of years? And has seen benefits from it. Ex: Smudging. Ex: Oral Tradition

Hmmm, I’m not so sure this example is about belief. These are things that people do, and they can do them for many reasons. Some might do them because they believe it is a connection with a world they can not perceive. Others might do it because it feels good.

In my experience, smudging adds a significance to an event. It also smells funny (I don’t think it should be done indoors) and is a signal to people they should pay attention.

The value of Oral tradition is obvious, and is based on evidence. Scientists study oral tradition all the time. They’ll bring out recorders to capture stories and preserve them, and the wisdom those stories contain. They’ll ask the people who tell the stories what the stories mean to them. They’ll conduct their own analysis of the stories.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@daloon I was differentiating faith from an open-mind. And of course there is personal evidence. Or I believe there is always a reason someone believes something. So you are very right in saying this I’d like to think that there is at least some evidence for everything I think that explains my world. That statement I made was just working toward differentiating faith from an open mind.

Why would I privilege any of these ideas over any other?
Of course my entire argument thus far has been arguing this point. That these beliefs are equally important as scientific evidence. Now that is likely not what you are saying exactly but that has been my point.

I try not to use untestable evidence to make my theories about what is going on.
Of course not everyone has that luxury or even wants it.

In my experience, smudging adds a significance to an event. It also smells funny (I don’t think it should be done indoors) and is a signal to people they should pay attention.
Smudging is an integral part of my culture. And there are many beliefs that are behind smudging. What you have said is true but it only the truth that can be observed outside the culture. I also would like to say that smudging must be used indoors and there are many smudging agents all with different smells. Anyhow the reason people smudge has more to do with cultural beliefs (ex: rids of negative energy, cleanses a person or space) than adding significance to an event. It is significant because of the reason behind it. And the reason pay attention when smudging occurs is because it is a sacred act.

They’ll bring out recorders to capture stories and preserve them, and the wisdom those stories contain.
Yet they are still called myths. And oral tradition is still thought of as an inappropriate educational tool because many believe it is open to change. Both of these points as used in scientific rhetoric all to often, completely missing the meaning of oral tradition. This is a good point: They’ll conduct their own analysis of the stories. And in doing so they often vastly misinterpret both the act of oral tradition and the meaning of the stories.

wundayatta's avatar

@RedPowerLady Myths are important and contain a lot of wisdom. They shed a lot of light on a culture. Outsiders will invariably not interpret myths the same way people of the culture interpret them. Scientists do the best they can, and that includes an acknowledgment of the limitations of their work.

As to smudging—indoors, it’s too powerful for me. I have to leave the room. Hey, does that mean I’m an evil spirit??? Certainly I have a lot of negative energy. Oh well. In any case, even with experience from outside the culture that this practice comes from, it means something to me. I doubt if any two people will every really have the exact same understanding of a perception. The question is: does one person’s perception take precedence over another’s because the one person comes from a different background, a background that has more experience with the event or thing being perceived?

They can only do that in a social setting, and when a political campaign is being waged.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Myths are important and contain a lot of wisdom
I agree but quite a bit of oral tradition is much more than a myth.
If you look at the Klamath “myth” of Crater Lake you will find it is a retelling of the creation of Crater Lake that has survived umpteen years.
Not only are they historical stories but they are guides to moral behavior. In fact traditionally they were used to regulate the societies moral behavior.
My point really is that yes myths are powerful. I full heartedly agree. But the classification of myth also has the power to degrade the importance of many of these stories. They are not just stories or myths.
Anyhow this is whole conversation is probably entirely outside the point. I suppose it relates because I believe this is one example of how the science at-hand is devaluing an important cultural component. Likely it is not the fault of the individual scientist but in this case it is the entire system of myth classification that is harmful to cultural integrity. And, of course, the fact that the scientific community has yet to accept oral tradition as more than mythology even though the Native community has proved repeatedly this is so. (there is some science to back this up but it is not largely accepted at this point).

The question is: does one person’s perception take precedence over another’s because the one person comes from a different background, a background that has more experience with the event or thing being perceived?

On the personal level, no they both are equally valid. And in fact we often welcome “others” in and help them with their personal journeys.

On a societal or scientific level then yes there is a difference. If we misinterpret the meaning of cultural activities on a societal or scientific level then there are severe consequences. Just look at what this has done to Native American societies. Geez Louise, this has created so much harm for our community.

Ex: Ghost Dance and the Massacre at Wounded Knee
(the meaning of the sacred dance was misinterpreted by the government and soldiers which led to a massacre of Native people and the disappearance of this sacred ceremony).

wundayatta's avatar

Well, I doubt you can find a consensus in the scientific community about what myth is, but a significant portion use myth as a guide for research. Many know that myth is based on real events.

Myth does not mean a fairy tale. Myth means a story that has become an archetype for a certain kind of experience. There are many American myths having to do with the founding of this country, and how it’s rules were set up. These stories become much more than they were at the beginning, because they represent very important ideas concerning America.

Anyway, any decent scientist will not dismiss any story out of hand. They will look for corroborating evidence. However, it can be difficult to know what a story means if you do not come from the culture or time it was created. So scientists first have to spend a lot of timing figuring out meaning, and they often get it wrong, try after try. Maybe eventually they get it right, and they’d probably get it right faster if they listened carefully to the people whose culture created the story.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Here is what the dictionary says:
See what I mean?

1. a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, esp. one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.
2. stories or matter of this kind: realm of myth.
3. any invented story, idea, or concept: His account of the event is pure myth.
4. an imaginary or fictitious thing or person.
5. an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.

Anyway, any decent scientist will not dismiss any story out of hand. They will look for corroborating evidence. However, it can be difficult to know what a story means if you do not come from the culture or time it was created. So scientists first have to spend a lot of timing figuring out meaning, and they often get it wrong, try after try. Maybe eventually they get it right, and they’d probably get it right faster if they listened carefully to the people whose culture created the story.

Now that I can get behind :)

dalepetrie's avatar

I stumbled upon a perfect example of people comparing science with religion just last night. My local PBS station was airing an episode of NOVA entitled “Intelligent Design on Trial”, which you can see here if you’re so inclined. FYI, I think it’s well worth your time if you’re interested in this kind of thing, but it is 2 hours long (though on the web they have broken it down into 12 chapters), so it’s only 10 minutes per sitting.

Anyway, I mention it, because I thought that it was a good example of both the points I was making to @daloon and @RedPowerLady about how those whose ideas conflict with science will seek to even the playing field between science and faith. I could not have imagined a better example of what I was talking about than Intelligent Design, and I’m surprised I didn’t think of it before.

Basically, for those who don’t have time to watch the whole thing, it documents the 2004–2005 trial in Dover, PA where 8 members of the school board insisted on teaching Intelligent Design as an alternative scientific theory alongside the Theory of Evolution. They were insistent that teachers, when introducing the Theory of Evolution, read a 1 minute statement, pointing out that there are holes in that theory, and to offer the alternative of Intelligent Design, which would be tuaght with a textbook called “Of Pandas and People”.

Essentially, Intelligent Design Theory states that many features of living organisms are too complex to have evolved entirely through the natural process of evolution, and as such, some aspects of those organisms must have been created, fully-formed, by a so-called “intelligent designer.” Advocates point to the fact that not every “missing link” has been found yet, and essentially their argument boils down to the fact that because the Theory of Evolution is 1) still called a “theory” and 2) can not fully explain every detail of what happened just yet, that it is prudent to teach other theories alongside it.

This went to trial in Federal court, and was heard by a judge who was a) himself a stated proponent of Intelligent Design and b) an appointee of GW Bush. However, what they really needed to demonstrate was a) what a scientist means when he/she says “theory”, b) that Intelligent Design Theory was not by the scientific definition an actual “theory”, and c) that the motivation for teaching Intelligent Design was religion based.

Among the most interesting things they pointed out (aside from the human side of things, such as the death threats received by the 11 parents who sued to keep Intelligent Design out of the classroom, and the 24 hour police protection the judge needed for him and his family after he ruled that Intelligent Design WAS religiously motivated and was NOT science, in spite of his philosophical bent what a Christian way of doing things, eh…death threats?), was that whereas Darwin saw new species originating out of old species, kind of like branches on a tree, Intelligent Design saw no links between species, and each species was designed and then appeared, though there was no way to test this theory. Basically, scientists educated the judge as to how the Theory of Evolution could see two species and predict what the missing link would be, and how they could find it, and indeed they showed examples of how they did just that, such as a hybrid fish/reptile discovered in 375M year old rocks, right where they said it owuld be that showed the first signs of a flattened head (a characteristic of a reptile), and fully formed hand/wrist structures underneath the fins.

They also showed how molecular biology had actually established incontrovertable proof of the link between man and ape. They stated that this hypothesis would have fallen apart completely because apes had 24 chromosomes and humans 23, but in decoding the genome, they discovered that the 2nd chromosome in humans was 2 linked chromosomes that would be 2 separate chromosomes in apes.

And what I found perhaps most fascinating was THIS description of what a scientific “theory” actually is:

And here I think the term “theory” needs to be looked at the way scientists consider it. A theory is not just something that we think of in the middle of the night after too much coffee and not enough sleep. That’s an idea. A theory, in science, means a large body of information that’s withstood a lot of testing. It probably consists of a number of different hypotheses and many different lines of evidence. Gravitation is a theory that’s unlikely to be falsified, even if we saw something fall up. It might make us wonder, but we’d try to figure out what was happening rather than immediately just dismiss gravitation.’’

and further:

simple reason that no theory in science, no theory, is ever regarded as absolute truth. We don’t regard atomic theory as truth. We don’t regard the germ theory of disease as truth. We don’t regard the theory of friction as truth. We regard all of these theories as well-supported, testable explanations that provide natural explanations for natural phenomena.

In the end, the smoking gun about ID being simply “Creationism” repackaged, came when they found an example in an intelligent design text, an early draft of Of Pandas and Men, where they had tried to replace the term “Creationists” with “design proponents, but messed up and ended up with several occurrences of the term “Cdesign proponentsists”

So, it was a prime example of faith masquerading as science, and treating both with equal gravity, making science akin to faith in the eyes of those who were unwilling to accept established, accepted scientific principles, principles that we use to make accurate predictions and have for 150 years without a single misstep, because it so conflicted with their desire to not be dehumanized by linking them with apes.

Ivan's avatar

@dalepetrie I met one of the guys in that PBS special

dalepetrie's avatar

@Ivan – very cool, which one? hopefully he was on the right side of the argument

Ivan's avatar

@dalepetrie

Of course I can’t seem to remember name at the moment. If I had time to re-watch the PBS special I could point out which one. He works at Michigan State University I think and testified in the trial. And yes, he was on the right side of the argument

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