General Question

laureth's avatar

Can you explain the difference between scientific and non-scientific research?

Asked by laureth (27151points) September 30th, 2010

Joe says, “I don’t believe in God, because there’s no evidence.”

Ben says, “I believe in God because there’s all the evidence in the world! The blind have been healed! The paralyzed walk! The dead were brought back to life!”

Joe says, “I’m pretty well-read, and science has not discovered anything of God.”

Ben says, “You read your books, I’ve read mine, and the Bible says there’s a God. It’s all just opinions in books.”

Joe says, “I’ve tried to disprove my atheism through research, and failed.”

Ben says, “I did my research in the Bible, and the Bible says there’s a God. I tried to disprove my theism, and failed.”

Question for you folks: Both Ben and Joe believe they have done research, but I would argue that there’s an essential difference in what they have both done. If you agree with me, how would you describe the difference?

I’m not looking for a religion/atheism fight, or putdowns. I’m not looking to prove God or religion true or false. I’m looking for a way to explain the essential difference between the sorts of research that they have both done. Thank you!

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46 Answers

phoebusg's avatar

Research implies spanning among as many sources as needed to gain a bigger confidence in your position or to learn a lot more about the positions and information available. If Ben did his research, he’d end up in religious studies, and then mythology, and history. He didn’t do his research.

Cruiser's avatar

@laureth Says…“There is no such things as purple Unicorns and my research shows there are there are no pictures or videos or fossilized bones of them so they don’t exist”.

Cruiser says….“I have researched and read ancient texts that have drawings and descriptions of purple Unicorns that flew down from the heavens and roamed the hills in ancient times and brought miracles to all those who touched them! They absolutely must have existed and plus there is no proof that they never did exist!”

There is my example of scientific and non-scientific research!

Blackberry's avatar

The difference is empirical evidence, of course.

A guest is at your house, he sees a lamp shade moving for seemingly no reason. Your guest exclaims, “Look! There’s a ghost in here, that lamp shade is moving by itself!”. You explain that it is not logical for a lamp shade to move by itself unless there is some force acting on it. Your guest insists, “But the evidence is there, just look at it….”. Although after further investigation you both realize the ground vent is gently blowing air out.

thekoukoureport's avatar

Cruiser is right,
and further more our difficulty in this research is that we as a society came from a belief that EVERYTHING is because of god. (the dark ages) So from that time forward we we take ourselves further away from god when another mystery is explained. Does that disprove god? No? But it challenges the faith that has been the bedrock of our society for centuries..

marinelife's avatar

Scientific research postulates a theory then, using a control group, performs an experiment to prove or disprove the theory.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Nonscientific Research: I declare there is no proof driving while intoxicated causes motor vehicle accidents. I get hammered, drive from the bar back to my house 5 or 6 times and make it ok.
Scientific research: I get two large groups of people. One is the control group, they drive from the bar to my house without any alcohol 5 or 6 times. The test group consumes enough alcohol so they all test legally intoxicated and they drive from the bar to my house 5 or 6 times each. The two groups are compared and the results are statistically analyzed.

laureth's avatar

For the record, I understand the difference between scientific and non-scientific research. What I’m looking for is how to describe that “visions of God that appeared in my head and which are confirmed with Bible reading” are not the same kind of research as a double-blind, peer reviewed study to someone who thinks that both are equally reliable and valid.

Blackberry's avatar

@laureth I think those types of people are just unaware the voices in their head are simply themselves. It could be their id or superego speaking to them and they mistake it for god, intentionally or unintentionally and use those thoughts to justify, you know… inquisition for example.

Edit: The phrase I was looking for and just remembered is ‘internal dialogue’. Everyone has this inside their head, some already know what it is, and some don’t.

wundayatta's avatar

Scientific research starts with a theory about how things work. This theory is usually based on science that has come before. The theory should have the capability of making specific predictions (or hypotheses) that can be tested in the real world. These tests either confirm the hypothesis or show no evidence for it. If they do show evidence, other people try the same experiment, and if the results are consistently the same, we consider it knowledge.

If the experiment does not provide evidence to support the hypothesis (and the theory), that does not mean the theory is incorrect. It just means that there is no evidence for it.

The idea of God can be thought of as a theory. The theory makes numerous predictions, supposedly. The world has been predicted to end. People have been predicted to go to hell and on and on. Many of these predictions can not be tested because there is no way to get evidence. Other hypotheses fail the reproducibility requirement. This does not mean there is no God. It just means there is no scientific evidence to support the God theory.

Even if there is evidence to support a theory, that doesn’t mean the theory is correct. The evidence may be faked or measured incorrectly. It may support the theory in some cases, but not in others. It may show some surprising behavior that is not accounted for by the theory. In some cases scientists are fooled rather badly because a new, significantly different theory comes along that fits the evidence much better.

The problem with personal revelations is that they can not be reproduced. We can not know what goes on inside another person heads. We don’t know their thoughts or experiences, so there is no way to say whether it is the same or not. It is not even possible to measure the phenomenon, nor to characterize it in any words other than those of the person experiencing that phenomenon. Since it can’t be reproduced, it is not scientific evidence.

People are often willing to accept testimony as evidence because they trust the person giving the testimony. Such acceptance is unwise in my opinion. I believe people should be more skeptical and never accept something someone else says without corroborating evidence.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Laureth, If your arguing with someone that doesn’t understand that difference you’re wasting your time. Visions in my head? You’re better off trying to teach a pig to sing.

cazzie's avatar

It’s not just religion that is guilty of using non-scientific methods. Researches don’t always get it right either, leading to some pretty nutty claims all the time. (one pet peeve of mine are claims made by so-called nutritionists)

Good scientific research follows certain protocols and rules, called ‘Scientific method’.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Im mostly talking about your last comment here.

the difference is being able to prove it on demand to anyone at any time. for example, lets say you are home alone, and god comes down from heaven and visits you, you actually get to see him with with your very own eyes, and talk to him, and touch him. he talks to you for a couple of hours, and he shows you some of the things he can do, and then he leaves and goes back to heaven. you now have personal proof that he exists. but if you wanted to demonstrate to me that he is real, all you would have is your word.

finger prints however, can be shown to belong to a certain person at any time. you can prove who they belong to on demand to anyone who wants to see the proof them self, and dont have to rely on people believing you on faith.

if you take any scientific fact, you can demonstrate on demand that it is factual.

thekoukoureport's avatar

I saw a vision from GOD.

This is not meant in disrspect, just going to share a life experience.

So during my mid-life crisis I was a hippie in search of it all, and at the time of this instance I worked for an organic farmer and lived basically outdoors. I loved to take acid and sit around the camp fire and connect with people in ways that cannot really be explained, or believed sometimes. Anyway I always watch the sunrise which on this day was spent driving to market. Didn’t know how I would stay up all day so I decided to take some more to get me through the day.

The day was uneventful, busines went well and we stopped by a friends house to check up on it(he was out of town). So I took the opportunity to get in his hot tub and turn on my favorite album in the world Sgt Pepper and stare at the sunset. So at the moment the song “fixin a hole” comes on I am deluged through the window a scene of the four horse of the Apocolypse riding down upon us, raining destruction in it’s path. Curiously enough one of the heads was G W Bush, but thats not important.
So I am watching this occur without much emotion and said; “okay so nothing I can do about that!....and it stopped… and a face appeared with big round orblike eyes which gave the impression of infinity inside, looking at me but saying nothing. So I repeated If thats coming I cant change it. and many faces appeared all around the sky in differrent shapes and sizes, positions and directions. And I looked at all of them and said “you’ve seen what I am trying to do down here. How do I get you guys to help me?

At that moment I was shaken awake by my friend who saw me floating in the hot tub and thought I was dead. The bubbles had stopped the music had ended I must have been floating awhile.

Thats evidence is it not? eyewitness testomony.

Heres what I think. The scene of fear, of biblical destruction is a barrier to stop many from seeing another strem of consiousness. I saw another stream got to hang out for a min or two, But I did not feel in anyway a lesser being cowering at “THE FACE OF GOD”. Quite the contrary I looked at it like I look at everything. no preconceived notions and was starting to get into a kick ass conversation.

If you think I’m crazy? read an Autobiogrphy of a Yogi. He will give additional testimony.

everephebe's avatar

@laureth The essensial difference is this:
Scientific research is research, non-scientific research isn’t.

Other differences:
Brain vs. gut brain, or knowledge, logic, and reason vs. intuition. Thinking vs. feeling. Science has been wrong plenty of times, but was proved wrong by science. Non-scientific research will occasionally be proved right, but only by science. And mostly it’s being proved wrong by science. Non-scientific research is research that starts out with a hypothesis that something which has no evidence for itself is already a fact, and researches from faith that it is true, and draws conclusions from a tautology. If A is A then every thing in A is true, and this is a good start to scientific thought but it stops there. Whereas science would actually prove A is in fact A, before assuming it’s hypothesis was true.

Scientific research is research, non-scientific research isn’t- it stops before conducting the research.

JLeslie's avatar

I think the tricky part is, just because there is no evidence, or no proof, does not make something untrue. Regarding your question, I think @Cruiser gave a great answer for why you can’t count something as proof just because it is written down, but for those who understand what scientific proof is (and I agree with @Adirondackwannabe if they don’t get the difference you are probably wasting your time) it still does not solve the problem of what I mentioned when discussing the existence of God. For instance, penicillum killed bacteria before it was scientifically proven. Until someone proves there is no God, there is a possibility He exists.

But, as most of you know, I don’t believe God exists.

BoBo1946's avatar

Who created the energy? Many believe it’s about an energy (Big Bang etc) that created this. But, again, who created the energy? Scientific research cannot prove where the energy came from, but they know energy had to create this. The energy had to have come from a source outside of our universe. That is what scientist say, do they not?

laureth's avatar

@everephebe – the way I see it, did you do the research to make sure all was as it seemed? That’s what I mean by research vs “personal evidence.”

@BoBo1946 – Who knows? But my point is not to disprove or prove that point (although I might express different views about that in another question). This is not about “Is God Real?” It’s about “How is personal experience verified by the bible different from doing research?”.

BoBo1946's avatar

@laureth I’ve never done research except to read the Bible, other books, etc. I’ve thought a lot about your question and I’m really having a difficult time to understand exactly what you are looking for here.

Aster's avatar

”“How is personal experience verified by the bible different from doing research?”
what do you mean? Do you mean what is the difference in reading the Bible versus doing research in….? What does personal experience verified by the Bible mean?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@BoBo I think she’s trying to differentiate between someone’s “I saw it with my own eyes” or “I saw the sick healed” sort of thing versus scientific research.

crisw's avatar


”’I’ve never done research except to read the Bible…”

Just to clarify- does that mean that you’ve never read any books written by scientists about such things as Big Bang theory?

The Bible can’t be used as a citation for anything scientific because what it describes is not referenced, replicable, or in many cases testable.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe oh, got’cha. This happened in my life. In 1964, my freshmen year at Ole Miss, my brother came to the dormitory and awakened me and told me mother had a massive heart attack. When I got to the hospital, Dr. Gilmore said, “call all your family members, she will not live very long!” I went to the bathroom and got down on my knees and cried my prayer. When I came from the bathroom, Dr. Gilmore was walking down the hall…..with a puzzled look. He said, “she is stable!” She will be 88 Feb 6!

In 1978, was driving home a horredous storm. I had the kids in the car with me. The power had gone off and there was no street lights. I drove over a hill, and before i could stop, drove into deep water and the car stalled and went dead. Tried to crank it, no luck. Tried several times and no luck. The water was rising and getting faster. I took the kids hands and we prayed. The car started. I drove out of the water.

Anyway, @crisw yes i have done reading on it. Did you watch the video? Where did the energy come from?

crisw's avatar


These are examples of anecdotes. Anecdotes cannot be used to verify any scientific claim as they are not replicable and are always colored by the mind of the observer.

As far as “where did the energy come from”- I don’t want to take this discussion off track, so that might be an interesting question to ask on its own. Suffice to say that there are plenty of scientific explanations for it :>)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

The difference between nonscientific and scientific research is understanding the cause and affect. Nonscientific research is this happened (the sick healed, the paralyzed walked) there must be a god. One example: Navaho practice was if a mouse ran across your clothes it was a sign to burn the clothes. If you didn’t the spirits would make you ill.Turns out they were right. The mouse carried a virus it shed in it’s urine that caused a serious illness. The scientific research would be looking at all explanations as to what happened, eliminating those that can be proven wrong or can’t be proven and making a deduction what happen. The sick healed because their immune system fought off the illness. etc

ETpro's avatar

Great question. The Bible is a wonderful work full of wisdom of the ancients. But as far as proof of the existence of God is concerned, it is nothing more than a tautology. The Bible says it is the revealed word of God. Since it says that, and it says there is a God, obviously there is a God. Logic can’t possibly get more circular than that.

Science relies on observation. Not observation of what someone wrote in a book, but observation of phenomena in the Universe around us. Science puts forward a model to explain a set of apparently related observations. From this model, it makes predictions of other phenomena we should be able to observe if the model is correct. After testing to see that the model’s predictions are true, a Theory is written stating the ideas of the model. This theory is then subjected to peer review. Other concerned scientists test the experiments of the theory to determine if they can independently replicate them. They look for predictions that would flow from the theory, but that they can disprove by testing. Only if the theory survives this vigorous and unending peer review does it stand. If a theory predicts something that proves false, we either drop the theory altogether or figure out how the new observation impacts it so we can constantly improve the theory so that it predicts observable phenomena.

There are two possible God Models. One posits a god who wrote all the laws the Universe runs by, and started the Universe evolving as these laws determine, but who does not intervene in any way with the day to day operation of the Universe today. This model is untestable and cannot be falsified. So it is definitely not science. That’s not to say it can’t be true, only that it lies completely outside the realm of science.

The second God Model posits a God who does intervene in the day-to-day workings of the Universe. This model is testable and falsifiable, and it has failed every scientific test its been put to. The Universe follows the known laws of physics. If there were a supernatural being intervening routinely and bending these laws, we would be able to observe the deviations from natural law such interference would produce. We do not. So this model has been falsified. It, too, is not science.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
CaptainHarley's avatar

There are many different sorts of “research.” The most scientific sort is based upon repeatable experiment. Other research is based on logic and reason exclusively, or is subjective and experiential which is usually anecdotal and thus not easily repeated.

crisw's avatar

I think I just got the ultimate example of the difference between science and non-science.

I was asked by a person (name withheld as it’s the phenomenon and not the person that is important here) to provide some particular scientific information on a particular topic; one that is often disputed by the religious with a “how is this possible?” comment . I took the time to do some research and provide some links on several theories of how it was possible. Within minutes, I got back a flippant response. When I asked the person if the links I provided had been read, since they showed several ways that the mentioned phenomenon was possible, I got the reply:
“You don’t believe, i do. I’m sure not changing my mind…and vise versa.”

I replied:
“I don’t believe what and you don’t believe what, exactly? I thought we were talking about [the subject of the conversation]; what does a belief in a god (which is what I presume you are talking about) have to do with that?

As far as ” I’m sure not changing my mind…and vise versa”- see, that’s the difference between science and non-science. Give me real evidence for something and I will change my mind. But it seems as if you are saying “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.””

laureth's avatar

@CaptainHarley – I would beg to differ, and say that pure logic is not research. Logic can get you lots of places, but it’s no substitute for data. (Logic, for example, says that we ought not borrow during a recession, but when you add research and data, such as “historically low interest rates” and such, it can fill in gaps in the logic that you might not know are there if you don’t look past the logic in the skull, and reveal that we do need to borrow to get out of this one, even if it goes against pure logic.)

@ETpro – I agree with you thoroughly, but my conversational companion would say that even if scientists conducted experiments and wrote the results down in books that I read, I am taking their findings on faith, so it’s just the same as reading the Bible. The nugget that I’m trying to pull out of everyone’s answers (and there are good ones) is an effective way to describe the difference between what I read in my books and what he reads in his Book.

(I’m not trying to convince him that God doesn’t exist, by the way, because that would be a losing battle. I am trying to convince him that reading and accepting what the Bible says because it matches the spiritual experience he had is not “thinking critically.”)

@crisw – Thank you for that and I totally get it. My friend would probably say that scientists have an agenda to prove what they believe in just like other, more faith-based people. (sigh.)

@Aster – What does it mean? Let’s say my friend had a spiritual experience. Confused,he looked to religion to explain the experience, and found that by reading the Bible, he was able to say that he connected with God somehow. However, he did not look for explanations outside of religious books, for instance, nothing at all about psychology or medicine or philosophy. Does this make more sense? I’m also trying to find a way to express the idea that because the Bible says someone was healed and regained sight, it doesn’t mean that it actually happened (i.e., reliability of the data). It could be a made-up story, it could be an exaggeration, it could be a later edit with an agenda, etc. – but my friend would say the same of a book of science. What’s the difference?

@BoBo1946 – A lot of what I said to @Aster would also apply to your question. I feel that to truly investigate something, we have to look for reasons other than just “God did it.” That seems like a shortcut,a way of saying, ‘Well, we just don’t know and we’re not interested in looking any more.” Even if God did do it, the scientific mind would ask next, “Okay, what made God?” If your answer is simply that God is and always has been, I might ask “Well, why can’t the Universe have always been? Let’s find out.” See what I mean?

Rarebear's avatar

@crisw Exactly. If there were a study that said, say, that homeopathy can cure disease, then I’ll turn my opinion on a dime. Science looks and evaluates evidence.

BoBo1946's avatar

@laureth I like your approach. You’re a very fair person. You don’t attack, you inquire as to why Christians believe as they do. You said, “Okay, what made God?” Christians accept their beliefs based on Faith. Personally, I believe in the Bible and what God said on this matter.

be back for editing

crisw's avatar


One good way to look at this is this one:

When confronted with facts that don’t fit a belief, scientists throw out the belief.

When confronted with facts that don’t fit a belief, many religious people throw out the facts.

To the scientist, knowing what is true is paramount. Many of the religious think they already have the truth, so keeping their belief is more important than knowing what is really true.

BoBo1946's avatar

Well, I was editing my question and hit the answer button, my original version came up. I spent 35 minutes on it. Oh well @laureth, it is late. Will come back tomorrow and finish it. My anwser is in cyberspace. loll

Jabe73's avatar

@laureth I’m not sure where you are getting at. Not all theist oppose scientific research or hold orthodox religious views. If I oppose something (like a scientific theory) I usually have a good reason for it, not my religious beliefs. There are many disagreements within many fields of science to begin with. Take nutrition for one, on one side you have a group telling you to avoid red meat and consume more whole grains and fiber. On the other end you have a group telling you protein from meat is very healthy, most animal fats are healthy while whole grains and high fiber are not healthy. Which one do you believe? I could go on and on about many other issues as well. I do find that at times I do agree with the minority scientific views on many topics or theories. Science should try to seek the truth, not be dogmatic.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Jabe73 exactly what is meant by scientific research on Christianity or religious views? I only have my life experiences. Oh, I’ve read about the Big Bang, have studied many other religions…Hinduism, Buddhism, etc, (certainly no scholar) but my life experiences brought me to believe as I do, and my own conscience, my readings, etc. My life experiences is my laborabory.

It’s late…see you tomorrow.

ETpro's avatar

@laureth I completely understand, and if your friend is deeply into a faith-based system, there may be nothing you can do to convince him to change his mind. As @crisw noted, his mind is already made up,

His own Book defines faith thus, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” in Hebrews 11:1. The only evidence for what he believes is his Book and the emotions it stirs in him. He is quite right that you are not a scientists yourself (at least I presume this is true) and you are drawing things out of books as well.,

But the books you are reading present facts that need not be taken on faith. They can be tested to see if they are true. There is nothing a young, budding scientist would rather do that poke holes in some theory of a colleague who has overreached the bounds of what is testable or stated “facts” that prove false upon experimentation or observation.

And because the facts presented in good books on science can be tested and falsified, they are part of the information storehouse of the reality based community as opposed to the information believed by the faith based community.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The scientific method sets out to disprove. It never proves. Religion never proves or disproves anything at all.

eden2eve's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies “The scientific method sets out to disprove. It never proves.”
If this is true, why, then, do so many of it’s proponents hammer on these “theories” ad nauseum, demanding that the “unbelievers” relent and admit that they are true? Did they not realize that their rantings are perceived as “proselitizing” to their marks? Of course, I’ve heard some state that they are justified because if they can “convert” one of these cretins, they have purged the world of a little bit of ignorance, thus making the world a better and safer place. They appear to be “hell bent” (pun intended) upon eliminating the evil that is religion from the world. Does that sound familiar?

When any person who claims faith as part of their view, even if/when they allow for the value of science in conjunction with that faith, they are hammered for “proselitizing”. Perhaps these individuals also feel that they will be doing good in the world to provide “saving” principles to others, and that they have some valuable insights to provide. Yet you invariably ascribe negative intent to their efforts. I see little of that faith-based type of “proselitizing” here, so I’d suppose that you are fairly successful in reducing that type of pollution on Fluther. Is that not a form of curtailment of “freedom of speech”? I was under the impression that this is a particularly abhorrent practice to many of you. This forum claims to encourage “diversity” of thought, but in reality the practices of many, which frequently seem to be supported by administrative persons, prevent that which they claim to encourage.

I can see several different examples of hypocrisy here. Can you?

I believe that the scientific method is a valuable tool, used ethically, for scientific principles to be discovered, and appreciate the efforts of those who responsibly provide this valuable information to those who are not so able to gain these insights and are eager to learn. That being said, I also appreciate some non-scientific research when it gives me food for thought and helps me to determine what I believe. While done differently, it can also enlighten. The methods may be different, but at times they each can derive “truth”. Is that not what we all wish to attain? I don’t believe that either method is inherently “wrong”.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@eden2eve ” invariably ascribe negative intent to their efforts.”

There is nothing negative about disproving anything. Disproof dispels myth, folklore, and lies. That is a good thing.

But “proof” is a phantom, never showing the entire movie. Just single frame clips, silly to take them out of context, considering them the entire picture. Foolish indeed.

iamthemob's avatar


For the record, I understand the difference between scientific and non-scientific research. What I’m looking for is how to describe that “visions of God that appeared in my head and which are confirmed with Bible reading” are not the same kind of research as a double-blind, peer reviewed study to someone who thinks that both are equally reliable and valid.

my conversational companion would say that even if scientists conducted experiments and wrote the results down in books that I read, I am taking their findings on faith, so it’s just the same as reading the Bible. The nugget that I’m trying to pull out of everyone’s answers (and there are good ones) is an effective way to describe the difference between what I read in my books and what he reads in his Book.

I’m not sure why this is important. If you’re talking about god, the scientific approach to the question kind of falls apart. It really makes no difference whether or not science shows that there is a god, it can’t really show that there’s no god (well, not in the conceivable future). If, and it seems that this is the case, we are discussing the judeo-christian god, the issue is very different. But science really isn’t the way to go at it. What truth is this companion trying to pull from his readings and experiences (or hers, but I’m going to resort to he)? If it’s a truth that’s universally identifiable in most other faiths, sacred texts, etc., then it’s no more proof than any of those other texts. If it’s facts of how things happened (e.g., creation), then it’s reasonable to point to peer reviewed studies showing what we’ve discovered regarding the age of the universe, the earth, diversity in life, etc. But you should be willing to admit that there’s a lot unknown, and that the specifics are obviously under constant development. The problem with resort to the bible in any literal fashion is that it is a STATIC model, not subject to change, and therefore he must understand that he can’t point to it to counter your points regarding observable evidence. I would also ask what the person feels about the selection and cannonization of biblical books, how it’s changed over time (e.g., Mark was previously the least regarded among the first four New Testament books until it was discovered it was the oldest, and perhaps the only one written by someone who personally observed Christ), translation issues, transcription issues, and why the bible is a closed text (e.g., why are there no new revalations? What if we have ignored prophets (MLK seems like a good candidate)? Why are the Books of Mormon disregarded? etc.). I’m sure you’ve done some of this

But again, science doesn’t have anything to offer when we’re discussing god unless the person is generally approaching it from a specific religious perspective. General issues of “proof of god” are outside the purvey of science generally as they do not depend on any observable phenomenon, and can be used to explain all anyway.


The second God Model posits a God who does intervene in the day-to-day workings of the Universe. This model is testable and falsifiable, and it has failed every scientific test its been put to. The Universe follows the known laws of physics. If there were a supernatural being intervening routinely and bending these laws, we would be able to observe the deviations from natural law such interference would produce. We do not. So this model has been falsified. It, too, is not science.

I have to disagree. Considering the lack of a unified theory of physics, the size of the perceivable universe, our very, very recent development of the tools necessary to get a real concept of the issues working in the microcosmic and macrocosmic scales, there is no real support to say that this model has been falsified. Considering that, according to many, “God works in mysterious ways,” I don’t think that this model is any more falsifiable than the first model.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Whether a scientist holds religious beliefs or not, scientific research cannot be applied to matters of faith. The Scientific Method and science itself, while versatile, is not a tool that can be properly applied to all areas of inquiry.

Theologians may use deductive or inductive logic to prove their beliefs but this is not science. Logic depends entirely on the prior assumptions and the arbitrary definitions of the terms used.

Science depends on operationally defined terms that are consistent with consensually validated empirical observations. Hypothesis testing starts with the assumption that the effect on interest does not exist and then repeated observes and tests that Null Hypothesis until it must be rejected in the face of compelling empirical evidence that the alternate hypothesis, that the effect of interest exists and can be replicated by others.

Any scientific question must be one that allows for falsification. Read the work of Carl Popper for a better explanation of the importance of falsification in the process of science.

Anyone can do research on topics of interest by reading what others say about a subject and can arrive at inferences or conclusions of academic value without the use of the scientific method. Based on the assumptions accepted, the conclusion can be logically valid without being the product of science. This is true for History, Theology, Fine Arts, Music and so on.

If you want to do science, you must live with the constraints imposed by that method on what you can study and what you can say about that which you study. These constraints make science a fairly sharp instrument, when applied with diligence and when subjected to the bright and harsh light of peer review.

If this explanation fails to clarify the distinction, the reader must examine their own prior assumption for reasons why they are unable to comprehend the difference.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

The problem with trying to explain this is that to a Christian, everything is proof that there is God, and the opposite is true for an atheist. People with faith in God don’t need the scientific “proof” that you speak of. So, even if you explain to Ben the scientific approach, it won’t matter. To the Christian, scientific proof falls short because it is limited to man’s understanding of the world and there is so much more than that. So, not being able to scientifically prove that there is or isn’t a God makes no difference whatsoever.

ETpro's avatar

@iamthemob I disagree that we must have a unified theory of the cosmos before we can say anything about it. There is an enormous amount we do know about physics. If God intervenes in day to day affairs, that would require bending the known laws of physics to create an effect not common to the cause. We simply do not see that happening. I suppose you could argue that God knows in advance all that is to happen, and so always directs scientists to be looking elsewhere when he makes light travel faster or slower than it is supposed to, or turns off gravity, or causes a star to simply evaporate into nothingness with no supernova or apparent decay.

But even if that is the case, we should be able to tell God answers prayer by epidemiological means. Christians are convinced God answers prayer and heals miraculously. So are Muslims and numerous other faiths. Given equal access to top rate medical care, does any one religion recover from terminal cancer almost all the time, while all those “false faiths” get no healing effect at all? Actually, the miraculous recovery rate is about the same for all. The placebo effect seems to be the most we can hope to gain from prayer, no matter which God’s name we pray in.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

There is no such thing as “proof”.

May as well be talking about Unicorns or the FSM

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

There is only Observation and Description.

That’s all we can do. That’s all we are capable of,

iamthemob's avatar


I agree that we needn’t have a unified theory before in order to say what we know about the cosmos – however, the examples was meant to illuminate the facts that we know enough to know that there is so much more to figure out. Considering our arguably rudimentary understanding of the laws of physics, there is no reason to think that god ISN’T already constantly bending the observable laws of physics (maybe it works on the 9th dimension ;-)). Additionally, we observe so little at any one time, it seems reasonable to say that there’s no need to ensure the scientist is looking the other way…he or she probably already is.

The second paragraph is based on the assumption that (1) god would interpret our prayers literally, (2) that there is a method that could be developed to determine when god said yes, no, not quite, etc., (3) god gives a hoot the religion of the person praying, and really (4) that god would even get mixed up in what we want.

Considering that the OP was concerned mainly with the Christian god it seems…then I may have been hasty. If that’s how we are conceiving of god, then you’re absolutely right.

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