Τρίτη, 3 Ιανουαρίου 2012

How does Science differ from Faith?

Science is a faith!

But this is exactly what religious believers say about science, to reduce it to an equal philosophical footing with religious faith. Why would I agree with them? Well, ... , even religious people can be right in some of their claims and I really think this is one of them. Not that science is philosophically on an equal footing with religious faith. Only that science is ultimately faith based.



Science is, of course, a very special kind of faith, a significantly different faith than all religious ones, a faith nevertheless. Why is it a faith? Because it rests on fundamental assumptions which cannot themselves be scientifically established. They have to be accepted 'on faith'.

Quite a few people would strongly object to the statement above, insisting that "scientific claims are not accepted 'on faith', they are on the contrary accepted based on evidence". Quite right! Still, who is to say that evidence based inquiry leads closer to reality than the one based on intuition or revelation, which is what religious faith claims? "Well, the fact that it works!", one might answer. Quite right again! So to conclude:

We know that evidence based inquiry leads closer to reality because there is ample ... evidence to support this claim!

Bothered by the circular reasoning in above statement anyone?

An alternative approach would be to define 'proximity to reality' as 'what works'. I would gladly go by that, still, it's got its own problems. A secondary problem is that science is not guaranteed to work. Noone could be certain in advance that it would work. It so happens that it works. It is for this very reason that I insist that "There is only one miracle and it happens all the time : Science!" or, in Einstein's words "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.". The fact that science works cannot itself be accounted for by science. It's a kind of a miracle. Even the fact that we have seen it work extremely well for quite a while, does not gurrantee that it will still work the next instance! But this was the secondary problem, remember?

The primary problem with this definition of reality is that it is not itself a scientific claim. It is not a claim that can be validated or invalidated based on evidence. Reality is a fundamental concept, not one that can be further analysed, explained, proven or disproven. Therefore any claims regarding it, cannot be supported scientifically. So we end up where we started, i.e. science rests on fundamental claims that cannot be scientifically supported themselves. That's exactly what we mean 'on faith'.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for science! Why? For the very reason mentioned above that, unlike all religious faith, it works! It's the only faith that works, and this is an excellent reason for choosing it against the others. That does not change the fact that it is faith based.

Therefore, Science is a faith, the one that works!

As a special kind of faith, the one that works, I think science needs its own special Creed. After all we need to be clear on what exactly it is that distinguishes faiths that don't work from the one that does. So here is my proposal for The Scientific Creed for your comments.


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