Faith in science

Discussion in 'Politics and Society' started by A Cup Of Tea, Mar 30, 2015.

  1. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

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    Many times people write about science as a new religion or that science is based on faith, and I think people make these statements or claims because they are unfamiliar with its process or are unable to see beyond their previous experiences that have been faith-based. The reply has almost always been along the lines of 'no, it's based on facts' which I think is rather unhelpful and, in fact, not entirely true.

    First we need to define what science is, and already I know people will object. What scientist and scientifically inclined actually mean when they say 'science' is the 'Scientific Method'. It's a process of inquiry that is completely void of faith. But the word science has included all fields of study at one point and several methods of investigating them. Instead of burying the discussion in further arguments on the nature of science I will yield that the popular modern definition is simply the scientific method. But in future discussions I encourage everyone to point out what they are talking about if their purpose is to make themselves clear in the discussion (as opposed to just arguing aimlessly). In this text I define science as the scientific method as defined in Oxford English Dictionary ("...consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.") And if anyone wish to comment this text with an expanded definition of the word I hope they will point this out and define it the best they can.

    It's also incredibly important to remember that science is a process without a beginning or an end. What we found out yesterday will shape how and what we find out tomorrow. Every answer we have today is only built on what we know today. When we know more the answer might very will change. That does not mean that the answer is wrong in the first place but that it gave us a bigger question with a bigger answer. Gravity still functions as it did in Newton’s days and we still use his laws, but since Einstein we know there is more to it.

    Now that is what science 'is', and it is not based on faith. But science is surrounded by the rest of society and is, in a way, made up of scientists. Society and scientists complicate things because they are humans and humans are messy. There are degrees to what is actually known, from 'If I let go of the stone it will fall to the ground'; to consensus in the scientific community; to popular opinion; and down to personal conviction. In one and end there is science and in the other there is faith, but they all concern science and its results.

    In society I will focus on the role of media. Its purpose is to disseminate information the public is interested in. Counterproductive to the nature of science the media often make things interesting if it doesn't seem interesting in the first place. Very few in society have the ability to evaluate the latest advancements in science and the likelihood of some implications. We simply have to trust those who know better than us. This is the interesting part, since the most rational thing to do is to put our faith in the scientific method and those who practice it. So here is the faith, not inside science but in science. Unfortunately we are often too trusting in the headlines and the social sciences tell us that where we put our trust is often a popularity contents more than an active choice.

    Scientists also bring an element of faith into it. Humans aren't completely rational after all no matter how hard we try. As science is a process and what is known is a matter of degrees there are things that seem more true to one scientist then to another. Either one of them, when asked on a course of action based on the current understanding of a topic, puts a level of faith on his or her prior experiences. This is not science but a direct consequence of humans and their relationship to science. The argument made by either scientist can be completely rational and based on scientific research but with enough room to arrive at different conclusions. Earning a degree in a scientific field doesn't guarantee sanity or lifelong trust in the scientific method either, a lot can change in a persons life. So let’s not trust scientists just for being scientists, they are also human.

    So I think I have showed that there is an element of faith in our relationship to science. If anyone wants me to explain how there is no faith in each step of the scientific method I will try to do that. I also know that I haven't defined 'faith' at all in this text because I have honestly "winged it", faith is slightly beyond my reach. If we change its meaning this whole text could go out the window. If there are any objections please go ahead, the scientific method demands that we go back and re-evaluate what is known in the light of new data.
     
  2. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Agendas...intention....who is paying for the science... all have an effect on the outcome eh?
     
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  3. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai Staff Member

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    There is trust in science and scientific methods, but I wouldn't call it faith. Faith lie in God. The way I look at it, science is merely what God has thus far revealed and scientific method(s) just a way to put what God has revealed to use.
     
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  4. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    We are all used to corporations who sponsor experiments in order to get the results they desire. Like tobacco companies producing test after test that showed there was no significant harm in their product. These were bad, but one could look at who was sponsoring the test to get a good idea how much credence it should be given.

    These days there is an unfortunate new reality that must be considered about science. One that is particularly insidious.

    Big Corp donates billions to Universities and other institutions that were once not for sale. As a result there is pressure, heavy pressure, to not distribute test results that would be embarrassing to these corporations. Because there is no direct connection to what a Corp donates to a university and the experiments they run (and how much they may skew their results) it has become exceedingly difficult to know who can be trusted to be truly nonpartisan in their experiments.
     
  5. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    In the cosmetic industry (anyone remember the FDCA....that was the FDA before the cosmetic industry convinced the government they could self regulate themselves) we've got non-toxic and toxin free ...toxin free means it contains no known toxins...non toxic means that less than 50% of the animals used in testing died during the test... So you design a six week test putting whatever in them every day and 4 weeks later 48 of your animals have died...what do you do? You simply stop the test, end it right there, show that less than 50% died, and call your product non toxic.

    Scientific method brutalized by industry.
     
  6. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

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    Not so hard! And it doesn't bother me that it wasn't a very popular thread, I mostly wanted it written down for later while it was still in my head. But I noticed the use of the word 'science' that falls outside my definition above, in and out of this thread. But it's a though topic and I don't think I should put my noes in it every time someone use the word differently then described here, I'm not professing myself an expert on anything. So my silence the result of not knowing what to add.
    Thanks for calling it solid, feedback is always appreciated!
     
  7. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Since I helped derail this thread, think I'll attempt to get it back on track. Namely Tea's original theory about how science and faith may be related. To with:

    I believe you caused some confusion by speaking about the faith of scientists and also the faith of nonscientists with science. Ideally these two topics would be covered separately.

    Do scientists have a use for faith? Yes they do. Take someone who has an unsubstantiated theory. They are attempting to prove they have the science right. But until they can do that, they are acting on faith (and education, and intuition, and so on) that they are on the right track.

    Where the buck stops concerning faith with science is that scientific proof is NOT based on faith. Scientific proof comes from the use of the scientific method, as Tea explained. There is no room for faith. Either your science is correct and reproducible or it isn't.

    But science has had proofs that turned out to be wrong? Well, yes. And no. Science builds upon what it knows. If a better explanation comes along to replace an earlier proof - that is more a refinement of the information. Fact is that science is the only human endeavor that builds upon itself. One has to simply take a look at our modern society to see this is fact. We wouldn't have all the wonderful complicated toys (and the terrible weapons) without science constantly building upon what it knew before.

    This is the biggest difference between science and religion, and why religion is not a science and science is not a religion. Were humanity to follow the religious process, we wouldn't be any more advanced than we were 2000 years ago. Which is not a slight against religion because that is not what religion is for.

    Summing up. There is a place for faith within a scientist's world view. There is no place for faith in the scientific process.

    Time permitting, I will have some thoughts on the concept of faith amongst nonscientists towards science, which is a very fascinating issue.
     
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  8. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    I believe for science to be proven, it has to be proven it works again...and again....to n+1...or defined as to when and how it doesn't work.

    Peer reviewed...not just the scientific method...but tests have to be repeated...first we had tests...then double blind tests with placebos...now that we know the effect of the observer preferred methods are triple blind...with those doing the testing and analyzing not knowing who was on the placebo...

    Thereby reducing the impact of faith and intent.
     
  9. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Peer review is a part of the process of the scientific method. Not an addition to.
     
  10. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Will return when I have time...
     
  11. Aussie Thoughts

    Aussie Thoughts Just my 2 cents

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    I couldn't have said it any better.
     
  12. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    My two cents: (plus a buck 98 might get you a cuppa coffee somewhere other than Starbucks)

    I am indeed guilty as charged, have been so for years, for making statements of the similarities between science and religion...*most notably at the lay level.*

    Therein lies my first clarification...scientific method is a philosophical means of looking at a puzzle, a piece of reality, in some effort to attempt to explain "how?" Fundamentally, religious philosophy attempts to explain questions of "why?" At a glance the two would seem to be quite different, but both *do* have the underlying tie to *philosophy.* Caveat number one: I am speaking in the Greek, western sense of terms here. I am less knowledgeable of (East) Indian and Chinese / Oriental models, although I understand they are similar until I am shown otherwise and that all three have informed each other through the millennia.

    Minor correction...Einstein has not solved gravity, we still don't know quite what gravity is. I agree apples did not suspend in midair while scientists argued over who was right...however, this does highlight what I have said in the past about different systems used to explain "concepts of reality." Often they appear to be at odds when in fact they are complementary to each other, if only the fundies on both sides would set their predispositions down long enough to get the gist.

    I do take minor exception to the often stated misnomer that science changes routinely. Makes for a great soundbite, but in point of fact brought to light by Thomas Kuhn in the book "Structures of Scientific Revolutions" it is more about politics...*much* more. Case in point from memory, the idea that became Plate Techtonics was ignored and shelved for many decades until the old guard died off, and the new regime was a bit more agreeable to the concept and evidence. This isn't the exception in science, this is the "rule." (pun intended)

    That is why a person needs to distinguish if they are speaking as a scientist (which by implication means "logic," as logic is the language of science) or if a person is speaking from some other philosophical tradition. The two are not mutually exclusive, and it is only the fundamentalists in both camps that believe the two disciplines are mutually exclusive.

    Ostensibly, science attempts to account for "bias." That is why so many studies are double blind or even triple blind so that researchers cannot inadvertently impact a study.

    That said, particularly in the "soft" sciences (history and anthropology being the two that hold my interest), bias is effectively unavoidable. There the idea is "peer review," in which at least two and usually more that are comprehensively involved in the field (read that as "in control") review the find or evidence and add their two cents to arrive at "consensus." This consensus may or may not change over time with new finds and new "peers," depending on the political winds.

    "Faith" is simply that which we believe to be right and correct. In that sense, sure scientists have to have faith in themselves and in what they do. In that sense all other people are the same, everyone has to have at least some strong sense of belief in themselves and what philosophy/method/reasons/religion (not really the word I want here) that they choose to align with and be led by.

    I just lost over an hour of writing...again. I'm done for now.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
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  13. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    I don't remember everything I tried to write earlier, a lot of it got posted on the other thread relating to the Hermetical tradition and alchemy, finding the stuff tenuously associating Newton to the Rosicrucians furthers my suspicions that I am on the right track.

    What fed a lot of this stuff early on was a post here at IF long ago by a well respected and dearly loved and missed poster named Vajradhara, who posted from the Buddhist POV. Way back when I started around here he posted a thread about Richard Dawkins' "Memes" and how Buddhism didn't align with them, what he called a "meme-less meme," but went on to share Dawkins' use of the meme idea to essentially deride all religions, with particular aim at fundamentalist monotheistic religions.

    Funny thing was, as I reviewed the material, I couldn't help but notice Dawkins', and those he represented, were just as "guilty" of his memes, if not in full form than certainly in full function. My observations were at first met with light hearted ridicule, then basically rolled eyes and dismissal. Mind you, not any kind of logical or reasoned dismissal, just the plain old fundy style "wave of the hand" type, like I didn't know what I was talking about.

    Over time I was able to point out multiple examples of such fundy style responses among atheists and "science wannabees," for a long time (years) almost routinely. I lost count. In the beginning there was the instinctive "NO!," and over time I just got more of the rolled eyes treatment...but *no one ever* had any reasoned response. The only response I ever got was "science is not religion, end of discussion."

    So I started asking where science came from, and typically got all of the usual excuses, and whenever it came around to association with religion, by now completely predictable, the answer was an immediate "NO, science is not a religion," with zero further explanation.

    Finally after pressing the issue, by now for many years, some would hesitatingly say, "yeah, well, you know, it was the way it was back then, and everybody was religious anyway, so the scientists were religious but they weren't religious"...(I mean, sounds to me like a Jewish Messiah who isn't Jewish...go figure). Simply there is this knee-jerk predictable response whenever someone suggests there is a tie to religion and science. "NO!" Then the closed ears and closed minds...in complete opposition to their stated philosophy of open minded thoughtful consideration of evidence.

    Strange dichotomy, that.
     
  14. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Hmmm...that might be why Einstein was enamoured of Buddhism...quite a bit of inductive reasoning there too...
     

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