Science as a Religion

Science as a Religion. What do you think?

Could you be more specific than eight words?

Are you asking if science is a religion? If it should be considered as one? What the similarities/differences are?

Science could be seen as a means to an ends (complete knowledge). And it could be seen as being a good substitute for God based religions, thus Science as a Religion.

Can, does, science substitute the spiritual hole that some people have (all people?). Can science do a better job? Why or why not?

Religion has a permanence that science doesn’t, surely.

Religion is founded on faith and the permanence of the relevant morality. Science is concerned with explaining phenomena with the ‘best fit’ theory at any one time.

Search for knowledge… search for God??? I don’t know… could be similar.

Could people be substituting Science for Religion and not notice it due to cultural trends?

They serve two different purposes. It’s like asking if a hammer could substitute for a coffee pot. The answer, of course, is no-unless my wife made the coffee.:slight_smile:

Science says very little that’s clear about how we should live our lives, which I take to be one of the central parts of religion.

Science and religion can be complementary means of attaining knowledge, but are fundamentally differerent.

Science accepts its postulates with a tentative faith. It is always open to revision as new information becomes available. It will never claim to be a finished product.

Religion accepts its postulates with an absolute faith. It is resistant to revision and often threatened when new information is in conflict with its postulates. It claims that it is true because it says it is, that is sufficient proof for religion. But religion can inform where science can never go.

Science is mostly interested in the how; religion in the why.

Orange as an apple?

Hopefully, the vast majority of scientists would say that having faith in science is dangerous and contrary to the scientific process. I’d wager a fair number of them would also say that faith is not a reliable method of obtaining knowledge.

To say that science accepts its postulates with a tentative faith is misstating it slightly. If it is faith that leads one to expect that the 100th running of a certain experiment will produce the same result as the previous 99, then it is faith, but I don’t think that is the understood use of the word “faith”.

As far as people not noticing the substitution of religious beliefs with scientific understanding, it seems to me that the experiences of the '99 Kansas School Board and the current Ohio School Board are indicative that it is a very noticeable process, indeed.

IMHO, science does a much better job at answering questions we all grapple with, including spiritual ones, although I will not quibble with those of religious faith who seek answers in another way. Science has convinced me to finally discard the notions of soul and god and to conclude that exploring the question “why?” (other than a question such as “Why do ocean mammals sometime beach themselves?”) is ultimately not a useful undertaking.

Although science as the process of experimentally determining the truth of hypotheses doesn’t make for much of a religion, if you look at the question in terms of common (mis)perceptions of science religion starts to fit right in.

What I mean is that science is often looked to as a quasi-mystical process whereby scientists (priests, or equivalent) engage in mysterious and poorly understood rituals, the result of which is some kind of benefit for society. Clearly this is not the way that science works from the perspective of scientists, but I can see where people would get the idea. Many popular explanations of scientific phenomena boil down to “trust us, you’ll never understand it, but this latest advance is terrific and aren’t we glad that science is here to take care of us.” People don’t believe in science because they have independently confirmed results or because they know and trust the methods of scientists, they just believe it on faith.

Anyway, that’s my pitch for science as the religion that’s really not a religion, but somehow people believe in it anyway.

Science tests itself, repeatedly, and asks everyone to test it.

Religion tests nothing, gets irate if you try, and demands blind obedience.

It’s not even close.

Rjung, your definition of religion seems awfully narrow. I imagine you’d probably consider Buddhism a religion, but Buddhism actively promotes self-testing (that is, if you meditate and you don’t think Buddhism is a road to Enlightenment, then you shouldn’t practice it). That seems to violate all three things you ascribe to religion. Unitarians, also, promote questioning.

Maybe you have “religion” confused with “fundamentalist Christianity”?

Not that I think science is a religion or vice versa, but I do think science and religion have at least one significant similarity: they both attempt to describe the way the world is. The conclusions that each reaches are of course vastly different, as are the methods in getting there (as has already been pointed out), but the nature of the statement—the world is this way, or that way—is the same, at least when religion and science are both applied to the physical world.

That’s really where they most come into conflict, anyway. To me, it seems like the main reason why some theists are mistrustful of science is that believing the world is run a certain way, was caused a certain way, and exists in a certain way is central to many of their beliefs, and science may disagree with those beliefs. But science and religion couldn’t disagree in any other way, because pure science isn’t about anything else: science is not a normative pursuit—it does not tell you the way things should be, nor does it make any claim about anything beyond the scope of empirical testing. Most religions do make normative claims, and in that respect they do not clash with science, since science—by itself—offers them nothing to clash with.

It seems like most religions exist to legislate morality, and science rarely, if ever, addresses this.

My new sig is strangely appropriate.

That is, if I had been clever enough to have the “show signature” box checked.

As was noted earlier, there are some things about religions that I’m not aware of:

so obviously I can’t be taken for an expert on religion. And also obviously, what experience I bring to this discussion is from the viewpoint of a middle-aged, white American male.

For me, the two are compatible branches of our human experience, but only that. The very definition of MOST religions (bows to fluiddruid) contains the premise that This Is The Word Of God (or Allah, or Yaweh, or whatever) and as such it means that the religion is not to be questioned. When it IS questioned, then all hell breaks loose (pun intended). Witness such things as the Inquisition all the way to today’s Fundamentalist religions (from Baptist to Muslim)----their word is NOT to be questioned, under pain of death.

On the other hand, science at least IS DEFINED BY THE ** * REQUIREMENT * ** TO QUESTION ITS PRINCIPLES. An experiment MUST be duplicatable…a theorem MUST be provable. If it isn’t…it isn’t science.

Which brings me to the sobering coin-flip; that of religion trying to say it IS science (re:creationism). Sorry, it isn’t…it CAN’T BE. As long as your basis for belief is in something that is inherently untestable, much less unprovable, then it isn’t science.

That “we don’t understand how it works or why but we take it on faith that it’s good” idea that greatZebu mentioned can apply to a lot of things. It’s certainly true of some people toward science—probably even to some scientists toward advances in other fields—but I’ve also had that feeling with art and literature. I seem to have a hard time appreciating what makes “great” art or literature (literature particularly) so great, although people versed in the field seem to know very well and yet be not particularly great at explaining why. It’s lately happened to me a few times sitting in my survey of English literature class that I would think something we read was pretty good, and then not too much later would hear my teacher say, “this isn’t a particularly good piece, but we’ll go over it anyway because it was popular during the period” or something like that. (This is particularly distressing because I’m an English major who’s planning on making the study of this stuff the focus of my academic life for the next few years.)

And maybe there is a sort of elevated criterion for greatness in things like literature and art. I just don’t happen to know what it is, any more than I might know why such-and-such next scientific discovery is supposed to be so wonderful. I’m faced with an almost faith-like decision in situations like this, then: do I accept a teacher’s definition of greatness on faith (as one would accept a doctor’s diagnosis of his symptoms if he had no personal knowledge of the cause of what might be causing him to suffer), or do I doubt the teacher’s word and try to find my own definition of greatness—at the risk of completely missing the point of all of my lectures until I figure it out?

So in other words, decisions in a lot of cases are often taken on faith, from science to religion to art to English to deciding what movie to go see based on your friend’s word. Faith therefore isn’t exclusive to religion, though that is a significant feature of it. Faith—belief in something one has not experienced onesself—is an aspect of life in general.

Actually, no. I think Buddhism (at least in its original form) is more of a philosophy than a religion, like Taoism and Confucianism. A lot of the offshoots these days are closer to what I’d consider a religion, though, with the dietification of assorted buddhas.

[QUTOE]Maybe you have “religion” confused with “fundamentalist Christianity”?

Maybe, but then we’d have to throw Orthodox Judiasm and most forms of Islam into the pool as well. :slight_smile:

Oh no! Does this mean I’m going to have to buy a whole new set of thin buddhas?

I suppose that some people can perceive science as some kind of religion since they just accept what’s said by the scientific community.

That’s not the way it works however. All scientific theories must be falstifiable, for example, which makes science totally opposite to religions.