Why does faith not need scientific evidence to be certain?

As a devout Christian, I am constantly questioned about how I can possibly believe in God when there is no (or little) scientific evidence to support His existence. I have gotten quite tired of saying that “oh, I just feel it inside of me,” and so I have now come to ask WHY it is that our faith DOESN’T need scientific evidence to be certain, and why experience and intuition is enough.

It would be great if the discussion is not limited to religion, and other arguments dealing with, for example, why our belief in extra terrestrial life can be certain without evidence are mentioned as well! I know this is tricky, but it’s kinda along the same lines (at least according to some of the atheists I have talked to).

To really satisfy me, however, it would be great if some atheists could provide a couple of their arguments as to why we cannot be certain about anything without scientific evidence, just so that I get a good overview of all the perspectives!

Thank you!

Without solid, physical evidence you are thrown back on simply taking things on faith. How could it be otherwise? If there is no physical evidence, and no logical reason for something (such as dark matter/dark energy, of which there is no direct evidence, but plenty of circumstantial evidence that SOMETHING is causing the effects) then belief is just that…belief. Faith. Neither of which requires anything other than the rationalization and that core belief and faith.

Some people (myself for instance) require a bit more evidence than simple belief or faith. Some folks don’t. Difference is what makes the world go around.

Clearly, in your case it doesn’t, so just tell them to STFU and leave you to your faith. I’ve never understood the reasons some atheists need to pick apart someones faith, or grill them on all the reasons their belief is silly, has no evidence, etc etc. Probably because those same atheists have been grilled by theist types for ages and are looking for some pay back, but both are in the wrong on this IMHO. Live and let live. If you want to believe in something or have faith in something, that’s your call. Knock yourself out. Me, I need to see some evidence before I’m going to accept something…and extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs, so it’s going to be a hell of a lot of solid evidence for me to accept a Judeo-Christian type God.

We can’t be absolutely certain about many things - evidence helps move us away from uncertainty and toward certainty - and many things in science are sufficiently certain that in practice, we can treat them as absolute (betting our lives on them in some cases).

ETA: that’s not to say that all things should be treated as equally certain or uncertain - and that’s what the evidence thing is about.

Even with scientific evidence, we aren’t 100% certain. It’s a solid guess at best. Have you ever read any literature on Quantum Mechanics… The physics of uncertainty? Whew… It’s like saying that the certain world we know isn’t certain at all.

I can’t say extraterrestrial exists for certain. But given the enormous size of the Universe, the existence of other planets around other stars perhaps with some life supporting liquid, and the elements here on earth are also pretty abundant elsewhere… Given this all, this suggests the environment to breed life elsewhere is not unique to earth.

So, there’s a good chance there’s life elsewhere. But I could be wrong. It’s not certain.

Wait… Can you explain your question about faith a little more? Sorry, it’s late in the afternoon, and I’m rushing to get outta the office.

Exactly. Absolute certainty is for faith and belief.

Scientific evidence is the least of it. Current physical evidence would be nice, as would historical evidence. Many religions make specific claims about the world or the past, and these claims have been contradicted by the discovered evidence, which was discovered without reference to any belief system. Now in most contexts, such as science, that would be sure reason to give up the belief, or else you are considered a sad case, like Fred Hoyle at the end of his life. Only in religion do people retreat to faith.

As for ETs, the logical thing would be to have a very provisional opinion. I don’t believe ETs exist - I just think that given the size of the universe, the vast number of planets, chemical origins of life, and evolution, it seems likely that someone is out there somewhere. As for ETs visiting us, it is poppycock for many reasons.
But if the search for planets came up empty, I’d certainly lower my expectations of the existence of aliens. And I’m quite open to evidence pushing me either way.

In my view, the reason would be that science and religion, at least in their purest form, are orthogonal concepts. To try to explore religion with science, or vice versa, isn’t really meaningful. It’s like how when someone asks if they’re really in love, all you can say is you just know. Do you think someone could reasonable design a scientific test to convince you that you weren’t in love if you didn’t think so or that you were when you didn’t think you were?

Faith is the same sort of thing. If you’re making a claim that is testable scientifically, its no longer really a religious claim, at least not purely, it’s a scientific one. This is where ideas like creationism fail, because they’re making a claim that’s testable scientifically. Rather, religious claims might be about free will or even whether God exists. You can’t scientifically prove or disprove those.

But faith is much like love in that sense. A person who has faith has a very real personal experience and a person who doesn’t either has no experience or possible a very real experience to the opposite effect. And, just like love, you don’t need a test to confirm that, because it simply is what it is.

A belief in extraterrestrial life is just that…a belief. There is no physical evidence for any life outside of the life on this planet. So, anyone saying that they believe in life outside of this planet is doing so on pure faith. That said, probability wise, it’s a good bet that somewhere in all the vast universe there is some place that has life on it besides the earth…and, even probable that there is life in our own solar system. There are certainly places that COULD have life right here in our solar system, and at least on earth where there could be life there usually (almost always in fact) is, so the chance are fair.

But, the thing is, this question won’t be really settled until we find real, physical evidence that there IS life outside of this planet. That’s why we send out probes to Mars and many other places…to go, and look and search for evidence. That’s one of the critical difference between a scientific outlook and one of theism and faith…theists tend to already have the answer, and simply attempt to make reality conform to their preconceived answers, while in science there IS no hard, fast answer, and everything is open to the self correction of the scientific method and can be overturned by new data.

Speaking as an atheist, I have to point out that we don’t know for sure that we can’t be certain about anything without scientific evidence.

Maybe there really are things that we “just feel inside of us” which happen to be absolutely true even though we have no evidence for them at all and no reason to believe them except our gut feeling.

But such things, if they do indeed exist, have nothing to do with science or evidence. As Blaster Master says, a religious belief based on that “gut feeling” of faith can’t be analyzed scientifically; or rather, scientific analysis will simply find that there’s no factual basis for such a belief. Science by definition is going to find all claims about supernatural or irrational aspects of reality to be empty.

So I don’t think you’re going to find what you’re looking for here. There is no scientifically or rationally valid basis for believing anything to be true if it has no scientific/rational evidence to support it.

However, there is also no scientific/rational way to disprove a belief in something that’s outside of science and rationality. You are pretty much stuck with your standard answer “oh, I just feel it inside of me”. You will never be able to convince anybody who criticizes such beliefs that your belief is valid, but nobody will ever be able to prove that your belief is wrong.

Science is our play toys given to us by God to explore our playpen, much akin to the learning toys a parent can give their totter. Science as we know it is very primitive and still very limited, simply not advanced enough, nor are we, to use such a discipline to accomplish such a task.

I believe we can be certain about something and still be wrong. I feel certain about life on other planets because of the mathematical chances of us being the only planet supporting life. I feel certain their is a supreme being of sorts or some kind of creator who has control over matter. I have no idea what roll he plays but for me it works.

Some things in life are open to scientific investigation and some are not. Our universities have many departments beyond just the physical sciences. If it were true that evaluating the scientific evidence was the only way to distinguish what’s true from what isn’t, then that wouldn’t be the case. But as it is, there’s a broad consensus that there are many different avenues of investigation towards the truth. Art and literature and music and philosophy and theology have their role, as does physical science. And those are just the ones within the academic world; there are other avenues that aren’t present in the academic world at all.

I recommend reading A Guide for the Perplexed, by E. F. Schumacher. It addresses your question directly.

Since the invention of the scientific method the rate at which we’ve learned more about the universe, and developed useful technologies has accelerated hugely.

It’s not that mysticism, divine inspiration or whatever haven’t been given a chance. They’ve had most of human history to teach us anything concrete or change our circumstances in any material way. And they’ve failed to do so.

The philosophy of science is actually pretty simple. Forget all the talk of “interpreting evidence”; it comes down to “put up, or shut up”.
IOW hypotheses have to make surprising and/or useful predictions, and then such predictions must be validated. Even then, we don’t claim 100% certainty, but at least we have some independent reason to have confidence in the model. Plus while a model makes correct predictions it has utility, regardless of whether it’s “true”.

Consider the following claim:

“The only propositions that should be accepted as true are those that are established by sceintific evidence.”

Is that proposition established by scientific evidence?

Matters purely of faith don’t need scientific support, and are immune from scientific rejection.

But don’t trespass! Stay on your side of the fence. The minute you start talking creationism, or passing blue laws, or throwing stones at me for driving a car on the Sabbath…you’re breaking the truce.

Otherwise, as far as I’m concerned, whether you believe – or don’t believe – is as irrelevant to me as whether or not you like asparagus. It’s your personal business, and none of mine. Just remember the same is true for you and your faith: leave me the hell out of it, and we’re all happy.

I think if you could show that my brain is exactly the same when I’m with or thinking about my husband as it is when I’m with or thinking about my cat, I’d be incredibly suspicious about my belief that I’m in love with him. Because I believe that “love” has to do with my brain structures and chemicals.

So yes, someone could design such a scientific test.

Firstly, that is not the kind of claim that scientists generally make. We don’t “accept as true” so much as gain confidence or lose all confidence in a model.

Secondly, I find scientific evidence the wrong term in this context.
There’s empirical data, and that data may support a hypothesis. In this case, for this to be a scientific hypothesis, we’d have to establish what predictions your claim makes. I can’t think of any, and unless you can, it’s not the business of science at this time.

Finally, if you go deep enough of course you’ll find some sort of logical root that is at the core of all our reasoning (not just scientific), that has to just be accepted.
It won’t give you any reason to claim equivalency between science and religion though, unless you want to throw up your hands and say we don’t know anything and all reasoning is flawed.

Because the purpose of faith is to defend worthless, false, or evil beliefs. If a belief is worthwhile or has facts to support it, no one bothers falling back on faith; faith is what people use when they have no real justification for their beliefs.

Nonsense. There’s the fact that the universe is filled with the same matter and physical laws that produced us. There’s also the fact that the universe is extremely large. It would be quite surprising if there nowhere was life other than here; claiming that we are it is mostly an example of humanocentrism. If there’s life out there, it makes it harder for us to convince ourselves we are the center of the universe.

The existence of life elsewhere isn’t just matter of “faith”; it’s a well supported hypothesis that is nearly certain to be true. Our own existence, the existence of the same matter out there as here, the laws of physics, and probability all indicate it is both possible and highly likely. Since there is such a basis for believing it, it isn’t faith; faith is by definition baseless. Religious people themselves often point that out when justifying why their God refuses to show itself.

“Worthwhile” in this case meaning “beliefs you agree with”, natch.

Atheist here. Faith doesn’t need an evidentiary basis because you have it regardless of whether or not you can prove it. As a general matter, atheists don’t believe G/god doesn’t exist; we simply have no reason to accept the proposition that he/she/it does exist.

With extraterrestrials, there is a great deal of evidence (mostly the very large numbers that the universe suggests) that they exist. That’s not the same thing as saying, for example, that they have visited Earth and are abducting people to perform rectal examinations; the same very large numbers that tell us aliens probably exist also tell us that we will probably never ever meet one because of the virtual certainty that they are an incredibly long way away - longer, in fact, then we could ever hope to travel or broadcast a signal.

The “aliens are here” stuff is something certain people accept on faith, and in much the same way as others have religious faith: they want to have an explanation for certain phenomena and don’t like the scientific explanations (or there isn’t one yet).