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Faith and Science: Why They Can’t Mesh

Religion and science have been doing battle since Copernicus, and probably before that but I’m too lazy to think of an example. Ironically, both have similar goals. As human beings, we seek to understand as much of the universe as we can. Science tries to do that through empirical testing, data, and evidence. Religion does it by appealing to a higher power, an untestable hypothesis.

That doesn’t sit so well with science.

Science reacts to “God did it”

Appealing to a higher power as a solution to explanation presents a fundamental problem: There’s no way to fact check. If I were to suggest to you, that my computer runs on undetectable alien power, you wouldn’t be able to prove me wrong. This is because the claim is, by definition, untestable. It’s therefore not much of an argument, but it’s also important to note that there really is no scientific way to disprove it.

Teleological argument at its finest. (Not really.)

Science relies entirely on the physical, detectable, and empirical. The world of the science lab is well inside a Naturalistic understanding. However, the scientist has no reason to be committed to the truth of Naturalism.

This is to say, that there is no scientific way to say that “There is nothing that science can’t explain.” Such a claim would be circular and contradictory. Science cannot dictate that there is no possibility of non-scientific (Religious?) explanation for a given phenomenon.

The two are therefore essentially mutually exclusive. Although religious (telelogical) explanation falls short of delivering anything convincingly, science can’t disprove any of it either.

Apologies for the jargon, hopefully you’re still with me and not saying this right now

There’s a bigger problem between the two though.

There’s two more big ones actually counting this one, but this is just too complicated to go into right now.

And that central problem is what “Faith” means. To the dictionary again…

Faith, noun, “Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”

See what the problem is here? Like I explained before, there’s no way for science/proof/reason to touch “spiritual apprehension” because such a thing defies explanation. The central tenant of faith, and therefore most religions, requires that followers do just that, follow. Proof is not necessary for religious conversion.

Probably why no one has a problem with things like this.

Science on the other hand, by definition, asks for evidence and proof. The two, therefore, cannot coincide fully.

One demands proof, the other says proof is not necessary. So if you ask me, pick one or the other. If you pick science you don’t have to be committed to the truth of Naturalism, but there’s no reason for you to accept teleological explanation for everyday phenomenon (other than human actions, but again, let’s not go there).

About forthesakeofdebate

I enjoy intellectual discussion and learning, metal music, martial arts, and blades. Pretty soon I'll be your favorite misanthrope.

3 responses to “Faith and Science: Why They Can’t Mesh

  1. All that is true, though I notice you only talk of religion in relation to it’s ability to do what science does. Your thesis, however, appears to be that they cannot coexist. The argument holds true so long as you also hold that religion must, in order to qualify as religion, attempt to explain universal mechanics – the stuff that science is concerned with. However, if that is not the case – if a set of beliefs can be considered religion without it attempting to explain science – then you still have to contend with this justification: “science is mechanics, religion is purpose.” While perhaps not the most widely accepted interpretation of religion, this view is popular among people who try to make the argument seriously, especially scientists. I think I heard this one from our own Professor Nagy, as a matter of fact. Not that this is any better, since then it’s just bad philosophy instead of bad science. However, it does seem to make it possible to have science and religion coexisting. Either that, or one would have to define science such that its practitioners cannot apply faith to anything whatsoever without conflicting.

    Also, you should totally “go there” for your next post. You’d have lots of fun times writing that one, I’m sure.

    • I think you pretty much missed the point, and you’ve begged the question by changing the definition of religion that I was using.

      • Pardon if I did not understand your point, but your definition of religion is a particularly strict one that does not reflect one of the more common arguments I’ve heard for their coexistence. I did not change your definition, I challenged it and offered a definition I have found common as a case for which your argument does not work. Nothing more, nor less. If by doing so I have somehow missed your point, then I am curious what it is I’m somehow missing.

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