This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Science and Religion BOTH make faith claims

Science and Religion BOTH make faith claims - Comments

BAEOZ's Avatar Comment 1 by BAEOZ

This is an example of equivocation. When a word has more than one meaning and the separate meanings are used interchangeably.
The theist is substituting the religious meaning of faith, trust that a supernatural entity exists without corroborated evidence, for another meaning, faith as ordinary belief that is reasonalbe and has evidence.
Scientific claims are tested and when found to be wanting reformulated or discarded. Thus any scientific claim or theory that has stood the test of time, such as evolution has been rigourously tested and subject to all manner of attempts at debunking. The fact that evolution is regarded as a resonable explanation is because it has been subjected to many tests, fits the evidence and has great explanatory power of natural phenomena that we observe. With all this, belief in evolution is no more a matter of faith than belief that you were born. You probably don't remember being born, but it's a well enough evidenced process that you can reasonably believe you were due to other peoples reports who were there or have seen a birth, your own knowledge of human reproduction, photos etc. There is strong corroborating evidence behind well known scientific claims which makes belief in the claims reasonable.
Religious faith has no evidence that cannot be explained another way, is not subject to rigourous scrutiny and is not falsifiable. For example, you may feel god speaks to you, but this is a feeling that exists in your mind and is not evidence of god. You have to consider all the possibilities, which is the most likely and which has the most corroborating evidence. Something which religious faith militates against. Religious faith is the opposite of faith in a scientific claim.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 15:58:00 UTC | #77640

maton100's Avatar Comment 2 by maton100

Bullshit! Science does not make claims without corroborating evidence (there is no faith). Religion needs faith because nothing in reality supports it.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 16:13:00 UTC | #77654

Theocrapcy's Avatar Comment 3 by Theocrapcy

There is nothing wrong with having faith or belief when it is reasonable. I believe that the light in the fridge will come on when I open the door, but if it doesn't I have faith in knowing the cause of its failure. This is reasonable. However, if I make the claim the Earth is only six thousand years old because the bible suggests it, in the face of all the contrary evidence, I have nothing but faith to rely upon.

Religion requires faith, science delivers us from its necessity.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 21:41:00 UTC | #77784

Vardu's Avatar Comment 4 by Vardu

I think that a distinction must be made between rational and irrational faith.
For instance, I've never been to or laid eyes on New York, but I have faith - based on an abundance and a variety of evidence - that it exists. This, to me, is an example of rational faith.

On the other hand, the faith that people have, say, that Jesus rose from the dead, which is not based on any evidence whatsoever, is irrational.

So, science may, indeed, make faith claims, but the nature of the faith is rational.

I think the same distinctions can be made between rational and irrational belief, rational and irrational authority.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 23:46:00 UTC | #77832

601's Avatar Comment 5 by 601

Science began with a few axioms (true/false, sets, etc.) added a few principals of logic and the scientific method (think, test, rinse, repeat).

One might consider this much an act of faith. But after trying it a few billion times and getting spectacularly useful results, the experience becomes the evidence, and the faith unnecessary.

There is still of course the meta jump (to the supernatural), we can't disprove that a hacker from CE 3001 built a sub-quantum computer simulation to preserve the universe digitally and then set the clock back to see if history would repeat itself.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 01:16:00 UTC | #77882

dinamo02's Avatar Comment 6 by dinamo02

I think BAEOZ stated most of the counter argument. I would add the following:

In science the conclusion or the statement comes at the end, it is the end of the argument. In religion it is the beginning. Therefore, in science there is no a priori knowledge, all claims are based on previous testing and observations and these claims can be changed if additional observation comes in. Religion starts with the claim and never changes it, regardless of any new knowledge that might be acquired. Changing your mind is a virtue in science, in religion it is a flaw.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 02:40:00 UTC | #77920

JerryD385's Avatar Comment 7 by JerryD385

You cant exchange 'belief' and 'faith'.

Do we play peek-a-boo with babies because they lack 'faith'? No. We do it because they lack the concept of object permanence. They don't have that 'belief' about the world yet.

Beliefs are ideas about the world, whether they correspond to reality or not

Faith is maintaining those ideas IN SPITE OF the fact that they don't correspond to what your senses tell you about the world.

We should stop letting the faith heads interchange the two

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 05:16:00 UTC | #77982

notsobad's Avatar Comment 8 by notsobad

Theocrapcy, don't turn this into semantics debate, because that's one of the last hiding places of theists in debates.

For practical reasons, when debating religion, meaning of the word faith should be 'believing in something there is no evidence for'. This is after all the meaning the Bible itself and the Catholic Church (the first church/denomination, yes?) gave it.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 05:17:00 UTC | #77984

sidfaiwu's Avatar Comment 9 by sidfaiwu

"Science and Religion BOTH make faith claims"

Yep, but let's compare the number of faith-claims made by each:

Science:
1. Inductive reasoning is valid. That is, the past is a good predictor of the future.

Religion:
1. There is a God
2. God is omnipotent
3. God is omniscient
4. God is omnibenevolent
5. God in omnific
6. God cares about Its creation
7. Humans are of particular interest to God
8. In addition to all that we can observe, God created Heaven and Hell
9. God has a list of rules that must be followed
10. That God had one major earthly representative
11. God wrote a book
...
...and on and on and on.

The difference is that Religion is made up almost entirely of faith claims whereas science seeks to reduce the number of faith-claims (we call them 'assumptions' in science) it incorporates and at root, there is only one.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 09:22:00 UTC | #78090

Mewtwo_X's Avatar Comment 10 by Mewtwo_X

"Religion uses faith, Science uses axioms. There is a difference."

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 14:49:00 UTC | #78280

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 11 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Um, Mewtwo_X. That is false.

An axiom is just an unargued foundational assumption.

There are loads of theologians who use axioms in their arguments... (i.e. the axiom that there has to be a solution to an infinite regress.... which I think is false, but anyway... it's one that is used).

Using axioms doesn't have anything to do with this topic.

The answer to this topic is simple:

1. BAEOZ is sort of right. There are several meanings to the word "faith". Religious FAITH can mean EITHER "the leap of faith" (which was NOT first used by Kierkegaard, but by Jacobi) away from the problems of philosophical dogmatism (that is, Spinozism), or "THE faith", meaning "the acts of worship". The latter does not REQUIRE faith in the former sense... one could be an atheist and still act religiously.

2. By definition Science does not operate on faith, or make claims which rest on faith... but the very opposite... The scientist operates under the assumption that everything he is saying is falsifiable. (at least, since Popper).

The way religion uses "faith" is as a method of arriving at a solution without doing the work.

E.g.

An example of faith: The Crucifixion and miracle of the Resurrection of Christ are the gift of salvation for all those who accept it.

There is no way of PROVING that one's "soul" is "saved" merely by "accepting" Christ (as Saviour).

It is BY DEFINITION an article of faith... and is so central to Christianity that if you don't believe in it, you aren't a Christian.

On the other hand, let's use evolution as the example. The Scientist is not told "accept what we tell you as fact, or you cannot call yourself a scientist", and it isn't a case that evolution is "unprovable". On the contrary, the evidence can be arranged into a solid deductive proof for the evolution of life on Earth by natural selection (etc.)

This proof is not a guarantor of ABSOLUTE truth, which is to say, it is not meant to be assented to "in faith", but is meant to be subjected to rigorous testing, analysis, and the evidence.

It just so happens that certain scientific propositions are so well supported that the likelihood of their being disproved is near zero... but, of course, it is not QUITE zero.

And that is the difference.

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 08:04:00 UTC | #78624

SirMoogie's Avatar Comment 12 by SirMoogie

I must highlight sidfaiwu's post. It is important for atheists to realize science has its faith-based propositions. However, the proposition in question is considered self-evident. A theist could disagree, and I've met my share that have started a debate pointing out this faith-based premise in science, but they cannot deny that they operate under its influence. The everyday decisions that they make use induction. From eating to nourish the body, to driving their cars to achieve rapid transportation, to sleeping to replenish their energy. No one waits until they deductively prove that these things will accomplish their previously observed results, they do them because they have always accomplished these goals. It's simply hypocritical for a theist to criticize the very self-evident proposition they live by.

It is also at this point that we can employ Occam's Razor. It is favorable to have a minimal set of faith-based beliefs.

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 10:51:00 UTC | #78674

spiderdancer's Avatar Comment 13 by spiderdancer

NO. Scientific claims require evidence not faith. They will be thrown out if they don't fit the evidence, cannot be tested or contain unnecessary elements that don't add to their predictive power.

Religious claims, on the other hand, are generally not testable and unparsimonious. A believer must have faith as there is no objective basis for choosing one religious claim ahead of its rivals.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 15:19:00 UTC | #79214

Quine's Avatar Comment 14 by Quine

I posted a comment on the belief thread that could have gone here, as it continues with the equivocation observation of BAEOZ.


<!-- -->

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 15:55:00 UTC | #79222

ICONIC FREEDOM's Avatar Comment 15 by ICONIC FREEDOM

"Faith is based on the absence of evidence. Science is based on evidence reaching a conclusion."


"Science is humble to say it doesn't know everything and is still searching. Religion is arrogant to say that it knows everything and needs to look no further."

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 02:29:00 UTC | #79312

cdhabecker's Avatar Comment 16 by cdhabecker

D'Souza:
Science is based on 3 assumptions for which it can offer no explanation.
1. The universe is rational.
2. The rationality of the universe is comprehensible in the language of mathematics.
3. The rules of the universe are comprehensible to us.

He also goes on about how there was nothing in our experience or pre-Christian philosophy to give us the idea that the universe is rational or comprehensible. He finally attacks inductive reasoning.

Rebuttal:
First of all, what kind of pervasive, never-rational experience do you think humans had 2,000 years ago? Did the sun not rise and set every day, did rivers not always flow downhill instead of uphill? People have always experienced abundant, comprehensive evidence of predictability in nature; this is observable fact. Attempting to explain this predictability in detail based on more observable fact is called science. Choosing to call it divine intent rather than seeking an explanation is called religion.

As for #2, it is false to say that science insists that our mathematics are sufficient to describe nature. On the contrary, our observations lead to the invention of mathematics; thus it is not surprising that they do a good job of describing our observations. When a person observes that the sun appears overhead once every 24 hours, he is speaking in elementary mathematics. When observations of natural phenomena such as quantum mechanics surpassed our then-current mathematics, science invented improved mathematics.

#3 is similarly false: there is no scientific rule that says that science necessarily must be able to explain everything. Science aims to explain observations to the best of its ability. Science has already proven itself capable of explaining many natural phenomena to an extent that is demonstrably useful and orders of magnitude more impressive than biblical knowledge.

As for inductive reasoning, I refer to Comment #12, above, by SirMoogie. I add that science isn't trying to hide the fact that its theories have not been tested in every conceivable time and place. A look at "inductive reasoning" on wikipedia will show that this is a lively topic.

But not to worrry -- D'Souza tells us unequivocally that the universe is rational and that he knows the source of that rationality on a personal basis.

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 15:07:00 UTC | #79489

octopus's Avatar Comment 17 by octopus

Could you give me an example of a faith claim made by science?


I think they refer to what sidfaiwu mentioned earlier (that is if I take "faith" to mean "initial assumption", although there are some good posts here clarifying syntax and meaning):
Inductive reasoning is valid. That is, the past is a good predictor of the future. (deduction is tied to induction, as it is validated in real world)

I could also add assumption that one is of sound mind and does not live in virtual reality (it is something more discussed in philosophy).

What is really funny is that religion also relies on all initial assumptions made by science - in most cases. Then it adds its own set, inconsistent and excessive number of assumptions. What follows is very much case of "pick-and-choose (your own)" assumptions as you please, depending on what you are trying to achieve (a bit like politics). The price to pay is lack of consistency, but this have never been major worry of religion. I am afraid religion has never got rid of "end justifies the means".

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 19:19:00 UTC | #79538

lpetrich's Avatar Comment 18 by lpetrich

As cdhabecker has noted, Dinesh D'Souza has recently claimed that science requires belief in:

1. The universe is rational.
2. The rationality of the universe is comprehensible in the language of mathematics.
3. The rules of the universe are comprehensible to us.

and that these notions were the result of Xianity. This is historical illiteracy if not an outright lie. Dinesh D'Souza ought to be familiar with ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, many of whom anticipated all three claims.

Yes, *all three* of them.

Consider that Pythagoras and his followers considered mathematics to be the Key to the Universe, and they went off the deep end of mystical notions about numbers while doing some good mathematics, including discovering some Satanic Verses: irrational numbers.

And consider the sort of Universe the Atomists and Epicureans believed in: strikingly close to what modern science has discovered about the Universe. Richard Carrier once wrote about Epicurus vs. Mohammed, and showed that by Bible-science and Koran-science standards, Lucretius's On the Nature of Things was greatly successful at anticipating the discoveries of modern science.

And science does not assume that the Universe is "rational" or comprehensible or describable with mathematics; it treats such claims as hypotheses to be tested -- hypotheses that have been enormously successful in some cases.

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 20:24:00 UTC | #79551

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 19 by prettygoodformonkeys

Science says that if a circle's diameter is 1, then its circumference is 3.1415926535897932.., and this is proven every time you measure any circle. Any circle.

Religion's answer to this is in the Bible, is revealed magically in the hands of the fellow to my right (your left) and is to be taken on faith as the Word of God (theirs).

Measure by faith and you will not fill your cup. Measure by science and die in your unbelief.

But, until then, at least you will get your sums right.

Wed, 31 Oct 2007 19:24:00 UTC | #80115

killer_rabbit79's Avatar Comment 20 by killer_rabbit79

Yes there is a small amount of faith required to believe in the scientific method but it is nothing compared to the amount of faith required to believe in a religion. Since most of science is based on evidence, there is not enough faith involved for it to even be worth mentioning.

Also, prettygoodformonkeys, the reason measuring by faith will not fill your cup is because you don't have anything to fill it with, not because your cup is infinitely huge, jerk. Also, if by magic, you mean Photoshop than I agree completely. Maybe you should get a reality check or something.

Sun, 04 Nov 2007 09:20:00 UTC | #81071

Dace's Avatar Comment 21 by Dace

"It is favorable to have a minimal set of faith-based beliefs." - SirMoogie.
I can see the point of this, but I wonder whether a theist might combat it by proclaiming that he only makes one assumption: that what to him seems self-evident is also true. For the atheist, the basic laws of logic, induction, reliability of perception, etc. will be admissible since these things are self-evident (though they will not always deliver truth).
But the theist adds more on the basis of this single assumption - it seems to him God exists therefore he does, that absolute good and evil exist, and so on.

On another note, we need some way of organizing these debate points - they will simply develop into threads otherwise. Perhaps each could have a moderator, who summarizes the points at the top of the page. Also useful, though it would take some work, might be to develop an 'argument tree' - showing the possible responses and replies to be made, depending upon the tack one's opponent takes. The summary points could then be linked to examples in transcripts of real debates...
That's a ton of work. But it would be useful.

Tue, 06 Nov 2007 17:29:00 UTC | #81771

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 22 by prettygoodformonkeys

20. Comment #84929 by killer_rabbit79

Also, prettygoodformonkeys, the reason measuring by faith will not fill your cup is because you don't have anything to fill it with, not because your cup is infinitely huge, jerk. Also, if by magic, you mean Photoshop than I agree completely. Maybe you should get a reality check or something.

"Jerk"?

Read it again, fuckwit; we actually agree on this, you just have no sense of irony.

I'll sound it out for you: if you use the biblical pi, you can't even fill a cylinder ("will not fill your cup"). If you use science, though, not faith, it will work, but you won't go to a (fictitious) Heaven.

It's just math, and the bible (faith) is wrong.

Is English your second language?

(and it wasn't Photoshop, it was Paint. It's free.)

Thu, 08 Nov 2007 20:59:00 UTC | #82344

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 23 by prettygoodformonkeys

And, by the way, like the Doctor, my cup is infinitely huge.

Thu, 08 Nov 2007 21:20:00 UTC | #82348

BorisCvek's Avatar Comment 24 by BorisCvek

I think faith is not about claims, but about the relationship - this is more likely TRUST PERSON than knowing the correct answers. Only the God knows. See the thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. --- And science... science is not about faith, but about proposing, hypothesis making, testing and falsifying. Scientific theories are instruments for life.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 07:22:00 UTC | #86527

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 25 by prettygoodformonkeys

BorisCvek:

...faith is not about claims....Only the God knows. See the thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians
This claims that there is a relationship. A relationship with what?

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 19:19:00 UTC | #86761

BorisCvek's Avatar Comment 26 by BorisCvek

This claims that there is a relationship. A relationship with what?


Boris: Of course, with the God.

Tue, 27 Nov 2007 03:06:00 UTC | #86836

epeeist's Avatar Comment 27 by epeeist

Comment #81869 by sidfaiwu


Science:
1. Inductive reasoning is valid. That is, the past is a good predictor of the future.

To quote another poster - not since Popper.

Science doesn't use inductive, but deductive logic. As such theories are considered contingently valid, i.e. the theory may not be sound.

Continued critical tests of a theory that do not falsify it add to the corroboration of the theory, but do not prove it true.

Tue, 27 Nov 2007 03:33:00 UTC | #86840

g czobel's Avatar Comment 28 by g czobel

Quite true!! But let's put this one to bed once and for all by examining the details and the completely divergent entailments.

Mathematics and logical inference is at the core of science and reason.

In the practice of mathematics and logic, it is recognised that one cannot proceed anywhere without starting with unproven assumptions - axioms or postulates; otherwise, one is forced to engage in a hopeless, infinite regress of proofs. The fundamental rules of inference are therefore assumed to be the case, and all is built from there. This is not seen as a problem, as axioms are usually so simple, narrow in scope, precise and self evident, that there is only the tiniest possible leap of faith needed to prime the mechanism! The rest of the structure is bootstrapped from there, since these simple postulated methods of inference are applied repeatedly and entirely consistently to build a structure of any level of complexity.

Moreover, and crucially, as a constant means of verification, when one builds upon these axioms and the results correlate successfully and consistently with the material universe, as is the case in mathematics and the sciences which it supports, then this provides confidence that the initial axiomatic leap of faith was well founded indeed. In countless daily events, the deductions based on math and science are constantly "tested" and confirmed even if these events are not intended as tests. Millions of buildings continue indefinitely to remain erect, testament to materials science and the physics of gravity, millions of vehicles function as designed, testament to materials science, thermodynamics, laws of motion, etc., enormous numbers of electrical circuitry operate in a consistent predictable manner without failure that is due to capricious changes in physical parameters, rules of logic, the charge of the electron, and so on, endlessly. If any of these fail at any time, the failure is invariably traced back to defects in design rather than defects in the underlying physical and mathematical basis. Such countless confirmations are about as close to solid evidence for this world view as is possible by induction.

However, this system is considered to be never final, always provisional, and this is considered as essential to the success of this system. No belief or conclusion in this system is considered verified once and for all and that applies to the initial axioms - i.e. alternatives to Euclid's 5th (parallel) postulate eventually leading to consistent non-Euclidian geometries. The primary considerations for utility and success of this world view are overall consistency, coherence, and correspondence with the observed world.

In comparison:

Religion, as a world view, is also based on articles of faith. But they are completely opposite in nature and approach to those of mathematics, reason and science. They are of the most complex nature and anything but self evident. The most important one is taking on faith the existence of a God who is imbued with certain attributes. This leap of faith is to start with the most complex and farfetched assumption possible rather than the simplest and most self evident. The need for a God who is of the greatest possible complexity is a consequence of the religious view that drives the dismissal of evolution; that is, that something simple cannot create something more complex. Since God is assumed to be the creator of the universe, he must be more complex than anything in the universe, perhaps infinitely complex since he is postulated to have other infinite attributes (omni this and that ). Since the attributes of God are postulated to be unbounded, this implies that they have universal explanatory power. In fact, once one makes this entirely encompassing leap of faith, there is nothing left to explain because the postulate inherently, by dint of its infinite complexity and power, contains everything. Thus, although the explanatory power of this leap of faith is all encompassing, it really explains nothing in a practical, worldly sense. If everything in the world is contingent on God's infinite powers and will - which are claimed to be hopelessly beyond our comprehension - there is nothing left to explain.


The belief structure based on this incredible leap of faith is never submitted to the test of consistency. In fact, it requires constant apologetics (hand waving) to paper over the endless blatant inconsistencies and contradictions. But since God's postulated attributes have universal explanatory power, this is never perceived to be a problem.

There is no constant empirical confirmation and verification process of the claims in this belief system. Since the initial gargantuan leap of faith with its infinite, unbounded attributes can be contrived to explain away everything one observes, the claims are unfalsifiable, since any observation can be made to fit, even inconsistent ones. i.e an event which appeared to be (interpreted as) a "miracle" was observed - "There, you see, God exists!": on the other hand, a hoped for miracle was not forthcoming - "God, in his infinite wisdom, has his own reasons which are beyond our mere understanding". This system is thus final and unchangeable right from the start.

A rational person can readily see that the two approaches above are entirely different in nature, in fact opposite, even if one can truthfully, if only superficially, make the claim that both systems are based on leaps of "faith". To make such a claim as is put forth by this debate point is linguistic confusion and quibbling at its worst.

Tue, 12 Feb 2008 07:47:00 UTC | #119644

martino's Avatar Comment 29 by martino

No science makes falsifiable claims, only religion makes faith claims

Wed, 20 Feb 2008 07:58:00 UTC | #123762

Prom_STar's Avatar Comment 30 by Prom_STar

The argument that science requires faith can stand only on the argument "there is no absolute certainty." Interestingly enough, though, it is the scientist, not the theologian, that embraces this idea. Science cannot prove. It can only test and create tools (theories) that produce results. Rational minds ask themselves, often, an essential question: what if I'm wrong. And they do so knowing it is entirely possible, if not always probably, that they are indeed completely wrong. The rational atheist has to admit that it is possible that there is a god. But until evidence can be put forward that makes him more than an unnecessary premise, we will remove him from consideration.

Sun, 24 Feb 2008 23:13:00 UTC | #125828