In a recent post, I argued that Christianity’s smug claim to be able to answer the Big Questions of Life® is empty. Sure, it can answer these questions, but so can anyone. It’s whether the answers are credible that matters.
For discovering reality, religion comes up short. And I would argue that Science does provide answers to these questions.
For example: Why are we here? We’re here for no more cosmically-significant reason than why deer, jellyfish, and oak trees are here.
For example: Where did we come from? Science has some decent answers (Big Bang, evolution) and still has a lot of work to do in other areas (string theory, abiogenesis). Science never answers anything with certainty, but the scientific consensus, where there is one, is the best explanation that we have at the moment. The retort “Well, if Science can’t answer it, my religion can!” is hardly an argument.
For example: What is my purpose? There is no evidence of a transcendental or supernatural purpose to your life. One great thing about rejecting dogma is that you get to select your own purpose! And who better than you to decide what that is?
And so on. Science has answers; it’s just that religion doesn’t like them.
Science has only one reality to align itself with. By contrast, each religion makes up its own, which is why they can’t agree. Science provides answers and doesn’t demand faith to accept them.
Think about a church steeple with a lightning rod on top. The steeple proclaims that God exists, and the lightning rod says that it can reduce lightning damage. Which claim has the evidence to argue that it’s true? Religion makes truth claims and so does science, but science takes it one step further: it actually delivers on its claims.
Religion … well, not so much.
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- We Have an Admirer! 9/4/11
“One great thing about rejecting dogma is that you get to select your own purpose! And who better than you to decide what that is?”…Yes, so true.
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I like that: “Science has only one reality to align itself with.” By reality you mean empirical reality, I think.
Here are two strengths that science has that religion does not:
For an experiment to be scientific, in theory, anybody with the right equipment and training can do the experiment too and get the same result. Religion OTOH can be shown to be in somebody’s mind, although there are arbitrary artifacts e.g. the Bible or Bach’s B-Minor Mass.
Scientific models just describe reality. They’re not the same thing as reality. They evolve as our understanding of (empirical) reality gets more sophisticated. They’re subservient to that same empirical reality. As you pointed out, religion is just made up. Success of a religious idea depends on how charismatic the religious leader is!
That’s a great distinction. Science is judged by how well it aligns with reality. There are lots of cases when new ideas took longer to become mainstream than they perhaps should (Ignaz Semmelweis pioneered sterile hospital techniques before Pasteur but his findings weren’t accepted), but the better theory eventually comes out on top. Charisma doesn’t hurt, but it’s not the deciding factor.
By contast, charisma is quite important in religion. A new religious idea doesn’t gain traction because it’s right (How would you show such a thing anyway??) but for superficial reasons: being at the right place and time, having a charismatic leader, and so on.
I think it’s a little hazardous to claim that science has “answers” because science is about modeling reality and no model is perfect. A *scientific* model is always vulnerable to disproof, and many of them are disproven or might be disproven in future. Science is messy. My favorite example: Newtonian gravity works great, except for General Relativity (significant for strong gravitational fields) or quantum mechanics (significant for small objects). Newtonian gravity can explain the orbit of Mars quite well, but not the precession of Mercury. Nobody modeled Mercury’s precession until the 20th century.
Science has provisional answers. They’re the best approximation to the truth we have at the moment. You’re right–science corrects itself regularly.
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