Sunday, August 18, 2013

Science is not a Religion

OK, so you've read the title of this post, and you probably are thinking "uh oh, he's going to go on a rant about science vs. religion".  But, if you've read this far and haven't closed the browser window out of anger and disgust, I want to reassure you that this post is not going to do what you may think.  I am not going to attack religion or anything like that.

Instead, I am going to talk about a question that I keep seeing on internet discussion forums and even in one-on-one conversations with people.  And that is, "is science just another type of religion?" Many people seem to have the view that science is based on a belief system and that scientists have some sort of faith in their theories.  

As an example, if you ask any reputable scientist about evolution, they will undoubtedly say with a sense of certainty that evolution is how the human race came into being.  I touched upon this in a previous post.  Does this mean that the scientist believes without a doubt that evolution is correct?  The answer is NO.  Any good scientist will say that all evidence points to evolution being correct, but if any evidence surfaces that shows evolution is wrong, then we MUST either abandon or alter the theory (depending on the magnitude of the countering evidence).  Fortunately for the theory of evolution, this has not happened yet. 

The point I am trying to make is that science and religion differ in a very fundamental way.   Religion has a set of beliefs (e.g., in Christianity, that Jesus is the son of God) that those who follow that religion believe with a sense of absolute faith.  The beliefs, or "rules", of that religion are set in stone, and everything in the world that needs explanation will be modified to conform to these rules.   A good example is those who believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.  When confronted with scientific evidence of fossils older than 6,000 years, the believers in this idea will say (for example) that God put the fossils there to test our faith.  They modify reality to conform to their beliefs.

Science works in the absolute opposite sense.  Science builds up "beliefs" (if you want to call them that... I personally don't like that word) based upon evidence that the Universe presents to us.  It is this empirical evidence that determines reality, not some predetermined set of rules.  And if there is no empirical support for or against an idea, science makes no claim as to the truth of that idea.

Some of you may be thinking "But how do you know that the methodology of science, e.g. using empirical evidence to understand the Universe, is correct?  Isn't that something that is in itself based on faith?" In other words, do scientists have faith that the scientific method is the correct way to determine facts?

The answer to this question is no.  The reason that scientists use and trust the scientific method is that it is self-consistent.  In other words, by using the scientific method, we obtain empirical evidence that it works and in fact has never failed us.  To quote Richard Dawkins (YouTube video attached below): 

"It works.  Planes fly, cars drive, computers compute. If you base medicine on science, you cure people.  If you base the design of planes on science, they fly.  If you base the design of rockets on science, they reach the moon. It works… bitches."

So, science is NOT a religion... not even close.  Science takes the exact opposite approach to exploring reality as does religion, and it is entirely a self-consistent methodology.  


  1. Science and religion are two different fields but both have the same amount of influence among people. They should use their influences for the benefit of many people.

  2. Yes, I agree that they should both use their influences for the benefit of people. I am not against religion so long as it does not harm anyone.

    Religion itself is not evil, nor is science. It is the bad people who use religion (as in 9/11) or science (the development of WMDs) that need to be stopped. But yes, both religion and science can be used for good.

    Thanks for the comment!