The difference between science and religion

16 Mar

There is a fundamental difference in the ways science and religion operate. For religion, something just is. That’s it. Either you believe X and the religion or you do not. There is no testing or experimenting with the religion or it’s claims. Now sure there are doctrinal debates and the theologians who have them, but in the end it’s still just another flavor of X which the believe must accept to be part of the faith.

Science, on the otherhand, works in the opposite way. Every statement about how something is must be backed up with evidence, evidence that is testable over and over again.

Religion and science both try and provide answers about existence. I think there is an issue with the way science and religion give these answers. Religion gives answers with an attitude of smug, absolute certainty. The answers, whatever they are, are definite and unchanging.

Science gives answers that have an asterisk on the end with a note saying “subject to change if new and compelling evidence is found.” This makes science very fluid, open to revision. Scientists in no way claim they have all the answers. Unlike religion, science welcomes questions. If a scientist has their hypothesis proved wrong, it is just as exciting for them as if it had been proved correct. To them and advance in either direction is still an advance.

But I think this upsets people who are looking for absolute answers. They see science and they see uncertainty, where as when they look at religion they see absolute certainty. A lot of people don’t like uncertainty in their lives. They like to know what is going to happen. Yet it is a false certainty that they have. People have been certain about a great many things since the dawn of time, but that never made them correct in those certainties.

Look at the track records of science and religion. Religion’s entire history is a history of making “matter of fact” statements on just about everything, only to have science come along (relatively recently) and slowly, but steadily, prove many of religion’s “certainties” wrong. The first example of this was when Galileo proved that the earth was not the center of the solar system as the bible said. (He was later convicted of heresy and imprisoned under house arrest for the rest of his life and his works banned by the church)

Given these track records, which one would you rather put your “faith” in? Religion and it’s smug (and misplaced) sense of superiority and absolute certainty? Or science, and its humble skepticism, where ideas are open to debate and experimentation in an atmosphere of free inquiry?

4 Responses to “The difference between science and religion”

  1. melissa May 4, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    No where in the Bible does it say that the earth is the center of the solar system. Please cite the Book and Verse you are referring to where it says this. I have read the entire Bible and I cannot find it anywhere.

    • godlesspaladin May 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

      The earth being the center of everything was Christian doctrine for centuries. It made sense that we were the center since God created the entire universe just for man. Plus, it feels as if the earth is still and the universe rotates around us. The church tortured and executed those who said otherwise. Most famous would be Galileo.

      Now given your insistence on biblical references, I’m going to assume you’re protestant and of the “sola scriptura” mindset. Naturally, you’ll object that the views of the Catholic church don’t represent your version of Christianity, even though they were the only version of Christianity for centuries and they dictated what it was to be a Christian.

      The statement “Christianity used to believe the earth was the center of the universe” is still a true statement, despite the fact that such a claim is no in black and white in the bible. Only relatively recently in Protestantism has the bible dictated so much of what it is to be a particular type of Christian.

      However, if you’re still looking for instances of absurdity in the bible, check out the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. They have the entire bible, line by line, analysed, categorized, and bookmarked for your researching pleasure. Pick a topic and instantly see every passage in the bible relating to that topic. There are plenty of ridiculous claims about the nature of the planet that we now know to be false.

  2. Michael May 13, 2012 at 2:51 am #

    So, you’ve done two things: first you defined those who think differently from you as “religious”, and then you defined “religion” as a really, really stupid way of thinking about the world. Well, of course those who think differently from you are idiots, then. By definition.

    For what it’s worth, I consider the scientific method to be one way of analyzing the world we live in, and religions to be “meme pools”. Claiming that one of the two is better is to me like claiming that verbs are better than nouns.

  3. slrman May 21, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    “you cannot reason a person away from a position that was not reached through reason.”

    No religious belief was ever reached through reason. ”

    Debating a theist is like playing chess with a pigeon. NO matter how well you play chess, the pigeon will knock over all the pieces, crap on the board, and then strut around as if it had won.”

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