Aug 31 2009

Facts are NOT Anti-Religious

In the small community of Sedalia Missouri there happens to be a substantial Krishna community. (I won’t get into the various names for specific Krishna religions, but will just refer to them as Krishna for simplicity.) Recently they took offense at the T-shirts worn by the local high school band. The theme was a trip to the moon and their shirts featured imagery from the Apollo moon landings.

The Krishnas took offense at this because, according to their Vedic scriptures, the moon landing was a hoax. Specifically it says that the moon is further away than the sun, and that in order for a human to exist on another world, they have to leave their body and adopt one made for that world. Therefore the astronauts could not have landed on the moon, and the moon landings must have been a hoax. Seriously – they really believe this.

But the issue here is that they complained about the T-shirts because they found it offensive to their religious beliefs. They argued that the school system is supposed to remain neutral with regard to religious beliefs, and that they violated this neutrality by endorsing the “controversial” Apollo moon landings.

The local paper reports:

Assistant Superintendent Brad Pollitt said complaints by parents made him take action.

“I made the decision to have the band members turn the shirts in after several concerned parents brought the shirts to my attention,” Pollitt said.

Regarding the theme of “Brass to the Moon” the paper further reports:

Pollitt said the district is required by law to remain neutral where religion is concerned.

“If the shirts had said ‘Brass Resurrections’ and had a picture of Jesus on the cross, we would have done the same thing,” he said.

And of course parents on both sides of the issue were found for juicy quotes.Parent Sherry Melby was quoted as saying:

“I was disappointed with the image on the shirt.” Melby said. “I don’t think the moon landings should be associated with our school.”

Meanwhile, parent Alena Hoeffling got it right:

“Whatever happened to the separation of church and state.”

OK – this story is not actually true. Well, parts of it are true. The Krishnas really do believe the moon landing was a hoax because it contradicts their interpretation of Vedic scripture and believe that their scripture is a more reliable guide to reality because it comes from god (sound familiar), while they denigrate materialist science as a “cheat”.

The story itself is true but it is about evolution, not the moon landing. The T-shirts had the theme – the “evolution of brass” and featured the iconic image of primates evolving toward homo sapiens (carrying brass instruments). Melby’s quote above should read: “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”

But the analogy to Krishnas denying the moon landing is perfect. The only difference is that we live in a Christian dominated culture.

The major malfunction  in the reasoning of those parents who complained about the T-shirts, and the response of the school (who should not have caved to this pressure) is the equation of endorsing a scientific fact with being against a specific religious belief. Being neutral with regard to religion does not equate to avoiding scientific facts that some religious groups reject based upon their faith.

There is of course the practical issue that it would be absurd for the public schools to steer clear of every possible religious belief in a multi-cultural society, as my moon landing example demonstrates. Those who typically make the claim that science must avoid offending their religion, however, are usually only concerned about their religious beliefs. Christians in the US, for example, who make this claim also often claim that the US is a Christian nation, and therefore we must only respect Christian sensibilities – despite the Constitution’s rather specific prohibition.

But I am talking about the underlying philosophical position, not the hypocrisy or practicality of the issue. I am not what some might call an “accommodationist”  – arguing that science and religion are compatible if we would just water down science enough. Rather I argue that they occupy separate realms – or at least “faith” and science do. Religions trample on science all the time.

The way I read our Constitution is that the state must remain neutral with regard to faith-based beliefs. That does not mean the state must remain neutral with regard to purely secular conclusions. Science is a purely secular system – it is agnostic with respect to any non-falsifiable claim. Further, science is a system, and its conclusions need only be valid within the system of science. We as a society have chosen to support the system of science – through funding, institutions, and education. This largely stems from the recognition that societies which support scientific progress and education tend to thrive while those who do not stagnate and decline. This is increasingly true as science and technology dominate our civilization.

If the scientific process leads us to a specific scientific conclusion – such as the well-established fact that life on earth as it exists today is the product of organic evolution, or that Apollo astronauts landed on the moon – then that is a scientific conclusion, not a religious belief. Stating that, within the system of science, the process of science leads us to this specific conclusion is not the same thing as taking a stand with regard to any particular religious belief.

The religious in this country have the freedom to believe and preach whatever they want. But that does not extend to the right to censor other people from believing or preaching what they want. Or (relevant to this case) to censor the secular process of science whenever they decide it conflicts with their religious conviction.

Put more bluntly – if their religious beliefs conflict with the conclusions of science, that’s their problem. They can deal with the cognitive dissonance any way they like, but they cannot impose it upon secular society.

In this case, even though it was just about band T-shirts, the school system should have held the line, rather than cave to pressure. Some things are worth fighting for, even if they are inconvenient to the success of your high school brass band.

This issue crops up in other ways as well. Chris Cromer was fired as the Director of Science for the Texas Educational System because she passed on an e-mail announcing a lecture about evolution. This, her superiors argued, violated their neutrality policy regarding evolution and creationism. She is now suing. Her case was dismissed, but she is appealing. My hope is that this point will be decided at the Supreme Court level. Evolution is a scientific theory, creationism is a religious belief. Our public school systems teach science, and must remain neutral with regard to religion. That does not mean they must remain neutral with regard to a scientific theory. They can enthusiastically teach and promote the consensus of scientific opinion without violating the Constitutional ban on establishing a religion.

The public school system not only cannot, it should not steer clear of every possible religious belief, and even more so of an allegedly privileged religious belief – whether it’s Krishna or Christian.

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41 responses so far

41 Responses to “Facts are NOT Anti-Religious”

  1. alcareruon 31 Aug 2009 at 9:42 am

    Great post. Had me wondering for a second, though…I’d already read this but the Krishna \ moonlanding thing just didn’t compute!

    “In this case, even though it was just about band T-shirts, the school system should have held the line, rather than cave to pressure. Some things are worth fighting for, even if they are inconvenient to the success of your high school brass band.”

    Couldn’t agree more.

  2. Justin L.on 31 Aug 2009 at 10:04 am

    It’s an excellent analogy. I wish I had thought of it myself ,or, at least, I wish I had read this post before arguing with a friend over the absurdity of the school’s decision so I could have stolen it.

  3. Michael Meadonon 31 Aug 2009 at 10:17 am

    Steve, I’m very reluctant to say this, but you’re very wrong on this one. Some points.

    You say science and faith occupy different “realms” but what exactly does this mean? Yes, I know all about Gould’s NOMA, but that doesn’t help since Gould’s ‘magisteria’ are equally mysterious. Sure, science can’t say anything about claims that are unfalisifiable in principle, but nor can it say anything about claims that are practically undecidable. (E.g. Is there an odd or an even number of stars in the local group as of time T?). I just don’t see what this talk of ‘realms’ actually amounts to; what its actual (philosophical, as opposed to practical) justification is; or which position in the philosophy of science you’re defending. (The dominant science-friendly position in the philosophy of science these days, by the way, is philosophical naturalism, which holds science and philosophy are continuous. On (major versions of) this view, philosophy doesn’t have a unique set of questions it addresses. In Quine’s phrase ‘philosophy of science is philosophy enough’).

    Moreover, accommodationism isn’t the position that science and religion never clashes, it’s the position that there is no deep contradiction between the two, properly delimited. That indeed seems to be your view.

    Then you say:
    Stating that, within the system of science, the process of science leads us to this specific conclusion is not the same thing as taking a stand with regard to any particular religious belief..
    I grant (and, hope) that I might be misunderstanding this sentence, but you seem to be suggesting that no fact of science can contradict a religious claim. Which is… ridiculous. (The paragraph starting with “To put its bluntly” seems to contradict this interpretation, but I see no other way of reading the quoted sentence). If not landing on the moon is a genuine doctrine of Krishnas, then the position that the astronauts did in fact land directly contradicts a religious belief. These claims are mutual exclusive and jointly exhaustive (contradictories, in the jargon) and, by the law of the excluded middle, one must be false if the other is true. Now, you could here reply with a definitional move: any claim about the world is by definition not religious. But (1) that would be entirely semantic, and a beautiful instance of the No True Scotsman, (2) that’s now how most religious people understand the term and (3) that would mean some religious claims are falsifiable, which means you’d have to criticize religions, which is what you don’t want to do. (I apologize if I’ve misread you on this).

    I can see the constitutional bind you Americans are in but if science genuinely contradicts some religious claim you don’t need to pretend there is no contradiction. Being genuinely neutral — as in, having no effect on the religious beliefs of students — seems to me (1) impossible and (2) undesirable. All you need is neutrality for Establishment clause purposes and that seems easy to demonstrate. (Science is not a religion, even if it contradicts some religions and not others).

  4. Michael Meadonon 31 Aug 2009 at 10:19 am

    (To be clear: I agree that the school should have held the line with the T-shirts. I’m disagreeing with your rationale for them holding the line).

  5. Gabor Hraskoon 31 Aug 2009 at 10:51 am

    I could not believe this and googled “krishna moon landing”. The forst hit was this:

    http://krishna.org/man-on-the-moon-a-colossal-hoax-that-cost-billions-of-dollars/

    I am still shocked.

  6. Justin L.on 31 Aug 2009 at 11:19 am

    Micheal:
    I agree with you, but it seems clear to me that you are misunderstanding Steve’s point. When he says that the process of science leads us to this specific conclusion is not the same thing as taking a stand with regard to any particular religious belief, I take him to mean that while the conclusions of science may contradict specific religious claims, science isn’t directly addressing religion. Science is neutral on religion because it has no specific interest debunking in religious belief. That isn’t that same as an endorsement of Gould’s NOMA.

  7. weingon 31 Aug 2009 at 11:32 am

    Looks like these people want to be entitled to their own facts rather than change their minds.

  8. jacekon 31 Aug 2009 at 11:38 am

    Here’s a picture of the t-shirt in question
    http://img137.imageshack.us/img137/2738/tigerprideevolutiono.jpg

  9. Skepon 31 Aug 2009 at 11:51 am

    Your analogy was a sound one but I have misgivings about the bait and switch technique to illustrate the analogy. I read the first few paragraphs and assumed you were telling the truth until I recognized a similarity to the current evolution shirts case and read the article to the conclusion. Many others may only read the first few paragraphs. You may be inadvertently spreading an urban legend by your literary device.

  10. SidBBon 31 Aug 2009 at 11:53 am

    I read this story everywhere over the weekend so I saw through the “twist”, but I’m more surprised about the moon landing denial. I come from a Hindu family, and many of my close relatives are Krishna devotees. I’ll have fun showing them the article and watching them squirm.

    Thanks for linking to krishna.org. You reminded me that I need to explore that site further. I stumbled onto it a few months ago and bookmarked it, but never got around to looking into it in detail. Their “Science” section is hilarious.

  11. mccorvicon 31 Aug 2009 at 12:39 pm

    I wish this school had the same principal I used to work for back in Arizona. Anytime a parent came out of nowhere demanding something ridiculous he’d just ignore them and tell them if they didn’t like it, they could leave (which they never did).

    But, on second thought, that was the same principal that didn’t see a problem with our science teacher telling the kids the moon landing was a hoax…

    Oh god, our children are screwed!

  12. Steven Novellaon 31 Aug 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Skep – There is always that risk with any satire – but satire is just too good a literary device to abandon. In this case, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for to read past the first few paragraphs of my post.

  13. Oracon 31 Aug 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Ack! I was looking for just such a perfect example when I wrote about this yesterday. I couldn’t think of one so pristine, as I had been unaware of the Krishna belief. Given that, my attempt to make a similar analogy was not nearly as effective.

  14. Steven Novellaon 31 Aug 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Michael Meadon – I think you are significantly misreading my post, but this is the same discussion I always land in on this issue. Here we go again.

    First – you need to distinguish, as I did, Religion and faith. As I said, religions often trample on science. When they do, the cognitive dissonance that results is their problem. It does not afford them the right to suppress science.

    Questions of faith are outside the realm of science, which deals with falsifiable empirical claims. Religions deal with faith, but many also deal with scientific claims.

    When they do it is just as if a religious tenet holds that infant sacrifices are necessary to appease their god – you can believe whatever you want, but that does not give you the right to murder infants. Likewise, believe what you want, but the science is what it is.

    Regarding philosophy- science only requires methodological naturalism, not philosophical naturalism. I agree with philosophical naturalism – but it is not necessary to demand it publicly.

    This gets to the difference between reaching a scientific conclusion and opposing a religious belief. We can say – within science, and withing methodological naturalism – this is the conclusion we come to. You may reject it if you wish within your rights to freedom of religion and privacy, which means you are rejecting philosophical naturalism (or again, whatever else they do to resolve the cognitive dissonance is their problem) but we can still agree that within methodological naturalism, this is the answer.

  15. medmonkeyon 31 Aug 2009 at 1:33 pm

    My first exposure to the Krishnas came in undergrad in Gainesville, Florida while attending UF. The Krishnas have one of their largest largest enclaves in Gainesville and provide daily vegan lunches on one of the campus plazas free of charge (except for the mandatory 3 dollar donation). Because they are not “selling food”, they don’t have to pay any taxation or obtain any permits to “give away” lunch. I was curious about the Krishnas and they’re food (lots of Krishna restaurants out there), and apparently having other people eat their specially blessed food somehow gets them in touch with god. It seemed to me to be a clear cut case of state-supported religion, but UF doesn’t want to have to provide their own vegan option on campus – balderdash! Four years I put up with those crazy hippies chanting away. Then I went to India and visited an ISKCON temple. The entire massive temple was a gaudy souvenir shop … what a sham.

  16. Barbara Meissneron 31 Aug 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I remember Stephen Colbert saying (this should be a fairly accurate paraphrase): If you can prove a religious belief scientifically it becomes science–and no one will believe it.

  17. [...] [Update: Steve Novella has a funny and pointed take on all this.] [...]

  18. Karl Withakayon 31 Aug 2009 at 2:23 pm

    If a religious position is incompatible with or in opposition to a scientific position, that does not make the scientific position also a religious position.

    It takes more than a conflict with religious dogma for a position to be considered religious in nature.

  19. yassenseion 31 Aug 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I know of a way for the marching band to make up the lost funds. Sell the shirts on eBay.

    Heck–send the lot back to the printer, have them print, on the back “Oh, for Heaven’s Sake–EVOLVE!” and sell them for $10.

    I’d buy one in a heartbeat!

  20. mindmeon 31 Aug 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Check out the more extensive debate on this on the Krishna site:

    http://krishna.org/did-man-really-walk-on-the-moon/

    I covered it on my podcast:

    http://www.yrad.com/cs/

    See:

    Moon Hoax and Stuart Robbins Revisited

    Yeah. Whack a mole stuff.

  21. Jim Shaveron 31 Aug 2009 at 4:16 pm

    This is a true story:

    The Smith-Cotton High School marching band in Sedalia, Missouri rocks, assistant superintendent Brad Pollitt is either an idiot or is spineless, or both, and Dr. Steven Novella is awesome!

  22. GHcoolon 31 Aug 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I agree with Skep. Most readers of this blog probably agree that the analogy is a fair one, but I was let down halfway through the article to learn that it was just an analogy and not a true story. This should have been averted by adding the words “Imagine if” before the elaborate analogy.

  23. crimon 31 Aug 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Faith and science do not occupy separate realms. All thought involves faith (belief). What science aims to do is to is to increase the amount of evidence and logic that a given belief involves. Science cannot presently eliminate subjectivity.
    Not only that, but science is often misused and misunderstood, sometimes increasing subjectivity. It’s interesting how a man walking on the moon, an event taking place in a relatively short amount of time in the very near past, is considered a good analogy for a theorized event spanning hundreds of millions of years, far removed from us in location and scale on the timeline.
    Not that I’m sympathetic to religious interests invading the public sector, but as it stands, much of the scientific community already indulges in quasi-religious super speculation. Accepting a theory long before it can be proven or reproduced, only supported in relatively minute increments, and then speculating further based on these popular theories, and denouncing competing ideas; this is dogmatic behavior, almost religious. It’s better than superstition, but it’s still not skeptical and agnostic enough, we still have such a small amount of evidence in the scheme of things. If students aren’t simply taught logic, skepticism and evidence, then they’ll become dogmatic about modern speculations and the next generation will have to change their shirts too.

  24. Skepon 31 Aug 2009 at 6:33 pm

    @GHcool,

    One of the reasons I’m a skeptic is I don’t like being tricked. While I appreciate good satire and a good analogy, I have to balance that against my disapproval of trickery, thus my question about the appropriateness of the device used in this post.

    I’ve come to think of NeurologicaBlog and others of similar rigor as news sources above and beyond the regular media in reliability, and, whether for good or for ill, I don’t expect to be tricked by them, hence my reaction.

  25. banyanon 31 Aug 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Well I appreciated the use of satire and it’s effect would have been considerably dulled had I known it was satire from the beginning.

    I considered sending this to my Texas family, but I’m sure they would see it as a false analogy since they’re aware of lots of evidence for the moon landing but are unaware that any evidence for evolution exists at all. Oh well.

  26. tomrhoadson 31 Aug 2009 at 10:50 pm

    skep,

    I thought the mention of Sedalia in the first sentence was a dead giveaway. The story about the t-shirt ban was recent but it had made it through the news cycle. I understand you missed the story and felt tricked, but I thought the analogy was an excellent way to show why religious beliefs should not trump facts.

  27. HHCon 31 Aug 2009 at 11:53 pm

    jacek, Cool t-shirt! The trumpet is carried first by a monkey’s tail and then eventually winds up in the right hand of a man. I think both parties enjoyed this zooillogical display! :-D

  28. Michael Meadonon 01 Sep 2009 at 2:43 am

    Steve… Apologies about misreading your post. I’ve long been puzzled over your views regarding the relationship between science and religion, and my interpretations (possibly inaccurate) of things you’ve said on the podcast probably coloured my reading.

    So, you say:

    “Questions of faith are outside the realm of science, which deals with falsifiable empirical claims. Religions deal with faith, but many also deal with scientific claims.”

    Again you use this term “realm” — what does that mean? And I’m not sure this distinction between ‘faith’ and ‘science’ holds up as defined. On the hand, you’ve criticized and ridiculed people who make unfalisifiable claims about non-religious matters (the claim that psychic phenomena are ‘shy’ and don’t manifest in the presence of skeptics, for example). But then you refrain from criticizing or ridiculing religious beliefs that are unfalsifiable. (I’m not suggesting that you go into atheist/agnostic activism — you occupy an important niche and there are others who do that job admirably. What I am suggesting — and more of the reasons for this claim follows — is that your position is justifiable pragmatically but not in any robust philosophical sense. Your distinctions aren’t nearly as neat as you make out.)

    More significantly, it seems entirely possible to have faith about a falsifiable empirical phenomenon. I could say, for example, that I have faith and an unshakable inner conviction that global warming isn’t anthropogenic. Moreover, lots of religious people (Francis Collins, for example) defend natural theology, the position that reason and science support religious views. Many of these claims seem eminently falsifiable. What you’re doing, it seems to me, is saying ‘science cannot address matters of revealed religion as they pertain to a God so defined that it doesn’t intervene in nature. So, if you’re a deist who relies entirely on faith, there’s nothing I can say to you’. True enough, but only a tiny minority of religious people fit into this category, yet you extend this argument surreptitiously to cover religious claims that are falsifiable or that make claims regarding science or nature.

    Again… I’m NOT saying you should go out bashing religious folk. PZ (and many others) do that admirably already, and your strategy likely reaches people who would be put off by criticisms of religion. I’m all for you sticking to your current practice. What I am saying is that your justification for this position works only on a pragmatic level, you don’t (as far as I can tell, and I’ve listed to all of SGU, 5 by 5 and I read most of your blog posts) have a coherent philosophical justification for it.

    Of course, I could be wrong.

  29. Michael Meadonon 01 Sep 2009 at 2:45 am

    Oooops. HTML fail… damn you…

  30. Michael Meadonon 01 Sep 2009 at 2:48 am

    That was meant to be “damn you “…

  31. Michael Meadonon 01 Sep 2009 at 2:49 am

    Sigh. “Damn you ‘that thingy that ends italics in html’”…

  32. jo5efon 01 Sep 2009 at 3:48 am

    I checked out that thread mindme, whackamole is perfect description.
    I think Buzz himself has the best retort for this lunacy:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUI36tPKDg4

  33. jester700on 01 Sep 2009 at 8:34 am

    Just another positive vote for the Krishna analogy. It may make less difference to most of the crowd here, but is perfect in introducing the story to xian friends. Perhaps even seeding an “AHA moment”.

  34. Steven Novellaon 01 Sep 2009 at 9:36 am

    Michael,

    I think the problem you are having understanding my position is that you are confusing the fact that other people inconsistently use the terms faith, science, and religion with my position. I am advocating a consistent application of science.

    I do NOT make distinctions between religious and non-religious claims in any way. The only distinction I make is whether or not a claim is within the methods of science – i.e. (here comes my quicky definition for the “realm” of science) falsifiable claims made within methodological naturalism.

    My criticism, in fact, is often that people want to have one foot in science and one out. ESP is scientific, but the claims are ultimately non-falsifiable. Science and reason support God, but you must have faith. You can’t have it both ways.

    My position is that you are either doing science or not doing science.

    The thing is, people can chose to believe in things outside of the realm of methodological naturalism. They have the right to do so. Their justification may be illogical, and if they are inconsistent or exhibit poor logic that can be criticized (and we do so, frequently). But if they retreat to faith, and say they just choose to believe, without any logical or empirical justification, then all that can be done is to keep them consistent in that position and not let them encroach into science.

    It does get tricky when you deal with people who adopt faith-based beliefs about scientific claims. I do take the position that this is a bad idea – it is irrational and ultimately a losing strategy to hitch your faith to a claim that can be proven false. The problem is, people have the right to be wrong and irrational. So when it comes to the question of what we teach in public schools, and to what applies the separation of church and state, the only approach that works in my opinion is to say that within the system of methodological naturalism (science), this is the answer we get. You can believe whatever you want.

    For example, with regard to teaching evolution – the school system can say that students have to demonstrate an understanding of evolution, but you do not have to profess belief. Again – how they deal with the resulting cognitive dissonance is their problem.

    I will also go further and say that to reject the answer that science currently comes up with (for ideological and not scientific reasons) does make one anti-science and does place ideology above science. People have the right to do this, and I have the right to call it what it is.

  35. Steven Novellaon 01 Sep 2009 at 9:41 am

    crim – your position is not valid because you simply redefined “faith” as “belief” – you substituted a specific term with a vague and ambiguous one.

    Science is not about belief, it is about logic and evidence. Yes, scientists do have an opinion about the interpretation of the evidence, and this can loosely be called “belief” but that does not equate it to “faith” – which is belief without logic and evidence.

    Faith and science are opposites.

  36. twhiton 01 Sep 2009 at 9:53 am

    Great post.

    On the matter of science in relation to faith and/or belief, this may be of interest:

    http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/change-dont-need-belief/

    (or, to try out the new WordPress short URL feature, this shorter link should also work:
    http://wp.me/p1V0H-o9 )

  37. crimon 03 Sep 2009 at 11:25 am

    If science does not possess 100% logic or 100% evidence, it cannot be considered opposite of faith as you define it. Or if it does possess those things, then it is a concept that is out of the reach of humanity until we are 100% objective and omniscient, and to call one’s self a scientist would then be a misnomer. I’ll assume the first, so that I don’t have to deal with it as an abstract, absolute concept in this discussion.
    To claim that faith has no evidence or logic is false; thought doesn’t exist without some level of logic, even though it is not 100%. And the entire human experience is evidence, even if it can’t be reproduced and quantified in scientific method. The reason it can’t be is that science is limited, not that unknown evidence simply doesn’t exist. This isn’t an argument in support of faith, which even if it has some degree of logic and evidence, does not generally have as much as science. But this refutes a common definition of faith as being without things which it cannot possibly be completely without, or can’t be proven to be without, even if it lacks them in comparison to science. The point of refuting that definition is that to consider science to be more different than faith than it is, further subjectifies science and its conclusions by allowing it to be illogical about its own limitations.
    Just as faith has potential evidence within the human experience, which science cannot ‘desubjectify,’ science also exists within this experience and this subjectivity. Due to the nature of being subjective awarenesses, everything is about belief, because until omniscience is mandatory, knowing things involves a choice to believe they are true. The centrality of what you call opinion, to our process of understanding things, means that bias and self-deception will be serious problems up until the moment we are completely objectified, if ever. They’re chronic symptoms of not knowing everything. So even our best attempts at being correct will have the capacity to resemble ‘blind’ faith. Underemphasizing our vast subjectivity will only increase it. This conclusion is supported by both logic and evidence.
    In any case, the things science and faith have in common, was not my point to begin with, although it was related. My point was that if science is not conscious of its limitations, it does things like compare a recent historical event to a period of hundreds of millions of years and calls it a good analogy, or completely disregards in other ways, the scale of human existence and the evidence we have, relative to what is being theorized.

  38. Steven Novellaon 03 Sep 2009 at 12:29 pm

    crim – you are making a number of false dichotomies and poor arguments. The end result is that you are downplaying the key differences between the process of science and faith.

    First, your straw man – I don’t know any serious scientist or philosopher who argues that science is 100% objective, or that it does not have serious limitations as a human endeavor. Quite the opposite – I hear and tout these limitations all the time.

    Further, it is not my position that there is never any logic or evidence that can be brought to bear to support a contention of faith. Rather, faith does not arrive at its conclusions based upon logic and evidence.

    Regardless of how a faith-based belief arose, once it becomes an article of faith it is fixed, and is perpetuated based mainly upon authority and tradition.

    Science operates very differently. No one is saying is is perfect, or without bias or opinion, but rather that the process is designed to be empirical, self-corrective, to weed out biases as much as possible.

    You seem to be saying that it cannot be 100% objective, therefore it is not all that different from faith. This view is extremely flawed. The process of science is radically different than faith.

  39. CertifiedCyborgon 04 Sep 2009 at 2:34 pm

    The definition of Faith has always been a hazy one. Some people seem to take it to mean “a belief system, or system of understanding that one has confidence in.” Still others refer to it as “a fixed belief system, or system of understanding that one has confidence in.” The difference being that by both definitions faiths may or may not involve logic and evidence, but faiths of the latter definition can only use these tools to justify previously held beliefs.

    Science is a faith by the first definition, and the opposite of faith by the second.

  40. Neuroskepticon 10 Sep 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Ha, excellent post, had me fooled for a good while.

    The Krishnas, by the way, also don’t believe in evolution…

  41. [...] few weeks ago, I read perhaps the most lucid and hard hitting blog post about creationism in America and what can happen when cherished beliefs are challenged by scientific [...]

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