Science vs. Faith: Reality vs. Emotion
I often hear religious people disparaging science for being nothing more than just another belief system not so unlike religion. This slanted perspective is intrinsically false, a fact this essay will clearly show by drawing a definite distinction between science and faith.
The greatest general criticism of science originates largely from the fact that science is not always right. Religious people tend to take even greater umbrage against science and its failings because their faith is threatened by scientific advancement and the skeptical inquiry it promotes. Naturally they seek out any flaw as a means of debunking science and promoting their own special brand of reality.
While science is admittedly an imperfect system – and it’s easy to see why religious people feel threatened by it – such criticism by the general public shows a complete lack of understanding as to what science really is. If they understood it, perhaps they’d be much slower to criticize.
First and foremost, science is not, as most think, simply a body of work or discoveries. To the contrary, science is actually a systematic way of thinking and reasoning, a way of observing the world around us. Its methodology is to formulate an educated opinion (a hypothesis) from observing the world. That hypothesis is then tested to see if it’s true. If it’s proven false, it’s discarded. If proven true, then this “theory” is turned over to others to see if the findings can be replicated. This is science.
It also needs to be noted that there is no such thing as “placing faith” in science, another mistaken assumption I often hear bandied about. Faith is defined as belief without proof. When someone says they “feel” this way or that but can’t really put a finger on how or why, this is faith. There’s no proof, just a feeling or an intuition. People have faith that there’s a god. There is no physical evidence for this position, but that doesn’t stop them from taking the belief very seriously. Religions are manufactured from this faith and likewise encourage such belief while discouraging doubt.
Science is just the opposite. It takes faith completely out of the picture. Faith isn’t necessary because you can see the data with your own eyes and test the theory for yourself. Your findings can then be taken by another person who attempts to duplicate your findings by performing their own tests. Scientific theory only becomes accepted after many others have tested and retested the original ideas and found them true. There is no such litmus test for faith. No one else can know the heart or feelings of another. Faith is personal and heartfelt while science is external and unemotional.
Finally, we can clearly point out that science is a way of thinking and analyzing that doesn’t allow feelings or opinions to blur the results. Faith on the other hand is almost entirely based on feelings and intuition…and most people are very good at “feeling” things that have no bearing upon reality. Wishful thinking and the placebo effect all naturally play a role. Not to mention more than a few psychoses.
Having said all the above, it must unequivocally be admitted that there is such a thing as “bad science”. We find it whenever a person allows their personal bias or conflict of interest to cloud their judgment and distort their results. We see it all the time in politics and big business. Poorly manufactured studies and skewed statistics become a convenient “proof” for whatever the agenda.
But this is a failing of mankind and our political systems, not of the underlying concept of science. Good science is simply a way of looking at the world to observe, hypothesize, test, and theorize the cause of what’s seen without compromise or bias. Nothing more, nothing less.
For those with a religious bent, science is nothing to be feared or distrusted. Science doesn’t demand blind obedience. Instead, it promotes questioning and analysis. Most organized religions do not allow questioning of faith and analysis is left to clergy. Their “proof” is little more than pat proverbs, improvable stories and outright fairy tales invented to curb skepticism.
Considering the requirements of proof in science and its encouragement of questioning and debate, how odd that people will so willingly bend to the whim of clergy, but be so hesitant to follow a scientist.
And while science is excellent for testing virtually anything in nature, there is no test or experiment to prove or disprove such grandiose stories as those found in religious tales. People that want to believe will believe for no other reason than that they want to. All normal, reasonable doubts are pushed aside in favor of what feels good. When heartache from the death of a loved one descends or one’s own mortality seems imminent, it’s the false comfort of religion that people run to, not the cold, impersonal reality of science.
In summation, it should never be forgotten that the only way religion can exist is by overtly discouraging skeptical inquiry while appealing to man’s emotions. Faith is really little more than emotions made into a false reality. In a very real sense, this makes science the enemy of organized religion.
If too many people were to side with their intellect and demand real, substantive proof, the charade of religion would simply fall apart at the seams; it would become all too clear that the emperor was wearing no clothes. The fact is, religious people could do with a little skepticism…but then who would support the clergy?