Saturday, June 11, 2005

What is Science?

Science is the search for objective truth. How do we know if something is objectively true? By testing it.

If it cannot be tested, then it is NOT science.

Objective truth is important because we know objective truth is actually true. Religious truth has no credibility. If religious truth had any value for finding what is actually true then we would allow religious testing into areas of life where it is currently banned, such as our drug testing methodology. In America, new drugs have to be rigorously tested for safety and efficacy, usually in scientific double-blind clinical testing. Would any religious wacko be willing to take drugs that bypassed all this scientific testing and were merely approved by a religious committee which prayed for guidance from god to make FDA rulings? It's painfully obvious that all the religious leaders in the world praying to god for guidance would NOT be able to predict the safety and efficacy of a new drug any more reliably than a 5-year old doing eeny-meeny-miny-moe.

If we didn't use objectivity to verify the truth of our ideas our medical doctors would still be using leeches to bleed sick people because they "believed" in the technique and didn't bother to test their theory.

This is why "intelligent design" cannot be called science, because it cannot be tested. If it cannot be tested then it simply has no credibility and doesn't deserve further consideration. Anybody could sit down for one day and dream up 500 different hypothetical supernatural origins for the universe and none of those 500 hypothesis would be worth investigating without at least a shred of evidence to begin with. In fact, that's exactly where religion came from - superstitious, ignorant men who believed the earth was flat sitting around several thousand years ago dreaming up fantasies.

Here is a graphic example of the difference between science and religion. Imagine you wake up and find yourself isolated in a white room. When you went to sleep everything was normal and you have no idea how you got into the white room. The religious approach would be to curl up in a ball in the corner of the room and pray. The truly devout would accept the new condition as god's will and simply wait for god to make his next move. The scientific approach would be to start thinking and reasoning. The rational person would reason that he isn't dead yet so someone must have put him in the room for a purpose. He would hypothesize that someone might be monitoring him and he would shout to see if he could get some attention. He might bang on the walls to see what they're made of and and test for an escape route. We could go on and on but, hopefully, you get the point. The religious approach is to ignore reality and just believe whatever you want to believe but the scientific (aka rational, logical, objective) approach is to think and reason and try to understand the world and perform tests and experiments to verify if our understanding is correct.

But what if we find out that gods really do exist? If any gods would reveal their existence then all rational people would believe in gods. Suppose the gods revealed themselves to us and proved to us they have unlimited supernatural powers. Then rational people would believe in the existence of all-powerful gods and supernatural power (actually, it would then be considered natural, not supernatural). But the next question would be this, do these gods deserve our respect? An objective, unbrainwashed reading of the christian bible shows that the god of christianity is a vile, filthy, evil god who deserves to be killed, not worshipped. The god of christianity is filthy because the christian myth was created by filthy-minded, superstitious, ignorant men who believed the earth was flat.

At this point in time, the existence of god is just like the existence of space aliens - there may be a lot of people who believe but there simply isn't a speck of evidence. A few centuries ago most people believed the earth was flat. Clearly, millions of people believing something does not make it true. (Actually, belief in gods is far less credible than belief in aliens. We see ourselves on this planet so it's reasonable to think there might be other creatures on other planets. But we have never seen any evidence for the existence of a supernatural creature so there is no basis to suppose that any supernatural creature has ever existed at all.)

Is there any supernatural claim in any religion that can be objectively tested and shown to be true? No. Not even one. Therefore, believing in god is unscientific because it is a belief that can't be tested and for which there is no evidence.

See also: Intelligent Design Has Missing Link


At 6/11/2005 02:27:00 PM, Blogger David said...

A little followup: sometimes people define science as "natural explanations for the natural world." This is not really correct. The word "natural" is unnecessary because everything that exists in reality is natural. If god existed in reality, rather than just fantasy, then god would be part of the natural universe. If there were any objective evidence for the existence of a god with supernatural powers, then god and his powers would be considered natural, not supernatural.

Supernatural means outside of nature, i.e., outside of reality.

At 6/12/2005 06:19:00 AM, Blogger vjack said...

While some aspects of religious doctrine are not testable via the scientific method, many more are. All religions make claims about the natural world which can be empirically tested. Of course, science has repeatedly shown these claims to be false (e.g., the world is older than the Christian bible claims, etc.). A rational person changes his/her beliefs in accordance with reality; an irrational person desperately clings to superstition at the peril of hummanity.

At 6/29/2005 09:43:00 AM, Blogger John Driscoll said...

Overall, I love the blog.

I would disagree with you on term limits. It is really an artificial way of dealing with the problem.

And your use of objectivity, in this instance, I think, is mistaken. Would empirical be a better word? For me, as David hints at, objectivity really is an analytical activity for the liberal arts and "social sciences," along the lines of Max Weber.

At 6/29/2005 09:47:00 AM, Blogger John Driscoll said...

Sorry, I should have referred to Tad's comment about objectivity and social science.

At 6/29/2005 07:06:00 PM, Blogger Just Another Boy Named Sue said...

As far as I am aware, there is no religion whose supernatural claims (e.g. existence of deity, prophecy, life after death, miracles) can be empirically tested and shown to be true. However, that does not imply that there is no reason to believe in religion.

I will use myself as an example. I am pagan. I have no proof that any of the gods I revere exist. I have no proof that magick, by which I mean affecting the world through processes that cannot currently be qualified or quantified by scientific means, exists. Yet I believe in the possibility of magick, and I consider myself pagan, and not atheist or agnostic, because it pleases me to do so.

My reason for believing in religion is that it makes me feel good, and to my mind, this is as good a reason as any to believe in religion.

At 7/03/2005 09:48:00 AM, Blogger bleedingisaac said...


While I empathize with your desire to show the superiority of science over religion, I think you overstate it with the "objectivity" claim. Emperical tests are performed on the basis of set assumptions. Newtonian physics, for example works in tests set with certain perimeters. It is good enough to use for space travel for instance (like putting things into orbit). If the test perimeters are changed, however, Newtonian physics stops functioning and a new approach must be taken.

I definitely put more trust in science than religion, but I still recognize the subjective nature of it.

At 7/04/2005 10:49:00 PM, Blogger David said...

Boy are you confused BleedingIsaac!

You seem to have completely misunderstood the words objective and subjective.

If a scientific principle is found to be incomplete or inaccurate, it doesn't mean the principle was subjective.

If Newtonian physics doesn't correctly describe bodies in motion moving near the speed of light, that in no way implies that Newtonian physics is subjective.

The point at which science crosses the line from objective to subjective is the point at which it ceases to be science and becomes fantasy.

Please look up the definition of the words objective and subjective in a dictionary.


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