Science and Faith
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04-07-2011, 01:04 AM
Science and Faith
Hi, can anyone help me out? I'm confused with these two issues presented here.

- All science is built on faith, for that is what theorems, postulates and axioms are. As to the nature of the entity, mechanism, being, that faith is built upon.... that is not a question science can or should answer.
- All knowledge has a component of belief in it.

I'm curious. Are these statements right or wrong? Thanks for helping Smile

Welcome to science. You're gonna like it here - Phil Plait

Have you ever tried taking a comfort blanket away from a small child? - DLJ
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04-07-2011, 04:29 AM
RE: Science and Faith
Perhaps this is better suited for philosophy, but anyways.

Science is not built on faith, unless you want to do what religious people do and define faith to include even evidence so they don't feel so stupid when they say they have faith. Science attempts to objectively identify what's true. It doesn't base its conclusions on faith, and the only thing you could argue science does take on faith is that the universe they perceive is real, but I'm not convinced that requires faith.
Basically, if something exists or affects reality as we perceive it, science can study it. Science can study the nature of entities.

Perhaps knowledge does have a component of belief to it. We still do believe something if we know it beyond reasonable doubt. The argument falls apart if it attempts to prove that knowledge is just as justified as faith, because some beliefs are right. I think this is an attempt to equivocate the definitions of belief. In one sense, belief in used as believing something even if justified, in another, belief is used to imply unjustified acceptance and faith. Knowledge is ascertained with evidence, not faith.

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use." - Galileo

"Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do." - Voltaire
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04-07-2011, 06:38 AM
RE: Science and Faith
Agree with daemonowner. Science is not built on faith, it is built on evidence. Science looks the circumstances, puts together a theory, and seeks evidence to support that theory. If the evidence suggests that the theory is wrong, then theory will change to fit the evidence. With faith, you have a theory and an explanation and you stick with it. If evidence suggests that the faith is wrong, then the evidence is altered or ignored. But, no matter what evidence is provided, the faith based theory does not change.

They are not the same things and science is not in any way based on faith.

Shackle their minds when they're bent on the cross
When ignorance reigns, life is lost
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04-07-2011, 07:05 AM (This post was last modified: 04-07-2011 07:08 AM by Efrx86.)
RE: Science and Faith
I made a topic about something like that a few months ago.

http://thethinkingatheist.com/forum/Thre...r-of-faith

Though the question is whether believing in science is a matter of faith, not whether science is based/built on faith. Still an interesting read.

The God excuse: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument. "God did it." Anything we can't describe must have come from God. - George Carlin

Whenever I'm asked "What if you're wrong?", I always show the asker this video: http://youtu.be/iClejS8vWjo Screw Pascal's wager.
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04-07-2011, 08:13 AM
RE: Science and Faith
Hey, robotworld.

I'm a subjectivist, so part of my belief is that everything we believe is a construct. So I think that faith is a part of everyone's daily lives in two ways. In the macro, in how we interact with the universe and in the micro, having faith that things won't suddenly change or that you'll get the job or that someone loves you or that things will unfold the way you hope they will unfold.

I think that the main target of the scientific revolution was revealed knowledge. Kings were viewed as avatars of the Gods and so what they said had to be true because they were God's mouthpiece. It was a profound method of control and gave them near limitless authority: hence the term absolute monarchy. In the aftermath of the revolution, proof is regarded as the cure all for that power and faith is viewed as dangerous; as the superhighway to being manipulated and controlled. This idea has merit, but whether it's right or wrong, it's important to note why faith has been thrown under the bus/out with the bathwater.

That being said, while the idea that theorems and such are a product of faith is highly debatable (I mean, theorems are eventually proved or disproved but I feel that faith has a role in their creation and in carrying forward the experimenting, but hey) the scientific method itself is literally based on faith.

Naturalism is the PHILOSOPHICAL notion that the universe is governed by natural forces and laws ONLY. In such a universe, there is no place for supernatural forces. The important distinction is that naturalism is a philosophical idea, not a scientific one. Science cannot prove or disprove naturalism.

Methodological naturalism is the scientific ground rule that says, "Let’s proceed AS IF naturalism were true."
Quote:Expert testimony reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena.... While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science. This self-imposed convention of science, which limits inquiry to testable, natural explanations about the natural world, is referred to by philosophers as "methodological naturalism" and is sometimes known as the scientific method. Methodological naturalism is a "ground rule" of science today which requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify.
-SOURCE

Science is based on a belief about the nature of the universe that scientists have faith in.

I think that telling many scientists that they have faith in their lives is like telling Americans that they don't have freedom. Being free from the perceived oppression of faith is of such importance to scientists that they will simply deny its presence. That's different than saying it's there in absolute terms. It's saying that they will not even have the conversation. It's too abhorrent. It will just be denied.

I think that BnW is correct that science observes, hypothesises and then proves or disproves. I think that is an important method for understanding our universe that's saved my life on several occasions. But I think most faith-based world views aren't simply pulled out of the sky. Peoples observe the world around them and come up with quite complex understandings about how the universe works and what their place is in it. The difference is that they observe and hypothesise but don't prove or disprove, they believe. Many of these world views are of infinite value to these peoples. The difficulty is that in the hands of an absolute monarch, they can quite easily be manipulated to tighten control and that is absolutely to be feared. But in their benign state, they are actually quite elegant understandings that form powerful, meaningful and above all else, ADAPTIVE relationships with the world. The main difference between the two is that they do not observe Occam's Razor, which demands that a hypothesis be selected over others when it has the fewest assumptions. Faith based world views are replete with assumptions. Occam's Razor is of chief importance in science, but is relatively meaningless in faith based world views because the relationship with the generated fiction is as important as the relationship with the functioning world.

I suppose my analogy would be that ALL people’s base their world views on master narratives. That is demonstrably so. Faith-based peoples use master narratives that openly employ fiction, while science-based peoples try to purge fiction from their narrative. They also look at the faith-based ones and say that it is wrong to employ fiction. To further the analogy, the scientists are saying they can’t say filth flarn filth flarn filth in front of people to which the faith-based ones say their whole act isn’t just cursing, that they manage to get some truth in between the curses, and then tell them to have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up.

As the quote I provided illustrates, methodological naturalism is self-inflicted by scientists. The scientific method limits itself to studying empirical and measurable evidence. There was a rather lengthy and tumultuous argument about this fact a few months ago on this board so I won't pretend that there is no controversy, but because the scientific method is limited to the empirical and the measurable, it is unable to comment on the supernatural, so I agree with you there.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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04-07-2011, 08:56 AM
RE: Science and Faith
Quite simply put, I think faith and science are opposites. Of course this is my perception of how the words are used and understood, but language is funny that way. (Hence the atheist/agnostic discussions that pop up here. Definitions don't always accurately reflect the percieved use of the words)

Science takes evidence, and forms theories based on that evidence.

Faith takes ideas, and seeks supporting evidence for the idea.

So many cats, so few good recipes.
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04-07-2011, 10:09 AM
RE: Science and Faith
I would give you an answer but my esteemed fellow atheists have already given perfectly adequate answers.

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing". "But," says man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It proves you exist and so therefore you don't. QED." "Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
-DA
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04-07-2011, 01:29 PM
RE: Science and Faith
The biggest problem with communicating ideas about science and religion is the sloppy (or absent!) definition of words.
Faith and belief are different words, not interchangeable.

Beliefs are all the data in your head that you hold as true - regardless of the method and path whereby you came to be convinced of the truth of each item.
If you believe something because you have numerous eye-witness reports, documentation, physical, experimental and mathematical proofs, and you can confidently predict the outcome of an empirical test, that's science-based knowledge.
If you believe something because of your own experience, that's subjective knowledge.
If you believe something just because you've heard or read it from other people, that's received knowledge. If you don't test their statement through prediction, or other-source evidence, that's faith-based belief.
Each of these beliefs is subject to error, deceit and alteration over time.
But they are not the same!

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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05-07-2011, 11:22 AM (This post was last modified: 05-07-2011 12:07 PM by Ghost.)
RE: Science and Faith
Hey, Stark.

I don't think that faith takes ideas out of thin air, I think that's more the stereotype than the fact. A man I, and many others, consider to be one of the most important thinkers alive today is Daniel Quinn. He talks a great deal about story and about its cultural significance. He speaks of how the basic purpose of story is to tell us 'how things came to be this way.' I think that the faith-based stories that you and I seem to be talking about look at the world and take a serious look at how it functions but when they explain it, they simply don't use Occam's Razor. But the beliefs themselves, while potentially fictional and unsupportable, have a very intimate link to the real. It's a marriage of metaphysical and physical that just doesn't exist in science, but that doesn't mean it didn't come from experience and investigation and understanding.

I think that people who follow faith-based stories (probably not the best terminology, but I figure we're on the same page anyway) have been put into a position by those who follow scientific stories to prove their stories. It's not an internal requirement, it's an imposed one. Now, of course they're floundering because they're trying to defend themselves on terms that make it impossible to defend themselves. But I think that while they are failing to fill the fact vacuum with anything they can find in order to meet this imposed requirement, that's not what they've set out to do, ie, that isn't their purpose. So I disagree with you when you say, "Faith takes ideas, and seeks supporting evidence for the idea," for those reasons.

Hey, Peterkin.

That was an EXCELLENT way to reframe this topic. Well done.

Peterkin Wrote:Beliefs are all the data in your head that you hold as true - regardless of the method and path whereby you came to be convinced of the truth of each item.

I agree wholeheartedly with this statement; however, in my experience, I've encountered significant resistance to this idea. What I've gathered is that the source of the resistance is that some people don't want to consider scientific, demonstrable, fact-based ideas like gravity, 2+2=4, or I'm going to die one day, beliefs. There seems to be a strong desire to conflate belief with superstition; to define belief only as things that are non-factual. As I said, I agree so thoroughly with your statement but I have never figured out how to respond to criticisms against it. What has your experience been?

On a quick semantical note, when you say "hold as true", do you include negative statements? (kind of a poorly phrased question, but I hope you catch my meaning)

I think that your categories slice through the debate very well, but I still think that they're slightly muddled and not quite exhaustive. That being said, I find them quite exciting.

Good times.

ON EDIT:
I wrote something else here, but I really didn't like it in hindsight. So I nixed it.

For me, I think that all humans have beliefs as defined above. I believe I'm gonna die and that water keeps me alive and that there's no way to test for God. Boom. Beliefs. We all have them and as you say, Peterkin, how we came to hold these beliefs is irrelevant. We all hold them. And I believe firmly that belief is an all-encompassing word. Faith, obviously, is a loaded word. I think the more to-the-point word is trust. We all have trust in the value position of our beliefs (A=True, B=False, C=Unknown, D=Undecided, E=Unknowable, F=Uniterested, G=Whatever other value positions there are). The reason we trust a given value position is where empiricism and proof and speculation and experience and logic and conjecture and revelation and imagination and conception and all the rest come in. I trust that gravity=true because it's proven. I trust that winning the lottery=True because of a gut feeling. I trust that I'm an asshole=false because of revelation. I trust that God does/does not exist=unknowable because of logic. It seems to me that to have faith, is simply to trust in a belief without empirical proof. I belief that God exists=True because I have faith.

I think I like this view because it leaves room to look at the reasons we trust in terms of whether they can be objective, subjective, relative, social constructs, so on and so forth.

I view everything as a social construct. The very idea of empiricism is a social construct.

Anyhoo, I like the layers that this affords.

That's my two cents.

ON SECOND EDIT:

I actually kinda like this. It offers a four-tiered layer cake kinda thing:
1 - Statement: What is the statement? - The number of statements are inexhaustible.
2 - Belief: What do you believe is the value position of a given statement? - True, false, I dunno...
3 - Justification: What is the reason/are the reasons that you hold that position? - Empirical proof alone or reason, logic and faith in concert...
4 - Nature of Understanding: Are our reasons for trusting universal, objective, subjective, relative...

Mmmmmmm... my brain is now comfortably numb Smile

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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05-07-2011, 01:51 PM (This post was last modified: 05-07-2011 02:06 PM by myst32.)
RE: Science and Faith
I put the word "Faith" in the same basket I put words like "Love" and "Patriotism"... Words that have so many meanings and uses that they become useless. They have no referent. I consider the possibility that in the distant future protons will decay. Does this mean i have "faith" that they will decay.... it will depend on what the word means to you. I recognize the possibility that this could all be just a dream, brain in a vat, and I could wake up at any moment demonstrating this reality false. Do I have "faith" in this reality? What about the reality I woke up in? Again, it really depends on what you think the word means. If yes then we all have "faith" in the realities we live in. If you never thought about the fact that this could all just be a dream and just now learned about it does this mean you had "faith" in it but did not know it, or is your "faith" in it just now starting? How many other things do we have faith in and not know about? Can you have "faith" in the unknown? What does that even mean? So what does all this buy us? Nothing Arguing about "faith" just breaks down to.. What is "true reality"? Well we have no way to know "True Reality"... so any guess as to what true reality is has to take with it a smattering of "faith".

Now here comes the difference... If someone points a gun at me point blank and shoots, while I "pray" to a God I have "faith" in to sop the bullet from entering and killing me. My large "faith" in that God caries little weight to the small, insignificant amount of "faith" science puts in the laws of Physics. Sure you can say they have "faith" in their science... So what? I will drop dead every time.

“We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.” Orson Welles
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