10
  • Based on the problem of induction, nobody can assert with absolute certainty that the laws of science (i.e. physics, chemistry, etc,...) will hold all the time, in every part of the universe. Believing that that is the case is therefore a form of faith, not knowledge.

  • Current scientific consensus is that the universe doesn't stretch back indefinitely into the past, but came into existence a finite time ago with the big bang. The occurrence of the big bang and the subsequent evolution of the universe are both driven by the laws of physics. The laws of physics, seen this way, are the first cause of the universe and the higher power that governs it's day to day functioning.

So belief in science requires having faith, and belief in a first cause/higher power, two of the main components of theistic belief. And the laws of science then become some sort impersonal deity, akin to the deity of Deism. One could even envision a science based moral code based on neurological and environmental considerations, and we would then have all the constituents of traditional religion: Faith, first cause, and a set of ethical laws.

Obviously, this theism is very different than the theism of the Abrahamic religions, especially since the god in question is not personal. But the way I see it, isn't it still a form of theism, with the laws of science/physics as its deity?

  • 3
    Your assumptions about science are wrong. "current scientific ideas" are not any type of dogma (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogma). These are theories that a scientist may test, deny etc. There is no confusion between science and religion. – John Am Oct 23 '15 at 17:43
  • 2
    Zizek makes this point -- science picking up where religion leaves off as the 'subject supposed to know' (a critical component of the passage to secular modernity/late capitalism) – Joseph Weissman Oct 23 '15 at 18:28
  • 1
    @JohnAm How is dogma different from a set of axioms and postulates? They are basically the same things except that we use one for religion and ideology while we use the other two for science and math. Notice in the link you sent, that axiom is considered a related concept of dogma. – Alexander S King Oct 23 '15 at 19:15
  • 5
    One thing to be careful of here: if you get lose with words like "theist," very rapidly you arrive at a definition which can fit absolutely everything. This doens't mean they're wrong, but it does mean you will be asked to work hard to prove any statement which relies on these defintiions, because the words don't mean anything at some point. – Cort Ammon Oct 23 '15 at 22:36
  • 2

13 Answers 13

14

Answer: No, but not for lack of trying.

The many efforts to conflate scientific and religious belief are, in my view, quite shallow. Mere vandalizing of an important distinction. Both may be described in the abstract as "belief systems" or even "origin myths," and the questions pursued by science may rest upon axioms or assumptions, and one could call this "faith." But such "faith" is not dogmatic or essentialist, it is conditional and peripatetic.

In essential respects science and theism are entirely different, not even commensurable. Science is a method. One can practice this method while holding (in suspension) all sorts of religious views. The method imposes artificial constraints on nature, extracting measurements, predictions, and control. In this respect, science is more like magic than theism, and indeed evolved partly out of the practices of astrology and alchemy.

Theism, by contrast, assumes a Theos who can intervene "at will" in the causal-material realm, wielding a dominant causality, so that all "natural laws" framed in mathematics are ultimately contingent and futile. And the "will of God" can be cited as an equally valid explanation of any phenomenon.

Crucially, science demands, at some level, the experimental demonstration, evidence of the senses, and replication of results. (Though admittedly, you might not know this from modern cosmology.) But in theory the duplication of experimental results remains a final determinant. Moses appeared notably reluctant to duplicate results.

One little noticed feature of this requirement is that such results could be produced "at will" or "on demand." Science repeatedly demonstrates this power of the human will to act as an originating cause producing a physical effect. By contrast, God is the hypothesis of causality and superior will over which we have no such power. The "miracle" evidences the very lack of human powers of prediction and control.

The relationship between science and theology is, of course, far more epistemologically complex and subtle than this answer allows. And one can, of course, dissolve Theos into a Spinozist system or rename him Geist or Electromagnetism or somesuch, then refuse out of tender nostalgia to wield Occam's razor. But the conflation of science and theism is really a "night in which all cows are black."

  • 5
    You don't take into account Deists, who believe in a non-interventionist deity and a universe ruled by natural law. Otherwise your answer is perfect. I did indeed miss the fact that proper belief in science implies that one accepts that they may change at any time and that science is more of a method not a dogma. – Alexander S King Oct 24 '15 at 19:28
  • But Deism is the form of religion that science takes. So this is still the wrong answer. – jobermark Oct 25 '15 at 15:29
  • Yes, there were interesting Enlightenment attempts to create a "new religion" out of science, Comte and Eugenicists notably. This substitution phenomenon was critiqued by Frankfurt School. Seems pretty sinister, but I'd like to know more about it. – Nelson Alexander Oct 25 '15 at 16:29
5

May I substitute one word in your question before answering? Scientist do not consider belief in science the right stance on science. Because science does not operate neither by revelation nor by certification by witnesses.

Hence I would like to change your question to

Can trust in science be considered a kind of theism?

The necessary component of theism is the concept of one or many gods. These gods have to be worshipped by their beliefers. The beliefers can address the gods by prayers, trying to trigger the actions of the gods into a favourite direction. Hereby the beliefers can build a personal relation to the theirs gods.

All these features are missing in science.

Science operates according to the model of hypothesis, falsification, better hypothesis. Thanks to this method science makes progress of knowledge. But science is not free from error. Science condemns dogmatism and encourages new revolutionary ideas - at least in theory.

These features are missing in theism.

I agree with you concerning “Believing that that is the case [that the laws detected by science will hold all the time] is therefore a form of faith”. But that’s the wrong stance to science as I tried to explain.

On the other hand, I am in doubt more than you that today we already have a cosmological theory which incorporates the big bang. I consider the latter one possible extrapolation of the standard model to a limit point.

In any case, present cosmology does not have available a scientific theory about a cause for the universe. And it does not claim so.

I am curious what you mean by “a science based moral code”.

Summing up my arguments I conclude

Trust in science cannot be considered a kind of theism.

  • For "Science based moral code", I'm thinking of 3 things: Neuroscience based results that would prove that behaving in certain ways makes us happier. Game theoretical/optimization based results that would prove that we are all better off if we treated each other nicely, cooperated and didn't cheat. Most important of all, environmental science right now is telling us that if we don't start behaving in a certain way very soon, we will ruin our habitat, making commandments such as "thou shall not waste" and "thou shall not pollute" the most important for any of us to follow. – Alexander S King Oct 24 '15 at 5:14
  • You're correct that belief in science misses the point of science and that it's more appropriate to trust in science than belive in it, also that trusting in science isn't a religion. However, I feel that you've evaded the question: is an unquestioning belief in the contents of science textbooks and in the assertions of scientists itself tantamount to a religion? Certainly someone doing this is not doing empiricism, I wholeheartedly grant you, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to do, or even that it's uncommon. – AndrewC Oct 25 '15 at 9:41
  • @AndrewC Of course a student must not believe in the contents of his science testbooks. Instead, he should know how scientists come to these results. - But for the sake of the argument let's suppose someone believes in his textbooks unquestioned. Even then I would like to emphasize the differences to religion: Science does not build a personal relation to nature, like religion favours a personal relation to antropomorphic gods, e.g., by prayers. – Jo Wehler Oct 25 '15 at 9:54
  • @Jo I think this would be a stronger argument if you contrasted an unquestioning belief in the current scientific model with a religion without the personal part such as Deism. I've heard it argued that Christianity isn't a religion because it doesn't include an attempt to win favour from a God by following rules, so I think that you need more than a missing aspect, particularly if there are religions that omit that aspect already. – AndrewC Oct 25 '15 at 10:06
4

I think it'll depend a lot on terms:

  • "Theism" is often taken to mean belief in a super-natural god (or gods). Belief in science-only would not fit this definition.
  • There seems to only be a fine difference between this belief-in-science you propose and forms of pantheism. So, maybe in that sense it is a "theism".
  • "Religion" comes from the latin word to tie or to bind together - while there are multiple interpretations of this, it is often interpreted to mean "the set of beliefs, practices, etc. that bind a group of people together." Taken in that way, belief-in-science could be a "religion."
  • "Faith" at least in the Christian tradition, means something different than I think what you imply here (believing in something despite there not being certainty). I don't think most Christians would say that they are "uncertain" about God's existence, I think they would that the nature of this knowledge is different than knowledge coming only from the material world. However, "Faith" can also be taken to mean something like "creed," or "doctrine" - the set of things that people need to hold to be true. So in that sense, your religion-of-science fits.

So, as I said, I think it depends a lot on how one chooses to define many of the terms you used.


As an aside, there seem to be several attempts to create similar such "religions," especially during the Enlightenment. Deism and the Religion of Humanity are two examples of this. They seemed to have been, by and large, not terribly successful. It seems that practically, once you have removed the personal nature of God, there is no compelling reason to worship God. Given that most religious communities are built around this worship, the communities and the identity that goes with them also become seen as superfluous.

  • 1
    This is the first I've heard of Religion of Humanity. I'll need to look into. One thing that has puzzled me is why haven't Deism (and ideas like RoH) received more attention lately, especially with there being so many people identifying as "spiritual but not religious" and people who are atheist but don't subscribe to Dawkins and Harris' militant anti-religion dogma. – Alexander S King Oct 24 '15 at 19:04
  • As I hinted at in my aside, my opinion/sense is that a lot of people don't see a reason to bother. The point of these movements was to provide many of the desirable things in religion stripped of the supernatural. Spiritual-but-not-religious people often want the opposite: the supernatural (or transcendant, if you'd rather) stripped of the trimmings of religion. – James Kingsbery Oct 26 '15 at 0:02
  • @AlexanderSKing you may want to look into the "Sunday Assembly" -- a current attempt at religious services without god. – Dave Oct 28 '15 at 12:34
  • @AlexanderSKing And the opposite trend from what JamesKingsbery points out is no longer an issue because our large religious sects no longer eject non-believers. I think the West is going the direction of Confucianism -- ritual is healing, and spirituality just happens to people, but God is not something we can take seriously. We have plenty of strains of secular religion. Unitarians, Secular Jews, etc. And someone like Daniel Dennett is still welcome to be part of an Anglican Church. – jobermark Nov 2 '15 at 15:17
4

I would suggest (with Whitehead, whom I seem to be mentioning daily, but also indirectly, with Hume) that faith in science is not a theism, but the underlying belief in the consistent predictability of nature, is.

Science, whether it likes it or not, relies heavily on induction to generate new hypotheses. This makes no sense unless you have already assumed nature is predictable enough that your induction means something. That requires some formative force, whether you wish to name it or not.

And it retains a form that presumes predictability. Quantum Mechanics still insists we can predict how predictable things are. It is still all about stability, as long as stability does not contradict testing. And it continues to hang onto that for dear life. There is still presumed a formative force that keeps Schroedinger's equation working.

Unless your notion of theism involves identification and naming of your God, you are still heir to a tradition that presumes one, and modern science is on a continuous thread with Alchemy, which is a continuous thread with theology. There are reasons why science is implicitly Western, and this particular kind of formative force that we choose as a model in the West, is one of them.

So science that disowns the tradition of theology that converges on the notion of Natural Law is implicitly dishonest. The notion of Natural Law itself requires a reason. A traditional religion or an explicit philosophy can provide that reason. But if you accept it without further support, on faith, you are taking it as your religious basis.

The idea that this notion then forbids or rules out all other religious attachments, then, is a thoroughly religious position. (As I have argued elsewhere https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/16377/9166)

1

Theism still requires that one accept a statement which is by definition unrefutable, and is thus orthogonal to science.

(Fwiw, I consider myself an agnostic theist, though I know I don't believe in any deity small enough that the answer matters one way or the other.)

1

It is my view that the confusion, here, lies in a mixing of different uses of the word "belief". We use it both to refer to faith, and to refer to current understandings and viewpoints.

Faith is taking something to be true in the absence of evidence. Viewpoints are more like hypotheses, and understandings come from evidence. As such, when someone is described as having a "belief in science", what they are usually saying is that they have the viewpoint that science is an effective method of obtaining information. They are not saying that, if science says something, it must be true - that is, they aren't saying they have faith in science. Note that there are exceptions - those who have true faith in science.

Those who have belief in science generally accept the conclusions arrive at via the scientific method. The use, here, of the word "accept" is important. Should evidence come forward that contradicts the accepted conclusions, then those who have belief in science generally accept the new conclusion in place of the old one.

You assert

Based on the problem of induction, nobody can assert with absolute certainty that the laws of science (i.e. physics, chemistry, etc,...) will hold all the time, in every part of the universe. Believing that that is the case is therefore a form of faith, not knowledge.

Science doesn't assume that the laws of science hold all of the time, in every part of the universe. However, evidence has been collected suggesting that the laws seem to apply within the visible universe - motions of bodies seem to follow the laws of motion, light emissions from distant stars seem to have signatures that align with those of nearby stars (including the sun), which also match those of various chemicals on earth, after allowing for redshift, which is also consistent with our "local" laws.

However, should a celestial body be found with a signature inconsistent with what we have found, or should a body move in a manner inconsistent with our motion laws, or other such inconsistencies are found, science will update to account for this, and start investigating why this might be. The existing conclusion, that the laws we have found are "universal", will be replaced, either by determining new laws, or by accepting our local laws as only "local".

Current scientific consensus is that the universe doesn't stretch back indefinitely into the past, but came into existence a finite time ago with the big bang. The occurrence of the big bang and the subsequent evolution of the universe are both driven by the laws of physics. The laws of physics, seen this way, are the first cause of the universe and the higher power that governs it's day to day functioning.

Again, this confuses conclusion with faith. The big bang theory was speculated based on various theories that apply today. From this theory, they then developed predictions about things that had not been observed (because nobody had yet looked), but that should exist if the theory is correct. For instance, residual background radiation from the bang itself. Observations then found what was expected, or at least close enough to support the theory.

And yet, science has a principle, coming from statistics, that nothing can truly be "proven" based on evidence. Instead, the evidence is simply of greater and greater weight as more of it builds up.

And even then, if science can't directly confirm something, there is always consideration of alternatives. We can't directly observe the big bang, and thus there are many different variations of it, all of which are consistent with observations. And even if we ignore those variations, the question of what came before the big bang is very much an open one.

Some, such as Stephen Hawking, think that the question of "before the big bang" is meaningless, that time itself began then. Others think that the universe oscillates (see "Oscillating Universe Theory"). And others believe that the time before the big bang had different physical laws. Some believe the universe is embedded in a greater universe, and that the big bang was merely the start of the substance of our universe, not the universe itself. Most, I would say, do not "believe" anything regarding it, considering it to be an unanswered, and likely unanswerable question.

Science does not seek to explain why the universe behaves the way that it does, only how. And for this reason, it can't really be considered a "belief system". It is rooted in the scientific method, which is a process.

Let me put it another way. If one were to create an analogy with religion, science wouldn't be the belief in god, it would be the meditation, or otherwise altered state, used to seek answers. Notice that meditation can be used by atheists just as easily as by anyone else - there is no inherent faith or belief tied to the meditation itself.

There are certainly some people who could be described as having "faith in science" - that is, rejecting anything that does not fit within science immediately, not as "unknown", but as "wrong". Richard Dawkins is a classic example of this. However, believing in science is not the same as this.

And even those with faith in science can't be said to be following a form of theism, because that would require a faith in the results, not in the process. Those with a faith in science would alter their view of the world if it were discovered tomorrow, by scientific techniques, that the apparent patterns of our world are merely happenstance, that even the imperfect laws of quantum mechanics were far more strict than the universe really is, that our apparent reality was nothing more than a massive coincidence of randomness. Their faith is in the method, not the conclusions, and believe that information obtained by other methods is necessarily untrustworthy (thus the disbelief in gods, which lie outside of the realm of science).

  • 1
    "Faith is taking something to be true in the absence of evidence." I'm afraid most people I know saw very little evidence themselves, but rather believed what their teachers and textbooks told them, much as they did, say, in geography lessons. Most people's acquisition of scientific knowledge isn't any more empirical than their acquisition of historical knowledge. "They are not saying that, if science days something, it must be true". I'm afraid that's precisely the majority opinion I come across. The philosophy of science is not generally well understood. Faith in science's results is common. – AndrewC Oct 25 '15 at 14:43
  • @AndrewC - such people aren't showing faith in science, they're showing faith in scientists. There's a difference. They have faith that scientists are being honest, and that their claimed discoveries aren't faked. Because science doesn't actually speak - it doesn't say things. It's a process. Unfortunately, many people conflate the word "science" with the claims of scientists. They are not the same thing. And I don't have faith in history when I learn about World War II; I might have faith in the historians and other people who tell me about it, but not history itself. – Glen O Oct 25 '15 at 16:12
  • 1
    By the same reasoning, Roman Catholics have faith in the pope etc. "...science doesn't speak,.. it's a process." Again, you're expressing an uncommon understanding of science. Most people I've known see science as an absolutely true body of knowledge, not as a process at all. I've had to explain empiricism so many times! They exhibit just the same blindness to contradiction that others do, believing that both Newtonian mechanics and relativity are the truth. They were upset when their chemistry teacher taught a more accurate model of the atom because they believed the previous one. – AndrewC Oct 25 '15 at 17:15
  • @AndrewC - Roman Catholics follow the pope, in the same way that a political group follows their leader. Those we are talking about take the word of scientists as gospel in the way that christians take the bible as gospel. Tell me, who do christians believe the bible was written by? As for the other part, it's worth noting that Newtonian mechanics isn't inconsistent with relativity - indeed, Newtonian mechanics is the low-velocity limit of relativity. And being upset because you believed an outdated theory isn't the same as having faith in science. It's actually kind of the opposite. – Glen O Oct 27 '15 at 15:09
1

No, Theism is the belief in God. Your question would be better phrased as "Is Science a Religion". Not all religions believe in God(s).

To answer my own question, No, Science is not a Religion. While there are parallels, to call Science a Religion is to stretch the term beyond usefulness.

Science has its core beliefs -- the very first of which is that there are no Supernatural causes. It is never permissible in Science to say "It's that way because God made it that way."

There's a very good reason for the (usually unstated) prohibition: Once you invoke a supernatural cause, you can go no further in your explanations of how things work. You're stuck. In fact, your entire fabric of explanations begins to unravel. If any one thing is simply God's choice, then why wasn't that previous thing you explained just 'because God did it'?

Most of the parallels between Science and Religion come from the fact that both are human endeavors, so both exhibit human nature. Yes, you can compare Universities to Monasteries and Scientists to Monks or Priests. Non-Scientists are the laity, and the Journals are their sacred texts. That's all nonsense. It adds nothing to understanding what Science is.

Only if you're wrapped up in religion, and think it's the most important thing in the world, must one try to understand Science as a Religion. Better to learn and experience science in and of itself.

Yes, Science has core beliefs. So does Accountancy. That doesn't make either a Religion.

  • More accurately, theism is the belief in a god (indefinite and lowercase). 'Is science a religion?' may or may not be a different question, depending on your definition of 'religion' - which are you using? – user2953 Oct 25 '15 at 15:03
  • You are correct. Belief in a god. When speaking of 'someone's religion', I define religion as pretty much the same as spiritualism. A belief in the supernatural, be it ghosts, fairies, reincarnation, or gods. When speaking of 'a religion' I usually mean an organization. In this post, I'm using the terms Science an Religion in the broadest possible way. How else to encompass the beliefs of most scientists and most religious people? – Guy Gordon Oct 28 '15 at 0:51
0

It's an interesting question; on the face of it, one would say no given that science is an empirical science.

Take the paradigmatic case of gravity; one does not have a belief in gravity: one just observes that a stone picked up by ones hand and then dropped from say shoulder height takes the same time every time. These are simple facts; and these facts are facts of knowledge by observation - implicitly held until pointed out; however science is not the mere collection of facts, important though this is, but also the construction of theories explaining facts; much later when one reflects on the theories themselves and what they posit directly then one moves into the realm of what Aristotle calls First Philosophy - though it comes last...

For your first question, Aristotle suggests this is why the notion of final cause is required - to explain order (I'm not sure if this is different from telos or the same); much later Al-Ghazali posited a similar question to which he answered the crucial link was Allah - recreating and decreating every moment (Occasionalism); then again by Hume, and his answer was the mere habit of the human mind (Psychologism) - hence is designation as an arch-sceptic; this was rationalised and made systematic by Kant through his Transcendental Method to a neccessary apperception of Unity.

Now Kant demonstrated through his method that the traditional Transcendental Ideas such as God, Soul, and Free-Will could not rest on this basis; so in his system they aren't constitutive; they can however be considered regulative.

One test of this thesis of regulation is to look for it where it's not expected; there's no point, for example, to go looking for it in Christianity or Islam because there there are explicitly those notions.

So a possible example might be to go looking in materialism or physicalism where these notions are explicitly refuted or ignored. There's three possible examples that one might look at: the nyaya-lokyata school of materialism which was an nastika school (refuting or ignoring the revelations of the Vedas), the Democritus-Epicurus-Lucretious school of materialism in Ancient Greece to Early Latin Antiquity; and the contemporary situation.

Now Lucretious in his book De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) explicitly invokes a goddess at the beginning - his muse; one might argue that this is traditional and therefore to be discounted; but also later he mentions the One which is beyond all strife - then it's hard not to conclude that there is an explicitly religious dimension to his thinking; and what he is against is religious or scientific superstition. Furthermore in this epic of science - surely the only great poem on science as a subject - takes on ethics and the passions towards the end. So in this, to some extent Kant is vindicated.

In the contemporary situation one has the development of a materialistic ethics through the French school of existentialism (Sartre) following perhaps Nietzsches call; we also have the quite popular notion of the Singularity - the all-knowing and all-powerful AI; a possibility taken seriously by Hawking and others - but surely too, it can be seen as a god in a machine - an incarnation or avatar perhaps; and also the possibility of artificial AI to within which a human personality can be 'downloaded'; surely this is similar to the immortal soul - but not exactly. So again, one might say that Kant is vindicated to a degree.

Unfortunately all I know about the Lokyata school is all that there is in Wikipedia which isn't sufficient to decide either way.

Another angle is to look at religions outside of the Abrahamic nexus; there one sees the Tao in Taoism, and Brahman in Vedanta - and surely there they take the notion of God ...

To return to your original thesis: whether the laws of science can be seen as a deity or are seen as one, another angle might be Schopenhauers where he sees everything as the expression of Will (Possibly related to Spinozan conatus); then one might ask what then is the bearer of this Will - is it not then another expression of God? Then the physical laws are merely the expression of his will in this world as well as the law of evolution and of subjectivity; it's due to this influence that the British Philosopher, Magee suggested out that the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, write the following lines:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees is my destroyer

and later

The force that drives the water through the rocks

Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams

Turns mine to wax

  • 1
    I didn't know Ghazali was an occasionalist. My understanding of the Tahafut was that he thought that God operated in an entirely different domain from science, basically that he had proposed the non-overlapping magisteria concept that modern Christian philosophers are talking about. Is that compatible with occasionalism? – Alexander S King Oct 24 '15 at 5:24
  • @king: possibly; I'm not sure how seriously his suggestion of Occaisionalism should be taken: my understanding, is that he accused the rationalists for using logic selectively, and he offered occasionalism to show how their own use of logic could be undercut, however it's a thought that gained a life of its own - it reappears in Descartes Principles, for example. – Mozibur Ullah Oct 24 '15 at 5:43
0

No, because theism involves belief in god(s), and science is based on observation and falsifiability. Even if you wanted to call it religion metaphorically, the fact that science deals in demonstrable phenomena distinguishes it from religion.

And this statement of yours is not true:

"Current scientific consensus is that the universe doesn't stretch back indefinitely into the past, but came into existence a finite time ago with the big bang."

  • 1
    Which part is not true? – Alexander S King Oct 24 '15 at 7:24
  • 1
    It is untrue in its entirety. – JJBee Oct 24 '15 at 7:42
  • 1
    Quantum loop gravity speculates about a universe before our present universe. – Jo Wehler Oct 24 '15 at 7:56
  • 1
    @jobermark - I've actually learned astrophysics - it's not my speciality, but I've learned enough to know details about the big bang theories. And they don't conclude that there is necessarily a singularity in time. This is because the known laws of the universe break down that close to the singularity. We don't know what happened at the moment of the big bang, the same way we don't know what happens at the singularity of a black hole. There are hypotheses, but we don't know. I've just posted an answer which includes elaboration on this point regarding the big bang. – Glen O Oct 24 '15 at 17:47
  • 1
    Thank you for verbosely ignoring me completely, yet again. At this point, I am done responding to you. Learn to listen. – jobermark Oct 25 '15 at 15:46
0

Although individually (that means you) you can believe that "anything" is a form of theism, it appears you want others to think the same as you. To accomplish this, you define three requirements (faith, first cause, and a set of ethical laws), that if met by something, then that something is theistic. I agree that your first bullet statement provides strong evidence that a form of faith is involved. However, in the second bullet statement, you have the logic backwards. The Big Bang and its subsequent expansion/development are the driving force behind the development of the laws of physics, not the other way around. Therefore, the laws of physics are not the first cause, nor are they ethical laws (by my understanding of ethics). I don't believe meeting only one of the three requirements, provides good grounds for me, others, to accept your conclusion (that belief in science is a form of theism).

  • I'm not attempting to change anyone's mind. My question was motivated by the thought that the deity of Deism, seemed to me be essentially personification of the laws of science. The next logical step was "why bother with the personal aspect of the Deity". And Deism is a recognized form of theism (in the same way that pantheism or polytheism is). – Alexander S King Oct 27 '15 at 3:55
0

There is a great amount of discipline chauvinism in the manner in which scientist consider there "laws" How can the universe be governed by a set of laws that are nothing more than a set of explanations.

Scientific laws are only descriptive of the universe they are not prescriptive. To think that these laws / explanations somehow prohibit other realities from being the fact is simply intellectually stubborn.

One could even envision a science based moral code based on neurological and environmental considerations, and we would then have all the constituents of traditional religion: Faith, first cause, and a set of ethical laws.

This would be folly. Even with the evolutionary physiologist's best attempts science tells us only of what is. Nothing of what should be.

You would not be basing morality on science you would just be basing it on whatever the scientist thinks is right. Which would be disastrous.

I do not see how scientist are any less prone to megalomania, psychotic breaks or schizophrenia than the rest of us. Why would we make them moral arbiters?

Obviously, this theism is very different than the theism of the Abrahamic religions, especially since the god in question is not personal. But the way I see it, isn't it still a form of theism, with the laws of science/physics as its deity?

Then I guess Newton created this god. It would have to polytheism because there is definitely more than one law.

You would also have to ask yourself the following?...

  • Did people before Newton float?
  • How long has the ideas of scientific laws existed?
  • Did this god get created with the advent of scientific laws?
  • If this god only got created with modern scientific ideas how did it create the universe?
  • How can physical properties of a universe create a universe?
  • Do you not need a universe first before you can have properties explaining it's function?
  • Is this a case of rose by any other name smelling just as sweet?
  • Is your intentions for proposing this scientific god selfish?
  • Does the proponents want this god to exist only so that the traditional faith's requirements in regard to lifestyle changes will not hold for them?
-1

Based on the problem of induction, nobody can assert with absolute certainty that the laws of science (i.e. physics, chemistry, etc,...) will hold all the time, in every part of the universe. Believing that that is the case is therefore a form of faith, not knowledge.

Correct, however it is worse than that:

  1. Nobody can assert anything with absolute certainty. For all you know you might be in the Matrix being fed nonsense. Everything you believe is wrong. There is no sun or moon or Earth or laws of gravity. [See Descartes, I think therefore I am]

  2. Maybe you are God. You are having a dream and in your dream you have created an illusory world. It seems that you are at the centre of it all and in fact you are. [See Descartes proof of existence of God]

Conclusion

If you are a pragmatist, you ignore 1 and 2 above and simply behave as though the world is real. It is a mystical belief that is unprovable and unfalsifiable. If you accept it as an axiom then you can play with it and see if you can discover rules (e.g. the law of gravitation).

You experiment and attempt to formulate rules and make predictions. This makes you a scientist. If one day they cease to be correct (say gravity doubles overnight) then either you die or you adapt. This happens all the time in dreams. In a dream you read a page, look away, and when you look back the words are different or the book is no longer there. Performing science within a dream is impossible except insofar as to prove, "Nothing is constant therefore I must be dreaming."

Conclusion

To be a scientist, all you have to do is take on faith that there is a consistent and permanent universe that you can observe, measure and operate on. If that fails then science is an illusion but so is everything else.

-5

No. Science is not a belief, it's knowledge. This knowledge is based on evidence, and presuppositions based on a knowledge base.

  • 1
    Somehow the comment thread turned into a forum for a separate argument, so I deleted them all. If people want to debate Descartes or talk about sending pics,etc., take it somewhere else. / my apologies that this deleted an initial comment about the difficulty in specifying knowledge vs. belief . – virmaior Oct 25 '15 at 5:24

protected by user2953 Oct 25 '15 at 15:03

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.