(I previously asked posted this in Skeptics SE but was told that this might be a better SE for my specific question.)

I was watching this scene from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" where Mac (a character in the show) lays down "solid" arguments for why Science is similar to Religion.

  1. He starts by saying that the people we have thought to be the "smartest" through the ages made mistakes, and thus they were stupid and are not be trusted. I guess the argument can also be extended to dominant scientific theories being disproven time and time again. Even science is not safe from science!

  2. Another argument that Mac made was that Dennis (another character in the show) hasn't personally seen dinosaur fossils yet believes they exist. This is very similar to our relationship with science. We instinctively believe (most of us anyway) our scientists and domain experts, even if we don't understand the concepts ourselves.

How does one counter these points? How do you show someone that this is false equivalency?

My specific questions are:

Question 1. Why is science better than religion even though the currently accepted scientific theory may be proven to be wrong in the future? How can we trust that our current theories aren't wrong?

Question 2. Can we believe certain scientific theories/results even if we personally don't understand most of the concepts/theories ourselves? Why? Isn't this similar to how people put their "faith" in god? Aren't we placing our "faith" on the experts?

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    What have you found out so far? What hypotheses have you formed? --What exactly are you hoping for in a great answer here? (Maybe consider splitting these questions up -- asking after what fallacies Mac may have committed here seems like a reasonably-scoped question, but there's a lot of other things you're raising here...) – Joseph Weissman Aug 31 '17 at 22:05
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    The philosopher Karl Popper answered these kind of questions - for instance in his "Conjectures and Refutations", "The Open Society and its Enemies" and "The Logic of Scientific Discovery". I suggest you read about Critical Rationalism for a start for it presents the view of science advocated by Popper by which what enables science to make progress is refutations of scientific theories (e.g. Newton was refuted by Einstein) – L.M. Student Aug 31 '17 at 22:25
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    @Stack-Boi, you're welcome. The only tool we have as to how to consume science is by activating critical thinking; the problem of relying on experts is a genuine problem for one may apply critical thinking only to fields he knows something about. This way or another, if you have just discovered Popper - I think the best place to start is with his "Conjectures and Refutations". – L.M. Student Aug 31 '17 at 22:48
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    @Nat "For scientists who study these topics, they're a matter of scientific inquiry;"... but many times you find that the researchers themselves are heavily biased towards a particular outcome/result. The results might favour the company that funds the research or might be influenced heavily by personal biases and opinions . For example, climate change also seems to have deniers in the scientific community (though very few). Sifting the "good science" from the entire lot is a herculean task. – Stack-Boi Aug 31 '17 at 23:07
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    @Stack-Boi, additional note that might be helpful: Popperians would respond to your first question by saying that because current accepted scientific theories would necessarily be proven wrong in the future (otherwise science will not make progress), science is "better" than religion: whereas science is open to criticisms (in the form of refutations), religion is not - the latter is mere dogma. – L.M. Student Aug 31 '17 at 23:31

An initial note: To claim that science is "better" than religion implies that science is trying to answer the same questions as religion. Many would argue that that is not the case. See Stephen Gould's Non-overlapping magisteria or Karen Armstrong's distinction between Logos and Mythos.

It is still possible to argue that science and religion are both trying to answer the same or similar questions. For example modern cosmology's big-bang vs the Biblical and Quranic accounts of creation.

Question 1. Why is science better than religion even though the currently accepted scientific theory may be proven to be wrong in the future? How can we trust that our current theories aren't wrong?

The answer to this is: We can't trust that our current theories are correct, and that is exactly what defines science. Ideally, the scientific attitude is to accept that a theory, no matter how widely accepted and how well supported by experimental evidence, can eventually be proven false and replaced by a another theory. This is the concept of Falsifiability proposed by Karl Popper.

A scientist, when stating that they believe that Einstein's theory of relativity is true, should also state the following "under what conditions are you willing to abandon relativity?" - this isn't to say that relativity is false, only that it can be proven false - i.e. there is a possible experiment whose result might show that Einstein's model is wrong and another one should be proposed instead.

Contrast this to the religious attitude: When somebody has faith in God, nothing, no set of real world facts or new experiments is going to convince them otherwise. When confronted with facts that might contradict their belief in a benevolent God (the holocaust, the death of children in Syria, hurricane Harvey,...) they would simply reply that "there must be a reason","God works in mysterious ways", etc...and continue believing none the less. One can say that the concept of God is not falsifiable (see this post).

Another way of looking at it is the following: Religion is backward looking, it assumes the truth is already established and known, we just need to go dig it up from the right sources. Science (again ideally, not always in practice) is forward looking, it assumes that the complete truth is not known yet, and that more shall be revealed.

It should be noted that there are some problems with the falsifiability approach to define science, but discussing them would make this post too long. Look up underdetermination, Quine, Kuhn and Feyearbend on the philosophy and demarcation of science.

Overall, Popper's approach provides a working way of distinguishing science and religion, insofar as they are trying to address the same questions. In this sense, science is better than religion, because it is flexible and is willing to admit its mistakes, while religion is dogmatic and doesn't allow for self-correction.

Question 2. Can we believe certain scientific theories/results even if we personally don't understand most of the concepts/theories ourselves? Why? Isn't this similar to how people put their "faith" in god? Aren't we placing our "faith" on the experts?

This is almost a duplicate of How can an uneducated but rational person differentiate between science and religion?

There is a pragmatic response to this:

You have an illness, the priest asks you to pray for your illness to be cured, while the doctor prescribes you medication to cure your disease. Who do you trust and why?

How many cell-phones, laptops and airplanes have shamans and gurus made based on their theories?

Answer those question and you will have an answer to your question.

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  • In the context of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it was an argument about whether science or religion should be believed on the matter of evolution. The character Mac uses the arguments in the op in order to show that "science is a liar sometimes," and thus claims his disbelief in evolution to be reasonable. This is very much a direct confrontation between science and religion. – Braydon Sep 1 '17 at 19:38
  • @Braydon personally I agree with you, but many defenders of religion wouldn't and I refer to them (in particular Armstrong's Mythos/Logos dichotomy) out of intellectual honesty. – Alexander S King Sep 1 '17 at 19:41
  • Knowing that one position may be wrong does not support the contrasting position. That is the fallacy of negative proof. So this is not an argument in favor of the religious option at all. A confrontation can be about power and freedom, and not about validity. The question in this debate in general is not which is right, it is about whether science can undermine faith. Arguing about specific details of doctrine vs theory is a smokescreen for the argument about the importance of observation versus revelation as a basis for behavior. – user9166 Sep 1 '17 at 22:41
  • @Braydon sorry, I meant the above comment for you, but forgot to tag it. – user9166 Sep 1 '17 at 23:04
  • @jobermark I understand the fallacy of negative proof. What I was saying isn't necessarily that it is one or the other, but rather that in this case it cannot be both. @ Alexander S King mentioned that science and religion are not necessarily against each other as they do not necessarily try to answer the same questions. I was pointing out that in this case they are however trying to answer the same question with conflicting answers, making it science vs. religion, as if one could be proven without doubt it would disprove the other. – Braydon Sep 1 '17 at 23:30

Mac fails to distinguish between scientific theory and scientific fact. In the episode (S8 EP10) Mac claims to prove that science is unreliable by pointing out the mistakes of prominent scientists, saying that Isaac Newton thought he could turn metal to gold and died from drinking mercury. However what Mac fails to mention is that alchemy was never scientifically proven. Those ideas that are scientifically proven are not disproved later.

He also uses a form of the slippery slope fallacy. He assumes that since one belief of a major scientist can be proved false, others can. However not all beliefs are necessarily equivalent, and some of these beliefs can be proven to represent physical forms in the world.

Here is a current thread on slippery slope fallacy.

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  • Connected to this: Scientific hypotheses and experimentally proven facts are two different things. Every scientist initially makes a verifiable claim and then verifies it to be right or wrong. So ,alchemy was just an hypotheses at that time and Newton was still trying to make out if it was possible. Not something he thought was already proven (at least that is what I think). – BlowMaMind Sep 1 '17 at 9:44
  • Ideas that are 'scientifically proven' are often disproven later. Theories undergo massive revisions. Mercury was proven by observation to have one orbit, and then found to have a different one when Relativity was discovered. In the textbooks of my youth Dinosaurs were established to be the peers and ancestors of modern reptiles, and now are seen to actually be the predecessors of birds instead, with our reptiles taken from a unrelated heritage. The woman who discovered continental subduction was 'proven' wrong, to satisfaction of the peer review process, and vindicated thirty years later. – user9166 Sep 1 '17 at 22:24
  • There is only theory in science. All facts are actually parts of a theory, and will change if it is discredited thoroughly enough. – user9166 Sep 1 '17 at 22:30
  • @jobermark Yes I get that technically anything could be false or the result of an illusion, and there can never be true certainty. That being said there is still a difference between theories like alchemy and theories like gravity. If a theory is backed up by observation than we have logical reason to believe it, as it is probable that it is true or close to the truth. This is something we do not have with Mac's creationist argument, there is no evidence. It is still a fallacy to compare science that is proven through observation with theory that is not. – Braydon Sep 1 '17 at 23:23
  • That difference is simply one of coming later in history, when observation was easier. Science does not have facts. Creationism is not about information, it is about not feeling pushed around by an elite. So the arguments for it don't have to make sense. We should, in the meantime, not invent beliefs about our science that are contrary to its nature. Otherwise, it slowly becomes a religion we will have to fight with later. – user9166 Sep 1 '17 at 23:30

Question 1. Why is science better than religion...

It isn't. It serves a different purpose, and although an unreasonable number of practitioners on either side do not realize this, it is made obvious by what changes them. Science changes to better predict reality, and religion changes to better protect identity.

Science cannot provide us an identity and context in the world unless we treat it as a religion -- in which case it becomes a religion, and can't be better than itself.

Science becomes impatient with religion because religion often overstates its relevance. Identity is often threatened by the overall complexity of experience, and part of that complexity is the product of science.

But getting abused to cosset the change-intolerant by the power-hungry does not change religion's basic nature or purpose.

Question 2. Can we believe certain scientific theories/results even if we personally don't understand most of the concepts/theories ourselves? Why? Isn't this similar to how people put their "faith" in god? Aren't we placing our "faith" on the experts?

We can trust a scientist the same way we trust a plumber, instead of the same way we trust a priest. We trust the plumber to handle the pipes right and make things less leaky -- we trust the scientist to handle the observations right and make things less nonsensical. This is less about essential faith, than about trust that human beings are well-intended and generally effective.

We trust the priest to put the work of both these people into a larger context, which is often based upon psychologically appealing essential articles of faith, and help us to balance our responses to all of their products. Unfortunately this isn't something you can get wrong, it is only something at which you can be ineffective. Ineffective religions deploy cognitive dissonance manipulations to create conflict, because conflict works to their advantage -- it is easy to put dramatic conflict into context and therefore seem effective.

At the same time religionists habitually do something important that cannot reasonably be judged by others. So religion often develops an undue arrogance about itself and readily encroaches on domains where it has no business.

Again, there are bad religionists, religion is not bad.

So, how do you argue for science against religion?

  • Adopt an appropriate way of looking at religion and do not position yourself as an enemy -- identity conflicts love enemies, you don't want to be loved to death

  • Realize that every religion is completely different from every other one at least in some minor way, or they would just merge (witness Congregationalists and Unitarian/Universalism) -- so generalizations about religion or understandings from other religions often either will not help, or will incite greater resistance

  • Challenge how and why your interlocutor thinks any given scientific fact actually challenges basic articles of faith -- science and faith actually disagree very seldom in truly relevant ways, and creative rationalizations reinforce the power of the underlying faith to capture more ground (rather than undermining it as they do a scientific hypothesis by decreasing its falsifiability)

  • Point out how often artificial conflicts are created by religionists and then abandoned later -- question whether this is another instance of the same, and ask how one would ascertain that

  • Point out that the technology upon which people are dependent relies upon science that has been staunchly declared hostile to religion -- question why later adherents of those religions happily rely upon it

  • Check whether this belief is an inappropriate reliance upon a few charismatic individuals, rather than a large group doctrine -- if you are fighting a cult and not a religion, you need a whole different perspective

  • Point out the variation in doctrine among the orthodox adherents in the larger group -- question whether the jury is really still out on this conflict

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  • It is clear to me the OP is asking which is better in the pragmatic sense. Religion is simply not reliable while science is; further, religion is hostile to new ideas while science open invites them. Over 600 words obfuscating the simple answer results in a very highly upvoted answer - fishy.... – Ronnie Royston Sep 3 '17 at 1:16
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    @RoyRoyston Find me a Quaker hostile to new ideas and they would be a heretic - there is an open doctrine of continuing revelation. So that is not a religion? Some large Christian sects were the initial force behind legalizing gay marriage, back when it was kind of a new idea. But they are not the ones in the news, so who cares? I definitely emphasize how important it is that religions somehow learn how to stay off science's lawn. But ignorance is pretty rife on both sides. Your notions of religion are just untrue, and your certainty about them is just unfair. – user9166 Sep 3 '17 at 1:29
  • A big chunk of religion is on the left in many cultures. In the West, this includes even sizable sectors of the Roman Catholic Church, which leans all the way over to Liberation Theology. None of those people support using religion as a source of argument about physical reality. So you are pointing at a small, loud group and making general claims that are false of the silent majority. The remainder need something more like therapy than confrontation. – user9166 Sep 3 '17 at 1:38
  • "Religion is any cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, world views, texts, sanctified places, ethics, or organizations, that relate humanity to the supernatural or transcendental." - wikipedia Since when is science concerned with the super natural? Exacly how does one apply scientific method to the supernatural? Must get the basic terminology down as a first step. – Ronnie Royston Sep 3 '17 at 1:49
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    @RonRoyston Right, religion is not about facts. That is why it is important not to really engage in attempts to make it so. That is why all of the advice here is about putting religion back in its place, and not engaging with it as if it was fact-based. Likewise science does not touch the supernatural or moral, and has no application to the truth of any religion. Did you read this? Or do you just have a bunch of hostility saved up that you want to throw at someone. – user9166 Sep 3 '17 at 1:52

Answer 1:

Science is better than religion because science dogmatically demands empirical evidence whereas religion often relies on unaided reason. It is generally believed that theories derived from observations are more credible than theories from pure reasoning. For example, a situation report by a scout who surveyed the front line is far more credible than the one made by an oracle who only consulted deity.

We cannot trust that our current theories are not wrong. Scientific theories are like maps; by the time they were published it was possible that new errors or inaccuracies were discovered or the rivers had changed courses. Thus scientific attitude is highly tentative, subject to revision based on new evidence.

Aristotle, Galileo and Newton were pioneers on the frontiers of knowledge; they were scientific so long as their theories were consistent with their observations. Science itself does not guarantee either precision or accuracy.

Answer 2:

Great question. Ever time I placed blind trust in some theory, I made a dupe out of myself; over the years my doubt had only grown. Should you trust Jared Diamond's Pulitzer winning GG&S? How about scientific socialism? Dialectical materialism? How about Velikovsky's "Worlds in Collisions?" They all have the appearance of being scientific.

I think everyone has to do his own homework and find out a personal authority first, then expand his committee of trustees from there. A quote from Bertrand Russell may help:

An Agnostic does not accept any `authority' in the sense in which religious people do. He holds that a man should think out questions of conduct for himself. Of course, he will seek to profit by the wisdom of others, but he will have to select for himself the people he is to consider wise, and he will not regard even what they say as unquestionable.

Source: Russell, Bertrand. What is an agnostic?

Note: I may appear unduly critical about science but the truth is I don't even think religion is worth considering.

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  • Aargh. I wish folks wouldn't assume that all religion is unscientific. It bespeaks of a slight lack of interest in the topic. – user20253 Sep 2 '17 at 11:19
  • @PeterJ Aren't all religions unscientific because of the specific reason mentioned in the answer to which you have made this post? You cannot accept any authority, you see. And to me, that seems to be a prerequisite to even begin to read a religious book – BlowMaMind Sep 6 '17 at 15:55

Question 1. Why is science better than religion even though the currently accepted scientific theory may be proven to be wrong in the future? How can we trust that our current theories aren't wrong?

We cannot trust that they aren't wrong, but we can be sure that they are the currently best consistent explanations of the entirety of known observations and phenomena. Because science does NOT define absolute truth at any point in time. But it specifically allows for improvement in any area. All that has to be done is provide a 'better' theory. That better theory then replaces the previous one. Thus maintaining the 'currently best theory' assertion. Such replacements happen gradually in collaboration and confrontation among scientists. This is linked to question 2 and i will give more details there.

So what is a 'better' theory?

Without going into too much details, a 'better' scientific theory for a given observation domain is one that

  • explains more observations than another theory.
  • predicts measurements better (to a better degree of precision).
  • needs less ad-hoc postulates to predict the same observations. (See Occam's razor)
  • combines previously distinct theories by identifying common patterns and rules.

or any combination of the above. (and i might have missed some)

In any case, the new theory must itself define it's limits of use and define the experiments or observations with which it can be differentiated from the existing theory. It must be falsifiable.

Example: Special relativity has superseded and enhanced Newtonian Mechanics, but the latter is still valid enough in its relevant subdomain (slow moving objects) to be used perfectly well in for example the design of car crash security.

Also new theories must 'connect well' to adjacent theories, i.e. ones that cover neighbouring domains (Example: Special relativity also must be compatible with observations in Electrodynamics, as we are observing that moving charges create electromagnetic fields)

This is contrary to the Abrahamic religions (Christianity being referred to in the question), which postulate absolute truth in the form of dogmas and holy scriptures. Religion is limited precisely because of the fact it cannot be proven wrong (according to their proponents). Everything religion postulates is true by definition. Religion lacks the tool to refine this truth. That wouldn't be an issue if everyone agreed to this one truth. But people don't. There are many competing religious truths and there's no way an outstander can make a reasonable selection.

Question 2. Can we believe certain scientific theories/results even if we personally don't understand most of the concepts/theories ourselves? Why? Isn't this similar to how people put their "faith" in god? Aren't we placing our "faith" on the experts?

To some degree yes. It is impossible to verify all what scientists say. We have to have some faith. But not in the word of a particular scientist or group, but only in the way the scientific community works. Scientific truth is established within this community by new inputs which are then thoroughly tested by competing individuals, collaborative but very skeptic of each other.

Individual scientific contributions can be wrong or flawed. But there is clearly a tendency to wash these bad contributions out. As they are prone to be replaced by later contributions that prove them wrong (damaging the reputation of the first contributor in the process). While good contributions are there to stay because it will be more difficult to find better ones. The improvement of the quality of scientific truths is built into the system.

Bad contributors will get blamed, good ones will get fame, money and motivation to move on. Finally, all faith we need to have is to believe that the scientific community functions no different than a heterogeneous group of any other people.

Of course, having a masters degree in Physics helps. :)

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  • This sentence is a tad annoying - "This is contrary to religion, which postulates absolute truth in the form of dogmas and holy scriptures." You forget to add the word 'sometimes', You describe the worst and most easily criticised form of religion and it is heavily criticised within religion. At its best religion relies on experimental data. It is only the dogmatic religions that wander off into unverifiable speculative claims and place their faith in books. – user20253 Sep 1 '17 at 15:01
  • @PeterJ: I grant you that. I had the big monotheistic religions in mind. But isn't it mostly them making that claim the OP is addressing, namely that science is just another set of dogmas? – Scrontch Sep 1 '17 at 17:20
  • Yes, quite so. I think it would have been best to make this clear. I tend to bridle when the Abrahamic religions, or 'religions of the book' are talked about as if they constituted the whole of religion or even the bulk of it, or even, come to that, the best of it. . . – user20253 Sep 2 '17 at 11:01
  • @PeterJ, sure, i assumed Abrahamic religions because this is what the video link was referring to (Christianity). I modified my answer slightly to reflect this. Still i think that also most other religions do have some assertions about universal truths which they don't want to be questioned. – Scrontch Sep 2 '17 at 17:22
  • Yes, some do, some don't. What people call 'True Religion' does not deal in dogma. Thus the the Dalai Lama calls Buddhism a 'science of mind' and Yoga is known as the 'Divine Science'. Both would happily meet Popper's criteria. So would all traditions that rely on experience rather than books and faith. We westerners tend to be a bit parochial in our ideas of religion. Relying on faith and dogma is considered a very bad idea in large parts of religion and even in the esoteric wing of Christianity. . – user20253 Sep 3 '17 at 11:01

Question 1. Why is science better than religion even though the currently accepted scientific theory may be proven to be wrong in the future? How can we trust that our current theories aren't wrong?

One option is to define 'better' to exactly that domain where science excels. For example, science has given us antibiotics and sanitation; what has religion provided in this category? Now, this approach ignores aspects such as our high valuation of egalitarianism, which is arguably required for scientific endeavor but was not itself a scientific result. However, that is irrelevant if it can be argued that no religion had appreciable positive impact on our high valuation of egalitarianism.

Another option is to assert that 'religion' does not excel in the area it claims to. Given that there is empirical evidence that 'religion' can provide some benefits[1], one needs to somehow dismiss this. A common answer is that managing emotions has nothing to do with truth; here we need to say that managing emotions has nothing to do with better. That, or the kind of emotional management religion can provide is not superior to alternatives.

As to our current theories possibly being wrong: all we actually need are approximations which suffice for the job. In control theory 101, a common example is cruise control for automobiles. As it turns out, one can have a rather terrible model of the vehicle dynamics and still get an acceptable system for controlling speed. Similarly, F = ma is still used in plenty of domains without relativistic correction. One area it does need correction is GPS; without relativity, errors would rapidly accumulate.

Question 2. Can we believe certain scientific theories/results even if we personally don't understand most of the concepts/theories ourselves? Why? Isn't this similar to how people put their "faith" in god? Aren't we placing our "faith" on the experts?

Belief in authority is completely warranted; try avoiding it on the part of astronauts in space shuttles and space stations. The machines they use are simply too complicated for them to understand such that they know why they ought to do/​not do everything in their training. This has always been true; how many of the beliefs a hunter-gatherer requires to survive were obtained experimentally vs. trusting elders?

What we need is an intelligent way to test authorities/​experts. An arguably bad example would be anti-vaxxers. A better example might be the question of whether excessive sugar or fat is worse for health; see for example The sugar conspiracy. Two facets emerge: (i) one needs a certain competence to question authorities; (ii) the authorities can go badly wrong. Does this mean that nobody ought to flee in the face of the impending hurricane Irma? (example)

Now, plenty of religion has resources for self-critique. I had the privilege of visiting some famous Protestant Reformation sites this week, including The Wartburg [castle], where Martin Luther was holed up while Catholic authorities sought his life. The Old Testament is rife with self-critique (e.g. Ezekiel 34); Jesus and the apostles went much further in the NT. What you would have to do is establish that their critique cannot possibly go as far as is needed. Here you may have a problem, as the NT advances a form of critique which can regularly get its proponents killed; a moral ethic of 'enlightened self-interest' may preclude such behavior.

So, I would argue that in order for our confidence in science to not fall prey to the errors of religious dogmatism, anything must be open to question. There is a problem here—in questioning everything, one changes what is assumed in any particular question—but hopefully this can be ignored, or quickly dismissed by pointing out that everyone presupposes a few basics, like the principle of non-contradiction. All religion I'm aware of seems to presuppose much more than this. A proof that it is possible to not presuppose nearly so much is left to the reader, or another Philosophy.SE question.

[1] From The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach (2009):

    Serious defects that often stemmed from antireligious perspectives exist in many early studies of relationships between religion and psychopathology. The more modern view is that religion functions largely as a means of countering rather than contributing to psychopathology, though severe forms of unhealthy religion will probably have serious psychological and perhaps even physical consequences. In most instances, faith buttresses people's sense of control and self-esteem, offers meanings that oppose anxiety, provides hope, sanctions socially facilitating behavior, enhances personal well-being, and promotes social integration. Probably the most hopeful sign is the increasing recognition by both clinicians and religionists of the potential benefits each group has to contribute. Awareness of the need for a spiritual perspective has opened new and more constructive possibilities for working with mentally disturbed individuals and resolving adaptive issues.
    A central theme throughout this book is that religion "works" because it offers people meaning and control, and brings them together with like-thinking others who provide social support. This theme is probably nowhere better represented than in the section of this chapter on how people use religious and spiritual resources to cope. Religious beliefs, experiences, and practices appear to constitute a system of meanings that can be applied to virtually every situation a person may encounter. People are loath to rely on chance. Fate and luck are poor referents for understanding, but religion in all its possible manifestations can fill the void of meaninglessness admirably. There is always a place for one's God—simply watching, guiding, supporting, or actively solving a problem. In other words, when people need to gain a greater measure of control over life events, the deity is there to provide the help they require. (476)

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Question 2. Can we believe certain scientific theories/results even if we personally don't understand most of the concepts/theories ourselves? Why? Isn't this similar to how people put their "faith" in god? Aren't we placing our "faith" on the experts?

First off let's define what faith is, according to the primary dictionary definition (first def. listed in Oxford) faith is "Complete trust or confidence in someone or something". However, I would personally say that it is used also to specify the level of confidence, at least that's how I've heard it used. With that being said the definition which some others have used while also in the dictionary is that of blind faith, that is faith without reason. Nobody who is religious will use the word faith to imply blind faith, for the most part only atheists use it this way because many think that all faith in religious doctrine is blind faith, and because the word faith already has the connotation of being religious every time faith is used it naturally refers to blind faith.

Using the standard definition of faith, the answer is yes we can trust scientists even if we do not fully understand the theories behind it. And yes this is faith. In fact, if we did not put faith in scientists we couldn't trust their experiments and we would never have gotten out of the stone age. Faith is a very important thing in academia because without all of the scientific information we would have would, would have to come from our own experimentation. Granted the word trust is more frequently used to describe this due to the religious connotation.

Ultimately, what matters is the reason we have faith in the individuals whom we have gotten our information from. I would say that by saving millions of lives the doctors who work for the Red Cross are a pretty trustworthy, same goes for the engineers who build planes that can fly and everything else. And religious also have their reasons for believing in what they do, it might be difficult to understand such as when people claim of an internal divine revelation, but it is never for just no reason. Of course, the reasons for having faith might be ill-founded.

Why is science better than religion even though the currently accepted scientific theory may be proven to be wrong in the future? How can we trust that our current theories aren't wrong?

Well, we actually cannot be sure we won't be proven wrong. Among the most important things in science is to be willing to question everything and always be open to other possibilities. Appropriately every article describing a study will always list possible faults in the experiments. No experiment can determine things with a 100% accuracy, there will always be a 'what if' which can cause everything to fall apart. Saying things are 100% proven is not a good scientific practice, and can even be considered a red flag. (If that is the case that it is proven then you probably will have already heard a timbit or two about it). Although, the media always state things in terms of people like to hear (absolutes), so it might sound strange at first.

Of course, we can still be 99.9999999999999999999999999% sure of things and this is enough for things to be 'proven'. But technically speaking in order to keep things falsifiable given enough evidence you should be willing to reject the theory that the Earth is relatively round, even if you are an astronaut you should be willing to believe it was all some Matrix-like simulation.

For an example of how this all works, think about Newtonian physics. It is hard to argue that Newton's theories and equations, which are taught in schools and used in engineering to this day, were unscientific and should never have been taught. Yet we wouldn't have GPS if we were not willing to accept relativity. Not to mention Newtonian physics still describes principals in our world that need to be understood. So even if our most trusted theories are 'wrong' they are still bound to represent a simplified derivative of our reality, as well as be an astounding approximation for it.

Finally, there are some problems with your question. You are speaking in terms of science being better than religion. The idea that religion is some kind of alternative conflicting system to science is one that only a negligible number of religious people actually have, and you will not be able to effectively communicate arguments with other people if you refer to their stance as being something which they vehemently deny. Your putting words in their mouth and this is a fallacy. It also says that you are unwilling to accept others beliefs since any scientific proof would automatically disconfirm itself in your opinion.

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Galileo works everytime (he was imprisoned for life by religious authorities because he challenged the belief that all heavenly bodies revolved around the Earth). Science is concerned with right and wrong, religion is concerned with 'good' vs 'evil'.

Science: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

Religion: the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

Our current scientific theories, e.g. quantum mechanics, enable us to predict outcomes with 99.999% success. Religion does a poor job of predicting outcomes.

Lastly, regarding dinosaur fossils, go down to your local museum of natural history and see a fossil for yourself.

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  • Any feedback on the downvote would be greatly appreciated. Ty. – Ronnie Royston Sep 3 '17 at 1:24
  • Your definition of religion is outright hostile and just plain wrong. – user9166 Sep 3 '17 at 1:42
  • It came from Google. Also from Wikipedia, "Religion is any cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, world views, texts, sanctified places, ethics, or organizations, that relate humanity to the supernatural or transcendental." I'm not hostile, I'm considerate, and open to correction. Please, define religion for me. – Ronnie Royston Sep 3 '17 at 1:52
  • The latter definition is at least fair to peoples originally from outside Europe. Tu toque is a fallacy. I do not pretend to define religion, but at least that way I am not lying. – user9166 Sep 3 '17 at 1:56
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    Yes, sir. Who am I to argue with someone who knows ignorance when he sees it? – user9166 Sep 3 '17 at 2:07

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