There are two types of people: scientists and everyone else.

A scientist is somebody who studies theory and evidence to further their understanding of the world. The key word is evidence. The scientist does not just blindly follow a theory because it is written in some book, they follow it because they have studied the evidence for it. As such, their beliefs are based on that evidence, and one cannot call this scientists belief in science for a religious position.

Then there's everyone else. These people do not know the theory (at least not from a formal, rigorous standpoint), they certainly have never studied the evidence, or been academically trained in the field. Their familiarity with the science comes down to watching youtube videos by Vsauce, at most. They'll often talk about "climate change" and "the big bang" and "the god particle" or whatever else buzzword's going around, but they don't actually understand the rigorous definition of those words nor the proper evidence. They might have heard that evidence exists, but if you ask them on the spot what sort of evidence it is, how it was found, how the experiment can be repeated and tested, and all these standard methods of scientific inquiry, they won't have a clue.

So essentially we have a group of people that have been given a shallow introduction to a certain topic, and have been told that certain things are true, and then they just take that on faith.

How is that any different from religion? Is science, as it is believed in by most normal people (and not actual scientists), just the same as religion, and thus similarly irrational?

For example, do you believe that the Big Bang is true? Okay, if your answer is yes, describe to me a procedure which I can follow in order to obtain evidence to support your claim. Don't google the internet, it has to be coming from you only. You can't do it, can you? Hence, you are akin to a religious believer. You belief is not rational.

  • I think you raise some good questions indirectly about what is evidence and does religion lack evidence and if religion has no evidence then is it irrational, by challenging people to see their own beliefs as a kind of religion. Plantinga's Where the Conflict Really Lies may be relevant as well as looking at reformed epistemology which seems to be making similar challenges to those you are making, assuming I understand them. Welcome to this SE! Sep 14, 2018 at 12:38
  • "scientists and everyone else." This makes little sense. We can say, by an analogy, "those who are taller than 180cm and everyone else". Then we may ascribe different properties to them, like "those who are taller than 180cm see the sky from entirely different perspective". You clearly are confusing things here, unless scientist can always be non-scientist, because the one who have studied one theory may not know another theory, even in the same field (physics, biology, etc.). But now the real thing: have religion ever done technology?
    – rus9384
    Sep 14, 2018 at 20:39

5 Answers 5


I believe the Big Bang happened. I also believe World War II happened. I wasn't around for either of those, so I have to rely on what other people say. If science is a religion, then by the same reasoning history is a religion.

Science is based on observation and verifiability. Religion isn't. Science presents itself as the best information to date, and religions presents itself as eternal truth.

What this means, to the layman, is that what scientists as a whole believe about science is likely to be true. If better evidence comes along, scientists will change their beliefs, and that will get out to the lay community. This doesn't happen in religion. Get an Episcopal priest, an Orthodox rabbi, an imam, and a Buddhist priest together, as questions about Jesus, and note the lack of agreement about the answers. There is very little religious consensus, and what it is about is not what the religious will consider core beliefs. That's because there is no way to decide objectively between religions.

If I believe in the Big Bang, I'm essentially agreeing with all the authorities in the field. If I believe in a religion, I'm disagreeing with the majority of the authorities in the field, worldwide. I have to commit to one set, without any objective evidence to guide my choice.

I'm ignoring the fact that I do know something about the science that led astronomers to believe in the Big Bang. If I wonder about any scientific finding, I can usually find books that will explain it to me, and I can track things back. If I wonder about any religious finding, I can track things back only so far, and then I have to take it on faith.


Your definition of scientist is biased, lacks the fundamental component: objectivity. That's the difference between science and religion. Science is based on objective knowledge. Religion is based in subjective "knowledge" (subjective ideas, moreover). Other than that, of course, religious and scientists have beliefs. But that's not what defines them.

Question 2: My experience has shown to me that the universe behaves with logical rules, that I agree with scientists about the use of such rules (which means we're objective about such rules), that's why I consider the big bang a relevant idea. The big bang is not true or false, it's just a theory. In fact, science does not define truth. Science is just a type of knowledge (created using the scientific method, blah blah), containing objective ideas, theories. But that doesn't mean they're true.


People generally defer to authority in subjects where they are not knowledgeable.

That people defer scientific knowledge to scientific authorities and defer religious knowledge to religious authorities does not mean science and religion are the same thing: it simply means that people are applying the same methods of knowledge gathering to learn about the two different subjects.


Note that any given scientist cannot answer all questions about science. (Should we expect a zoologist to explain how we test the Big Bang theory?) Each field of study will have details known only to its most invested investigators. The other scientists have ‘faith’ in the findings of their colleagues, as does society at large.

So, perhaps in the context of this discussion, to be a ‘scientist’ is to engage with science as a system of understanding, rather than simply being a job title.

The ‘scientist’ thus understands (if even at a layman’s level) that academics pursue knowledge of the natural world by applying the scientific method. Even if they do not understand the details of every experiment (after all, no single human could), they can understand and have faith in the scientific process and the rigorous standards that must be upheld in the scientific pursuit of knowledge.

Thus in your example, even the Vsauce video viewer can be called a ‘scientist’.

The difference with a religious system is not in the individual’s knowledge of exact details (how much science do they know? how many bible quotes?), it is in the method each system uses to describe the world. Does the system work by observing and carefully describing the natural world? Or does it work by asking you to believe in a certain text? That is the meaningful distinction.


People aren't scientists in their daily life. It's a closed domain. Like, truck driver. Almost all science was the product of Catholics at its roots:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_lay_Catholic_scientists https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_clergy_scientists

What religion means for all ordinary purposes, so far as it effects public life as such, is the search for universal principles of action. In this sense Catholicism is the chief meaning of religion, from which the rest stem in Western usage. It's opposed to political virtue, i.e., the negotiations around the law as it is on the books, and what people can do in public life. These were local discussions in former times. Talk of gods and such in antiquity were appeals to the conscience in their practical meaning, for example see Plato's Euthyphro. There was not a central authority saying, here is the creed of the Olympians, this is what all mortals must do, in the style of the contest between Bismark and the Pope in the Kulturkampf.

Most such questions are radically misguided, since what they aim at suppressing is superstition and other sub-rational ideas, in this they follow the teaching of the Church which they have inherited without being aware of it, by growing into a Christian dominated world. The talk of otherworldlyness is misleading, since the aim of Catholicism was always this-worldly in that it attempted to improve human nature (or, rightly said, to make humans conform to their true nature). The priest is the idea of self-discipline against natural urges in order to gain self control. Because it is thought in terms of the human race as a whole, it is meant to inspire others to self control (this is grossly simplified, but leads in the right direction). The teaching aims at the full enjoyment of all the fruits in god's garden, including sexuality, scientific research, rationality, etc..

Is science (here one should note: Science is a modern notion, it is a modification as recent as the year 1900, or as old as the Royal Society, of the conception of reliable knowledge in a general sense including grammar, music, or any other subject that can be taught and learned and usually as what involves more than mere duplication of behavior, i.e., as what involves speech or explanation) a religion? It involves a kind of piety, a sense of doing the highest thing, the most serious. It is a prescription to a certain way of life. It is a universal prescription. It is irrational and only records what is (i.e., it does not deal in subjective "value" judgments). In saying what is it prescribes an authoritative view on what reality is. Reality is what can be described in scientific terms, i.e., by measurement conducive to numerically controlled machine tasks. It is a fixed task, presupposed in its everlasting necessity and truth. If one says truth here is not important as a concept, one simply denies the sense in which doing science makes sense rather than following any other tacitly assumed to be serious and necessary prescription to the life of all human beings on the earth.

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