23 December 2007

Science vs. religion

It's been said that science is based on evidence, while religion is without evidence. Such a statement reveals the speaker's ignorance.

Science examines physical evidence and makes observations. It creates hypotheses (guesses) to explain those observations. It then generates experiments to test those hypotheses. Whenever the results contradict the hypotheses, it generates new hypotheses. And so on.

Religion (some religion, anyway) examines all the same physical evidence as science. It adds in historical evidence, relationship evidence, wisdom, and intuition. A religious person then generates hypotheses to explain this evidence. When new evidence contradicts his hypotheses, he refines his hypotheses accordingly.

So, really, science is just a subset of religion, considering only a subset of available evidence.

Science can address a limited set of questions with varying degrees of detail and certainty, e.g.:

  • What is the structure of matter?
  • What is the age of the universe?
  • How does life procreate?
  • How are humans and other organisms similar and different, physically?

Because of its limited evidence, it is completely incapable of addressing other questions, e.g:

  • Where did matter come from?
  • Why does life exist?
  • Is human life about more than mere survival and procreation?
  • Is death the end, or the beginning?
  • What is good?

These are the questions that people need answers to. A typical human can get along fine without ever hearing about electrons, let alone quarks. But a human without a purpose soon finds that life isn't worth living.

Some people make science their religion, and look down on others whose lives are fuller than theirs. Considering themselves enlightened, they choose ignorance and mediocrity.

Others choose a form of religion which denies physical evidence, allowing their own tradition and intuition to inform them. Like the religious scientists, such people also choose ignorance, denying the God-given faculty of reason.

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