Religion Vs Science

Tonight, in the shower at the gym, I was thinking about things I’ve read lately about science vs. religion. I planned to write something about it later. I came home and found this sitting in my newsreader waiting for me.

It comes fairly close to what I was wanting to say…

I’ve noticed that a lot of religious-minded people seem to treat science as a religion; while science-minded people tend to treat religion as if it were science. Thus, you get odd things like science-minded people saying that religion is worthless because it’s “not scientifically proveable”… which just shows that they’re missing the point.

Science and Religion are completely orthogonal. The truth of one doesn’t say anything about the truth, or otherwise, of the other.

Take, for example, the religion I’m most familiar with, Christianity (of the Protestant variety, of the Brethren flavour, of the Open Brethren.. what’s a finer division than flavour? I could go on and on with a more precise definition of which flavour of Christianity I used to enjoy, but there’s not much point for the purposes of this post). Christianity espouses and omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God.

Thus: you can scientifically prove that the earth is millions of years old – but it’s still possible that God created it last Tuesday, fully intact, with complete evidences of being much, much older, just to fool you, the unbeliever.

The two fields use completely different ways of measuring truth. Neither can invalidate the other, any more than walking determinedly north will get you any farther east.

Science aims to use verifyable, reproduceable, quantifiable results as proof.

Religion rests on “faith”: the firm, quiet conviction that you are right, whatever outside evidence might suggest.

What do I, personally, believe? I believe it is, indeed, possible that God created me, fully formed, mature, sometime shortly after lunch last Tuesday. Possibly more recently. Possibly the earth was created 6000 years ago, complete with evidence of being millions of years older just to fool me. Possibly.

I don’t believe it’s possible to prove, or disprove, any of this with science.

However, without science, we’re left without any useful way of choosing between any of the infinitely varied belief systems we could devise: both the scenerios described above are equally likely, and there’s no way I can tell. I don’t believe any God worth his salt would leave this vague – or leave any evidence pointing to any other explanation for the universe existing. Even the christian Bible declares this: several passages emphatically state that, for instance, The Heavens are evidence for the existence of God.

In the absence of any clear alternative, I’ve made the only choice I believe to be rational: I reject all such notions as being equally unlikely. I acknowledge that it’s possible that somebodies religious views might be right; but as I’ve no way of telling which are right and which are wrong… well, at worst, I’m no worse off by rejecting all of them than I would be if I picked the wrong one, and it’s overwhelmingly likely I’d pick the wrong one.

(Pascal had a lovely little graph showing four possible states. On one axis, two possibilities: God Exists, God Does Not Exist. The other axis, two possibilities: I believe in God, I don’t believe in God. Pascal pointed out that, under these rules, the only way he could lose was by not believing in a God who did exist; thus he chose to believe and hedge his bets. Unfortunately, if you add a few extra dimensions for all the Gods out there – Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu… it’s not so simple)

There’s one other reason why I reject faith-based choices: There are two classes of people I’ve met inmy life who had an absolute, completely unshakeable belief that they knew the truth. One class I’ve already mentioned: religious people with faith.

The other class: the mentally ill.

Leave a Reply