Has Science Done Away With Faith?

science faith

In debates at the center of science, philosophy, and religion it is common to hear claims like these:

“you have your faith but I have actual science,” or “religion is just having faith when there is no evidence, but science is actually based on facts.”

These statements are received with frustration by believers who assert that “science is just another belief system, just like religion” or “believing in evolution actually requires more faith than believing in God!”

These two groups of people are clearly talking past each other.  They don’t even speak the same language.  Literally.  Because they have defined their terms differently.  When people disagree about the very meanings of the terms that they are using, not only is it virtually impossible for them to reach meaningful conclusions together, they can’t even argue with each other with much coherence!

We will never get to the heart of these discussions until we learn to speak each other’s languages.  So, this post is really all about definition of terms.

Science.

What is science?  Is it a process of gathering information and recognizing patterns in the world through observation and repeatable experimentation?

Or is it a somewhat nebulous group of millions of academics and researchers who claim to use this method, and the composite body of conclusions that they have drawn?

Faith.

Is it a blind leap into the dark based on tradition and subjective feelings of spirituality or compulsion?  Is it an insistence on holding certain views despite a lack of evidence, or even in the face or substantial contrary evidence?

Or is it a conclusion drawn where mathematic certainty is impossible, but where much real world evidence is evaluated by reason in order to make an educated and intellectually honest decision?

To complicate matters, “religion” is often used interchangeably with faith, though its definition is much more narrow and indicates not a mental process but a body of practices or doctrines.  Similarly “evolution” is sometimes used interchangeably with science, though it is neither a process of learning nor the body of evidence gathered by a branch of academia, but simply one prominent theory within that branch.

Before we even start arguing about religion or evolution, we at least ought to agree on the role of science and faith in the discussion.

Here is why atheists and believers keep talking past each other:

If faith is a belief based almost solely on superstition, subjective experience, or tradition (as atheists understand it to be), and science is the knowledge of patterns in the world gained through repeatable, testable experiments (as they believe all conclusions in the scientific community to be), then science offers far greater certainty than faith, and ought to supersede it.

But on the other hand, if faith is a conclusion, be it one without 100% objective certainty, reached by the use of reason acting upon verifiable evidence, and science is the branch of human institutions that adhere to the scientific method, then indeed, the two walk hand in hand rather than being mutually exclusive.

The contemporary atheist often tends to confuse the two definitions of science that I have provided, not even recognizing a distinction.  He understands all conclusions supported by the scientific community to be fact simply because they were reached by a community that claims to observe the scientific method.  But in so doing he not only grossly underestimates the possibility of human error, he also turns a blind eye to the truth about countless “scientific facts” that are neither testable nor repeatable but are rather touted for their “explanatory and predictive mechanisms” and rely on various untestable assumptions.

To take any assertion made by the majority of the scientific community, and claim that it is fact simply because “it’s science” without actually presenting the nature of the experiments, data, and conclusions for yourself, is nothing more than the logical fallacy of appeal to authority.

Of course, the atheist would argue, the science that has disproven God is so complicated that you’ll just have to trust the experts.  It is indeed valid, but an appeal to authority is necessary since you wouldn’t understand the explanation.  This is why you often here so little science in a debate about the existence of God, why it is rare to see much scientific depth from atheists themselves in their arguments.

You want to talk science?  Let’s actually talk science.  But if you want to appeal to the authority of the scientific community, which in large part has strayed from the testable and repeatable to the “explanatory” and “predictive,” I won’t be convinced.  We learned from the dark ages not to “trust the experts” who have the “special knowledge.”

Faith does not need to be blind.  It is not always based on tradition or spiritual compulsion.  In my case, it is a conclusion I’ve drawn about what I can’t know for sure, based on all of the things that I can know.  Much of those things that I can know are indeed derived from science.  And they are repeatable and testable.  In fact, I dismiss nothing from science that is repeatable and testable, and yet I find it beautifully compatible with my faith.

Read more of my articles or start a discussion in the comments if you’d like to learn more.

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Why Macroevolution Isn’t Real Science

dna

Science enjoys a prominent status in the minds of millions as the gold standard of academic disciplines.  While philosophy, religion, art, music, etc. are created by humans and thus fallible, science is distinguished from them as an infallible discipline which uncovers incontrovertible truths.

I’m well aware that the majority of informed scientists would concede that nothing can be truly proven with 100% certainty, and I agree with them, but the fact remains that scientists go around claiming to have discovered things that simply cannot be denied by any rational person.

It bears consideration that we would exalt our certainty in one discipline above others.

Why are they so confident?  Why are we, as a society, so comfortable with holding up science as the pinnacle of certainty in such an uncertain and all-too-human world?  Human error saturates our relationships and experiences, but science, we feel, is different.  Are we justified in feeling this way?

In many cases, I think, yes.

We are justified in holding up science as a pinnacle of certainty, relatively speaking.  Not to the same extent that we can be certain of the rules of math and logic.  Not to the extent that I hold a personal conviction in the existence of God due to my own personal experiences.  But in a world where nothing is – technically speaking – certain, science has an impressive integrity that it derives from some corrective measures that it includes in its definition.

I should make it absolutely clear that at this point I am speaking of science as a method of gaining knowledge about the world around us and using that knowledge to make accurate predictions.  I am certainly not speaking on behalf of every branch of, and assertion made by, the field of academia known in the contemporary world as science.  But science, inasmuch as it can identify constant and therefore predictable behaviors in the world around us when variables are manipulated, is a pretty sure thing.

To give an extremely simple example, the laws we have discovered about gravity dictate that if I drop a rock out of my window, it will fall to the ground.  I do not technically know for sure that this will happen unless I try it, but this experiment has been performed so many times with the same results in so many places in so many time periods of human existence that my degree of certainty is extremely high.

So the reason why we lift up science as a pinnacle of certainty is because it involves repeated experiments and observations.  When we discover long term, stable, repeatable results from an experiment, we begin to trust those results as things of certainty.

This has allowed us to systematically create some amazing machines in the worlds of computers, engineering, and technology.  It is truly phenomenal what bright minds have done with science in the past several decades especially, and indeed in the last several centuries also.

So, does macroevolution qualify as this kind of science, and thus receive the status of certainty that we confer on other scientific discoveries?

Earlier this year I watched the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate concerning evolution vs. creation.  Ham repeatedly stated that evolution was historical science rather than observational science, and thus it was essentially reduced to mere conjecture.  I think Ham may have been on the right track, but his distinction was overly simplistic and lacked practical weight.

Yes, some sciences are historical, because they deal with understanding the past.  But it doesn’t necessarily follow that this makes a reasonable degree of certainty about the past impossible.  For example, on a crime scene, we expect investigators to dust for fingerprints, collect DNA samples, observe the many markers that the crime may have left on the scene, and come to relatively certain conclusions based on the data that they collect.

Now, does this kind of science lose a little bit of certainty.  Yes, a little.  Just because someone’s fingerprints are on the knife, and their DNA is on the victim, and rubber from their tires is on the street at the victims house, and they had a good reason to kill the victim, and an honest person said they saw the suspect do it, doesn’t make us certain that they committed the crime.  But to simply dismiss all of this evidence as “historical science” because it wasn’t actually observed is not justified.  Using observations made in the present to make reasonable assertions about the past is a practice strong enough to hold up in court.

And in fact, creationists do it, too.  We didn’t observe creation.  We weren’t there when God made the stars or the plants or the animals. But we have a satisfactory degree of certainty about the event based on what we have seen within our short lives.

So now I’d like to expand and adjust the argument Ham made:

Macroevolution isn’t science because its consistency is only demonstrated through “explanatory and predictive power,” and these are indicators of correlation, not causation.

Please let me clarify.

Macroevolutionary biology is championed by atheists and widely propagated by the scientific world.  Its validity is supposedly demonstrated by its power to explain why the world is the way that it is, and its ability to predict new discoveries about the way the world is.  No, macroevolution cannot be observed, but it can explain why we find the correlation we do between the morphological and genetic hierarchies of organisms, and a fossil record that matches both of these.

But can I just point out that there could literally be millions of theories that could explain perfectly why the world is the way that it is?  If I discover that morphological, genetic, and fossil data all cross-confirm each other and then say “AH HA!  The Flying Spaghetti Monster – sometimes used by atheists for satirical purposes – created the world so that it would be exactly this way!” then objectively speaking, my explanation has just as much explanatory power as macroevolution.

The point here is that you can’t observe the way the world is, then ask what could explain the world being that way, and then assume that this theory is true simply because it has “explanatory power.”

I would also like to point out that of course, if God used DNA as the blueprints for the physical features of all organisms, then wouldn’t we expect those organisms with more similar physical features to also have more similar DNA?  Then if we consider the possibility of a worldwide flood a few thousand years ago, I’m already seeing some plausible explanations for the fossil record, including the “Cambrian Explosion” that gives evolutionists such a hard time.

The “predictive power” of evolution can be investigated by a simple google search and a critical investigation.  This field, like any field, is much too vast to be addressed in one short article.  I think you will find that data is quite frequently interpreted to reinforce the predictions which the scientists already expected.  Here is an area where human error can easily creep into science: we tend to perceive what we expect.

If we say “evolution predicts that we will find transitionary fossils between other primates and man,” and we expect it to be so, and we also have millions of dollars of grant money on the line (sometimes I get the idea that the people with all the money want to degrade our morals,) then when we find an ancient skull with a larger jaw than the average human, we say “AH HA!” and invent a new species out of it.

I know I don’t have time to get into real scientific depth here, but all of the “transitionary fossils” that we find could easily be accounted for by variations within the bone structures of the organisms we see in the world around us today or in recent history.  That’s why the “evolutionary tree” illustration is actually more like a mile wide bush, getting wider and wider with new fossil discoveries.  But that wouldn’t look very nice in TIME magazine and would require a several page fold out.

And the methods used to date all of these discoveries over the decades?  Carbon 14 dating.  Which may actually be completely and wildly unreliable.  Researching dating methods a couple of years ago really opened my eyes to the uncertainty of the scientific community over dating things anywhere close to accurately.

I’m going to reign it back in now.

The underlying principle here, is that a correlation between what a theory explains or predicts and the reality that we find, does not prove that the theory is true, only that its explanations and predictions correlate with the data.

On these grounds I find evolution and creation rather equally matched.  Both accurately explain and predict things about our world.  Neither can be observed or objectively, universally tested.  Of course, in my opinion, when you bring the human experience and philosophy into the picture, Creationism comes out squarely on top. But the point of this article is that Macro Evolution is NOT science because the correlation between its “explanatory and predictive mechanisms” and our reality is woefully insufficient grounds for certainty. 

Besides the fact that there are no plausible explanations as to how we got the first living organism, with all of its necessary proteins, by mere chance with no intelligent intervention, or that genetic mutations, even when beneficial, don’t create new meaningful information in the genetic code and thus evolution has no viable mode of progression.

I suspect that within my lifetime – this is if the masses are not brainwashed beyond recovery – we may have dispensed with the idea altogether.