The Faith in Science – An Ironic Truth

Atheism seems to be the belief of choice these days and appears to be the encouraged or logical view presented by much of mainstream media. It is also clear to see that the Western world is developing a culture where religion is to be neither seen nor heard, something outdated and old-fashioned, perhaps something that was used to explain the unexplainable before science unraveled all of the answers. But science can never tell us everything we can possibly know about the world. This is partially because there is such a great volume of ‘knowledge’ out there, partially because of the philosophical concept that this knowledge is an illusion and partially because there are some (or ‘all’ if you are comfortable with the former point – I’ll do a post about it another time) things which just cannot be proven.

A dictionary will tell you of definitions of the word ‘theory’ describing it in some cases as a ‘fanciful supposition’. In the world of science this is simply not the case; there is only one meaning of the word ‘theory’ and that is ‘a system of ideas explaining something of which all current evidence supports.’

Amazingly, everything you think you ‘know’ about the world is only theory. If a physicist tells you, “Gravity keeps you on the ground,” you have no reason to disbelieve them, after all, you’ve been kept on the ground for quite some time now. You’ve never been walking down the street and just suddenly floated away, that would be most inconvenient. You’d miss your train. But when you truly think about it, when you look deeply into it, you can see that your trust in gravity isn’t quite as strongly founded as you first thought. Take the following scenario:

You’re a rabbit. (This isn’t sounding particularly profound at the moment, I’m aware of that, but hear me out.) You’re scurrying around in rabbit-land looking for food when you come across a black, solid, metallic box. It’s small, around the size of your head, and it’s delightfully warm. You take your new discovery back to your relatives at home, who are clearly equally thrilled. The energy that this heat source provides means your family need far less energy to maintain body temperature than your rabbit buddies. So this family of rabbits has no difficulty in competing with others in times of famine and becomes the strongest family in rabbit-land. For generations this continues with the small box providing such a wonderful heat source until a few thousand years later, it explodes, destroying everything within a half-mile radius. Dead bunnies.

The rabbits in this, admittedly awful and not-entirely-thought-through, analogy had no reason to suspect that this box could do any harm to their family because they had put their faith into a fundamental truth. Whilst they had come across literally tons of inanimate material before, they had never come across anything that reacted in quite such a violent manner. They had undergone subconscious statistical analysis and conclusively decided that inanimate objects, unless sharp, were utterly harmless; they had formed a life view based entirely on previous experience – something we do every day.

Physics, and every science under it, works under the assumption that nothing in any other universe or other dimension (if, of course, such a thing exists) can interact with this universe and aims to rationalise all physical processes to the supposed laws that govern them. It is a common misconception that science disproves the existence of the supernatural; science must ignore the possibility of supernatural intervention in order to progress. This has gone pretty well for us so far, it brought you the computer that this was written on, for example. No peer-reviewed experimentation conducted and subsequently published has ever directly undermined the theory that there is no supernatural world… but, in the same way, neither has one undermined the contrary, and they never can because science cannot allow it.

I will leave you with this thought: everything you know about physics could change in an instant. Everything could reverse in an instant and we could all implode. There is no way of disproving this hypothesis and it is perfectly valid. Do I live in fear? No. Of course not. It’s pointless. There’s nothing I can do to affect it. There is a use for faith in everyday life, if you were always thinking about what could go wrong then you’d never leave the house. You’d never eat any food. You would lie there and hope that everything ran smoothly. You exercise faith every single day, whatever your beliefs, because you have to. So don’t mock anyone for theirs, however ridiculous it may sound to you. Something has to be true and, quite frankly, we don’t have a clue what that is.

4 thoughts on “The Faith in Science – An Ironic Truth

  1. Pingback: How To Develop Faith In You | MOTEL168 LIFESTYLE BLOG

  2. As a current agnostic with degrees in theology, science, psychology, and philosophy, I find your approach intriguing. 🙂

  3. Regrettably, you have added to the confusion about the definition of theory by using it wrongly yourself in your last paragraph. Earlier you had defined it well as a system of ideas that explain all available evidence. The other meaning, of “fanciful supposition” (“fanciful” meaning “imaginative”), corresponds better with the word “hypothesis” in the scientific realm. One may hypothesize about anything in any manner; however, one must show how a hypothesis contributes reliably to an explanation of observational evidence in order for it to progress toward the status of “theory”. A body of observations that remain consistent over a period of time has a statistical probability of continuing to remain consistent. A theory about how these observations fit together and why they remain consistent also has a statistical probability of remaining reliable, though that probability is somewhat less than the continued occurrence of the observations themselves. Hence, even if a given set of observations remains consistent, additional observations may require new hypotheses and adjustments to the prevailing theory. But this is physics we’re discussing. The psychology of humans also provides observations, some of which have been consistent for a long period. Nonetheless, the development of reliable theories about it has been rather less consistent.

    However, the notion of reliability takes on a different coloration when we consider a different object of faith such as G-d. There is merely a statistical probability about how long physical behavior may continue reliably; there is no evidence on which to base an assumption about permanence, or even continuation. On the other hand, if a particular entity such as the G-d of Israel, capable of communication, propositional revelation, permanence, and a host of other attributes, Who also presents statements in the nature of promises that He is responsible to fulfill, then a basis exists for faith and statistical confidence. A worldview encompassing such an entity presents problems for the simplicity of material science that is based on presuppositions of a closed-system universe with uniformity of natural causes with mechanisms of statistically-predictable randomness. Science resists a worldview that seems inherently less predictable; and it has developed a defensiveness against religious views that have conflicted with it and inhibited it in the past. What is missing from the prevailing scientific worldview is the notion of a partnership with a reliable Creator that supports general reliability in the observations of the physical universe. A few centuries ago, this alternative view was the dominant one, and it worked well until religious politics among organizations that did not acknowledge a proper sense of cooperation exerted undue and oppressive power. The resulting conflicts still distort both the scientific and religious realms; and questions about faith in what, and why, are too seldom explored freely.

    • Thanks for your comment, it adds a bit more context to my post. I will change the word theory to hypothesis in my last paragraph; I don’t think it weakens my argument at all to change the word and you’re right it seems that it has been used incorrectly. You might perhaps be interested in another post I’ve written about philosophy thanks again for the comment.

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