It is essentially the raison d’etre of the ‘New Atheist’ movement to assert an existential enmity between ‘science’ and ‘religion’; one that has always existed and can only be ended when ‘religious superstition’ is finally swept away by ‘scientific truth’. Which sounds awesome. But is any part of that statement valid? I shall examine this in three parts: In this, the first part, I shall examine the nature of science, and of faith; in the second part, of religion and of mythology; and in the third I shall examine their relationship to one another.

Let us begin:

What we refer to today as ‘science’ is really a subset of natural philosophy. In particular, it is a method of inquiry by repeated observation which traces its roots back to the works Aristotle of Stagira (in particular, Categories, Physics, and Metaphysics). In its modern form, science is a method consisting of Observation (of an actual event), Proposition of Hypothesis (that is, creating an imaginary model to explain how the observerved event took place), Experimentation (an attempt to disprove the hypothesis-model), and then either Discarding the Hypothesis (if the experiment disproves the hypothesis), or Peer Review (if the experiment does not disprove the hypothesis). Rinse and repeat.

It should be noted that many irrational beliefs exist today regarding the nature of science, which may be lumped together in the category of ‘scientism’–that is, imagining that science is something more that it really is (often, a panacea). In order to avoid the error of scientism, let us complete our definition of science by examining what science is not:

a body of knowledge
This error is probably caused by the fact that when we study our current understanding of various fields investigated by the scientific method (embryology, climatology, etc.), we refer to them as ‘the sciences’. However, not only is erroneous in itself to use ‘science’ to refer a body of knowledge, but it gives rise to serious issues, as people confuse ‘doing science’ with ‘believing what a scientist tells them’. Science is not ‘revealed truth’, nor is it arrived at by ‘consensus’. It is a method of investigation, and nothing else.

the Truth
One thing that the scientific method can never provide us: the truth. Science works by building models, and attempting to disprove them. Hypotheses which survive multiple attempts at disproof may be elevated to theories, and theories to laws. This gives us models of ever-increasing accuracy, but it will never, and can never, give us the Truth. Even Newton’s famous Law of Universal Gravitation was eventually replaced by Einstein’s General Relativity–and we already know that General Relativity must eventually be replaced, because it is incompatible with quantum mechanics.

This limitation is inherent in both the method of inquiry (science) and the inquirer (humans, with limited consciousness and perception). However, the fact that science cannot give us ‘the Truth’ does not invalidate science, because that is not the purpose of science. Pretending that science is a road to ‘truth’ leads to nothing but confirmation bias (as we start designing experiments to ‘confirm’ our beliefs, rather than to disprove our hypotheses), and corrupts the entire endeavor of inquiry.

applicable to everything
Many young atheists will insist that the scientific method is sufficient to every area of knowledge; or, when that is quickly disproven, retreat to Richard Dawkins’ favored position that any question which cannot be answered by scientific inquiry does not deserve to be answered. I believe that I have covered that sufficiently here, but I’m always willing to entertain legitimate questions.

The quality of ‘faith’ is of often mischaracterized by atheists, and this mischaracterization has even made its way into many modern dictionaries. ‘Faith’ is used as either a synonym for ‘religion’ (more on why that is incorrect, in Part 2), or is defined as “belief without justification”. Note that this second definition is actually the defintion of superstition; it has nothing to do with ‘faith’ at all. Am I a faithful friend because I believe in something without justification? No. Is a recording faithful to the original because the recording believes in something without justification? No.

Faith is not a matter of belief, but of confidence. One has faith in something, because one is confident in it (by definition). Something is faithful, if one may place confidence in it. Confidence, by its nature, cannot given without justification. One person may not be able to grasp another person’s justification, but that does not invalidate the justification any more than the existence of math-dyslexics invalidates algebra.

Finally, I should note for those who will insinuate otherwise, I am not suggesting that faith, religion, and supersition are mutually exclusive. I am simply expaining, for those who do not understand, that they are not the same thing.

Published by Little-Known Blogger

I spent the first years of my life in a trailer park outside of a tiny town in rural Missouri. I grew up to be a long-haired, gun-hating, military-hating, Presbyterian super-liberal. Well, perhaps the “growing up” happened later. While in high school, I was on the cross-country and wrestling teams, and actually won my weight-class in a State powerlifting competition. I went on to attend college on a Bright Flight scholarship, where I promptly became an atheist. I trained for a few years in Shotokan karate and Cheng-system taijiquan before training in my first real martial art, Hwarang-Do, under the late Franklin Fowlkes (later the Founder and Grandmaster of the Five Elements Martial Arts System). I married an older Taiwanese woman my junior year, got divorced in short order, and dropped out of college. After completing my AA in Psychology, I decided I needed a complete change of scenery and joined the U.S. Marine Corps (having early been assured that there was no way that a skinny liberal like me would ever survive Boot Camp). Contrary to what the Hipster Zombies will tell you, this did not “brainwash me into being a Conservative”. Instead, it made me a very unhappy, short-haired liberal, surrounded by guns and the military. However, I spent my whole contract (after schools) on the island of Okinawa, where I was exposed to points of view not dominated by the American liberal media. During this time, I taught ESL classes as a side-job, trained under some of the highest-ranking masters of karate on Okinawa, and discovered the practice of Buddhism. I also spent some time in Korea, where I got to train in hapkido. It was during this period that I came gradually to realize how stupid and evil American liberalism actually is. This was partly due to my Military Police command sending me to Small Arms Instructor school, which gave me more exposure to guns than I could ever have imagined—thus negating my idiotic liberal distaste for them. After the active-duty portion of my Marine Corps contract was over, I worked several jobs, from security contracts to operating a forklift in a warehouse. In 2002, however, when the invasion of Iraq was getting under way, I signed up with the Missouri Army National Guard, and have remained with them since, continuing as a Military Policeman. I am also full-time corrections officer, a member of the Anglican Church, and at one time was an Instructor Candidate in Dekiti-Tirsia Serradas Kali (until my instructor moved away). My hobbies (beyond blogging) include strength training, shooting sports, martial arts, creating digital art, and being a huge science and science-fiction geek.

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