“Religion is one of mankinds (sic) prime properties as from mankinds (sic) origin. Therefore science will never be able to win,” wrote Pieter de Graaff on the Richard Dawkins LinkedIn page. As you can imagine, he has received a lot of comments and it has turned into a lively discussion as to the validity of both his statement and premise that Science is a religion.
De Graaff describes himself as a “liberal Christian” who does not “see any contradiction whatsoever between faith and science.” It is this misunderstanding of what is science and what is faith comes to a head.
Faith, as Samuel Clemens reminded us, is believing in something we know is not true. In fact, this is the sentiment provided in Heb 11:1 (NIV) “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Do not see as in not repeatable in modern times through experiment or experience.
Another term that can be used here is “credulity,” defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “1) Naive, not critical, believing on slight or uncertain evidence. 2) A tendency to believe too readily, especially with little or no proof.
Though Mr. de Graaff and I are not scientists, there is plenty of evidence for those scientific discoveries that the lay person can easily comprehend if one permits himself to critically think. We cannot see “quarks,” for example. No one has seen a quark. But there is ample evidence of their existence through hypothesis, experimentation, and examination.
When I was in high school I wanted to be a cantor, the number two person in a Jewish temple, usually the leader of religious education. My cantor, Felix Berger, had an amazing voice (I am under the understanding that he studied to be an opera singer at one point in his life) and people would travel for miles to listen to him sing. To be ordained, one must study the Torah, Haphtorah and Talmud, the Jewish book of laws. To study the Talmud, there are a set set of questions to be asked with a set set of answers to be provided. One must have faith in the rabbi that the answers were as prescribed by the scholars, though most had nothing to do with reality. When asked “Why is that the answer,” the young scholar-in-training is told, “Because that is what the rabbis say the answer is. One must have faith.”
If Mr. de Graaff wishes to delve into science, I may suggest Leon Lederman’s “The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?” This is written for the curious mind. In simplified terms so one can understand “the Higgs boson, the subatomic particle that has brought a Nobel Prize to Francois Englert and Peter Higgs, is so small that its discovery took 40 years.” Science takes time and does not require “faith” but discovery.
The major difference between faith and science is that science encourages the questions from other boxes. It encourages the question “Why?” and discourages the answer “because God (or a rabbi or priest or imam) said so.” Science asks is something seems to beyond the natural world, can it be explained and recreated. I am still waiting to see a talking reptile or mammal. I am waiting to see a fish so large that it can swallow a man whole and not kill him in the stomach acids. I am waiting to see water turned into wine and a true faith healer. James Randi has debunked more faith healers on a regular basis than one can imagine. Debunking is easy when there are no proofs. Faith disregards the need for proofs. Science demands them.