Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is Science Becoming a Religion?

  1. Jul 11, 2005 #1
    There appears to be a human need for some type of a set of religious beliefs. These beliefs are truths that are generally expected to be accepted without question. Religion typically has dealt with two basic issues: defining accepted behaviors and defining the relationship of individuals to humanity in general and humanity to the cosmos. Religion has often involved some form of diety or intelligence, but doesn't have to. A belief that dieties cannot exist is just as much a religious belief as a belief in a diety.

    Religion provides definite answers. Science provides possible answers and asks questions. Empirical science relies on continued experimentation and obsevation to verify concepts called theories and suggest possible new theories. Science encourages checking on previously accepted theories because it recognizes that if the theory is valid if will hold up to any new challenge.

    I'm going to provide examples of science as a religion in separate posts to simply the reply process.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 11, 2005 #2

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think you would get replies if you actually stated how science is becoming a religion now instead of later.
     
  4. Jul 11, 2005 #3
    One of the best examples of science as a religion is discussion of the origin of the universe and the origin of biological life. Both subjects have been traditionally dealt with by religion. There seems to be a human need to determine where humans came from.

    Neither subject can be verified through experimentation or observation because they occurred in the distant past under conditions that are unlikely to exist today. Yet, many "scientists" believe that they can state with absolute certainty exactly how each happened. These "scientists" believe that even though their is no scientific verification of life developing through slow gradual changes that the subject should be closed to any serious challenge.

    The process of change through gradual changes is appealing because it is the process humans use to produce everything from technology to literary works to computer programs. Whether very complex biological life could develop through this process without the intervention of some intelligence is very much open to question as is the claim by those with an opposing view that the God of Abraham zapped all species into existence fully developed.

    I am not interested here in how life developed, but in the idea that our still relatively limited knowledge of biological life doesn't provide sufficient data to make absolute statements about how life developed.

    The complexity and size of the genetic code would argue against development of the original features of complex animals, including appropriate placement of body parts through random changes. How would the legs be placed where they could support the body through random changes if inappropriate placement would leave the animal unable to move? Only a diety would seem to be able to develop animals through gradual changes, but suspect a diety would find a more sophisticated procedure.

    LIke in political debates members of the two main beliefs, evolution and creatonism, argue that people have to accept one of the other instead of developing an explanation that sounds more plausible.
     
  5. Jul 11, 2005 #4

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'll let someone else point out the glaring and quick mistake you made and ill predict that this thread will reach about 200 posts of arguments.
     
  6. Jul 11, 2005 #5
    Another example involves embryonic research. some "scientists" decided in the past that embryonic cells provided the "most promising" means of developing new cells to replace damaged cells in humans. This belief grew out of the belief, since discredited, that various parts of the body were unable to generate new cells. They believed that the brain, for example, once developed didn't add new cells.

    Research during the last 20 years has gradually demonstrated that humans do produce new cells from stem cells, including brain cells. Researcher also are using a patient's own stem cells to treat various disorders.

    Embryonic researchers have yet to demonstrate that they can use embryonic cells to treat anything, but they still claim embryonic research is the "most promising." Science is supposed to be pragmatic. The "most promising" research in science should be the one that produces the best results.

    Logically scientists should expect that human bodies capable of surviving 100 years or more would have the ability to produce new cells over a long period of time. The most long lived would likely have the best genes for producing such new cells.
     
  7. Jul 11, 2005 #6
    Climate research played a major role in development of the math/science of chaos theory. Chaos deals with complex systems in which outcomes involve the interaction of many factors.

    Yet, many climatologists claim that climate is primarily determined by the amoung of a very minor atmospheric gas, Carbon Dioxide(CO2). They believe they can determine future climate simply by knowing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    They don't have to worry about factors such as changes in solar energy output, variations in the earth's orbit and random events such as volcanic eruptions. They also believe they can ignore human related factors such as the amount of heat generated by human activity and changes in land use such as replacing plants that convert solar radiation into organic molecules with buildings and pavement that convert solar radiation into heat.

    Research has shown that urban heat islands can be 5 C warmer than the surrounding countryside which would be unlikely to be the result of CO2 emissions.

    The desire for a simple explanation is common in religion as is the tendency to view things as good or evil. Treating CO2 as an "evil" gas that must be gotten rid of is consistent with religion.

    Science indicates that CO2 and other natural occurring molecules can have both positive and negative impacts. CO2 is necessary for plant growth, but too much in a small area can adversely affect human health. Water has the same situation. It is necessary for the human body but too much water in the human body can kill it.


    The idea that humans are responsible for any adverse changes is common in religion. Adverse conditions have often been seen by leaders in various religions as an indcation that people are being punished by the god or gods. If the volcano becomes active it means the island residents should throw in a virgin to placate the volcano god.

    Even though significant climatic changes have occurred in the past, many believe that warming that has occurred in some places(Kansas has actually had cooler summer the last 15 years than the preceding 15 years) must result from some type of human activity and humans must stop this activity to return the situation to normal. The possibility that these changes may result from factors beyond the control of humans isn't considered because the possiblity that humans cannot control the physical scares some people.
     
  8. Jul 11, 2005 #7
    I'm not sure that the arguments you make establish that science is religion, although I agree that it is not easy to see what makes them particulalry different from each other. However, religion is about absolute truths and certain knowledge, science is not, and this seems to be one difference.

    Still, science is increasingly mathematics, and physicist John Barrow has remarked that, if a religion is defined to be a system of thought which requires belief in unprovable truths, then mathematics is the only religion that can prove it is a religion.

    I wouldn't agree with this definition of religion, unless by 'unprovable' he means undemonstrable rather than unverifiable, but it's an interesting comment.
     
  9. Jul 11, 2005 #8
    How's Kansas in the 21st century? Coping alright?
     
  10. Jul 11, 2005 #9

    Kerrie

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    ReasonMcClucus...you forgot one important and crucial detail that sets religion apart from science-FAITH. Every human who considers themselves religious has faith in the same thing, in the scientific community, your education, knowledge, and experience with what you are studying can vary from other people, thus you have more or less understanding of the specific scientific process. With religion, everyone is on the same level of ground in knowing if "god" is real or not (provided the definition of "god" is consistent with everyone).

    For those people who have less education and knowledge of science in general or for specific areas of it, they do have a certain amount of faith that those conducting observations and experiments are doing so as objectively as possible. This is the *ideal* setting for science to be successful, however, money, power and politics can play a role in swaying details and specific results.

    There can also be a certain amount of arrogance in science, giving a somewhat "absolute" answer to why things are they way they are. We do have some absolute answers to many questions, but not all. There might be a small percentage of scientists so wrapped up in their own gratification of achievment that they forget-science is a work in progress.
     
  11. Jul 13, 2005 #10
    Science in general is not a religion yet, but it is moving in that direction. Many scientists treat concepts as "absolute truths and certain knowledge" rather than approximations of reality.

    Evolutionists and advocates of greenhouse gas "theory" are convinced that there is no way they could be wrong. Evolutionists don't believe any students should be exposed to questions about evolution. Those who support greenhouse gas theory argue it should be accepted because of the number of climatologists who support it instead of providing scientific evidence showing that it is possible.

    Math is playing a greater role in science because math deals with methods of evaluating and organizing information. Chaos theory is showing that mathematical relationships are present in many phenomena that previously seemed to be random.
     
  12. Jul 13, 2005 #11
    I'm not sure Kansas is in the 21st Century yet. The politicians of 40 years ago had better vision than the ones today.

    The state is considering allowing discussion of Intelligent Design in public schools. I.D. is the closest thing to a scientific approach to the issue of the origin of life although it isn't an explanation. As Mr. Spock might say there are insufficient data to explain the origin of life.
     
  13. Jul 13, 2005 #12
    Evolutionists say that evolution should be accepted on faith, as do those biologists would support the creationists explanation. Evolutionists don't want to allow any discussion of how life developed that would be inconsistent with the idea that it just happened rather than being developed by some form of Intelligence or brought here by some E.T.

    Greenhouse gas advocates expect their idea to be accepted on faith. They provide no empirical evidence that it is possible for low energy IR to heat the atmosphere.

    Advocates of embryonic cells as "the most promising" way to treat all types of diseases including Alzheimer's(which probably cannot be treated with any type of stem cells) rely on faith because of the lack of evidence that embryonic cells can be used to treat human disorders. Research into how cells develop indicates a potential problem in using embryonic cells in that the development process involves modifications to the initial DNA through such processes as the insertion of retrotransposons between sections of coding DNA.

    A scientific approach to embryonic research would first seek to understand how cells change during the embryonic stage before making a statement about whether it is possible in complex slow developing species like humans to go from embryonic cells to fully operational specialized cells.
     
  14. Jul 13, 2005 #13

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Absolutely not true. Evoltuionists have tons of evidence for evolution including controlled loaboratory experiments with bacteria and many observed instances of speciation. You can only support non-evolutionary schemes by ignoring this evidence.



    see http://www.talkorigins.org/
     
  15. Jul 13, 2005 #14

    matt grime

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Given your line of reasoning, reasonmculus, no new research would ever be done and all of science would go to waste. if we didn't speculate and prefer certain methods over others then we would never make advances.

    i know of no scientist unprepared to attempt to rebut criticisim if the criticism is well founded. if they cannot rebut it then their theory is not sound. having said that i know plenty of scientists who will not even bother to rebut stupid criticism.

    such is the nature of scientists that they will often appear to defend and believe their theories are better than the current evidence may suggest, but they have come to that position usually after careful consideration and in the belief that as more evidence appears it will exonerate them.

    would you trust someone unable to passionately and intelligently defend their opinions? sometimes you hve to accept the intuition of those better informed than you. since they are attempting to create reproducible results, or models that predict with accuracy, ultimately the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. if we aren't prepared to take risks then we will miss out on some important discoveries; not everything is immediately obvious.
     
  16. Jul 13, 2005 #15

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    You should also consider what the alternatives actually are, reasonmcculus:
    Jumping straight into believing in the fuzzy ideas from religious fantasy-land, perhaps?
    This is NEVER a scientifically acceptable option.
    From the scientific point of view, these sort of droolings is just that: spittle to be wiped off without further consideration.

    That is the PROPER scientific attitude towards creationism.
     
  17. Jul 13, 2005 #16

    mathwonk

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    2015 Award

    no threads on religion.
     
  18. Jul 13, 2005 #17
    "Religion provides definite answers" haha does it really?
     
  19. Jul 14, 2005 #18
    Great thread Reasonmclucus, I'd liked you to show up a bit more in the Earth section.

    I'd prefer to call global warming a cult more than a religion. Delicate difference. There are a lot of similarities.

    A. (Anthropogenic) Global warming is as impossible to prove as the existence of a deity.
    B. Only blind faith in the climate science respective high priest is required to be good.
    C. As we all are convinced that it is true, it becomes true.
    D. neither climate change nor deity are falsifiable. Climate change has always been true of course.
    E. There is a distinct enemy to fight, Lucifer, the satanic gasses, Exxon, the sceptics.
    F. having enemies strenghtens the social bonds, which strenghten the determination to defeat them.

    Some literature:
    http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/speeches_quote04.html
    http://www.ncpa.org/hotlines/global/pd040201e.html
    http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=4139
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2005
  20. Jul 14, 2005 #19

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Okay, let's take our science from a science fiction author. Now that puts thing in perspective.
     
  21. Jul 14, 2005 #20
    the biggest difference i see is that religion doesn't care about the physicality(mechanics/substance) of things. Which is what science does.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Is Science Becoming a Religion?
  1. The Religion of Science (Replies: 97)

  2. Is Science a Religion? (Replies: 27)

  3. Is Science a religion? (Replies: 49)

  4. Religion vs science (Replies: 1)

  5. Religion in science (Replies: 2)

Loading...