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

What isnt science, is religion

  1. May 25, 2007 #1
    Something that is often said in one breath is:

    "Thats not science! ...
    Its religion (or pseudo-science)"

    Is it true that any method which tries to investigate reality but which isnt science, is religion or pseudoscience? Or are there other categories?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 25, 2007 #2
    Well what about philosophy is it relligion or is it science ?

    What about "rationalism" is that a relligion or a kind of "belief", "the relligious belief in rationality" ? Why ? Why not ?
  4. May 25, 2007 #3
    No, and anyone who says that is more religious than I. Science is only useful for attaining certain kinds of knowledge, to try and apply it to everything is just silly.
  5. May 25, 2007 #4
    Right. But is this argument obvious for anyone ?

    As an example - is this argument ever heard:

    "There are a huge numbers of stars that has planets that are simular to the earth - if only a small persentage of those planets has conditions like the earth, the statistical propability thet there will be life on some of those planets is .."

    Could such a argument be considered to be a kind of "scinetific superstition", or schientific relligious belief ?
  6. May 25, 2007 #5
    Religion requires a leap of faith, and superstition is a belief not based on reason or knowledge. What you just described seems reasonable to me. It's not like that quote is professing Scientology, he's just saying "Aliens are probably out there". Or probably not, depending who you ask.
  7. May 25, 2007 #6
    But some people might have a faith in reason and knowledge ?
  8. May 25, 2007 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    Not only is that not true, but the people that use that phrase don't even believe that any non-scientific inquiry amounts to religion. They say that specifically of religion doctrines that masquerade as science - hydroplate theory, for instance. However, if you tell them "you know, I found out something about myself today. I'm really in love with Jolene." They won't yell "that's not science. It's religion!" It's neither. It's self-reflection.
  9. May 25, 2007 #8
    To be skeptical of logic is like being skeptical of things you see plainly before your eyes.

    A theorem is like a giraffe, and a proof is getting a good angle to see what kind of animal your looking at. You didn't know it was a giraffe before, but now you do after looking from the right angle. If you think this requires faith, then we should make up a new word for what religion requires, i.e. groundless faith.
  10. May 26, 2007 #9


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Perhaps it would help to ask whether faith can exist without belief, and belief without believers. I find rather useful the definition that knowledge is justified, true belief, and that faith is the case where there is belief with no justification, hence the leap.

    It strikes me that, in the context of the examples of the OP, scientific belief is taken to require justification and have rules about what counts as justification, and it is this contrast between religion and science regarding justification that is the focus.

    But I wouldn't, and perhaps other people aren't either, say that science even requires belief in the usual sense. It seems to me to only really be concerned with the justification part. If a scientist must hold some kind of belief as part of the process of applying some theory to the world, it is only as a technicality, and scientists don't have to fully commit to these beliefs but can get away with having temporary, belief flings. They can even switch between multiple theories that might make contradictory, or at least non-entirely-agreeing, claims. I guess scientists are kind of like belief-sloots.
  11. May 26, 2007 #10
    I'm not really sure what your trying to get at here. A leap of faith is when you believe something without having any evidence to suggest that belief over any other. Reason is usually accepted as one form of getting that evidence. Are you saying that some people believe in reason as the only method of attaining knowledge, and that's religious? John Ralston Saul has said some interesting things about the 'dictatorship of reason'. And I've known people who have certainly seemed silly that way.

    As for 'and knowledge', maybe you're suggesting that it's a leap of faith not to believe anything religious (religious with a broad definition of anything requiring a leap of faith). But like I said, I'm not really sure what your trying to get at here.
  12. May 26, 2007 #11
    Maybe this ties in with his "Je pense, donc je suis" thread? Science is a religion because it requires a leap of faith to believe in empirical evidence since almost nothing can't be doubted.
  13. May 26, 2007 #12
    'Everything that is not science is faith or religion' is a false dichotomy.

    However, one can note that most of the time, you either have a good reason for believing the things you do from an objective scientific perspective or you don't. This can certainly be applied in a practical sense, although not necessarily as an absolute.

    Science is not a religion and does not require a leap of faith that can come even close to that of religion, not even for the validity of empiricism (Occam's Razor and burden of evidence). Science requires a skepticism towards unsupported claims, critical thinking, repeatability, testability, falsifiability, controlled experiments, is self-correcting, relies on evidence and reason, makes no claims for absolute knowledge and so on. Religion does not require any of these. If one puts forward solid and valid criticism against religion, you are often punished. Do the same for science and you are greeted. The last thing assumes a best case scenario of course.

    The term 'belief' is in itself ambiguous. It is used in different ways in "I believe in democracy" and "I believe in a divine creator". There is a massive amount of objective experimental evidence in favor of the benefits of democracy, none for the existence of a divine creator.
  14. May 26, 2007 #13


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Well, you might be right about some necessary leaps, but I imagine that you would have to make some of those first leaps just to function as a normal human being, i.e., to not be afraid of falling through the floor every time you take a step and such, and it's nothing particular to or required by science per se. And I guess I would also divide up "science" a bit, say, into the actual day-to-day practice of science, the scientific theories, and a bunch of philosophies with science-related themes.

    I'm not really up to thinking through it now, but it's not hard for me to imagine a robot who performs all of the essential day-to-day functions of a scientist and isn't capable of beliefs any more than is a [name of a computer that you believe doesn't have beliefs]. Well, I suppose it might have to believe that it was terribly clever and special and not a mere robot, but, yeah.

    Or maybe it's just that I don't see where belief enters the picture. To me, it seems to be either just a report (like from reading memory (e.g., I believe that my name is Rachel (because that's what is stored in my "your name" variable))) or else one of those emotion thingers.
  15. May 26, 2007 #14


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    The question is answered, and since the OP has been banned, it is time to close the thread.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: What isnt science, is religion
  1. The Religion of Science (Replies: 97)

  2. What is Religion? (Replies: 5)

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

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

  5. Religion in science (Replies: 2)