# Why Is Science Based On So Much Faith?

honestrosewater
Gold Member
phoenixthoth said:
I don't know. Ask that of religion.
I don't understand. I wasn't trying to be an ***. I just wanted to make sure you weren't jumping to conclusions.
I did some searching for a definition of science and found one point of consensus: Science is open to revision. People disagree on the methods of scientific discovery, progress, analysis, and so on. I'm not a practicing scientist so I don't have any personal experience to speak from.

I would still like to know how you intend to prove all scientists believe in science (or believe whatever it is about science you propose they must believe).

honestrosewater said:
I don't understand. I wasn't trying to be an ***. I just wanted to make sure you weren't jumping to conclusions.
Sorry if I came off as being curt. I just wanted one who readily agreed with your statement involving X's to consider the replacement X=religion. I find it thought provoking either way.

I did some searching for a definition of science and found one point of consensus: Science is open to revision. People disagree on the methods of scientific discovery, progress, analysis, and so on. I'm not a practicing scientist so I don't have any personal experience to speak from.
So what is believed in today (eg's may include, or not, GR, ST, SR, QM, the laws of thermodynamics, Newton's laws, conservation of mass/energy, DNA is integral in how life is, etc.) is not believed tomorrow. Still, what is believed today can't be proved and is in my opinion, then involving faith.

I would still like to know how you intend to prove all scientists believe in science (or believe whatever it is about science you propose they must believe).
I don't claim that. My claim is that faith is involved in science, not that science is based on faith. By that I mean that at least one scientist believes at least one aspect of science. The proof was given a couple of posts ago when scientists were asked to state things they believe which they cannot prove.

loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
phoenixthoth said:
So what is believed in today (eg's may include, or not, GR, ST, SR, QM, the laws of thermodynamics, Newton's laws, conservation of mass/energy, DNA is integral in how life is, etc.) is not believed tomorrow. Still, what is believed today can't be proved and is in my opinion, then involving faith.
Sure, but it is not necessary to believe any of the theories of science true in order to conduct science.

I don't claim that. My claim is that faith is involved in science, not that science is based on faith. By that I mean that at least one scientist believes at least one aspect of science. The proof was given a couple of posts ago when scientists were asked to state things they believe which they cannot prove.
Of what relevance is that claim? I think Descartes effectively proved that belief in anything other than one's own existence requires some leap of faith. This thread was started on the premise that science itself is based on faith. The question then becomes whether the methodology (because science is only a method) itself requires faith. I would answer yes to that question with the caveat that it requires no more faith than is required to believe that when you hit the "A" key on your keyboard and the cursor is in the text box, an "A" will appear in the text box - a rather trivial amount of faith, certainly not amounting to a critique of the method.

FZ+
My claim is that faith is involved in science, not that science is based on faith. By that I mean that at least one scientist believes at least one aspect of science.
Surely that is a very pedantic claim. By that definition, science involves:

Terrorism
Sex
Murder
Socialism
Conservatism
Genocide

and indeed, all the goods and evils of mankind. The fact is, all you are saying is that scientists are at least occassionally human. One would think that science is not defined by the union of the properties of all scientists, but by the intersection which crosses their various differences. That should not include faith - not intentionally, for any case.

In short, scientists are allowed to have faith in things. But if they deal with these things with faith, then they are not dealing with them particularly scientifically in the strict sense.

Where is the definition of science you're referring to? Surely not in what you quoted. You are surely stretching things.

What is the correct definition of science? Based on your definition of science, I may be able to tell you where the nontrivial faith lies. It appears to be pointless to use my definition of science (above somewhere) because it will seem as though I'm making stuff up to suit my argument's needs.

FZ+
Science is wonder and scepticism. If we define faith as belief without scepticism, then the belief of a scientist for a given idea is not really faith, because he is making an effort to prove it wrong or not-wrong.

FZ+ said:
Science is wonder and scepticism. If we define faith as belief without scepticism, then the belief of a scientist for a given idea is not really faith, because he is making an effort to prove it wrong or not-wrong.
First of all, I don't agree that that is the definition of science. I was thinking more along the lines of "a body of theories, derived from either meticulous observation or thought experiments, which are continually tested against more observation and experiments; the body of theories are essentially meant to elucidate patterns in the observations/experiments as well as to have predictive and postdictive power." Something along those lines...

Anyways... I also disagree on your definition of faith. To me, faith is belief in something one cannot prove.

honestrosewater
Gold Member
phoenixthoth said:
Sorry if I came off as being curt.
No problem. I was more concerned you weren't taking my objection seriously.
I just wanted one who readily agreed with your statement involving X's to consider the replacement X=religion. I find it thought provoking either way.
I think that is the crucial point in some religions- that a person chooses to believe.
So what is believed in today (eg's may include, or not, GR, ST, SR, QM, the laws of thermodynamics, Newton's laws, conservation of mass/energy, DNA is integral in how life is, etc.) is not believed tomorrow. Still, what is believed today can't be proved and is in my opinion, then involving faith.
The source of disagreement wasn't over any particular theory but methodology. It's mostly philosophers saying "science is this and only this and only works this way..." and practicing scientists telling the philosophers to get a real job. Well, that's the more entertaining way of viewing it.
I don't claim that. My claim is that faith is involved in science, not that science is based on faith. By that I mean that at least one scientist believes at least one aspect of science. The proof was given a couple of posts ago when scientists were asked to state things they believe which they cannot prove.
Then faith is involved in deduction if at least one logician believes at least one aspect of deduction. What's that expression? Hoisted by your own petard?

loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
phoenixthoth said:
First of all, I don't agree that that is the definition of science. I was thinking more along the lines of "a body of theories, derived from either meticulous observation or thought experiments, which are continually tested against more observation and experiments; the body of theories are essentially meant to elucidate patterns in the observations/experiments as well as to have predictive and postdictive power." Something along those lines...
Nope. Science is the method by which these hypotheses are tested, not the theories derived from the results of the tests.

Anyways... I also disagree on your definition of faith. To me, faith is belief in something one cannot prove.

If that's the definition of faith, then it's a trivial definition. I will again contend that Descartes proved that any belief other than the belief in one's own existence requires faith by that definition.

honestrosewater said:
No problem. I was more concerned you weren't taking my objection seriously.
I think that is the crucial point in some religions- that a person chooses to believe.
The source of disagreement wasn't over any particular theory but methodology. It's mostly philosophers saying "science is this and only this and only works this way..." and practicing scientists telling the philosophers to get a real job. Well, that's the more entertaining way of viewing it.
Then faith is involved in deduction if at least one logician believes at least one aspect of deduction. What's that expression? Hoisted by your own petard?
Yes and there is a rule that my reply is at least 10 characters.

loseyourname said:
Nope. Science is the method by which these hypotheses are tested, not the theories derived from the results of the tests.
Of course, dictionary.com is wrong. Doh! "The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena." So Newton's Law of gravity is not science? E=mc^2 is not science? Science is the method by which E=mc^2 is tested? Well, that's news to me.

If that's the definition of faith, then it's a trivial definition. I will again contend that Descartes proved that any belief other than the belief in one's own existence requires faith by that definition.
I agree, it is trivial. It remains nonetheless that science involves faith. As I said many posts ago, this is not a profound or new fact.

loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
phoenixthoth said:
Of course, dictionary.com is wrong. Doh! "The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena." So Newton's Law of gravity is not science? E=mc^2 is not science? Science is the method by which E=mc^2 is tested? Well, that's news to me.
Nope. They are laws of science. They are not science. Science is just the method by which we determine, test, and falsify these laws.

I agree, it is trivial. It remains nonetheless that science involves faith. As I said many posts ago, this is not a profound or new fact.
Okay, then why state it? It seems to me that TEN was attempting to belittle science. I'm glad you agree with me that he has no case.

loseyourname said:
Nope. They are laws of science. They are not science. Science is just the method by which we determine, test, and falsify these laws.
So your saying the laws of science are not science and that science is just the method you mentioned?

How do you define faith?

Okay, then why state it? It seems to me that TEN was attempting to belittle science. I'm glad you agree with me that he has no case.
I don't know.

TENYEARS didn't seem to me to back up his case at all. I suppose we were supposed to take it on faith. :)

I don't see why science being based on faith would belittle science. I guess he does strike a nerve when faith is at all linked to science.

loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
phoenixthoth said:
So your saying the laws of science are not science and that science is just the method you mentioned?
Well, jeez, you just restated exactly what I already stated. Of course that's what I'm saying!

How do you define faith?
I suppose I define it as belief without scepticism, usually in things that are postulated to be unprovable (don't have to be, though). {Edit}: Not that I think I have the exclusive capacity to define the word, but that's at least what I mean when I use it. Obviously, this usage isn't consistent. I could try to build a case that my definition is more in line with common historical usage of the word, but I don't even know that that is necessarily the case. I could very well be using the word incorrectly for all I know. As long as I let you know what I mean by a given word before using it, does it really make a difference?

TENYEARS didn't seem to me to back up his case at all. I suppose we were supposed to take it on faith. :)

I don't see why science being based on faith would belittle science. I guess he does strike a nerve when faith is at all linked to science.
Science being based on faith, using your definition of faith, wouldn't belittle science. It just seemed like TEN was trying to belittle science - you know, "YOu Are aLl fools, Lol, loL, etc, etc." and all that crap. Hopefully he was banned for it and won't bother us any more.

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Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
loseyourname, would "belief in unfalsifiable claims" be a good definition, or part of a good definition? Then of course you would have to discuss your personal meaning of falsifiable. I for example don't think string theory is manifestly unfalsifiable since there is a real possibility that in the future some falsifiability test may be defined. But the Shroud of Turin is manifestly not falsifiable since every test that suggests it's a fake is always matched by another test that suggests the first one is wrong.

loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
loseyourname, would "belief in unfalsifiable claims" be a good definition, or part of a good definition? Then of course you would have to discuss your personal meaning of falsifiable. I for example don't think string theory is manifestly unfalsifiable since there is a real possibility that in the future some falsifiability test may be defined. But the Shroud of Turin is manifestly not falsifiable since every test that suggests it's a fake is always matched by another test that suggests the first one is wrong.
That's a pretty good way of defining it, I suppose. A belief in something that is unfalsifiable in principle is a good one. Take, for instance, the claim that God loves us. When we speak of a human x loving another human y, we don't speak in the same terms. It is possible to demonstrate that claim to be false. If we observe human x to be neglecting or harming our doing mean things to human y, we can consider the original claim to be falsified. But to a religious person, no matter what God does to a person, it is done out of love. That claim is not falsifiable by any means whatsoever. It must simply be accepted on faith.

But to a religious person, no matter what God does to a person, it is done out of love. That claim is not falsifiable by any means whatsoever. It must simply be accepted on faith.
The claim that God does anything to a person is also not falsifiable.

Any time you use the word "God" in a claim, it is not falsifiable. This is pretty clear using most any definition of "God." Therefore, by these definitions, religion is based on faith.

Science, from what little I have learned, is just about what is falsifiable. Therefore, by these definitions, science is not based on faith.

I'm left wondering whether the following is falsifiable:
"The scientific method is valid."

loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
phoenixthoth said:
I'm left wondering whether the following is falsifiable: "The scientific method is valid."
Sure. We test hypotheses using the scientific method. If functional knowledge were never produced using this method, the claim would be falsified. Of course, no scientist would ever make a claim like that. Scientific claims are far less ambiguous. At the very least, you'll need to state what you mean by "valid" and the context you mean it in.

honestrosewater
Gold Member
Self-evident truths aren't falsifiable, are they?

loseyourname said:
Sure. We test hypotheses using the scientific method. If functional knowledge were never produced using this method, the claim would be falsified. Of course, no scientist would ever make a claim like that. Scientific claims are far less ambiguous. At the very least, you'll need to state what you mean by "valid" and the context you mean it in.
Let me get something straight before I continue. What do you mean by "falsifiable?"

It doesn't matter how I define "valid" becaue if you disagree with my conclusion, you'll point to a definition of valid that is convienient for your position.

But here goes nothing anyway: valid:Producing the desired results; efficacious.

So inserting this back, I am wondering if the following statement is falsifiable:
The scientific method produces the desired results and is efficacious.

Implicit in this statement is the word always:
The scientific method always produces the desired results and is efficacious.

What do I mean by desired results? I mean that what is desired is to test a hypothesis.

So I can reduce what I'm wondering, hopefully in a clear enough language with enough common ground:
"The scientific method always tests hypotheses successfully."

Is that falsifiable? I haven't formed an opinion on it yet but I'm wondering if it is not falsifiable, then is it taken on faith? Is the scientific method itself viewed with incredulity and scepticism? Just curious; I'm not a scientist.

Also wondering, H., if you mean that "The scientific method always tests hypotheses successfully" is self-evident?

loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
phoenixthoth said:
So I can reduce what I'm wondering, hopefully in a clear enough language with enough common ground:
"The scientific method always tests hypotheses successfully."

Is that falsifiable? I haven't formed an opinion on it yet but I'm wondering if it is not falsifiable, then is it taken on faith?
I would say that it is falsifiable. If the scientific method were used to determine that a given hypothesis is false, but later the hypothesis proved true, then the method would be falsified. You cannot say the latter, however, because the scientific method is incapable of proving the truth of a hypothesis; the best any hypothesis can hope to do is resist falsification and become ever more likely.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
Notice that the scientific method is a social method, and its falsifications happen over time. It might seem for a while that experiment supported a given hypothesis, such as the appearance of the sun's motion seemed to support a geocentric astronomy. But continuing work over many generations falsified this hypothesis.

Nereid
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Nereid here again, hoping that harking back to some earlier posts won't be taking this thread away from the interesting, new line it now seems to be moving in ...

Thanks Les, those 'faith' classifications are good ... as TEN doesn't seem to be participating though, and as phoenixthoth doesn't seem to have used these ... Do you have the names of the key works (one each would be nice) of your favourites (Locke, Ayer, Peirce), wrt the nature of science?

In terms of Les' categories of faith, it would seem that each scientist, as they do their science thing, has this in abundance. For example, that geologist astronaut collecting rocks on the Moon didn't check that he would die if he went collecting without his spacesuit; in labs all over the world, experimental scientists have pragmatic faith that breaking the safety codes will likely lead to injury or death. And as ordinary humans, scientists everywhere have pragmatic faith that the air they breath won't turn into HF or $$\tau$$ neutrinos tomorrow.

I would think this is pretty uncontroversial, boring to discuss, and if it's all that there is to TEN's rant (and phoenixthoth's setting up of possible logical inconsistencies), then why are we wasting time on it?

Much more interesting is science itself. Good to see that there seems to be a consensus emerging that the core of science is the method, not the results. If we agree on this, then I can appreciate phoenixthoth's puzzlement ... how can you discuss the role of 'faith' in a method? Even worse, the method has a large social component; it's independent of the beliefs of the participants :surprised OK, at least it's more like an epiphenomenon.

To see this, two analogies may be helpful (like all analogies they break when stretched):

1) 'the market', as in economics. While individuals create a market (price) through their (individual) actions, and the beliefs and motivations of the players may be extraordinarily diverse, the market is particularly efficient at crunching all the relevant information.

2) language. Almost all of us are fluent speakers of at least one language. While in many ways it's early (neuroscience) days, the brain mechanisms for the conversion of the idea to speech sounds (and the reception of air pressure variations to 'understanding') are invisible to us ... we are conscious only of the result. (and BTW Les, introspection has apparently been of only limited help in working out the 'how' of language, in the sense I'm describing here).

So what? In the first analogy, the 'faith' (beliefs) of the players is irrelevant to the outcome; in the second, the brain mechanisms cannot be said - even by TEN - to have 'faith'.

Oh, and in case anyone is tempted to get carried away with the 'social' part (no, this is NOT a strawman; read Feyerabend, or some of the 'sociologists of science'), whether I believe that the source of ideas on astrophysics come from the voices of my ancestors whispering to me through the rustling of leaves in my favourite oak tree, or a desire to banish Newton's 'rape manual', is irrelevant.

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Alkatran
Homework Helper
Similar thing:

In computer science, you have increasing layers of abstraction. You have compilers running on code that was made by previous compilers etc... until you get down to the "1010001011" level.

You have to trust that all the layers below the one you're working on function correctly. I need to know that when I say "Print "HI"" In QBasic that on almost any computer "Hi" will pop up. etc etc...

It seems to work fine in computer science.

honestrosewater
Gold Member
phoenixthoth said:
Also wondering, H., if you mean that "The scientific method always tests hypotheses successfully" is self-evident?