Sunday, January 21, 2007

The difference between science, faith and religion

I am sure everyone who have been reading this blog occasionally will know by now that I am a science freak. I think that science is the way to gain knowledge. Many people say that science is narrow minded, that believing in science will confine the scope of our knowledge, but I disagree. Science, for me, is an open minded and modest approach when it comes to discover new things. Science is based on evidence. However, evidence is not necessarily gathered in a laboratory by people in white lab coats, evidence can be all sorts of things. As defined by oxford concise dictionary, evidence is "the available facts, circumstances, etc. supporting or otherwise a belief, proposition, etc., or indicating whether or not a thing is true or valid".

So what does not count as evidence you might wonder. My own answer to this, which I have not thought so much about, is things that can just as well be explained by chance. Often, when I discuss homeopathic medicine or other alternative approaches to medicine, I hear statements such as "well look, person x got well after taking this medicine, you see, it works". Perhaps this could be seen as evidence, but if so, it is one of weakest forms of evidence. Why? Because person x could have gotten well for any number of reasons, after all our immune system will deal with almost everything in a relatively short amount of time. I would take any type of medicine seriously, including homeopathy, if they could show in a double blind experiment that it worked.

Science is not the same as faith which is defined in my dictionary as "complete trust or confidence", or "firm belief, esp. without logical proof". As I have just shown it is almost the opposite. My ideal is to be sceptical to ideas with weak evidence, but not so sceptical that I cannot be convinced when proper evidence does exist.

Science is also different from religion which in my dictionary is defined as "the belief in a superhuman controlling power, esp. in a personal God or gods entitled to obedience and worship". Science is a method (or rather a gizillion methods) to achieve knowledge. Religion, on the other hand, is a belief in a superhuman nature, they are completely different concepts. A minority of scientists are religious (Einstein, by the way, is not one of them), the majority is not. The two are in other words more or less independent of each other. This is not entirely true of course since by scientific standards, religion is a weak theory with a minimal amount of supporting evidence. For this reason I am an atheist, but again, if proper evidence is shown to me I would change my mind.

I want to end with a great quote by Carl Sagan that I just read and which captures most of what I have written here; "Be open-minded, but not so open-minded that your brains fall out."


Lunken said...

Haha.... roligt skrivet... gillar teckningen! Sagan är skön.


Fatih said...

What a nice discussion on three most important terms!

I believe in God.
I feel I will live forever.

rasmussenanders said...

Thank you for the pleasant feedback!

Anonymous said... so happens, that the Dominican friars in Lund, Sandgatan 8 (next to Hemma hos greken) has three evenings with discussions on this topic: Vetenskap och världsbild (faith & science, enemies or complement?)

Monday 19 Febr. 19.30 hrs
First person invited for lecturing is prof. Sune Svanberg, laser physicist at LTH, ex-member of Nobel committee. "Science & Christianity" is the name of the lecture.

welcome to that,10218,0.html


rasmussenanders said...

Thank you for the tip, I just might go to that =)

Anonymous said...

And for justice, since you show both your picture and full name:

On the Sune Svanberg-lecture (maybe crowded, since he's a popular guy), i will be the one named Cecilia, probably posing a few mad questions.


z said...

Thanks for listening to Svanberg. Clearly, this guy is not an educated theologian. ;) But fun & he brought nice pictures of paintings.

I've turned in a lab report to him a few years ago, when i studied his class (optics).

Wish i had the chance to talk to you during the evening, but i had to return to help with the furniture & stuff. :( I wanted to tell you i'm impressed by this blog.
Keep up the good work & kör hårt.

rasmussenanders said...

Thank you!
I enjoyed the lecture by Svanberg. I thought he was energetic and entertaining, and he has certainly accomplished alot in his life. He did not, however, put forth any arguments that affected my own position.

It seemed to me that he acknowledged that belief is rather irrational from a scientific perspective, but that he had faith in spite of this. The lecture I think discussed science and faith seperately, without many bridges between them. An exception would be that "science is to see how God did things afterwards". This claim I find rather strange though, considering that the bible tells us how God did it, but maybe Svanberg interprets the Bible very liberally?

It would have been very interesting to talk to you I think. I respect religious people (and people in general) who do not shut their ear to the arguments against their own position. Perhaps we could have a discussion some other time?

Why don't you also start a blog?

rasmussenanders said...

What background do you have by the way? Are you a physicist or a theologician, or a mixture?

z said...

Studied at LTH, now teaching.

My favourite is math, statistics, some mechanics, a teeny weeny quantum theory etc.

Lately i've discovered philosophy, theology. Feels like i'm using a forgotten part of my brain these days. As if pieces of some jigsaw are falling to place.

The Svanberg lecture showed me that we need several types of knowledge. Obviously, he's very new at this field.

The brother Anders Piltz, who presented him, is one of my favourite authors (idéhistoria)


z said...

Some of Piltz' articles:

(or, simply:
goto Arkiv, choose Piltz)

"goto xy" ;)