Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Is the Lab Just Another Kind of Church

Another way of saying this is to say that science is just a kind of god, and scientists worship their god in the same way that religious people worship theirs. So therefore, why should anyone trade in their (say) Christian god for the science god. They might as well become Hindus or Buddhists.

Of course there are some elements of truth in this argument. Non religious people do tend to have a certain respect and reverence for science and rational thought. It is in the nature of humanity to love the things that are important in your life. This does not imply that all of these things are equal in all respects.

So there are a few important differences between the church and the lab. One is that there is an implicit sign hanging over the door to the lab that says "thinking required", whereas the one over the church says "thinking discouraged". This is because there is a real danger that too much thinking may lead a person to question their faith. Of course we know that there is also dogmatism in the lab, and some kinds of thinking are allowed in the church. It is acceptable to study the ancient texts and ponder how they are to be properly interpreted in the modern world. Perhaps this difference is not as strong as it seems.

So let's move on the the real and important difference. Science has predictive power, and the church has none, at least so far as we know. Science can not only predict the future, but the predictions actually come true, reliably. Now most religious people will grant that science has this advantage, but this takes nothing away from their faith. In fact, as I have discussed previously, there is an assertion that faith does not require evidence. The faithful are actually proud of this. If religion had predictive power then that would certainly constitute evidence for god, and in the process it would spoil the purity of blind faith.

What is remarkable is that the faithful will still pray to god and ask that god cause some important future event to have a requested outcome. How can this be. If they really believe that god does nothing, then what is the point of praying. I can only imagine that somehow they believe that god can fulfill their prayers without being detectable by science. I believe that if they thought about this seriously, then surely their heads would explode. This is such an important thought process that I have devoted an entire chapter to it in my book.

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