Religion VS Science

by Lloyd H. Whitling

April 27, 2009, updated July, 2013

The religious describe science as based on an illusion of reality that is necessarily a temporary version of a creation God will soon destroy. Secular supporters of science portray religion as based on unverifiable myths told about absurd incidents. Each side claims it cannot understand how the other can claim to possess the only version of truth. The conflict appears unresolvable for lack of a shared vision of what constitutes reality, and a shared language about it where words mean the same on both sides.

We can only and most quietly hope to settle the differences between science and religion, and show why science is the most effective stabilizer of humanity, by taking the discussion into a completely unrelated place. Let’s take it into the ownership of real property to not only emphasize the nature of both, but to perhaps show why this kind of property gets called ‘real’.

Real estate involves definite chunks of property, with or without buildings, located in recognizable places on the face of the Earth. Consider how ownership gets transferred and also how it gets established. We can compare modern methods to the ancient, call the ancient “organized religion” (faith) and the modern ‘organized science” (objective). Faith and objectivity both are not about whether or not the property exists, but whether it was accurately and cogently described, and whether those descriptions were accurately translated into usable every day terms. In simpler words, we can believe what we were told, or we can show details from the owner that can be verified.

In ancient times, where individuals could own land, borders and corners were by individual agreement, as being something on the order of “From that hilltop by that tree down to that bend in the creek, over to the road, then to the bridge over the ravine, and back up to the hilltop.” While that might not be an exact replica of every instance, the intention is to demonstrate the absence of any precision.

Winds blew hills away as the land passed from generation to generation, the creek eroded a new bed (or dried up and disappeared, the tree died and another grew near to its place, and the bridge over the ravine one day collapsed. The generations of humans involved kept their faith in the old descriptions, and learned to revise them as time would pass and the scenery rearranged itself.

As science advances, technological innovations develop to fill human needs, and accurate deeds and descriptions were most certainly one of those needs. People applied scientific discoveries to more accurately find locations on the Earth’s face, not for just this problem, but for how to cross oceans and end up closer to one’s intended destination, and, eventually, how to fly blindly through the sky and still arrive at a destination.

What works on sea without landmarks works even better on land. The development of accurate compasses made predictable directionality a welcome achievement. The development of accurate clocks led to the dividing of the Earth’s surface into longitude and latitudinal divisions, wherein exact points could be defined by surveyors, trained to read each other’s instructions and find within inches of where another had been perhaps years into the past. Stakes driven into the ground get reassessed from time to time to assure new owners that old lines were accurately defined and they could know where their property rights ended and their neighbors’ began.

Today, entire megalopolis-sized cities depend on scientifically-stated accuracy for their layouts, including beneath the surface. Mines collapse, and rescue workers on the surface drill precisely-located shafts into the ground to where they hope to find survivors. Pipelines and roads are laid out and constructed in carefully measured plots and, nowadays, crews can work toward each other while fully expecting to meet in an exact fashion.

Compare that to the laying out of Tennessee’s northern border and the obvious miss those crews made while using ancient methods and primitive instruments. Constant refinement enables science to introduce technological devices of which that absence of accuracy is no longer granted consideration. Look at Tennessee’s northern border: that has not always been true.

It is not only the exact locations that get serious consideration nowadays, but also the exact area confined with a set of borders. A small farm that may once have been assessed at “about” eighty acres may now be accurately measured at 72.6 with no one disagreeing. Surveyors can walk knowledgeable people around a plot of land and explain how they arrived at their figures, and all parties will either arrive at the same numbers, or know wherein their disagreements lie.

That cannot be said of the ancient ways. Money would exchange hands, a fight or feud break out, some authorities get called upon to arbitrate, but all sides would as likely as not fail to achieve real satisfaction from the results, wherein there would be winners and losers with bad feelings between them. One side’s ‘faith’ in the results would be the other side’s reasons for doubt. That has been the case for most of the duration of human existence.

It is the nature of human beings that vested interests will also lead to doubt, one way or another. Application of technological advances that led to a smaller tax assessment might have gained a farmer’s support, but if it led to assessing a smaller acreage at the time of intended sale would certainly be put to the test. There will always be exceptions: “Uncle Charlie took it like a man, and sold a smaller farm than he bought and paid for.”

Part of science is the finding of ways to gain dependable answers to the questions it raises. If Uncle Charlie worked with the surveyors who measured his farm and understood their math and methods, he would be satisfied with a result that might have disappointed him. He would fully expect that surveyors far into the future would measure the farm and arrive at very similar conclusions. He would know that mistakes can be made, and that part of the process would require verification, and that he could, himself with the right training, check the math and methods and see for himself there were no mistakes, or show the surveyors why he disagrees.

That sort of assurance is not available where ancient methods still prevail. People who must “take it on faith” that their authority figures are acting in their behalf have to make choices when some authorities assess their property at “more or less eighty acres” but another insists it is hard-put to make sixty. Where the tax man insists upon eighty acres for a plot that a potential buyer can only see as sixty, a sale is apt to fall through unless the seller can successfully convince someone the farm is worth the asking price no matter what its size in acres.

When science fears to tread on religion’s domain, as in today’s hazardous world, no modern surveyors will ever get called in to decide the actual size of such a farm. The farmers on either side of the deal will have no idea how the surveyor arrives at his results, except for stories told down at the meeting hall in town. Urban legends will abound in such a climate, such as the story about a man who owned an entire tall mountain that got surveyed “as only one acre, and he had planted ten acres worth of seeds and gotten that much of a crop off it.”

After much exposure to many such stories as that, the farmers on both sides of a potential deal will hesitate to rely on modern methods and those who use them. Even worse, having heard of other surveyors who might have been beaten or killed for arriving at figures that diverged from what both sides had expected, many surveyors might turn down the job. The farmers on all sides might revel that the old ways of faith had been preserved, and never get to realize the peaceful sense of confidence they would never experience in their lifetimes.

By now, the point of this should be well understood. Faith in myths and guesswork will never be the equal of confidence found in verifiable accuracy. Even while the landscape changes around us, an accurate understanding gained from verifiable methods enables the tracking of those changes, and awareness of their effects upon how we will describe and recognize that little portion of it all we wrap our minds around. Without that awareness, we must resort to placing our faith in authority figures and the “immaterial” gods for whom they decree enforcement.

And, that is when we have religion instead of science. It has little to do with the existence of gods, and much relevance to zealous eagerness to accept “on faith” what unknown, unidentifiable strangers have laid claim to in an ancient past and attributed to truth, only to be “verified” in our own times by others with a vested interest in keeping the myths alive. Such people provide no verifiable trail to any origins for their information, but accredit unverifiable divination, clairvoyance  or revelation.  We cannot legitimately accredit such dead-end “sources” when verisimilitude is completely absent among all the competing and contradictory variations in the messages claimed from them. For so long as that is the case, your ‘faith’ is in the messenger, not a proclaimed sender who may have played no part in it.

Lloyd

 

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5 Responses to “Religion VS Science”

  1. earthking Says:

    hedonix, I would like to reply to your response. Do you want me to respond to this post, or would you rather I respond in another method? I would be willing to continue with a blog post of my own if you would rather not have a huge comments section on your blog. Also, do you even want me to continue responding? We could probably go on for a long time, so if you would like some sort of time limit or post limit, I would also be willing to do that- say, a certain number of posts before we decide to move on- unless of course you are enjoying this little debate as much as I am. Have a great weekend.

  2. hedonix Says:

    Once again, due to its length and complexity, I have responded to this at my own website.

    The basis for my views on this is a given, that if faith is required to believe something, that does not constitute knowledge. If something is known to be true, it is not called faith, but fact. Read the rest of it at http://www.atheistloyd.com/BLOG/ReligionVSScience3.htm and have a look at my sitemap page while you’re at it. —LHW—

  3. earthking Says:

    Very good post and I think you bring up valid points of view. I hope I address some of them to your satisfaction here.

    hedonix says: “Science is a method of learning that requires verification for approval of its findings. Religion leaves that important step out of its process and resorts to apologia to defend its conceptions.”

    earthking replies: Apologia is a type of verification. It is a way to give a reason for faith using methods that are not scientific. Once again, I disagree with the notion that anything that is not proven scientifically must be false-from looking at your answer to me, I think you would agree with me at least on that point. Faith can have reasons. It is possible to have a reasonable faith.

    hedonix says: “Where science’s findings are always open to rebuttal and revision, religions are defended even to the point of genocide.”

    earthking replies: In no way do I defend the notion that it is OK to kill in the name of religion. However, science also can cause harm. It is not entirely without fault, either. Ex. nuclear bomb.

    hedonix says: “From the Blog page I transferred to http://atheistloyd.com/BLOG/ReligionVSScience2.htm: “Faith and objectivity both are not about whether or not the property exists, but whether it was accurately and cogently described, and whether those descriptions were accurately translated into usable every day terms.”

    earthking replies: I disagree with the way you describe faith. I will write a blog on this in the next few days. A huge problem I see in this overall debate is a confusion of terms and terminology.

    hedonix says: “All of existence, our very lives, requires a sort of faith. It all requires making assumptions of all sorts so that we can do our daily living. Still, I find it hard to equate a skeptical approach to discovery or a doubting requirement for testability with faith.”

    earthking replies: But this is my point, science is full of assumptions that are not and cannot be proven. You attack faith on those grounds, yet fail to see the circular reasoning. I will concede that skeptical view in scientific research is not exactly the same as religious faith. We can agree on that point. Like you, I also see the need to accept some assumptions in life. For example, I somewhat trust that what I see on the news on tv is true, as long as they are just reporting and not commenting. That is a type of faith, yet different from religious faith. I think you would agree with me on that point, right?

  4. hedonix Says:

    This is not the simple black and white issue that most people treat it as, and so I have posted a web page on my main site at
    http://www.atheistloyd.com/BLOG/ReligionVSScience3.htm
    —Lloyd—

  5. earthking Says:

    I can sort of agree with you. I do think that science and religion to tend to give two descriptions of reality. But, I disagree that religion is ONLY blind faith. I say that because science is not the only way to knowledge. Experience is another way to knowledge. So is pure reason, which is what happens in philosophy. Moreover, I think there are elements of science that are dependent upon a sort of faith. Inductive and deductive reasoning in science assumes that those are valid ways of thinking and arriving to conclusions. To prove that they are valid forms of thinking lies in the realm of philosophy of knowledge and metaphysics. There are philosophers who deny the value of scientific knowledge because of this vexing issue. In the end, I think science and religion, when properly understood, are like two wings taking us to truth.

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