Science, Religion, Reason and Faith

Onwards and Forwards writes:

Alonzo Fyfe wonders about scientists waxing eloquent (pro and con) about faith:

It would be quite interesting, I think, if the scientific-minded people in this dispute were to actually call forth their expertise to look for the evidence for and against their various positions and examine that evidence critically, just as they would do so for a paper written in their chosen professions.

Very true. But what if those scientists didn’t only try to justify their positions for or against faith, but actually investigated the matter at hand? They might find out that faith is not quite what meets the eye: and figure out how to “fix” faith-related problems, or discover that it isn’t faith after all that is causing the problems, but some co-occurrent “something”. If only the scientists would stop preaching about religion and start studying it!

Its kind of like asking English teachers to start studying Mathematics.  Well, why should they?  Why do scientists need to study the belief systems of any given religion?

The difference between Science and Religion is the use of Reason vs Faith as justification for belief.

So if we were to imagine a systemic study of Religious beliefs and Faith, we’d have to see them as two separate things.

Given the non material nature of many religious beliefs, how could one possibly come to any empirical decision?  In other words, aspects of religion might be outside the purview of the scientific method entirely.  How does one find empirical evidence for God?

Faith, on the other hand, is ripe for study.  What are the sociological effects of holding vital beliefs because you believe in them?  How does the substitution of faith for reason impact scientific research, peace, and social values?  That would be an interesting study.

 

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6 Responses

  1. Faith has been studied lots. One of the most famous and respected researchers is James W. Fowler. Most noted for this ‘Stages of Faith.’ While he is a man of ‘faith’ in most of his writing you would not know it.

    http://struggleswithfaith.wordpress.com

  2. God, or the divine, as described today, is outside all measurable parameters. Something that is omnipotent and omnipresent either is the entire universe, and therefore scientist would be seeing the proverbial forest for the trees, or exist outside our know (or quantifiable) universe and therefore can not be measure or weigh and its beyond scientific study.

  3. Actually, I would deny your claim that religious beliefs are ‘non material’. Beliefs are very much material – codes written into the brain just as ‘materially’ as code written into RAM on a computer.

    Religious belief is, of course, belief in the immaterial. But the study of ‘immaterial things believed in by religious people’ is not the same thing as the study of the belief in immaterial things.

  4. “The difference between Science and Religion is the use of Reason vs Faith as justification for belief.”

    Faith is no justification. Faith is belief without empirical evidence.

    “Faith, on the other hand, is ripe for study. What are the sociological effects of holding vital beliefs because you believe in them? How does the substitution of faith for reason impact scientific research, peace, and social values? That would be an interesting study.”

    I think you may find this article interesting: http://www.csicop.org/si/2000-11/beliefs.html

  5. Alonzo, when the powers off the ram is cleared…….

  6. curtismchale,
    This is incredibly nifty when it occurs. You can tell when someone is a bliever straining to be credible (The Case For Faith is a great example of this), as opposed to someone geniunely struggling with the philosophical issues raised by the various problems surrounding all manner of religious beliefs. For my part, I am a theist with very strong rational tendencies. This might be something to explore later in more detail.

    Interesting blog, I’ll have to stop by and read in more detail.

    Rafael,
    Yeah, most definitions of God do seem to place this being outside the realm of the empirical (although one can make some interesting cases using buddhist belief systems).

    Alonzo,
    Very good call. Religious belief can be belief in the material as well, perhaps even the nature of the material.

    Kelly,
    Faith is used as justification. I should have clarified. This is not to say it is valid to do so. Think of it more as rhetorical justification, rather than philosophical justification.
    Thanks very much for that article link, I do find it interesting!

    Michael D,
    Heh. Good catch. It is material, and its somewhat like a hard drive (we could think of “working” memory as RAM, and so called long term memory (through the hippocampus) as the hard drive).

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