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Science is a religion

Dear TEDsters,

For almost a decade I've been appauled by people claiming that "if you don't trust science you're an idiot" or "Religion ha that's just for people who don't know facts!" or the really old "If you don't think I'm right you must be incompetent".
These arguments have been made by many scientific and religious fanatics alike.

Nowadays more and more people seem to confuse science with fact. Also there is the expression "to measure is to know" (at least in my language that is an expression). Although this is in part true this doesn't hold for the entire field of science and not even neccesarily for the most basic principles of science.

First of all let me state that I do not and can (probably) never know how you percieve the world as is the case for your ability to judge me.
Secondly even how you percieve the world changes during your lifetime as does it for me. Do you still remember how when you were young a kilometer seemed so large and tables seemed high etc.?

What we can do however is take an object (clone it) show it to everyone (which doesn't mean everyone has the same perception) and label that. This is for instance what we've done with a meter. Then we use a great invention called math to be able to do calculations with or about this object.
Up till now everything is fine ;)

Great scientists can percieve things differently. Einstein for instance saw a relation between energy, mass and the speed of light. Something nobody at that time saw, and probably many still do not. The fact is however that his equation is accurately describing/predicting many galactical events and phenomenon.

But we must NEVER forget that all we do is describe the events in such a way that our (math) explaination of it can insanely closely (up the the point where we have full believe in it) show what will happen.

The fundations of science however is that we believe what we percieve and we assume that when our describtion of it is correct the physics behind it is too.


Closing Statement from Richard Krooman

In this thread I try to take the point of view that all science is based upon the faith that our perceptions could be wrong and that therefor our scientific findings could be wrong. (This is not my personal view but I wanted to encourage people to see it like this.)
Also I try to enhance the point that although we are reasonably sure that we have accurately described certain observations throught the use of math it could always be possible that another explaination better describes this (aka einstein > newton).
Thirdly I wanted to focus on the 'unquestionability' of science where people always think that previous scientific findings are 100% fact. Even though there are many instances of previous scientific beliefs that have been falsified through the process of science. However the very idea that backs up science is that "something is true unless proven false" basically also means "A true scientist cannot ever be 100% sure of anything". Which than automatically makes it such that he has faith that previous findings are correct.

Quite a few people get a bit too hung up on the differences between science and religion that they forget to argue with the real point that I try to make.
And some people (falsly) believe that questioning science means that you disregard findings which "work" (especially examples with medicine are used in this thread).

Also too many people are thinking that the idea of God is somehow retarded because science has proven that there is none... which is also false. Science has just shown that to explain most things we do not need one (btw I am an atheist). And imo we cannot go into the argument because science can never prove that there is no God because he would be almighty (if he exists he can make us believe whatever we could believe).

The brain in the vat argument does well to make people think about the above concepts.

In the end I came to realize that it takes more faith, and less benefits, to believe in science than it does in God

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  • Mar 18 2012: Science as religion.

    Science has a cumulative and interlocking element that sets it apart from religion. Consider biological evolution. A theory originally based on observations in natural history. Subsequently, genetics described how discrete packets explained a mechanism for inheritance. Then, chemistry entered the picture describing the composition of genes, and on and on. This process involves diversions, which tend to be peripheral and/or exploratory dead ends that all contribute to new knowledge and refinement of the original sound concept. The use of the scientific method to gain knowledge and wealth through technology and services has been mind boggling to the most casual observer.

    Science seems more godlike than the supernaturals of religion for some of us.

    In this context I see science as having multiple gods all spurred on by memes. Those things that become blessings, such as communicative skills, a longer, fuller and more convenient and perhaps a more meaningful lifestyle. But, this same ingenuity has given strength and rise to lessor gods of the more self serving mode of behavior.

    Is it time for all of us to be a little more humble regarding our beliefs?

    The bakers and shakers among us are transforming and modifying our physical world in ways never envisioned. The explosive technological application of science has a downside by creating stresses and strains that affect the quality of our lives (See Paul Gilding's recent talk and numerous others).

    The real challenge is is to set aside our differences and tackle the the problems WE have created and are dumping on our innocent offspring. Is this not the most pressing and ultimate moral issue confronting us?
    • Mar 19 2012: It is well past time for us all to be more humble regarding our beliefs — it's what we do that counts. Belief is inner experience and only matters to someone else in what it brings a believer to do. And we have other ways of making judgments about actions.

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