Does Science Require Belief?

Kepler Discovers Planets Orbiting Binary Stars

NASA’s Kepler Discovers Multiple Planets Orbiting a Pair of Stars

Perhaps you ask, why do I write about religion, especially because for so many people, discussing religion is the 3rd rail of conversation? The simplest answer is, because spiritual thoughts, religion, purpose and meaning of life have all been important to me. I believe these topics are important to other people too.

Here’s the reason why I think it’s difficult to discuss with each other, it’s because we wrap our lives around our beliefs. Belief in the supernatural is an emotional issue, and as memory experts tell us, when you associate an emotion to an event or experience, the memory is more easily retained and can have great impact on our lives.

Over time, habits emerge and our choices are frequently based on past understanding. We seldom confront our basic beliefs because of fear of change and admitting that we’re wrong about past assumptions. That is why the people reading this post most likely won’t click on the links, read this post completely, or watch any video that may not agree with their present assumptions about life or what happens after this life.

Why emphasize science in examining religious beliefs? Surely they’re just wanting to have people lose faith and not be moral. There are three fundamental reasons to apply reason and science to our own values.

1 – Science is a broad category which defines a method to arrive at an answer rather than create assumptions without proof. Choosing to believe in anything should require foundation and repeatability rather than assumptions or assertions, no matter how passionate. Thus, testing of a theory and finding something to be factual, even if it confronts previously held beliefs, is the realm of science.

This means science evolves, increased knowledge requires active involvement and a willingness to prove yourself wrong in the face of greater evidence.

2 – Choices come about through the information an individual possesses. If for example, a person believes that a poisonous snake won’t bite them if they have sufficient faith, or if they wear costume wings and jump off a tower expecting to fly, each are likely to end up with a bad result. 

Parents in a similar way to science, confront their children with reason and argument about some of their choices, their experience has shown, some life choices can be harmful.

The purpose of science is to build upon information which appears to be correct, make careful controlled changes necessary to test a theory, and then measure/analyze the results. When the results can be confirmed with repeatability and accuracy, then the choices leading to that result can be relied on as factual. Ignorance of a topic doesn’t make that discipline false, it means you need to do more homework and find out for yourself.

3 – Knowledge is the key to our understanding. Repetition doesn’t mean continuous indoctrination, it means using specific quantifiable steps to achieve a predictable result. Mind control, though using repetitive techniques, isn’t another scientific method, rather it is an indoctrination process which results in an impairment of autonomy, an inability to think independently.

Religion frequently uses assertions about the individual as being unworthy, or a failure in need of improvement, using their proscribed formula / method, you’re value and self-worth will be greatly improved or fully restored to you. Systematically changing attitudes or altering belief through coercion, group think, or building hope on false, unprovable claims, has been the hallmark of religion for millenniums.

This is why it works. People love happy endings or great outcome through adversity. This is why politicians are so successful making claims or associating themselves with a great public cause, even if they officially opposed it.

First hand knowledge is your power

People want to believe in the best outcome despite the repeated malfeasance of the organization. Even when presented the evidence of the corruption of the individual or the organization, people will refuse to believe it, claiming the evidence is false, they are persecuting, or the presenter is corrupt. Indeed, one of the most effective ways to dismiss proof is to point out the flaws, (either fake or real) of the individual or group presenting the evidence.

Therefore, it’s not knowledge of of any fact, it’s just a matter of refusing to carefully consider the information in hope the claim or proof will be dismissed or forgotten. Here’s where finding facts are more important than choosing beliefs based on feelings or affiliation with a like minded group. When examining the evidence for such a claim, look at the results.

When you went to school, did you take a physics class? Did you take a chemistry class? Were you aware of what you were participating in or did you just try to get by without really learning anything? I remember working with degreed chemists, I only had high school chemistry, yet on a job I once held, I had to teach university degreed science majors, the basic concept of titration.

If you’re reading information regarding knowledge of chemistry, biology, physics, or astronomy, do you have enough personal understanding of those topics when presented data on scientific findings? How would you know if they’re right or wrong? Would you seek someone out that has knowledge on those topics to assist you in your understanding? What would be their qualifications in order for you to think their answers were acceptable?

If you approached a fuel pump, paid for a specific amount in advance, and randomly receive a lesser amount than what you paid for, wouldn’t you be upset enough not to go back to that gas station? Does prayer really work? Have you tried to measure it? Isn’t it hit or miss?

What if you have small children and you sent them to school, later finding out they had been routinely molested by the staff, wouldn’t you have a problem with sending them back? Priests and ministers are often found to be molesting children, yet the people continue to attend.

What if someone sold you an investment that turned out to be a scam, wouldn’t you want your money back? A Minister wants donors to bless him with a new private jet.

All these problems and more are learned routinely through news stories, yet people continue to support organizations with known scam artists or perverted leaders.

All of these religions solicit money. What percentage of that goes directly to the leadership, ornate architecture, art, secret investments, rather than benefiting those in need? They even ask you to pay them to pray for you. Why not cut-out the middleman and do it yourself?

It’s OK to believe in something you know is consistent and factual, like the sun rising or gravity, but the violence, chaos, perversion, and fallacious claims of many religions should alarm you enough to alter your thinking and act in ways to protect yourself as well as family.

Can We Assume Science Textbooks Are Correct?

Someone might ask, “Is science compatible with religion?” First, let’s examine the definition of each.

Religion (noun)

  1. the belief in a god or in a group of gods
  2. an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
  3. an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group.

Science (noun)

  1. the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding
  2. a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study something (as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge
  3. knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method
  4. such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena natural science
  5. a system or method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws

Although someone can be religious and still understand science, the two aren’t linked. It would be a comparison similar to carrots and plumbing. They both exist, but aren’t necessarily connected.

Is a Belief in the Supernatural Irrational?

Galileo didn’t have a theory on the universe or planetary order when he started to discover the rings of Saturn, through crude telescopes. As a matter of fact, his data gathering was so insufficient due to the technology of the time, he merely pointed out there was a pattern around the planet. Later, with the arrival of better telescopes, the rings could be viewed and described.

Science operates in a constant state of change due to the equipment, the procedures, and the level of understanding of the data.