The Christian religion has opposed every single advance in knowledge that it viewed as a threat to its orthodoxy, and it has lost every single one of those contests – the earth is round and not flat; the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa; disease is caused by viruses, bacteria and other natural factors rather than by sin; weather is a natural event and not the weapon of an angry god; homosexuality is a natural variation found in all human populations and in many non-human animal species and not a sinful, unnatural choice. Evolution is another example. Clinging rigidly to religious dogma stops inquiry and the advance of knowledge. Whenever we face something we don’t understand, we can use scientific methods to explore further or we can say a god did it and stop asking questions. The second option would be a tragedy, and that is what many religionists imply we should do.
Evolution simply explains how living organisms change over time. Darwin and others presented hypotheses for how those changes take place, and then, over the past 150 years, thousands of scientists in dozens of fields of study have tested those hypotheses by examining tens of thousands of pieces of evidence. While many of the details of evolution have been revised and expanded, no evidence in all those years has disputed the most basic principles of evolution – the genetics of a species change over time, substantial change takes many generations, a species sometimes splits into two separate species that can no longer interbreed, closely related species have a common ancestor, a population becomes more suited to its environment over time because those organisms that survive and reproduce the most pass on their genes, and genetic changes always build on what is already there. [Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne]
The term “theory” in science does not mean speculation, as some religionists assert, it means a well-tested and verified group of propositions that explain facts about the natural world. When hypotheses prove to be valid, a theory is developed to explain those findings. The theory generates more hypotheses, more testing, and a more complete theory. A theory is considered a scientific truth when all reasonable people agree on it because so much evidence has accumulated in its favor and there is no decisive evidence against it. That does not mean it will never be corrected or changed. All scientific theories are subject to modification by new evidence. Evolution, heliocentrism and general relativity are scientific theories and truths.
A scientific law and a theory are two different things. A scientific law is simply a description of a phenomenon that holds true every time it is tested. It doesn’t explain why something happens the way it does. It just describes what happens. For example, Newton’s Law of Gravity describes mathematically the force of attraction between two different bodies. A scientific law does not require a law giver because it is not a rule handed down with a punishment for disobedience. It is simply a description of consistent observations.
Fundamentalist Christians do not put their faith in evidence because new evidence might be discovered. Faith means believing something without evidence. If you have evidence, you don’t need faith. Religion cannot compete with science on the basis of evidence, so fundamentalist religionists want to convince us that science is just as unsubstantiated as their religious beliefs. But religion wins that contest hands down. Science considers and adjusts to new evidence; religion does not.
Scientists don’t have “faith” in a theory. The hallmark of science is to disprove an idea presented by another scientist. That’s how scientists become famous. A scientific idea must be testable in a way that could disprove it. Religious beliefs are not testable or subject to being disproved.
Criticizing science by claiming it is faith-based is a dangerous idea because it could slow our progress in understanding our world and hamper our children’s education. All adults and children need a solid, accurate understanding of science. Without science, we get stuck with false beliefs and really bad ideas. “When religion ruled the world, it was known as the Dark Ages” – Ruth Hurmence Green.
3 thoughts on “Criticizing Science Could Be Dangerous”
So, how come scientific facts , theories, change so often? Truth is, you have it backwards. The Bible, (have you actually read it?), agrees with science more and more, as science finally starts to get it right. Only one thing’s missing – who gets the credit? I’m not afraid of science. Are you afraid of God?
Whichgodsaves, you have a misunderstanding of science that is, unfortunately, all too common. First, scientific facts (observable, verifiable observations) do not change, and theories do not change “so often.” Theories change only as new evidence accumulates and the theory is modified. That is a strength of science, not a weakness. “Knowledge” that can never change cannot be true because human understanding is not perfect, including human understanding of deities.
We have known since Galileo in the 17th century that the Biblical concept of a three-tiered universe with the earth at its center and a sun revolving around the earth is wrong. A dome above the earth (the firmament) that holds water above it, a flat earth, and a world below the earth is wrong. The biblical authors claimed the sun and stars were points of light in the firmament, and God lived just above the sky. Now that we have explored billions of miles into space, we know that none of that is true. Our scientific understanding of our heliocentric solar system and spherical earth have not changed for centuries.
I would love to see in what ways the Bible “agrees with science more and more, as science finally starts to get it right.” I’m not afraid of your God any more than I’m afraid of Zeus or Thor or any other mythical creation. The only people I hear speaking of a fear of God are Christians.
I recommend the following three books to those readers of yours who wish to expand on your fine article.
The End of Faith—Sam Harris
Atheism: The Case Against God—George W. Smith
Losing Faith in Faith—–Dan Barker