Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Science Tests the Observable: Religion Invents the Invisible

In Brad Delong's Blog today (Brad Delongs Semi-Daily Journal) there is a superb sentence in the anti-evolution “disturbance” (to call it a debate is beyond the meaning of the word):

"Do facts have reasonable ranges, such that we can simultaneously argue that humans evolved, and humans were created? That science, the study of the observable, should encompass religion, the invention of the invisible?"

I do not always agree with Brad (he is bit too anti-Bush on all occasions over everything for me; no President, Republican or Democratic, is that bad), but as I do not vote in the USA it really is none of my business).

On science versus religion in the issues of evolution he is on the money in my view. Brad’s Blog on economics, commonsense and the decencies of life is very appealing and I always read his Journal each day.

Science and religion will never mix: the fact that the Sun and the rest circle the Earth was once an article of dogmatic faith among Christians; it could cost you your life to disagree, which is ridiculous.

Why should anybody die for a matter of fact, or indeed for one of faith, is beyond me. The fact that you believe one thing on the basis of your faith should not need to be endorsed by me for you to fell happy with your faith. If my endorsement is necessary there is something lacking in your faith. The fact that I believe your faith to be unfounded should not require that you abandon your faith; if it did, then there is something wrong with my view of the facts. I leave you to believe what you believe, as long as you leave me to my reliance on the facts.

The realisation or discovery that it is the Earth that circles the Sun, now confirmed by science, has not established that God does not exist, etc., and no scientific discovery would overcome any religious belief.

Hence, a person's faith is beyond facts. Why anybody needs more than faith to justify their religious beliefs is beyond me.

The first essay that Adam Smith wrote was: "The Principles which lead and Direct Philosophical Enquiries: illustrated by the History of Astronomy”, written, I believe from when he was a student at Oxford University (1740-46) from around 1744 to 1750, with occasional revisions all his life. He kept his manuscript by his bedside and it was one of the few essays excused the destruction he ordered to the rest of his papers (18 or more Volumes that his friends, Professors Black and Hutton burnt a few days before he died). They published it in 1795 (it is reprinted in “Essays on Philosophical Subjects” by the Liberty Fund, available from Amazon, etc.).

Why did he keep it? I believe because it was a symbol of the time when he lost his faith in the Christian religion and decided to become a philosopher rather than a Minister in the Church, his intended vocation up to 1744.

Those attempting to impose a return to faith-based teaching in a nation’s schools should read Adam Smith’s essay in respect of the history of astronomy. Their predecessors who hounded Galileo should be a stark reminder that religious beliefs about the material world they live in are not based on science, but on faith, which can be fundamentally wrong, as science continues to test reality with the process of disproving hypotheses about reality. There is no way you can test an article of faith; you can test every scientific statement, and nothing is lost be one hypothesis being disproved and replaced with another (except, perhaps, the feelings of those who turn an hypothesis into an article of faith and act like it is ‘must be true’ because they believe it to be true).

As Brad puts it:

“science, is the study of the observable, … religion, the invention of the invisible.”


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