Is there really a conflict between Faith and Science?
Just recently, I watched a debate between an atheist scientist and a Christian creationist. In the debate, they discussed whether the literal interpretation of the Bible’s Genesis Creation Story is true or not. One of the most interesting highlights of the debate is that the scientist claimed that Christianity is based on “faith” while Science is based on “evidence”.
Is it so? I don’t think it is. I don’t want to take sides here, because I am an atheist scientist myself. But I think it is important to correct this misconception in the Science community.
When a scientist claims to have “no faith”, he is not telling the truth. Why? Because the Scientific Method itself has its own assumptions in interpreting evidence, and when a scientist interprets evidence based on these assumptions, he is having FAITH that these assumptions in interpreting evidence are correct. The assumptions of the scientific worldview include:
1. Naturalism – the assumption that the Natural realm is a CLOSED system and that outside factors (supernatural factors, if ever they exist) do not affect its constituents; that Natural laws are all there is, that these Natural laws govern every event in the universe, and that knowledge of these Natural laws is sufficient to explain EVERY event that happens in the cosmos. This is the reason why the question, “Can science prove the existence of the supernatural?” is a nonsensical question. Why? Because by clinging to naturalistic assumptions, Science is already biased towards the assumption that supernatural things do NOT exist, and that the natural realm is all there is. Yes. You heard that right. Science also has its own biases.
2. Objective reality – the assumption that reality is independent of Human consciousness; that things exist as they are; that things have their own inherent characteristics that are not dependent on the way how sentient beings perceive them.
3. Empiricism – roughly, this assumes that the human senses are a reliable epistemological tool in perceiving reality and that the human mind is a reliable tool in rationally-integrating all the sensory information gathered by the Human senses.
Now, can you PROVE, with 100% certainty, that these assumptions are correct? Of course not! Everytime you use the Scientific method in interpreting evidence, you are having FAITH that these assumptions are correct.
So I personally believe that it is not right for a Scientist to claim to have “no faith”. The very fact that we BELIEVE in something is already proof that we have faith.
How about the scientists who say, “We have don’t have faith. We only have evidence.”?
Well, having evidence is one thing. HOW evidence is interpreted is a different matter. It’s not really about “how much evidence” there is, but HOW someone interprets evidence. That’s what you call “worldview”.
In short, the evidence does NOT speak for itself. It should be interpreted based on a worldview. Each worldview has its own assumptions in interpreting evidence.
The scientific worldview, as I have stated above, interprets evidence with the assumptions of naturalism, empiricism, and objectivism.
Religious worldviews, on the other hand, interpret evidence with the assumptions of supernaturalism and mysticism. Like, for example, the Biblical creationist will always assume the Bible’s creation story to be true, and will always interpret evidence with that assumption in mind. It is important to note that Theology begins with the command, “Deus Dixit” which means “God said it, therefore, it is true”. In the Christian worldview, the Bible is already presumed to be “true”, and Christians take by faith that the Bible is the Word of God. That assumption might be unacceptable to naturalists, but so are naturalistic assumptions unacceptable to religionists.
The question is: WHICH assumptions in interpreting evidence are correct? We can NEVER know for sure. We can only hope and have faith that our assumptions about reality are correct and that we are interpreting evidence correctly. You can present the same evidence to both a Christian and a Scientist, but they will interpret it differently and will have different conclusions. As I’ve said, it’s not about the presence or absence of evidence. It’s about HOW evidence is interpreted.
Only a Pyrrhonian Skeptic (pure agnostic) can claim to have no faith, because in the Pyrrhonian worldview, we can NEVER be sure of anything, including our own existence.
-Thomas Adrian, submitted May 28, 2017 at 3:10 pm