Re: the religion of science (was:virus: Sexuality)

KMO prime (
Thu, 19 Sep 1996 00:06:51 EDT

On Wed, 18 Sep 1996 18:14:27 -0500 (Patricia & John
Crooks) writes:
> some
>people were also saying some things about religion which are true, but
>religion doesn't deny, in fact actively seeks to overcome. However
>those of
>us outside the church of science are easily able to see that the very
>things are true of scienceism except that the scientists don't
>it, in fact actively deny it and are therefore not trying to do
>about it.

If you define scientism as dogmatic (uncritical) devotion to current
scientific theories, then, by definition, it will exhibit those qualities
which relgions frequently exhibit and which science doesn't exhibit.
Religions tend to be dogmatic and to insulate themselves against
refutation in a way that science does not. The claim that *scientism*
exhibits those same qualities is trivial if not analytic. The claim that
science does so is false.

The claim that some scientists practice scientism and not science is
true, but it in no way follows that science (not scientism) is as
dependent on faith as is religious belief. Does science require the
practitioner to accept some basic operating assumptions? Of course. So
does logic. My acceptance of the law of non-contradiction is not based
on any evidence. It is a necessary precondition for my engaging in
rational inquiry and discourse. You may claim that my acceptance of said
law is an act of faith, but there is a clear distinction between that
kind of faith and accepting the truth of the propostion that this or that
religious tract was written or inspired by an ominiscient, omnipotent

> Science can tell us how, it cannot tell us why.

Why does this rock float? Why does the universe seem to operate
according to fixed laws in so many observational domains? Why doesn't
Neptune's orbit behave as Newtonian mechanics suggests it should? (It
does now that we know about Pluto.) Why doesn't Mercury's? (It doesn't
becuase Newton's laws only hold under certain conditions.) Can science
address these sorts of questions?

> I think
>sceince should stick to the how and religion should stick to the why
>(because of this I think creationism is a farce-especially in a

Perhaps you meant to say that science should stick to making factual
claims and religion should stick to making normative claims. Maybe not.
Why shouldn't science have a crack at investigating issues of

> I think that both science and religion can become very

If you meant that both scientists and religious-folk can be arrogant then
I agree. Science and religion, on the other hand, are not the sorts of
things that exhibit properties like arrogance or humility.

>think that they have all of the answers by themselves,

Again, neither science nor religion 'thinks' anything at all. Advocates
of science and religion do behave in the fashion you described.

> neither of them
>is a
>complete explanation of the human condition in and of itself.

Science, the science I would contrast favorably with religion, is not an
explanation. It is a process by which hypotheses are checked against the
available data and altered to accomodate said data. The claim that
science will never be able to generate an exhaustive account of human
existence and human experience is a very strong one and requires strong

>I think dialogs like this are extremely helpful. I think God gave us
>internet so we could have a forum for the discussion of theology where
>couldn't get in fistfights. :-)

It's good to have intelligent and reflective people on the other side of
the issue. Thanks for keeping us sharp.

Take care, everybody. -KMO