Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The ImPossibility Of Reconciling Science & Faith

Science & Faith

An article, by Gary Marcus, in The New Yorker raises the question on whether science can lead to faith, a question often asked by non-scientists and by the few scientists who want to have it both ways.

Marcus writes:
The relationship between science and religion has always been vexed. Most scientists I know are nonbelievers, convinced that there is no deity, or at least that there is no convincing evidence of one. Even those who are believers, like Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, see their religion and their science as largely separate. (“If God is outside of nature, then science can neither prove nor disprove his existence,” he once wrote.)
But it has been startling to see leading scientists employ science itself in arguments for believing in a kind of supernatural: Jürgen Schmidhuber, a prominent researcher in artificial intelligence, calls for what he has dubbed “computational theology,” while Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist David Eagleman has proposed a kind of religious perspective that he calls “Possibilianism.” Neither argues for anything like a conventional Judeo-Christian deity, but both point to something beyond the natural universe.
What these two scientists are trying to do is have a faith in something beyond science, which is an understandable human need. But they are both over-reaching beyond their grasp, since faith has nothing to do with science, which looks and considers areas that it can prove, or at least attempt to do so by observation and repeatable experimentation. Speculation and possibilities might be fascinating table talk, but it’s not science. The two worlds of science and faith offer differing views on the way that the universe operates, with differing narratives and differing expectations on what the future holds. If you read the biblical accounts (as I have done extensively), this much becomes clear. There is no papering over the differences.

That there can be some sort of reconciliation between science and faith is to undo the centuries of work since Galileo and the Scientific Revolution to make them separate. It’s a work of fantasy to think otherwise. Personal faith and belief, being what they are and what they can do to the minds of men (and women), have the capacity to move science backwards; and if they again enters the realm of science, such can do no good. At least none that I can think of. Our society and our humanity rely on science and its methods to better ourselves, chiefly through the discoveries and innovation that set up apart from more primitive times.

I leave the last point to Gary Marcus, who captures my sentiments in a very precise and cogent way:
Scientists and non-scientists alike are still free to believe whatever they want, but the grounds for religion have to be the same as they ever were: faith, not science. Science cannot absolutely prove that there is no divine creator, but the tools of science do allow us to weigh the existing evidence, and assign likelihoods to those hypotheses; by ignoring those tools, Eagleman does science a disservice.

You can read the rest of the article at [NewYorker]