Ask Surly Amy: Science vs Faith
So, my bf and I had a debate about religion and belief systems. I was raised as a Christian growing up and became Agnostic a few years ago and got into skepticism. My bf was brought up as a Catholic and says he doesn’t really practice anymore, yet he wears a Catholic cross around his neck in tribute everyday. I am accepting of him and I love him of course, but sometimes his differences do bug me a bit. I told him that science is more real than faith because scientists do experiments and actually have evidence to back up their claims. He brought up some good questions. How do we know that science isn’t wrong and that the evidence is reliable? Scientists have been known to run many experiments that have failed so is there really a way to count anything as truth these days? Is everything really just faith? After all, Scientists are humans that are just more educated than most of us. I’d appreciate if you could tell me a good way to respond.
My response after the jump!
The difference between science and faith is indeed that science has evidence to back up its claims and faith does not.
We have evidence that gravity exists for many reasons and anyone, including you and me, can conduct experiments that show evidence of a gravitational pull with repeatable results. In an extremely simplified example, you can drop a book from your hands and watch it fall to the floor. You can pick up that book and drop it and again it will fall to the floor. I can conduct similar experiments with a similar book in a similar environment and get similar results as you. I can predict that the book will fall to the floor, conduct the book dropping experiment and then use those repeatable results to establish data regarding book dropping and gravity. We both have evidence that the book is going to fall and not float in mid air. We can make predictions based upon the book-dropping and test them. I do not have faith that the book will fall. I have established evidence that shows me that the book will fall and anyone can test that claim and acquire similar results. We can then build upon that data with other experiments. Evidence is reliable if it can provide testable, repeatable results.
You mention scientists conducting experiments that fail and that is a good thing! In order for something to be validated is has to have the possibility of being proven wrong. Unfalsifiable claims are outside the realm of science. If you can not conduct an experiment that could prove something false you can not prove that it is real either. The idea of a God is unfalsifiable or untestable and therefore faith based and is much like an invisible pink unicorn, Russell’s Teapot or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Just because you can not prove that something isn’t there does not mean that it is there.
So no, everything isn’t ‘just faith’. Faith is what you are left with in the absence of evidence. And yes, you can test evidence to see if it is reliable. That is what science does best!
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