One once asked me to formulate a quick answers reply list to claims against Christianity found on Facebook. While that may be handy, I probably will not have anything soon on that, because of the amount of time it would take. In addition, much of challenges are catchy rhetorical phrases that need longer answers.
However, since I get into discussions online at times, I am more than happy to share one with you. The below was a discussion I had with a guy named Walt on a public Facebook group concerning a meme that read: “Dear Religion, Pics or it didn’t happen. Sincerely, Science”. Below I copied the discussion I had and edited the conversation for clarity, however the essence has not been changed.
Feel free to use the points in the discussions with people online, people at school, people at work and with your family. I hope this is instructive for you. Enjoy the discussion!
Me: So what’s the point of the meme?
Walt: To show that religion is based on FAITH not FACTS and Science deals with FACTS not FAITH.
Me: What percent of the matter and energy is dark matter and energy in the universe?
Walt: Well first dark matter and dark energy are a bit of a … fringe field. As far as percentages of Matter and Energy I couldn’t tell you. My fields are Biochemistry, Genetics, history and religion. Astronomy and Astrophysics are not my areas of expertise.
Me: I’m not quite sure if it is a fringe field, it is what most have to hold to to account for the expansion of the universe. As you probably would have guessed, we have never seen it nor have we tested it….we assume it for the calculations. And oh, the last I heard it supposedly makes up about 95% of the universe!
Walt: Well, without my doing some research into it I couldn’t say how true or not that is. For now I will take your word for it.
Me: Have you ever heard of Hume?
Walt: David Hume the Scottish Philosopher? Yes. I have.
Me: Have you heard of Hume’s problem of induction?
Walt: I have. It deals with the question of inductive reasoning leading to knowledge in the Classical sense.
Me: Do you know what grounds the scientific enterprise? Inductive reasoning. In other words, if we could not count on inductive reasoning science would be dead. The problem of induction states that there is no justification for inductive reasoning besides inductive reasoning itself, thus it is circular.
Quoting from Okasha, Samir. 2002. Philosophy of science: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Samir says this “He [Hume] argued that the use of induction cannot be rationally justified at all.” Samir goes on to say this about Hume “Hume points out that our inductive inferences rests on the uniformity in nature assumption. But we cannot prove that uniformity in nature is true, and we cannot produce empirical evidence for its truth without begging the question.” He continues “So our inductive inferences rest on an assumption about the world for which we have no grounds. Hume concludes that our confidence in induction is just blind faith – it admits of no rational justification whatever.”
Yes, BLIND FAITH, we put blind faith in the scientific enterprise….interesting.
Walt: One small flaw with that reasoning. Science CONSTANTLY changes. IF we put Blind faith in it we would still be in the Dark ages. We wouldn’t research and Change and look for answers because we would believe it was PERFECT.
Me: Sorry, that does not follow. constantly changing science has nothing to do with it. It just says we assume that the scientific enterprise works. It does not mean it does not, it just means we put our FAITH in the system. It has been very successful, but at it’s root, many philosophers of science still argue that it is still not rationally justified.
Walt: Putting faith in a system PROVEN to work with experiments is NOT the same thing as putting faith in a religion that CANNOT by its very essence BE proven.
Me: Scientist never prove things to be true. Maybe false, but never true. So you would want to say that different theories in science have very robust evidence for them. This leads me to your next claim, “religion cannot, by its very essence be proven”. Well, science can’t either. So? But let’s put the bar to the level of robust evidence. Is there good evidence for, let’s say Christianity? What about historical justification? What about logical attributes? What about archaeologically? Now those are questions that can be addressed and scrutinized…
While the meme is catchy, the weakness of the message are the untrue assumptions. We do not take pictures many times when doing science…we can’t! We have no photograph of an electron or proton. Try taking a picture of planets in some far away galaxy or even another star system.
Plus, it assumes, as Walt thought, that there is a fact vs. faith dichotomy in science and religion (from my experience, most of the time “religion” means Christianity on Facebook). However, the opposite of fact is fiction, not faith. The opposite of faith is faithlessness, not fact.
Also, the meme’s message assumes that science “proves” things to be true, but this is not how science works. Hypothesis are shown to be robust, but they can’t really be proven to be true. Theories can be falsified, or shown to be false, but they are never “proven” in the sense of a mathematical proof.
Here is the book mentioned in my online discussion with Walt. It is easy to read and a good primer on the ideas in science. I don’t agree with everything Okasha writes, but overall it is a good book. From Amazon page:
“What is science? Is there a real difference between science and myth? Is science objective? Can science explain everything? This Very Short Introduction provides a concise overview of the main themes of contemporary philosophy of science.
“Beginning with a short history of science to set the scene, Samir Okasha goes on to investigate the nature of scientific reasoning, scientific explanation, revolutions in science, and theories such as realism and anti-realism. He also looks at philosophical issues in particular sciences, including the problem of classification in biology, and the nature of space and time in physics. The final chapter touches on the conflicts between science and religion, and explores whether science is ultimately a good thing.
And don’t forget Hume’s problem of induction, yes that is powerful! Remember what I quoted from Samir Okasha’s book Philosophy of science: a very short introduction. “He [Hume] argued that the use of induction cannot be rationally justified at all.” And “Hume points out that our inductive inferences rests on the uniformity in nature assumption. But we cannot prove that uniformity in nature is true, and we cannot produce empirical evidence for its truth without begging the question.” and “So our inductive inferences rest on an assumption about the world for which we have no grounds. Hume concludes that our confidence in induction is just blind faith – it admits of no rational justification whatever.”
Yes, BLIND FAITH, we put blind faith in the scientific enterprise.
I have a passion to have answers for Christianity as Peter taught us to do. I would love for you to come along with me and not miss a post! In the future, I plan on giving more resources and answers you can share with both believers and unbelievers. Plus, I want to send you a Free Quick Guide why I think science points to God. I would love for you to have this Free Quick Guide and the latest posts straight to your inbox.
Do you have anything else you would have said to Walt? If I’m in another discussion, do you have other ideas what I should have said? If so, please post them below!