Religion and the uncertaint future

Posted on November 10, 2010


Professor Wiggly: ” Whereas science builds imaginary bridges into the future with trusted theories – scientific promissory notes – Religion builds its bridges on trusted articles of faith – religious promissory notes. So, as far the future is concerned both science and religion rely on faith-based reasoning – on trusted assumptions, premises, axioms, biases.”

Peter: ” So what’s the difference between them?”

Professor Wiggly: “Although they both rely on faith-based reasoning about the future, about the unknown, science attempts to test its predictions with observational evidence. That’s its ideal goal. But scientists who study how science actually works report that scientists tend to collect and display evidence that supports their pet theories while ignoring and discounting negative evidence. That is science, like other institutions, relies on fads – on pet theories and methods, rewarding the true believers – those of the current scientific faith – with journal space, grants and awards.”

Jenny: ” So you’re saying that science is like religion, rewarding those who keep the faith?”

Professor Wiggly: ” Yes, but unlike religion, science provides some resources to critics, they provide some journal  and conference and journal space, some grant money to critics of the current scientific party line. In that sense it provides modest resources for those promoting alternative imaginary bridges into the future, alternatives to the current hit parade theories. But like other institutions science is hierarchical, with power structures – journal editors, grant committees, government advisory committees, etc., with the power and methods of rewarding believers and punishing or isolating  deviants.”

Peter: ” So as far as the future is concerned both science and religion are in the business of peddling promissory notes based on unproven assumptions, both promote their particular promissory notes, but science provides modest resources for self-correction?”

Professor Wiggly: ” The main point is that they are both in the business of providing imaginary bridges into the future, of helping us manage our uncertainty. But science can’t provide timely answers to many critically important questions ( will my marriage succeed, will my children lead healthy happy lives, will I live to a ripe old age, is the driver in the next lane sober, should I move to a new country, will I get a super-bug if I go into hospital,etc). You have to make most of your important decisions on faith and guestimates while waiting for science to come up with a few conditional answers to a few questions, plus trial and error approaches to the tough ones like cancer, global warming, economic and political meltdowns. In brief, we must rely on faith-based reasoning when dealing with complex problems  beyond the reach of science, to build most of  our trusted imaginary bridges into the future. For millions of people around the globe religions provide those bridges.”

Posted in: Sciencing, Yer Thing