Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Scientific faith 

"Science offers the boldest metaphysics of the age: the faith that if we dream, press to discover, explain, and dream again, thereby plunging repeatedly into new terrain, the world will somehow become clearer and we will grasp the true strangeness of the universe. And the strangeness will all prove to be connected and make sense."

-Edward O. Wilson

This passage reminded me of what frustrates me most in debates over evolution with religious fundamentalists: not their faith in an understanding of life which answered questions of people who had just learned how to grow crops, but fundamentalists' refusal to understand science . If I had a dollar for each time a fundie has tried to taunt me with "I envy your devout faith in the religion of evolution," it would cause a perceptible decline in the revenue generated by Southern Baptist collection plates.

The faith in the scientific dream spoken of by Wilson is itself based on assumptions accurately called "faith". For examples,

There is no logical proof that can overcome any of these faithful assumptions; In this rigorous sense, science cannot "prove" anything - the pen may fall up to the ceiling on the 1,000,001st drop. Despite science's assumptions, it can provide us with understandings of repeated observations and a basis on which we ought not rationally doubt those understandings. Faith is the absence of doubt. Ta da.

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