Saturday, July 21, 2012

Science Does Not Require Faith

Rabbi Slifkin has claimed more than once that "the entire enterprise of modern science emerged from the monotheistic worldview."  He cites the following:
"The philosophy of experimental science… began its discoveries and made use of its method in the faith, not the knowledge, that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a Creator who did not act upon whim nor interfere with the forces He had set in operation… It is surely one of the curious paradoxes of history that science, which professionally has little to do with faith, owes its origins to an act of faith that the universe can be rationally interpreted, and that science today is sustained by that assumption."
I respectfully disagree. The assumption that stable laws govern our universe is an inference from the regularities we constantly see, not a random act of blind faith in a rational universe. Here is a naturalistic account of how humans would develop this type of reasoning:

1) A universe has regularities in it.  2) Intelligent lifeforms evolve.  3) The beings that survive best are those that evolve the cognitive abilities to abstract out regularities from their daily experiences, which lets them predict what will happen next.

This is exactly what we seem to do. Developmental cognitive scientist Alison Gopnik has argued--based on much evidence--that young children are constantly building theories as they learn about the world: they learn abstract rules from multiple experiences, make predictions from those rules, and update their theories when they are falsified.  They act like little scientists.  In this view, scientific experimentation is simply a formalized, more complex, adult, conscious version of the learning we are hardwired to do as children.

So no, there is no reason to assume science involves some blind faith in a creator; it simply involves the types of observation and inferential reasoning wired into us by evolution because they work.

3 comments:

G*3 said...

I don’t think R’ Slifikin is saying that science today is based on faith. Rather that way back at the beginning of the scientific revolution, scientists assumed that there was a God Who put regular laws of nature in place, and they would therefore be able to discover those laws.

The extent to which this is true is debatable, but it’s a very different statement from the one that you are attributing to him.

JewishGadfly said...

That's possible, but I'm not sure that's the case. The way he writes about it reads to me as though suggesting science today still has an implicit religious foundation. In The Challenge of Creation, he writes regarding a unified theory of everything: "Only with monotheism does such a search make sense."

He also writes in the post I linked to: "The more thoughtful physicists wonder at the extraordinary nature of scientific laws. Where did they come from? Why do they have the form that they do? "

It sounds to me like he is suggesting that the search for natural law does still have an implicit religious foundation, even if it has been ignored or forgotten in modern times. I'm pointing to a naturalistic foundation for that search instead.

James Jordan said...

The more atheist "scientists" invent nonsense crap like mutliverse theory the more it becomes clear that real science cannot be done without monotheistic presuppositions. How did our universe come into being Mr. Atheist Scientist? Well you see kids, there's thing thing called the multiverse and there are billions of universes and everyone now and then one of them "tunnels through" to another and causes a big band and creates a new one. Ok, but how did the multiverse come into being Mr. Atheist Scientist? Well you see kids there's this thing called the multi-multiverse in which billions of multiverses occasionally "tunnel through" into each other and esplode.....This isn't science; its pagan fairy tales. And it requires faith in the nonsense about the mulitverse and multiverse of mulitverses! And nobody's ever seen a multiverse, so how the hell is that scientific?????