I swear, there’s a connection here.
Last week my science fiction writing class, we somehow ended up on a discussion that brought in religion. If I recall, we were speculating on time travel and the many theories of how time exists. After a few minutes of listening to this, I pointed out we really couldn’t ever prove any of these unless we could actually time travel. They said, yes, but that didn’t make them any less valid. So I pointed out that, to a certain degree, science can be like religion: people have faith in it.
Well, my idea got universally smacked down, mostly because we were speaking science, not religion, and these two things don’t ever mix.
But I’m sticking to my guns.
In some ways, science is very much like a religious faith. The vast majority of people don’t really understand how it works, but will happily spout theories as facts and argue you to death if you should take a valid opposing position. It reminds me a great deal of the arguments that crop up between people of different faiths or denominations of faiths. Hell, we’ve have religious wars since the dawn of time and they continue today, as they likely will ‘til the end of time. Since around the Scientific Revolution, the wars of science have been waged in journals, papers, and conference halls.
For both science and religion, individuals rally behind a held opinion and defend their position as the “right” one. We as individuals have faith in an interpretation of the facts presented, and until that interpretation comes against an opposing one, our faith usually won’t be shaken.
There are still a lot of theories that can’t be proven, like Evolution. Until we do a mass experiment and observe our own evolution over the course of a few million years, we can’t say whether we really did evolve from apes or if Douglas Adams had it right all along and aliens put artificially aged fossils on the planet as a sort of decorative accent. We also can’t say that a higher being beyond our comprehension didn’t make the universe or that we’re actually a computer simulation built by someone or something else and we’re just motes of data. There’s a universe (and/or multiverse) of endless possibilities, and whichever idea we adhere to, we have faith that it is truth.
Yes, I agree, science is based almost entirely in the tangible world (except when you get into the higher scientific theories like String Theory or Evolution) and, for the most part, can be physically proven one way or the other. But at the same time, a lot of it also human guesswork and interpretation. I’m taking a class in forensic chemistry right now and if nothing else, I’ve learned that forensics is not as reliable as people often think (thanks to shows like CSI). The science is solid, yes, but it’s still being done by humans.
It’s the human factor that makes for science becoming like a religion. A human being wrote the Bible. A human being also came up with Newton’s Laws of Physics. Are they the same thing? No. But as it’s been proven with science disproving a great deal of statements made in the Bible, so does science disprove itself on a daily basis, and one day, we might discover something even higher than science that disproves it entirely.
Two scientists can look at the same factual information and come up with two completely different interpretations of the same data, just the same as, for example, two theologians can look at the same Biblical parable and come away with two completely different interpretations. Or two meteorologists can look at the same cloud formations and predict two completely different weather patterns. Or two mechanics can look at your broken, sad car and come up with two completely different diagnoses for the same problem; one will cost $450, the other $120.
What I’m getting at is, no matter what, if a human has a hand in something, it won’t ever be 100%, without a doubt, completely devoid of human variables. Because we’re human. And humans will forever have an individual perspective that skews an observation in their favor. Humans will forever have an opinion on something, and they will forever have faith that their opinion is, indeed, fact, until proven otherwise.
Ain’t it fun being human?