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Evolution: Religion or Science?


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It seems to me that we are not making a lot more progress on the initial question posed in this thread. Further, since the thread is approaching 300 posts, it is hard for others to review the history and join in. PLease wrap this one up in the next couple of posts, and launch a new thread or two on any outstanding issues.



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Biochemist, here is my effort at a wrap up. There seem to me to be two issues that account for the disagreement on this matter and they relate to the character of all science, not just evolution, and its application.



When a scientist is pursuing his goal in a scientific manner faith is not involved. There are well established methods in each science for the collection, processing, analysis and interpretation of data; there are processes for testing and re-testing hypotheses; there are systems that ensure other workers in the field critically assess the output of the scientist.

When a hypothesis is found wanting it is amended if the lack is small, or discarded if the weakness is large. Faith does not enter into the matter, but facts, and only facts do.

However, when the scientist is setting his goal, is outlining his hypothesis, it is often with very incomplete facts and no serious proof.

It is at this point that the scientist employs faith. He believes that his idea has merit, is perhaps, the truth, but he cannot yet prove it. He now engages his scientific skills and sets out to prove his case. He does so with faith that he will be proved right, but, because he is a scientist, the underlying knowledge that the facts he uncovers may prove him wrong. It is, however, faith that to varying degrees sustains him until the truth, or otherwise, of his hypothesis emerges from the investigation.


The presence of faith as an integral part of the initiation of the scientific method can give non-scientists the impression that the faith determines the outcome and conclusions of the science, rather than merely setting the direction.



Scientists are humans. They are all susceptible to human weaknesses. This is a fault of their nature, not of science. In some circumstances, some scientists are capable of speaking from emotion, from an inner conviction that they are right, in short from faith, but doing so in the language of science. At its worst this is seen when the facts are ranging against their hypotesis and they, having invested so much time and energy in it, are unwilling to abandon it.

A scientist seeing this in a colleague will likely continue to attack the hypothesis on the basis of facts. A non-scientist may simply see this as the scientist employing faith in a mammer no different from religious faith.


Thus, those arguing that evolution is a religion are doing so because, in my opinion, they are misinterpreting the character of science and scientists. Faith has, as we have seen, two places in science: one is to sustain the scientist while she tests her hypothesis - this is important, but it does not determine the affirmation or rejection of the hypothesis; the second place is when the scientist uses his faith to defend the indefensible - this is wrong.


I have no doubt that science in general and evolution in particular is not a religion. I am equally sure that faith plays one constructive and one destructive role in the way the sceince of evolution is applied.

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