How do we know the truths about science and faith?

Over the past few years I have become very cynical about what others tell me I should believe. On the one hand there are Christians telling me to believe one thing because the bible says so, at least according to their interpretation. I have relatives who point out all the ‘signs’ that the world is about to end. ‘Its in the bible.’ There is nothing you can say to convince them they are wrong. They will deny everything that doesn’t accord with their interpretation of the bible. The world is 6500 years old, and if you believe that dinosaurs existed before that then you lack faith. And when it comes to doctrine they often make their interpretation of the bible or the past into an absolute. They will read into the bible and past saints their own beliefs, and them tell me that I am a heretic.

On the other hand there are the pro-science people arguing that I should believe something because some scientist said so. It doesn’t matter how counterintuitive it is. I should believe the Higgs boson exists because some scientists in France said so. And they are just as rabid as the Christians. If you don’t accept evolution (which I accept) or the accepted ideas of anthropomorphic global warming you are a flat earther. I had someone tell me he didn’t like Ron Paul because he heard that Ron Paul didn’t believe evolution. It doesn’t matter that the acceptance or non-acceptance of evolution doesn’t make a difference in my life or anyone else’s. According to the scientific view I should doubt what my experiences tell me because someone did a study somewhere that contradicts it. The result is that you have a bunch of people supporting things that they have no idea about. They support global warming regulations because someone else told them it was caused by man, despite the fact that it may contradict their experiences.

Ultimately they are both the same. They both tell me to trust them when they tell me the truth. In reality I trust my own senses and my own reason to tell me the truth. I really don’t care if evolution is true, because it has no effect on my life one way or another.

What I would like to know is, if you are scientifically minded, why should I accept the scientific view of the world? Why should I care that the Higgs boson exists? As long as it doesn’t affect future technology it is completely irrelevant to me. If you are a Christian why should I accept that your interpretation of the bible or the faith is any more relevant than any other? Why should I trust that what the pope says about dogmas? I can understand morality and why that is important, but why is it iperative that I accept every dogma on the doctrine of Christ, the Church and Mary? In the past murder was justified (yes it was murder) because people couldn’t accept the official doctrines on these issues. Why is it imperative to accept these doctrines?

If you can not grasp why it would be important for a policy maker to understand science, then I am wondering what your ideas are on education.

I understand science, but most of the issues of science are completely irrelevant to anyone. But no one is allowed to doubt it. What does it matter if Ron Paul accepts evolution or not? That is irrelevant to education. Whether evolution is taught in school is irrelevant to a politicians views, or anyone else’s acceptance of it. Questioning isn’t allowed.

I don’t jump on wagons simply because someone else says I should.

I don’t think that you should accept the scientific view of the world, or the religious view of the world either. You should have a healthy scepticism for both. Don’t trust what you are told until that trust has been earned.

Science, at least good science, encourages questioning. The process of investigation, hypotheses, experimentation, formulation of a theory and peer review is self-correcting. It allows you to check the results yourself and see if you agree with the conclusions. When done correctly, science is the best approach that humankind has so far developed for discovering the truth about the universe we inhabit.

Based on science, you and me and politicians and world leaders can make the decisions that affect our lives and the lives of others. The truth about evolution matters because it tells us about the relationships between creatures that can allow us for example to control pests, grow better crops, and treat or eradicate diseases. The truth about climate change matters because we may be doing irrevocable damage to our planet and we may be able to avoid it. I believe that the truth about the structure of matter (like the Higgs boson) matters too, although I don’t know enough about this branch of physics to suggest how.

These things may not matter much in our day-to-day lives. But taxes levied by the government based on climate science makes a (small) difference to my life. Therapies based on medical science could make a big difference to my life and the lives of my friends and family. It could be a matter of life or death. More generally when people accept things without evidence, the result can be persecution of innocent people, hatred, atrocities and all manner of suffering.

The most important decisions unfortunately rely on very difficult science. Climatology, for example, seems particularly difficult because it deals with such complex systems. Even so, I want to believe as many true things and as few false things as I can. Science is the path that helps me do that, even if the road to Truth is long and lined the whole way with annoying bastards.

[INDENT]The Life of Man – To Know and Love God
[/INDENT]That is the beginning of the *Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition. *That is the true purpose of human nature.

Links to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition

I’m not sure ‘faith’ is the word to use when describing humanity’s tendency to figure out lots of things through trial and error. People are forgetting that error is often underestimated in terms of costs.

Frankly, I find people more honest when they admit about the things they want to believe as opposed to what others say they should believe. Regarding science in particular, I’m more likely to have paradoxical faith in its capacity to be wrong so that it can then improve towards a much better idea (no matter how elusive that idea seems to be at the moment).

It’s not imperative.

Most humans through all of the history of the human race never had access to any of these ideas and yet they lived their lives.

If you find that certain ideas and information enhance your life and make a meaningful difference, then you may choose to embrace them. But certainly you can live your life without taking any of them as ultimate truth.

Some people give lip service to various ideas so as to be accepted (or simply not harassed) by other groups of people, but do not truly hold the belief, they find that simply acting as if they believe brings them benefits.

If it is not important for daily life and if it is not fun and/or interesting, why bother.

What is of supreme importance to me is my relationship with God.
I have my meditations, prayers, personal intuitions, but how I really put it all together is through using the words and the ideas that are made available to me by society. I need the Church not only to help understand what this is truly all about, but also as a way in which I can live the truth. I accept what the Magisterium teaches because what I understand of it, all makes sense in itself and helps me make sense of my own life. It is important for me to accept what I may not yet grasp because it keeps me on track and will guide me to deeper truths.

You can believe what you want, this is just to tell you what has worked for me.

Yes, there are these annoying types no matter where you turn.

Even God annoys me from time to time … especially when I deserve to be annoyed. :wink:

Jimmy, you make several presumptions here. You should know that neither the Christians nor the pro-science people (one could of course argue that both of these groups must include the other ;)) speak with anything at all like a unified voice. Within Catholicism at least, while evangelization is still the primary mission of the Church (on Earth), attempting to force any belief upon anyone goes completely against Catholic teaching. Pope Francis said last year: “The Church does not grow through proselytizing. The Church grows through attraction, through the attraction of the witness that each one of us gives to the People of God” (See
And most atheists I know would rather have an attitude of indifference towards others’ beliefs–they do not expect you to trust them, but truly don’t care whether you trust them or not.
However, it’s probably unfair to make generalizations about the opinions of those in any group. Of course there will be some that try to impose their beliefs on others, but this is their own error. That they do this does not refute the teachings or groups they so poorly represent.

If I’m correct, the gist of what you’re saying is: “How can I believe in anything if nothing is totally provable?” (Or really it’s “I feel like every major mode of thought expects me to believe in them just because they say so,” but as I said, this is ungracious because it presumes an expectation as well as that they have no real basis for what they teach.) At least, as you said earlier, you have not completely transcended into questioning the validity of your own reason or sensory input. :slight_smile: Actually, it is provable that your reason and senses work physically, but now I’m getting off topic…
The thought that nothing is provable is also self-destroying; it’s not provable that nothing is provable. However you think about it, anything and everything you believe must be accepted on faith. As human beings on Earth, there’s no total certainty in anything, even and especially this statement.
You seem to be considering science like a philosophy: “why should I accept the scientific view of the world?” Science is just an old word for knowledge–it’s nothing more than an understanding of the way the universe physically works. i.e, the universe works in a certain way, and we won’t change that by believing or disbelieving in it. There are only two reasons why an understanding of the physical universe would ever be important to us: Out of curiosity and love for God and a desire to increase in understanding of him and his works, and to improve our lives and the lives of others. The point is, we are under no obligation whatsoever to have this understanding, and especially under no obligation to accept the fallible scientific findings of others–I’m not sure where you got this idea. Those that believe we are of course do so in their own error.
Church teaching is different, but first one must be a Christian. (I suggest reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis to help with this. ;)) Before that, it’s completely illogical to pick and choose things you like about the Church’s moral teaching while ignoring her theological teaching. The moral teaching exists for the sake of the theological. I’m not sure why you say you understand the importance of morality–if you ignore God, wouldn’t it be far better if everyone just tried to get as much pleasure for themselves before they died? Why would it matter if there was no education or civilization if everyone lived a more pleasurable existence?
On the other hand, If you’ve come to accept Catholicism (I don’t say “Christianity” because I don’t speak for all Christians) as true, and believe that Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition truly were divinely inspired, the real question is: why would you ever want to ignore any part of God’s teaching?"
And here’s what it comes down to–your only “good” question: “…why should I accept that your interpretation of the bible or the faith is any more relevant than any other?” Needless to say, the separation of the Church is a subject of enormous amounts of study, and there are many, many Catholics, quite a few of them here on CAF, that could answer this question much better than I could.
You’re getting ahead of yourself by asking “Why is it imperative…” First things first, ask: Why Christianity? And then: Why Catholicism? The rest will follow.

Well, it does affect the future of technology, but we’ll get to that in a moment. These questions remind me of an anecdote (likely just a legend) about a student of Pythagoras. One day Pythagoras was demonstrating an especially difficult theorem from geometry when one of his students inquired as to when this result would ever be needed in real life. Pythagoras turned to another student and told him to give the questioner a few coins. When asked why, Pythagoras scoffed, “Because he feels he must profit from all that he learns.” The student was promptly expelled from the school.

Anyway, people who don’t care about science tend to be similarly apathetic regarding its funding and its role in education. You are a (potential) voter, and as a member of this democracy who recognizes the value of science in maintaining our quality of life, it is your obligation to afford it the respect it deserves. If you feel that science isn’t necessary, then by all means, concede all of your technological luxuries to charity so they may be acquired by someone who appreciates what it took to develop those luxuries.

To be fair, it still should be on the onus of scientists to prove that their research could result in something. If I’m gonna invest in some guy’s research, he should know that it’s within my right to ask for some ROI figures (which, like it or not, is the closest number you’ll get me to care about).

That’s why I happily wouldn’t mind being ‘expelled’ by the types of Pythagoras because I prefer the language of Wall Street over that of the jargon that often obscures the scientific community.

It’s like saying I appreciate the work of mathematicians and recognize the fruits of their labor. I still hate math like a schoolboy though. If I crunched numbers like that all day, I might just kill somebody. Your work will be appreciated with the money I will inevitably send to you.

Remember, we are not just voters. We are consumers. And like any sound-minded buyer, I would very much like the salesperson to just explain their value proposition to me as if I were a hobo.

This unfortunately is the predominant attitude. We would have made very little progress in science if everyone thought that way, because most discoveries are only found to be useful retrospectively.

Think about it: How often have you ever heard of an inventor who was also a great scientist? Not often, because inventors are just the scavengers of the scientific community, gathering the scraps from the real feast that the scientists are enjoying. Usually science doesn’t develop to solve a problem; rather, a solution to a problem arises spontaneously from scientific developments.

So yes, you’ll always have people who will say things like “Why am I paying for these mathematicians to research this? I don’t even know what the Riemann Hypothesis is! It’s not going to pay my bills!” And then one of those mathematicians discovers an efficient algorithm for factoring numbers in cryptography and the resulting upheaval of our security systems causes those people to lose their jobs. :stuck_out_tongue:

Look, I understand your point about needing respect. However, I think you should also realize that it goes the other way around. If someone who seems to enjoy the ‘feast of scientists’ a lot less didn’t pick up those scraps, would you honestly think the scientists themselves would’ve done it?

Cuz just from the way you describe it, they’re too busy enjoying the feast to care. For me, that’s all right so long as you don’t mind telling me what I can do with this or that scrap of information. (Or at least, don’t fault me for making buckets of moniez out of it. Mwhahahah! BD)

In other words, we thank you for your discoveries. You are doing a great service. Just don’t mind if we also provide a great service of monetizing it. (Again, MWAHAHAHAHAHAH!! 8D)

I don’t have a problem with people making money off of science. My issue is with people who think that society as a whole needn’t bother with science unless they personally profit from it.

That struck me as the OP’s attitude: “Why should I care about science if it doesn’t have an immediate impact on my life?” My answer: If everyone thought like that, science would never receive sufficient funding, and you wouldn’t have the computer with which you question science’s importance on the Internet. After all, computers weren’t developed as a response to real-world problems. They were just mathematicians’ playthings, a coincidental application of computability theory. So many people would have questioned why tax dollars were supporting something “useless” like the development of computers.

I am not a solipsist. I don’t expect everything to be ‘proven’ either. But I do trust my own reason and my own perception. And I believe that any knowledge that is worth knowing is at least somewhat practical; in some sense it can be put into practice or be useful to a persons life (not to say that I don’t know a bunch of useless information, but I don’t place more significance on that info than it is worth.). As far as science goes, it comes down to convincing me. Why should I accept the existence of the higgs boson as anything more than an academic curiosity if someone is unwilling or unable to convince me of its existence and why it should matter to me? People get so worked up about these ideas that they don’t understand in most cases, and even if they do understand them, the ideas are completely irrelevant to them. They become apologists for evolution, but they don’t know anything about evolutionary biology other than that dinosaurs once existed. Nor could they explain how it affects their lives other than that they believe it.

When I say ‘why is it imperative’ I am saying ‘how is it relevant to me and the way I live?’ What makes it more than just an arbitrary fact? What difference does the knowledge make?

I accept the value of all practical knowledge, but it is the job of the scientist to prove that his theories are of value and significant to me and society. When a phd student writes his doctoral thesis, the first thing he has to show is how it is relevant to the reader and to general society. Why should anyone read his study and take it seriously? If he can’t do this, his thesis will be rejected. Why should we as a society fund something that will produce no value? How will it affect technology or affect our society for the better?

Maybe I should apply to the govt. for a 1 million dollar grant to study the pentatonic scale on the guitar. There might not be anything of value produced, but why should that prevent the govt. from giving me a bunch of money to sit around and play my guitar?

I think that the worth of scientific work is tested in the fullness of time. For example, Bishop Nicholas Steno’s claim that fossils could be the remains of dead animals from previous times and that the different layers of the earth corresponded to different time periods has been corroborated over the centuries and helps us form an idea of ourselves and life in the past.

Likewise the pioneering work by the monk Gregor Mendel in genetics with his first 3 laws of genetics has been verified by repeated experiments and helped with many ideas including the treatment of genetic disorders.

The 1740’s Italian Croat priest Joseph Boscovich’s theories that atoms can be thought of as dimensionless points caught in a field of attraction (and at very close distance repulsion) helped pave the way for both field theory (Maxwell) and particle theory (Rutherford) in the next generation which in turn has had technological applications from the mobile phone to the microwave oven.

I think if some scientist claims something today, I might find it interesting but it’s worth to mankind would be more likely judged over the longer term.

Evidence for faith is something that s different. It can be broken up into an intellectual justification and a lived experience. The lived experience is something that you can judge for yourself through introspection and observing your own growth in awareness and understanding.

Intellectual justification can involve reasoned consideration using logic, science, existing knowledge, testimony etc. We use people like Bishop Steno, Father Mendel and Father Boscovich to see if some of the ideas we have are reasonable. With regards to the earth being 6000 years old, the evidence I believe shows otherwise as does the idea that the books of the Bible chosen by the Council are somehow meant to represent a detailed scientific timeline of the earth.

Is the worth of evidence based medicine something you rely on when it suits your needs?

Yes Strawberry Jam. By definition ‘evidence based’ implies proving itself over the course of time.

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