Friday, February 28, 2014

Faith II

In my occupation I am surrounded by well-educated people in a variety of disciplines.  Many of these are scientists, most of these esteem "facts over faith".  I find this to be a very curious claim.

What is a "fact"?  In the dictionary a fact is something that is "indisputable" or a "certainty".  In science, facts are used as bricks to assemble a hypothesis, and if that structure is strong enough, the bricks are sufficnet to create a theory, and if this structure is so strong to withstand all assaults it becomes a "law".

But what things around us are indisputable?  I contend that only the simplest of things, typically the mundane things, are indisputable.

I am here in this world. pretty mundane, but indisputable?  Ever see the movie, "The Matrix"?

"Don't be silly!"  you say.  "There are lots of scientific constants!"

Hmm, like the speed of light?  Well, possibly, but the speed of light may well vary, say some scientists who are quick to claim that their personal philosophy is firmly anchored in... facts.

My field is physiology, a part of human biology.  The chemists and physicists have some impressive assemblages of facts, despite the pesky speed of light stuff.  We have plenty of facts, and quite a few hypotheses, and even a few theories, but precious few laws.  About the only physiological "Law" I can think of, after 33 years of study, is the Frank-Starling Law of the heart.  This "Law" says that the amount of blood the heart pumps is increased if the heart receives a bigger volume to pump (assuming all other factors remain constant).


Well, it is a bit more intricate than it sounds, but my point is that there aren't very many "Science Laws" outside of simple chemistry and physics, and even those "Laws" have exceptions in certain situations (e.g. Newton's Laws of motion do NOT apply on the micro level).

"So what's your point?"  you ask with some exasperation.

My point is, those people in the world who claim to prefer fact over faith have very few facts on which to build.  Instead of putting their faith in some deity, instead they put their faith in the PROMISE that eventually they will have more facts on which to reside.

My point is that every person I have ever met put their faith in something that they cannot KNOW, only suspect.  So the religious person and the atheistic scientist have much MORE in COMMON than they are willing to admit.  The scientist may not have a satisfying answer to some small scientific conundrum, but she certainly has faith that:
  • Someone knows,
  • or someone is about to find out,
  • or one day we will know.

It is an interesting position, and scientists would claim it is entirely logical because, "Just look at all our scientific discoveries in even the last 100 years!"

But honest scientists will tell you that many hypotheses, and occasionally  theories, and from time to time even laws, get thrown out.  So, we have faith in something that is MOSTLY true, but we never know, but we are faithful that this faith position is clearly superior to the religious faith position.


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