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Science and religion have different fields of investigation but their methodologies have important features in common
Arthur S. Lodge     |     home
Science & Religion: Common Features

1. A search for truth.

For a brief discussion of the remarkable contention that science does not involve a search for truth, see Scientific Theory Testing.

2. A search for deeper understanding.

3. The exercise of faith.

The use of experimental methods in science involves faith in the constancy of Nature.

4. The use of experiment

To the best of my knowledge, the first published account of the idea that an experiment can help one to decide between rival hypotheses is found in the Old Testament (I Kings 18: 20 - 40; c. 800 BC), where Elijah proposed an experiment to decide between rival Baal and Jehovah hypotheses.

5. Limited testability

Some parts of any given scientific theory are untestable; others are. For example, one cannot test Einstein's proposition that the space-time metric tensor field and the density of matter are related by a certain equation; one can, however, test deductions (such as the rate at which the perihelion of Mercury advances) made from this proposition.

Similarly, it does not seem possible to test the proposition that God created the Universe. It may, however, be possible to test a plausible consequence, namely, that God and Man can communicate with one another (cf., e.g., Arnold Lunn and Garth Lean, Christian Counter-attack, Chapter 12: "Faith by Experiment"; Arlington House, New Rochelle, NY; SBN 87000-077-2).


6. The existence of items that seem hard or impossible to explain

Scientific theories often have strengths and weaknesses; a given theory may explain some facts but conflict with others. One hopes that the passage of time will increase the number of the former and decrease the number of the latter.

One of the most stubborn difficulties that has confronted scientists for decades lies in the field of evolution. Although informed opinion is strongly divided on the issue, it is my opinion that science has not yet come up with any acceptable materialistic explanation of the origin and development of living organisms on Earth (see, e.g., Darwinism's Debit Sheet: 23 items).

For many, the occurrence of pain and suffering is an unsolved problem for Christianity,

No impartial and constructive analyst would focus on the difficulties and ignore the successes - either in science or in religion. Yet some scientists, who seemingly have no experience or awareness of the successes* of religion, are all too ready to list what they regard as the difficulties facing religion (cf., e.g., Mano Singham, 2000: Quest for Truth (Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, Bloomington, Indiana). In this regard, Professor Singham accepts a one-sidedness in regard to religion that he would shun in any discussion of science.

* cf. e.g., Gabriel Marcel, Fresh Hope for the World (Longmans Green, London, UK, 1960); Arnold Lunn and Garth Lean, Christian Counter-attack, Chapter 12: "Faith by Experiment"; Arlington House, New Rochelle, NY; SBN 87000-077-2).

Interesting discussions on science and religion are to be found in Galileo's Mistake by Wade Rowland (Arcade Publishing, New York, 2001).

Falsifiability

Popper has proposed that in order that a theory should be classified as scientific, it is necessary that it shoud be "falsifiable", i.e., that there should be at least one experimental test that (a) a priori has more than one conceivable outcome, and (b) at least one of these outcomes should conflict with a prediction of the theory.

I suggest that it is helpful and valid to distinguish between what I will call "strong falsifiabity" and "weak falsifiability".

The example given in 5. above is an example of strong falsifiability: if measurement of the advance of the perihelion of Mercury had proved to differ significantly from the advance deduced from Einstein's equation (when all relevant factors had been taken into account), then the equation would have been shown to be false.

An example of weak falsifiability is given by the Neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution (NDT). Futuyma (1999) claims that the NDT is falsifiable:

"The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is also clearly falsifiable because we can postulate alternative theories which, if true, would render neo-Darwinian theory superfluous. The most obvious alternative theory is the Lamarckian one. If it were true that modifications acquired during the life of an organism could become hereditary….natural selection would not play a major guiding role in adaptation."

(Douglas Futuyma (1995)  Science on Trial, 5th edition.  Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA, p.172)

If one such organism were found, it is conceivable that it owed its heritable environment-induced changes to some unique gene (perhaps acquired by random mutation) and then one could conclude only that the NDT was not valid for that particular organism. It would still be conceivable that the NDT could apply to all or many other organisms. The NDT falsifiability illustrated by Futuyma is thus weak in the sense that it is "local" and not "global".