Science and Faith

Ken Klemow kklemow at WILKES1.WILKES.EDU
Fri Mar 6 14:01:18 EST 1998


I can't resist jumping in here.

John E. Silvius wrote:
>
>Dr. G, is there not an element of FAITH involved in both natural science
>and religion?  Max Planck, Nobel Laureate in Physics makes a statement
>which you may find interesting:
>
(interesting statement deleted)
>
>Planck's claim that natural science is rooted in faith is consistent with a
>biblical worldview....
>

I suppose that essentially everthing we do has some element of faith.  For
example, in composing this message, I have faith that it will be
distributed to computers subscribing to PLANT_ED, and will be read by at
least a few individuals.

So too, in doing science, we also accept - with some degree of faith - the
findings of others who have examined natural phenomena to levels of detail
beyond which any one of us has time.  However, that "faith" is also
tempered by a healthy dose of skepticism, and a willingness to abandon any
idea in the face of conflicting evidence.

Religious faith is wholly different in that it demands individuals to
believe something, even if conflicting evidence is present.  Thus, those of
us who adhere to western religions are forced to believe in a variety of
myths like special creation of species, floods, prophets spending time in
the bellies of fish, or unsubstantiated "miracles."

While most scientists accept key concepts like the atomic structure of
matter, evolution, or even global warming, the vast majority would abandon
those ideas in a heartbeat if presented with credible evidence to the
contrary.  For example, the widely accepted super-organismal model of plant
communities esposed by Clements earlier this century died a relatively
quick death, thanks to the work of Whittaker, Curtis, etc.  Most religions
(especially the fundamentalist varieties) do not permit such freedom of
thought; you MUST BELIEVE, or else you are of no faith.  Such dogmatic
absolutism is clearly what elicits the objections of people like Ephram
Goldstein.

Ken K.

Kenneth M. Klemow, Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof. of Biology & GeoEnvir. Sci.
Department of Biology
Wilkes University
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766
e-mail: kklemow at wilkes1.wilkes.edu
webpage: http://wilkes1.wilkes.edu:80/~kklemow
phone: 717-408-4758
fax: 717-408-1003





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