science vs religion

Sarah C. Hunter hunters2 at pilot.msu.edu
Sat Feb 6 16:57:22 EST 1999


Signorelli wrote:

>  ... We just finished a section on evolution and I was STUNNED to
> discover that the majority of my class thinks that science is out to
> disprove religion. ...

Creation and Science? In a community college? You're brave. And your
point that we have enough to deal with without looking at the
supernatural was a grand one.

Still, I'll take a stab at some of this. I debated not posting my answer
to the entire newsgroup, mostly because I've done my best to stay out of
the creation story issues, so there are probably arguments out there I'm
totally unaware of, and I'm not sure I want a lot of flames right now. 
(It's dissertation-writing time.)

First off, do your students have much of a concept of what "Science"
is?  Probably not, sometimes I'm not even sure *I* do.  I'm involved
(co-instructor) in a graduate level class titled "The Nature and
Practice of Science" and we have to spend a substantial amount of time
on this issue. Some of the key elements that come up and you might be
able to apply are that 1) science has *testable* theories, 2)
conclusions in science are subject to change as more data are available,
i.e. nothing is really the "final word.", and 3) science progesses by
developing models (explainations) with predictions and then tries to
falisify them (the "Multiple Models Method" of Chamberlin, John Platt's
"Strong Inference"). In this light, attempts to disprove a theory imply
that it *is* taken seriously, so those that think Science is trying to
disprove Creation should be flattered.

So, as a scientist, when I don't see any specific predictions that the
creation story makes that can be tested, I think, "well, ok idea, but
not something that is useful in Science."  This doesn't mean anything
except that "Creationism" is outside of the realm of scientific
practice. When (if) creation can come up with logically deducible,
specific predictions that are 1) verifiable and 2) unique to creation
theory, scientists may then choose to treat it as any other theory they
respect and interests them, which is that they should try to disprove
it.

While with a WASP background, I can't really get away from religion, I
simply don't spend much time thinking about religion, and I certainally
don't see it as a player in my scientific endeavors.

Hope that helps some.  

Sarah Hunter
graduate student




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