Saturday, October 06, 2007

Authority in science

Watching recent posts on the NSTA Biology Listserv, an perennial topic appears to have resurfaced, namely the conflict or lack of conflict between science and religion. Typically, these conversations rest on which scientists, dead or living, profess religious beliefs. interesting post here

Oh please! – The fact (or assertion) that a particular famous scientist (such as Isaac Newton) did (or did not) believe in the concept of god (assuming that we can actually know what a particular person meant by that, or actually believed) has nothing to do with science itself. The assertion that it does shows a fundamental
misunderstanding of how science works, and what has made it so effective as a toolfor explaining and manipulating the physical world. It signals a serious
problem for a teacher and (perhaps more importantly) their students.

The question of whether science and religion are actively (or passively) antagonistic is a different issue again, and can be argued. That there are religious scientists does not settle the issue - since it is possible for people to hold self-contradictory views.

In point of fact, the simple and demonstrable efficacy of science cannot help but erode a practical belief in the supernatural in general. Science, not religion, explains why planes fly and provides the tools to make them more efficient and safer.

A simple consideration of whether prayer or antibiotics is a more effective treatment for life-threatening bacterial disease should tell the tale. How this impacts religious belief is for individuals to decide.