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Religion = Science?
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There's a strange pair of tactics used by religious people when attacking certain scientific ideas they don't like. These tactics seem to work at cross-purposes, and I wonder to what extent the people that use them are aware of what they're doing.

The first is to try to favorably compare religious ideas to scientific ones, i.e. to validate religion with science. This can be seen in the intelligent design movement, where ID is offered up as a viable alternative theory, presumably supported by the methodologies of science.

The other tactic is to try to drag science down to religion's evidentiary standards, to say that science, when you really get down to it, is a matter of faith.

Again, these two tactics seem to be divergent. Do religious adherents really want to scientifically validate their beliefs? If we had scientific confirmation that Jesus was born of a virgin, would that affirm all Christian's faith? If we had ironclad scientific evidence that water was turned into wine or a man was raised from the dead, would it still be a miracle? What would be the role of faith if all your beliefs were confirmed with scientific evidence?

Of course I don't believe that the way science and religion go about determining what's true and what's not are the same. They're different epistemological approaches. That is, they assert knowledge based on a different set of principles.

Religion relies primarily on authority. You know what's true because of what the holy book (Bible, Koran, Torah) says. Historically, you also rely on religious authority in the form of a "spiritual leader" (e.g., witch doctor, priest, etc.). For most of the history of religion, since most people couldn't read, they were at the mercy of the holy man to interpret knowledge. The third source of knowledge in religious systems is subjective experience. Many people say they believe in god because they've experienced something private that is not explainable to them in any other way.

Science, on the other hand, makes knowledge claims based on the scientific method. Some aspect of the world is observed. A potential explanation is put forward (hypothesis) that is falsifiable. Evidence is gathered in ways that attempts to reduce human bias as much as possible. That evidence is subjected to verification in a community of peers, by continually trying to found counterevidence that will invalidate the hypothesis. Explanations should be parsimonious, falsifiable, and have predictive power.

How exactly do religious adherents keep a straight face when they try to map the epistemological approach of religion onto science, or vice versa? This is a lousy tactic, but I see it repeated ad nauseum. I would think it would be wiser to try to advocate a sort of separate-but-equal approach, claiming that they are different ways of knowing different things, and that trying to mix and match their approaches is a bad idea.

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