Is Science Useful?

Statement

Science isn’t the only way to gain knowledge about the universe

Q1 Analysis

This is not a Q1 violation. However, saying that science doesn’t work at all would be a Q1 violation if you sometimes rely on the results of science.

Q2 Analysis

You are only risking a Q2 violation if you do not allow others to use non-science methods of gaining knowledge similar to the ones that you use. For example, if you trust your moral sense, you must allow others to trust their moral sense. If you pray and automatically consider true revelations you feel are received from a deity, you must allow others to do the same (even if their revelations disagree with yours).

Discussion

This belief is only valid if you carefully define those areas in which science is not knowledgeable or you have a clear way to resolve conflicts between science and other methods of gaining knowledge.

For example, science cannot (by definition) investigate the purely supernatural or issues of morality, so it’s fine to leave science out of those areas of inquiry. But you must take care when disallowing scientific inquiry into areas that science claims as its own. For example, whether there is life after death is not a question for science, but if you claim that ghosts can be detected, then you are talking about the possibility of non-supernatural evidence for a supernatural phenomena, and science applies. If you would say that science is not always right because you disagree with some of its assumptions (that the laws of physics do not change over time or that conclusions can be drawn from observations, for example), then you are not arguing that science is only one way to gain information, you are arguing that science doesn’t work in the first place.

Even if it is true that there are non-science-based ways of gaining knowledge, that does not imply that these means necessarily trump science when they are in conflict. For example, if you have religious knowledge that water from a certain stream can cure disease, but scientific tests show that it does not, then you can’t just say science is wrong but must find a way to reasonably explain the apparent contradiction. Otherwise you are either saying that science doesn’t work in some cases (and must define the metaphysics behind that phenomena) or that you and science have different definitions of the phrase "this water can cure disease" (in which case you must make your definition explicit).

Remember that non-science methods of gaining knowledge are rarely objective. If you rely strongly on these methods, then you — by Q2 — are implicitly allowing others to rely on them. And if you say that these methods trump science, then when you and someone else come into conflict on an issue where science would normally play a part, you may have no mutually satisfactory grounds for deciding who is correct.

This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on May 7, 2010 at 10:08 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

One Response

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  1. Written by SteelRat
    on May 18, 2010 at 8:01 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    The claim that science is incapable of analysing religious issues is one of the classic defences used to justify unsupported religious beliefs and I believe a claim that all rational people should reject.

    While it is true that we cannot directly study God, we are always told that God is active in the physical world, healing the sick, punishing the wicked and generally being inscrutable. All this is accessible to scientific study. So if we find that prayer does not heal the sick (it doesn’t) and that Christians do not have better luck than athiests and the chance of you dying young from earthquakes has nothing to do with your religious beliefs or behaviour, then we can at least prove that God is impotent or uncaring. And if God is impotent or distant then what is the benefit in believing in Him in the first place?

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