Some thoughts on why science is infinitely more useful than religion in coming to terms with reality:
This painting (right), by Oskar Herrfurth, is of Baron Münchhausen, an 18th-century German nobleman who was famous for his recounting of tall tales, pulling himself and his horse out of a mire by his own hair.
The image reflects a philosophical problem dubbed the Münchhausen Trilemma, which contends that all truth claims can be questioned and then need evidence. For a claim whose verity cannot be derived from another claim’s, and which has no supporting evidence, the trilemma postulates that the claimant is left with three options in providing proof; namely, the circular argument, the regressive argument, and the axiomatic argument.
The first method of reasoning is that in which the claim and its evidence are used to support each other; the second method requires each point of evidence to be based on other evidence, ad infinitum; and the third method relies upon the claim being self-evidential.
Aside from its thought-provoking subtleties, the trilemma is fundamentally flawed by its very nature: circular reasoning opens the possibility of logically fallacious theories being used to support logically sound ones; an infinite regress obviously has to be voluntarily stopped at some point for the sake of practicality; and the acceptance of a statement as a bedrock assumption does not necessarily mean that it is true.
Among other things, this is why basic science necessitates an element of falsifiability. A hypothesis cannot be proven true, but it can, for all practical purposes, be rejected when contradictory evidence is obtained.
Unlike creationism or “Intelligent Design,” a scientific theory, like evolution, deals in evidence and probability, and welcomes challenge and change, while religion deals in certainty and does not welcome criticism of its faith-based tenets. Indeed, science invites critical scrutiny through the use of scientific controls. A scientific control enables scientists to attempt to prove their hypotheses wrong, thereby making their developing conclusions more robust, should they stand up to repeated attempts.
Falsifiability: one of the many reasons religion and science are fundamentally and diametrically opposed, and why we have yet to see religion accomplish for humanity what science has achieved in its yet brief but extraordinary existence.
- The Logic of Scientific Discovery by Karl Popper
- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition by Thomas S. Kuhn
- Epistemology by Richard Feldman
Image Credits: Oskar Herrfurth (1862–1934)