Saturday, September 27, 2014

Science and Faith

As a philosopher, I often think about what many people around the world see as two paths that are ultimately irreconcilable: Science and Faith. Comedian and talk show host Bill Maher said recently on his talk show "Real Time with Bill Maher" "You cannot reconcile science and faith. In science, everything has to make sense, in religion plainly not." He also said in an interview with Ralph Reed that faith was "The suspension of critical thinking."

While many people of non-faith may not be as vitriolic as Mr. Maher, many do seem to believe that faith is simple credulity, utter myth, and man-made fiction. And to be fair, the religious deserve some of the blame for this by not being properly educated on these matters. This is especially true in my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Lets begin by defining our terms on what we mean by science and faith. According to the Oxford Dictionary, science is "The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment." Faith is "Complete trust or confidence in someone or something."

These definitions themselves prove that science and faith are not incompatible. Why? Because scientists (whether religious or not) are all men of faith by this definition. They have complete faith in the scientific method, believing that it will bring them results and answers to their questions. I know that Richard Dawkins may not want to hear this, but he is very much a man of faith.

Ok, the anti-religious will say, but science cannot prove that a God exists. This is true, however it misses the point in a way for the anti-religious. If science cannot prove something, it remains neutral on it. So at best science could lead a person to agnosticism, but not atheism because it is not scientifically provable whether there is a God or not. So when people say their is no God, they are not making a scientific claim at all, they are making a philosophical claim.

Faith is not, as Maher has said, simple credulity. Rather it is a belief that is indeed based on evidence. It is based on experiences and witness of God. For instance, thousands of people put the promise of Moroni to the test each year by praying to find out if the Book of Mormon is true. If the Book of Mormon is true, then there most certainly is a God. But one can only know that through the power of the Holy Ghost, which is not irrational but supra-rational; meaning it cannot be explained by reason alone because it is beyond reason.

That being said, the religious must realize that science and faith are not incompatible either. That means that when reading religious texts, we cannot be fundamentalists. We must have reason in our revelation and revelation in our reason. In other words, use modern science in the reading of the scriptures, as well as philosophy. As people of faith lets look to people like Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and Blake Ostler, men who proved that faith is not irrational and compatible with all forms of science.


  1. Loved it. More people should realize this and distinguish the claims between philosophical and scientific. I didn't really think of it that way before, so thank you for opening my eyes to that.

  2. I found this refreshing in a world where many insist that science and religion are incompatible.