Re: On credulity and religion
Sat, 13 Jul 1996 14:26:38 -0700

Bryant wrote:

> We accept that chemicals are floating around the universe
> because we can see, measure, and describe them. Is that really as
> irrational as making untestable claims about the origins of those
> chemicals? Of course not.

There seems to be some confusion here as to the difference between
theories and facts, as well as the differences between models and

As far as I know, electrons have not been seen. Evidence of their
existence, based on predicted behavior, has been seen. Science describes
the spin of an electron. The electron does not spin as a ball does on
it's axis. Spin is used in modeling to assist in understanding the
behavior of electrons In fact, every aspect of the description of an
atom is modeled. We have no knowledge of the reality of an atom. And
measurments are only taken to validate the predicted behavior of an
atom. The reason I accept the atomic model is because of it provides a
reliable and convenient basis for predicting the behavior of an atom.

If you base your exceptance on the belief that an atom has been seen,
measured, and described; you are basing your acceptance on a false

Even if the atom had been seen, measured, and described in it's full
reality; how many physicists and chemists are going to stop and take a
look for themselves? Scientists, like all people, must at some point
place their faith in the experiences of others. If we had to validate
every statement made by every other scientist, science would not
progress very far.

As far as 'making untestable claims about the origins of those
chemicals', I do not think the theories behind the big bang have ever
been tested. In fact, while we can model the big bang and locate
evidence which that model predicts in order to support the big bang
theory, we would have to actually step outside of the universe in order
to test the theory itself. (Much like the concept of actually stepping
out of ones life in order to test the concept of life after death). So I
would have to say: 'Either science does make untestable claims about the
origins of those chemicals, or life after death is testable, just not
conveniently so.

Finally, do religions provide models from which reliable predictions can
be made? Yes. And, most people involved in religion have experienced
some sort of validation for these models. If not, religion would have
little value to them.

Consider this:

If I were to sit two physicists down together; one who believes in
string theory, and one who believes in quantum theory. Both would be
able to provide me with models, and both would be able to share the
research which has been done which validates their theories. (I would
have to take that validation on faith). Both are scientists, yet neither
of them can prove their theories. Do I:

(a) say that since neither can provide proof, they are not scientists
and/or are being irrational,
(b) chose the argument which is easiest to understand and say that the
other is unscientific and/or irrational,
(c) attempt to validate the theories myself and chose the one which
provides the most accurate and convenient predictions for the work I am
engaged in,
(d) develop a new theory which is better than either of the earlier
ones, or
(e) decide that this is all way to complicated and study anthropology