Re: Science and religion

Tibor Benke (benke@SFU.CA)
Tue, 1 Nov 1994 09:04:35 -0800

Dear Leo,

You wrote:

>It would appear by the mail I have received that I have been
>misunderstood. When I put forth a possible distinction between science
>and religion, I was looking for an answer.
>I am not looking for any sort of religious truth at all. To be quite
>honest, I suppose that I am agnostic, and am quite secure with my present
>lack of enthusiasm toward "religious truth."

Perhaps you missed or missunderstood my reply. I began it with a quote
from the Bible (From first Kings 18:22-25)in order to show how the
experimental method is already present in Judaism , if in embrionic form.

You say:

>The original question, put forth by someone else on the list (sorry, I
>didn't save that message) for another reason, was:
> What is the difference between science and religion?
> Science must actively falsify itself to obtain objective truth.
> A religion would fail if it tried such active falsification.
>I understand that maybe the phenomenoligists might have a problem with
>the first part, since there is no objective truth for them, but I have
>stated what I believe. As I said earlier, using various definitions,
>other that Tylor's of course, science would seem like a religion. I hope
>to be able to explain to my classes with confidence what the difference
>is between the two. Please let me know personally or on the list what
>you think. You can flame me all you want, I am *really* in search of the
>scientific truth here.

But I tried to point out:

>>To begin with, it seems to me, that 'religion' and 'science' name categories which might be termed 'emic'...

This distinction is rooted in specific historical events particular to
"Christendom", that is to say, When the church's discourse had to be
challenged, it retreated into the position that "Jesus said, My kingdom is
not of this world" i.e. scientific truth cannot dispute the truth of God,
because God is beyond human reason. " Science" accepted this artificial
separation and both systems retained their claim to absolute truth in their
own sphere. Only modern philosophers of science, (after scientific truths
had to be revised numerous times) put forward the theory that while science
does not at any particular time claim the absolute truth of its theories or
even laws, it can draw a "line of demarcation" (to use Popper's
terminology) between itself and religion and pseudoscience and that this
line of demarcation is falsification. But if we look at actual scientists
as they practice science, I suspect that just like the famed exponent of
Popper in Anthropology, Freemann, they go about falsifying the results of
other practicioners. That is, both Margaret Mead and Derek Freeman found
what each of them expected to find in Samoa. Conversely, in 'religion'
practicioners are constantly attempting to falsify each other's truth

Where science and religion might actually differ, is in what counts as
evidence that can be used to support truth claims. I submit, once more,
that in the systematazions we call 'science' revelation, and hence, holy
writ as well, are excluded from the realm of evidence. While inspiration,
authority, or intuition might be accorded a role in hypothesis formulation,
only logic and material evidence can be used to support proof. Only the
evidence of the senses, whether mediated by instruments or not and formal
binary logic are considered to have evidentiary weight.

I hope I made myself clearer this second time.

>@> (*)%(^)%
>@> Tibor Benke / (^)%(#)
>@> Graduate Student (MA program)
>@> Department of Sociology and Anthropology
>@> Simon Fraser University,
>@> Burnaby, B.C., Canada. V5A 1S6 >@>
>@> Nota Bene: The opinions herein expressed are merely my own ! >@> ^^^^^^^^^^^