Re: Scientific Faith

ray scupin (scupin@LINDENWOOD.EDU)
Thu, 12 Oct 1995 15:17:01 -0500

On Mon, 9 Oct 1995, Juan C. Garelli wrote:

> David Roland Strong wrote:
> > In order for science to be useful, a certain amount of faith
> > must exist...
> I agree, at least in part, because a comprehensive rationalism is
> untenable.
> The rationalist attitude is characterized by the importance it
> attaches to argument and experience. But neither logical argument nor
> experience can establish the rationalist attitude; for only those who
> are ready to consider argument and experience, and who have therefore
> adopted this stance already are likely to be impressed by them. In
> other words, a rationalist stance must first be adopted if any
> argument or experience is to be effective, and it cannot therefore be
> based upon argument or experience. As I stated in a previous posting,
> no rational argument will have a rational effect on somebody who does
> not want to adopt a rational attitude. This is why a cromprehensive
> rationalism is untenable.
> So this means that whoever adopts the rationalist stance does so
> because he has adopted, wittingly or unwittingly, some proposal, or
> decision, or belief; an adoption which we may call "irrational".
> Whether this adoption is tentative or leads to a settled habit, we
> may describe it as an "irrational faith in reason". This is frequently
> overlooked by rationalists who thus expose themselves to a beating in
> their own field and by their favourite weapon whenever a clever
> irrationalist cares to take the trouble to turn it against them.
> Indeed it does not escape the attention of some enemies of
> rationalism that one can always refuse to accept arguments -either
> all of them or those of a certain kind- and that such stance can be
> carried through without becoming logically inconsistent. This leads
> them to see that the uncritical rationalist who believes that
> rationalism is self-contained and can be established by argument is
> wrong. Consequently, irrationalism is logically superior to
> Uncritical rationalism. So the only tenable position is that of the
> Critical Rationalist, who admits he _believes_ in reason.

I disagree with this contention. A faith in science and the rationalism
that underlies it is different than faith in religion. Although I concur
with D. Foss and John McCreery and others that science and religion often
intersect in a variety of ways, a faith in science is based on
empirically available worldly (objective) evidence, whereas faith in
religion is based on personal, subjective interpretations such as
visions, the personal interpretations of texts that are not subject to
public confirmation, hallucinations, etc. One has belief/faith/confidence
in science and rationalism because one can observe with others that airplanes
and space shuttles fly into the stratosphere and medical biological research
produces new medicines that can cure illnesses. One has
belief/faith/confidence in religion because of personal subjective
feelings and insights that cannot be confirmed by public verification.
Faith in science versus faith in religion are categorically different, and
reverberate around the distinctions that Kant made between the phenomenal
world and the noumenal.


Ray Scupin