Is science a religion? Or is it the polar opposite of religion, a belief in empiricism over dogma?

This thorny issue has theorists' heads in a spin, because science and religion are both systems of thought with rich literatures and traditions, both (supposedly) dedicated to discovering the real truth behind reality. And yet their methods are polar opposites, one seeks truth through "revealed knowledge" (ancient literature, spiritual leaders, subjective intuition) while the other proclaims a philosophy of eternal skepticism, the polar opposite to dogma. Don't believe in anything!

The issue is simply resolved by giving a name to something that all (real) scientists already believe in, and that is SCIENTISM. I am a Scientismist! I believe in science as the most reliable path to the truth. And so do all the rest of us scientists, otherwise we wouldn't bother with science! Nobody ever proved that Scientism is right, but I believe in it anyway because it has proven itself over the centuries at least to my satisfaction. If you too are persuaded, they you also believe in Scientism.

This one admission of faith as the foundational pedestal underlying science, changes the whole equation, and opens the possibility for a new religion dedicated to the REAL discovery of REAL truth. And it opens the possibility of devising a system of ethics and morality based on reason, without recourse to supernatural belief!

Check it out and post your comments: Are you a Scientismist?

Scientism: A system of ethics based on reason without recourse to supernatural belief

   Steve Lehar

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While most in AN "believe in science as the most reliable path to the truth", most of us don't consider such belief faith. Isn't "faith" by definition belief in the absence of evidence? Nothing has more evidence behind it than the scientific method.

"Isn't "faith" by definition belief in the absence of evidence?"

I wish this was better understood by some….

"Faith is believing what you know aint so" -- Mark Twain

Only false faith! There is ONE true faith, one belief system that is distinguished by the fact that it worships reality as it exists. Faith in SCIENTISM is believing what I know IS true!

Not all faiths are equal -- all the other faiths are WRONG.

Yes, faith is belief in the absence of evidence. What is the evidence that this whole world is not a dream in your mind? There is neither evidence nor proof that the external world exists independent of our experience of it, but most of us believe in it anyways, because that seems more reasonable to us.

What is the evidence to prove that 1: God created the universe, then 2: chose to disguise Himself as a physical universe to make us prove our faith in Him. Does not sound very reasonable, but there is no evidence to prove it one way or another.

What is the evidence that mental telepathy doesn't work? Maybe its just that it only works when nobody is testing it. Sounds unreasonable? But not provably so.

If God is by definition undetectable by physical means, then we cannot prove his non-existence nor his existence. You have to rely on your belief in reason to choose the most parsimonious explanation by Occam's razor. Those who are inclined to faith choose otherwise.

" You have to rely on your belief in reason to choose the most parsimonious explanation by Occam's razor."

Oooh, …this does't work well with quantum mechanics.

Yes nothing has more evidence than the scientific method, but that method is only persuasive to reasonable people, to people who believe that reason trumps intuition or faith or superstition. Those who do NOT accept reason as the primary foundation for truth are NOT persuaded by scientific evidence. You have to be a Scientismist to consider science persuasive. But Scientism can only be proven within science. It cannot be proven to a person who believes primarily in faith.

But this is more than just word-play. There is an important distinction to be made by factoring Scientism from science that resolves the age-old debate between science and religion: We cannot prove that science is the right method for everybody, we can only prove it to other scientists who are convinced by reasonable explanations. This may seem tautological to us scientists who take that belief so much for granted that we don't even acknowledge it as a belief. But a belief it is, albeit a very reasonable belief at that.

Sorry the link to my pdf seems broken -- I checked it 5 minutes before posting, and it went down right afterwards. I have an email in to the system manager to reboot that machine.

" one seeks truth through "revealed knowledge" (ancient literature, spiritual leaders, subjective intuition)".

No, I do not accept 'revealed knowledge' as defined as ancient literature, spiritual leaders, or subjective intuition.

"the other proclaims a philosophy of eternal skepticism, the polar opposite to dogma. Don't believe in anything!"

Yes, skepticism has proved to be the most reliable and trustworthy, although it is my tendency to believe anything/everything until I see it is not a reliable and trustworthy thing to believe. (This is my little confession but I am not asking for forgiveness, just being self-aware.)   

And it opens the possibility of devising a system of ethics and morality based on reason...

That statement is a bit misleading. Reason and science are valueless data. Data can be used equally for good or bad. Ethics and morality, without a god, can only come from human desires, emotions or feelings. Reason can and should inform us about our desires, and how to best satisfy them. But, ultimately, the final arbiter of our ethics is always an emotional choice. Complete humanism = emotional values + rational beliefs.

Reason and science are indeed valueless data, and thus they can never form the basis of a system of ethics. But ScientISM is different in that regard. It IS a personal belief system that reasonable people hold, and they hold it with a passion if, like me, they hate ignorance and dogma.

Although our current morals and ethics are determined primarily by our sense of 'conscience', an emotional feeling for what is right and wrong, those primal ethical instincts are not arbitrary, they are themselves the end result of a long period of evolution, where people with the "right" instincts prospered over those with pathological or "wrong" instincts. That means that we can devise an objective system of ethics based on the same principles on which our ethics evolved. 

Understanding why our ethical instincts evolved to the form they did, is a scientific question without any value judgment. Even if we devised a "perfect" system of ethics, there is no scientific reason for anyone to submit to that system, especially if it requires them to act against their self-interest. This is the atheist's dilemma -- why bother with being morally 'good' when it is against your self-interest, especially when your actions are invisible to others. It is downright unreasonable not to dip into the till if you know for sure that nobody will discover your theft.

It takes one more extra ingredient, a dogmatic FAITH in the rightness of "the perfect" system of ethics, and that is where we need to expand beyond science and into the realm of faith, but in this case it is a faith in REASON ITSELF that motivates our belief system.

The point is that with the addition of ScientISM to science, it does indeed make it possible to formulate a system of ethics and morality based on reason, without recourse to belief in the supernatural. Humanism is fine for humanity. I seek a more general system that is trans-humanly applicable.

Check out my Scientism paper (as soon as the link comes up -- sorry its broken right now) and see if you agree. I take it step by step from first principles, and come up with a system of ethics that is so general that it applies not only to all of humanity, but applies throughout the animal world, and to artificial intelligence when we create it, and to alien intelligences when we discover them.

If you believe that our system of ethics evolved the way they did for a reason, surely that reason itself can guide us to formulate a more generalized belief system that is more widely applicable, and that exercise reveals many fundamental principles behind why we behave the way we do. As for actually following that belief system, even acting against our own interest, that requires more than just reason, it requires a BELIEF in the moral RIGHTNESS of reason, and that is something on which science is silent, only ScientISM can provide.

Its not just a trick of words. Cleaving off the belief portion of science and naming it Scientism, is a genuine advance in our understanding the similarities and contrasts between science and beliefs.

Scientism: According the Oxford dictionary: excessive belief in the power of scientific knowledge and techniques.

Scientism: This threads definition:  A system of ethics based on reason without recourse to supernatural belief

Ethics doesn't come into play, it's the humans that feel a need for ethics, not science. If science was ethical, there would be no experimentation on living entities. Science has nothing to do with ethics. Ethics is a field of philosophy, it's not a field of science. 

To answer the question, am I a Scientismist? I have to say 'no'. For me science is about verifiability. It's a process, to verify how things work, based on our five senses.

I believe in science as the most reliable path to the truth.

???, Science is a process to explain stuff. But a path to the truth?, You need to define what truth is first. And even if you define truth, your definition of truth is going to be different from somebody else's definition of truth. 


Eg: Evolution.  For me evolution has nothing to do with questions like 'what are our true origins?' or 'where do we come from?' Evolution for me is an explanation as to how all living entities ended up the way they are today. Even Abiogenesis, for me, has nothing to do with the question 'where do we come from?' or 'what is the ultimate truth about our origins'. For me, Abiodenesis is the study of how the first biochemical materials may have replicated themselves.


Also, if we can not understand the 'truth', is it truth. 

For example, it took me a long time to grasp the theory of relativity, both General and Special. Once understood they are easy to understand. But getting to the point of understanding both theories, took a while. And even so, I still doubt myself about my total understanding of it. 

I think there are many atheist out there who have no clue what the theory of relativity is. Yet, they probably believe E=mc2 is true. So, even if E=mc2 is true, if somebody can not understand how this formula came about, how can it be "true" for that somebody? It would just be a belief not a "truth". 


 a system of ethics and morality based on reason

All of our systems on earth are based on reason already. China, Iran, Russia all have ethical and moral systems in place that are based on human reason. If you are not happy with some of these systems then the problem is with you and not the system.


Is science a religion?

As Ruth said: Isn't "faith" by definition belief in the absence of evidence? 

Therefore if you believe in something scientific, without looking at some of the evidence behind it, then you are treating science as a religion, and have decided to forgo scientific method and you are also treating science as a faith. But if you decide to read up on a particular scientific field, write down the formula and try and work out why a particular formula holds true, then faith is not a part of the equation. 


For me science is difficult. It takes up a lot of my time to understand. Personally I have to go over things again and again and it is frustrating to say the least. But in the end, when I finally understand something like the theory of relativity, I think it's kind of cool. :)  But I don't believe or have faith in the theory of relativity, I don't believe or have faith that it is true. For me it's more about understanding how it all works. 





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