With the progressive and successful endeavor of modern science, beginning in the 17th century, its knowledge was seen to be based upon reason, not faith. Faith and belief were passé and inferior to this new form of knowledge. The Logical Positivists of the early 20th century tried to build a whole epistemology on the basis of empiricism, that is, the only true knowledge was that based upon what could be experimentally verified—until thinkers began to realize that that principle of verification was itself based in faith-belief.
However, the force of scientific epistemology, as being “objective,” has hardly abated. From the behaviorism of Skinner to the dogmas of continuing evolutionism, people have continued to claim this “objective” and “true” nature of scientific knowledge. But all knowledge is grounded in faith-belief! This section will demonstrate by recognized authorities the fact of that grounding. While universal (classical) foundations have failed, personal foundations in faith-belief are necessary and inescapable for the basis of all knowledge.
Science, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.
The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified….
Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence. (Taking Science on Faith)
Michael Polanyi is perhaps the foremost apologist for faith-based science which he called Personal Knowledge, the title of his book on his Gifford Lectures of 1951-52.. He had achieved world-renown in physical chemistry before changing to philosophy of science in mid-career. Much of the following, but certainly not all, will be his work.
This subject matter is of crucial importance to the survival of Western Christendom where the discourse must be between “faith” and “faith,” not supposed “faith groups” and “not faith groups.” See Faith vs. Faith: Fighting on Level Ground.
Merold Westphal on Martin Heidegger
“This does not mean that faith and theology should be given the noncognitivist interpretations familiar from positivist or Wittgensteinian contexts. Faith is a ‘believing-understanding mode of existing,’ and it stands in relation to something actual…. But with Luther, Heidegger refuses to allow faith to be understood as the pistis that Plato puts on the lower half of the divided line. We misunderstand faith terribly if we assume that the (Christian or religious) believer really wants (to have a ground in his own personal metaphysics)…, but failing to be part of the intellectual elite, settles for a second class, ‘more or less modified type, of knowing.”
“Every positive science concerns a domain that is ‘already disclosed,’ prior to any ‘theoretical consideration,’ in a ‘prescientific manner of approaching and proceeding with that which is.’ Science presupposes this ‘prescientific behavior’ in which the (subjective knowing) that concerns it is ‘already disclosed’ …. (Merold Westphal, Overcoming Onto-Theology [pages 14-15] is discussing quotes from Heidegger’s “Phenomenology and Theology.” Bolding is Ed’s.; italics are Westphal’s.)
(1) “Every interpretation of nature, whether scientific, non-scientific, or anti-scientific, is based upon some intuitive conception of the nature of things. In the magical (tacit) interpretation of experience, we see that some causes which to us are massive and plain (such as a stone crushing a man’s skull) are regarded as incidental or irrelevant to the event, while certain remote incidents (like the passing overhead of a rare bird) which to us appear to have no conceivable bearing on it are seized upon as its effective causes. Such a system may resist many facts which to those who do not believe in the system appear to refute it. Any view of things is highly stable and can be effectively opposed, or rationally opposed, only on grounds that extend over the entire experience of man. The premises of science on which all scientific teaching and research rest are the beliefs held by scientists on the general nature of things.” (Science, Faith, and Society, pages 10-11)
“These maxims and the art of interpreting them may be said to constitute the premises of science but I prefer to call them our scientific beliefs. These premises or beliefs are embodied in a tradition, the tradition of science.” Cited here.
(2) “The book of Genesis and it great pictorial illustrations, like the frescoes of Michelangelo, remain a far more intelligent account of the nature and origin of the universe than the representations of the world as a chance collocation of atoms. For the Biblical cosmology continues to express—however inadequately—the significance of the fact that the world exists and that man has emerged from it, while the scientific picture denies any meaning to the world, and indeed ignores all our most vital experience of this world. The assumption that the world has some meaning which is linked to our own calling as the only morally responsible beings in the world, is an important example of the supernatural aspect of experience which Christian interpretations of the universe explore and develop” (Personal Knowledge, 284-5)
(3) “To hold (scientific) knowledge is an act deeply committed to the conviction that there is something there to be discovered. It is personal, in the sense of involving the personality of him who holds it, and also in the sense of being, as a rule, solitary; but there is no trace in it of self-indulgence. The discoverer is filled with a compelling sense of responsibility for the pursuit of a hidden truth, which demands his services for revealing it. His act of knowing exercises a personal judgement in relating evidence to an external reality, an aspect of which he is seeking to apprehend.” (The Tacit Dimension, 24-25)
(4) “Any account of science which does not explicitly describe it as something we believe in, is essentially incomplete and a false pretension. It amounts to a claim that science is essentially different from and superior to all human beliefs which are not scientific statements, and this is untrue. (The Logic of Liberty, 10)
(5) “We must now recognize belief once more as the source of all knowledge. Tacit assent and intellectual passions, the sharing of an idiom and a cultural heritage, affiliation to a like-minded community: such are the impulses which shape our vision of the nature of things on which we rely for our mastery of things. No intelligence, however critical or original, can operate outside a fiduciary framework.” (Personal Knowledge, 266)
Babette E. Babich on Nietzsche
So far was Nietzsche from standing in Kantian humility and awe before the starry sky above, much less the moral law within, that Nietzsche would have been one of the few men in his century or any other to challenge the apotheosisation (deification) of Newton or else, for more evolutionary tastes, Darwin…. The enterprise of science was even more subject to the same intrinsic limitations as philosophy: “it is still a metaphysical faith upon which our faith in science rests.” Metaphysics was possible as a science neither in mathematics nor natural science nor indeed theo-ontology (or cosmology)…. Regarded as a radically critical, which is also to say: quintessentially philosophic approach to the question of science, Nietzsche’s grounding question of theoretical or scientific knowledge quickly takes the philosophic reader to the depths of critical reflection. Not even the original author of the critical philosophy, puts science so manifestly in question…. (italics are Nietzsche’s) Nietzsche’s Critical Theory of Science as Art
David H. Freedman on Thomas Kuhn
“Thomas Kuhn, the MIT science historian who famously gave the world the phrase “paradigm shift,” argued in the early 1960s that what scientists choose to measure, how they measure it, which measurements they keep, and what they conclude from them are all shaped by their own and their colleagues’ ideas and beliefs. And Berkeley’s Robert MacCoun told me once that once an expert jumps to a dubious conclusion, she’ll simply tend to ignore or explain away conflicting evidence.” (Wrong, page 114)
E. A. Burtt on Copernicus vs. “The Church” (Ptolemy); a confrontation falsely framed as “Church vs. Science”; faith in empiricism vs. scientific tradition
Had there been no religious (Christian) scruples whatever against Copernican astronomy, sensible men all over Europe, especially the most empirically minded, would have pronounced it a wild appeal to accept the premature fruits of an uncontrolled imagination, in preference to the solid inductions, built up gradually through the ages, of men’s confirmed sense experience. In the strong stress on empiricism, so characteristic of present-day philosophy, it is well to remind ourselves of this fact. Contemporary empiricists, had they lived in the sixteenth century, would have been first to scoff out of court the new philosophy of the universe. (The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, Dover Edition, 2003, page 38—italic emphases are Ed’s)
Science, then, trades on certain articles of faith like any other form of knowledge. This much, at least, the postmodern skeptics of science have going for them…. Scientists … have become in our own time the authoritarian custodians of absolute truth. They are peddlers of a noxious ideology known as objectivity, a notion which simply tarts up their ideological prejudices in acceptably disinterested guise….
Science, like any other human affair, is indeed shot through with prejudice and partisanship, not to speak of ungrounded assumptions, unconscious biases, taken-for-granted truths, and beliefs too close to the eyeball to be objectified. Like religion, science is a culture, not just a set of procedures and hypotheses. Richard Dawkins declares that science is free of the main vice of religion, which is faith; but as Charles Taylor points out, “to hold that there are no assumptions in a scientist’s work which aren’t already based on evidence is surely a reflection of a blind faith, one that can’t even feel the occasional tremor of doubt….”
Science has its high priests, sacred cows, revered scriptures, ideological exclusions, and rituals for suppressing dissent. To this extent, it is ridiculous to see it as the polar opposite of religion. (Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, 131-133)
“One of the world’s foremost scholars on religious environmentalism, Dr. Bron Taylor, though a Dark Green Religionist himself, begged to differ, writing—in Huffington Post of all places:
Progressives may ridicule those who claim that there is now a cultural ‘War on Christmas’ but Christian conservatives do have reason to worry. They know that their cultural influence has been waning, and that those with evolutionary and ecological worldviews are growing in number and influence. A DVD series released by a group of conservative Christians entitled “Resisting the Green Dragon,” provides one recent example of such fears. These fears are based on an accurate perception that there is a religious dimension to much environmentalism. Those expressing such fears understand, accurately, that those engaged in nature-based spiritualities, both overtly and in subtle ways, are converting many to an evolutionary worldview and an environmentalist spirituality and ethics. They know that this is one reason they are having trouble even keeping their own children in the fold.” [emphases added] (Religion and Environmentalism)
Stephen Thornton on Karl Popper
“As Popper represents it, the central problem in the philosophy of science is that of demarcation, i.e., of distinguishing between science and what he terms ‘non-science’, under which heading he ranks, amongst others, logic, metaphysics, psychoanalysis, and Adler’s individual psychology. Popper is unusual amongst contemporary philosophers in that he accepts the validity of the Human critique of induction, and indeed, goes beyond it in arguing that induction is never actually used by the scientist. However, he does not concede that this entails the skepticism which is associated with Hume, and argues that the Baconian/Newtonian insistence on the primacy of ‘pure’ observation, as the initial step in the formation of theories, is completely misguided: all observation is selective and theory-laden—there are no pure or theory-free observations. In this way he destabilises the traditional view that science can be distinguished from non-science on the basis of its inductive methodology; in contradistinction to this, Popper holds that there is no unique methodology specific to science. Science, like virtually every other human, and indeed organic, activity, Popper believes, consists largely of problem-solving.” From Karl Popper here.
Mapping of the human genome is one proof against materialism…
“A funny thing happened on the way to mapping the genome, says James Le Fanu. Humans have 25,000 genes. That’s enough to get the job done, of course, but scientists were surprised to discover so few. To transform an egg into a baby, those genes have to “multi-task.” That’s just the beginning of sorrows. A fly has 17,000 genes, and so do tiny worms. Why are the numbers so similar when the organisms are so vastly different. And vertebrates: Chimps and even mice have a genome that is “virtually interchangeable” with human the human genome. Good news for Darwinists perhaps; bad news for people who wanted to crack the mystery of living things.
Le Fanu explains the disappointment:
These findings were not just unexpected, they undermined the central premise of biology: that the near-infinite diversity form and attributes that so definitively distinguish living things one from the other must ‘lie in the genes.’ The genome projects were predicated on the assumption that the ‘genes for’ the delicate, stooping head and pure white petals of the snowdrop would be different from the ‘genes for’ the colourful, upstanding petals of the tulip, which would be different again from the ‘genes for’ flies and frogs, birds and humans….
Le Fanu tells a similar story with brain science. The upshot is that two of the most aggressive and exciting scientific projects of the last half century have revealed that science can’t explain the reality of things, especially of living things. It’s time, he suggests, to give up the modern notion that science gets at a level of reality that is somehow “more real” than our daily experience of the world.
(Ed: for the rest of this article, see here.)
“It seems to me that there is a good deal of ballyhoo about scientific method. I venture to think that the people who talk most about it are the people who do least about it. … No working scientist, when he plans an experiment in the laboratory, asks himself whether he is being properly scientific … . When the scientist ventures to criticize the work of his fellow scientist, he does not base his criticism on such glittering generalities as failure to follow the “scientific method,” but his criticism is specific …. The working scientist is always too much concerned with getting down to brass tacks to be willing to spend his time on generalities.” (Reflections of a Physicist, 81)
The declared aim of modern science is to establish a strictly detached, objective knowledge. Any falling short of this ideal is accepted only as a temporary imperfection, which we must aim at eliminating. But suppose that tacit knowledge forms an indispensible part of all knowledge, then the ideal of eliminating all personal knowledge (Ed: Polanyi’s term similar to “subjective” knowledge or faith) would, in effect, aim at the destruction of all knowledge. The ideal of exact science would turn out to be fundamentally misleading and possibly a source of misleading fallacies. (The Tacit Dimension, 1983, page 20)
Nancy Pearcy and Charles Thaxton
“Contemporary historians argue that it is impossible to neatly separate out something called ‘pure’ science from the ‘external’ (Polanyi-“personal” and general “subjective”) religious and metaphysical influences that supposedly ‘contaminate’ it. Fundamental decisions within science are necessarily affected by extra-scientific commitments. The facts that a researcher considers scientifically interesting in the first place, the kind of research he undertakes, the hypotheses he is willing to entertain, the way he interprets his results, and the extrapolations he draws to other fields—all depend upon prior conceptions of what the world is like.” (The Soul of Science, page 74)
By the end of the eighteenth century, mathematics had become an idol. (Ed: Idols are one’s ultimate value or in what one has ultimate faith). In the scholarly world, it was a matter of faith that the universe was a perfectly running perpetual-motion machine—a view that eliminated the need for God to do anything except perhaps start it all off. In epistemology, it became likewise a matter of faith (to believe that) that the axiomatic method led to universal and absolute truth—a view that eliminated the need for divine revelation. Under the spell of Newton’s success in mathematical physics, scholars hoped to use the same method to reinterpret the social, political, moral, and even religious thinking of the age. In every field, their goal was to intuit (believe that) a body of starting postulates and from them deduce a universal and infallible system…. As historian Rudolph Weingartner writes I the eighteenth century, “many believed that the time was near when all things would be explained by means of a universal physics.” (One’s belief in) human would conquer the world, reducing it to scientific formulas.” (Ibid., page 137—Ed’s italics)
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
“According to the Thomistic model, philosophy and theology are distinct enterprises. The primary difference between the two is their intellectual starting points. Philosophy takes as its data the deliverances of our natural mental faculties: what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell (the same as natural science—Ed). These data can be accepted o the basis of the reliability of our natural faculties with respect to the natural world. Theology (properly executed—Ed), on the other hand, takes as its starting point the divine revelations contained in the Bible. These data can be accepted on the basis of divine authority, in a way analogous to the way in which we accept, for example, the claims made by a physics professor about the basic facts of physics. (Ed: This last statement is quite surprising in its raw appeal to authority which is an act of faith. The author is saying that modern physics is a matter of faith, as is his definition of theology.) Michael Murray and Michael Rea, “Philosophy and Christian Theology,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
“Creation of a thing, and creation plus full understanding of a correct idea of the thing, are parts of one and the same indivisible process… The process itself is not guided by a well-defined programme, and cannot be guided by such programme… It is guided rather by a vague urge, by a `passion’. ” (Found is his book, Against Method, page unknown)
Commentary from Amazon.com
“Against Method (Paul Feyerabend) calls into question the position that science enjoys in modern society (politics, education, etc.). The separation of state and science—the same way it was done in the case of state and religion—during the Enlightenment is suggested. The main reason is that science is hardly distinguishable from the myths often encountered in religion; it can be equally as dogmatic (if not more so). Aspects of religion often criticized by scientists (such as giving more weight to ideas coming from prestigious sources) are very much present in science as well. The concept of scientific method that is supposed to distinguish science from myth, according to Feyerabend, does not exist. Scientists on their way to useful discovery use a variety of tools, which includes rational argument and experimental checks, but it can also include rhetoric, propaganda, opportunism, etc. Furthermore, it is not only that the scientific method does not exist, but it would hinder progress (in particular of science itself), if it existed, since proposing new ideas would be prevented from coming to light by the strict and binding criteria of any method. In fact spontaneity would be sacrificed. It is also mentioned that the situation in science is steadily worsening since science has become a business in which producing bulk, (not mentioned are politicking at conferences, kissing up to powerful mafiosos of the field), etc. are more essential in building a scientific career than in depth investigations or great ideas.” Reference here. (This entry edited slightly by Ed.)
“Thus science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit. It is one of the many forms of thought that have been developed by man, and not necessarily the best. It is conspicuous, noisy, and impudent, but it is inherently superior only for those who have already decided in favor of a certain ideology, or who have accepted it without having ever examined its advantages and its limits. And as the accepting and rejecting of ideologies should be left to the individual. It follows that the separation of state and church must be supplemented by the separation of state and science, that most recent, most aggressive, and most dogmatic religious institution. Such a separation may be our only chance to achieve a humanity we are capable of, but have never fully realized…”
“And yet science has no greater authority than any other form of life. Its aims are certainly not more important than are the aims that guide the lives in a religious community or in a tribe that is united by a myth. At any rate, they have no business restricting the lives, the thoughts, the education of the members of a free society where everyone should have a chance to make up his own mind and to live in accordance with the social beliefs he finds most acceptable. The separation between state and church must therefore be complemented by the separation between state and science.” Reference here (Ed’s emphasis)
Thomas E. Lynch
“In practical terms, the ultimate success of the non-empirical discoveries in Copernicus, Vesalius, and Einstein eloquently testifies on behalf of this ontology/epistemology. These discoveries ultimately depended not upon experiment, but upon critical intimations of a more meaningful understanding. Thus, the credo of a scientist need not be much different from that of Christian believers—fides querens intellectum. The scientist must believe before he knows. The conclusion reached here is that valid knowledge can be held, but it is ineluctably rooted in belief.” (Modern Age, Spring 1997, 107-121) Also, found here.
“It is true that scientists take certain things on faith. It is also true that religious narratives might speak to human needs that scientific theories can’t hope to satisfy.”
Ed: While Bloom’s article is to show that the faith of science is valid, where religious faith is not, he refutes all else that he says with these two sentences!