scientific theory

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scientific theory

Postby TerraFrost » Mon Mar 24, 2003 4:07 am

In a nation founded on the ideas of freedom, where government cannot officially endorse any one religion, can the lack of endorsement be an endorsement in and of itself? This question was at the core of the Scopes trial in 1925, in which a high school biology teacher had been charged with illegaly teaching evolution.

So what similarities do religion and science share? They obviously share the same goal - to explain the world around us. If they didn't atleast share that, then there wouldn't be an issue at all. So what other similarities do they share? For one, they both require leaps of faith. If you're religious, you have to assume that the book you base your beliefs isn't part of some malicious conspiracy. Likewise, if you believe in the wisdom of science, you have to assume that the pictures and the texts you've read aren't part of some larger conspiracy, as well.

Further, both science and religion take full advantage of the technology of the time to make their cases. When the more established religions came into being, there simply wasn't much technology for them to use. People couldn't write down their ideas on a piece of paper, but rather, they had to remember them, and just hope they would never forget them. When paper and literacy did come about, religion took full advantage of those, but at that point, it was a little to late to have what constitutes definitive proof today. Science, on the other hand, has a wide range of technology at its disposal with which its case can be made. This alone puts religion at a serious disadvantage to science.

Finally, both science and religion inspire blind adherency - something which doesn't do either any good. People will only listen to arguments so long as they think that there's a chance that they may not have heard those arguments before, and the fact is, blind adherents don't tend to have very many arguments. After all, if you're going to unconditionaly believe in something, then your not going to need justification, and all the evidence that would normally help justify your believe is just going to be frivilious.

So what makes science so much better than religion? Why should science be endorsed by a government that can't endorse any one religion? Well, for one, science doesn't substitute religion. Religion concerns itself with a lot more than science does, such as morality, and the existence of a higher power. Teaching science doesn't eliminate the need for religion.

Finally, while science may be resistant to change even when change is sometimes warranted, the fact is, it *can* change, and *has*. For example... consider the "evolution" of combustion. Ancient Greeks believed that every thing in the world was composed of four basic elements - fire, air, water, and earth. These quantities were dynamic, and combustion occured when fire dominated the other three elements. In the late 1600's, the theory of Phlogiston began to take root - a theory which is based on the fact that when sulfer burns, it burns away entirely, in contrast to the burning of wood, or paper, which leaves ash. According to this theory, Phlogiston is a type of sulfer that is present in all combustable objects, and calx is the pure elemental substance. When you burn something, the phogiston burns away, and the pure elemental substance, calx, is left in it's place. Since sulfer is pure Phlogiston, it doesn't leave anything behind. Now we know that combustion is caused by Oxygen, but... the point is that science evolves, as this example shows. Other examples of science "evolving" and discarding once common theories include the demise of the theory of ether, and the demise of the belief in Freudian's psycho-sexual stages. This is the basic premise behind science. You come up with a theory that explains everything that you know of, and then when you discover something that contradicts that theory - something that the theory didn't predict would happen, the theory changes. For what the ancient Greeks knew, the four elements was a perfectly good theory, and for what was known in the late 1600's, Phlogiston was a perfectly good theory. These theories, however, aren't science, in and off themselves. They are the application of science, and the scientific method. Now, granted, those theories may not have changed when it would have been appropriate for them to change, but... if theories were to change on a whim, then they'd be a lot more vulnerable to bad theories, brought about by hoaxes, or what ever else may confound the scientific method.

This brings us back to our question... in a nation founded on the ideas of freedom, where government cannot officially endorse any one religion, can the lack of endorsement be an endorsement in and of itself? Maybe, maybe not, but... if it is, then it's the most beniegn endorsement that can be made, for science, if understood properly, is the most dynamic of the possibilities, and makes the least presumptions.
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