Science Is Not The Most Important Subject

Science Is Not The Most Important Subject

Stream: Science Is Not The Most Important Subject

What’s with all the kowtowing to science among religious folks?

As soon as a scientist, or science cheerleader, starts talking about the “unbridgeable” divide between religion and science, a Christian apologist trots out and pleads “There is no contradiction between science and Christianity.”

Well, there isn’t. But the Christian has the wrong attitude. There is no need of meek acceptance of science’s superior ground. Science does not hold the hill. It is down in the valley boasting big. Christians need to recognize this. When a scientist starts waving his slide rule around in a menacing manner, the Christian should say What is wrong with you people?

The Limitations of Science

Science is terrific. But isn’t everything. It isn’t even most things. Knowing the weight of a neutrino won’t tell you why stealing is a sin. Neither can positing some mathematical formula for altruism and selfish genes tell you why men cooperate. All arguments along this line are circular or invalid, anyway. They either assume what they want to know, like that rape is wrong. Or they assume that alone among men, the scientist has escaped the pull of his biology and can tell you how things really are.

Look. Figuring how to create a magnetic monopole won’t get you into Heaven. It won’t keep you out, either. So why are scientists so combative about religion?

The suspicion—more like the raw, rabid hope—of some scientists is that a culture which embraces science will eschew religion. Science will allow humanity to leave its infancy behind and lead it to a bright, happy future where everybody goes around chatting about the reproductive habits of newts.

But not discussing why it’s right wrong to kill yourself. Scientists figure they can handle those tough questions themselves, and then tell the rest of us their “discovery.” This is a vain hope.

The Unmeasurable Cannot Be Measured

Science can speak only about the measurable properties of things. That’s it. Nothing more. About elementary fermions science is teeming with a lot o’ news. It has many cheerful facts about your brainwaves when you take a snooze.


You can click here and observe the words at the link, but science will never tell you why they are important.


  1. I am the very model of a scientific researcher.

  2. Sander van der Wal

    The most important subject is “how to lead a good life”. Maybe even “how to lead the best possible life”.

    What is best, or what is good are not scientific questions, but ideological ones. Hence Scientism, the ideology that states that all questions are falsifiable, is a valid contender among the ideologies willing to answer those questions.

    Science is not an ideology, so Science won’t provide answers.

  3. Gary

    So why are scientists so combative about religion?

    Offense is the best defense? When religion, particularly Christianity, confronts you with a challenge you fear, and running away only works temporarily, what else can you do but fight with all the tricks you can muster?

  4. Joy

    “Lot ‘o news’!
    Science is not in conflict with religion and there isn’t space for it except in people’s misunderstanding of how thinkology works. Some of the thinkologists enjoy the wind-up and some of us are always Game for a laugh.

    Here’s a lovely Christian who knows, like Michael 2, a lot about the square of the hypotenuse:

  5. JH

    It is fine that science is not the most important subject to you, just as region is not important to me at all.  Why is it important for you to tell others what science cannot do? I imagine the reasons are similar to those why some scientists trashes religion.  

    I am reminded the following story shared over my college alumni association network. (My translation.)
    A man visited Hell during the dinner time. People fought to eat because the chopsticks they used were three feet long. It was hard to deliver the food to their mouth, and oftentimes another pair of 3-foot long chopsticks hijacked the food before the food reached your mouth. The scene was like a battleground, filthy, chaotic and dreadful. The man thought people in Hell were unhappy, angry and selfish because of the three-foot long chopsticks.

    Later, the man went to Heaven, again, during the dinner time. People also had three-foot long chopsticks. They had lively conversation with each other and seemed to like each other. People dined peacefully and enjoyably while they feed each other with their three-foot long chopsticks.

  6. Ken

    PAY ATTENTION TO THESE REMARKS made in the essay:

    “As soon as a scientist, or science cheerleader, starts talking about a conflict between religion and science,….

    “The hope of some scientists is that a culture that embraces science will eschew religion.

    “Insofar as natural science is about measurement, … given how scientists define their field, questions about God can never be scientific. But few scientists are consistent on this point.

    “You can see individual things, but you can’t see or measure the logic used to make scientific judgments. So scientistS don’t apply their rule even to their own discipline. Science is awash in abstractions, religion and philosophy, just like every other human endeavor. It is only that science pretends these things somehow don’t exist. And it then expects us not to notice the contradiction.

    “I critique science as a scientist.”

    DID YOU NOTICE the source of the issue:

    “…a scientist…”
    “…science cheerleader…”
    “…some scientists…”
    “… So scientists…”


    “… Science is awash…”
    “…science pretends…and then expects us not to notice the contradiction.”

    How did we go from individuals being the problem to the discipline in which they engage being the problem?!

    The “contradiction” going unnoticed is Briggs’ own:

    There’s this: “Statistics” is a tool — the operator of the tool is the error source. When a researcher applies the tool incorrectly, such as drawing too certain conclusions, we never, ever, read some over-generalization such as “statistics pretends [that correlation proves cause],” and therefore that “statistics” is the problem. Never, ever, that. When it comes to statistics he will bemoan and critique flawed use of statistics — the researcher is doing it wrong. Always the researcher.

    Then there’s this: But when “scientists” other individuals engaged in a similar activity do things wrong, or, overreach beyond the boundaries of their discipline, does Briggs, etc., apply the same logic he/they do with statistics and note for the umpteenth time that, like the mistaken statistician that drew too definitive a conclusion about cause from correlation, that the scientist erred or overreached from the evidence to the conclusions? Nope, never, ever, that either. Instead a radically different attribution is asserted: “science”, the discipline itself, is to blame.

    It goes like this:

    Where operator error is the source of a problem using [THE TOOL], then it is [??WHAT/WHO??] that is the problem:

    If the [THE TOOL] is STATISTICS, then it is [THE RESEARCHER] at fault, not STATISTICS.

    If the [THE TOOL] is SCIENCE, then it is [SCIENCE] at fault, not THE RESEARCHER.

    The underlying mental gymnastics that prompt this kind of self-contradictory thinking allow one to make remarks such as, “I critique science as a scientist” and really believe it, and fail to see the need to critique what the other scientist has done. That’s a radically huge leap — from a scientist(s) analysis & conclusions to the discipline in which they operate.

    Consider this remark, “Figuring how to create a magnetic monopole won’t get you into Heaven. It won’t keep you out, either. So why are scientists so combative about religion?”

    Believing a given religion won’t necessarily get one to Heaven, and subscribing to the wrong religion may very well ensure one is locked out! But “religion” is so sacrosanct the variety of mutually exclusive incompatible doctrines seem to escape notice. If there’s a threat to faith and salvation, a primary if not THE primary threat is heresy … but we don’t seem to want to address that do we?

    That aside, what scientists are “so combative about religion?”?

    That’s another switcheroo & radically sweeping generalization — many scientists will state they don’t believe in deity, or have strong doubts, but that’s about it. And that much they reveal if they’re prompted with the question. The overwhelming majority, almost one & all, are silent about religion.

    A very very small number do attack religion and have been outspoken about it; of those, very very few persist. These are easily ignored. But if one is paying some attention, and yet has to ask “why?” those scientists are so “combative,” one is demonstrating they haven’t done ANY homework.

    Richard Dawkins, for example, known worldwide makes very clear his reasons for opposing religion by citing numerous examples of how religious faith has been a, or the, underlying enabler of numerous atrocities in his books and in readily available on-line interviews. Christopher Hitchens, another example (though not really a scientist), spelled out his reasons in detail in a book, ‘How Religion Poisons Everything.’

    Review some of what they have to say and one has pretty much covered the objections from the opposition, which clearly isn’t confined by any stretch to just scientists.

    If one is to ask “why?” one really ought to be prepared to rebut their reasons, and should do so, not pretend their combativeness is some mystery.

    To assert that “scientists are so combative about religion” when in fact only a teensy weensy tiny few are indicates a hypersensitivity of delusional paranoid proportions. But it highlights where that broad-based combativeness really is — among believers. Countless preachers attack science routinely. Others like Del Tackett create propamentaries such as “Is Genesis History?” to assert a 6,000/10,000 year old Earth. And on and on and on.

    There’s combativeness for ya. And you don’t find that coming from scientists on any scale. Go to a religious revival and anti-science screeds are never in short supply and are routine headline topics; one can attend any number of scientific symposium and one is likely to never see or hear any formal presentation involving religion as a headline event, much less condemning it.

    Given that the anti-science fervor is concentrated among the religious, and the anti-religion fervor is similarly confined to the religious in a neurotic persecution complex that perceive a large scale attack where isn’t one, one has to ask why?

    Like the Colorado River nibbling away to form the Grand Canyon, scientists are making discoveries that are steadily nibbling away at the places where their God can reside. Scientists are on a forward march to new learning and don’t pay much, or any, attention to many of the effects of their discoveries (and that inattention isn’t by any means limited to effects on faith).

    On the other side, some like Del Tackett whose belief system depends on a young Earth to, work tirelessly at contriving seemingly rational reasons to believe [invariably by ignoring inconvenient facts].

    Science constantly adjusts to new discoveries, theory and accepted facts evolve with evidence.
    Religious faith takes a primitive doctrine, drafted when nature seemed the action of deities, and then resists evidence to preserve that doctrine.

    This results in a dominant strategy that itself has evolved to a vaguely generalized attack on science itself.

    Because rebutting the findings — truths — coming out of science that undermines religious doctrines doesn’t work.

    One ought to notice: Those attacks on science, coming as they are from the religious, have no discernible effect on the conduct of science — most researchers don’t even notice. Because those attacks are not really on science, they’re mind games used by believers to retain their own belief by rejecting scientific findings, and their ramifications, and, by rejecting acknowledgement of what science reveals. They can’t ignore it and make it go away, but they sure can ignore it.

    Contemporary religion [pick almost any], is characterized by a belief system purporting to put the utmost value on “truth,” is thus engaged in an exercise in self-preservation by endeavoring to suppress truths and [quoting Briggs] “then expects us not to notice the contradiction” (where “us” are the believers).

  7. Joy

    For eternity? feeding others with chopsticks from a distance! Everybody would end up in an enormous ring too, you realise, as they tried to move away from the horror.

    “One ring to tule them all“
    Science is founded on ideas formed by men who believed in a creator. Sir Isaac Newton believed in God and saw the nonsense of matter operating to maintain everything and creating everything without an agent.
    Medicine is not physics. Nobody’s arguing there. It’s the philosophers who’ve either dropped the ball or have been elbowed out by loud mouthed scientistic, fashionable and credit grabbing progressive but rather shallow thinkers.
    Philosophy must form an important part of any search for truth. Science that sets itself apart from the really real will end up a blind alley as it seems it’s doing anyway, to me.

    It has been eroded in importance and this is because most philosophers had a theist world view.

    It is taken for granted by scientists who are materialists that materialism is true. It is as if it’s a given. Really only because verification is desired without emotion or bias. Everyone can at least agree on bland material measurable things.
    This says nothing about purpose and meaning, values, morals, things explored by art and philosophy.
    Where everybody really resides in their own skin is somewhere other than the material and science can’t reach higher questions.
    It’s just more live experimentation, eradicating the idea of or consideration of a creator.

    There is no argument between Christianity and science. I have heard tell that some staunch atheists admit that there is something missing without Christianity. Those are the generous and magnanimous ones. Perhaps the really honest ones.

    You can lick your own elbows anyway, just not the olecranon process.

    (AND Aristotle said flies have four locomotive corners.)

  8. Ken, when, in so many words, you say scientists don’t attack religion, I don’t think you’re correct. Here are some quotes that belie that notion:

    “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.” [emphasis added] Stephen Hawking. ABC Interview, 2010″

    “I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.”
    ? Richard Dawkins”

    “Organized religion, wielding power over the community, is antithetical to the process of what modern democracy should define as liberty. The sooner we are without it, the better. Lawrence Kraus

    There are many more, but time and space do not allow for a complete compilation.

  9. Kneel

    “…Science is not in conflict with religion…”

    Read Genesis. Consider it was written thousands of years ago when we simply hadn’t accumulated as much knowledge about the world as we now have. Consider how someone exposed to a “condensed” history of the world would write it down. Startlingly similar to what it says in Genesis, is it not? At least believable that it describes the same as the current “big bang” theory, evolution etc etc says happened. So either God gave the writers a vision, or some extra-terrestrial alien (perhaps slumming it with the natives for a lark) showed them a video – doesn’t matter which you believe, but it has to be one or the other, doesn’t it – seems highly unlikely that such a person as authored Genesis could “guess” so close to what it took us more than 2,000 more years to “prove”.
    “Let there be light” –> big bang
    “… created the Earth…” –> stellar evolution
    “…lastly, created man…” –> biological evolution.
    Remember, you are “seeing” the 5 minute highlights reel here.

    Regardless of that, SCIENCE says HOW, while religion says WHY; SCIENCE evaluates fact vs fiction, while religion evaluates good vs evil. And despite that, they both “create” a storyline that is eerily similar to each other regarding our origins.

    Makes you think, eh? No matter which side you are on.

  10. swordfishtrombone

    “There is no contradiction between science and Christianity.”

    Of course there is!

    Even if you set aside all the millions of creationist Christians whose beliefs quite obviously clash with science, Christianity still makes all manner of claims about the world, such as that it is impossible for the human mind to have evolved naturally, that Jesus could perform miracles, or that we have a ‘soul’, which contradict our scientific understanding.

    Or maybe I just imagined having long arguments about evolution on here?

  11. swordfishtrombone

    @ Kneel,

    “seems highly unlikely that such a person as authored Genesis could “guess” so close to what it took us more than 2,000 more years to “prove.”

    You’re just cherry picking a few bits which very vaguely correspond to a modern scientific understanding of events, while ignoring the far greater number of mistakes. What about Eve being created from Adam’s rib? What about the silly 6 day timeframe? And so on. How accurate is “Let there be light” when the universe was opaque to light for hundreds of millions of years?

    I would ask: if Genesis was the Word of God, why wasn’t it 100% exactly correct?

  12. Swordfish – Circular logic. You claim that religion violates science, because if it isn’t science, it’s wrong. B is wrong because it is not A.

    That is the entire point. Philosophy and religion have nothing to say about science, just as science has nothing to say about philosophy and religion. They are completely different fields of study and expertise. “Men are not potatoes!”

    This is entirely self evident. Unless one has some sort of personal axe to grind, or are unable to understand basic logical arguments.

  13. swordfishtrombone

    @ McChuck,

    “Philosophy and religion have nothing to say about science”

    When the Catholic Church claims that the human mind could not have evolved naturally, how is that not a scientific claim? When creationists claim that Genesis is literally true and evolution is impossible, how is that not a scientific claim?

    As for philosophy, never heard of Popper?

    “Circular logic. You claim that religion violates science, because if it isn’t science, it’s wrong.”

    No, I claim that religion is wrong where it makes scientific claims which are wrong.

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