Is Religion Compatible with the Scientific Method

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I’ve touched on this before, but felt that the general consensus was that faith is at least as reliable as science. I’m wondering how people deal with the problems that arise when faith and science collide.

From the LDS Church News:

…[T]here is no conflict between the facts and truths of science and those given to us by direct revelation. Rather than conflicting, the facts and truths in each area complement each other, each supplying answers to basic questions which we must know, eventually, if we are to fulfill our destiny as sons and daughters and co-partners with our Father in His eternal plan.

Apparent conflicts arise when the theories of science — which serve as a scaffolding erected to try to understand relationships among observed facts — are mistaken for the experimentally verified facts.

I can think of many examples where not just theories but experimentally verified facts conflict with religion. One need only a cursory review of the scientific method to realize that religion and science clash at every turn. Despite the numerous quotations from Church leaders that true science and religion are bedfellows, I see them as diametrical opposites and wonder how they can exist together when one consistently conflicts with the other.

20 thoughts on “Is Religion Compatible with the Scientific Method

  1. Except the scientific method isn’t truth. It is a method used to determine truth, but it is not truth itself.

    If the above quotation is accurate, then we have to accept that when what someone believes is at odds with what science claims, whichever is true wins out.

    I think a good example of this is ancestry of the first peoples of the America. Early church members and their non-Mormon contemporaries believed that they were descended from the lost tribes of Israel. As archaeology, anthropology, and the like have shown very little, if any, connection to the Middle East peoples, consensus among Church members began to change. Granted, not all members have altered their opinion, but many have.

  2. Many aspects of faith are diametrically opposed to facts we have determined via science. Resurrection, bodily flight to heaven, faster-than-light communication of information all trespass overtly into the scientific realm.

    Faith based arguments have continually lost ground to the advancement of human knowledge through the use of the scientific method or similar tools of rational thought.

    In every case, religion eventually had to submit to the facts.

    I can not think of a single case of religious dogma trumping a scientifically determined fact.

  3. Resurrection has no basis for existence in biology, unaided bodily flight to heaven contradicts basic laws of physics (and geography) and no information can travel faster than light, so simultaneous knowledge of everything from everywhere, omniscience, is impossible.

  4. To clarify, are you saying that science has absolutely disproved the literal occurrence of resurrection, transportation to heaven, and omniscience?

  5. “science has absolutely disproved”

    You and I both know that this is not how science works. The above mentioned faith claims have been reduced to a statistically insignificant chance of occurrence.

  6. No they haven’t.

    Let’s take resurrection for example. How on earth would you ever be able to prove or disprove, using the scientific method, whether it really can happen?

    Science has done nothing to reduce faith claims at all because science has done nothing to support or negate the theory of resurrection.

    If I may be frank, your comment is nothing but wishful thinking and posturing.

  7. This isn’t meant to sound contrary or mean spirited. Just the facts as I see them.

    Going back to the scientific method. “Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena, and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses.”

    So in order to test the hypothesis that resurrection by faith is possible we would need to find someone that had died. Now it’s possible to “bring someone back” using electronic pulses to the heart—especially if they haven’t been “dead” for long. Doing it with faith alone, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to volunteer for the experiment.

  8. When we witness the the permanent cessation of all vital bodily functions, it’s called being dead. Reversing this process is unheard of.

    There has never been a documented case of resurrection and there have been literally billions of deaths.

    Wishful thinkers, I believe, would aptly describe anyone who would think that resurrection exists despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

    I don’t have to explain to you that absence of evidence of non-existence is not the same as evidence of proof, do I?

  9. “There has never been a documented case of resurrection”.

    You can dispute the sources but Jesus’ resurrection is well documented.

  10. So in order to test the hypothesis that resurrection by faith is possible we would need to find someone that had died.

    In order to test the hypothesis, you would need to find someone who has been resurrected. If you find a dead body, it hasn’t been resurrected. All that proves is that body has not been resurrected, not that resurrection doesn’t exist.

    Reversing this process is unheard of.

    I am not disputing that, but being unheard of isn’t proof that something doesn’t exist. It only proves there is no evidence that proves it exists.

    Wishful thinkers, I believe, would aptly describe anyone who would think that resurrection exists despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

    There is no evidence to the contrary. Not a single shred. And there is a difference between believing something and saying science claims something.

    I don’t have to explain to you that absence of evidence of non-existence is not the same as evidence of proof, do I?

    No, but it would seem you need to explain it to yourself.

  11. Ok, so what is your hypothesis?

    I thought it made more sense to hypothesize that resurrection by faith is possible. I’ll let you tell me the hypothesis and the test you would follow to prove or disprove it.

  12. “There is no evidence to the contrary. Not a single shred.”

    There is no evidence for its’ existence either.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Dying and staying dead is the accepted norm. The burden of proof lies with the person making the claim of resurrection, not the other way around.

  13. so what is your hypothesis?

    I don’t have a hypothesis. I’m not trying to (dis)prove anything. I have a belief, sure, but I have no need to validate it empirically.

    There is no evidence for its’ existence either.

    I completely agree. That being said, I don’t beleive anyone here was claiming their is evidence for the existence of resurrection.

    Well, Anonymous said there was ample documentation for Jesus’s resurrection. I guess one could argue documentation is evidence.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    And what is the extraordinary claim being made? The only claim I see in the above comments is that science supports the assertion that resurrection does not exist.

    The burden of proof lies with the person making the claim of resurrection, not the other way around.

    Sure, if the person claims evidence exists that proves resurrection’s existence. If there is no claim of proof, there is no burden of proof.

    If, on the other hand, a person claims that resurrection (or bodily transport to heaven or omniscience) is opposed to facts we have determined via science, then those facts that oppose such need to be produced.

  14. If […] a person claims that resurrection […] is opposed to facts we have determined via science, then those facts that oppose such need to be produced.

    We’re almost into flying tea-pot, spaghetti monster territory. Just because I can’t prove they exist doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I see you’re looking at things from both directions, but that’s just silliness, let’s get back on track.

    I think most people (even the TBM) are rational enough to suppose that when they or their loved ones die, they are not going to be miraculously resurrected (at least within the foreseeable future).

    Why would one choose to think things will change over the long term. I know it boils down to faith; the kind of gut feeling where one just wants to believe it badly enough that he’s able to convince himself that it WILL happen. But why stop there? Why not have faith in other just as inconceivable notions about future benefits? And what is the benefit to belief in something with such uncertainty attached to it? In any other realm this irrationality is considered a negative attribute.

    Honestly, it’s not that I don’t want to believe, it’s that I’ve come to the point where I’m able to admit that the whole thing just feels too silly to pretend.

    If it came down to a choice between a life-saving medical procedure and a Priesthood blessing from the Prophet himself—or I suppose any Priesthood holder because as they say, it’s the same power,—I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind opting out of the scientifically proven method. And why should they? Medical science has a much better track record at resussitation, in some cases they actually CAN bring you back from the dead.

  15. Just because I can’t prove they exist doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

    And vice versa. Absence of proof don’t prove one way or the other.

    Jeff, I get the impression that when you say “resurrection”, you are referring to simply coming back from the dead, not the body-and-spirit-reunited-in-a-glorified-form-never-to-be-separated type of resurrection. If so, then yes, I think most Mormons wouldn’t think their loved ones would be resurrected (resuscitated) after being dead for a significant period.

    If it came down to a choice between a life-saving medical procedure and a Priesthood blessing

    Based on my readings and experience, there is never a choice. Most Mormons do both.

  16. Most Mormons do both.

    And then they give credit to Heavenly Father.

    Let’s approach this from a different angle (and though I’ve been replying to Kim, please feel free to join in the thread): Is religion useful in a similar way that science is useful?

    For example, the scientific method allows us to make predictions about the world in which we live. It presents us with the means to make the world a better place. Please compare and contrast this with religion.

    I would say that, as a general rule, prophesy/revelation would be an obviously useful aspect of religion. It loses it’s usefulness when its track record becomes less than chance. As far as the secular approach goes, science teaches us that natural events (under the same settings) are predictable and consistent.

    I would consider faith to be useful, if it helped in the healing process. It’s very difficult to separate faith from “staying positive” — something that I believe to be beneficial in its own right. I don’t know that one needs to have faith to be healed, if one has a positive outlook. Are they one in the same?

    I believe charity, honesty, benevolence, virtue, and love can be lumped together under the category of following the golden rule which parallels the lessons learned in the tragedy of the commons.

    The gift of tongues (as interpreted by LDS) is generally considered to be useful as it applies to missionaries learning languages so they may teach others. I had a companion on my mission who told me he believed he had been given the gift of tongues at certain times when he didn’t know the words in English. I can say there were many times when he thought he was getting spiritual help, but communication between us often wasn’t clear to me when he would start throwing out words that didn’t make any sense. For what it’s worth, from my point of view, I never felt he was getting any spiritual help in translating the language. He did, however, improve with practise.

    Are there any others that you’d care to add and/or re-evaluate from the list above?

  17. And then they give credit to Heavenly Father.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s better than not using the medical solution at all.

    I think there is at least one other area where religion is useful: the afterlife.

    Many persons are satisfied with no afterlife, and that’s entirely fine.

    Many others are concerned with this life having no meaning, as it were, outside of this life, and that makes them fear death. Religion gives them hope in something better. Even if there is no afterlife, the belief in one at least improves their life.

  18. “Absence of proof don’t prove one way or the other.”

    But it does skew the probabilities…

    If someone says that reality is different from the accepted, observable norms then the chances of their version of reality being the correct one, without any proof, is exceedingly small.

  19. re: entire discussion

    The existence or nonexistence of something is a red herring. It doesn’t matter if there is or is not resurrection, or if there is or is not a god, etc.,

    What is on discussion is if one should believe there are these things. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, indeed, but absence of evidence does make it rather rational to not believe.

    The theistic argument is that faith is a different kind of “reason to believe” in lieu of (or potentially in spite of) weak empirical data.

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