No Faith in Science

I have faith (pun intended) that at some point in his studies, Paul Davies has held a dictionary in his hands, and possibly even opened it. These days, it’s even less cumbersome with the advent of online dictionaries and the added benefit of providing multiple sources from which one can gain a better understanding of a particular word. In order to correct the compilation of fallacies presented in this piece, we need to start at the beginning—definitions.

From the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, “faith” is defined as: complete trust or confidence, strong belief in a religion, or a system of religious belief. From Dictionary.com, it is defined as: confidence or trust in a person or thing; belief that is not based on proof; belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion; belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.; a system of religious belief; the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.; the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath, allegiance, etc.

Looking at these definitions, one can see that every definition is antithetical to the foundational principles of science. A scientist who tests a hypothesis with “complete trust and confidence” in the outcome is doing a disservice to all of those who adhere to the principles of logical and rational inquiry, and who expect the scientific community to do so as well. Does Mr. Davies really believe that science is “belief not based on proof?” If so, perhaps a refresher course in the scientific method is the solution to that problem. Even the least innocuous definitions include words like “obligation”, “allegiance”, and “fidelity.” An honest rationalist would be made a hypocrite by maintaining any of the above qualities in their quest to discover the nature of reality.

Davies’ assertion that science assumes that nature is “ordered in a rational and intelligible way” is simply not accurate. Most scientists understand that while we can use inductive logic to predict with reasonable certainty that what has occurred with regularity in the past will continue to do so, such as the earth continuing to orbit the sun in 365 twenty-four hour days. Any scientist worth his salt would admit, though, that there is no absolute certainty—just reasonable expectations based on past observations. The fact that we have not seen any major variations in this supposed order is solely because our life spans are just not long enough. All of our anthropological history is not long enough to observe these kinds of massive changes. Davies’ statement that the scientists’ “faith has been justified” betrays his ignorance of the nature of this argument. “Justified faith” isn’t faith. It’s reason. Replace the word “faith” with “hypothesis.” Now we’re talking science.

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