Sunday, February 19, 2006

Theory and faith

Faith is necessary in order to validate science” is the title on an interesting letter in the Friday 17 Philadelphia Inquirer. J. Alexander Adams Jr., a scientist, contends that faith is not purely a religious concept and does have a place in science. He uses string theory as an example.

I don’t know what string theory is, but I do know that some people point to it as “weird science” and it sometimes comes up in discussions about whether “intelligent design” qualifies as science. Adams writes,

“String theory at present is not, strictly speaking, science at all, but philosophical speculation awaiting corroboration by experiential phenomena. When it explains and predicts observations, it will then become science….Likewise, if observations invalidate string theory, faith in it will thereupon become invalid.”

Then he hits the nail on the head with this observation

“Those who abuse faith appear to have an aversion to the compromises, imponderables and messiness that characterize our world. These people require hard-edged answers to all questions, answerable or not. Testability is not at issue here; these people wish to banish their anxieties with comforting ideologies. This is the way of many a bad scientist and many a good ideological fundamentalist.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good scientist doesn't depend on faith. Religious belief has to depend on it. Faith is just an opinion.

2/19/06, 1:18 AM  
Blogger Gerry L said...

To anonymous:
Yes, I believe that is what the letter writer is saying. An idea -- even a scientific idea -- is an opinion until it has facts behind it. Evolution meets the test of science and does not require faith. String theory does not yet meet the test, but may get there after more study.

2/19/06, 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'I am an agnostic; I do not pretend to know what many ignorant men are sure of.'
Clarence Darrow

2/25/06, 6:39 AM  

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