I often hear that science is just my religion or that science is a religion that requires just as much faith as any other religion. Sigh.
There is a VAST difference between science and religion. This cartoon from www.wellingtongrey.net is a humorous representation. I urge you to look at it before proceeding.
Science CHANGES! Believe it or not, this is the strong point of science. A hypothesis is made and then TESTED. As methodology and technology and understanding advances a hypothesis is discarded, modified or confirmed. Science is reality based. It is subjected to testing. It is subjected to Peer review. It is subjected to change. Sure, some scientists, being human, will hold on to their pet theories or fight against the new BUT the EVIDENCE WILL win. That is how science works.
– Experimentation, ideally with a design formulated to falsify the hypothesis
– Interpretation of results
– Publication in PEER reviewed journals
– Confirmation (or not) of the hypothesis and experimental details by other scientists
When a large body of information over a long period of time continually confirms a set of hypotheses they are grouped and elevated to a Theory. A theory in science is NOT what most people consider a theory (common use of the word). A theory in science explains a large number of facts and is essentially a fact:
Details of a theory can be modified as more evidence is gained without changing the truth of the Theory. For example, Newtonian mechanics still works although it has been modified for very fast and very small particles. The Theory of Evolution is a fact. It explains a large body of evidence and has held up to repeated attempts at falsification. Once again, science deals with facts and reality. It deals with what can be proved and/or falsified. It deals with reality.
Religion is the direct opposite. It deals with Faith. Its major doctrines can NOT be proved. They can NOT be scientifically analyzed and they can NOT be subjected to falsification. It is, essentially, a body of information that is all made up. Not that there isn’t support. Every religion has its sacred texts and religious leaders who “know” the truth but it is not (generally) subjected to experimentation and falsification. There is no person alive that can prove the existence of God or that God exists in 3 persons or that Christ’s death saves or that there is a heaven or that there is a hell or that an invisible Zeus lives on Mt Olympus, etc. There may be things in a religion that can be checked (e.g. Did Christ exist? Did Paul exist?) but the substance of theology cannot be checked. Oh, it can be argued: The text really says this. You don’t really understand this verse. My vision said this. However, a religious system can NOT be proved. You may believe there is enough evidence to make a leap of faith but if there was PROOF there would be no need for faith. Theology is just “grown-ups” arguing for and against made up doctrines.
I also maintain that religion can’t change but it can evolve. This is why there are 38,000+ Christian denominations. In order for religion to “progress” or change, it has to split and a new group has to be formed OR if a church changes too much others split from it to keep the “old” ways. Either way the old is preserved. Eventually a religious group will either survive or die. Religion deals with absolute truth (or they like to think so) so change isn’t possible without damaging that claim. Now it may look like change because those less fit will die and those that are more fit will survive, so over time the religion landscape may change. Often times all that is really accomplished is that another denomination is added to the ever growing list. Anyone can get involved in this fray because no proof is needed. All that is needed is a claim and followers willing to believe that claim based on faith and/or trust. Evidence need not apply.
If someone wants to believe in a mythical, invisible, sky god that loves them and will send believers to heaven and sinners to hell – have at it. I draw the line when that fantasy starts trying to influence education, science and politics. But then, it has too doesn’t it? Religion believes it has the truth of “god” and that truth MUST be imposed on the world. This is what makes religion dangerous.