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Compare and Contrast: Science and Faith

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Both science and faith are motivated by the quest to find absolute truth, so both the scientist and the devout are characterized by assurance of knowledge. The difference lies in the fact that the scientist is prone to arrogance, believing that he has final proof of what he avows to. On the other hand, the devout, when free of dogma, is aware that that belief is involved, and that it is not possible for man to ‘know’. The devout is therefore modest, as opposed to the scientist who is arrogant. This is however only a rule of thumb. The scientist may be modest if he is aware that all knowledge is mere belief.

On the other hand the devout may be arrogant if his faith takes the form of dogma. Absolute truth is the goal of both science and faith. The scientific method is designed as to eliminate all errors is observation, so that knowledge derived from the observed object can be claimed as certain. The scientist relies on precision of measurement and mathematical descriptions towards his goal of exactitude. Faith also seeks absolute knowledge, for it is knowledge of the Supreme Being which is sought through religion. Such knowledge is without error, and so akin to what the scientist seeks.

Both science and faith use analogy to express what they need to say. Science uses mathematical models to express its findings, and a mathematical model is in truth an analogy. A sphere is a mathematical model, so when science describes something as spherical it is using analogy. This is the trivial case. In fully developed scientific theories more elaborate models are used. For example Rutherford describes the atom as a miniature solar system, where the electrons orbit around the nucleus of protons and neutrons. Faith uses analogy in a more direct and obvious way.

For example Christians describe God as the Father, and this is employing explicit analogy. The scientist, however, is not always aware that he is employing analogy, and therefore mistakes his assertions for absolute truths. Even though he acknowledges experimental error, he believes that it is being overcome by the gradual progress of science, so that the errors in scientific pronouncements are becoming more and more insignificant by the day. If not the final truth, the scientist believes that he is approaching it, so that he becomes oblivious of the fact that analogy is being employed.

On the other hand faith, when it is free of dogma, is quite conscious of the fact that analogy is being used. It is aware because it knows the ways of God will always remain a mystery to man, so that it is not possible to make absolute pronouncements on God, to whatever degree of precision. The scientist is prone to believe that there is no mystery to existence, and that native ignorance is all that holds back the human being from apprehending the universe with complete certainty.

He tends to believe that modern science is in a highly progressive state, so that ignorance, and therefore mystery, is very nearly eradicated. The devout is however is confirmed in his belief that the phenomenal world must always remain a mystery to man. This is due to the fact that only the Supreme Creator of all things has perfect knowledge. Human beings as created beings are not privy to such knowledge, because the part can never understand the whole.

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