"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. ... It happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion."An article in my local newspaper starts with this amusing sentence, which illustrates the fundamental flaw in religion:
– Carl Sagan
"Modern Christians are used to a world in which there is a seemingly never-ending supply of branches of the faith."This simple sentence, and Sagan's insightful quote, shows the basic difference between science and faith:
Science Converges, Religion Diverges.Faith and religion have no facts that can be tested objectively. You can't design an experiment that would test Christianity against Islam, and after careful research, discover that one was correct and the other wrong. You can't do an experiment that will prove God exists, or that Jesus was His son. You can't demostrate convincingly that Siddhartha Guatama really achieved enlightenment and became the Supreme Buddha. There's no objective way to prove that Muhammad was receiving Allah's own words. All of these beliefs are just that: beliefs, not objective, provable facts. They must be taken on pure faith.
This is why there are thousands and thousands of different religions around the world. Anyone can claim anything, and many do. Church leadership takes a stance on some moral issue, the congregation starts arguing, and pretty soon there are two churches. A new "prophet" comes along, and pretty soon you have a whole new religion.
It is very rare indeed to hear of two churches uniting, settling their differences, and discarding some of the "truths" they once held dear. In fact, the link to my local newspaper's article above is about a group that is trying to heal the rift between the Roman and Orthodox (West/East) Catholic Churches, caused by the "Great Schism of 1054" the split the church in two. I suspect they won't have much luck.
Science is just the opposite. A couple of days ago I wrote about the Clovis Comet hypothesis, which shows why science is exactly the opposite of religion.
The disappearance of the Clovis People was a mysterious event, one that inspired a number of well-conceived theories. Scientific interest, competition, and probably egotism, spured the scientists to investigate more, learn more, and get closer and closer to the objective truth.
And that's the difference: Scientific debate converges on the truth, because as we learn more and more, incorrect theories can be discarded, new theories can be proposed, and good theories can be made better.
Many scientific theories, such as Einstein's Relativity and Darwin's Evolution, are so well proved and so widely accepted that it is fair to call them facts, not theory. These are the endpoints of scientific debate, the "adult" theories, the questions for which science has converged convincingly on the objective truth. By this measure, the Clovis-Comet theory is still a "teenager," mostly grown up, getting serious attention, and overshadowing the competing theories, but still not convincingly proved.
Compared to these scientific theories, religion is not even a baby. It's not even in the game. Science will continue to expand our knowledge, to refine our understanding, to converge on truth. Religion will continue to diverge, to split, to wander. The task of religious philosophers seeking truth about their god or gods is hopeless.