Science Assumes Nothing?

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I often read self-proclaimed scientists who deny the existence of a god or gods write that science assume nothing. The default scientific position, they claim, is nothing. That means until they see evidence of something, they do not consider it to be real.

I don’t know where people get this idea from. Science, after all, assumes a great deal.

The first assumption science makes is that the universe is ordered and logically consistent. Where is the evidence for that? Our ancestors who lived in the world believed the most sensible explanation for things was that random gods acted randomly in their realm. Storms, floods, and earthquakes were caused by angry gods. A couple that falls in love was caused by the god of love. Crops grew because the fertility gods favored men. So on and so forth.

The first time someone assumed the universe was ordered and logically consistent was a pious fellow by the name of Socrates. Christian philosophers such as Sir Isaac Newton expanded on this and assumed that not only was the universe generally ordered, but exactly ordered, in the minutest of detail, so much so that math was a perfect description of the motions of the planets and stars, as well as apples falling from trees here on earth.

This is an assumption that is such a large leap from what you see around you that it should never be assumed lightly. When you probe into statistical mechanics (which gives us entropy) or quantum mechanics (which uncovers the wave function and its probabilistic interpretation), you see a universe that is not ordered the way Isaac Newton assumed. His assumptions of a mechanical, predictable universe were simply wrong. He was correct, however, that the universe was logically consistent and followed universal laws. At least, as far as we can determine from experiments.

Where did we get this assumption from? Who gave us this idea, before people knew it was a very good assumption? The answer lies in religion.

The next assumption is one that is not to be treated lightly. It is the assumption that the human mind is capable of not only comprehending the laws that govern the universe, but to reason about them and deduce new laws. If we look at the world around us, we see animals that behave mindlessly. At best, the most intelligent animals are comparable to human babies. Even within the human world, we see humans who prioritize learning about the universe around them very low compared to baser desires. What is it that compels someone to abandon the traditional pursuits of a “normal” person and dedicate himself to the pursuit of science? Once again, the answer lies in religion. Something stirs within us and tells us that we must, of necessity, pursue knowledge, and abandon the mortal trappings of the world around us.

When you ponder the assumptions of science, you see that religion and science are not at odds at all. In fact, science is a subset of religion. It is religion that gave us science, and religion that maintains us.

I see a similar argument that goes something like this. “Religion is illogical. The universe is logical. Therefore, religion is not true.” At best, the conclusion can simply be drawn that “religion is not part of the universe”, not that it isn’t true. After all, when you start with the assumption that something is logical, you can’t use logic to explain why it is so. Religion is, and must ever be, illogical. You can only explain the logical nature of the universe with non-logic, because any logical explanation assumes the conclusion, which thus gives us circular reasoning. (At best, you can only show that logic is logically consistent, nothing more.)

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