Monday, September 23, 2013

[PHI 3800] Does science require faith?

At NPR's 13.7: cosmos & culture, Tania Lombrozo asks "Does science require faith?" and links to the following YouTube video in which Cullen Buie argues that science requires faith.

According to Buie:
Some would have you think that faith and reason are like oil and water. This simply isn't the case. Some of the greatest minds in history have employed faith to advance the frontiers of science. Many of the greatest scientists in history are people with a deep faith, not just in their science, but also in God.
For Buie, then, the fact that some scientists were religious is a reason to think that their faith played a role in their scientific research and that, in turn, is a reason to think that reason (science) requires faith (religion).

What do you make of Buie's argument? Is it any good? 


  1. After listening to Cullen Buie speak about faith and science, I still don’t think that science requires faith. Buie’s argument was very convincing, but then there has to be other reasons why scientist doesn't quit on their experiments. However, I do think that Cullen Buie had a good point in saying that it is difficult to always get bad results on a project that a scientist has been working on for so long. I agree to an extent where there has to be something else that motivates these scientists to continue on their experiments. But, I don’t necessarily agree that the one thing that motivates them to continue on is faith.
    In “Exploring Philosophy”, the author discusses other reasons as to why scientists continue on fixing their beliefs. One of the reasons is tenacity, and I think that’s a major reason as to why scientists continue on testing their hypothesis and theories. To commit to a research experiment is not an easy task, and to give up after one hypothesis has failed would be a waste of time. For example, Buie stated that he was up countless nights and lack of sleep to work on his research; and that would be a waste of time if he has just given up. Not only that but he also mention that the particle research has cost billions of dollars. To throw away that amount of money would also be such a waste. Yes, maybe he still had a faith that someday his belief would still work, but in the end he must have not wanted to give up on it. Another reason would be intuition, meaning that the scientist tried to guarantee their beliefs by having self-evident proposition that is true that will carry them to the truth. But there is also the reason of science, that there is always an answer to a scientific question and it just might take time to find the answer.
    In general, even though Buie had a good reason in defending his argument about science and faith, there are other factors that he hasn't factored in. Even though, faith might play a minor role in scientific research, I don’t think science requires faith.

  2. I think it is very important to note that when discussing "faith," we distinguish it from the typical notion of believing in God. If faith is the "confidence in a belief, person, thing or view," then it is easy to see that scientists have confidence in his/her view of reality.
    The examples provided by Buie are not relevant to the argument "Does Science require Faith (Religion). The fact that many scientists practice faith does not mean it is required for Reason. It is no doubt that scientists use faith in his/her research, but we are referring to a different type of faith.

  3. I believe the answer lies within one’s definition of faith itself. Essentially, it is the complete trust and confidence of someone or something. Without the trust in the methods of science and experiments, I’m sure many, if not all, discoveries of life could not have been found. I concur with Buie’s statement in that faith and reason are not like oil and water and that reasoning of the world depends on faith. However, I do not believe the argument that scientists of a certain religion played a role in scientific research is good. It seems more so that the faith in any being or idea or method has led to unravel the findings of science. Having the idea of faith, I believe, plays a larger role that goes beyond religion and reasoning. For example, one may believe in their friend’s potential in becoming a doctor, he or she has faith in that person’s abilities, but that does not mean he or she attains a certain religion. Whether one believes in God or not, having faith does only not rely on those aspects. Therefore, reason does require faith, whether it be religious or not.

  4. The concept of religion and science correlating together has always created controversy. That being said, whether one believes that reason requires faith is solely up to and dependent on the individual. For example, on a personal level, I believe in God, therefore I associate scientific revelations to faith and God’s will. Scientists that hold a religious background will, in most cases, have the same attitude. The discoveries uncovered were made evident because it was in God’s plan and through faith and prayer, they were able to help reveal that plan. However, on the other hand, it has to be noted that there are many scientists that have contributed to the world of science while also holding an atheist mentality. These individuals do not relate their success in their work to God, but rather their own love and dedication to the field. Robert Cailliau, who helped invent the World Wide Web, Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist, and James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, are all proclaimed atheists or agnostics. This proposes that faith is not necessarily needed to fund research and discoveries.

    -Shana Joseph

  5. I am glad that within the question, there is special note to add that reason (science) requires faith (religion). Within the NPR article there were some arguments that science does indeed require faith, in that "faith can simply mean something like a guiding assumption or presupposition." Unfortunately in both the ways in which Buie argues on religious faith, and faith regardless of religious affiliation are not valid arguments. The preliminary reason for me denying the existence of faith neccesary for scientific inquiry to occur is the mere definition of faith. Faith is defined firstly as a complete confidence in something, and secondly as a strong belief in God "based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof" by Merrian Webster. Blatantly within the definition of faith, we can assess it's invalidity in dealing with scientific inquiry. The scientific method requires that we are not solidly swayed in one particular direction or another. If we go into a scientific experiment with the absolute confidence that we are correct inspired by faith, then we are likely to cut corner's and produce results that may not be consistent. Take for example if s person attempts to communicate with someone who is braindead via eye blinking. The might be so inspired and convinced that their loved one is communicating with them in some way, that they are shielded from the absolute truth. From a reasoning perspective however, Buie's arguments fail to meet the mark because they seem to follow the method of intuition. Somehow, we are all expected to take these arguments as obviously true since the staff at one particular university are predominantly religious, and that Thomas Eddison had faith when everyone thought he was crazy. I would argue that if Buie expects for all of us to believe in his beliefs, he should perhaps use more solid evidence. This argument mimics a portion within Cohen and Nagel's work on Fixing Belief. They state, " Most of our on the tacit acceptance of current attitudes or on our own unreflective assumptions. Thus we come to believe that the sun revolves around the earth daily because we see it rise in the east and sink in thw west; or we send a testimonial to the makers of a certain toothpaste to the effect that it is an excellent preserver of teeth because we have had no dental trouble since we have used that preparation." (pg. 56) Also Buie's method of intuition fails to regard, or even address major scientists who are non-religiously affiliated such as Alan TUring who is considered the founder of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as Rosalind Franklin who contributed to the discovery of the DNA double helix structure. Also it should be noted that Thomas Edison to some, has been cited to be a non God believing person stating quotes such as, " I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious ideas of heaven and hell, or future life for individuals, or of a personal God."

    Colleen Fonseca


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