Excerpted from a recent post by a friend of mine:
In other words, though there may be some difference in the kinds of knowledge claims that science and religion make, both science and religion use the same overall strategy. The claim that religion works by faith and that science by reason is too sloppy. Science must often depend on faith statements even though it uses reason extensively; likewise, theology relies on the exercise of reason. Science and theology share considerable commonality. Both faith and reason are methods for generating knowledge claims.
It seems to me that science and religion have strategies for achieving knowledge which are so different as to be quite nearly diametrically opposed, and this is fairly obvious whenever they both attempt to answer the same questions, such as:
- What are rainbows? (faith) <> (reason)
- What are thunderstorms? (faith) <> (reason)
- What is the nature of man? (faith) <> (reason)
- How can we cure mental illness? (faith) <> (reason)
- How can we cure physical illness? (faith) <> (reason)
- Why are the planets arranged just so? (faith) <> (reason)
I’ve drawn faith-based answers from my own faith tradition, no doubt other faith traditions have created their own answers. Answers yielded up by the scientific method, by contrast, are cross-cultural and useful regardless of whether one speaks Arabic, Basque, Castilian, Dutch, English, or Finnish, and regardless of whether one prays to Allah, Bhagavan, Christ, Deus, Elohim, Freya, or whomever. In every case, faith-based answers get about as far as “magical immaterial mind mediating by means most mysterious” and pretty much leaves it at that.
Even the great Isaac Newton, when stymied in his investigation of the origins of the solar system, decided to chalk it up to an intelligent designer and ceased doing any more research on the question. Meanwhile, methodological naturalists are busily arguing amongst themselves, refuting each other, testing out new theories, refining old ones, and generally getting on with the business of adding to humanity’s understanding of the world. It is because scientific knowledge is considered provisional that they are allowed to keep moving forward and learning new things.