9 oct. 2011

Bad Arguments: Science Cannot Explain Everything

The argument from the inadequacy of scientific explanation is laughably weak. First of all, science is in the business of explaining how things work in the natural world. Religion has nothing to say about anything a scientist might want to know. How does a cell divide? How large is the moon? How does gravity work? Only science can provide answers to scientific questions. So the fact that science has not explained any particular thing does not leave a gap for a religious explanation. The "religious" explanation, in fact, is identical to a scientific one, in this case: "we don't know (yet)."

From this perspective, it doesn't really matter whether scientific inquiry has explained 5% of what we might want to know or 95%. Since religion has explained nothing at all about the natural world, it seems illogical to chalk up the other 95% or 5% to a non-existent religious explanation.

I would say, in fact, that religion and science are in completely different businesses. The only reason to talk about them in the same breath is that religion provides one of the only possible motivations for questioning the findings of science. Suppose you thought thunderbolts were thrown by Zeus. A scientific explanation of thunder might make you question your religion so you might get defensive. In the modern world, most people do not even use religion as a source of explanation for almost anything related to the weather, but there are still some areas where religion provides resistance to scientific education.