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Offline Peter Baxter

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Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« on: 09/02/2013 09:08:17 »
It concerns me that many students are being taught beliefs as facts. Just because a teacher believes something is a fact doesn't make it so.
Religion is a good example often taught as a fact but it is just a belief and today science as got on to this bandwagon. Every teacher has a responsibility to make clear to everyone the difference. Newton believed his view on gravity was a fact until Einstein pulled his rug from under him.

Mod edit: Please phrase post titles as questions, thanks!  You're free to edit it if you'd like a different title.
« Last Edit: 10/02/2013 15:57:18 by JP »


 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Facts Belief and Faith
« Reply #1 on: 09/02/2013 11:34:06 »
Much of science does in fact rely on hypotheses and theories.
For example, one does have the "Theory of Evolution".  Yet, the theory of evolution has tons of supporting evidence since Darwin's publication of the "Origin of Species" in 1859.

Certainly timelines could change, and in the future, we may have a better understanding for branch-points in species evolution.  However, farming, for example, has many examples of observable accelerated evolution.

Much of science is also based on experiments.

So, if I drop my coffee cup, it will fall to the floor...  FACT. 
If I burn 1 mole of oxygen and 2 moles of hydrogen, I will get 1 mole of water.  While you may claim it is still a theory, the experiment can be run and the results verified.

If you read primary source scientific literature, you will find multiple sections to a research article.  It may start with a justification for the study.  The next two sections are methods and results.  The author manipulated X, and observed Y.  Obviously there can be methodological errors, but these sections are generally factual, and with any luck, can be replicated.  Then the paper ends with a discussion and interpretation of the results, and perhaps ideas for further research, or comments and concerns about the data.

Anyway, experimental science is not a matter of "faith", but rather coming up with, and testing hypotheses.  One can, of course, challenge whether the experiment in fact answers the original question, hopefully with an alternative experimental design.
 

Offline JP

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Re: Facts Belief and Faith
« Reply #2 on: 09/02/2013 13:55:09 »
Religion is a good example often taught as a fact but it is just a belief and today science as got on to this bandwagon. Every teacher has a responsibility to make clear to everyone the difference. Newton believed his view on gravity was a fact until Einstein pulled his rug from under him.

This is a good point, and I'd be upset with any teacher who presents science as undeniable facts set in stone.  But while there are always going to be poor teachers out there, most are good teachers and they they instead teach the scientific method, which, as Clifford pointed out, describes how new theories are developed and tested against observations.  It also allows for the possibility that well-tested theories aren't complete, and that if flaws are found in them, they can be replaced. 
 

Online evan_au

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Re: Facts Belief and Faith
« Reply #3 on: 10/02/2013 11:06:29 »
I would suggest that Newton's theory is not "wrong", its just that Einsteins is more accurate in extreme conditions.

Newton's theory of gravitation could be used to plan planetary exploration today - the discrepancy due to general relativity was first seen in Mercury's orbit, and then after observations spanning more than a century. The impact on the other planets is far lower. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tests_of_general_relativity#Perihelion_precession_of_Mercury

Newton's theory of gravity replaced Galileo's theory of gravity - again because it was more accurate in extreme conditions like far from Earth's surface, an environment that was inaccessible to the residents of medieval Pisa - and nearly all residents of the Earth today.

By the way, Galileo's theory of gravity is still taught in high school, and if asked to calculate how long it would take a dropped pen to hit the floor, it is still appropriate to use it, because it is "good enough" for the purpose, and a lot simpler than Newton or Einstein's formulation (or even Hawking's improvements on Einstein).

So it's not even a matter of "right" and "wrong", but knowing which model of the universe will provide the most insight within the available amount of effort.

(It's often the factors which aren't considered that have a dominant effect: None of these gravitational theories include the effects of wind resistance, and that has a major impact within the atmospheres of the planets.)
« Last Edit: 10/02/2013 20:00:23 by evan_au »
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #4 on: 05/03/2013 23:56:24 »
Just about everything is an opinion, it's 'just' a question of probabilities based on evidence, and reproducibility.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #5 on: 18/06/2013 08:15:54 »
Hopefully, science teachers teach science, which is a process (observe, hypothesise, test), not a collection of facts, and has absolutely nothing to do with belief (acceptance of a hypothesis in the absence of facts) or faith (acceptance of a hypothesis in the face of facts).

"Scientific knowledge" is the residue of disprovable, explanatory, integrative and predictive hypotheses that have not yet been disproved. It's continually changing, even if the rate of change is glacial (usually very slow, but occasionally big lumps suddenly fall off.) Robust observations (gravity, conductivity...) are summarised into "laws" but laws can be modified in the light of new observations, provided that the new law approximates to the old one in the original circumstances: thus relativistic equations become Newtonian if v << c.

I class evolution as an observation - you don't (can't!) look exactly like both of your parents, so it's to some extent inevitable. There is no underpinning theory with any predictive or testable qualities. Although we can see all the bits of the mechanism of genetics, we can't predict how when or why a species will evolve: indeed we don't even have an agreed definition of "species"! All we can say is that it is obvious that species have evolved and there is no reason why they should not continue to do so.
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #6 on: 18/06/2013 13:50:15 »
Actually, there's a huge amount of theory underpinning evolution, for example the origin of sexual dimorphisms, and the effects of predator-prey relationships; and the theory absolutely has predictive properties. Even speciation has been experimentally achieved in the lab (athough only with bacteria).
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #7 on: 18/06/2013 17:21:26 »
I think there is rather a tendancy for some to take theory as fact.

Certainly anything taught by science departments in schools and other learning establishments must emphasise whether what they are teaching is proven fact or theory.

It does science no good at all to say something is a fact, when it is not. If we take something as a hard and fast fact, perhaps we will be reluctant to question it.
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #8 on: 18/06/2013 18:48:38 »
Virtually everything taught in science departments, with the exception of any creationism taught be the small minority of disastrously ill-equipped teachers is well-supported fact.
 

Offline AntonMaeso

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #9 on: 19/06/2013 20:54:38 »
The answer to this question probably depends on what is your philosophical view on science.

You might take an inductive view which would be that:
I have seen event A happen loads and loads of times in many different condition therefore event A is a general rule.


So, if I drop my coffee cup, it will fall to the floor...  FACT. 
If I burn 1 mole of oxygen and 2 moles of hydrogen, I will get 1 mole of water.  While you may claim it is still a theory, the experiment can be run and the results verified.


This would be a classic inductive argument. It could be true if CliffordK drops the coffee it will fall. However you might argue yes it fell in the past but why should it fall in the future. You presume the future is like the past. Or you might argue yes it falls on earth but who's to say the laws of physics aren't different somewhere else in the universe.

Hopefully, science teachers teach science, which is a process (observe, hypothesise, test), not a collection of facts, and has absolutely nothing to do with belief (acceptance of a hypothesis in the absence of facts) or faith (acceptance of a hypothesis in the face of facts).

alancalverd takes more of a Popper approach to science. That the ultimatum for a hypothesis is falsification. All theories are under close scrutiny all the time where a good experiment can distinguish between a good and bad theory. Apart from the previous problems associated with inductivism; you make the assumption that the observation and hypothesis are not tainted by the experimenters beliefs. A good example is where mere observation of quantum particles can change their behavior.


I personally take the kuhn approach to science. Which is basically all scientific theories are relative. No science theory (or paradigm in kuhn language) is correct or wrong. Most science is conducted within the current paradigm. These experiments extend the pardigm to other contexts which demonstrates that the paradigm is useful. Ever so often a scientist may come across an anomaly however most of the time these are considered experimental faults or ignored for a rainy day. However ever so often a new paradigm emerges which gains popularity. There maybe no reason to choose one paradigm over the other at first but eventually one paradigm proves to explain more and gives us new novel questions to answer.

As to the original question I would agree that science is based on beliefs and there is no way to tell if a theory explains whats actually happens. However science has proved very useful to us in simplifying the universe and forming new technologies. That is my view anyway.
« Last Edit: 19/06/2013 20:56:58 by AntonMaeso »
 

Offline damocles

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #10 on: 21/06/2013 05:44:47 »
From JP:
Quote
This is a good point, and I'd be upset with any teacher who presents science as undeniable facts set in stone.  But while there are always going to be poor teachers out there, most are good teachers and they they instead teach the scientific method, which, as Clifford pointed out, describes how new theories are developed and tested against observations.  It also allows for the possibility that well-tested theories aren't complete, and that if flaws are found in them, they can be replaced.
 
There is not really any simple "scientific method".  Philosophers of Science have been looking at this question for some time.
I will reference two books (unfortunately I cannot provide a link to web pages):

Henry Bauer (American) : "Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method", University of Illinois Press, 1994.
Alan Chalmers (Australian) : "Science and its Fabrication", Open University Press, 1990.

Neither Empiricism (collecting evidence to provide support for a theory, or the grounds for forming an hypothesis), nor Na´ve Falsificationism (putting forward an hypothesis and then trying to falsify it) is the way that science really works. It is fairly easy to see why: any scientist who operates under either of these regimes will have a very short career indeed!

Falsificationism is seriously flawed as a modus operandi. Why? Several reasons, but not the least of them is the implied paradox: the more successful the hypothesis, the fewer publishable works the scientist will generate, and not publishing is a certain route to obscurity if not unemployment!
Empiricism is flawed because it cannot provide deeper insights. Moreover no amount of confirmation by individual example can provide a whit of rational support for an hypothesis. There is a very interesting logical argument that observation of a red letterbox provides logical support for the hypothesis that 'all ravens are black'!
('all ravens are black' is logically equivalent to 'that which is not black is not a raven', and a red letterbox is an instantiation of the latter form of the hypothesis.)

My conception of the scientific method is twofold: the working scientist is essentially working on a huge jigsaw puzzle, and the better the fit of her hypothesis with a large number of pieces of received wisdom around the fringes, the more convincing is her piece of work. And then when she submits her work for publication she is effectively opening up the work for closer scrutiny by an expert audience, and then a wider scientific jury of her peers, who must become convinced on the balance of evidence on a yes/maybe/no basis before the work is possibly incorporated into the body of scientific knowledge.

Thus science is not a rational exercise, and could certainly be open for criticism on rational grounds, but the "scientific method" in my conception of it has proved a very fruitful and effective way of acquiring knowledge in spite of suffering from a fair amount of conservative bias.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #11 on: 22/06/2013 00:23:55 »
It would take a good science teacher about an hour to explain how simple set diagrams avoid the sort of logical nonsequiturs that puzzle philosophers.

Publication may be the means by which academics measure their manhood, but it doesn't pay the rent in the real world. I have made a good living by solving problems in commercial confidence: the last thing my clients want is for me to tell their competitors how to improve a product or process (except in the healthcare and safety sectors, where ethical considerations dominate and we share best practice). And what method do I use? Observe, hypothesise, test. Sometimes you can achieve a lot by examining the client's underlying assumptions and challenging them as disprovable hypotheses, other times you have to formulate your own, but collecting evidence in support of the designer's  hypotheses won't explain why the wings fell off.

I haven't met the jigsaw puzzler, and I certainly wouldn't employ her. Consensus is at best the product of average minds and at worst, of herd superstition. "Scientific consensus" usually means "no real data". The observation that doesn't fit is the one that leads to understanding, and it takes a maverick to say "This piece is right. The puzzle is wrong". Far from supporting it, science chips away at received wisdom and asks whether it has any real foundation.

After 55 years I still recall my first physics lesson. The teacher did a couple of demonstrations and then dictated some notes. Then he stopped and said "Look at what you have just written. It's not true, is it? That isn't what happened in the demonstrations. If you are going to be a scientist, you must write down what you did, what you saw, and what you think about it, not what anyone else tells you should have happened or why. Now tear that page out of your notebooks and start recording what actually happens."  Pretty damn impressive. It set me on a very satisfying career, and a lifelong mission to challenge ignorant authority.

« Last Edit: 22/06/2013 00:41:46 by alancalverd »
 

Offline damocles

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #12 on: 22/06/2013 02:20:39 »
From AlanCalverD:
Quote
It would take a good science teacher about an hour to explain how simple set diagrams avoid the sort of logical nonsequiturs that puzzle philosophers.

That is an interesting statement of your contempt for philosophers, but not at all realistic. Most (rationally based) philosophers have at least the training and good sense to be able to produce and interpret set diagrams. OK, there is a movement in modern philosophy (often known as "post-modernism" for example) that seeks to destroy that rational basis and wander off to goodness knows where, but there is still a lot of philosophy done that is based on traditional rules of logic. And certainly there is no flaw in the "failure of empiricism" argument that I have outlined.

You have not told us too much about the detail of your work, but I would venture to surmise that while your work itself may be done in the way that you suggest, there are various points in your reasoning when you drag in a figure from outside your immediate experimental experience as a trusted result from the body of scientific knowledge.

Moreover the way you have described your work it has consisted in Applied Science or Technology (how to exploit a particular result from mainstream science, or to debug a process that "ought to" work but is not working) rather than  Pure Science (seeking to find out how nature works per se).

One of the problems with that is exemplified by our friend MoreCarbonOK who was very persistent with calling our attention to his own experiments and conclusions, without ever considering the body of accumulated evidence or possible flaws in his own interpretation.

I once went to a lecture by an industrial chemist who tried to explain why rubber was more prone to attack by oxidants in terms of the stretching of individual bonds in the rubber chains, and consequent re-hybridization of the atoms. Right conclusion, but wrong explanation -- rubber is certainly more readily attacked by oxidants when stretched, but the stretching of rubber really consists in untangling of polymer chains, and exposure of the relevant sites to the oxidant.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #13 on: 22/06/2013 21:07:47 »
I'm not sure that you can distinguish much "pure science". I'm having a hard time trying to think of any scientific endeavour, apart from lasers, space travel and astrophysics, that was not prompted by necessity, suffering, conflict, or product failure. It's a change of topic, but I think the politically popular belief that ideas flow from academia into industry is not supported by much evidence.

Our most basic understanding of thermodynamics, for instance, owes more to the steam engine, the boring of cannon barrels, and James Joule's honeymoon experiments,  than they owe to statistical mechanics. Indeed Joule's interest in the subject was initially financial: should he replace a steam engine with an electric motor in a brewery? Whilst Maxwell's equations were published some years before the critical Michelson-Morley experiment, the "pure science" of electromagnetic wave propagation made no impact on the aether hypothesis until the applied science of actually measuring c in two perpendicular directions was done.

Yes, I make frequent use of data tables, bus timetables, tidal and meteorological predictions, and a whole load of authoritative information on aeronautical charts, but if the bus doesn't turn up, the circuit oscillates at the wrong frequency, or the runway isn't where I expected it to be, the observation must override the assumption.   
 

Offline Quantum Sausage

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #14 on: 15/08/2013 20:51:31 »
It depends on Politics as much as anything. As a teacher in the UK, I/we approach with the Scientific Method (which is loosly under the umbrella of How Science Works (HSW). Michael Gove wants more "traditional teaching" which would not make this approach viable - one of many reasons why he is unpopular in the profession).
An issue I have faced in school is that many teachers teach HSW as a bolt-on to the content, whereas to me the idea is you teach the content through HSW. Furthermore, many teachers think enquiry and practical mean the same thing - they do not. All my lessons are enquiry based, but students will not always be doing practical work - some of the laws we are familiar with came about from use of secondary data!
If students understand that it is not just remembering facts, they can become more engaged and actually understand what Science really is.
Whenever I get anew class, I always get them to answer the question "What is Science?" . More often than not, the answer is along the lines of "things that are certain", "a bunch of facts" etc, whereas it is my intention to show that Science is a process, and I hope that this is what I do.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #15 on: 18/08/2013 17:54:18 »
It concerns me that many students are being taught beliefs as facts. Just because a teacher believes something is a fact doesn't make it so.
Religion is a good example often taught as a fact but it is just a belief and today science as got on to this bandwagon. Every teacher has a responsibility to make clear to everyone the difference. Newton believed his view on gravity was a fact until Einstein pulled his rug from under him.

Mod edit: Please phrase post titles as questions, thanks!  You're free to edit it if you'd like a different title.

Who said science teaches beliefs as facts ? =  a paradox .

Science and religion are 2 different things .

If some teachers somewhere happen to teach some things about some beliefs as facts , as you put it , then they should be condemned and refuted .

Can you be more specific , please ?
 

Offline AntonMaeso

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #16 on: 20/08/2013 09:36:31 »

Who said science teaches beliefs as facts ? =  a paradox .

Science and religion are 2 different things .

I would say science is merely the best way we have to explain the data we have. There might be other ways to explain the data and in the future our explanations may not fit new data.

So if you look at it like this science is a belief. The current belief. And the one that explains the most data. 
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #17 on: 20/08/2013 18:36:04 »

Who said science teaches beliefs as facts ? =  a paradox .

Science and religion are 2 different things .

I would say science is merely the best way we have to explain the data we have. There might be other ways to explain the data and in the future our explanations may not fit new data.

So if you look at it like this science is a belief. The current belief. And the one that explains the most data.

(Prior note : science is an effective tool to approach the natural reality, but there are other levels of reality out there outside of the natural realm of science as well .

So,science is not the only valid source of knowledge , science has not the monopoly of the truth ...as some might think .

See "What is the real origin of the scientific method " thread of mine on the subject in general science forum in this very site by the way )

No, i see that like this ,relatively speaking , i must add, as follows : The key to all of this is ...consciousness :

Even the meta-paradigm of science which underlies all the other paradigms in science can experience a shift of paradigm or a shift of meta-paradigm even , as the following fascinating lecture shows ,via an alternative world view different from the materialistic one in science : it's almost all mind , all consciousness : matter , time , space , causality and the rest do not exist as such , not as we perceive them to be at least :

Enjoy : awesome cristal-clear brilliant approach of consciousness ,relatively speaking though, from the point of view of a physicist via an alternative world view :
<repeated link (removed) over multiple pages comes across as evangelising. Please stick to responding to the topic - Thanks, Mod>
« Last Edit: 21/08/2013 00:53:23 by peppercorn »
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #18 on: 20/08/2013 20:29:22 »
And just to make things absolutely clear and unambiguous, the definition of consciousness is....?
 

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Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #19 on: 20/08/2013 20:31:45 »
Shrunk
And just to make things absolutely clear and unambiguous, the definition of consciousness is....?

Do not be lazy : see that fascinating cristal-clear lecture of Peter Russell then
 

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #20 on: 20/08/2013 20:38:54 »
Shrunk
Not me being lazy. I'm asking you what you mean by a word you used.
 

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Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #21 on: 20/08/2013 21:10:42 »
Shrunk
Not me being lazy. I'm asking you what you mean by a word you used.

Well, once again , Peter Russell is more qualified to answer that question of yours than i ever could be
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #22 on: 20/08/2013 21:11:49 »
It concerns me that many students are being taught beliefs as facts. Just because a teacher believes something is a fact doesn't make it so.
Religion is a good example often taught as a fact but it is just a belief and today science as got on to this bandwagon. Every teacher has a responsibility to make clear to everyone the difference. Newton believed his view on gravity was a fact until Einstein pulled his rug from under him.

Mod edit: Please phrase post titles as questions, thanks!  You're free to edit it if you'd like a different title.


"More than anything else, the future of
civilization depends on the way the two
most powerful forces of history, science
and religion, settle into relationship with
each other."

Alfred North Whitehead
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #23 on: 21/08/2013 02:34:26 »
To slighly misquote Dawkins: the one thing religions have in common is that each one teaches you to despise all the others. The sciences, on the other hand, complement each other.

Thus civilisation (which I define as collaboration for the wellbeing of mankind) advances by the acquisition of scientific knowledge, but that advance is frequently mired, halted or even reversed by the influence of religion.

Hence by their very nature, science and religion can only "settle into relationship" if one religion exterminates all others (since the existence of more than one religion necessarily breeds division rather than collaboration) and that religion is indistinguishable from science.

But since religion is founded on the statement "x is true" and science proceeds by asking "is x false?", they cannot be indistinguishable.
« Last Edit: 21/08/2013 09:28:53 by alancalverd »
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #24 on: 21/08/2013 16:41:22 »
Quote
author=alancalverd link=topic=46893.msg416620#msg416620 date=1377048866]
To slighly misquote Dawkins: the one thing religions have in common is that each one teaches you to despise all the others. The sciences, on the other hand, complement each other.

(Projections : Do Dawkins and co. not teach their followers to despise ,ridicule, disrespect ....religions ? ,ironically enough = an understatement )
Is that a fact ? just because Dawkins says so ? : is a fact = simply  quoting someone ? : false assumption : respect of other beliefs , freedom of belief , tolerance ...even under dominant Islam in the past were historic facts and basic Islamic teachings : see how jews were treated by muslims in the past while they were persecuted everywhereelse , especially under the medieval church ...and how christians were treated by muslims ...

Second : different sciences cover different areas ,so, you cannot make that analogy relating to the differences between different sciences and different religions .

Third : religion and science are 2 different things .

Quote
Thus civilization (which I define as collaboration for the wellbeing of mankind) advances by the acquisition of scientific knowledge
.

Putting aside this incorrect "definition " of civilization ,what civilization exactly had ever done that , on purpose ? Different civilizations or empires tend mostly to oppress , enslave , dominate , wipe out , colonize other ones...

The modern time is no exception .

Quote
but that advance is frequently mired, halted or even reversed by the influence of religion.

Depends on what specific religion you might be referring to : simply because you cannot put all religions in the same basket :

See the Islamic origin of the scientific method itself  in my thread you participated in , ironically enough.

Quote
Hence by their very nature, science and religion can only "settle into relationship" if one religion exterminates all others (since the existence of more than one religion necessarily breeds division rather than collaboration) and that religion is indistinguishable from science.

You did misunderstand that above displayed quote of Whitehead :

Some scientific and other advances confirm the fact that the alleged divorce between science and religion will be history , in the long run .

Second : dominant tolerant Islam in the past , and those  basic tolerant Islamic teachings + the fact that the scientific method itself originated from Islam itself , refute these silly simplistic populistic allegations of yours ...

P.S.: Science and religion are 2 different things with different natures, roles, functions ...so,to compare 2 different things to each other is a stupid thing to do,no offense , sorry  .

Quote
But since religion is founded on the statement "x is true" and science proceeds by asking "is x false?", they cannot be indistinguishable.

Silly populistic simplism + science and religion are 2 different things ,even though Islam, for example can have some say on science as well or on the realm of science ,but that's another discussion indeed.

Islam , for example , urges  humans to use their God given  reason, logic , experience, observation ,....the seeking of knowledge in the broader sense ,work ....to try to find out about the secrets or signs of God both within and without .

Islam considers all the latter as religious duties even, as forms of worship of God in the sense ,the more knowledge , belief , work, experience , wisdom ....a believer gets ,the closer he / she would get to God  : early muslims interiorized that islamic epistemology so well that they finally came up with the scientific method both at the epistemological philosophical theoretical and at the practical levels on the reality ground , while separating science from islam in the process....
« Last Edit: 21/08/2013 16:48:16 by DonQuichotte »
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Re: Does science teach beliefs as facts?
« Reply #24 on: 21/08/2013 16:41:22 »

 

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