Thursday, March 31, 2005

My views on science

Some people have accused me of having emunah peshutah in science. 'Not all science is proven' they say. 'Scientific theories change all the time', they say. 'You have more faith in Science than in Torah' they say. 'You are a fool for believing Science' they say.

I say, you haven't been paying attention.

Lets roughly categorize all of science into 3 groups of theories.

1. Proven
The first group we shall call "proven". This is simply a convenient name, so don't go getting all philosophical on me about how nothing can ever really be proven blah blah blah. I don't want to hear it. This group of theories are those that are accepted as true by the majority of the scientific community. The fact that some quack scientists or Kiruv Clowns might dispute these theories is irrelevant. Some simple examples (or rather ramifications) of 'proven' theories:
  • The world and the universe are many billions of years old
  • There were many thousands of intelligent human beings roaming the earth, in the US, Australia, Asia etc, 10,000 years ago
  • There was no global flood within the last million years.

Of course we can debate which theories belong in this group. However my measure is what the significant majority of scientifics think, not what you, I or the Gedolim think. If you think scientific opinion is all hooey, this blog is not for you.

2. Debatable
The second group we shall call "debatable". This group of theories is the subject of some debate within the scientific community itself, or alternatively, the scientific community itself accepts that these are not yet proven. Some examples of 'debatable' theories:

  • Some aspects of evolutionary theory (which aspects are debatable is itself debatable)
  • Possible lifespans of ancient humans

3. Theoretical
The third group we shall call "theoretical". These theories have been proposed, but there is no way of knowing (yet) if there is any validity to them or not. The mainstream scientific community accepts this. Some example of "theoretical" theories:

  • Multiverse theory
  • Some aspects of string theory (which aspects are theoretical is debatable)

My arguments regarding Torah have all been from the 'proven' group. This groups is to all intensive purposes established fact. Its not a question of faith, but of fact. If you disagree and have a well reasoned argument, I would be interested in hearing it. If you are simply a fundamentalist who rejects science out of hand, this blog is not for you, please leave.

I have never to my knowledge argued strongly against Torah in defence of a 'Theoretical' theory. If I have, I was mistaken. Sometimes I might debate the "debatable" theories, but not very often. This blog is about religion, not science, and I don't have much interest in debating scientific theories per se.

Scientific theories change all the time. However the fundamentals usually don't. They get refined, bits get added, bits get taken away but I think we can be secure in saying the world is round, gravity will always be, the world is very old, and things like that. To say that all science is hooey because it changes is the same as saying all halachah is hooey because it changes.

Another common fallacy is to take a genuine scientific debate and use it to void all opinions. A classic example is the debate over the age of the universe. Some scientists say 10 billion, some say 20 billion. Aha ! Say the fundamentalists. You see the scientists can't agree. One side could even be wrong by 10 billion years ! So maybe they are both wrong, and the world is only 6000 years old ! If you think this is a logical argument then again, this blog is not for you, please leave.

I hope I have made my views clear. Please do not clutter up the comments with silly statements about science. Thanks.