We know for a fact that the current atomic model is false. We just haven't figured out a better one yet. The first sentence is a demonstration of how people are not blindly following the current atomic model, but applying it when it works, and admitting its faults.

Remember your beginning algebra class? How about those postulates you learned? Take, for example, the Line Postulate, which states that "For every two different points there is exactly one line that contains both points." This is something that you and I believe, but it is not proven. Instead, your math textbook probably said that it was a postulate because it is a fundamental part of Euclidean geometry, but it is not possible to prove. They asked you to believe that it is true, but to understand that it is not a universal law. (Note that in a non-Euclidean geometry, you can sometimes find two distinct lines through two distinct points.)

I know that I was introduced to the scientific method as a way of describing the world around us. These theories and equations come up because they are of practical value to us. My chemistry teacher taught us the Bohr model of an atom, and we believed that it was true because it made sense. Then he proceeded to teach us a model that was an even better representation of an atom, because it worked for atoms other than hydrogen. The point he made was that even the modern quantum model of an atom is not necessarily correct, and it is likely to be replaced by the discovery of a new model sometime soon, but it works, damnit! (Those were his exact words, I believe.)

I don't have blind faith in science, I have a rational belief in it.

Update after that of nocodeforparanoia: Yeah, but maybe you should write the Blind faith in anything is just as bad as blind faith in anything else. Oh, and btw, I know people who actually do have a blind faith in science, so your point is certainly valid.
One thing scientists must take on blind faith in order to be scientists:

"The scientific method yields closer and closer approximations to the truth."

Think about this one: What truth? How do we know that there is a truth we are approaching?

Science is very good at suspending judgement on something, saying "this is the best we've got." But the criteria for "better" must fall back on the Method itself. And it would be circular for the scientific method to test itself.

Try to think of an argument for the above statement that doesn't translate into: "Because it does!" And yet one must accept this in order to practice science at all.

Some scientists, not all, but some, go so far as to believe blindly in a second axiom:

"Reality is testable, material reality."

This kind of thinking has given us ridiculous things things like Behaviorism. And it makes sense to us ... but try to come up with a logical reason for it. The real reason for it is because it works, as a method. But this method, unlike the theories it produces, doesn't seem open to question. Some (but not all!) scientists have let it slip from an optional methodological assumption to a statement about reality.

As for jihads and holy wars, they are going on as we speak. Have a look at the CSICOP webpage and see if you don't see a call to arms made by people who are afraid.

To be a scientist requires assumptions, at least one of them absolutely necessary. It involves a worldview. The faith may not be blind, but it must be assumed. If you can't assume it, you can't be a scientist. I can't be a scientist because I don't believe in God.

I find it difficult to comprehend that nobody has yet said anything along the lines of

Science is not a body of knowledge. It is a process and a way of thinking.

The current atomic model is not "science", it is a the level of understanding we have obtained of the structure of the atom using the scientific process. This process demands that nothing be taken on faith, or believed because it sounds good, everything must be challenged as extensively as possible.

A scientific thinker cannot have total blind belief in the current body of knowledge uncovered by science, the very rationale of their logic system denies it. They can question, and see that a particular theory has no apparent flaws that can be found at the present time, but to extend this to "belief" that the theory is true and beyong question is wrong. The misuse of the term "science" to mean information or technology is a huge impediment to any discussion like this.

I suppose one could still argue that following the scientific method at all is blind belief, but that would mean descending into lines of logic which imply that no person, ever, can ever have anything in their brain that is NOT blind belief, and that doesn't seem to get us anywhere. Even if this is the case, I have to throw my vote behind a belief system that teaches "Try and understand more than is understood now, try as hard as you can to challenge conventional wisdom, strengthen the certainty of your knowledge by questioning the logic and proof behind it, and allowing others to do the same."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In response to Tlogmer and others, the ancient Greeks were impressive mathematicians, but nothing resembling scientists. The most fundamental principles of the scientific method, namely verification of every hypothesis by experiment and the willingness to challenge, modify and even abandon established theories were rejected by their thinkers. They did logic well, but true science demands experimentation.

History has shown that what is accepted as scientific fact during one era is likely to be proven false by scientists of the next era.

This is a point often brought up. Every previous era thought they understood the way the world works, and every previous era got things terribly, terribly wrong -- the Greeks thought the sun revolved around the Earth; Newton believed time was absolute. How, then, can we possibly expect anything that current science tells us to be true at all?

What is always neglected is the other side: the knowledge that has remained with us, in practical terms, often far outweighs the knowledge discovered since. The Greeks knew the Earth was spherical, and the Earth remains spherical, for the most part. It is only an incidental detail that its spin makes the equator bulge outward into oblate spheroidhood.

Almost every predominant theory of the world is not discarded entirely after its age has passed, but contained within the next theory as a special case. Before Newton, it was thought that objects have a fundamental desire to be at rest, and that if set into motion they would, for that reason, gradually return to that state. Newton considered that picture of the world, that explanation of the why, to be false, clearly false, in all circumstances. But the prediction that that picture gave -- and this is the fundamental part of the theory, the only part that matters to Science -- remains true for everyday circumstances. Roll a ball along a table, and unless you have some frictionless surface available, it will slow and then stop, every single time.

Similarly, the planetary motions explained by Kepler remain largely intact. The picture of the world that Einstein's theory of relativity gave may have overturned the Newtonian world-picture everywhere, in every circumstance, but its description of events only overturns Newton's in relatively exotic situations (satellites experience measurable time dilation, buses do not; schoolchildren are still taught that Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction, despite quantum mechanics), and that is all that science is really concerned with.

Certainly, I do not advocate blind faith in anything at all. But as mollusc pointed out, science is not a picture of the world's workings (except in the sense that it discards solipsism, etc.) but a methodology used to make predictions. That's it. It's hard to see how blind faith in such a rarefied thing is even possible, and if it is, it's hard to see how it could possibly be as damaging as blind faith in religion.


With regard to mollusc's point about the Greeks not being scientsts -- true enough; Aristotle, for example, asserted that men had more teeth than women, and despite being married several times never thought to check. Still, the ideas of the greeks, and, indeed, of all nonscientists, the commonsense theories ingrained in the human mind or developed as children, provide good examples of the worldview-to-special-case transition.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.