26 December 2008

Why I believe in Science?

In God, the Scientist, Paul Penfield, Jr. explained the differences between a science-based and a faith-based explanation. Here is the example he gave:


Tell me why the stars do shine,
Tell me why the ivy twines,
Tell me why the sky's so blue,
And I will tell you, just why I love you.
audio (39 seconds; 859K)

God as an explanation:
Because God made the stars to shine,
Because God made the ivy twine,
Because God made the sky so blue,
Because God made you, that's why I love you.
audio (46 seconds; 1020K)

Explanations based on science (here only a reference to the theory were used):
Nuclear fusion makes stars to shine,
Adhesive tendrils make ivy twine,
Rayleigh diffraction makes skies so blue,
Chemical hormones, that's why I love you.
audio (40 seconds; 878K)

One thing I noticed is that the god explanation is much simpler. We just invoke god to explain anything that we don't know. While you don't need a PhD in Physics or Chemistry to understand the theories invoked here to explain the situation scientifically, no doubt it is much more complicated than using god as an explanation.

Another interesting point is that if you ask a religious people how confident is the god explanation, s/he may say s/he has 100% faith in the answer. If you ask a scientist the same question, the most likely answer is that s/he thinks the theories given are the most probable explanations, or the best available explanations. There is always a doubt in scientist's mind about any theory.

Paul Penfield, Jr. applied three tests to tell if a theory is good or bad: a good theory needs to be accurate, simple and suggestive.

To me, the god explanation is completely useless and does not even worth mentioning. Why? Because the god explanation does not explain anything and totally not suggestive. That is there is no utility value. Let me just use an example given by Paul Penfield, Jr.:
Rayleigh diffraction is a good explanation. It not only explains why the sky is blue, it also explains why a sunset is red. On the other hand, invoking God in this context is not really explaining anything at all; it is just a way of closing off discussion, or of saying the explanation is so arcane that it is not worthwhile. This is the opposite of opening up interesting new questions.

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