Saturday, April 21, 2007

On Faith and Science

Faith is the foundation of any religious system. It is the belief system on which the world view of the particular religion rests. They are the unproven and untestable assumptions you take for granted which are axiomatic. Based on these axioms the religious philosophical thinking is evolved.

It is antithetical to any critical thinking to have unchallenged assumption as the foundation of the understanding process of the society, the world and the universe. It is however essential to any religious world view. You cannot get away from it if you want to be part of the religious process.

Of course this leads to superior smirking from the scientifically bent who believe that they are above this type of axiomatic thinking process. They react petulantly when it is pointed out that the science rests on as much unprovable assumptions that are axiomatic as Faith based religions.

The world view of Science is based on the assumption that the order exists in the universe and can be searched out by systematic scientific methodology i.e observation, hypothesis, testing and verification.

It is like the kids going on an Easter Egg hunt. They have faith that the Easter Eggs exist and can be found out by diligently searching for those. They are not at the stage to wonder why there should be an Easter Egg carefully hidden for them to find out. The scientists are similar to the kids on the Easter Egg hunt. They use scientific methodology and find the Easter egg that is a new scientific order.

Scientists do not question why the order exists; they only assume that the order exists and go about looking for it. That i
s fundamental assumption or an axiom. Thus Science is clearly a subset of world views that uses Faith as an under gird. It is slightly unsettling for the scientific rationalists to take it in but this is the truth they have to face one time or another if they sincerely look at their foundational philosophy.

Coming back to the existence of order in the Universe. There are two streams of thoughts on that - one would say that the order exists because some one planted it much as the adults know that the Easter Egg hunt better be prepared carefully to make it enjoyable for the kids, and the other point of view is that the order is the creation of human mind - what we have in our mind is reflected in reality. Light is a simple example of how the explanation evolved as the human mind evolved - Newton said Light was made of particles (Corpuscular theory), Huygens said it was made of waves and the later quantum theorists would say it is a wave and a particle simultaneously. Every one of the explanation made sense at the time of pronouncement. The order we seek thus is constrained by the knowledge at the time of discovery and is essentially a reflection of our own mind set at that time.

Humanity needs Faith to understand the Universe and function in it. It cannot be avoided. The only real question is how do we choose between different Faiths? That is a subject matter for another post.

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