Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Science As A Religion?

One of the biggest focuses of this class has been to define things that are simply hard to define. But how do we go about doing that? Is the Oxford English dictionary the supreme authority on words? Some would argue yes, because there must be an authority. Personally, however, I’ve never put much stock in “authority.” I also believe that it’s contrary to the English language to set anything in stone. If Shakespeare had played by the rules, his works wouldn’t have been half as brilliant, half as well remembered, or half as beautiful. The English language is constantly evolving, so setting it in stone is contrary to its very nature. The question we’re being asked to answer is asks, “What criteria are you using to define religion?” And that’s a question that should be answered; but also consider if the definition of religion is changing, or if it might have changed already.

You can only ask the question, “has science become a religion,” if you define what a religion is. In the 2:20 class, I (Luke) said that I thought that science was more of the “Holy Scripture” of atheism and/or agnosticism, which could be thought of as religions (the criteria used at that point was: an external practice of some sort, and holding some sort of metaphysical belief) So this is something else to think about, if science is not a religion, what role does it play in what you are defining as a religion?

Professor Berry brought up the possibly use of money or capitalism as potential “religions” in our society. Do any of you buy into that concept or do you think that our society has another ‘religion’ altogether?

--Chase and Luke


  1. You boys spoil me!

    While I find it difficult to answer this question with a flat "yes" or "no," I probably would say yes, I do believe science has become a religion for our society. The OED defines a religion as "the belief or worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods." According to this definition, I would say yes, because many people today simply accept scientific discoveries, many of which alter our previous conceptions of what we know to be true, without understanding the logic or reason behind it, simply because it is science, and therefore, it has been tested and proven to be true. In this way, we believe in this superhuman controlling power, that men and women --scientists-- devote their lives to understanding and discovering.
    My personal definition of religion is much looser. I tend to define religion, as I did in my WPII, as the belief in a controlling power that an individual or group allows to dictate/has a presence in everyday life. This religion, whether it is the worship of a god, or in the case of my film of study Wanted, the worship of a magical loom, there is some omnipotent force which, whether benevolent or malicious, commands respect and worship. This is loosely the case in science, in which science represents the great, all-powerful unknown, which commands the worship, in the form of continued study, of its followers, scientists.
    Although the article we read about Scientism was poorly written, and sometimes unclear, I can see the author's point about the modern worship of science and technology. Many people look to their computers for all of the answers, much like a god, and worship "the Apple cult" in following new technological releases.

  2. The OED definition posted by Jamie and Wale beats around the bush in trying to define religion. You can't use "religious" as an adjective for the definition of religion! To me, one of the big factors of religion is the presence of faith in some outer, larger force. But I think that what makes religion personal and unique is the way you practice or show your faith: worship. 'Worship' is the second defining factor for religion, and this includes rituals and prayers, religious events in the community (like attending Church on Sundays), and the way you religion infiltrates your daily life. Both faith and worship are broad, defining elements of religion, but religion is a broad 'entity,' for lack of a better word. I think that in today's age, we have to be open to the possibility of science or capitalism becoming a sort of new religion one day. I had never thought of science as a religion before our last class on Tuesday, but you can definitely defend it as a religion. For those who really believe that science has all the answers to life, and worship science through practices like research, furthering education, and attending science conferences, science could qualify as a religion. But I feel like that's true for only a select it's hard to say that science is religion just yet. I think that it has the potential to become a religion in the future. Many argue that science is a religion because of our reliance on technology. And while technology is a large part of our daily lives, I think it's a larger cultural component to modern life than a religious element. I don't think we utilize technology as a way to worship science, but more so use technology because it's part of the latest trends and makes our cultural lives easier to handle (school, work, etc.). But I do think that as technology and science advances, the dependence on faith in religions like Christianity and Buddhism is decreasing because more and more people are finding comfort in the truth of what they can see and observe rather than the unknown and mysterious figure of God. If (or when) religion as we know it dies out, something will rise to take its place. We just have to wait and see what exactly that will be.

  3. I also agree that there is no definite answer to the question to whether or not science can be categorized as a religion. The concept of religion has a different connotation and experience attached to it for every individual, yet i think there is a common trend in that religion has some sort of metaphysical belief, a practice, and rituals. Many people who deem themselves scientists could in fact be saying that this is my belief, similar to Christians identifying themselves as Christians and Catholics as Catholics, so on and so forth. I myself from a Catholic, and i identify myself as such, even though I am not educated much about it nor do i practice. Therefore, I don't necessarily think of myself as a religious being. So for my definition of religion, it is something you put your faith in and you trust to answer questions that you yourself cannot answer, whether you use scientific or spiritual beliefs to answer them.

  4. When I think of religion I think of a common set of belief and practices that some form of community shares. I think religion is hard to define because there are so many different religions throughout the world and a multitude of different rituals and beliefs that accompany each. I disagree with Professor Berry's suggestion that capitalism has become a form of religion in America. I do not think that people worship money or the economy. Money does make the world go round and therefore everyone likes to have it. Without money and capitalism we would not have many of the opportunities or simple necessities we now enjoy today. I don't think this means we are worshiping money, it is merely a means of survival in today's society. Overall I think the majority of American society is viewed as Christian. Although other religions are existent in the US, I don't think another religion altogether is present besides the ones that have already been officially declared as religions.

  5. I would personally define a religion as a set of beliefs shared by a community and expressed through some kind of ritual or common practice. In that sense science can be thought of as a religion: there is a large number of people who believe it is the best way to explain life in general and they all follow the scientific method to prove their points.
    However, I also think a religion is supposed to give an explanation to the things we cannot explain. It is an interpretation of life that involves some kind of unnatural force that you would have faith in - an inner feeling that this is the truth. Science tries to explain the unexplainable but it does not accept the idea of something superior to the primary laws of nature or any kind of mysticism.
    I do not think science is a religion because it is not so much about beliefs but about trust. You do not believe in something you cannot explain, you try many different techniques so you can prove the origin of a phenomenon with verifiable data.
    Thus I do not think that any common part of our society can be referenced as a religion. Some might say that food or video games or soccer is their “religion”, but I disagree with the terminology. It is more their passion and what inspires them, but this is not enough to make a religion. You need some kind of rules that guide your life in a spiritual way, and these are defined by religion.

  6. I am interested in Professor’s thought the use of money or capitalism could be a potential “religion” in our society. I remember I have ever seen a movie called: Wall Street. In this film, a young and impatient stockbroker is willing to do anything to get to the top, including trading on illegal inside information taken through a ruthless and greedy corporate raider who takes the youth under his wing. For Gordon Gekko, his tutor and sponsor, a brilliant smart man with extremely strong greed towards money, I feel like money is his belief, his faith, his love and his everything. Not for him, but also for many people in that area.

    Here I agree with Luke that science could be regarded as religion to some extent for it is a “Holy Scripture of atheism and/or agnosticism”. Region can be defined as a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny. According to this definition, science could be regarded as a religion. It is a great power which has convinced tons of people its meaning, method, discovery and influence. And those scientists and teachers who teach science who made great contribution to the development and popularity of science knowledge could be seen as in the same team. What they do is to make more and more people believe in science. That’s no different with missionaries spreading the religious belief, to some extent.