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Science vs. Religion

(Mon Jul 9 12:40:41 2007)

Nature vs. Faith Gone Wrong

I've found that the common belief among the general population, even among Christians, seems to be that science is science, religion is religion, and the two are mutually exclusive; anywhere religion contradicts what we know of science, religion is wrong. Basically,'natural' science goes in THIS box, while 'non-natural/supernatural' goes in THAT box.

Now, at first, this seems like it's fairly accurate; religion is to science as emotion is to logic. There can be no emotion in logic, and no logic in emotion, so science and religion must be completely separate, too. The trouble begins with things start getting defined...

Say that there's two things in the universe - "natural stuff," and "non-natural stuff." The natural stuff is scientific; it's provable. Let's say that natural stuff is defined as something that is observable (by at least one of the five senses, with or without aid), repeatable (or there exists proof it can be repeated somewhat reliably), and measurable (that is, able to be at least somewhat constrained by one or more standard units of measure). Everything else is non-scientific, and thus non-natural, falling into the second category of the supernatural.

To test our definition, let's use the second law of thermodynamics: any closed system will proceed to chaos. The law is observable; remove energy sources, and natural and man-made structures or machines will always deteriorate. It's also repeatable, since you can perform the experiment on any structure. Finally, it's measurable, since we can judge how much energy is lost by various means, and put it to equations. You can see it, measure it, and repeat it - it must be natural.
As a second test, we'll use "ghosts." People have claimed to see what they believed to be ghosts, which I suppose means that ghosts are, occasionally, observable; however, there is no reliable way to detect ghosts (it's non-repeatable), and there is no current method for measuring the presence of ghosts, never mind putting them in an equation. Therefore, ghosts are non-natural.

Still with me? There doesn't seem to be any trouble - yet. But making a definition forces one to use it on everything - otherwise, it's not really a definition. This includes the formation of the universe. As far as we know, there is no way to repeat the formation of the universe, and there was no one there to observe it, either. It is impossible to measure the formation of the universe, too, apart from arbitrary theories. Thus, by my "scientific method," I have "proved" that the formation of the universe had to have been a supernatural event. Now, I'm sure you'll agree that my method is flawed by simplicity, but it does prove a point - unless all terms are completely defined, there is room for argument.

Now for a second point. Let's redefine "supernatural" to "non-natural."

Let us assume that we are absolutely alone in the universe - there is actually no "non-natural," and there are no aliens, or for that matter any other planet that holds life. There has been no intelligent design, so life must have come about through some form of evolution. Given that no life has ever been created from the absence of life, life itself must have existed, in some form or another, from the beginning of the universe. This leaves us with several possibilities as to how everything started:
1) The universe has been here forever
2) the universe was created from a divergence of matter and anti-matter ("wrinkle in nothing")
3) the universe was created through interaction with one or more (for the lack of a better description) "parallel universes."

The first two theories are ruled out by the second law of thermodynamics - nothing can go from a lower to a higher energy state without outside energy, and given the continual decay of the universe, after an infinite amount of time, the universe would exist only as a thin layer of uniformly spaced particles. The third possibility is known as string theory; however, this still leaves one to wonder where those universes came from, which puts us right back at the beginning again.

If we assume there is no supernatural, the beginning of the universe is at best a question mark. In fact, it is easier to explain the existence of the supernatural than it is to explain the existence of a universe without it; all one has to do is say, "The universe began... here." And that's just not science.

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