Do Scientists have “Faith” in the Same Sense as Religious Believers?

It is a common criticism of non-believers, agnostics and atheists to suggest they need “faith” just as much as religious believers. For instance, secularists as much as religious people have “faith” that the earth will continue rotating around the sun, or that an object will fall if it is released from a height.

As David Hume pointed out in the 1700s we cannot conclude with certainty that something will happen in the future, even if we have seen it happen thousands of times in the past. This is what philosophers and scientists refer to as the problem of “induction”.

But as Richard Dawkins points out in the accompanying video (and many other places), the “faith” that scientists have that natural laws will continue to operate as they have in the past is based on evidence.

Religious faith specifically asks us to believe in things for which there is no evidence. In fact, that is often used as a criterion of the true believer – one who will continue to believe even after the evidence suggests otherwise.

So clearly the “faith” of the scientist is different from the “faith” of the religious believer.


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