Jon Stewart misunderstands science

In a recent interview with Marilynne Robinson, Jon Stewart claimed that science seems to rely as much on faith as does religion and that he’s struck by the similarity of the arguments at their core.

I think Jon has made the common mistake of confusing the story telling part of science (hypothesizing and conjecturing) with the believing part of religion (faith). While religion and science both have elements of story telling, they are not the same thing. The important difference between them is their different take on the path between a story and a belief.

The fact that scientists have stories about what Dark matter is (Jon confuses dark matter with anti-matter) is different from them ‘believing’ those stories. To a scientist, believing comes after the evidence, never before. However, by definition faith is about believing things in the absence of evidence, and this is the point over which science and faith are “exclusive and at odds”. Science says beliefs based on faith are bad news.

I’ve been careful to use the word ‘faith’ where Jon has used ‘religion’. I’m not sure if religion is at odds with science. Religion is a large wrapper with a lot of things inside. If one of those things is faith, then religion and science are exclusive and at odds.


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