Monthly Archives: July 2012

Seeking A Worthy Substitute For Dogma

This post is about using the scientific method to replace religious dogma. Those who disavow dogma have their reasons: blindly embracing religious edicts can lead to human strife and conflict. Unfortunately, things are not so simple.

Replacing religious dogma with knowledge based on the scientific method is an “apples and oranges” replacement. Scientific knowledge does not provide the answers to questions addressed by religion. What of the “dogma” of human dignity and worth, which is at the foundation of many religions? The scientific method provides little guidance here.

Conflicting religious dogmas are definitely a source of strife. Your religion may hand down truths that conflict with my religion. These conflicts cannot be resolved by logical debate, and thus may persist for a very long time.

Yet, eliminating human conflict using the beautiful evidence inherent in science cannot succeed. Attempts to replace dogma are often based on “self-evident” moral codes: it is “obvious” that harming others is bad. Why can’t all moral codes simply be based on the golden rule: treat others as you would yourself? Well, that rule is also dogma, albeit a positive one it seems. It is certainly not derivable based on evidence of a scientific sort. The application of this rule in real life is not always straightforward and unambiguous.

The inability to fully escape dogma is not an invitation to throw reason to the winds, or to embrace irrationality in its ugliest aspects. We simply must have realistic expectations, and work steadfastly for what we believe in.

How do You Use The Method?

The scientific method has had enormous influence on human life. Since its inception in modern form about 400 years ago, the scientific method has become ever more dominant in our culture. Not least it has brought us science itself, which has led to enormous advances in technology and human longevity. It is not surprising that some seem to worship The Method in their lives.

How and when do you use The Method? When should you get along without it? The Method is a proven way to gain knowledge of our physical world. The cycle of hypothesis (educated guessing), testing the hypothesis (experiments), and thus confirming or rejecting it (interpreting and thinking), is forever etched in our minds and hearts. The Method works so well because Nature invariably works in logical ways. The Method is well suited to learning about Nature because of the way Nature behaves.

Yet you can live your whole life without ever using or thinking about The Method. Perhaps you are one of these “non-users” who scoff at the seemingly cold logic embedded in The Method. Using the scientific method is practical, yes, but might not contribute much to your immediate happiness or success.

Understanding and applying The Method will bring you power. Apply it to your own life. Form a hypothesis about what you will do tomorrow, or where you will be in your life one year from now. Form hypotheses about those around you, colleagues and friends. How will they act or react to something you might do? Wait a little while and compare your hypotheses with experiment.

Understanding the limitations of The Method will bring you wisdom. The Method applies to the physical world. What about the spiritual world?

Don’t get me wrong: I love The Method. It is part of my professional life as a scientist. I make a living with it. Yet, my intimacy with The Method has led me to become familiar with its limitations. I can pose certain questions that I cannot answer using The Method. These hard-to-answer questions are not “meaningless”, any more than Love and Dignity are meaningless.

If you don’t use The Method at all, I recommend you try it. Let in a little logic to your life, and connect more directly with the awesome forces of Nature. Yet, if you believe The Method “rules all”, it’s time for a little introspection about what you truly value in life.

You will live out your destiny, no matter what.