“Science cannot answer certain questions”

Church destroyed by earthquake

One of the most common religious accusations against science is that it cannot answer certain questions about life and the universe. This can range from the “Why is there something rather than nothing” argument all the way to classic meaning of life debates.
The first thing to note about this accusation is that it is not even a real accusation. This is because the people who often make this claim fail to realize two basic facts about science:
1. Science is not a dogma that either does or doesn’t come with predetermined answers to certain questions, science is simply the best process we have for finding out what is going on.
2. The fact that we still don’t have answers to certain questions doesn’t at all mean that science is flawed or limited – on the contrary. Every single scientific discovery we know of, started out as an unanswered question. Unanswered questions are the only reason we invented the scientific process in the first place.
Whenever you are confronted with something you do not understand, try asking yourself two important questions:
1. Do you want to find out what the answer is?
2. Are you willing to accept unsupported magical answers or are you looking for answers that are supported by reason and evidence?
The biggest religious confusion here seems to be about what to do with ignorance. There is no point in denying there are many things we do not know, the question is, what do you want to do about it? The scientific way of thinking takes ignorance as a motivator to ask questions and then conduct research in order to answer these questions. One important part in this scientific search for answers is that until satisfactory answers are reached – answers that are based on testable, logical, reasoning and evidence – the idea is to be honest enough to admit that the answers are still not in. The religious stance, on the other hand, seems to be centered on either not admitting ignorance at all – claiming to know things one cannot possibly know – or accepting ignorance and declaring certain things to be eternally unknowable (a classic argument from ignorance type fallacy).
It is quite funny to still hear the religious making claims about what science can or cannot do, having suffered centuries of humiliation every time science proves them wrong. It seems that no amount of scientific progress can convince the religious that it might be unwise to keep underestimating the scientific process. This is not simply a religious failure to understand the scientific process, it is a consistently reliable failure to understand the scientific process; so much so that we are almost at the ironic point where we can predict an imminent scientific discovery, based on a religious claim that it will never happen.
Another funny part of this religious accusation against science is the suggestion that the answer to certain questions, or the determination that certain questions are unanswerable, can only be found in religion. What makes this so funny is the fact that there is no such thing as a religious answer or determination – there are many many different, discrepant and mutually exclusive religious answers, each coming from any of the thousands of different, discrepant and mutually exclusive religions. Simply ask yourself how many wildly different (not to mention, completely nonsensical) religious explanations existed for such things as earthquakes or solar eclipses, for example, before consistent scientific explanations replaced them all?
The next time you are confronted with religious claims about the limitations of science, try asking your counterpart if he/she knows of a single case in all of history when religion actually won an argument against science. Then ask your friend if he/she can think of a single scientific explanation that was later replaced by a better religious explanation. And while your counterpart is searching for a way to answer these questions, ask him/her what in the world makes them think that if science cannot discover something, religion can?

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