Comparison of the Explanatory abilities of Philosophy, Religion, and Science

January 5, 2010

Philosophy, Religion, and Science are three of the more important relevant intellectual disciplines that provide answers to complex questions raised by Evolution’s Fatal Flaw such as “Where did we come from?” “Where are we going?” etc. which leads to the question, “which is the more appropriate discipline to use for complex questions.” Of particular interest, I occasionally hear/read that [some topic] is outside the purview of science, which leads to the question what is the appropriate purview of Science, what are it’s limits.
To address this issue, I believe each discipline should be examined and it’s capabilities assessed. To this I have listed definitions provided by one of the better online dictionaries. Each discipline has multiple sub-definitions, and I have selected those that seem most general and appropriate:
Philosophy is the:
“investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods.”
“critical analysis of fundamental assumptions or beliefs.”
Religion is the:
“belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.”
Science is the:
“observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.”
As shown by their definitions, there are obviously some critical differences between these disciplines. First, the word “belief” appears in both philosophy and religion definitions but not science. On the other hand, the word “explanation” appears only in the science definition.
Examining definition of these key words we have:
An Explanation is:
a statement that makes something comprehensible by describing the relevant structure or operation or circumstances etc
A belief” is:
Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons”;
A principle, etc., accepted as true, often without proof
In addition to an examination of the definition of belief, since philosophy eschews empirical methods and science embraces them, a review of empirical methods will also aid clarity: Referring again to the dictionary,
An Empirical method”
Relies or based solely on experiment and observation rather than theory.
As discussed in Evolution’s Fatal Flaw, development of an empirical explanation is only the first, albeit important, step toward gaining a complete explanation of a phenomenon. While empirical methods provide a useful beginning, they usually do not explain how or why a phenomenon occurs. The how or why explanation is generally provided by theoretical methods e.g., Kepler’s empirically derived equations of planetary as opposed to Newton’s and Einstein’s theoretically derived equations as discussed in chapter 2 of EFF
Besides the presence or absence of belief or explanation, other critical differences are:
Philosophy investigates causes but does not appear to offer any explanation of them.
Philosophy employs logical reasoning rather than empirical methods.
Religion relies almost exclusively upon belief in the supernatural power or powers.
Philosophy also shares a characteristic with psychology. There are many “schools” of psychology (e.g., structuralism, behaviorism, psychoanalysis and humanism) all of which explain human behavior from different viewpoints. Likewise, there are many philosophical systems, each investigating principles of reality based on logical reasoning without offering objective proof of their versions.
Accordingly, at the risk of offending philosophers, Scientific answers are often superior to philosophical answers
Regarding religious “answers,” I believe that Evolution’s Fatal Flaw satisfactorily demonstrates that religious “answers” based upon supernatural causation are really not answers; they are merely beliefs which, as explained above, are “accepted as true, often without proof” and thus are not valid explanations.
In view of the above, I submit that the only reliable answers to the questions that face the world today are found via the use of the scientific method. Moreover, I submit that nothing of value worth knowing is outside the purview of science, in particular the branch of science known as evolution.


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