Science..Method or Culture?

You will rarely see serious attempts to define science in any religion and science discussions. There is some wisdom in this; philosophers of science themselves cannot agree on what science is and how science works. Unfortunately when science isn't defined it means that almost anything can be used to demonstrate scientific behaviour and anything can be used to demonstrate anti-scientific behaviour. As a result, sometimes there is very little separating discussions of church and science from the discussions of a personality cult. In these discussions a historical figure will be chosen, he or she will be ordained a great scientist, then the people or groups that disagreed with them during their lives are cast as anti-scientific. And this applies to sober academic discussions as much as it does to the discussions of amateurs. That is why including a discussion on science, no matter how contentious, is better than avoiding the subject.

Most people associate science with the use of the scientific method. But science is more than a method, it is also a culture. Both the method and the culture need to be understood to understand the history of science and the church. The scientific method gives us a well defined and reliable way of discovering new information. The culture of science gives us a unique behaviour that encourages free dissemination of information, a skepticism that encourages 'double-checking' others results through a process called replication, and strict guidelines on how the results of an experiment should be treated. The method and culture of science are discussed briefly on pages available on the sidebar.

If science isn't defined then it means that any historical figure can be a scientist. One example is Giordano Bruno. Giordano Bruno was an important philosopher from the late sixteenth century. Another of his major interests was in the the occult (magic). He had little interest in observation, let alone structured experiment and is not known to have conducted even trivial scientific experiments. He was not highly regarded by his scientific contemporaries which included Francis Bacon, and Galilei Galileo. He did not contribute a single advance in either fact, theory or method to the scientific knowledge of his day. His major tie with science is that he incorporated what some historians believe was a misunderstanding of Copernican theory into his philosophy. Yet with these slim credentials, and despite his deep interest in magic (which many believe is antithetical to science), he is often heralded as an important early scientist. Turning Giordano the philosopher into Giordano the scientist was done to help support the argument that there is a conflict between church and science. This was done because Bruno was eventually burned at the stake as a direct result of actions taken by the church. Without any proof and in the face of open contradictions, the argument was made that Bruno's belief in Copernicism caused his death. Bruno's radical theological beliefs included a belief that Christ was just a gifted magician. The question as to why the Church would put Bruno to death for believing in Copernicism then allow Copernicus's work to continue to be published without even the slightest of alterations is completely ignored.

Copyright Joseph Sant (2016).
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