Physicist and TV presenter Brian Cox said on Q and A tonight that the power of science is that it’s the only discipline that admits its own fallibility.

Seems like a really nice guy, but I’m perplexed as to why he would believe something that is so obviously false: I’ve never met a philosopher, historian, economist, lawyer, literary critic, OR theologian, who does not admit their own fallibility and the fallibility of their discipline.

And yes, I meant it when I said theologian. Theologians consider the text they work with (e.g. the Bible) – their data source – to be infallible, but they consider their own interpretations of the text to be fallible.

Note that this is exactly the same as scientists, who consider nature – their data source – to be completely infallible: never lying to us, and never changing, but constantly being misinterpreted by us.

Scientists and theologians are no different in this regard.

On the Progressiveness of Science and Conservatism of Religion

We all know how often science and religion are pitted against each other. And it happens in so many ways. Various inherent differences are suggested between these two enterprises. They say that science appeals to reason while religion appeals to authority; science improves society while religion hinders society’s progression. We’ve all heard the fairy tales – you might not call them fairy tales, but I do. Anyway. There’s one particular difference that I commonly hear suggested as existing between science and religion, which I want to address here. And that is that science is inherently progressive, while religion is inherently stubborn or static.

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Scientism

…is the view that scientific knowledge is the only valid kind of knowledge.

Scientism can only be argued for with a philosophical argument; Scientism is a philosophical viewpoint.

Therefore Scientism entails the validity of philosophical knowledge.

Therefore Scientism entails its own negation.

It is a basic error, to assume that Science and Religion are trying to do the same thing, fill the same role, answer the same questions. There is no competition between them because they are playing different games.

No amount of scientific investigation can disprove the possibility of miracles. Science will tell you precisely what will happen so long as the laws of nature are in operation. Miracles by definition are events in which the laws of nature are suspended – where for whatever reason they have ceased to operate.

Science can’t tell you that a man cannot walk on water; it can only tell you that a man walking on water is not acting under the regulations of the laws of nature.

Science studies only how nature behaves in and of itself, therefore it cannot tell you anything about what exists outside of nature.

Science examines what events nature can produce. Any other event, if nature is incapable of resourcing it, will need to be resourced by something beyond nature. Does anything exist beyond nature? Science doesn’t know! All science knows about is nature.

Any epistemology that rules out philosophy as a legitimate truth-detecting procedure is just that: it is an epistemology – which is an area of philosophical inquiry. You can’t use philosophy to devalidate philosophy. You just can’t.