1.13 The Scientific Confidence Principle

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1.13.1 Of course, most of the epistemology described in this section would be consistent with scientific epistemology. Many religious people decry what they perceive as the usurping by science of their beliefs - the "worship" of science. Science in this context is seen as a cold, sterile, and hopeless view of the world, leading to despair, subjective ethics, and the breakdown of traditional values. Science, however, is none of these things.

1.13.2 Science is neither good nor evil, in and of itself. Science is simply a tool for gathering information about our world and ourselves, and can be used to empower human beings. It will empower evil people to do greater works of evil, such as annihilate cities, create harmful diseases for terrorism, spread messages of hate at the speed of light, etc. But it will also empower good people to do greater works of good, such as feed more people, cure the sick, provide cleaner power sources, and spread knowledge and wisdom at the speed of light.

1.13.3 Science therefore should not be looked to as a source of moral wisdom, for this is reading into it more than it actually is. Moral and ethical wisdom come from philosophy and compassion for its own sake. Moral and ethical life and behavior come from a loving and nurturing upbringing, proper sense of empathy and moral maturity, and a healthy mindset.

1.13.4 However, what we should have confidence in is science’s ability to determine what is objectively true about our world, including the empirical consequences of moral ideologies. Is this "worshipping" science? All throughout human history, people have attempted to find ways to empower themselves, such as seeing the future, healing the sick, flying, seeing remotely, and unfortunately, killing more efficiently. In this pursuit, we have employed a number of different methods such as: divination, curses, spells, rituals, communing with the dead, chanting, prayer, magic items, quack gadgets/medicine, sorcery, faith healing, organized religion, communing with aliens, telepathy, ESP, and science.

1.13.5 Despite whatever cultural fabric and good feelings some of these methods may have provided, none of them has come anywhere close in providing accurate information about our world as has science. For example, the claim that faith healing actually works (beyond placebo effect) has never been substantiated and has even been proven to be fraud in a number of instances. But even if we assume it works, its effectiveness comes nowhere close to that of medical science. What other of the above methods has ever more than doubled the average life expectancy of an entire population in less than a century, or allowed hundreds of people to traverse huge sections of the globe in a few hours, or allowed for the curing of so many diseases on a daily basis, or allowed for such accurate prediction of the paths of stars, or allowed us to see and talk with people on the other side of the world, not with a magic mirror, but with telecommunications? Everything we have always attempted to do through magic or religion, we are now doing through science. No "faith" is needed in order to have confidence in science. The efficacy of science has easily proven the accuracy of its claims.

1.13.6 The Scientific Confidence Principle, as I put it, says that we can have a great degree of confidence in the overall accuracy of science, not as a perfect source of knowledge, but as the best yet available, based upon its proven history of efficacy. If some other method were to demonstrate an equal or greater effectiveness, then it would have my confidence. This "conditional love" of the scientific method seems much weaker than what most people describe about their "worship". This is why Scientific Confidence is a more accurate description than Scientific Faith (see 1.1.3 for the distinction).

1.13.7 Evil people will continue to attempt to exploit the fruits of science to their own ends, regardless. Good people therefore have no other moral choice than to embrace science and use it enthusiastically and wholeheartedly for the betterment of humankind.

Continue to 1.14 The Principle of Freethought