Some Thoughts on Scientific Humility and Religious Hubris

What attitude best explains why both science and religion have changed their views on a various number of topics down through the years? Science gradually learns and grows. Religion usually adapts, regroups, and reaffirms new truths with the same confidence as before. Science has learned humility. Most religions still claim to represent the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Distinguished philosopher of science, Karl Popper, has argued that scientific knowledge progresses by conjectures (or guesses) which are in turn refuted for better conjectures (or guesses). He argues science progresses because we learn from our mistakes, and likewise I argue, so does our morality . We have learned to accept moral principles by trial and error because we learn from our mistakes. Echoing the Greek philosopher Xenophanes, who said “all is a woven web of guesses,” Popper argues we should “give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it be beyond our reach.” [Conjectures and Refutations, p. 39]

What Christian Bible believer will say the same types of humble things about how their own beliefs develop? Catholics, and liberals already so. But not Bible believers. According to them their interpretation of the Bible is true. They have the truth and will call anyone who disagrees both ignorant and deceived by Satan.

Now consider this approach of some Christians I’ve met on the internet, and contrast that with the humility of scientists. Sure, there may be some heated debates within the scientific community, but there is no comparison to these type of Bible believing Christians who berate us daily for disagreeing.

Such things would not go over within a knowledgeable scientific community who seeks to understand the truth about the universe at all. Because scientists have a seeker attitude.

What scientist, for instance, would claim that his opponent disagrees with him because she is blinded by Satan? Which scientist would argue before an audience that anyone who disagrees is going to be dammed to hell? Which one would treat other scientists with complete and utter disrespect and distain if she tries to get people to agree with her view of things?

Many Christians have an arrogance that is beyond description and beyond reasoning with.