Question: Doesn’t the scientific method conflict with religion?
Friend of the family: “John, I heard you study physics. I use quantum mechanics in my work!”
Me: “Really! What do you do?”
Friend of the Family: “I have a machine that I use for my alternative medicine practice. It can heal people over large distances. I don’t know how it works, but it uses quantum mechanics and I just need to calibrate it to a specific person and then I can heal them wherever they are.”
If this lady had researched quantum tunneling at all, she would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. If she would collect data on her patients, she would probably realize that she was promising results beyond the effect of a placebo. I can’t wait to emphasize the scientific method in my future physics classroom as a path to coming closer to the truth. Ben Goldacre explains in his TED talk how important the scientific method is to medicine. We can all agree that if there isn’t evidence that a drug or medical practice works that it would be stupid to use it. But what happens when the scientific method is applied to religion?
“During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. Then a method was discovered for separating the ideas–which was to try one to see if it worked, and if it didn’t work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of course, into science.” – Richard Feynman, taken from his Caltech commencement address in 1974
I’m not arguing for or against religion here. But there is no evidence (to my knowledge) that supports the existence of a god and most followers of religion aren’t even supposed to question their god. Do I tell my students that the scientific method works for everything but religion? How can I teach the scientific method without addressing this question?
“…if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it…” – Richard Feynman, from the same address, paragraph 17
Would it go against scientific integrity to skip over the elephant in the room?