Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Absence of Evidence
"Whatever one's personal views about religion, it is undeniable that scientific understanding alone does not encompass the range of the human intellectual experience," writes Lawrence Krauss, director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve, in New Scientist (sub. req.).
Scientists who fail to appreciate this, and who attack religious beliefs for being unscientific, do their discipline a disservice, not least because such attacks are themselves unscientific. This is why, while I am sympathetic with many of the points he raises, I disagree with Richard Dawkins's unfettered attack on God. Not only is it inappropriate to try to convince people of the validity of scientific theories by first arguing that their deeply held beliefs are silly, it is also clear that the existence of God is a metaphysical question which is, for the most part, outside the domain of science. Now more than ever it is important to understand the limits of science. The phrase often used to defend aspects of evolution has particular significance here: the absence of evidence is not evidence for absence.