I have often mentioned that science is based on presuppositions, and that these presuppositions are, if not issues of faith, at least rooted in a certain philosophy or worldview. To me, this is rather obvious – and it’s not a bad thing, it just is. I have my own presuppositions, and freely admit to them. However, those of a materialist point of view tend to bristle at this; science, after all, is based on reason.
Paul Davies writes in the NY Times,
Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are — they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational.
Davies makes an interesting point, although, as Lawrence Selden has pointed out, his logic could be a bit better. However, his was an opinion piece for the Times, not something in a scientific or philosophical journal. Selden puts it this way:
I think he is on the right track, but his arguments could be improved. One of the things he is getting at is that to do science, you have to have a philosophy of science and an epistemology. The scientific method is not provable by the scientific method. It comes out of a philosophy of science and is part of a person’s epistemology.
Again, “The scientific method is not provable by the scientific method.” The scientific method, its nature, its applicability and its effectiveness, are philosophical positions. I think it is fair to use the word faith here, but it’s ok if you don’t. “Philosophy” works just as well for me. This doesn’t diminish science at all; to borrow a Gumpism, “science is as science does.” It can explain some things (as far as we know), but it can’t explain everything. It shouldn’t have to. Unless, of course, it really is an issue of faith…