How Do You Know?

What I want to talk about is epistemology. Epistemology is all about how we know stuff. Religion and science have historically been at odds on this issue. Religion claims that truth comes from divine revelation while science says that truth comes from observation.

We can thus imagine the following conversation:

S: prove to me that God exists.

R: The Bible tells me so.

S: that does not count as evidence.

R: it does.

S: evidence is based on science and reason and observation. Provide me proof from any of those things.

R: Science changes. The only unchanging truth is from God. You must accept his testimony as evidence.

S: Religion is based on individual interpretation. Provide evidence that is objective.

 

The problem here is not “what is true?” but “how do we know truth?” The conflict between religion and science is at its core very much about how we know truth, not who has better or more evidence.

I say all this because at times we can feel frustrated in talking with our friends and colleagues because our source of truth and theirs does not match up. As scientists, when we disagree with other scientists we know what kind of evidence will be compelling to both sides. We can run a study, or cite from the literature and resolve the disagreement. Similarly, in church, if we disagree with someone we know where to turn for evidence. We can open our Bible, or reference a respected theologian to support us. The tough times though are when we disagree with someone who doesn’t look to the same place for authority on the issue at hand.

 

There is much more to say on this topic, but I will stop there for now.

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