The Scientific Method, Proof, and Skepticism
by Luke Nix
About a year ago I was having a conversation with a friend who told me that science had proven that God was not necessary for the universe to come into being. He concluded from that that God is not required to explain the existence of the universe, and he is justified in his belief that God does not exist. He claims that an honest look at the evidence will lead to this conclusion (implying that other conclusions are not honest evaluations of the scientific data, and that they stifle scientific progress).
On the other hand, about a month ago I was in a conversation with a person who hold me that science can’t prove anything, and he must be skeptical of everything that scientists say. He believes that he is justified in rejecting many of the commonly accepted-as-true theories in the scientific world in favor of one that the scientific community, as a whole, has rejected. He claims that this is a humble and honest approach to science (implying that all other approaches to science are dishonest, and only skepticism promotes scientific progress).
Both of my friends illustrate extremes of the boundaries of the scientific method. It is true that the scientific method can give us knowledge (the boundary taken to the extreme by my first friend); however, it is also true that that knowledge is open to be challenged at any point that contrary evidence comes around (the boundary taken to the extreme by my second friend).
As many are aware, the scientific method deals with observation and evidence; proof requires 100% certainty (knowledge of all observables and all evidence), and no person knows everything. Since no human or the entire human race can possess all knowledge (even via the scientific method), it cannot be said that the scientific method can actually “prove” anything (where my first friend went wrong). The best we can do is get to a level of certainty that may approach 100%, but will never reach it.
But does this limitation warrant the level of skepticism of my second friend? The answer is, no. Because the scientific method offers evidence, the more evidence that we have that supports a specific theory, the more likely it is to be true…
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