Is Science a Dogma? A Response.



In today’s modern age, we accept scientific knowledge without question. However, this has been objected to by Rana, who argues that the fallibility of science means that we should not take it as certain, and accept that knowledge is fallible. This essay will explore this and lead to the conclusion that Rana is indeed correct because of the imitations of scientific knowledge.


Rana argues that Hume’s ‘An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding’ is so spiritual that it is more spiritual than extreme religious people. This is because she defines spirituality as the recognition that we cannot be 100% certain within our ideas about the future. They reference Hume, who argued that most of the time we act out of faith and that there are limits to human understanding. They then controversially argues that science can equally be as dogmatic as religion, if we fail to accept that there are limits to it. Their conclusion is that we should accept there is a gap between a knowledge and reality. Therefore, we should become comfortable with knowing that there is something we don’t know.

Rana may raise excellent points in terms of science and knowledge. However, this does not necessarily lead to spirituality, which is the main focus of the article. Rana acknowledges some people who would consider themselves spiritual would not meet her criteria. However, some people who meet their criteria (who do not accept the totality of the science dogma) would not consider themselves “spiritual”. This would suggest there is something more to the term “spiritually” within colloquial use than what Rana has considered. Spirituality arguably is more often used to refer to the idea that the entirety of the universe is connected by some energy or “spirit”. Under this criteria, Hume would not consider himself spiritual. Therefore, while Rana creates her own definition of spirituality, it fails to match the colloquial use of the term and hence her article has limitations.

However, this undermines their argument minimally as this is not the focus of the article. I feel that the article’s purpose is not to give an accurate definition of spirituality. Instead, it is to highlight that science cannot give us all the certain answers that we think it can and that we should keep an open mind when looking for the truth. This has strong foundations, which can be highlighted by the history of science. For instance, people use to believe that illness was caused by miasma (bad air) until Pasteur proved Germ Theory (illness was caused by bacteria) in a series of experiments 1860-64. This suggests that knowledge which we gain from science is as fallible as other knowledge. Therefore, Rana is right to conclude that we can’t be certain in modern scientific conclusions.

I think Rana could go further with her argument; even if we could be certain in scientific knowledge, there are limitations with such knowledge. With science, we can only empirically prove so much, such as observations about the universe. However, questions extend beyond the universe we see. For instance, how the universe was created and what is outside of it. We can’t conclude these from observing parts of the universe because, as Hume states, we cannot conclude about the formation of a man from observing the growth of a single hair. Therefore, there is knowledge beyond science which it cannot prove. As a result, as Rana concludes, we need to have an open mind to truth, as what we view as certain is fallible and has limitations to what knowledge it can gain.

Some people may feel uncomfortable with Rana’s conclusion as it would assert that what we view as knowledge is fallible. If we assert that we know things about science and science can be wrong, then it is possible that knowledge can be fallible. However, this is an issue as some people see truth as a compulsorily condition of having knowledge. This contradicts the point above. They would then argue from this that science is most of the time correct, so we should ignore that science is occasionally wrong and assume it is correct to maintain our idea of knowledge.

However, this would be dependant on how close science is to being 100% certain. For instance, if science was 99.5% certain, then assuming that the scientific knowledge we have is most likely correct is mostly a safe assumption. However, if science is only 80% certain, then the gap between what science claims and the truth is large and therefore it is unjust to assume that the conclusions of science are true. Rana brings up themselves that our current laws of physics are based on 5% of the universe. Therefore, we cannot merely make the assumption that scientific principles are certain and therefore knowledge as it is not accurate enough.

Because of this, while it is uncomfortable to accept that science may not class as knowledge, it seems a more reasonable premise to accept than asserting science is 100% certain. But what is the result of this? I think it provides confirmation of Rana’s fundamental point. While we should take note of scientific conclusions, we should bare in mind the fallibility and limitations of scientific knowledge. Therefore, we should look at the world with an acknowledgement that there may be alternatives to what we take for granted.

To conclude, while Rana’s article is limited in terms of their interpretation of the idea of spirituality, they make an excellent point that science is not the totalitarian entity which we take it to be. We need to acknowledge that science can be wrong and has limitations on what it can discover. Therefore, we need to approach knowledge with an open mind, leaving room for a reasonable level of doubt.

Published by Philosopher Ad Absurdum

Student studying MA Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science at the University of Birmingham; First Class BA Philosophy and History from the University of Southampton.

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