I have a machine. It has a small LED display and a button. It’s very simple to operate; you just press the button and the LED display shows you a brief message: “God exists”.
This is no hoax. My machine really does do this. Why would I lie to you? I’m a priest.
Perhaps you feel you don’t need to see my machine. Perhaps you’re just comfortable with my assertion that it does indeed do what I tell you it does. So you might tell others that you know God exists because you believe in Adam’s machine.
There are other machines in the world. There’s one that has enormous computer displays and lots of buttons. It’s very complicated to operate and frequently breaks down. Its displays can tell you many weird and wonderful things. Such as whether the Higgs Boson exists.
This is also no hoax. The LHC really does do this. Why would the people behind it lie to you? They’re scientists.
Perhaps you feel you don’t need to see the LHC. Actually, that’s a good thing, because you’re not really allowed anywhere near it, and certainly nowhere near its most intimate workings. So you’ll just have to take it as read that it really does indeed do what the scientists tell you it does. And, yes, you might tell others that you know the Higgs Boson (does? doesn’t?) exist because you believe in the scientists’ machine.
Now there are some people who love the scientific method and see no reason for the existence of God. In their view, because God isn’t necessary to the advancement of knowledge and can’t be detected using the scientific method, He simply doesn’t exist. This can lead to some hurtful and unkind comments about how belief in God is somehow illogical or superstitious.
Yet, qualitatively, there is no difference between the faith of the religious and the faith of the scientific. If anything, the faith of the religious is more likely to be acquired from first hand experience. It’s just that, due to its very personal and spiritual nature, it cannot be replicated by others. By contrast, the faith of the scientific purports to have rigid empirical roots. But, in the hands of an individual, it is just as likely to be built upon faith rather than first-hand, or even second-hand, empirical knowledge. The individual won’t ever have seen a Higgs Boson, or perhaps even an electron. His/her knowledge acquisition is based entirely upon years of academic study by others and is heavily reliant upon machines built by others and the workings of which cannot be verified. It would be as legitimate for most individuals to rely upon my machine as any particle accelerator. They’ve probed inside neither.
Without getting too sceptical about skepticism, it’s fair to say that both religion and science rely heavily upon faith. However, religion is at least honest about its use of faith. Skeptics would be advised to ponder the degree of faith essential for their own study before weighing too heavily on religion.
Yes, I’m aware of the principle of self-correction as a main line of defence against knowledge acquired by relying on others. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is effective in showing that self-correction as a principle is pretty seriously flawed.