It is a common mistake for people to assume that religious faith and fervor are qualities to be found only within institutionally-structured churches with formal doctrines and rituals. They are to be found, in varying degrees, within all belief systems, be they secular or theistic in nature. The polar opposite philosophies of Marxism and Ayn Rand’s Objectivism – both of which openly condemned traditional religion – are, themselves, grounded in a faith in various central propositions. True-believers of these doctrines who voiced doubt as to any of the underlying premises, have been subjected to purges as enthusiastically conducted as medieval trials for heresy.
I am a strong defender of the processes of scientific inquiry. And yet, I am aware that most scientists cling to a faith in conclusions that have been widely accepted within their respective communities, and angrily react against any heresies – however well-documented and reasoned – that arise from skeptical minds. When British biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s book, A New Science of Life, was published, the science journal, Nature, editorially described it as “a book for burning?” Nor did most members of the scientific world openly embrace the views of the brilliant science philosopher, Paul Feyerabend, who challenged the idea that there was “a” scientific method. He was of the view that a variety of strategies – including luck, accidents, dream interpretation, fraud, mistakes, and intuition – had played major roles in scientific discoveries. He advocated a theoretical anarchism in the search for truth, believing that such an approach was more consistent with human nature than was adherence to rigid rules of inquiry.