Many years ago, I studied electrical engineering at Oregon State University. Pretty much all of my engineering studies were based on what I consider to be “hard science,” such as math and physics. Of course, the division between what is “hard science” and what is “soft science” is debatable. I consider “soft science” to include fields such as philosophy, psychology, religion, and political science. For me, the distinction between “hard” and “soft” science is the degree to which the main concepts are observable, precise, provable, and repeatable.
I don’t remember any serious disagreements regarding “truth” relating to my science, math, and engineering classes. With hard science as the foundation, there isn’t much to argue over, it’s mostly a matter of understanding it and learning how to apply it in practical ways. Of course, people can argue over the best way to implement a solution (such as what style of bridge to build to span a river), but the underlying hard sciences (the calculations and principles that ensure the bridge won’t fall down) are usually firmly established. If that were not the case, people would not be able to design bridges with reasonable certainty that they won’t fall down.
There is an elegant side to the hard sciences which I have come to appreciate: There is generally only one correct answer to most hard-science types of analyses. I suppose that relates to how I define “hard” and “soft” science. With hard science, the mathematical analysis of a problem can often be approached from many different paths, but the answer should always be the same (there is usually only one correct answer). If the solutions come out differently when approached from different directions, then a mistake has almost certainly occurred (or else, by my definition, we aren’t dealing with hard science).
This same pattern of arriving at similar results from different directions should also occur in practice, to a lesser degree, in soft sciences, such as philosophy and religion. For example, consider this philosophical question:
“Why does the universe exist?”
Previous chapters have arrived at the following three self-evident truths through observation and reason:
We can simply combine these truths and arrive at the following conclusion about why the universe exists:
In the beginning, a creator created creation.
Alternatively, someone might look in scripture for an answer to the question: “Why does the universe exist?” The first verse in the Bible reads:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. —Genesis 1:1
These two answers are practically the same. Using two different paths we have arrived at similar results. The first path was using observation and reason. The second path was looking to scripture for an answer. We have essentially found the first verse in the Bible to be true, based on self-evident truths.
For Further Reflection:
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