Recently I listened to the debate between Peter Atkins and Callum Miller. As usual, Atkins was short on arguments and long on ad hominems, although I must admit that he was more civil in this debate than usual. One of the things Atkins said, however, caught my attention. He said that one of the advantages of science over religion is that in science, one can be wrong, whereas in religion one is never allowed to be wrong. I’ve heard other atheists make the same claim. I find it interesting because whether it’s true or false, it’s irrelevant.
Let’s assume it is true. Let’s assume that science is superior to religion because science allows for it’s claims to be invalidated, whereas religion does not. Is that supposed to make science superior to religion? If so, then it must also be superior to logic and mathematics since it is impossible to be wrong about those areas of study as well (while one can misapply logic and get their sums wrong, logic and mathematics themselves are objective and cannot possibly be false). Rather than being a vice, I would consider the objectivity of religion to be a virtue.
I would actually argue that the claim is false, however. One can be wrong about religion in the same way one can be wrong about science. One can be wrong in science by misunderstanding the objective truths of the physical world. Similarly, one can be wrong in religion by misunderstanding the objective truths of the spiritual world. So whether Atkins is right or wrong, his point is pointless.