If one wishes to compare the relative effectiveness of Science and Revelation, it is first necessary to be sure one is comparing apples with apples and oranges with oranges:
ONE of the great strengths of science is that it can fix its own mistakes. “There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong,” the astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said. “That’s perfectly all right: it’s the aperture to finding out what’s right. Science is a self-correcting process.”
If only it were that simple. Scientists can certainly point with pride to many self-corrections, but science is not like an iPhone; it does not instantly auto-correct. As a series of controversies over the past few months have demonstrated, science fixes its mistakes more slowly, more fitfully and with more difficulty than Sagan’s words would suggest. Science runs forward better than it does backward.
Why? One simple answer is that it takes a lot of time to look back over other scientists’ work and replicate their experiments. Scientists are busy people, scrambling to get grants and tenure. As a result, papers that attract harsh criticism may nonetheless escape the careful scrutiny required if they are to be refuted…..
Even when scientists rerun an experiment, and even when they find that the original result is flawed, they still may have trouble getting their paper published. The reason is surprisingly mundane: journal editors typically prefer to publish groundbreaking new research, not dutiful replications.
In other words, real Science in practice is very different than ideal Science in theory. This is not a surprise. But it inevitably leads to the observation that if we are to compare Science and Revelation at all, we must compare theory with theory and practice with practice. The asserted superiority of Science is based on its supposedly self-correcting nature. But science that is never replicated is not going to be corrected, therefore Science in practice cannot be justified by this non-existent self-correction.
Furthermore, so long as one appeals to this nonexistent self-correction, one is appealing to an ideal Science in theory. But to this, one must compare a similarly ideal Revelation in theory. And, obviously, a direct line of information from the Creator of the Universe is far superior to a mere repetition of a scientific experiment; in this specific case, a literal appeal to legitimate divine authority is no logical fallacy. From the Platonic perspective, it is clear that ideal Science is inferior to ideal Revelation.
The remaining question is if the flawed version of Science as it is actually practiced, without self-correction, is superior to whatever flawed versions of Revelation are practiced, to the extent we can even hope to distinguish between the real and the flawed forms of the latter.
As for the appeal to Carl Sagan’s reasoning, we need merely note that Sagan is know to be either a historical illiterate or a deeply dishonest science propagandist; in either case, one has little choice but to dismiss his judgment with regards to the subject.