What does the fifth tenet mean?

The fifth of the Seven Tenets is:

Tenet 5: Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs own.

As with all of the tenets, the fifth tenet is not a “commandment” nor is it rule to be forced on other people. The tenets are fundamental ethical principles that we strive to embody in our own thoughts and actions. Satanists interpret and apply the tenets differently. It is fundamentally unsatanic to use any tenet either to rationalize a decision or to try to coerce or manipulate the behaviors of others. For more general discussion of the Seven Tenets and their role in the religious beliefs of The Satanic Temple, see: What are the seven tenets?

At the core of Tenet V are the phrases: scientific understanding and scientific facts. Notice that the word science, as a noun, does not appear. The Fifth Tenet is not a call to put science (the institution) on a pedestal, nor does it invite people to blindly trust scientists (the people) or the sciences (fields of study). This tenet invites you to think of science as a process: a way of gaining knowledge about the world.

This tenet is also a caution against wishful thinking. This tenet is a call to ground your beliefs in concrete evidence. Once you have formed an opinion, look for evidence that will change your mind. Look for alternative explanations that might cast doubt upon your original assumptions, and provide an alternative theory of the facts. Spend some time imagining yourself in the mind of a person who disagrees with you, and understand things from their point of view. These are the basics of taking an evidence-based approach to the world. This is the principle at the core of Tenet V.

The Satanic Temple receives a number of common questions that are rooted in a basic misunderstanding of Tenet V, for example:

  • Q: Will The Satanic Temple accept me if I don’t think science can explain everything?
    A: Science can’t explain everything. Science isn’t even trying to explain everything. Science is just a way of increasing your knowledge of the world.
  • Q: Can I be a member of The Satanic Temple if I disagree with the dominant scientific explanation of something?
    A: The question you should be exploring is: why do you disagree with the dominant scientific explanation? Is it because you don’t “trust” scientists? Is it because you have researched the views of different experts in the field? Is it because you are uncomfortable the topic and would rather believe outdated ideas that science gave up 100 years ago? The Satanic Temple always embraces scientific skepticism, but Tenet 5 is a warning against the skepticism of conspiracy theories just as much as it is a warning again the soothing fairy tales of theistic religions.

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