Interpreting data is always one of the hardest things about science. Many people who have no business interpreting data, somehow, make a living doing so. Interpreting data incorrectly can lead to major problems.
For example, if you go to the doctor, should you say:
A) My shoulder hurts.
B) I think I tore my rotator cuff.
I hope that you agree, everyone should say ‘A’. First, most of the time people say things like ‘B’ they are fundamentally wrong. In this case, the rotator cuff is actually a group of four muscles, not a particular muscle or other anatomical unit.
Second, the doctor is the expert. Now, I’m not saying that a non-doctor can’t diagnose a disease or injury correctly, but it’s best if you give the doctor the data and let him handle the interpretation of that data.
If the expert is forced to recommend a solution based on someone’s interpretation of something, then the doctor is basically diagnosing something after playing a game of telephone with the information.
I use an example of a doctor here, because having to go to the doctor can be critical. There have been many cases (personal anecdotes) of people going to the hospital thinking that they are having a heart attack, when they are really having indigestion. Obviously the treatment for these two issues are vastly different and the potential results for a misdiagnosis are deadly.
Science presents data. Then interprets it. That interpretation of the data is rarely controversial. One scientist may make a claim about some data, but very quickly, other scientists will examine the data and agree or disagree. The recent study of GM grain eating rats is an excellent example of how not to present science. The authors failed to present the actual data they collected and they drew a totally unwarranted conclusion. The scientific community, as a whole, loudly disagreed with their results.
Religion, on the other hand, only offer interpretations. They may present the ‘data’ (the text of their holy book), but no one believes that the holy book is 100% accurate and so, it must be interpreted. There is no consensus on interpretations. Even within the Christian faiths, there are different versions of the holy book.
Trying to ferret out the correct information from the incorrect is like a doctor looking for signs of a heart attack, when the patient has indigestion. He can run tests and offer treatments until the cows come home, but it’s never going to be right.