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 The Relationship of Science and Religion

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Aaron
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PostSubject: The Relationship of Science and Religion   Mon Aug 06, 2007 9:47 am

Ken Wilber came up with this list of the different types of relationships between science and religion that I thought was interesting.

Quote :
(1) Science denies religion. This is still one of the most common stances among today's scientists, aggressively represented by such thinkers as Richard Dawkins, Francis Crick, and Steven Pinker. Religion is, pure and simple, either a superstitious relic from the past, or, at best, a survival gimmick that nature uses to reproduce the species.

(2) Religion denies science. The typical fundamentalist retort is that science is part of the fallen world and thus has no access to real truth. God created the world--and the entire fossil record--in six days, and that is that. The Bible is the literal truth, and so much the worse for science if it disagrees.

(3) Science and religion deal with different realms of being, and thus can peacefully coexist. This is one of the most sophisticated stances, and it has two versions, strong and weak:

Strong version: epistemological pluralism --which maintains that reality consists of various dimensions or realms (such as matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit), and that science is dealing mostly with the lower realms of matter and body, and religion is dealing mostly with the higher realms of soul and spirit. In any event, both science and religion are equally part of a "big picture" that makes ample room for both, and their respective contributions can be integrated into this big picture. The traditional Great Chain of Being falls into this category (see fig. 1). Representatives of something like this general view include Plotinus, Kant, Schelling, Coomaraswamy, Whitehead, Fritjof Schuon, Huston Smith, and Ian Barbour.



Weak version: NOMA ("nonoverlapping magisteria")--Stephen Jay Gould's term for the idea that science and religion are dealing with different realms, but these realms cannot be integrated into any sort of big picture since they are fundamentally incommensurate. They are both to be fully honored, but they cannot be fully integrated. By default, this is a very common stance among many scientists, who profess belief in some sort of Spirit, but cannot imagine how that would actually fit with science, so they render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and render unto God what is left over.

(4) Science itself offers arguments for Spirit's existence. This stance claims that many scientific facts and discoveries point directly to spiritual realities, and thus science can help us directly reveal God/dess. For example, the Big Bang seems to require some sort of Creator principle; evolution appears to be following an intelligent design; the anthropic principle implies that some sort of creative intelligence is behind cosmic evolution, and so on. This is similar to Scott's one-way street accommodation, where science is used to enrich religion, but usually not vice versa. It is also similar to what Barbour calls "natural theology" as opposed to "a theology of nature" (in the former, Spirit is found directly from a reading of nature, as with many ecophilosophers; in the latter, a revealed Spirit is used to interpret nature in spiritual terms. Barbour favors the latter, which is part of category 3). This is a very common approach to this topic, and probably the most common among popular writers on the "new scientific paradigm which proves or supports mysticism."

(5) Science itself is not knowledge of the world but merely one interpretation of the world, and thus it has the same validity--no more, no less--as art and poetry . This is, of course, the typical "postmodern" stance. Whereas the previous approach is the most common among popular writers on the topic of science-and-religion, this approach is the most common among the academic and cultural elite, who are not dedicated to constructing any sort of integration, but in deconstructing anything of worth that anybody else has to say on the issue. There are some truly important issues raised by postmodernists, and I have attempted to strongly include those points in a more integral view (see The Marriage of Sense and Soul , chap. 9). But left to its own devices, postmodernism is something of a dead-end (see One Taste , Nov. 23 entry).

What I found especially interesting and insightful was the differentiation that was made between a "natural theology" and a "theology of nature".

I think I still take a natural theological approach to a certain extent, but for the most part my personal theology is a theology of nature. In other words I find divine qualities in nature and have based my metaphysics on these imminent divine aspects. I think this approach, which is an inside out approach (rather than the outside in approach of natural theology), allows for a much deeper and intricate metaphysical model. It is also highly subjective and is open to a broad interpretation which may be somewhat of a drawback.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

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Beowulf

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PostSubject: Re: The Relationship of Science and Religion   Mon Aug 06, 2007 1:11 pm

Sunday evening I was watching a show about Mormons. During the show one of the speakers said something like this: ďall the (great) religions are based on some sort of supernaturalism.Ē Christianity on the resurrection, LDS on Joseph Smithís seeing stones, Islam on Morehammadís civil poems.

It is very easy to quickly note that science by definition does not accept supernatural explanations. Even when scientists cannot explain something, they usually resist supernatural explanations pending more data.

It is not that religious folk reject science, it is just that when they have a supernatural explanation they go with it. Western civilization is built on science and religion, so I donít think they are opposed as much as incompatible. Sorta like wearing plaid pants with a Paisley jacket, interesting, only to be attempted for humorous occasions.

I probably fall in the relationship #3 weak area.

A point with regard to relationship #5. I find nature wondrous but not divine. It is my consciousness that can access the divine. Nature provides the space, and time and mystery to allow me to participate. But it is up to me.
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PostSubject: Re: The Relationship of Science and Religion   Mon Aug 06, 2007 3:08 pm

Beowulf wrote:
It is not that religious folk reject science, it is just that when they have a supernatural explanation they go with it. Western civilization is built on science and religion, so I donít think they are opposed as much as incompatible. Sorta like wearing plaid pants with a Paisley jacket, interesting, only to be attempted for humorous occasions.

You should have seen the way my father dressed in the late 60's and early 70's. You would have gotten nice laugh from that. Smile


Beowulf wrote:
A point with regard to relationship #5. I find nature wondrous but not divine. It is my consciousness that can access the divine. Nature provides the space, and time and mystery to allow me to participate. But it is up to me.

I tend to include our self-aware consciousness and "consciousness in general" as a part of nature.

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PostSubject: Re: The Relationship of Science and Religion   Mon Aug 06, 2007 5:03 pm

Quote :
I tend to include our self-aware consciousness and "consciousness in general" as a part of nature.

I see a distinction. My ability to think separates my consciousness from another persons, the divine is there for either of us (or all of us, if you prefer). It takes an act of volition to consciously participate in the divine. Some are to do it effortlessly, and others struggle without gain. My wife is a fundy baptist but is quite happy to participate. I am sure it is the same divine that I enjoy, she just got there thru a bunch of hoops.
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