A New Kind of Conversation: Blogging Toward a Postmodern Faith

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The pair-structured phrases "religion and science" and "science and religion" first emerged in the literature in the 19th century. Both science and religion are complex social and cultural endeavors that vary across cultures and have changed over time. Ancient pagan, Islamic, and Christian scholars pioneered individual elements of the scientific method.

Roger Bacon , often credited with formalizing the scientific method, was a Franciscan friar. Confucian thought , whether religious or non-religious in nature, has held different views of science over time. Most 21st-century Buddhists view science as complementary to their beliefs. While the classification of the material world by the ancient Indians and Greeks into air, earth, fire and water was more philosophical, and proto-scientists like Anaxagoras impiously questioned certain popular views of Greek divinities, medieval Middle Eastern scholars used practical and experimental observation to classify materials.

Events in Europe such as the Galileo affair of the earlyth-century, associated with the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment , led scholars such as John William Draper to postulate c. However, the conflict thesis has lost favor among most contemporary historians of science. Many scientists, philosophers, and theologians throughout history, such as Francisco Ayala , Kenneth R. Miller and Francis Collins , have seen compatibility or interdependence between religion and science. Biologist Stephen Jay Gould , other scientists, and some contemporary theologians regard religion and science as non-overlapping magisteria , addressing fundamentally separate forms of knowledge and aspects of life.

Some theologians or historians of science, including John Lennox , Thomas Berry , Brian Swimme and Ken Wilber propose an interconnection between science and religion, while others such as Ian Barbour believe there are even parallels. Public acceptance of scientific facts may sometimes be influenced by religious beliefs such as in the United States , where some reject the concept of evolution by natural selection , especially regarding human beings.

Nevertheless, the American National Academy of Sciences has written that "the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith", [15] a view endorsed by many religious denominations. The concepts of "science" and "religion" are a recent invention: "religion" emerged in the 17th century in the midst of colonization and globalization and the Protestant Reformation, [4] [5] [17] [2] "science" emerged in the 19th century in the midst of attempts to narrowly define those who studied nature. Furthermore, the phrase "religion and science" or "science and religion" emerged in the 19th century, not before, due to the reification of both concepts.

It was in the 19th century that the terms "Buddhism", "Hinduism", "Taoism", "Confucianism" and "World Religions" first emerged. It was in the 19th century that the concept of "science" received its modern shape with new titles emerging such as "biology" and "biologist", "physics", and "physicist", among other technical fields and titles; institutions and communities were founded, and unprecedented applications to and interactions with other aspects of society and culture occurred. Even in the 19th century, a treatise by Lord Kelvin and Peter Guthrie Tait's, which helped define much of modern physics, was titled Treatise on Natural Philosophy It was in the 17th century that the concept of "religion" received its modern shape despite the fact that ancient texts like the Bible, the Quran, and other sacred texts did not have a concept of religion in the original languages and neither did the people or the cultures in which these sacred texts were written.

Throughout classical South Asia , the study of law consisted of concepts such as penance through piety and ceremonial as well as practical traditions. Medieval Japan at first had a similar union between "imperial law" and universal or "Buddha law", but these later became independent sources of power.

The development of sciences especially natural philosophy in Western Europe during the Middle Ages , has considerable foundation in the works of the Arabs who translated Greek and Latin compositions. Christianity accepted reason within the ambit of faith. In Christendom , reason was considered subordinate to revelation , which contained the ultimate truth and this truth could not be challenged.

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In medieval universities, the faculty for natural philosophy and theology were separate, and discussions pertaining to theological issues were often not allowed to be undertaken by the faculty of philosophy. Natural philosophy, as taught in the arts faculties of the universities, was seen as an essential area of study in its own right and was considered necessary for almost every area of study. It was an independent field, separated from theology, which enjoyed a good deal of intellectual freedom as long as it was restricted to the natural world. In general, there was religious support for natural science by the late Middle Ages and a recognition that it was an important element of learning.


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The extent to which medieval science led directly to the new philosophy of the scientific revolution remains a subject for debate, but it certainly had a significant influence. The Middle Ages laid ground for the developments that took place in science, during the Renaissance which immediately succeeded it. With the sheer success of science and the steady advance of rationalism , the individual scientist gained prestige. This allowed more people to read and learn from the scripture, leading to the Evangelical movement. The people who spread this message, concentrated more on individual agency rather than the structures of the Church.

In the 17th century, founders of the Royal Society largely held conventional and orthodox religious views, and a number of them were prominent Churchmen. Albert Einstein supported the compatibility of some interpretations of religion with science. Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation.

They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary. Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts.

According to this interpretation the well-known conflicts between religion and science in the past must all be ascribed to a misapprehension of the situation which has been described. Einstein thus expresses views of ethical non-naturalism contrasted to ethical naturalism. Prominent modern scientists who are atheists include evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and Nobel Prize—winning physicist Steven Weinberg.

The kinds of interactions that might arise between science and religion have been categorized by theologian, Anglican priest, and physicist John Polkinghorne : 1 conflict between the disciplines, 2 independence of the disciplines, 3 dialogue between the disciplines where they overlap and 4 integration of both into one field. This typology is similar to ones used by theologians Ian Barbour [38] and John Haught.

According to theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg , teaching cosmology and evolution to students should decrease their self-importance in the universe, as well as their religiosity. Carroll claims that since religion makes claims that are supernatural, both science and religion are incompatible. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is openly hostile to religion because he believes it actively debauches the scientific enterprise and education involving science.

According to Dawkins, religion "subverts science and saps the intellect". According to Renny Thomas' study on Indian scientists, atheistic scientists in India called themselves atheists even while accepting that their lifestyle is very much a part of tradition and religion. Thus, they differ from Western atheists in that for them following the lifestyle of a religion is not antithetical to atheism.

Others such as Francis Collins , George F. Ellis , Kenneth R. Miller , Katharine Hayhoe , George Coyne and Simon Conway Morris argue for compatibility since they do not agree that science is incompatible with religion and vice versa. They argue that science provides many opportunities to look for and find God in nature and to reflect on their beliefs. What he finds particularly odd and unjustified is in how atheists often come to invoke scientific authority on their non-scientific philosophical conclusions like there being no point or no meaning to the universe as the only viable option when the scientific method and science never have had any way of addressing questions of meaning or God in the first place.

Furthermore, he notes that since evolution made the brain and since the brain can handle both religion and science, there is no natural incompatibility between the concepts at the biological level. Karl Giberson argues that when discussing compatibility, some scientific intellectuals often ignore the viewpoints of intellectual leaders in theology and instead argue against less informed masses, thereby, defining religion by non intellectuals and slanting the debate unjustly.


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  • He argues that leaders in science sometimes trump older scientific baggage and that leaders in theology do the same, so once theological intellectuals are taken into account, people who represent extreme positions like Ken Ham and Eugenie Scott will become irrelevant. The conflict thesis , which holds that religion and science have been in conflict continuously throughout history, was popularized in the 19th century by John William Draper 's and Andrew Dickson White 's accounts. It was in the 19th century that relationship between science and religion became an actual formal topic of discourse, while before this no one had pitted science against religion or vice versa, though occasional complex interactions had been expressed before the 19th century.

    If Galileo and the Scopes trial come to mind as examples of conflict, they were the exceptions rather than the rule. Most historians today have moved away from a conflict model, which is based mainly on two historical episodes Galileo and Darwin , toward compatibility theses either the integration thesis or non-overlapping magisteria or toward a "complexity" model, because religious figures were on both sides of each dispute and there was no overall aim by any party involved to discredit religion.

    An often cited example of conflict, that has been clarified by historical research in the 20th century, was the Galileo affair, whereby interpretations of the Bible were used to attack ideas by Copernicus on heliocentrism. By Galileo went to Rome to try to persuade Catholic Church authorities not to ban Copernicus' ideas. In the end, a decree of the Congregation of the Index was issued, declaring that the ideas that the Sun stood still and that the Earth moved were "false" and "altogether contrary to Holy Scripture", and suspending Copernicus's De Revolutionibus until it could be corrected.

    Galileo was found "vehemently suspect of heresy", namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the center of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves. He was required to "abjure, curse and detest" those opinions. The Church had merely sided with the scientific consensus of the time. Only the latter was fulfilled by Galileo.

    Relationship between religion and science

    Although the preface of his book claims that the character is named after a famous Aristotelian philosopher Simplicius in Latin, Simplicio in Italian , the name "Simplicio" in Italian also has the connotation of "simpleton". Most historians agree Galileo did not act out of malice and felt blindsided by the reaction to his book. Galileo had alienated one of his biggest and most powerful supporters, the Pope, and was called to Rome to defend his writings.

    A New Kind of Conversation: Blogging Toward a Postmodern Faith

    The actual evidences that finally proved heliocentrism came centuries after Galileo: the stellar aberration of light by James Bradley in the 18th century, the orbital motions of binary stars by William Herschel in the 19th century, the accurate measurement of the stellar parallax in the 19th century, and Newtonian mechanics in the 17th century. British philosopher A.

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    Grayling , still believes there is competition between science and religions and point to the origin of the universe, the nature of human beings and the possibility of miracles [73]. A modern view, described by Stephen Jay Gould as " non-overlapping magisteria " NOMA , is that science and religion deal with fundamentally separate aspects of human experience and so, when each stays within its own domain, they co-exist peacefully. Stace viewed independence from the perspective of the philosophy of religion. Stace felt that science and religion, when each is viewed in its own domain, are both consistent and complete.

    Benz points out, but meet each other, for example, in the feeling of amazement and in ethics. Science and religion are based on different aspects of human experience. In science, explanations must be based on evidence drawn from examining the natural world.

    Scientifically based observations or experiments that conflict with an explanation eventually must lead to modification or even abandonment of that explanation. Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend on empirical evidence, is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence, and typically involves supernatural forces or entities.

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    Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science. In this sense, science and religion are separate and address aspects of human understanding in different ways. Attempts to put science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist. According to Archbishop John Habgood , both science and religion represent distinct ways of approaching experience and these differences are sources of debate. He views science as descriptive [ disambiguation needed ] and religion as prescriptive.

    He stated that if science and mathematics concentrate on what the world ought to be , in the way that religion does, it may lead to improperly ascribing properties to the natural world as happened among the followers of Pythagoras in the sixth century B. Habgood also stated that he believed that the reverse situation, where religion attempts to be descriptive, can also lead to inappropriately assigning properties to the natural world. A notable example is the now defunct belief in the Ptolemaic geocentric planetary model that held sway until changes in scientific and religious thinking were brought about by Galileo and proponents of his views.

    According to Ian Barbour , Thomas S. Kuhn asserted that science is made up of paradigms that arise from cultural traditions, which is similar to the secular perspective on religion. Michael Polanyi asserted that it is merely a commitment to universality that protects against subjectivity and has nothing at all to do with personal detachment as found in many conceptions of the scientific method. Polanyi further asserted that all knowledge is personal and therefore the scientist must be performing a very personal if not necessarily subjective role when doing science.

    Two physicists, Charles A.