Sunday, January 3, 2010

Science and Religion

Modern western empirical science has surely been the most impressive intellectual development since the 16th century. Religion, of course, has been around for much longer, and is presently flourishing, perhaps as never before. There is the thesis of secularism, according to which science and technology, on the one hand, and religion, on the other, are inversely related as the former waxes and the latter wanes. Recent resurgences of religion and religious belief in many parts of the world, however, cast considerable doubt on this thesis. The e relation between religion and science is characterized by conflict and concord. conflict along certain dimensions- concord along others. The nature of religion, the nature of science, the epistemologies of science and, in particular, of religious belief etc, to be considered while discussing about religion and science.

There is an intimate connection between the nature of science and its aim, the conditions under which something is successful science.There are varoius versions about the aim of science.   It is explanation for some,  is to produce true theories, and is to produce empirically adequate theories for others.  Some say science can’t deal with the subjective, but only with what is public and sharable and thus reports of consciousness are a better subject for scientific study than consciousness itself. Some say that science can deal only with what is repeatable; others deny this. In the furor over the teaching of “Intelligent Design” (ID) in public schools, some have said that scientific theories must be falsifiable, and, since the proposition that living things (rabbits, say) have been designed by one or more intelligent designers. Others point out that many eminently scientific claims—for example, there are electrons—aren’t falsifiable in isolation: what is falsifiable are whole theories about electrons. And while the proposition living things have been designed by an intelligent being is not falsifiable in isolation, the proposition an intelligent being has designed and created 800 lb. rabbits that live in Cleveland is clearly falsifiable (and false). The first group may reply that this proposition about 800 lb. rabbits is really just equivalent to its empirical implications, i.e., to the proposition that there are 800 lb. rabbits that live in Cleveland, so that the bit about the designer really drops out. The second group may then retort that if so, the same must hold for theories about electrons; but then theories about electrons are really just equivalent to their empirical implications, so that electrons drop out.

Still others claim that science is constrained by ‘methodological naturalism’ (MN)—the idea that neither the data for a scientific investigation nor a scientific theory can properly refer to supernatural beings (God, angels, demons); thus one couldn’t properly propose Accordeing to Creationists  the world started miraculously. But miracles lie outside of science, which by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law”.  By definition of the term ‘science’ one supposes. But others then ask: what about the Big Bang: if it turns out to be unrepeatable, must we conclude that it can’t be studied scientifically? And consider the claim that science, by definition, deals only with that which is governed by law—natural law, one supposes. Some empiricists  argue that there aren’t any natural laws (but only regularities): if they are right, would it follow that there is nothing at all for science to study? Still further, while some people argue that MN is an essential constraint on science.

      The concept of science is as one of those cluster concepts called to our attention by Thomas Aquinas and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Perhaps there are several quite different activities that go under the name ‘science’; these activities are related to each other by similarity and analogy, but there is no one single activity which is just science as such. There are projects for which the criterion of success involves producing true theories; there are others where the criterion of success involves producing theories that are empirically adequate, whether or not they are also true. There are projects constrained by MN; there are other projects that are not so constrained. These projects or activities all fall under the meaning of the term ‘science’; but there is no single activity of which all are examples. (In the same way, chess, basketball and poker are all games; but there is no single game of which they are all versions.) Perhaps the best we can do, with respect to characterizing science, is to say that the term ‘science’ applies to any activity that is

  1. a systematic and disciplined enterprise aimed at finding out truth about our world, and

  2. has significant empirical involvement.

Still, we do have many excellent examples of science, and excellent examples of non-science.

To cite the furor over intelligent design , some say the proposition that there is an intelligent designer of the living world is religion, not science. But not just any belief involving an intelligent designer, indeed, not just any belief involving God, is automatically religious. According to the New Testament book of James, “the devils believe [that God exists] and tremble”; the devils’ beliefs, presumably, aren’t religious. Someone might propose theories about an omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good being as a key part of a metaphysical system: belief in such theories need not be religious. And what about a system of beliefs that answers the same great human questions answered by the clear examples of religion: questions about the fundamental nature of the universe and what is most real and basic in it, about the place of human beings in that universe, about whether there is such a thing as sin or an analogue, and if there is, what there is to be done about it, where we must look to improve the human condition, whether human beings survive their deaths and how a rational person should act? Will any system of beliefs that provides answers to those questions count as a religion? These are the questions difficult to answer.  . The truth here, perhaps, is that a belief isn’t religious just in itself. The property of being religious isn’t intrinsic to a belief; it is rather one a belief acquires when it functions in a certain way in the life of a given person or community. To be a religious belief, the belief in question would have to be appropriately connected with characteristically religious attitudes on the part of the believer, such attitudes as worship, love, commitment, awe, and the like. Consider someone who believes that there is such a person as God, all right, because the existence of God helps with several metaphysical problems (for example, the nature of causation, the nature of propositions, properties and sets, and the nature of proper function in creatures that are not human artifacts). However, this person has no inclination to worship or love God, no commitment to try to further God’s projects in our world; perhaps, like the devils, he hates God and intentionally does whatever he can to frustrate God’s purposes in the world. For such a person, belief that there is such a person as God need not be a religious belief. In this way it’s possible that a pair of people share a given belief which functions as a religious belief in the life of only one of them.

It is therefore extremely difficult to give (informative) necessary and sufficient conditions for either science or religion. If it is difficult to give an account of the nature of science, it is not much easier to say just what a religion is. Of course there are multifarious examples: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and many others. What characteristics are necessary and sufficient for something’s being a religion, how does one distinguish a religion from a way of lifeare questions not easy to say. Not all religions involve belief in something like the almighty and all-knowing, morally perfect God of the theistic religions, or even in any supernatural beings at all.


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