The Complementarity of Science and Religion

Harold H. Oliver

in Science, Religion, and the Human Experience

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780195175325
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199784707 | DOI:
 							The Complementarity of Science and Religion

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This essay focuses on the notion of complementarity between science and religion. Oliver grounds complementarity in relativity theory and quantum theory. He appeals to metaphysics as the basis for his relational paradigm, reassessing its Aristotelian legacy, which assumed the subject/object structure of the Greek language and produced the substantialist thesis that reality ultimately consists of things, whereas relations between things are accidental. To Oliver, the cosmos is a grand unity of relations, with subject and object, mind and brain, and ultimately God and World, existing as derivatives from this fundamental relatedness. Oliver then proceeds to argue that religious language is not referential, but symbolic of relational reality. It is when this relational reality is reduced to its derivatives that religious language is changed from mythical to referential discourse. In the case of science, Oliver argues that science aims for the most economical way of speaking of the world, versus the rich metaphorical language of religion; ultimately, though, religion and science are about the same domain of human experience. Oliver then considers the question of science, religion, and truth, cautioning against saying that certain scientific theories may be “true,” and arguing instead that it is preferable to consider that well-established scientific theories add to our experience of reality. In the case of religion, Oliver cautions even more strongly against truth as referring to the independent existence of an object, religious “truth” being realization or experience of relational reality.

Keywords: complementarity; metaphysics; quantum theory; relationality; relativity; religion; science; truth

Chapter.  8712 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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