Article

Science and Religion

J. Brian Pitts

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online January 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0147
Science and Religion

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The science–religion interaction spans so many fields, years, sources, etc., that a comprehensive view is no small task. This survey will be especially oriented to the discussion that has grown primarily out of the intellectual tradition of Western Christendom, but which aspires to universality. The Western Christian discussion, of course, profited in the late medieval era from Arabic transmission of Greek texts, whether pagan or Christian, as well as more distinctively Islamic and Jewish contributions. The Western Christian tradition, however, ultimately took some dramatic turns in response to the 16th-century Protestant Reformation and its aftermath. The history of science lately has produced many informed and balanced treatments. One important theme is the rejection of “Whiggish” history, which portrays the past with a bias to ratify the present. Instead, one must aim to enter sympathetically into the mindsets of the historical actors. Can one then return to the present in a more critical way? One major task of philosophy is to assess the types and bases of knowledge claims in other disciplines. Thus, the philosophy of science and the philosophy of religion, broadly construed to include certain traditional parts of theology (prolegomena, apologetics), are relevant, as is much of medieval philosophy. Besides sciences and theologies (including church history), one thus also needs an adequate command of the history of science, the philosophy of science, the sociology of science, and relevant parts of general intellectual history. Such, at least, were some of the aspirations involved in this article’s compilation. The question of whether science(s) has, or needs, a logic is important. Certainly, deductive logic is inadequate. Bayesianism, making systematic use of the probability calculus, might be adequate. A key issue is Hume’s problem of induction. Many philosophers agree that it cannot be solved, and some—generally those who are still working on a solution—think that the lack of a solution would render science no more justifiable than fortune telling (or Bible reading, for that matter) as a source of beliefs. This article is organized more or less chronologically in terms of the issues discussed, forming a selective slice of the intellectual history of the West since the medieval period, while encouraging critical reflection using methodological insights available in the early 21st century. It is hoped that this organization facilitates both a non-Whiggish history and a useful critical understanding for contemporary application.

Article.  17861 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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