The History of Science and Religion in the Western Tradition - An Encyclopedia

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Link to Publisher's Website. Science and Religion. A Historical Introduction, 2nd Edition. The first four deal with the field's intellectual and religious foundations, including virtually every relevant "-ism" and "-ology" imaginable. The latter six sections each treat one of the broad branches of the natural sciences, as well as "Psychology and Medicine" and "The Occult Sciences.

Article lengths range from two to just over ten of the book's handsome twin-columned pages. Most come to around five and are thus easily consumed at a casual sitting. Almost without exception, the articles offer stimulating content presented with insight and clarity. The book's chief virtue, however, lies in its breadth of coverage. All the familiar episodes in the historical interplay of science and religion from classical antiquity to the present receive ample consideration.

But the book sparkles most in its display of the expansion of the field beyond conventional preoccupations with "mainstream" Christendom and with the dual heritage of the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions. Readers will find entire articles and numerous discussions treating Judaism, Islam, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity as well as such "alternative" religious movements as Mormonism, Adventism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the New Age. Some of the most scintillating pieces roam around the fringes of modern science; examples include "The Plurality of Worlds and Extraterrestrial Life," "Geocentricity," and "Flat-Earthism.

But alas, for all the book's expansive breadth, readers of this journal will be disappointed not to see their interests more conspicuously represented. There is no article on "technology and religion," nor does the term "technology" appear in the index. No historians of technology appear among the book's multidisciplinary corps of authors. In dialogue, the fields remain separate but they talk to each other, using common methods, concepts, and presuppositions. Wentzel van Huyssteen has argued for a dialogue position, proposing that science and religion can be in a graceful duet, based on their epistemological overlaps.

The integration model is more extensive in its unification of science and theology. Barbour identifies three forms of integration. The first is natural theology, which formulates arguments for the existence and attributes of God. It uses results of the natural sciences as premises in its arguments.

The New Cosmology: Its Implications to Religiousity - Munich Personal RePEc Archive

For instance, the supposition that the universe has a temporal origin features in contemporary cosmological arguments for the existence of God, and the fact that the cosmological constants and laws of nature are life-permitting whereas many other combinations of constants and laws would not permit life is used in contemporary fine-tuning arguments.

The second, theology of nature, starts not from science but from a religious framework, and examines how this can enrich or even revise findings of the sciences. For example, McGrath developed a Christian theology of nature, examining how nature and scientific findings can be regarded through a Christian lens. While integration seems attractive especially to theologians , it is difficult to do justice to both the science and religion aspects of a given domain, especially given their complexities. For example, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin , who was both knowledgeable in paleoanthropology and theology, ended up with an unconventional view of evolution as teleological which brought him into trouble with the scientific establishment , and with an unorthodox theology with an unconventional interpretation of original sin that brought him into trouble with the Roman Catholic Church.

Theological heterodoxy, by itself, is no reason to doubt a model, but it points to difficulties for the integration model in becoming successful in the broader community of theologians and philosophers. Moreover, integration seems skewed towards theism as Barbour described arguments based on scientific results that support but do not demonstrate theism, but failed to discuss arguments based on scientific results that support but do not demonstrate the denial of theism.

Science and religion are closely interconnected in the scientific study of religion, which can be traced back to seventeenth-century natural histories of religion. Natural historians attempted to provide naturalistic explanations for human behavior and culture, for domains such as religion, emotions, and morality. It traces the origins of polytheism—which Hume thought was the earliest form of religious belief—to ignorance about natural causes combined with fear and apprehension about the environment. By deifying aspects of the environment, early humans tried to persuade or bribe the gods, thereby gaining a sense of control.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, authors from newly emerging scientific disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, and psychology, examined the purported naturalistic roots of religious belief. They did so with a broad brush, trying to explain what unifies diverse religious beliefs across cultures, rather than accounting for cultural variations. In anthropology, the idea that all cultures evolve and progress along the same lines cultural evolutionism was widespread.

Cultures with differing religious views were explained as being in an early stage of development. For example, Tylor regarded animism, the belief that spirits animate the world, as the earliest form of religious belief. Comte proposed that all societies, in their attempts to make sense of the world, go through the same stages of development: the theological religious stage is the earliest phase, where religious explanations predominate, followed by the metaphysical stage a non-intervening God , and culminating in the positive or scientific stage, marked by scientific explanations and empirical observations.

The psychologist Sigmund Freud saw religious belief as an illusion, a childlike yearning for a fatherly figure. The full story Freud offers is quite bizarre: in past times, a father who monopolized all the women in the tribe was killed and eaten by his sons. The sons felt guilty and started to idolize their murdered father. This, together with taboos on cannibalism and incest, generated the first religion.

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Authors such as Durkheim and Freud, together with social theorists such as Karl Marx and Max Weber, proposed versions of the secularization thesis, the view that religion would decline in the face of modern technology, science, and culture. Philosopher and psychologist William James was interested in the psychological roots and the phenomenology of religious experiences, which he believed were the ultimate source of institutional religions. From the s onward, the scientific study of religion became less concerned with grand unifying narratives, and focused more on particular religious traditions and beliefs.

1. The Field and its Significance

Their ethnographies indicated that cultural evolutionism was mistaken and that religious beliefs were more diverse than was previously assumed. They argued that religious beliefs were not the result of ignorance of naturalistic mechanisms; for instance, Evans-Pritchard noted that the Azande were well aware that houses could collapse because termites ate away at their foundations, but they still appealed to witchcraft to explain why a particular house had collapsed.

More recently, Cristine Legare et al. Psychologists and sociologists of religion also began to doubt that religious beliefs were rooted in irrationality, psychopathology, and other atypical psychological states, as James and other early psychologists had assumed. In the United States, in the late s through the s, psychologists developed a renewed interest for religion, fueled by the observation that religion refused to decline—thus casting doubt on the secularization thesis—and seemed to undergo a substantial revival see Stark for an overview.

Psychologists of religion have made increasingly fine-grained distinctions among types of religiosity, including extrinsic religiosity being religious as means to an end, for instance, getting the benefits of being in a social group and intrinsic religiosity people who adhere to religions for the sake of their teachings Allport and Ross Psychologists and sociologists now commonly study religiosity as an independent variable, with an impact on, for instance, health, criminality, sexuality, and social networks.

A recent development in the scientific study of religion is the cognitive science of religion. This is a multidisciplinary field, with authors from, among others, developmental psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and cognitive psychology. It differs from the other scientific approaches to religion by its presupposition that religion is not a purely cultural phenomenon, but the result of ordinary, early developed, and universal human cognitive processes e. Some authors regard religion as the byproduct of cognitive processes that do not have an evolved function specific for religion.

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For example, according to Paul Bloom , religion emerges as a byproduct of our intuitive distinction between minds and bodies: we can think of minds as continuing, even after the body dies e. Another family of hypotheses regards religion as a biological or cultural adaptive response that helps humans solve cooperative problems e. Through their belief in big, powerful gods that can punish, humans behave more cooperatively, which allowed human group sizes to expand beyond small hunter-gatherer communities. Groups with belief in big gods thus outcompeted groups without such beliefs for resources during the Neolithic, which explains the current success of belief in such gods Norenzayan Until the nineteenth and even early twentieth century, it was common for scientists to have religious beliefs which guided their work.

Natural philosopher Isaac Newton held strong, albeit unorthodox religious beliefs Pfizenmaier By contrast, contemporary scientists have lower religiosity compared to the general population.

The Map Of Philosophy

There are vocal exceptions, such as the geneticist Francis Collins, erstwhile the leader of the Human Genome Project. Sociological studies e. They indicate a significant difference in religiosity in scientists compared to the general population. Surveys such as those conducted by the Pew forum Masci and Smith find that nearly nine in ten adults in the US say they believe in God or a universal spirit, a number that has only slightly declined in recent decades.

Atheism and agnosticism are widespread among academics, especially among those working in elite institutions. Ecklund and Scheitle analyzed responses from scientists working in the social and natural sciences from 21 elite universities in the US. About In contrast to the general population, the older scientists in this sample did not show higher religiosity—in fact, they were more likely to say that they did not believe in God. On the other hand, Gross and Simmons examined a more heterogeneous sample of scientists from American colleges, including community colleges, elite doctoral-granting institutions, non-elite four-year state schools, and small liberal arts colleges.

They found that the majority of university professors full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty had some theistic beliefs, believing either in God Belief in God was influenced both by type of institution lower theistic belief in more prestigious schools and by discipline lower theistic belief in the physical and biological sciences compared to the social sciences and humanities.


These latter findings indicate that academics are more religiously diverse than has been popularly assumed and that the majority are not opposed to religion. Even so, in the US the percentage of atheists and agnostics in academia is higher than in the general population, a discrepancy that requires an explanation. One reason might be a bias against theists in academia. For example, when sociologists were surveyed whether they would hire someone if they knew the candidate was an evangelical Christian, Another reason might be that theists internalize prevalent negative societal stereotypes, which leads them to underperform in scientific tasks and lose interest in pursuing a scientific career.

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  • Kimberly Rios et al. It is unclear whether religious and scientific thinking are cognitively incompatible.

    Science and Religion

    Some studies suggest that religion draws more upon an intuitive style of thinking, distinct from the analytic reasoning style that characterizes science Gervais and Norenzayan On the other hand, the acceptance of theological and scientific views both rely on a trust in testimony, and cognitive scientists have found similarities between the way children and adults understand testimony to invisible entities in religious and scientific domains Harris et al. Moreover, theologians such as the Church Fathers and Scholastics were deeply analytic in their writings, indicating that the association between intuitive and religious thinking might be a recent Western bias.

    More research is needed to examine whether religious and scientific thinking styles are inherently in tension. As noted, most studies on the relationship between science and religion have focused on science and Christianity, with only a small number of publications devoted to other religious traditions e. Relatively few monographs pay attention to the relationship between science and religion in non-Christian milieus e.

    Since Western science makes universal claims, it is easy to assume that its encounter with other religious traditions is similar to the interactions observed in Christianity. However, given different creedal tenets e. Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion, currently the largest religion in the world.

    It developed in the first century AD out of Judaism from a group of followers of Jesus. Christians adhere to asserted revelations described in a series of canonical texts, which include the Old Testament, which comprises texts inherited from Judaism, and the New Testament, which contains the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John narratives on the life and teachings of Jesus , as well as events and teachings of the early Christian churches e.

    Given the prominence of revealed texts in Christianity, a useful starting point to examine the relationship between Christianity and science is the two books metaphor see Tanzella-Nitti for an overview.