An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 27 June 2005

Religion shapes science

It has often been argued that science and religion are independent and each should pursue their own domain. This is fallacious; consider the following:

1. We all have a worldview

2. A worldview is shaped by religious commitments

3. All human activity is shaped by worldviews

4. Science is a human activity


5. Science is shaped by worldviews that are religious commitments.

If this argument is valid then religion shapes science.


Paul said...

Some thoughts:

1. If the argument is *sound* then your conclusion is true.

2. It's not! Your conclusion says that 'worldviews = religious commitments', but you are only entitled to conclude that 'worldviews and science are shaped by religious commitments'. (And here you would be implicitly assuming transitivity: if A shapes B, and if B shapes C, then A shapes C).

Moreover, you ultimately conclude something about religion from something different; religious commitments. Some work needs to be done here to bridge the gap. (And can it really be held that science and religion should not pursue their own domain?)

Paul the pedant! :p :)

Steve Bishop said...

Thanks Paul, I was hoping you'd comment!

1. Oops!
2. Thanks for pointing this out; so my point 4. Should be ammended to:

5. Science is shaped by worldviews that are shaped by religious commitments.

How can we get from religious commitment to religion?

I like Clouser's definition of a religion in Myth (1991, pp. 20-1).

"A religious belief is any belief in something or other as divine ...
'Divine' means having the status of not depending on anything else."

A religion is a worldview or ideology that attributes the status or nature of divinity to something or someone; it does not necessarily have a cultic dimension as many think.

As regards science and religion pursuing their own domains, it implies that they are independent - whereas I would maintain that religious commitments (even if I've not yet shown religion) shape science.


Paul said...

Steve: bit busy right now, but here are some more thoughts:

Two issues here:

i. How do religious commitments, ground-motives (which you haven't mentioned), worldviews, and scientific practice (including theorising and observation) relate?

ii. How do science and religion relate to the 4 above, and to each other?

Take(i). Clouser has shown how theories must have religious presuppositions. A scientist's religious commitments will regulate his theorising; in that sense science has a religious element. He seems not to mention worldviews and ground-motives much.

Now (ii). Clouser makes it clear that he is talking of religion in the sense that it qualifies belief; i.e. we want to know what makes a religious belief. It is not that the belief be about morality, worship, a specific supreme being. Neither is it because the belief is an unproven assumption. Rather a belief is religious when it is a belief in something as unconditionally real. (Similarly, religious faith in something takes the object to be unconditionally reliable.) Secondary religious beliefs are (roughly) beliefs about the consequences of our belief in something as divine.

So what is "religion"? I think there are 2 possibilities:

1. The holding of a divinity belief, and secondary religious beliefs (about the relation of the divine to the non-divine, and how humans should live in the light of this knowledge).

2. The existential condition of mankind, which leads humans to ask "big questions" as Gideon Strauss might put it, and to have religious commitments.

Dooyeweerd goes for (2); religion is the innate impulse of the human selfhood to direct itself towards the true or pretended Origin.

But when comparing “science” with “religion” it is tempting to opt for (1) in order to keep a symmetry between them, and call what Dooyeweerd is talking about the *religious condition* of mankind. After all, we talk about the science of physics, the science of maths, etc. and explicate "science" as the investigation of some particular aspect(s) of reality. In the same way, we (reformationals) might talk of the Christian religion, the materialist religion, the pythagorean religion, (depending on what divinity belief is held) and explicate religion as (1).

But you also say that religion is a worldview. But then why not just talk of religion in the sense Dooyeweerd does, and talk instead of the materialist worldview, the pythagorean worldview, etc? (And your ultimate conclusion that "religion shapes science" on your current view is seemingly equivalent to "worldview shapes science", which is a premise of your argument!)

How you define your terms will affect how you see science and religion relating (obviously!).

Can you tell me more about how you think religious commitments, ground-motives, worldviews, and religion relate? Seems to be a murky area in Dooyeweerd, so far as I can see.

PS. I'm finding it hard to give a decent reply when I have to comment in this little box!