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.

Friday, 15 July 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 2

In Chapter 1 Dowe looked at the hermeneutics of Scripture, in Chapter 2 he examines the hermeneutics of science and religion.

He starts by defining realism and antirealism (aka instrumentalism or fictionalism). He then goes on to looks at Osiander, the preface writer of Copernicus’ On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, Pierre Duhem and Bas van Fraassen as advocates of antirealism in science and then Feuerbach, Tillich and Wittgenstein as examples of those who take an antirealist view of religion.

Andreas Osiander (1498–1552) in the controversial preface to Copernicus’ work maintained that the book should be read as mathematical devices for accommodating the astronomical data. Dowe writes: ‘In this case it is science, rather than religion, that gives way in order that the two can be held together’ (p. 42).

Pierre Duhem (1861-1916) maintained that the fault in the ‘Galileo affair’ was Galileo’s inadequate philosphy of science. If Galileo has held to an antirealist view it would have avoided a clash with the papal authorities. For Duhem it is religion- he was a conservative Thomist Catholic - that provides us with ultimate truth, not science.

Bas van Fraassen advocates constructive empiricism: science provides us with empirically adequate theories - i.e. they fit with current data. A theory can be accepted without necessarily believing it literally.

Dowe isn’t impressed with antirealism - and neither are most practising scientists - despite the fact that it circumvents a conflict between science and religion. Antirealism provides us with an independence model of the relationship between science and religion. I felt that here Dowe could have expanded more on why antirealism is unsatisfactory.

He then moves on to answer the question, ‘Can antirealism about religion secure harmony between science and religion?’ To do this he examines the views of Feueurbach, Tillich and the later Wittgenstein.

For Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872) the answer is no, his is a conflict view as science shows that earlier forms of religion were false.

Paul Tillich (1886-1965) takes a harmony approach, but neither his approach or Feuerbach’s are as antirealist as Osiander, Duhem or van Fraassen. This though is not the case with the later Wittgenstein (1889-1951). For Wittgenstein ‘religion [unlike science] is not a fact-stating domain' (p 56). Hence science and religion are independent, they belong to different domains. Whereas Osiander has a blanket antirealism for science, Wittegnstien has a blanket antirealism for science; both views enabled a harmony to exist between science and religion. However, Dowe – rightly in my opinion – notes that Wittgenstein’s approach is not satisfactory, his religion is unrecognisable as far as orthodox theism is concerned.

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