Religion and science: Wikis


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The relationship between religion and science has been a focus of the demarcation problem. Statements about the world made by science and religion rely on different methodologies. Religions rely on revelation and faith, while science relies on observable, repeatable experiences, ontological naturalism, philosophical realism, rational skepticism, fallibilism, the thesis that nothing comes from nothing, and the law of economy. Some scholars say the two are separate, as in John William Draper's conflict thesis and Stephen Jay Gould's non-overlapping magisteria, while others (Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Ken Wilber, et al.) propose an interconnection. The Pew Forum has published data on attitudes about religion and science.[1]


Perspectives on the relationship between religion and science

Medieval artistic illustration of the spherical Earth in a 13th century copy of L'Image du monde (ca. 1246).

The kinds of interactions that might arise between science and religion have been classified using the following typology:[2]

  1. Conflict when either discipline threatens to take over the legitimate concerns of the other
  2. Independence treating each as quite separate realms of enquiry.
  3. Dialogue suggesting that each field has things to say to each other about phenomena in which their interests overlap.
  4. Integration aiming to unify both fields into a single discourse.

This typology is similar to ones found in Ian Barbour[4] and John Haught.[5] More typologies that categorize this relationship can be found among the works of other science and religion scholars such as Arthur Peacocke.[6]



A variety of historical, philosophical, and scientific arguments have been put forth in favor of the idea that science and religion are in conflict. Historical examples of religious individuals or institutions promoting claims that contradict both contemporary and modern scientific consensus include creationism, the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to heliocentrism from 1616 to 1757[7] including the Galileo affair, and more recently, Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 statements claiming that the use of condoms to combat the AIDS epidemic in Africa was ineffective and counterproductive.[8] Additionally, long held religious claims have been challenged by scientific studies such as STEP,[9] which examined the efficacy of prayer. A number of scientists including Jerry Coyne[10] have made an argument for a philosophical incompatibility between religion and science. An argument for the conflict between religion and science that combines the historical and philosophical approaches has been presented by Neil Degrasse Tyson[11] -- Tyson argues that religious scientists, such as Newton, could have achieved more had they not accepted religious answers to unresolved scientific issues.

Conflict thesis

The conflict thesis, which holds that religion and science have been in conflict continuously throughout history, was popularized in the 19th century by John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White. Most contemporary historians of science now reject the conflict thesis in its original form, arguing instead that it has been superseded by subsequent historical research indicating a more nuanced understanding:[12][13]

Although popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavour, while at other times the two have co-existed without either tension or attempts at harmonization. If Galileo and the Scopes trial come to mind as examples of conflict, they were the exceptions rather than the rule.

Gary Ferngren, Science & Religion[14]

Today, much of the scholarship in which the conflict thesis was originally based is considered to be inaccurate. For instance, the claim that people of the Middle Ages widely believed that the Earth was flat was first propagated in the same period that originated the conflict thesis[15] and is still very common in popular culture. This claim is mistaken, as the contemporary historians of science David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers write: "there was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge [earth's] sphericity and even know its approximate circumference."[15][16] Other misconceptions such as: "the Church prohibited autopsies and dissections during the Middle Ages," "the rise of Christianity killed off ancient science," and "the medieval Christian church suppressed the growth of the natural sciences," are all reported by Numbers as examples of widely popular myths that still pass as historical truth, even though they are not supported by current historical research. They help maintain the popular image of "the warfare of science and religion."[17]

While H. Floris Cohen states that most scholars reject crude articulations of the conflict thesis, such as Andrew D. White's, he also states that milder versions of this thesis still hold some sway. This is because "it remains an incontrovertible fact of history that, to say the least, the new science was accorded a less than enthusiastic acclaim by many religious authorities at the time." Cohen therefore considers it paradoxical "that the rise of early modern science was due at least in part to developments in Christian thought — in particular, to certain aspects of Protestantism" (a thesis first developed as what is now sometimes called the Merton thesis).[18] In recent years, Oxford historian Peter Harrison has further developed the idea that the Protestant Reformation had a significant and positive influence on the development of modern science.[19] A review of alternatives to the White/Draper conflict thesis has been composed by Ian G. Barbour.[20][21]


A modern view, described by Stephen Jay Gould as "non-overlapping magisteria" (NOMA), is that science and religion deal with fundamentally separate aspects of human experience and so, when each stays within its own domain, they co-exist peacefully.[22] Gould's view can also be seen as an attitude of neglect towards religion. It has been compared with a similar attitude of neglect towards evolutionary science, which has been seen in the works of theologians Karl Barth (who fails to mention evolution in his major work Church Dogmatics), Emil Brunner, and Hans Kung (whose Theology for the Third Millennium (1988) has a chapter on the relationship between religion and science yet never mentions evolution).[23]

While Gould spoke of independence from the perspective of science, W. T. Stace viewed independence from the perspective of the philosophy of religion. Stace felt that science and religion, when each is viewed in its own domain, are both consistent and complete.[24]

Two takes on experience

Both science and religion represent distinct ways of approaching experience and these differences are sources of debate.[25] Science is closely tied to mathematics—a very abstract experience, while religion is more closely tied to the ordinary experience of life.[25] As interpretations of experience, science is descriptive and religion is prescriptive.[25] For science and mathematics to concentrate on what the world ought to be like in the way that religion does can be inappropriate and may lead to improperly ascribing properties to the natural world as happened among the followers of Pythagoras in the sixth century B.C.[25] The reverse situation where religion attempts to be descriptive can also lead to inappropriately assigning properties to the natural world. A notable example is the now defunct belief in the Ptolemy planetary model that held sway until changes in scientific and religious thinking were brought about by Galileo and proponents of his views.[25]

Parallels in method

Many language philosophers (e.g., Ludwig Wittgenstein) and religious existentialists (e.g., those who ascribe to neo-orthodoxy) accepted Ian Barbour and John Polkinghorne's type II categorization of Independence.[26] On the other hand, many philosophers of science have thought otherwise. Thomas S. Kuhn asserted that science is made up of paradigms that arise from cultural traditions, which is similar to the secular perspective on religion.[26] Michael Polanyi asserted that it is merely a commitment to universality that protects against subjectivity and has nothing at all to do with personal detachment as found in many conceptions of the scientific method. Polayni further asserted that all knowledge is personal and therefore the scientist must be performing a very personal if not necessarily subjective role when doing science.[26] Polanyi added that the scientist often merely follows intuitions of "intellectual beauty, symmetry, and 'empirical agreement'".[26] Polayni held that science requires moral commitments similar to those found in religion.[26] Two physicists Charles A. Coulson and Harold K. Schilling both claimed that "the methods of science and religion have much in common."[26] Schilling asserted that both fields—science and religion—have "a threefold structure—of experience, theoretical interpretation, and practical application."[26] Coulson asserted that science, like religion, "advances by creative imagination" and not by "mere collecting of facts," while stating that religion should and does "involve critical reflection on experience not unlike that which goes on in science."[26] Religious language and scientific language also show parallels (cf. Rhetoric of science).


Clerks studying astronomy and geometry.
France, early 15th century.

A degree of concord between science and religion can be seen in religious belief and empirical science. The belief that God created the world and therefore humans, can lead to the view that he arranged for humans to know the world. This is underwritten by the doctrine of imago dei. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, "Since human beings are said to be in the image of God in virtue of their having a nature that includes an intellect, such a nature is most in the image of God in virtue of being most able to imitate God".[27]

Many well-known historical figures who influenced Western science considered themselves Christian such as Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Boyle.

Concerns over the nature of reality

Science in the Enlightenment and Colonial eras was conceived as ontological investigation which uncovered 'facts' about physical nature. This was often explicitly opposed to Christian Theology and the latter's assertions of truth based on doctrine. This particular perspective on science faded in the early 20th century with the decline of Logical Empiricism and the rise of linguistic and sociological understandings of science. Modern scientists are less concerned with establishing universal or ontological truth (which is seen, and dismissed, as the pursuit of philosophy), and more inclined towards the creation of pragmatic, functional models of physical systems. Christian Theology - excluding those fundamentalist churches whose aim is to reassert doctrinal truths - has likewise softened many of its ontological claims, due to increased exposure to both scientific insights and the contrasting theological claims of other faiths.

Scientific and theological perspectives often coexist peacefully. Non-Christian faiths have historically integrated well with scientific ideas, as in the ancient Egyptian technological mastery applied to monotheistic ends, the flourishing of logic and mathematics under Hinduism and Buddhism, and the scientific advances made by Muslim scholars during the Ottoman empire. Even many 19th century Christian communities welcomed scientists who claimed that science was not at all concerned with discovering the ultimate nature of reality.[25]


Christianity and science

Science and Religion are portrayed to be in harmony in the Tiffany window Education (1890).

The reconciliation of Christianity with science has had at least three attempted solutions that have proven themselves quite problematic.[citation needed] These three problematic solutions are biblical literalism, religious experience, and the evolving consensus of scientific truth.[citation needed] Each of these methods of reconciliation have various historical and present-day examples. Respective examples include creationism, liberal Christianity, and scientific imperialism.[citation needed] Earlier attempts at reconciliation of Christianity with Newtonian mechanics appear quite different from later attempts at reconciliation with the newer scientific ideas of evolution or relativity.[25] Many early interpretations of evolution polarized themselves around a struggle for existence. These ideas were significantly countered by later findings of universal patterns of biological cooperation. According to John Habgood, all man really knows here is that the universe seems to be a mix of good and evil, beauty and pain, and that suffering may somehow be part of the process of creation. Habgood holds that Christians should not be surprised that suffering may be used creatively by God, given their faith in the symbol of the Cross. Habgood states that Christians have for two millennia believed in the love of God because he revealed "Himself as Love in Jesus Christ," not because the physical universe does or does not point to the value of love.[25]

Reconciliation in Britain in the early 20th century

In Reconciling Science and Religion: The Debate in Early-twentieth-century Britain, historian of biology Peter J. Bowler argues that in contrast to the conflicts between science and religion in the U.S. in the 1920s (most famously the Scopes Trial), during this period Great Britain experienced a concerted effort at reconciliation, championed by intellectually conservative scientists, supported by liberal theologians but opposed by younger scientists and secularists and conservative Christians. These attempts at reconciliation fell apart in the 1930s due to increased social tensions, moves towards neo-orthodox theology and the acceptance of the modern evolutionary synthesis.[28]

Confucianism and Traditional Chinese Religion

The historical process of Confucianism has largely been antipathic towards scientific discovery however the religiophilosophical system itself is more neutral on the subject than such an analysis might suggest. In his writings On Heaven, Xunzi espoused a proto-scientific worldview [1], however during the [Han Synthesis] the more anti-empirical Mencius was favored and combined with Daoist skepticism regarding the nature of reality. Likewise, during the Medieval period, Zhu Xi argued against technical investigation and specialization proposed by Chen Liang [2]. After contact with the West, scholars such as Wang Fuzhi would rely on Buddhist/Daoist skepticism to denounce all science as a subjective pursuit limited by humanity's fundamental ignorance of the true nature of the world [3]. After the May Fourth Movement attempts to modernize Confucianism and reconcile it with scientific understanding were attempted by many scholars including Feng Youlan and Xiong Shili. Given the close relationship that Confucianism shares with Buddhism, many of the same arguments used to reconcile Buddhism with science also readily translate to Confucianism. However, modern scholars have also attempted to define the relationship between science and Confucianism on Confucianism's own terms and the results have usually lead to the conclusion that Confucianism and science are fundamentally compatible [4].

1) Cua, Antonio S. "The Quasi-Empirical Aspect of Hsün-tzu's Philosophy of Human Nature." PEW 28 (1978), 3-19. 2) Tillman, Hoyt Cleveland. "Utilitarian Confucianism : Chʻen Liang’s challenge to Chu Hsi" Cambridge, Mass. : Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University : Distributed by Harvard University Press, 1982. 3) Black, Alison Harley. "Man and Nature in the Philosophical Thought of Wang Fu-Chih." Publications on Asia of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, no. 41. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1989 4) Mary Evelyn Tucker "Confucianism and Ecology: The Interrelation of Heaven, Earth, and Humans (Religions of the World and Ecology)" Center for the Study of World Religions (August 15, 1998)


Buddhism and science have increasingly been discussed as compatible.[29] Some philosophic and psychological teachings within Buddhism share commonalities with modern Western scientific and philosophic thought. For example, Buddhism encourages the impartial investigation of nature (an activity referred to as Dhamma-Vicaya in the Pali Canon) - the principal object of study being oneself. A reliance on causality and empiricism are common philosophical principles shared between Buddhism and science. However, Buddhism doesn't focus on materialism.[30][31]

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, spends a lot of time with scientists. In his book, "The Universe in a Single Atom" he wrote, "My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science, so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation." and "If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false," he says, "then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims." [32][33]


Hindu views on evolution include a range of viewpoints in regards to evolution, creationism, and the origin of life within the traditions of Hinduism. The accounts of the emergence of life within the universe vary in description, but classically the deity called Brahma, from a Trimurti of three deities also including Vishnu and Shiva, is described as performing the act of 'creation', or more specifically of 'propagating life within the universe' with the other two deities being responsible for 'preservation' and 'destruction' (of the universe) respectively.[34] In this respect some Hindu schools do not treat the scriptural creation myth literally and often the creation stories themselves do not go into specific detail, thus leaving open the possibility of incorporating at least some theories in support of evolution. Some Hindus find support for, or foreshadowing of evolutionary ideas in scriptures, namely the Vedas.[35] An exception to this acceptance is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which includes several members who actively oppose "Darwinism" and the modern evolutionary synthesis (see Hindu Creationism).

Bahá'í view

A fundamental principle of the Bahá'í Faith is the harmony of religion and science. Bahá'í scripture asserts that true science and true religion can never be in conflict. `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, stated that religion without science is superstition and that science without religion is materialism. He also admonished that true religion must conform to the conclusions of science.[36][37][38]

Current scholarship

The modern dialogue between religion and science is rooted in Ian Barbour's 1966 book Issues in Science and Religion.[39] Since that time it has grown in to a serious academic field, with academic chairs in the subject area, and two dedicated academic journals, Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science and Theology and Science.[39] Articles are also sometimes found in mainstream science journals such as American Journal of Physics[40] and Science.[41][42]

Influence of a biblical world view on early modern science

H. Floris Cohen argued for a biblical[43] influence on the early development of modern science.[44] Cohen presented Dutch historian R. Hooykaas' argument that a biblical world-view holds all the necessary antidotes for the hubris of Greek rationalism: a respect for manual labour, leading to experimentation and a greater level of empiricism and a supreme God that left nature "de-deified" and open to emulation and manipulation.[44] This argument gives support to the idea that the rise of early modern science was due to a unique combination of Greek and biblical thought.[45] Cohen summarised Hooykaas' conclusion as attributing the rise of modern science to the combination of the "Greek powers of abstract reasoning and of thinking up idealized constructions" in combination with "the biblical humility toward accepting the facts of nature as they are, combined with a view of man as fitted out by God with the power to take nature on".[46] Cohen also noted that Richard S. Westfall "brought out the ultimate paradox" in stating: "Despite the natural piety of the virtuosi [English 17th-century scientists], the skepticism of the Enlightenment was already present in embryo among them. To be sure, their piety kept it in check, but they were unable to banish it. ... They wrote to refute atheism, but where were the atheists? The virtuosi nourished the atheists within their own minds."

Historian and professor of religion Eugene M. Klaaren holds that "a belief in divine creation" was central to an emergence of science in seventeenth-century England. The philosopher Michael Foster has published analytical philosophy connecting Christian doctrines of creation with empiricism. Historian William B. Ashworth has argued against the historical notion of distinctive mind-sets and the idea of Catholic and Protestant sciences.[47] Historians James R. Jacob and Margaret C. Jacob have argued for a linkage between seventeenth century Anglican intellectual transformations and influential English scientists (e.g., Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton).[48] John Dillenberger and Christopher B. Kaiser have written theological surveys, which also cover additional interactions occurring in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.[49][50]

Oxford University historian and theologian John Hedley Brooke wrote that "when natural philosophers referred to laws of nature, they were not glibly choosing that metaphor. Laws were the result of legislation by an intelligent deity. Thus the philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) insisted that he was discovering the "laws that God has put into nature." Later Newton would declare that the regulation of the solar system presupposed the "counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being."[51] Historian Ronald L. Numbers stated that this thesis "received a boost" from mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead's Science and the Modern World (1925). Numbers has also argued, "Despite the manifest shortcomings of the claim that Christianity gave birth to science—most glaringly, it ignores or minimizes the contributions of ancient Greeks and medieval Muslims—it too, refuses to succumb to the death it deserves."[52] The sociologist Rodney Stark of Baylor University, a Southern Baptist institution, argued in contrast that "Christian theology was essential for the rise of science."[citation needed]

Religious community's perspective

Historical Judeo-Christian-Islamic view

Science, and particularly geometry and astronomy, was linked directly to the divine for most medieval scholars. The compass in this 13th century manuscript is a symbol of creation.

In the early days of Christianity, science was at best seen as a waste of time. The church father Athanasius, for example, celebrated the fact that the early church leaders were "men of little intellect."[53] Similarly, the church father John Chrysostom instructed people to "empty your minds of secular knowledge," and in 448 Theodosius II ordered all non-Christian books to be burned.[citation needed]

In the Medieval era, some leading thinkers in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, undertook a project of synthesis between religion, philosophy, and natural sciences. For example, the Islamic philosopher Averroes,[54] the Jewish philosopher Maimonides, and the Christian philosopher Augustine of Hippo, held that if religious teachings were found to contradict certain direct observations about the natural world, then it would be obligatory to re-evaluate either the interpretation of the scientific facts or the understanding of the scriptures. The best knowledge of the cosmos was seen as an important part of arriving at a better understanding of the Bible, but not yet equal with the authority of the Bible.

This approach has continued down to the present day; Henry Drummond, for example, was a 19th century Scot who wrote many articles, some of which drew on scientific knowledge to tease out and illustrate Christian ideas.

From the 11th century, however, scientific methods were being applied by both Muslim scientists and Christian scientists to domains such as optics and planetary orbits, with results which threatened some of the Church's doctrines. Christianity asserted religious certainty at the expense of scientific knowledge, by giving more explicit sanction to officially correct views of nature and scripture. Similar developments occurred in other religions. This approach, while it tended to temporarily stabilize doctrine, was also inclined toward making philosophical and scientific orthodoxy less open to correction, as accepted philosophy became the religiously sanctioned science. Observation and theory became subordinate to dogma. In Europe, scientists and scholars of the Enlightenment responded to such restrictions with increasing skepticism.

Non-fundamentalist religious views

In between these positions lies that of non-fundamentalist religious believers. Large numbers of Christians and Jews still accept some or many traditional religious beliefs taught in their respective faith communities, but they no longer accept their tradition's teachings as unquestionable and infallible. Liberal religious believers do believe in God, and believe that in some way God revealed divine will to humanity. They differ from religious fundamentalists in that they accept that even if their religious texts were divinely inspired, they are also human documents which reflect the cultural and historic limitations and biases of their authors. Many support allegorical interpretations of Genesis. Such believers are often comfortable with the findings of archaeological and linguistic research and historical-critical study. They will often make use of literary and historical analysis of religious texts to understand how they developed, and to see how they might be applied in our own day. This approach developed among Protestant scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries, and is now found among other Christians, Liberal Jewish communities and others.

Some religious approaches acknowledge the historical relationship between modern science and ancient doctrines. For example, John Paul II, leader of the Roman Catholic Church, in 1981 spoke of the relationship this way: "The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer".[55] This statement would reflect the views of many non-Catholic Christians as well. An example of this kind of thinking is Theistic evolution.

This understanding of the role of scripture in relation to science is captured by the phrase: "The intention of the Holy Spirit is to teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."[56] Thomas Jay Oord said: "The Bible tells us how to find abundant life, not the details of how life became abundant."

The scientific community's perspective

The attitudes of scientists towards religion

In the 17th century, founders of the Royal Society largely held conventional and orthodox religious views, and a number of them were prominent Churchmen.[57] While theological issues that had the potential to be divisive were typically excluded from formal discussions of the early Society, many of its fellows nonetheless believed that their scientific activities provided support for traditional religious belief.[58] Clerical involvement in the Royal Society remained high until the mid-nineteenth century, when science became more professionalised.[59]

Among contemporary scientists—physicists and biologists—about 40% hold strong religious beliefs, which closely matched those of a similar 1916 poll.[41][60] Prominent scientists advocating disbelief in religion include evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and Nobel prize winning physicist Stephen Weinberg. For a more complete list, see List of atheists (science and technology). Prominent scientists advocating belief include Nobel prize winning physicist Charles Townes and climatologist John T. Houghton. For a more complete list, see List of Christian thinkers in science.[41]

According to a 1996 survey of United States scientists in the fields of biology, mathematics, and physics/astronomy, belief in a god that is "in intellectual and affective communication with humankind" was most popular among mathematicians (about 45%) and least popular among physicists (about 22%). In total, about 60% of United States scientists in these fields expressed disbelief or agnosticism toward a personal god who answers prayer and personal immortality.[61] This compared with 58% in 1914 and 67% in 1933. Among leading scientists — defined as members of the National Academy of Sciences — 72.2% expressed disbelief and another 20% were agnostic concerning the existence of a personal god who answers prayer.[62]

A survey conducted between 2005 and 2007 by Elaine Ecklund of University at Buffalo, The State University of New York and funded by the Templeton Foundation found that over 60% of natural and social science professors at 21 elite US research universities are atheists or agnostics. When asked whether they believed in God, nearly 34% answered "I do not believe in God" and about 30% answering "I do not know if there is a God and there is no way to find out."[63] According to the same survey, "[m]any scientists see themselves as having a spirituality not attached to a particular religious tradition."[64] In further analysis, published in 2007, Ecklund and Christopher Scheitle conclude that "the assumption that becoming a scientist necessarily leads to loss of religion is untenable" and that "[i]t appears that those from non-religious backgrounds disproportionately self-select into scientific professions. This may reflect the fact that there is tension between the religious tenets of some groups and the theories and methods of particular sciences and it contributes to the large number of non-religious scientists."[65]

A explanation has been offered by Farr Curlin, a University of Chicago Instructor in Medicine and a member of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, that science-minded religious people instead elect to study medicine. He helped author a study that "found that 76 percent of doctors believe in God and 59 percent believe in some sort of afterlife." and "90 percent of doctors in the United States attend religious services at least occasionally, compared to 81 percent of all adults." He reasoned, "The responsibility to care for those who are suffering and the rewards of helping those in need resonate throughout most religious traditions."[66]

A 2009 poll by Pew Research Center found that 33% of American scientists say they believe in God. 48% say they have a religious affiliation, equal to the number who say they are not affiliated with any religious tradition. They survey also found younger scientists to be "substantially more likely than their older counterparts to say they believe in God". Among the surveyed fields, chemists were the most likely to say they believe in God.[67]

Religious beliefs of US professors, many in scientific fields, were recently examined using a nationally representative sample of more than 1400, published in Sociology of Religion. The researchers reported that "Contrary to the view that religious skepticism predominates in the academy, we find that the majority of professors, even at elite research institutions, are religious believers" (p. 101).[68] Beliefs varied across disciplines, and "the most religious fields are applied ones outside the traditional liberal arts core, whose instructors may come closer to resembling the general population in terms of attitudes and values.... At the other extreme, psychology and mechanical engineering have the highest proportion of atheists [50 and 44 percent], while 60.8 percent of biologists are either atheists or agnostics" (p. 115).[68] The researchers concluded that among US professors, "less than a quarter could be classified as complete nonbelievers.... even at elite schools, there are more professors who are religious than who are nonbelievers, which suggests that in academe — as in American society more generally — secularization has entailed more the privatization of religious belief... than its elimination" (p. 124).[68]

Ecklund and Sheitle's 2005-2007 survey also compared differences between natural and social scientists at the 21 elite US research universities that they surveyed. Analyses of the more than 1600 responses indicated that "differences in religiosity between natural and social scientists are simply no longer a meaningful descriptor of the place of religion in the academy. For the most part, there is little difference between these larger fields [social versus natural science] or between the specific disciplines themselves. The differences that do exist are seen among chemists and political scientists who are more likely to be religious, according to traditional indicators, when compared to physicists"[69] (p. 299).

Prominent scientist Albert Einstein supported the compatibility of some interpretations of religion with science. In an article originally appearing in the New York Times Magazine in 1930, he wrote:

Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgements of all kinds remain necessary. Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts. According to this interpretation the well-known conflicts between religion and science in the past must all be ascribed to a misapprehension of the situation which has been described.[70]

Scientific study of religion

Scientific studies have been done on religiosity as a social or psychological phenomenon. These include studies on the correlation between religiosity and intelligence (often IQ, but also other factors). A recent study on serotonin receptors and religiosity[71] suggests a correlation between low density of serotonin receptors and intense religious experiences. Also of popular interest are the studies regarding prayer and medicine, in particular whether there is any causal or correlative link between spiritual supplication and improvement of health. Surveys by Gallup, the National Opinion Research Centre and the Pew Organisation conclude that spiritually committed people are twice as likely to report being "very happy" than the least religiously committed people.[72] An analysis of over 200 social studies that "high religiousness predicts a rather lower risk of depression and drug abuse and fewer suicide attempts, and more reports of satisfaction with life and a sense of well-being"[73] and a review of 498 studies published in peer-reviewed journals concluded that a large majority of these studies showed a positive correlation between religious commitment and higher levels of perceived well-being and self-esteem, and lower levels of hypertension, depression and clinical delinquency,[74][75] Surveys suggest a strong link between faith and altruism.[76] Studies by Keith Ward show that overall religion is a positive contributor to mental health.[77] Michael Argyle and others claim that there is little or no evidence that religion ever causes mental disorders.[78]

Other studies have showed that certain mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, are also associated with high levels of religiosity.[79] In addition, anti-psychotic medication, which is mainly aimed to block dopamine receptors, typically reduces religious behaviour and religious delusions.[80]

Some historians, philosophers and scientists hope that the theory of memetics, reminiscent of the theory of genetics, will allow the modeling of the evolution of human culture, including the evolutionary origin of religions. Daniel Dennett's book Breaking the Spell (2006) attempts to begin such an analysis of modern religions. The idea that evolutionary processes are involved in the development of human culture and religion is not particularly controversial among natural scientists, however other approaches based on social sciences such as anthropology, psychology, sociology and economics are more prevalent in academic use.

Religion and science community

The religion and science community consists of those scholars who involve themselves with what has been called the "religion-and-science dialogue" or the "religion-and-science field."[81][82] The community belongs to neither the scientific nor the religious community, but is said to be a third overlapping community of interested and involved scientists, priests, clergymen, and theologians.[82] Institutions interested in the intersection between science and religion include the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, and the Faraday Institute. Journals addressing the relationship between science and religion include Theology and Science and Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science


  1. ^ "Science in America: Religious Belief and Public Attitudes". 
  2. ^ John Polkinghorne Science and Theology SPCK/Fortress Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8006-3153-6 pp20-22, following Ian Barbour
  3. ^ Creation and double chaos: science and theology in discussion, Sjoerd Lieuwe Bonting, 2005, Fortress Press, ISBN 0-8006-3759-3, page 5
  4. ^ Nature, Human Nature, and God, Ian G. Barbour, Fortress Press, 2002, ISBN 0800634772
  5. ^ Science & Religion: From Conflict to Conversation, 1995, p. 9 Paulist Press, ISBN 0-8091-3606-6

    Throughout these pages we shall observe that there are at least four distinct ways in which science and religion can be related to each other: Religion in an Age of Science (1990), ISBN 0-06-060383-6 1) Conflict — the conviction that science and religion are fundamentally irreconcilable; 2) Contrast — the claim that there can be no genuine conflict since religion and science are each responding to radically different questions; 3) Contact — an approach that looks for dialogue. interaction. and possible "consonance" between science and religion. and especially for ways in which science shapes religious and theological understanding. 4) Confirmation — a somewhat quieter but extremely important perspective that highlights the ways in which, at a very deep level, religion supports and nourishes the entire scientific enterprise.

  6. ^ The Sciences and theology in the twentieth century, Arthur R. Peacocke (ed), University of Notre Dame press, 1981 ISBN 0-268-01704-2, p. xiii-xv
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  11. ^
  12. ^ Quotation from Ferngren's introduction at "Gary Ferngren (editor). Science & Religion: A Historical Introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8018-7038-0."
    "...while [John] Brooke's view [of a complexity thesis rather than conflict thesis] has gained widespread acceptance among professional historians of science, the traditional view remains strong elsewhere, not least in the popular mind." (p. x)
  13. ^ Quotation from Colin A. Russell in "The Conflict Thesis" the first essay of "Gary Ferngren (editor). Science & Religion: A Historical Introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8018-7038-0."
    "The conflict thesis, at least in its simple form, is now widely perceived as a wholly inadequate intellectual framework within which to construct a sensible and realistic historiography of Western science." (p. 7, followed by a list of the basic reasons why the conflict thesis is wrong).
  14. ^ Gary Ferngren (editor). Science & Religion: A Historical Introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8018-7038-0. (Introduction, p. ix)
  15. ^ a b Jeffrey Russell. Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians. Praeger Paperback; New Ed edition (January 30, 1997). ISBN 027595904X; ISBN 978-0275959043.
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  17. ^ Ronald Numbers (Lecturer). (May 11, 2006). Myths and Truths in Science and Religion: A historical perspective. [Video Lecture]. University of Cambridge (Howard Building, Downing College): The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. 
  18. ^ Cohen(1994) pp 310-311
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  21. ^ John Hedley Brooke, Bibliographic Essay (pages 348-403) in Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives, 1991, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-23961-3, pages 349-350.
  22. ^ Stephen Jay Gould. Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the fullness of life. Ballantine Books, 1999.
  23. ^ Creation and double chaos: science and theology in discussion, Sjoerd Lieuwe Bonting, 2005, Fortress Press, ISBN 0-8006-3759-3, page 2
  24. ^ W. T. Stace, Time and Eternity: an Essay in the Philosophy of Religion, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1952.
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  29. ^ Yong, Amos. (2005) Buddhism and Science: Breaking New Ground (review) Buddhist-Christian Studies - Volume 25, 2005, pp. 176-180
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  31. ^ Wallace, B. Alan. (2003) " Buddhism & science: breaking new ground" Columbia University Press, pp 328
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  36. ^ Hatcher, William (September 1979). "Science and the Bahá'í Faith". Zygon: Journal of Religion of Science 14 (3): 229–253. 
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    •What is truth? A course in science and religion Peter J. Brancazio, Am. J. Phys. 62, 893 (1994) doi:10.1119/1.17735
    •The stifling grip of religion Romard Barthel Am. J. Phys. 68, 785 (2000) doi:10.1119/1.1303729
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    •Science, religion, and skepticism, Dwight E. Neuenschwander, Am. J. Phys. 66, 273 (1998), doi:10.1119/1.19024
    •Copernicus and Martin Luther: An encounter between science and religion Donald H. Kobe, Am. J. Phys. 66, 190 (1998), doi:10.1119/1.18844
    •Science and Religion: From Conflict to Conversation John F. Haught and Eugene E. Selk, Am. J. Phys. 64, 1532 (1996), doi:10.1119/1.18441
    •Science and Religion---A Comment M. A. Vandyck, Am. J. Phys. 64, 110 (1996), doi:10.1119/1.18125
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    •Religion versus science? Thomas E. Phipps, Jr., Am. J. Phys. 60, 871 (1992), doi:10.1119/1.17004
    •A response to ``Religion vs. Science?, by Jay Orear Allen C. Dotson, Am. J. Phys. 60, 778 (1992), doi:10.1119/1.17057
    •Religion vs. science? Jay Orear, Am. J. Phys. 60, 394 (1992), doi:10.1119/1.16889
    •Religion in an Age of Science Ian G. Barbour and Eugene E. Selk, Am. J. Phys. 59, 1152 (1991), doi:10.1119/1.16630
    •Making sense of experience: Common ground in science and religion Harry D. Powell, Am. J. Phys. 59, 679 (1991), doi:10.1119/1.16767
    •Guest Comment: Preserving and cherishing the Earth---An appeal for joint commitment in science and religion Carl Sagan, Am. J. Phys. 58, 615 (1990), doi:10.1119/1.16418
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    Science, 6 June 1958, 127(3310), pages 1324-1327; "A Human Enterprise: Science as lived by its practitioners bears but little resemblance to science as described in print." doi:10.1126/science.127.3310.1324
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  43. ^ Particularly Puritan Protestant, but not excluding Catholicism.
  44. ^ a b The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry, H. Floris Cohen, University of Chicago Press 1994, 680 pages, ISBN 0-2261-1280-2, pages 308-321
  45. ^ "Finally, and most importantly, Hooykaas does not of course claim that the Scientific Revolution was exclusively the work of Protestant scholars." Cohen(1994) p 313
  46. ^ Cohen(1994) p 313. Hooykaas puts it more poetically: "Metaphorically speaking, whereas the bodily ingredients of science may have been Greek, its vitamins and hormones were biblical."
  47. ^ God and nature, Lindberg and Numbers Ed., 1986, pp. 136-66; see also William B. Ashworth Jr.'s publication list; this is noted on page 366 of Science and Religion, John Hedley Brooke, 1991, Cambridge University Press
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  77. ^ Is Religion Dangerous? Ch 9.
  78. ^ quoting Michael Argyle and others
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  81. ^ Religion-and-Science Philip Hefner, pages 562-576 in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science Philip Clayton(ed.), Zachary Simpson(associate-ed.)--Hardcover 2006, paperback July 2008-Oxford University Press, 1023 pages
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See also

by tradition
by region


Further reading

  • Brooke, John H., Margaret Osler, and Jitse M. van der Meer, editors. "Science in Theistic Contexts: Cognitive Dimensions," Osiris, 2nd ser., vol. 16(2001), ISBN 0-226-07565-6.
  • Brooke, John H., Science And Religion: Some Historical Perspectives, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-5212-3961-3
  • Haisch, Bernard. The God Theory: Universes, Zero-point Fields, and What's Behind It All (Preface), Red Wheel/Weiser, 2006, ISBN 1-57863-374-5
  • Bunge, Mario, Chasing Reality: Strife over Realism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Lenaers, Roger. Nebuchadnezzar's Dream or The End of a Medieval Catholic Church. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-59333-583-0.
  • Thomas Henry Huxley, Science and Hebrew Tradition: Essays, D. Appleton and Company, 1897, 372 pages
  • Oord,Thomas Jay, ed., Divine Grace and Emerging Creation: Wesleyan Forays in Science and Theology of Creation, Pickwick Publications, 2009, ISBN 1606082876
  • Oord,Thomas Jay, Science of Love: The Wisdom of Well-Being, Templeton, 2003, ISBN 1-932031-70-7
  • Restivo, Sal, The Social Relations of Physics, Mysticism, and Mathematics. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1983.
  • Richardson, Mark - Wesley Wildman (ed.), Religion & Science: History, Method, Dialogue, Routledge, 1996, ISBN 0-415-91667-4
  • Van Huyssteen, J. Wentzel (editor), Encyclopedia of Science and Religion, MacMillan, 2003, ISBN 0-02-865704-7
  • Wilber, Ken, The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion, Broadway; Reprint edition, 1999, ISBN 0-7679-0343-9
  • Walsh, James J., The Popes and Science; the History of the Papal Relations to Science During the Middle Ages and Down to Our Own Time, Kessinger Publishing, 1908, reprinted 2003. ISBN 0-7661-3646-9 from WorldCat[3]Review excerpts:
  • John Polkinghorne, Science and Theology SPCK/Fortress Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8006-3153-6
  • John Rekesh, The God Principle: Amazing Connections between Natural and Spiritual Realms, Archress Literature, 2008, ISBN 978-0-98015-167-1

External links


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