Science in Christian Perspective



Science and Religion: Is Compatibility Possible?
Department of Religious Studies 
University of Manitoba 
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

From: JASA 30 (December 1978): 169-176.

Compatibility Systems

To raise the question of the possible compatibility' of science and religion must, in the light of the historical relations of the scientific and religious communities, seem utterly naive. Since the days of Galileo and Urban VIII, it can he argued, the image of conflict has appropriately dominated all discussion of the relation of religion to science. The dominant picture, as Andrew White's famous History of the Warfare Between Science and Theology (1896) illustrates (although somewhat onesidedly), has been one of the religious faithful fighting the progress of the sciences, particularly when new discoveries threatened the security of cherished dogmas. And today the image of conflict is reinforced, despite the fact that contemporary scientific beliefs are more congenial to religious (and especially Christian) doctrines than those of a few generations ago,1 for the conflict, it is maintained, is basically methodological. Both science and religion, that is, seem to be playing the "cognition game" and yet religion, so it is claimed, seems to follow an entirely different set of rules in its achievement of "knowledge" than does science.2 The point of the modern view of the conflict image, then, is that science provides us with a clear and straightforward paradigm for knowing-a "morality of knowledge3-which religious thinking obviously contravenes. Despite such claims, however, there is a reluctance on the part of many to accept the image of conflict as an appropriate category in discussion of the relations of science and religion, for both science and religion have made valued contributions to our lives and neither is likely to wither away in the very near future. That reluctance to deny the valise of either community has inspired alternative interpretations of the meanings of science and religion that "entail" compatibility. And it is the variety and significance of these various "compatibility systems" that I wish to look at in this paper.

A "compatibility system" is essentially a justification of accepting two apparently conflicting systems of thought.4 If a prima facie conflict existed there would be no impetus to construct such a system. The growth of science in the West, however, with the gradual "disenchantment' of the universe attendant upon that growth (i.e. the increasing superfluity of religious hypotheses in the attempts to account for or describe the world) suggests a radical discontinuity between science and religion-it suggests, in fact, that to do proper science one must give up religion. Such a "conflict interpretation" of the relation of religion to science rests on two assumptions: first, that science alone provides us with the paradigm of all knowledge-gaining procedures and, second, that religion is correctly or appropriately characterized, at least in part, as a system of beliefs. Compatibility proposals, consequently, rest on challenges to either one or both of these assumptions.

I shall look briefly at four kinds of compatibility proposals here:5 (1) science and religion are wholly incommensurable; (2) science and religion are complementary but provide us with radically different kinds of knowledge; (3) science and religion are complementary because science itself reveals elements of ultimacy and, consequently, exhibits a religious character; and (4) science and religion are complementary because archaic systems contain genuine cognitive insights although they need to he re-expressed in terms of contemporary scientific thought.

The classic "compatibility system"-namely, that science and religion are complementary because they are logically similar "enterprises"-however, challenges neither of the major assumptions of the conflict interpretation. Accepting both assumptions it nevertheless differs drastically upon their interpretation: science, it agrees, provides us with a "morality of knowing" but it hotly disputes the nature or significance of that morality. Extending the metaphor, one might say that the compatibility argument here does not involve the denial of an ethic of belief but rather suggests that the ethic is a contextual or situational one rather than an absolutist ethic. That is to say, just as ethical judgment is more than mere "ethical calculation" so knowing is more than mere logical or "epistemic calculation." I consider briefly the merits of this claim following the description of the above-mentioned alternatives.

Science and Religion as Wholly Incommensurable

Many philosophers reject the conflict interpretation in the discussion of science and religion because, according to them science and religion are incommensurable; they are incapable of even being compared. Thus religion cannot be either compatible or incompatible with science; nor can it complement science in the sense of providing a different or higher' kind of knowledge that science cannot achieve. The assumption that religion is appropriately characterized as knowledge or as a system of beliefs, it is argued, reveals a naive understanding of religion. Religion is a "way of life" and not a source of knowledge. Religion functions in society in a different capacity altogether than science-it grounds the meaning of human existence. Religious language, therefore, is not the language of knowing but rather the language of commitment (Braithwaite, 1955); it is parabolic (Miles, 1959), self-involving (Evans, 1963; 1968), convictional (Zuurdeeg, 1959), symbolic (Randall, 1958), etc., but not epistemic. T. R. Miles neatly summarizes the essential point of this position in his Religion and the Scientific Outlook as follows:

On the general question of a conflict between science and religion there is a central part of the problem which we can safely clams to have settled once for all. This claim is not the presumptuous one that it sounds, for she matter is one of logical necessity and it would be muddled thinking to claim anything less. Religions language is of many different kinds; there is the language of parable, the language of moral exhortation, the language of worship and so on. Only if what is offered in the name. of religion is factual assertion can there be any possibility of a hcadnn conflict . . . . To insist that such (religions) language is parable and not literal truth is to ascribe a recognizable and legitimate function to a group of basic religious assertions and the result is to supply a permanent guarantee that these assertions cannot he refuted by the findings of science. (Miles, 1959; 217, 218, 219).

Science and Religion as Providing Radically Different Kinds of Knowledge

Proponents of this kind of compatibility systems do not deny that in some respects religion and science are incommcnsurablc. They deny that science is the only paradigm for all knowledgegaining procedures and so admit that science and religion are methdologicallv incommensurable. By suspending belief in the first assumption of the incompatibility thesis, they insist, it can be shown that there are non-scientific ways of knowing-ways of knowing that transcend and so complement the knowledge of science. Karl Heim sets forth a persuasive argument in support of such a thesis in his Christian Faith and Natural Science (1953).

According to Heim existentialism has discovered a whole new world of nonobjective experience. Consequently it opens up the possibility of a knowledge of a nonobjective space that is wholly other than the knowledge of the objective space of the natural sciences. Heim calls this first nonobjective space "egospace," for it is first discovered in the discovery of the inner Self-in the inward awareness of one's Self.

New spaces, according to Heim, are discovered when they make possible something which is undeniable in our experience, although within the space or spaces thus far discovered it appears self-contradictory. The (inner) Self which must, in the light of our experience, be part of our general picture of the universe is, for example, invisible in the objective space of the natural sciences but becomes 'visible" in the non-objective ego-space.

Still others spaces, according to Heim, are revealed when questions of ethics and origins are raised. We find in these issues that what is necessary for a comprehensive picture of the universe is in the objective space of the natural sciences (as well as in the egospace, for both these spaces are species of the genus "polar-space") problematic. For example, in the area of ethical action the ego is paralyzed by the relativism and positivism that characterises all our decision-making. Within the "polar-spaces" no goals are absolute except those chosen by the human will. Consequently action is hound either by indecision as to which goal to direct one's action toward, or it is plagued by the sense of arbitrariness in the goal chosen. What is needed, therefore, is a new space wherein both the indecision and arbitrariness can he avoided since both undermine the ethical life. Such a possibility, Heim insists, can he seen only in "suprapolar space:"

Unlike all human ethical doctrines, which are historically and culturally conditioned and possess only limited validity, Christ, according to the conviction of the primitive church, is the Kyrios, the only one entitled to the name which is above all names, the supreme authority, above which there is no higher power and by which the final decision is taken with regard to every value that comes within our field of vision-the supreme yardstick by which all things are measured. This authority is like the lighthouse by which ships may steer their course when they have to pass by night through a dangerous channel which is full of rocks. If such a paramount authority is found to exist, then the aim of positivism too is achieved, for positivism seeks a supreme value, the antecedents of which do not require investigations. (Heim, 1953; 190, 191).

The Universe, then, consists of spaces rather than merely objective space as is assumed in the secular philosophies. Knowledge of the other spaces, particularly of the "supra-polar space," however, cannot come via reasoning or thinking which find their chief application in objective space-one simply becomes (or does not become) aware of such nonobjective spaces:

  . . we are not ourselves able to force open the gate which leads to a space that has so far been closed to us. Whenever we experience the discovery of a space, the
discovery always simply falls into our laps as a gift ... (Heim, 1953; 170)

From the standpoint of the polar spaces this experience is totally incomprehensible (Heim, 1953; 192). That knowledge comes, then, by revelation-the scales must fall from one's eyes before one is able to "see" it. Consequently faith is the condition in which the person who lives completely immersed in this stsprapolar space finds himself. He has the same security and confidence as does the secularist who lives wholly within the polar spaces.

This is a kind of two-level theory of knowledge (truth) and as \1. Diamond points out in his Contemporary Philosophy and Religious Thought (1974) it "is the major strategy of religious existentialists in coping with the challenges of a scientifically oriented culture." (p. 303) Other similar compatibility proposals, as Diamond points out, can he found in Buher, Bultmann, Barth, and Tillich. The classic statement of this school of thought, perhaps, is to he found in Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1941), in his talk of "truth as subjectivity." Of kindred mind is Pascal's reference to the reasons of the heart that reason knows nothing of.

In all such two-level theories, as Diamond points out, a compatibility and complementarity between the lower and higher levels of truth is claimed but, at the same time, a greater importance is claimed for the higher (or religious) level of knowledge and truth.

Science and Religion as Complementary Because Science Is Very Much Like Religion

Stated somewhat crudely, compatibility systems of this order claim to show that science functions not only in a cognitive capacity but also, ;,.though in an inferior way, in a religious one; that is, science is a kind of religion surrogate. Langdon Gilkey's Religion and the Scientific Future (1970) is an apologetic of this kind. Although "secular man" believes one thing-namely, that he is irreligious-his existence, claims Gilkey, reveals a dependence on elements of ultimacy. Gilkey makes this point in a broad and general way in his Naming the Whirlwind (1969) but here points up three specific characteristics of ultimacy in Science.6 The first, he insists, is found in the unremitting eros to know. Further, the assumptions of some ontological generality about the character of reality as such and of the possibility of a relationship between it and the knowing mind is a leap beyond the evidence-it is a step beyond the bounds of science to that which ultimately makes sense of the scientific enterprise ill the first place. The third hint of ultimacy in science, he claims, is to be found in the structure of scientific judgment, a structure that reveals, in the final analysis, the ultimate awareness of oneself as knower. In this regard he writes;

(The) personal affirmation of oneself as a knower is the foundation of the possibility of all rational judgment and in the end it grounds all science. In turn this awareness of oneself as a knower cannot be doubted. The sceptic, in affirming his scepticism also is aware of himself and affirms himself as understanding the view that he now asserts; he is also aware of himself as fudging that this view is in tact true . . . . No movement could take place without this element of indubitable certainty, without this unconditioned assertion of the actuality of knowing ourselves. (Gilkey, 1970; 60, 61).

According to Gilkey, then, modern man's science and trust in science results in the adoption of a new niytba quasi-religions myth-which he calls the "myth of total awareness." The myth asserts that

man becomes man and can control his life and destiny if he is educated, liberal, analyzed, scientific, an 'ex pert', etc . that knowledge and awareness can turn whatever has been a blindly determining force on and in man and so a fate over nsau, into a new instrument of man. ) Gilkey, 1970; 77)

Religions do make empirically significant claims and so can conflict with science.

The emergence of the myth, Gilkey claims, shows man's need for 'intimaey" and an attempt on the part of science itself to fulfill that need after having contributed to the loss of ultimacy in contributing to the decline or "demise" of religion.7 Gilkey sees the new myth, however, as dangerous, for, according to him science and technology which are to he the source of man's salvation (according to the new myth) are in actuality the source of the threat to man's ultimate well-being. (Gilkey, 1970; 92, 95). Science, therefore, "reaches out for" ultimacy yet is unable within itself to provide it. Consequently science requires religion-religion however that goes beyond the "broken images" of past tradition. Thus Giikey concludes;

The dilemmas of even the most secular of cultures are ultimately intelligible only in the light of faith; the destiny of even a scientific world can be adequately thematized only in terms of religious symbols; and the confidence of the future even of technological man can be creatively grounded only if the coming work of the Lord in she affairs of men is known and affirmed. (Gilkey, 1970; 99)

Science and Religion as Compatible Because There Are Genuine Cognitive Insights in Archaic Religious Systems

Compatibility systems 0f this sort attempt to salvage the folk-wisdom of archaic cultures. Philosophers admit that there is a radical methodological incompatibility between the hun-that religion has gained its insights in "unacceptable" ways-hut attempts' also to point out that, somehow or other, insights of importance to man were obtained. Thus religion can complement science in a cognitive way (although only heuristically so), but its insights will require the services of a "translator"-the insights, that is, require support in terms of a scientific justification. B. Burhoe's aim in his "The Concepts of God and Soul in a Scientific View of Human Purpose" (1973) contains the germ of this kind of compatibility system. He writes;

I seek . . . in this paper to show how belief in a reality sovereign over man (a god) and a belief in the essential immortality or eternal duration of man's basic nature (a soul) not only are necessary for human motivation but are indeed credible on the very grounds of science, which confirms insights common to the higher religious traditions of the world . I think in the modern sciences we have far surpassed earlier methods by which man finds knowledge. However, I have already pointed out that the scientific method does not shut) looking into and taking advantage of more ancient accumulations of wisdom such as the genetic 'wisdom of the body', or the traditional wisdom of human cultures. Burhoe, 1973; 416, 417).

Science And Religion As Logically Similar Enterprises

This, the boldest of the compatibility systems, lays claim to a complementary relationship between science and religion on the basis of a logical similarity between the two communities on the basis of the claim, that is,
that religion, like science, has cognitive significance and that its claims to knowledge have the same "foundation' as the claims to knowledge by science. Like the proponents of the conflict thesis, the exponents of this understanding of science and religion assume both that religion is appropriately characterized, at least in part, as a system of beliefs and that science provides us with the paradigm for our knowledge-gaining procedures or activities. However, although agreeing that the "morality of knowledge" that governs activity in the sciences has full sway in theology or "reflective religion," it differs radically with the conflict theorists on the interpretation or description of that morality.

The indictment by the rationalist is that the recourse to faith by the religious believer in his "religious knowing" permits him to evade the force of the standards and canons of rational assessment which he himself recognizes to be binding in other areas of cognitive concern, such as, for example, history8 or the natural sciences.9 This, the rationalist insists, corrodes the "machinery" of coming to a sound judgment whereby truth might be separated from falsehood and so calls "into question the very conception of scientific thought as a responsible enterprise of reasonable men." (Scheffler, 1967; v). It is assumed, therefore, that science can prove its knowledge claims (i.e. justify them),"10 while religion cannot. Scientific method, therefore, can provide impersonal, objective and hence reliable knowledge while the non-scientific "disciplines," and religion iii particular, can provide us with mere opinion, or, at best, illuminating visions.11 In science there is a convergence of belief which one fails to obtain in religious matters, for "belief" (knowledge?) in science is a matter of evidential appraisal and logical assessment, whereas "belief" in religion depends upon persuasion and rhetoric aimed at conversion-that is, it is based upon extra-logical and non-evidential bases. The adoption of religious beliefs or a change of religious beliefs, consequently, is a matter of intuition and is, in some sense then, a mystical and subjective affair, a matter for psychological description only. But the adoption of new scientific theories, or a change of scientific belief, is a matter of proceeding according to strict logical and methodological rules.

Such a view of science and scientific rationality, it is argued, however, is naive. The dominant attitude which distinguishes scientific thinking as presenting us with objective knowledge from nonscientific thinking which is emotive or cognative is fundamentally wrongheaded. It is so, however, not because religious thinking resembles scientific thinking in its logical rigor but rather because scientific thinking is a good deal less rigorous than it is generally supposed and hence that it is in some respects like religious thinking. 12 The rules of logic and/or evidence that have been suggested as characterizing scientific thought as wholly rational, it is claimed, cannot account adequately either for the existence of our knowledge or its growth. Such an account can be provided only if science itself is seen as a "fiduciary" enterprise-i.e. as involving personal judgment (fiducia, trust/faith) that of necessity exceeds the grounds of evidence from which it first arose. Since purely logical procedures or evidential appraisal cannot "guarantee" one's conclusions, it is "wrong" to place the responsibility for their acceptance upon a set of external rules.13 The acceptance not only of specific scientific conclusions, therefore, but even the so-called rules of scientific procedure involve an element of "faith" in their adoption.

This kind of attempt at establishing that science and religion are compatible is extremely common. Historically, however, the claim was that religion was structurally similar to science and now the claim is that science is structurally similar to religion. The position is adequately represented today, I think, in H, K. Schilling's Science and Religion: An Interpretation of Two Communities. According to Schilling each of the communities constitutes a kind of enterprise concerned with (1) (an empirical or factual) description of the universe; (2) an explanation or theoretical account of the universe; and (3) a transformation of human existence in the universe (i.e. with an application of the insights achieved). After analysis of each of these concerns within each of the communities he concludes:

out of this analysis emerges the idea of a continuous spectrum of cognition and knowledge, extending from the physical sciences, through biological and social sciences, through the arts to religion. It is proposed that some characteristics of knowledge and of the cognitive process vary continuously within the spectrum from one end to the other, but that others remain constant. Thus we can speak of 'knowledge' in all these fields and assert that in an important sense the way it is attained is the same for all of them. There is therefore no discontinuous separation of science and religion as far as cognition is concerned. (Schilling, 1963).

Similar theses are maintained by C. Coulson in his Science and Christian Beliefs (1955; see also his 1969);
by I. Ramsey in his Religion and Science: Conflict and Synthesis (1964); by I. Barbour in his Issues in Science and Religion (1966); as well as by a host of others.

The Science of Religion

The majority of the compatibility proposals of the past have been concerned largely with reducing the tension (doctrinal and methodological) between religion and the natural sciences. With the increasing attention that the social sciences have received in recent years the question of compatibility has been further complicated-particularly in respect to the science and/or sciences of religion. The social sciences in providing us with a knowledge about ourselves and the world around us, provide us also with a scientific knowledge of religion. Religion itself is an object of study and consideration by science. Consequently one has two views of religion to consider when talking of the relations of science and religion-that of the insider, the committed believer, and that of the outsider, in this case the objective scientist revealing to us the truth about religion. Compatibility as it has been discussed above hardly seems a possibility now, it would seem, for the scientific view of religion requires the adoption of assumptions inimical to religion. Sociologists, for example, maintain that the study of religion can he undertaken only insofar as it is a cultural system and not treated as a divine or supernatural institution.14 As one sociologist puts it, a scientific understanding of religion presupposes a "methodological atheism."15 And another writes:

Science inevitably takes a naturalistic view of religion. This is a necessary assumption not a demonstrated truth from which all science proceeds. Religion is in man; it is to he understood by the analysis of his needs, tendencies and potentialities . . . . For those who identify religion with supernatural views of the world it must appear that scientific analysis must weaken religion.22 (Yinger, 1970; 531).

Yinger assumes here, as did Durkheim, that That which science refuses to grant to religion is not its right to exist, but its right to dogmatize upon the nature of things and the special competence which it claims for itself for knowing man and the world. As a matter of fact [Durkheim goes on to say] it does not know what it is made of, nor to what need it answers. (Durkheim, 1971; 430)

Religion properly (i.e. scientifically) understood, therefore, is real and is compatible with science. Religion and science, that is, are compatible since they are coexistent realities, but there is no compatibility between religion's understanding of itself and the social-scientific understanding of religion (and, consequently, none between the religious view of the world and the scientific-physical and chemical view of the world.) To quote Yinger again:

Science disproves religious beliefs, but it does not disprove religion. There may be conflict between science and a given religion, if part of its total system is a series of propositions about the nature of the world, but there is no general conflict between science and religion defined in functional terms. (Yinger, 1970; 61. See also pp. 93, 94).

The compatibility systems discussed above seem to he undermined by the claims of the social scientists. At first it might seem that the incommensurability thesis remains "undamaged" but the judgment is mistaken, for although the two communities are indeed incommensurable there is no doubt in the mind of the social scientist that science is the superior community. The value of religion, that is, is revealed by science-a conclusion far removed from the claims of the incommensurability supporters of the religious camp (e.g. T. R. Miles). It would seem, therefore, that even though the conflict thesis is only weakly supported in the contrast between religion and the natural sciences it is thoroughly extablished in the contrast between religion and the social sciences.

Two important questions need to he raised with respect to the social sciences and the science of religion in particular. The first concerns the descriptive sciences and especially the phenomenology of religion. It is important to know precisely the nature and structure of the historical religious traditions. The study of the various religious traditions show them to be very much concerned with a knowledge of the world, both mundane and soperinuodane. In the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, for example, the belief element is of considerable importance and has, in good measure, accounted for the force and power those traditions hold in the world today.16 It is a fact then (revealed by a phenomenological study of religion) that religion consciously provides, or attempts to provide, explanations of the world .17 Moreover, they are cognizant of the possible conflict between their explanations and those provided by the sciences and have developed compatibility systems to overcome or mitigate the conflict. To simply ignore this primary cognitive interest of religion is simply not acceptable-it is to overlook one of the key elements of the major religious traditions.

The second major question that needs to be raised concerns the methodological assumptions of the social sciences-in particular the assumption of atheism as it is enunciated, for example, by F. Berger (1961; 1963; 1967; 1971), It is impossible, it seems, to distinguish Berger's "methodological atheism" from atheism tout caort. Such an atheistic (naturalistic) assumption is really a theological assumption, although in a negative mode, that is no more acceptable than the theological bias of the religiously committed person: either assumption introduces "distortion" in the study of the data.18 Smart brings the point out clearly when he writes;

it happens that the dominant theories in sociology have allowed at most a partial autonomy to religion itself; and this may be a justifiable conclusion. However, it is not at all clear that the whole question of autonomy has been dealt with in a proper manner . . . . It has not been easy for the human sciences outside religion to rid themselves of an explicitly theological Discipline. (Smart, 1973; 22, 23)

The conclusions about religion reached by the social scientist, therefore, have no more inherent validity than do the conclusions reached by the critical study of the religiously committed. Consequently the supposed conflict between religion's self-understanding and the social scientific understanding of religion is not automatically resolved in favour of the social sciences.

A Renewed Understanding

The proliferation of compatibility systems suggests the emergence of a renewed understanding of both the scientific and religious communities. None of the systems, I think, is without flaw. All of them are helpful in one way or another, although some only negatively so in that they force us to re-examine old assumptions and presuppositions about religion and/or science. It is obvious, for example, that the early "skirmishes" over cognitive matters between the scientific and religious communities led to a hardening of the lines of opposition in which those in the religious community seemed to forget that religion is a matter of life and not only a matter of cognition-that religion is a matter of existential decision and commitment and not merely a matter of knowing the nature and structure of the universe. Furthermore, science, encouraged by its early victories in such "skirmishes," came to see itself as a wholly rational enterprise which could easily he broadened to include all of life-to apply to every aspect of human existence. The noncognitivist systems of com patibility with their emphasis upon the moral/emotional aspect of religion function, then, to place limitations on this scientific (scientistic?) rationalization of human existence.

Insofar as religion is not logical or epistemic calculation it has something to contribute to life that science does not possess. By denying cognitive import to religion, therefore, the noncognitivist avoids debate with the sciences and reveals the enriching effect that religion can have for man and society. The claim on the part of the scientific community to have no need of such enrichment, that is, that science would eventually rationalize or make meaningful the whole of our existence, has really not undermined the noncogoitivist compatibility system, as one might suspect, but rather has further weakened the conflict theory. Gilkey, it will he remembered, points out that such a claim on behalf of science is really a "mythification" of science-a substitution of the scientific "myth of total awareness" in place of the older religious myths. And in this science reveals elements of ultimacy such as characterize religion. Gilkey's attempt at reconciling the two communities is extremely important for it suggests that compatibility systems may need as much scrutiny and analysis of science as of religion, for the real nature of science has yet to be revealed. Too much has been assumed about the nature of science too soon. Gilkey's own kind of compatibility proposal is not wholly adequate, however, for his suggestion that science needs necessarily to reach out to religious myths of ultimacy hardly follows from the fact that some have made of science a quasireligious myth." Furthermore, Gilkey fails to reveal whether this completion of science in the (revitalized) religious myths is a cognitive completion. It seems to me that it is not and therefore suffers the weaknesses of all noncognitivist proposals.

The claim that religion provides us with a radically different kind of knowledge than that provided by science parallels the claim of the noncognitivist in respect. The noncognitivist completion of religion is not subject to scientific critique because it is "beyond" cognition. Similarly the claim to "super-knowledge" is beyond scientific critique for the criteria of knowledge do not apply to the knowledge obtained in the "realization" or experience of the Ultimate. As one scholar puts it in criticism of those who assume all knowledge subject to the same criteria:

What can one say of all those treatises that attempt to make the religious doctrines a subject of profane study, as if there were no knowledge that was not accessible to anyone and everybody as if it were sufficient to have been to school to be able to understand the most venerable wisdom better than the sages understood it themselves? For it is assumed by 'specialists' and 'critics' that there is nothing that is beyond their powers; such an attitude resembles that of children who, having found books, intended for adults, judge them according to their ignorance, caprice, and laziness. (Shuon, 1975; 8)

This kind of compatibility proposal, however, fails to recognize that religions make ordinary as well as extraordinary knowledge claims. Furthermore, many of the extraordinary knowledge claims seem to have implications that hear upon states of affairs in the world and so involve implicit knowledge claims about the empirical world. Such beliefs can conflict with other nonreligious claims about the world and these are not accounted for within this compatibility system. However, even though it is inadequate as a compatibility system, it is nevertheless a salutary warning against scientific arrogance. Whether or not such superknowledge exists cannot be proven by science but neither can science disprove its existence.

The claim that there are genuine cognitive insights to be found its archaic religions that are capable of being re-expressed in modern scientific terminology hardly constitutes a compatibility system. It suggests the substantial or doctrinal compatibility of science and religion-or at least the possibility of a doctrinal or cognitive supplement to science by religion. How this is possible-except by happenstance-unless there is also a methodological compatibility is left unexplained.

Cognitive Significance of Religion

A compatibility system, it seems to me, is required only if religion actually claims cognitive significance and in particular claims knowledge of the nature, structure, and meaning of this world and our existence in it. If religion makes no cognitive claims or only purely transempirical (i.e. supraworldly) cognitive claims then it is in a different league altogether from scientific discourse and can never conflict with it. But religions do make empirically significant claims and so can conflict with science, In the history of Christian thought, for example, there has often been a conflict of theories or views of the world or some particular aspect of the world. That such cognitive disagreement is less noticeable today than in the past (i.e. less so after the overthrow of Newtonian physics) 20 shows some possibility of a compatibility between the two. That there is not complete agreement, and never has been, does not preclude that there cannot be. Scientific theories cannot be espoused as final truths for science is progressive. Similarly religious doctrines have often been inadequately interpreted. Since there is less than omniscience in either of the two communities a complete agreement of thought between them is hardly to he expected.

Mere doctrinal agreement between science and religion is not enough, as I have already intimated above. The knowledge claimed by religion must be testable or checkable in the same (general) way as is scientific knowledge. An adequate compatibility system, therefore, must show that religion in its cognitive aspect has a similar logical structure to science. In the past such proposals have been unacceptable for they assunned the complete rationality of science and then attempted to show religion to be as rational as science. However, the recourse to faith-the lack of absolute objectivity in religion-repeatedly dashed all hopes of success in this endeavour. As I have already pointed out, however, the procedure is now reversed due to new revelations about the nature of scientific thought. Crudely put, the methodological similarity is now seen to exist in the fact that scientific thought is really as "irrational" as theological thought. Much philosophical analysis of science and recent history of science seems to reveal that science is not a strictly logical and wholly empirical affair as it was once conceived to he. The work of philosophers and historians such as M. Polanyl (1958), T. Kuhn (1962), P. Feyerabend (1970) reveals a fiduciary character to science. 21 As Kuhn puts it, scientific thought is characterized both by "ordinary scientific thought" and "extraordinary scientific thought" but only the former can be characterized as wholly rational: a "deductive affair," Extraordinary thought does not move in a logical step-by-step fashion but rather has the character of a "cumulative argument" and is, consequently very like
theological argumentation.

No Necessary Conflict

Whether science and religion are compatible, it should now he obvious, is a question that transcends the framework of thought of both these communities. That religion can enshrine superstitious or unfounded beliefs that can come into conflict with scientific doctrine cannot he disputed. But that there is a necessary and general conflict between science and religion has nowhere been shown. Doctrinally there have often been agreements between the two communities. And shifts of doctrine that bring about such agreement have not always been made by the religious community. Further, the claim that science and religion are radically different in method has until now been assumed on the strength of the modern reputation of science and has never been established. The various compatibility' systems outlined above reveal a variety of challenges to the claim itself, or to the significance or meaning of the claim. The claim of an inherent and all-pervasive conflict between science and religion, I suggest therefore, is an assumption, not wholly groundless, but not a conclusion. The uncritical tenacity with which it is held at times suggests, moreover, that it is a modern myth. That none of the compatibility proposals outlined all too briefly above has achieved universal agreement among philosophers or even among theologians does not make the assumption more than an assumption. The dissolution of long-standing myths is never likely to he the result of direct attack, but rather the product of a steady erosion, over a long period of time, of the uncritical foundations upon which they rest. The insights vis a vis science and religion gained from the various compatibility proposals discussed hint at the groundlessness of the conflict assumption and, as a result, suggests the possibility of compatibility. Indeed, a thorough analysis of the classical compatibility system to which I have referred above will show, I think, not only the possibility of compatibility but also its plausibility.


1 C.f. Mascal, (1965; 31, 32).
2 C.f. Seheffler (1967) and Hartley (1962).
3The concept of a morality of knowledge is not new. It was first used in the last century by William Clifford (1970). The idea refers both to the intimate connection between belief and action as well as to the act of believing in itself. There is the suggestion, or better claim, that there is a moral demand upon us in all the claims we make to be as clear as possible about what we are or are not saying and that we hold all such claims open to testing and checking of their validity or soundness. The scientists, then, are asking the theologians to be as clear in these regards as they are themselves. cf. Chisholm (1956), Harvey (1966), Lakatos (1970), et. of.
4Tlse concept is Smart's (1973; 82, 83).
5There is no suggestion here that the typology is exhaustive. There may he other different and more fruitful ways of interpreting she vast literature on the subject. I have found this particular classification helpful here.
6For a similar analysis c.f. Creeley (1974). 
7C.f. Cauthen (1969; 13-15, et. passim.).
8 C.f. Harvey (1966). 
9C.f. Scheffler (1967).
10By "justify" I mean here "to make acceptable." In this sense I regard Popper's talk of falsification as a procedure for making some claims (tentatively) acceptable. Time does
The claim of an inherent and all-pervasive conflict between science and religion is an assumption, not wholly groundless, but not a conclusion. Time does not permit an analysis of Popper's claims here. I refer the reader to, inter ala, Achinstein (1968), Thakur (1970), and Kneale (1967).
111t is assumed here that knowledge can be radically distinguished from belief-only the former having certitude. I have subjected this assumption to critical analysis elsewhere and will not repeat the argument here. Suffice it to say that I see this distinction to be philosophically unsound; belief and knowledge exist on the same continuum. cf. Wiebe (1974).
12Cf. Schiller (1955).
13Th is the burden of Polanyi's argument throughout his Per sonal Knowledge: Towards a Post-rational Philosophy as well as his other writings. (Polanyi, 1958).
14C,f. van Baaren and Drijvers, (1973). 1C.f. Berger (1967).
16C.f. Smart (1969).
171 have dealt with the issue of religious explanation in my "Explanation and Theological Method" (1976).
18For further discussion of this issue see my "Is A Science of Religion Possible?" (1978).
19A thesis similar to Gilkcy's is to be found in the works of J. Ellul, especially in his The Technological Society (1964) as well in P. Slater (1970, 1974) and A. Whellis (1971, 1973). I do not, however, find myself in full agreement with the thesis as Gilkey frames it. According to Gilkey the myth asserts that man becomes man and can control his destiny if he becomes properly educated and that knowledge can change what has been a blind determining force over man into an instrument of his. But this is not what such advocates of the "myth" in fact proclaim. Such a picture of the new "myth-makers," applied indiscriminately to all philosophers of science is extremely crude. What the "secular man" says, it seems to me, is not that man can control his destiny but that since there is no one else (i.e. some great magician or divinity of whom we are aware as controlling our destinies for our benefit) to look after man, man must, if he is to survive, do so himself. And the best way of proceeding in this task is to know as much as possible about the nature of the physical and social worlds we encounter. As Karl Popper has it (1962, 1957), to suggest that man cannot and must not make changes and must not attempt to "remake" the world is to offer a very poor solution, or none at all, to the problem man faces. It is because of advice like this that so many cry out against a return to theology (e.g. S. Hook, 1961; Nagel, 1961; To be sure, control must be wielded over the "controllers," as Gilkey puts it, but that control also is a human control. (See here particularly the section entitled "The Principle of Leadership" in chapter seven of Popper's 1962). Thus Popper, among others, in direct contrast to Gilkey, claims on behalf of the rationalist the lofty aim of bringing about a more reasonable world-a society that aims at humaneness and reasonableness; at a reduction of war, strife, etc.; at equality and freedom; a world in which one day "men may even become the conscious creators of an open society, and thereby of a greater part of their fate." (Popper, 1962, Vol. 2 94). Neither the intention nor the result of rationalist action then is, as Gilkey has depicted it, necessarily tyrannical. Its intention, and possibly the result as well, is to lead man from a "closed society" in which his fate is almost totally con trolled by others, to the open society in which the individual comes increasingly to direct his own fate.
20C.f. Maseal, (1965).
21Similar suggestions are to be found in R. Nash (1963); J. H. Ziman (1968); and Errol Harris (1970).


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