Science and Religion - Conflict or Dialogue?
In John Updikes novel Rogers Version a
Whenever theology touches science, it gets
burned. In the sixteenth century astronomy, in the seventeenth microbiology, in
the eighteenth geology and paleontology, in the nineteenth Darwins biology all
grotesquely extended the world-frame and sent churchmen scurrying for cover in
ever smaller, more shadowy nooks, little gloomy ambiguous caves in the psyche
where even now neurology is cruelly harrying them, gouging them out from the
multifolded brain like wood lice from under the lumber pile.
Pope John Paul II wrote in 1988 that:
By encouraging openness between the Church
and the scientific communities, we are not envisioning a disciplinary unity
between theology and science like that which exists within a given scientific
field or within theology proper. As dialogue and common searching continue,
there will be growth towards mutual understanding and a gradual uncovering of
common concerns which will provide the basis for future research and
discussion. Exactly what form that will take must be left to the future. What
is important, as we have already stressed, is that the dialogue should continue
and grow in depth and scope. In the process we must overcome every regressive
tendency to a unilateral reductionism, to fear, and to self-imposed isolation.
The character in Updikes novel talks of
theology in progressive and inevitable retreat before the dominance of science.
There is a conflict in which one subject is overwhelming the other, forcing it
off its territory. See the conflict or warfare hypothesis. The tone of the
Popes letter is very different, implying a common territory on which may take
place exploration and dialogue. See possibilities for dialogue. The Pope
renounces the idea that theology might seek to preserve itself from the
harryings of science by seeking isolation.
These two extreme viewpoints will be with
us throughout this look at the interactions between the sciences and religion.
To explore the range of possible interactions further see typologies
relating science and religion.
To understand more about how science and theology function in the popular
imagination see the words science and theology in popular usage.
To clarify how the science-religion
relationship can be understood see:
Different sciences - different
relationships, A special relationship? and The metaphor of the maps.
To explore how the debate has developed in
recent years go to key figures and developments in the science-religion debate.
link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999)