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Can Reductionism Rule Out Truth in Religion?

A number of contemporary thinkers have supposed that far from being in dialogue with theology Darwinism has utterly disproved the claims of religion about the ultimate nature of reality. Evolutionary thinking has given rise to a renaissance of explicit conflict between scientific and religious claims (see also the ‘conflict’ or ‘warfare’ hypothesis).

The idea that Darwinism invalidates the truth-claims of religion stems from certain presuppositions. In particular the idea derives from a reductionist tendency within modern biology.

One type of reductionism forms an essential component of the scientific method (see an examination of reductionism). More ambitious types give rise to conclusions which cannot be sustained except by assumptions which themselves deny the possibility of religious truth. See for example:

Can Darwinism rule out truth in religion?

Richard Dawkins and E.O.Wilson against the possibility of the truth of religion.

Cross-explanatory reductionism.

For another example of the over-application of reductionism see the particular case of genetic reductionism.

Reductionism, then, is a proper part of science but has to used within, rather than across, explanatory frameworks. It must also be held in balance with the concept of emergence.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

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