A very influential array of
scientist-theologianshave argued that theology, like the sciences, is a critical realist discipline,
which considers data, draws inferences to explanations, and submits these to
testing closely analogous to that outlined for a scientific hypothesis.
This is a problematic claim. What are the
data of a religion which correspond to those of a science? Some might argue
that they are the scriptures of that faith, others the liturgy, others
religious experience. Again, can it be said that there is a genuine critical
element which can lead to theories being discarded, or are religious data
privileged against falsification?
Willem B. Drees (see Drees Typology)
dismisses the claim of theology to be regarded as a realist discipline like the
sciences. In his view theology shows no parallel with the spectacular success
of science. With the science of the last three hundred years there is a
cumulative success, an ongoing fertility in the development of new theories,
which is simply absent from theology.Polkinghorne concedes that One could not assert that (theology) has been
characterised by the same power of its community to reach conclusions, which is
such an impressive feature of the cumulative advance of science.He points out that Theology depends for its moments of transparency to the
divine upon events and people that are unrepeatably unique.So its data are going to be more precarious and less testable for that reason
Click on the ongoing debate on critical
realism and theology to follow the argument in more detail.
Or go to consonances between science and
We can understand more about the
similarities and differences between claims to realism in science and in
theology by looking at the role played by model and metaphor in these two
rationalities. Click on the role of model and metaphor to explore this.
link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999)