Saturday, January 31, 2009

Four Models

In the last post, I mentioned four models for the interaction between religion and science. A reader asked what those four models are. Actually, what I shared in class that night was four categories of models, as outlined by Ian Barbour. They are: Conflict modles, Independence models, Dialogue models, and Integration models.

Conflict models are those that hold that either science is right and religion wrong or (a particular) religion is right and science is (almost entirely) wrong. Examples of the first would be Richard Dawkins and other 'New Atheists,' whereas some 'biblicists' and fideists would adopt the latter view. In class this week, I'll be examining the 'conflict thesis,' the popular but erroneous view that religion (specifically Christianity) has always impeded scientific progress. We'll see, of course, that just the opposite is true--that it was within a Christian worldview that modern science was uniquely birthed, and that Judeo-Christianity provides the necessary philosophical assumptions that make scientific endeavor worthwhile.

Independence models are those that see science and religion as completely separate as to their subject matter and their methodology. Scientific proponents of these models would include Eugenie Scott (spokesperson for the National Center for Science Education) and the late Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard paleontologist who formalized this view with his idea that science and religion occupy "non-overlapping magisteria" or NOMA. An example of a religious proponent of an independence model would be theologian Karl Barth. Most philosophers of science would reject independence models, since a closer examination shows that science and religion (especially, say, Christianity) share a great deal of subject matter and methodology, and that almost no one is really willing to compartmentalize their life according to such models.

That leaves (as the only live options) Dialogue models and Integration models, which differ only in the degree of overlap (between science and religion) that they acknowledge. Dialogue models would see less overlap, with the two disciplines sharing information mainly about methods and establishing boundaries. Integration models (some form of which I take to be the most accurate) see a great deal of commonality between the methods and the subject matter of science and religion (at least if the religion in view is Judaism or Christianity).

Hope that helps (thanks for asking, Jordan).

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