Friday, November 26, 2010

Research notes: Religion and Science

Research notes: Religion and Science

List of atheists

Lists of people by belief

The relationship between religion and science has been one focus of the demarcation problem. Somewhat related is the claim that statements about the world made by science and religion may rely on different methodologies. Religion, it is often argued, relies on revelation and faith. The methods of science are elaborate. Some scholars say the two are separate, as in John William Draper's conflict thesis and Stephen Jay Gould's non-overlapping magisteria, while others (Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Ken Wilber, et al.) propose an interconnection.

The kinds of interactions that might arise between science and religion have been classified using the following typology:

Conflict, stating the disciplines contradict and are incompatible with each other.

For example, John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White's conflict thesis

Independence treating each as quite separate realms of enquiry.

For example, Stephen Jay Gould's Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA)

Dialogue suggesting that each field has things to say to each other about phenomena in which their interests overlap.

For example, William G. Pollard's studies in Physicist and Christian: A dialogue between the communities

Integration aiming to unify both fields into a single discourse.

For example, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point and Ian Barbour's sympathy towards process philosophy/process theology

A variety of historical, philosophical, and scientific arguments have been put forth in favor of the idea that science and religion are in conflict. Historical examples of religious individuals or institutions promoting claims that contradict both contemporary and modern scientific consensus include creationism (see level of support for evolution), the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to heliocentrism from 1616 to 1757 including the Galileo affair, and more recently, Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 statements claiming that the use of condoms to combat the AIDS epidemic in Africa was ineffective and counterproductive. Additionally, long held religious claims have been challenged by scientific studies such as STEP, which examined the efficacy of prayer. A number of scientists including Jerry Coyne have made an argument for a philosophical incompatibility between religion and science. An argument for the conflict between religion and science that combines the historical and philosophical approaches has been presented by Neil Degrasse Tyson —Tyson argues that religious scientists, such as Newton, could have achieved more had they not accepted religious answers to unresolved scientific issues.

Conflict thesis

Further information: Myth of the Flat Earth

The conflict thesis, which holds that religion and science have been in conflict continuously throughout history, was popularized in the 19th century by John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White. Most contemporary historians of science now reject the conflict thesis in its original form, arguing instead that it has been superseded by subsequent historical research indicating a more nuanced understanding:

Although popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavour, while at other times the two have co-existed without either tension or attempts at harmonization. If Galileo and the Scopes trial come to mind as examples of conflict, they were the exceptions rather than the rule.

– Gary Ferngren, Science & Religion

Today, much of the scholarship in which the conflict thesis was originally based is considered to be inaccurate. For instance, the claim that people of the Middle Ages widely believed that the Earth was flat was first propagated in the same period that originated the conflict thesis and is still very common in popular culture. Modern scholars regard this claim as mistaken, as the contemporary historians of science David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers write: "there was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge [earth's] sphericity and even know its approximate circumference.".....

A degree of concord between science and religion can be seen in religious belief and empirical science. The belief that God created the world and therefore humans, can lead to the view that he arranged for humans to know the world. This is underwritten by the doctrine of imago dei. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, "Since human beings are said to be in the image of God in virtue of their having a nature that includes an intellect, such a nature is most in the image of God in virtue of being most able to imitate God".

List of atheists (science and technology)

List of Christian thinkers in science

Albert Einstein supported the compatibility of some interpretations of religion with science. In an article originally appearing in the New York Times Magazine in 1930, he wrote:

" Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary. Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts. According to this interpretation the well-known conflicts between religion and science in the past must all be ascribed to a misapprehension of the situation which has been described. "

Einstein thus expresses views of ethical non-naturalism (contrasted to ethical naturalism).

Prominent modern scientists who are atheists include evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and Nobel prize winning physicist Stephen Weinberg. Prominent scientists advocating religious belief include Nobel prize winning physicist Charles Townes and climatologist John T. Houghton.

Studies of scientists' belief in God

Many studies have been conducted in the United States and have generally found that scientists are less likely to believe in God than the rest of the population. Precise definitions and statistics vary, but generally about 1/3 are atheists, 1/3 agnostic, and 1/3 believe in God. Belief also varies by field: psychologists, physicists and engineers are less likely to believe in God than mathematicians, biologists and chemists. Doctors in the United States are much more likely to believe in God (76%).

Some of the most recent research into scientists' self reported belief in God is discussed by Professor Elaine Howard Ecklund. Some of her most interesting findings were that scientist-believers generally considered themselves "religious liberals" (not fundamentalists), and that their religion did not change the way they did science, but rather the way they reflected on its implications. Ecklund also discusses how there is a stigma against belief in God in the professional science community, which may have contributed to underrepresentation of religious voices in the field.