Philosophy: Religion's openness towards science

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
546,
Page:
474
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/546474b
Published online

Your Editorial suggests that Pope Francis's meeting with patients and researchers is evidence of “a new openness [of religion] towards science”, in the spirit of his 2015 encyclical Laudato si' (Nature 545, 265266; 2017). This is tempered by your view that the encyclical nevertheless illustrates “a chasm between religion and science that cannot be bridged”.

In my view, the encyclical's most fruitful comment on science and religion is that they have “distinctive approaches to understanding reality” (paragraph 62; see go.nature.com/2swk22m). The essence of this distinctiveness is that the modern scientific approach never invokes God as an explanation for any phenomenon. This restatement of 'methodological naturalism' is not science being anti-God: it is science being science. All scientists adhere to this approach, including scientists who believe in God. In the religious approach, by contrast, God is at the heart of phenomena.

It follows that the fundamental distinction between science and religion has nothing to do with the question of whether or not God exists.

These insights can inform the debate around what should and should not be taught in science classes on, for example, evolution. In shedding light on the nature of the “chasm” between science and religion, these insights can also inform the new openness to which you refer.

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Affiliations

  1. University of Sydney, Australia.

    • Frank W. Nicholas

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Comments

  1. Report this comment #70109

    William Anderson said:

    The key to this contribution is "It follows that" Rabbit, Hat and all that. Where it is not incomprehensible this is an empty piece of philosophical maundering which should, and doubtless will be, widely ignored.

  2. Report this comment #70111

    Peter Uetz said:

    Religion is by definition not open towards science, given that it ignores evidence (or actually the absence of it), so I agree with William Anderson :)

  3. Report this comment #70113

    Herman J van Eck said:

    Philosophical contributions on the character of science and religion are hardly ever ignored, as evidenced by Anderson himself, responding to Nicholas. I do not recognise the definition provided by Uetz, as both science as well as religion are truth seeking enterprises with similar heuristic patterns. Retractions of disbelief do not prove all science or religion is wrong. It proves the character of people who are mistaken.

  4. Report this comment #70115

    Herman J van Eck said:

    Philosophical contributions on the character of science and religion are hardly ever ignored, as evidenced by Anderson himself, responding to Nicholas. I do not recognise the definition provided by Uetz, as both science as well as religion are truth seeking enterprises with similar heuristic patterns. Retractions of disbelief do not prove all science or religion is wrong. It proves the character of people who are mistaken.

  5. Report this comment #70203

    Torbjörn Larsson said:

    It is a true, but also an absolutely inconsequential, observation that practiced science and practiced religion has a fundamental method distinction, moreover that scientists can be religious. Consider medicine and smoking, doctors can smoke – but that does not make smoking harmless.

    The consequential difference is that if scientists apply skepticism equally well on religious claims as on the claims of astrology or homeopathy, the result would not be that science or scientists would be open for superstition or claim that we cannot know that superluminal signaling or superdiluted solutions work or do not work. C.f. prayer studies, which has long shown there is nothing 'listening' to an individual, or the Higgs completed LHC results which now show humans are isolated enough biochemical machines that.are not 'talking' or imbued with 'souls'.

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