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Question Epistemology: Are Religion and Science in Conflict? Essay Example

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Essay

Identify specific issues. Make clear one basic dispute over which the issue is identified. Give a brief outline of two sides of the debate. Provide at least one good source for each side of the debate.

Introduction

Perceptions that religion and science are in conflict are firmly rooted in history, with public discourse on issues such as abortion, stem cell, and evolution being the center piece to the tension that has existed between both belief system, according to Ecklund & Park (2009).

Science according to Middleton (2011) assumes a powerful position in society, due to its provision of tangible benefits such as medical treatment and technological innovations, but the motivation to study it, comes from beliefs in God which implies the existence of underlying values in those engaged in such pursuits.

The idea that nature is governed by immutable mathematical laws came from religion according to Harrison (2011), and as such is worth studying despite the fact that scientific methodologies are incapable of adjudicating the God hypothesis regarding the questions of existence morality and morality.

According to Johansen (2011), one of the reasons why there appears to be conflicts around religion and science was due to the science claims to find truth by means of experimentation and observation, while religion pursue the same objective through revelation, but in the end both are subjected to errors.

Paradigm Issues

According to Ecklund & Park (2011), there two streams of social research prevailing regarding how scientist view the relationship between religion and science, and both of them rest on the conflict paradigm. Psychologist James Lewis in the early 20th century, examined the religious commitment of elite scientists in comparison to the general population, and hypothesized that because that because religion and science are in conflict, when scientists increase their status, they will reject religion (Leuba, 1912, 1916 & 1936)

However, Leuba’s (1912, 1916, &1936), hypothesis was turned in its head when he found later in his research that that the elite scientist were less religious than the general population, when they were measured on the basis of belief in God, church attendance, and the belief in an afterlife, due to their superior knowledge of science causing them to less likely to embrace God in their philosophy.

A challenge emerged against Leuba’s (1912, 1916 &1936) conflict paradigm from the Carnegie Commission, which made a study of the American university faculty in 1960, and found variations in the degrees of religiosity among social and natural scientists. According to Lehman (1974), Lehman &Shriver (1968), and Wutnow (1985), natural scientists; who were perceived as being more scientific than their social counterparts, showed greater inclinations to be more religious, and this then led to the conclusion that there were no irreconcilable conflict between religion and science.

The current scenario was then muddled by other researchers expressing salient views that scientist belonging to academies and pursuing specific disciplines tend to have low levels of religious beliefs and should not be compared to members of the general population, but among each other using their scholarly distance from religion as the basis of such comparisons (Lehman & Shriver, 1968).

In the midst of such confusion with respect to an acceptable paradigm for determining whether there were conflicts between religion and science, there seems to be no way forward, but the possibility exist that there may be no conflict at all.

Evolution and Creation

One of the major issues revolving around religion and science is the question of the occurrence of miracles, according to Johansen (2011). Science has no answer despite the development of numerous laws, because it offers no time for experimentation and observation for applying these laws. Believing in miracles can then by extension lead to the embracing of creation by those who are religious, but this concept is countered by evolutionary beliefs on the other end of the ideological banner.

According to Evans (2001), the ideological banners raised by supporters at either end of the creationist-evolutionist debate marked extreme positions of one of the most strident of arguments about the nature of science in the 20th century.

Religious or Scientific Creationist Viewpoints

The viewpoints expressed by different scholars on religious or scientific creationist are;

  1. All species including human being, have a common descent over millions of years and species arise through natural adaptive process (Evans, 2001)
  2. Critics argue that it is merely a theory (Cavanaugh)
  3. The ideas are intuitively plausible (Dawkins, 1987)
  4. The spread of appeal is a function of social force (Evans, 2001)
  5. Evolution accepted as valid scientific truth in most Western religion, but origination comes through a Supreme Being (Number, 1992)
  6. There is the belief that each biological kind was individually created by God about 6000 years ago (Number, 1992)
  7. Noachian Flood is often invoked to explain fossil record and Flood Geology used to explain geological column (Kehoe, 1995, Number 1992)., and
  8. The only theory that evokes an intentional of purposeful being (Evans, 2001).

Scientific or Evolutionary Concepts

Reputable scholarly scientific views on the evolution are as follows;

  1. Darwinians concepts that have emerged were intuitively opaque (Dawkins, 1987)
  2. Spread of appeal seen as a function of social force (Evans, 2001).
  3. Concepts classified as Satanism by critics. According to Morris & Parker (1982), Satan himself is the originator of the concept of evolution
  4. Theory evokes a naturalistic and or non-intentional purpose (Evans, 2001), and
  5. Evolutionary concepts, especially Darwinian natural selection was difficult to grasp (Ferrari & Chi, (1998), Green (1990), & Samarapungavan & Weirs, (1997).

Analysis

The divergence of views has been regarded as alarming by many, yet according to Evans (2001), both sides have continued to garner widespread support. Johansen (2011) however, argue that it is doubtful whether evolution can be called science in that science refers to knowledge gained from experiment and observation, but no one has observed happening today, either in nature or in the laboratory. It could also be argued that no one has been existence from the time evolution had begun to report on the different evolutionary stages, except God, which many scientist who are atheist believe don’t exist.

The issue points to the existence of a conflict on both sides of a divide.

However, religious believers embracing the creationist theory, constantly use scientific evidence like the Noachian Flood and pottery found at the site of Jericho walls to prove that creation occurred (Evans, 2001).

The lack of evidential support for evolution, the argument that Darwinians concepts were intuitively opaque, and the Satan origination accusation seems to reduce its authenticity, but not for science in general, which McGrath (2007), purports has many professional scientists who are religious believers. This fact according to McGrath (2007) should be taken as a clue that there may be no conflict at all.

Stephen Cloud, an imminent evolutionary biologist as well as atheist of the 205h century, according to McGrath (2007), critically argued that either half of his colleagues are enormously stupid, or the science of Darwinians is fully compatible with religious beliefs and equally compatible with atheism.

According to Polkinghorne (2007) who is a particle physicist, science and religion seems to be conflicting because of the premise that has been established by many in academia. The premise in operation he argue, is that one side must or the other must achieve total victory in any debate, and not the idea that both sides exhibits complementary relationships which should be pursued with a view to reducing the perceived level of conflict that many feel exist and continue to be the underlying basis of their arguments and conclusions (Polkinghorne, 2007).

Polkinghorne (2007), further argue that both disciplines are concerned with the search for truths as a result of beliefs, in that science seeks the truth about the Universe, while religion on the other hand seeks interpretation, and the conflict would be minimized if the truths from both sides are integrated and communicated to the media, who is partly to be blamed for the current \perception.

Sappington advice on the issue also seems appropriate in terms of resolving the conflict issue, when he remark that since the time of Copernicus, tension between science and religion have existed, with those who believe that true religion should be supported by science saying the tension is real, while others who contend that the tension is illusory, as a result of the misunderstanding that exist about the nature of both discipline (Sappington, 1991).

Proponents who believe that the conflict is real, according to Sappington (1991), recommends that the problem can be solved by alterations either in the religious or scientific paradigms, and these should include outlawing or discarding theories and developing new and more relevant scientific theories that can be verified by independent and reputable organizations, so that the misunderstandings can be substantially reduced.

A proposition by those who share the view that the conflict is illusory, was the development and deployment  of better communication methodologies regarding the   nature of both science and religion. By this means they submit, the level of misunderstandings that has prevailed for years in the scientific and religious communities as well among the general population to the present, would significantly improve (Sappington, 1991).

Conclusion

The conflict or perceived conflict which, according to Polkinghorne (2007), should not have existed in the first place if the search for truth from different perspectives was understood and agreed on, but with the premise being that to win the argument, and the theory that as scientists increase their knowledge of science as well as status in life, they will become less religious and less accepting of beliefs that cannot be scientifically proven in laboratories as well as by empirical evidence, the trend will continue.

Intellectual dishonesty, as well as the idea of scientist that expressed their belief in God being spurned in the intellectual community, will also accentuate the conflict, in that geological evidence concerning past events like the Noachian Flood and the pottery from the time of Joshua’s invasion and conquest of Jericho are still being ignored by scientists, many of whom would rather explained it away or pursue other alternative approach to refute the religious arguments presented.

Finally, it could be argued that for the most part, except in the case of evolution and creation, there seems to be no conflict, but rather differences in approach in the pursuit of the same truth, one gained by experimentation and observation to arrive at a conclusion, while the religious aspect simply involve revelations regarding what has being in place for thousands of years and can now  be substantiated by mathematical equations and scientific theories developed by scientists over the years.

 

 

Reference

Ecklund, E. H. & Park, J.Z. (2009). Conflict between Religion and Science among Academic Scientists Journal of Scientific Study of Religion Vol.48, Issue 2 pp.276-292

Middleton, T. (2011). Science and Religion: The Ongoing Conflict? The Triple Helix Inc. www.camtriplehelix.com/journal/…/science-and-religion…/conflict.pdf , 02/23/12

Harrison, P. (2010), Religion and the Origin of Modern Science

Christian Science Conference, London (2010).

Lehman, E.C. & Shriver, D.W. (1968). Academic Discipline as a predicative of faculty religiosity Social Forces Vol.47 Issue 2 pp.171-182

Lehman, E.R. (1974). Academic Discipline and faculty religiosity in secular and church related college Journal for Scientific Study of Religion Vol.13. Issue 2 pp. 205- 220

Wutnow, R. (1985). Science and Sacred In the Sacred in a Secular Age edited by Philip E. Hammond pp.187-203 University of California Press Berkley CA

Johansen, J. (2011). Religion versus Science www.johansen.us/sane/education/rewsci.html , 02/12/12

Leuba, J.H. (1912). The Physiological Study of Religion MacMillan New York

Leuba, E.H. (1916). The Belief in God and Immorality: A psychological, anthropological and statistical study Sherman French, Boston MA.

Leuba, E.H. (1934). Religious Beliefs of American Scientists Harpers Magazine Vol.169 pp. 291-300

Evans, M.E. (2001). Cognitive and Contextual Factors in the Emergence of Diverse Belief Systems: Creation versus Evolution Cognitive Psychology Vol. 42 pp. 217-266 www.idealibrary.com/  02/14/12

Dawkins, R. (1987). The Blind Watchmaker Norton, New York

Cavanaugh, M.A. (1985). Scientific Creationism and Rationality Nature Vol.315 pp.185-189

Number, R.I. (1992). The Creationist: The evolution of scientific creationism Knopf, New York

Morris, H.M. & Parker, G.E. (1982).What is creation science?

Master Books El Cajon

Ferrari, M. & Chi, M.T.H.  1998). The nature of naïve explanations of natural selection International Journal of Science Education Vol.20 pp.1231-1256

Green, E.D. (1990). The logic of university’s student misunderstanding of natural selection Journal of Research in Science Teaching Vol.27 pp.875-885

Kehoe A.A. (1995). Scientific Creationism World View not Science In F.B, Harrold & R.A. Eve Cult Archeology and Creationism Understanding pseudoscientific beliefs about the past pp.11-20 University of Iowa Press Iowa City IA

Samarapungavan, A., Wiers, R.W., (1997), Children thoughts on the origin of species: A study of explanatory coherence Cognitive Science Vol.21 pp141-177

Polkinghorne, J. (2009). The Science and Religion Debate – An introduction Faraday Paper Faraday Institute for Science and Religion www.st.edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/papers.php , 02/14/12

Sappington, A.A., (1991). The Religion/Science Conflict Journal for Scientific Study of Religion Vol.30 No.1 www.jstor.org/pss/1387154, 02/14/12

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