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The Religion and Science discussion Why Does It Continue?

Author: Javier Sánchez Cañizares. Harold W. Attridge (ed.) The Religion and Science discussion Why Does It Continue?, Yale University Press, New Haven and London 2009.
Published in: yearbook Philosophical 43/1, 185-187.
Publication date: 2010

The latest volume published by the Dwight Harrington Terry Foundation, on the occasion of its conferences on religion in the light of science and Philosophy, offers the contribution of various scientists and thinkers on the reasons for the discussion between religion and science in the United States.

All authors agree that discussion has serious consequences in terms of Education and public discussion of science and society. But the terms are often simplified, or even misleading, because of the journalistic interest in stirring up confrontation in the public eye, given the conflictual and multifaceted worldview of average(pp. 128-129). Despite the controversies between science and religion, it would be wrong to describe their relationship as a war (p. 50), the greatest enemy in this matter being ignorance (p. 153).

This lack of knowledge would also affect the antagonism between the extremists on both sides, currently identified with the advocates of intelligent design (ID) and philosophical evolutionism. Biologist Kenneth Miller and physicist Lawrence Kraus are scientifically critical of ID arguments. For the former, the "irreducible complexity" argument is simply a sophisticated version of the "god of the holes" argument resource . Miller refutes the examples of supposedly complex systems adduced by Michael Behe - one of ID's leading exponents - by showing that evolution provides a perfectly natural mechanism to explain the design appearance of such organisms. Philosophically, he maintains that it is possible to believe in the existence of a supreme Being without adhering to the ID position, which would invoke a directly creative design in nature (pp. 81-82). Krauss is even harsher in calling ID's strategy closed-minded, fraudulent and disloyal (p. 138); it cannot be taught as a scientific theory comparable to Darwinism simply because it is false (pp. 144-145).

The claims of philosophical evolutionism are debunked in the contribution of philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Many scientists and philosophers regard evolution as a process without guide, but such a claim is a theological or metaphysical addition to the scientific theory of evolution and does not belong to it (pp. 107 and 116). This confusion or presumed connection between Darwinism and "Darwinism without guide" would be the most important source of the ongoing conflict between science and religion (p. 115). Plantinga's intervention is undoubtedly the most philosophically dense of the whole work. While "methodological naturalism" is the method of science, the epistemological absolutism of this method must be denounced as unscientific. From a logical point of view, Plantinga uncovers the falsehoods of the arguments of philosophical evolutionists such as Dawkins and Dennett. To say, for example, that a mutation is random from a biological point of view, is only to say that it does not arise from a plan of design of the creature, to which it is added, and that it is not a response to its needs of adaptation to the environment. But a mutation can be random and caused (p. 117). However, Plantinga does not dwell on the philosophical reasoning that sample that Dawkins' and Dennett's conclusions are not only wrongly derived, but not true.

It might seem that the volume ultimately opts for the peaceful approach of a science that explains the "how" and a religion that explains the "why". However, in the face of naïve irenicism, sociologist Robert Wuthnow openly poses the question of why there is conflict in the first place. Wuthnow explains that the domains of science and religion are neither static nor clearly defined: they tend to expand, which encourages the continuation of discussion (pp. 162-165). While American society seems to have a special ability to unify very diverse positions, thanks to its tolerance, but also because of a certain relativism, eclecticism and pragmatism, Wuthnow warns against denying too quickly the questions and problems that inevitably arise in the relationship between science and religion.

This intervention points towards a perspective of integration between the two that is generally absent in the volume. It must be said that the alleged separation between a natural reality (the domain of science) and a spiritual reality (the domain of religion) is not so much a material separation, but one of levels of understanding, integration or unification of reality. Science undoubtedly achieves a valid knowledge , but it needs philosophical and theological reflection to achieve a complete worldview. Moreover, the scientific project itself is already a spiritual project .

Miller rightly comments that the solution for people of faith would be not to oppose science, but to provide an interpretation of science that is in harmony with their religious beliefs (p. 87). But it should be added that it is not only believers who must seek harmony. Non-believers must recognise the existence of realities that cannot be explained by the theory of evolution - for example, the existence of people who deny the theory of evolution, which can only be due to irreducible human freedom, because it is outside the "logic" of the system.

agreement It is difficult not to agree with the theory of evolution on the basis of the data available to science today. It is also difficult to accept the scientific claims of ID, since what we see in nature is not directly a design, but something that must be based on a design (M. Rhonheimer, Teoria dell'evoluzione neodarwinista, Intelligent Design e creazione. In dialogue with Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, "certificate Philosophica" 17 [2008/1] 87-132, pp. 91-92), an undoubtedly philosophical inference. The central issue is, in our opinion, the existence of random natural processes at a certain level of our knowledge - i.e. without causality and finality at that level - which, however, are integrated into the divine providence and governance of the world, because divine causality and created causality differ radically and do not enter into competition.

Probably the main idea conveyed by this work is that there should not be a conflict between science and religion. If there is a clash, it is nevertheless due to fundamentalist positions on both sides, which are amplified in the public eye. But interaction, we add, even within methodological autonomy, must always be maintained, because both science and religion refer to the one and only reality.