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At Aeon: Religion, science, and post-modernism

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From an essay on the actual ways religion and science have interacted over the centuries:

To riff on the opening lines of Steven Shapin’s book The Scientific Revolution (1996), there is no such thing as a science-religion conflict, and this is an essay about it. It is not, however, another rebuttal of the ‘conflict narrative’ – there is already an abundance of good, recent writing in that vein from historians, sociologists and philosophers as well as scientists themselves. Readers still under the misapprehension that the history of science can be accurately characterised by a continuous struggle to escape from the shackles of religious oppression into a sunny secular upland of free thought (loudly expressed by a few scientists but no historians) can consult Peter Harrison’s masterly book The Territories of Science and Religion (2015), or dip into Ronald Numbers’s delightful edited volume Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion (2009)…

Much of ‘postmodern’ philosophical thinking and its antecedents through the 20th century appear at best to have no contact with science at all, and at worst to strike at the very root-assumptions on which natural science is built, such as the existence of a real world, and the human ability to speak representationally of it. The occasional explicit skirmishes in the 1990s ‘science wars’ between philosophers and scientists (such as the ‘Sokal-affair’ and the subsequent public acrimony between the physicist Alan Sokal and the philosopher Jacques Derrida) have suggested an irreconcilable conflict. A superficial evaluation might conclude that the charges of ‘intellectual imposture’ and ‘uncritical naivety’ levied from either side are simply the millennial manifestation of the earlier ‘two cultures’ conflict of F R Leavis and C P Snow, between the late-modern divided intellectual world of the sciences and the humanities. Yet in light of the long and theologically informed perspective on the story that we have sketched, the relationship of science to the major postmodern philosophical themes looks rather different.

Tom McLeish, “Science + Religion” at Aeon

Post-modernism denies that truth, as sought by both science and religion, even exists. It ends ultimately in the war on math—at best.

When the mathless kids grow up in a digital age, expect worse.

2 Replies to “At Aeon: Religion, science, and post-modernism

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    I can’t tell whether science and post-modernism are in conflict or not since the latter seems to delight in being utterly incomprehensible/

  2. 2
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Post-modernism denies that truth, as sought by both science and religion, even exists. It ends ultimately in the war on math—at best.

    First, modern atheism turned against God to be liberated from Authority and supposed-domination.
    Then post-modernism turned against humanity itself, and the desire for truth since those are supposedly activities which are oppressive, authoritarian and lacking in equality.
    So, they’re just trying to be consistent (although that itself would be Logical and therefore a violation of post-modernism). They’re caught in the endless circle of trying to explain things while denying truth values.
    But give them credit. The more insane drivel they produce (and the more incomprehensible it is), the closer they come to correctly representing materialist-atheism.
    Although it could be argued that social Darwinism itself it anti-progressive and that evolution favors the strongest and most brutal.
    Either way, they want us living in the nightmare that is the atheist worldview.

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