Term Paper: Science and Religion

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Science and Religion

How exactly is the movement known as "Deism" motivated by the scientific discoveries of Isaac Newton? That is, precisely what aspects of Newton's mechanistic worldview offer support to advocates of Deism?

Both science and religion have attempted different quests and inquiries into the nature of our universe and especially into its origins. Modern science however, beginning with the positivist science of Newton and Darwin, postulates that the laws of nature can be all self- explained on the basis of rational thought and, consequently, as the famous statement of the French nineteenth century physicist Laplace informs us, there is no need for the God-hypothesis to interpret the universe. It has been stated many times that that Isaac Newton has revolutionized the world of physics completely, laying the strong foundations of classical science. The name of the age which harbored these incredible scientific advancements was also very suggestive: the 'Enlightenment' was a period of illumination and scientific revolution. Newton's mechanist theories advocated the absolute order, limitation and perfection of the universe, which virtually functioned like a perfect clockwork. At the same time, religion and myth were banished from the reality, as offering only artificial and unreliable interpretations of the world. The belief in a divinity was not altogether discarded however, and thus a new religion was born: 'deism'. Deism or 'natural religion' was a means mitigating the deeply rooted conflict between science and religion. This new doctrine promulgated the idea that God was the perfect creator of this perfect, clockwork and automated world. For the deists, the divinity was not so much a spiritual force, but a great natural and ethical power. There are no more myths and miracles, everything being explainable through the natural laws. Thus the divinity was just the force behind the clockwork, ensuring its proper functioning, without ever violating natural law. Thus, whereas religion is usually in conflict with the scientific approach to reality precisely because it relies on the manifestation of divinity as a miracle, a break of the supernatural through the skin of reality, deism believed in the supremacy of the natural law over everything else.

2. What exactly are the three general categories of arguments for God's existence that are important for the science/religion debates?

There are three main categories of arguments for God's existence, such as they have been theorized by theology and philosophy: the cosmological arguments, the ontological arguments and the theological arguments. The cosmological arguments thus refer to the mystery which yet surrounds the origins of the universe. These arguments postulate that the existence of God is a necessary condition for explaining the origins of the world. The ontological arguments refer to the analysis of the concept of God itself and to the idea that, if God can be conceived in the mind, then his existence is already proved. The theological arguments take into consideration the design of the universe and the apparent interconnectivity of things, which generally leads people to believe that such coincidences would be impossible without the existence of a divine architect. Another theological argument that is most often brought in favor of the existence of the sacred is perhaps the actual need of man to look for symbols of the spiritual or of the supernatural. It becomes obvious that man cannot live in a totally demythologized world, although modern scientific research tends to increase the gap between the world of the ancient myths and the natural world. However, there remains a fact that is still unexplained by science, and that of late, has become the concern of many modern scientific hypothesis: the fact that the mind and the spiritual side of man still have an unknown origin, that is hard to be deducted as having its source in the world of matter.

3. What were the three broad types of responses (approaches) within the Christian tradition of biblical interpretation to the Copernican models of the universe?

The medieval world posited the place of the Earth at the center of the universe. The Copernican revolution which revealed the actual truth about the place of Earth in the solar system was the first step towards modern science but also one of the first terrible grudges between religion and science. The first responses to the Copernican revolution were obviously violent, as the new theory seemed to challenge the religious views held as true so far. Initially, the men of science that tried to share their revolutionary observations of the heavens were completely banned by the influential church at that time. Later however, the church attempted to reconcile its scriptural views with those exemplified by science. Thus, the religious theories grew to acknowledge the heliocentric theory, despite the fact that its shattered the anthropocentric view. The first response thus was one of definite rejection. With Copernicus, the generally accepted paradigm changed considerably. Later however, as the science developed more and more incorporating new information into its core, the church started to adapt to the changes fast. Thus, in response, the Christian tradition adjusted its views so as to include the new scientific discoveries. The deists for instance, felt compelled to advocate the existence of a God that would be so impassive as to completely obey the natural law. Gradually thus, religion grew from rejection to acceptance and later on incorporation of the new scientific discoveries into its core substance.

4. What exactly are the three major approaches to the question of God's action on earth? Be specific and make sure that you identify the similarities and differences among these three approaches.

The modes of God's action in the world changed together with the shift of religious doctrines and beliefs. Thus, the Deists believed that God acts in the world through the natural laws. In this view, no actual action of God was required, as the universe had been created to perfection from the beginning and it now functioned as an autonomous system: "It is this point which is encapsulated in Laplace' famous comment made in relation to the role of God as the sustainer of planetary motion: 'I have no need of this hypothesis.'"(McGrath, 104) the second mode of action is that promoted by Thomas de Acquinas: 'God acts through secondary causes.' There is thus a great chain of causality, which goes back to God as the prime mover of the world: "According to Acquinas, God does not work directly in the world, but through secondary causes."(McGrath, 105) Thus, in this view, God does not act directly in the world but only through secondary causes, by determining certain things. Still, God is the originator of everything even if indirectly so. Another mode of God's acting in the world is the one formulated by 'process theology': 'God acts through persuasion.' Thus, the creation in general develops or changes through God's careful persuasion or discrete ordering of things.

5. Write an essay that answers the following question: what are the important differences between confrontational models of the relationship between science and religion and non-confrontational models of this relationship?

Alister McGrath pointed out to the difference between the confrontational models for the relationship between science and religion and the non-confrontational modes of the same relation. Basically, while science was not yet very developed its inquiries were under the influence of religious beliefs. Later on, when crucial advancement had been made, such as the Copernican revolution, the Newtonian one or the Darwinian one brought potent challenges against a religious interpretation of the world: "Historically, the most significant understanding of the relation between science and religion is that of conflict or perhaps even warfare."(McGrath, 42) According to McGrath, the confrontation resulted into the belief that religion offered but a superstitious interpretation of reality, which was hardly connected with the actual, objective truth. Among the scientific revolutions which most challenged religion was certainly Darwin's evolutionist theory that attacked the Genesis myth in the Bible and showed that natural evolution might be possible without God's intervention: "Although there is a danger of overstatement, the rise of the scientific view called into question many traditional religious views [...] it is the Darwinian controversy which posed the most radical threat to traditional religious beliefs in that it posed a direct threat to the belief that God created each species directly and particularly the idea that man was the apex of God's creation..."(McGrath, 51) the non-confrontational models of the relationship between science and religion are given by the such doctrines as that of deism or natural theology, which propose the idea that God acts in the world only through the establishment of general order and natural laws.

6. Is the story of the Creation as presented in the Book of Genesis from the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) a cosmogonic myth as understood by Eliade? Include an account of Eliade's notion of cosmogonic myth.

The myth relates a real history in so far as it is speaking about the real facts and aspects of life, such as the creation of the world, death, or the creation of a certain… [END OF PREVIEW]

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