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The Ongoing Debate on Critical Realism and Theology

Nancey Murphy claims strong parallels between science and theology as rational explorations, working from the description of science developed by Imre Lakatos.Lakatos, I, ‘Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes’ in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science,...But she rejects critical realism in theology, on the grounds that it makes too great a claim as to our knowledge of elements of reality beyond our ordinary human ways of knowing.Murphy, Nancey, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990) p197. See God, Humanity and the Cosmos pp77-83 for an outline of Lakatos’ scheme and an evaluation...

Wentzel Van Huyssteen, however, takes issue with Murphy, claiming in effect that we can make inferences to the best explanation even in matters close to the core beliefs of theism.Van Huyssteen, J W, Essays in Postfoundationalist Theology (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 1997) pp48-51Roger Trigg dismisses critical realism as no more than ‘a vague umbrella concept.’Trigg, Roger, Rationality and Religion (Oxford; Blackwell, 1998) p86

So critical realism, as a way of thinking about the claims of either science and theology, or science alone, is a position towards which many in the field are drawn. Its philosophical usefulness remains a matter of keen debate. For another recent analysis see McGrath (1998).McGrath, Alister, The Foundations of Dialogue in Science and Religion (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998) Ch.4

We can understand more about the similarities and differences between claims to realism in science and in theology by looking at the role played by model and metaphor in these two rationalities. Click on the role of model and metaphor to explore this.

Or go to consonances between science and religion.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

Outlines of the Debate

Index - God, Humanity and the Cosmos, 1999 T&T Clark

The Ongoing Debate on Critical Realism and Theology

Related Book Topics:

Science and Religion - Conflict or Dialogue?
The ‘Conflict’ or ‘Warfare’ Hypothesis
The Words ‘Science’ and ‘Theology’ in Popular Usage
Possibilities for Dialogue
Different Sciences - Different Relationships
A ‘Special Relationship’?
The Metaphor of the Maps
The Metaphor of the Maps and Understanding the Mind
Key Figures and Developments in the Science-Religion Debate
Typologies Relating Science and Religion
Barbour’s Typology
Natural Theology vs Theology of Nature
Peters’ Typology
Drees’ Typology
Religion as Evolutionary Phenomenon
A Critique of Willem B Drees’ Typology
Critical Realism in Science and Religion
Judging the Fit Between Data and Reality
Alternatives to a Realist Position
Applying Critical Realism to Theology
The Role of Model and Metaphor
Model and Metaphor Compared
Consonances Between Science and Religion
Greek Philosophy and the Rise of Western Science
Religion and the Rise of Science


Dr. Christopher Southgate, Mr Michael Poole, and Mr Paul D. Murray in God, Humanity and the Cosmos.Published by T&T Clark.

See also:

Saint Augustine
Sir Isaac Newton
Charles Darwin
The Relation of Science & Religion
Books on Science and Religion - General