B. Post-Modern Challenges to Science and to Theology and Science
We briefly discussed a non-foundationalist approach to
theology and science which draws from Anglo-American sources (Part I:F-3
above). We have also discussed in more detail process theology in relation to
science. Both of these approaches, though they differ in very significant ways,
can be seen as forms the more general term, post-modernism. Following the
publication of J. F.
Lyotards widely-read book, The Postmodern Condition in 1979, some
scholars have explored the significance of this more general form of
postmodernism for theology and science.
Wentzel van Huyssteenhas provided a very clear summary of the postmodern challenge to theology and
science. He starts with Lyotards pivotal distinction between narrative and
scientific knowledge and his claim that local narratives can give to scientific
knowledge a legitimation that is now lost to the latters claim of providing a
grand metanarrative. He describes the spectrum of distinctions within
postmodernism and their relevance to science, including some attempts at a
narrative reconstruction of science and a pragmatic interpretation of truth.
Given the impact of postmodernism in theology, van Huyssteen raises a crucial
question: Is any meaningful dialogue between postmodern philosophy of science
and postmodern theology possible, or does the pluralism and localization of
postmodern discourse throw theologians, philosophers, and scientists ... into
near-complete epistemological incommensurability?
Although a detailed response to this question has yet to be
given, van Huyssteen provides a first step by understanding postmodern
thought as part of the modern, and not only modern thought coming to its end.The crucial role played by postmodernism is in challenging foundationalism. But
what is really needed is a non-foundationalist epistemology which would yield
true interdisciplinary knowledge. According to Van Huyssteen, the sciences of
cosmology and evolutionary biology can provide just the resources for such
knowledge without themselves necessarily becoming new ideological
metanarratives. Evolutionary epistemology...reveals the biological roots of
all human rationality and offers us the basis of a postfoundationalist form of
Niels Gregersen supports the search for a new basis for
fruitful interdisciplinary dialogue between theology and science in the context
of postmodern cognitive pluralism. Drawing on Nicholas Reschers pragmaticist
coherence theory, Gregersen argues that coherence serves as a critical norm in
all forms of knowledge. Historically, scientific data, theories, metaphors and
worldviews have been appropriated by, and have radically shaped, Christian
theology, and a contextual coherence theory has played a central role here.
Moreover, it provides a via media between critical realism, which postmodernism
thoroughly challenges, and radical pluralism, where conversation across
disciplines ceases. Finally, a coherence theory is holist while avoiding the
challenges he directed to Nancey Murphys methodology.
In closing this altogether too brief section, it should be
noted that in a recent article, James Moore analyzes the writings of John
Polkinghorne, from a Christian perspective, and Norbert Samuelson, from a
Jewish perspective, as representing yet another form of post-modernism in
science and religion.
Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell