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Fields of Certainty as a Unifying Paradigm for Science and Religion
by Dougan, Alphonse

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A superficial understanding of science and religion perceives these two fields as being disciplines of different realms. Such a perspective sees science as an objective pursuit of knowledge based on observation and logic, and religion as a set of dogmatic assertions. Finally, some view “questioning” as the essence of science, while they view religion as requiring submission without inquiry.

These views reflect a shallow understanding of faith and religion as well as the reality of the scientific enterprise. In this article we argue that there are varying degrees of certainty in each piece of scientific and religious knowledge. One can thus imagine two fields of certainty where established knowledge is at the center and the less certain pieces of knowledge form field-like circles around a center. We further argue that this perspective can serve as a unifying paradigm for science and religion.

Science and Religion as Disciplines of Different Realms

The superficial understanding of science and religion as disciplines of different realms asserts that religion concerns the relationship of humanity with the divine and considers human relation-ships on this basis. Religion primarily relies on sacred scriptures and subjective experiences as sources of knowledge. Religious assertions tend to be absolute and they do not accept questioning. The main underlying assumption of religion is the existence of a supernatural, omnipotent Being referred to as God. Science, on the other hand, deals primarily with observable and measurable phenomena. Thus, its main domain is the domain of physical objects. It accepts systematic and objective observations or experimental findings, and inferences on these as sources of knowledge. Scientific assertions appear as theoretical models that attempt to provide objective descriptions of the physical world and predictions of natural phenomena. Science is ambivalent to the existence of a supernatural Being. The underlying assumption of science is that the physical world is governed by universal laws, regardless of the source. This perspective can be summarized in a table:

Based on this superficial understanding of religion and science, we can expect two disjoint spheres of interest that would not have much to do with each other, as illustrated in the figure above.

In this view, science and religion occupy different realms. This view gives complete sovereignty over the non-human domain to science. It leaves the unobservable phenomena to religion, withthe condition that it might be claimed by science at any time. The current state of the relationship, however, refutes this simplistic perspective. Both science and religion make assertions that supposedly belong to the other and we perceive conflicts. Examples of perceived conflicts include the following.

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