Original Research - Special Collection: James Alfred Loader Dedication

A scientific defence of religion and the religious accommodation of science? Contextual challenges and paradoxes

Cornel W. du Toit
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 69, No 1 | a1293 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v69i1.1293 | © 2013 Cornel W. du Toit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 July 2012 | Published: 08 May 2013

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Cornel W. du Toit, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, South Africa


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Abstract

Few human phenomena in our time are as controversial or confusing as religion. People seem to live in two worlds: a mythical and a scientific one. They talk about either of these worlds in isolation but cannot reconcile the underlying presuppositions. Believers are less naïve than the ‘new atheists’ suppose, and atheists do not come without their quota of superstition and belief. Midway between the two opposites is a burgeoning, secular new spirituality that has assumed many forms in recent years. The groups are often marked by some form of naturalism, which try to accommodate science. The premise in this article is that religion, being a product of normal evolutionary processes, is ‘natural’. This implies that cultural evolution is ongoing and supports the thesis that religion (in this case Western Christianity) is making a major transition. As for science, I briefly outline the role of metaphysics. That is because science often has to invoke metaphysical constructs to make sense of the bigger picture. Following Aristotle, the metaphysical dimension of science is a blank page which every era fills with its own interpretation. In that sense, it is ‘more than’ just empiricism, verifiability, and it is accompanied by some metaphysical baggage. At this metaphysical level, the traditional dominance of causality makes way for emergence.

Keywords

Religion in transition; science; metaphysics; essentialism; causality; emergence; emotion

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