Original Research - Special Collection: Theology and Nature

Constructive-critical realism as a philosophy of science and religion

Andreas Losch
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 2 | a7742 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i2.7742 | © 2022 Andreas Losch | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 May 2022 | Published: 19 August 2022

About the author(s)

Andreas Losch, Institute for Hermeneutics, Faculty of Theology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland; Institute for Systematic Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Bern, Switzerland; Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Although highly disputed, critical realism (in Ian G. Barbour’s style) is widely known as a tool to relate science and religion. Sympathising with an even more stringent hermeneutical approach, Andreas Losch had argued for a modification of critical realism into the so-called constructive-critical realism to give humanities with its constructive role of the subject due weight in any discussion on how to bridge the apparent gulf between the disciplines. So far, his constructive-critical realism has mainly been developed theologically. This paper will evaluate whether constructive-critical realism is suitable as a philosophy of both science and religion and an appropriate basis for the science and religion discourse. In his original account of the critical realist philosophy of science, Barbour discussed and modified agreement with data, coherence, scope and fertility as criteria for good science, and for religion as well. The article discusses each of the criteria in how far Barbour does justice to the relevant concept, both in science and religion, and it will ask how to eventually modify the criteria for a maybe more sustainable bridge between science and religion, drawing on the idea of constructive-critical realism. Niels Henrik Gregersen’s contextual coherence theory will play a significant role in this regard. The conclusion suggests a deeper meaning of the fertility criterium, embracing ethical fruitfulness as well. As constructive-critical realism fully acknowledges the importance of the role of the knower in the process of knowing, it leads us from pure epistemology into ethics.

Contribution: (1) The science and religion debate, inspired by critical realism, is identified as mainly theological discourse about the influence of science on religion; (2) the analysis of truth criteria in Losch’s constructive-critical version of realism proposes an emphasis on correspondence in science and coherence in the humanities; and (3) the deeper meaning of the criterium of fertility in this philosophical stance is highlighted, including ethical fruitfulness.


critical realism; constructive-critical realism; criteria; contextual coherence; science; religion; epistemology; ethics; Anthropocene


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