The Irish Crimean : Science and Religion have no subject-matter in common


October 21 , 2017 – Fort Russ News – 

Op-ed by Padraig Joseph McGrath – “The Irish Crimean”

Properly understood, science and religion cannot come into conflict, simply insofar as they don’t even share a common subject-matter to disagree about.

Religion discourses on a certain range of aspects of human experience. Science discourses on an entirely different range of aspects of human experience.

Religion conducts its discourse through a very complex system of allegories. Science also works through allegories.

Unsophisticated readers sometimes falsely imagine that these different systems of allegories are referring to the same thing.

Unsophisticated readers sometimes believe that the creation-myths found in the Bhagavad Gita or the Vendidad or the Torah are actually attempting to answer the same questions that astrophysicists or cosmologists are trying to answer – they equivocate the metaphors used in one discourse with the metaphors employed by the other.

Religious creation-myths and scientific theories about the formation of the physical universe are actually discussing entirely different questions.

One of the drivers of the anglophone world’s tedious culture-wars, which polarize the religious and the irreligious, is that both sides read both scientific and religious texts so naively, so literally. Most neo-atheists are every bit as guilty of this naive literalism as most Westboro Baptists. When it comes to their penchant for naive literalism, there’s really not much difference between them.

I think most of us would agree that these tedious bun-fights between the religious and the irreligious are more prevalent in the English-speaking world than in most other language-groups. German atheists, Italian atheists and Russian atheists tend to be a lot more relaxed. In the anglophone world, for whatever strange, uptight reason, the atheists formed their own cult and decided to start a culture-war.
But then again, that culture-war was also engineered to distract people from real political questions (austerity, corporate welfare, etc), and neo-atheism was also devised to play very specific ideological roles when it comes to neo-imperialism in the Middle East and the legitimation of technocracy.

However, regarding the secular side of that discourse in the anglophone world, a certain portion of the blame for this naive secularist literalism must be laid at the door of the analytical tradition of philosophy.

Anglophone analytical philosophers also tend to read everything literally, and to dehistoricize everything – their obsession with a sentence’s formal propositional content causes them to completely disregard the role of allegory.
Fichte, Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, Gadamer, Habermas, etc, don’t make those kinds of schoolboy-mistakes.

Just look at the kinds of course-content which you STILL find in many undergraduate philosophy of religion seminars throughout the English-speaking world:
Aristotle, the “prime-mover” argument.
Anselm – the ontological argument.
David Hume’s argument against miracles.
Etc, etc….
Where’s the hermeneutics? Where are the Germans?

So if that’s the way that the philosophy of religion is still taught even to most philosophy undergraduates in the English-speaking world, then is it any wonder that, a few rungs further down the intellectual food-chain, neo-atheists are as naively literalist (and therefore as idiotic) as Westboro Baptists?

Properly understood, science and religion cannot come into conflict, simply insofar as, in principle, they don’t even share a common subject-matter to disagree about.

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