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By evliyaoglu Apr 17, 2014 1484 Words
SOC350 Midterm #1:

Science and religion has an obvious conflict throughout the history of mankind. This conflict arouse a stimulation for some sociological discussions, as the reasons and timings behind such conflicts has been searched. Comparing Max Weber’s and Thomas Gieryn’s understanding of conflicts between science and religion, there are certain differences in terms of analyzing techniques and observation points. Before getting into detail, it would be better to compare the general outline and aims of the papers of these scholars. In Religious Rejections of the World and Their Directions of Weber, the general aim of the text is about the analysis of religion in relation to worldly domains; such as economic, political, esthetic, erotic and yet intellectual spheres where science and religion conflict is discussed. So, the religion has been taken as a main point. In Gieryn’s Boundary-Work and the Demarcation of Science from Non-Science however, science is taken as a main point and its relation to the “non-science” has been analyzed with several examples. “This paper offers one escape from seemingly interminable debates over the uniqueness and superiority of science among knowledge-producing activities” (Gieryn, pg. 792) To understand the struggle between religion and science, it is important to know how these aspects show similarity in intellectual and ethical sense. Weber takes religion as believing a supra-mundane God and/or creator by showing some certain amounts of ascetic and mystic aspects. Religion comes as an explanation towards the purpose of life including the aspects of origin and initial position of human. It offers explanation and a chance of salvation where it sets the ethical course to its predetermined sets of rules. “Thus understood, the prophecy or commandment means, at least relatively, to systematize and rationalize the way of life, either in particular points or totally. The latter has been the rule with all true religions of salvation, that is, with all religions that hold out deliverance from suffering to their adherents. This is more likely to be the case the more sublimated, the more inward, and the more principled the essence of suffering is conceived. For then it is important to put the follower into a permanent state which makes him inwardly safe against suffering.” (Weber, pg. 327) So what is science? As Gieryn refers to it as the “problem of demarcation”, there has been a long struggle, how to identify science and how to distinguish it from other intellectual activities such as philosophy, religion, art, and politics. Gieryn argues that distinctive facts of science given by Comte (as science is distinctive by using reasoning and observation), Popper (as science is falsifiable) and, Merton (science to extend ‘certified knowledge’) has failed by recent studies (where Gieryn refers to the studies of Bohme at this point). Gieryn also questions the (so called) objectivity of science, claiming “Analysis of the content of these ideologies suggests that ‘science’ is no single thing: characteristics attributed to science vary widely depending upon the specific intellectual or professional activity designated as ‘non- science’, and upon particular goals of the boundary-work. The boundaries of science are ambiguous, flexible, historically changing, contextually variable, internally inconsistent, and sometimes disputed.” (Gieryn, pg. 792) For him, this is mainly because of the inevitable subjectivity of the scientist rather than science. “But to reduce the ideologies to reflections or resolutions of strains forgets that scientists too struggle for authority, power, and resources” (Gieryn, pg. 792) It is important to understand this claim of Gieryn, because it will also set an important point when the reasons behind the conflict is discussed. Second aspect the both scholars searched for, is the reasons behind the tension between religion and science. In this respect, Weber argues that the main reason is because science simply starts to explain the reasons behind the complex structure of the universe as the miracles turns out to be physical or random which in fact opposes the metaphysical and spiritual essence of the religion. “The tension between religion and intellectual knowledge definitely comes to the fore wherever rational, empirical knowledge has consistently worked through to the disenchantment of the world and its transformation in to a causal mechanism. For then science encounters the claims of the ethical postulate that the world is a God-ordained, and hence somehow meaningfully and ethically oriented, cosmos.” (Weber, pg. 351) He also argues that every religion is compelled to demand the “sacrifice of intellect” in order to unlock the meaning of the world. For a religious point of view, (for any religion) the course of the universe has some sort of a meaning that justifies “unequal distribution of individual happiness”. And yet it explains the basic philosophy questions such as the meaning of life and death. Therefore when science ‘disenchants’ the universe by experimentation and discoveries, it clashes with the mystical integrity of its meaning. “The need for ‘salvation’ responds to this devaluation by becoming more other-worldly, more alienated from all structured forms of life, and, in exact parallel, by confining itself to the specific religious essence.” (Weber, pg. 357) Gieryn also acknowledges this issue briefly, but yet, has another way of looking into the reasons of this conflict. As science today being the “sole occupant of a distinctive niche in the ‘intellectual ecosystem’ (Boulding, 1980).” (Gieryn, pg. 783) he claims that this wasn’t always the case. To achieve this point scientists actively fought to gain this intellectual authority. His example behalf of this point is John Tyndall, who challenged the concept of “prayer gauge” which was a common custom at the time, as it was basically a national day of prayer, where people called to praying by Anglican Church. This example explicitly shows that the science also challenged the religion not only by pure science (explorations or discoveries), but also with political and intellectual spheres. “During Tyndall's tenure as President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1874, the Catholic Church in his native Ireland rejected a request from laymen to include the physical sciences in the curriculum of the Catholic university. Perhaps as a response to this, Tyndall's presidential address at Belfast was an unequivocal denial of the authority of religious beliefs over natural phenomena, and he made "so bold a claim for the intellectual imperialism of the modem scientific inquiry" (Turner, 1981:172) that churchmen and some scientists were outraged” (Gieryn, pg. 784) So the reason of this tension wasn’t due to an attempt to maintain a philosophical meaning for the unjust nature of the universe by a religious authority, it was a rather a missile of science, trying to gather enough prestige to have an intellectual authority on the values of knowledge. Last aspect is the conclusion estimations of this conflict. In certain ways, it is still ongoing, but will it continue to be an issue of the future, or are we expecting a winner from this seemingly endless topic? Weber suggests: “Every increase of rationalism in empirical science increasingly pushes religion from the rational into the irrational realm; but only today does religion become the irrational or anti-rational supra-human power” (Weber, pg. 351) suggesting the inevitable dominance of science; But yet science cannot answer some questions of life which religion seems to cover. Even for some aspects, it never will. Weber, at this point, gives example of a religious peasant dying “satiated with life”. “But the 'cultivated' man who strives for self-perfection, in the sense of acquiring or creating 'cultural values,' cannot do this. He can become 'weary of life' but he cannot become 'satiated with life' in the sense of completing a cycle.” (Weber, pg. 356) he adds. Gieryn doesn’t seem to have a different claim from Weber at this point. “Scientists often win these professional advantages in boundary disputes that result in the loss of authority and resources by competing non-scientific intellectual activities.” (Gieryn, pg. 784) Even though they both agree on the recent dominance of science on the autonomy of intellectual aspects, Gieryn adds that this might not stay as constant as it is. “But science has not always had its niche, nor are the boundaries of its present niche permanent. The intellectual ecosystem has with time been carved up into "separate" institutional and professional niches through continuing processes of boundary-work designed to achieve an apparent differentiation of goals, methods, capabilities and substantive expertise” (Gieryn, pg. 783) Taking above points into consideration, it is important to fully analyze the concepts of religion and science separately in order to understand when and why the conflicts occur between them. To fully achieve this, works of Max Weber and Thomas Gieryn in this topic has an illuminating effect where the concept can be observed from various point of view. It is unknown if it will ever end, but the clash between science and religion doesn’t seem to coming to an end in near future, where even today Darwin’s The Origin of Species written in 1859 still challenged by religious perspective.

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