Tag Archives: conflict thesis

The Problem with the “Conflict Thesis”

By Jeffrey Guhin

The relationship between science and religion is often divided into ideal types.  John Hedley Brook proposed conflict, separation, and interaction (1991: 2-4) while Ian Barbour suggested conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration (1997: 77). Stephen Jay Gould developed the concept of “non-overlapping magisteria” (NOMA), in which “each domain of inquiry frames its own rules and admissible questions, and sets its own criteria for judgment and resolution” (1999: 52-53). In contrast to the new atheists’ belligerent insistence on conflict (e.g. Dawkins 2008; Harris 2008), the vast majority of writings about science and religion tend to fall within these lines of conciliation, whether via separation or some form of amalgamation. Discussions of the conflict thesis often draw a parallel between religious fundamentalists who draw scientific data from religious texts and those practitioners of “scientism,” who develop (not falsifiable) metaphysical and ontological commitments out of falsifiable scientific evidence (Midgley 2002 [1985]; Barbour 1997: 78-84). Yet these groups are not entirely parallel, as the latter certainly acknowledges and seeks to exacerbate the conflict while the former insists that, if understood correctly, there is actually no conflict at all. Continue reading


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