Getting Medieval on the New Atheists, Max Weber, and Everybody Else Who Believes that Religion and Science Are Incompatible

"Most scientists and other scholars are unfamiliar with the intellectual scaffolding that reveals the compatibility between all scientific findings and a conception of God as radically transcendent creator of all that exists.  In Christianity, this is understood to be the same God who became incarnate in Jesus and worked miracles.  Shielded from having to engage the issues by the specialization of academic disciplines and supersessionist conceptions of history, most secular scholars and scientists seem as well to be unfamiliar with the historical genesis of their own contrary beliefs, which are neither self-evident nor evident.  Hence one reason for this chapter, which has sought to shed light on the historical genealogy of both positions and to note their presence within contemporary Western hyperpluralism.  The chapter has sought to expose the widespread but mistaken assumption that modern science has rendered revealed religion untenable.  What is more, it is certain that all possible scientific findings are compatible with the conception of a transcendent creator-God discussed in this chapter.  This conclusion follows directly once one understands what the conception entails--because any and all scientific discoveries simply tell us ever more about the natural world, which throughout the history of Christianity has been understood, following scripture, as God's creation.  More scientific discoveries do not leave less room for God understood in this way, because God as traditionally conceived is not spatial in any sense, which is precisely how and why, if such a God is real, he could be present to all moments of space-time and to every bit of matter-energy.  As has already been suggested, all possible scientific findings would also seem to be compatible with conceptions of a transcendent creator-God in Judaism and Islam, provided one does not subscribe to metaphysical univocity.*  In neither of these traditions is God viewed as an 'intentional object' within the universe.

"The metaphysical assumptions in conjunction with which modern science historically emerged are not the only ones compatible with the findings of science.  This fact is critically important today for our understanding the ways in which the relationship between science and religion is conceived.  Inadequate, supersessionist history that regards a traditional conception of God as a long-gone casualty of Aristotelian philosophy facilitates the uncritical perpetuation of the myth that no metaphysical views besides neo-Scotist univocity are compatible with modern science.  Regardless of how widespread or taken for granted, this notion is simply false.  But a willingness to question what is usually assumed, and a historical method that can discern the continuing influence of the distant past in the present, are required in order to see this.

"Secular affirmations of disenchantment are subjective, autobiographical descriptions of human experience, not intellectual inevitabilities based on scientific findings.  They coexist in the early twenty-first century with contrary autobiographical descriptions of joy, hope, meaning, and purpose by religious believers fully aware of the same scientific findings.  Therefore the claim that scientific findings ineluctably lead to disenchantment is empirically falsified.  On this point Weber was wrong; so is everyone else who agrees with him.  Similarly, the claim that science and religion are necessarily incompatible is empirically falsified.  Their alleged incompatibility is not based on science, but on atheistic faith commitments or (paradoxically, and perhaps contradictorily) resolute skepticism.  The roots of this belief in the distant past of medieval scholasticism are partly what prevent it from being properly seen and understood, as does the extent of its entanglement with a host of other historical developments, as will become clearer in subsequent chapters."

--Brad S. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Cambridge, Mass., and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012), pp. 71-72.

So there.

*As first posited by the thirteenth-century theologian John Duns Scotus, who argued that in order for it to be possible to say anything about God directly on the basis of reason alone, God must share at least one predicate with everything else.  Scotus posited the predicate being as being univocal, that is, conceptually equivalent, with God and his creatures.  Thus, according to Scotus, God exists like everything else as an object in the universe, as simply the highest being (ens) among other beings, rather than, as in the traditional view as articulated by Thomas Aquinas, the incomprehensible act of to-be (esse).


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