Friday, October 4, 2013

Worldviews about Science, Religion, and Reality

Last time we established that there are many possible relationships between science and religion, because religions are so varied. Worldviews concerning the relationships between science and religion have been summarized by several scholars, including Barbour, Peters, and Drees (see The Counterbalance Foundation for a summary of their ideas), as well as Pigliucci (2002) and Stenmark (2004).

Below, I present my own diagrams, which represent three of the most common worldviews we may encounter (and a visual framework for depicting additional views). My scheme differs from previous schemes in that it uses “reality” as the background against which to view these relationships. Remember, from my Science-Reality diagram, that I consider reality to be “The way things really are, were, and will be.” (If you’re more comfortable calling it “truth,” go ahead and think of it that way.)

Click image to enlarge

Other worldviews could be depicted, but the point is that all of us--scientists or not, religious or not-- define these relationships differently. However, no matter one’s view on religion, there remains a boundary between scientific and other kinds of knowledge. This boundary is not imposed by religion but is delineated by the methods of science itself. Science is limited in the kinds of questions it can address. (Of course, there are those who deny this, but I will have more to say about them in an upcoming post.)

Can you guess which diagram represents my own worldview? Which one most closely resembles yours?


  1. I think yours is the diagram on the far right. I know that it is mine. I just find it interesting that it seems that for every different discipline in science the green lens moves. Sometimes it appears to have lots of overlap, other times, less overlap.

    1. Yes-- the diagram on the far right is mine (as you know), with religion encompassing and embracing all truth. I think you are right that different branches of science have differing amounts of overlap with topics traditionally seen as religious.