View by:  Subject  Theme  Question  Term  Person  Event

Judging the Fit Between Data and Reality

Any realist view - in science or theology - any view which holds that our theories in some way connect with the-way-things-really-are, and especially a critical realism (see critical realism in science and religion), must develop criteria for judging the fit between the data generated within the theory, on the one hand, and reality on the other.

Although it is unclear how we could be sure whether we had arrived at the best fit between scientific data and reality, the following criteria are widely agreed to constitute pointers to such a fit. They are:

  • the comprehensiveness of the theory in taking account of all known data deemed relevant;

  • the consistency of the theory - being devoid of internal contradictions;

  • the compactness of the theory - its economy in not doing ‘with more what can be done with fewer’ a principle known as Ockham’s razor.

These three can be seen as interrelated aspects of a ‘coherence-based’ approach to the assessment of truth.See God, Humanity and the Cosmos, p81 (note) and pp84-88A fourth criterion should be added - that of whether a theory possesses a quality of ‘comeliness’ - ‘elegance’ would be a better word though it doesn’t begin with ‘c’! Scientists are often influenced by a sense of the neatness and elegance of a particular formulation.See Derkse, Will, On Simplicity and Elegance: An Essay in Intellectual History (Delft: Eburon, 1993)

See also applying critical realism to theology.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.