Main   Terms   People   Interviews   Resources   Events

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)

Outlines of the Debate

Index - God, Humanity and the Cosmos, 1999 T&T Clark

Judging the Fit Between Data and Reality

Related Book Topics:

Science and Religion - Conflict or Dialogue?
The ‘Conflict’ or ‘Warfare’ Hypothesis
The Words ‘Science’ and ‘Theology’ in Popular Usage
Possibilities for Dialogue
Different Sciences - Different Relationships
A ‘Special Relationship’?
The Metaphor of the Maps
The Metaphor of the Maps and Understanding the Mind
Key Figures and Developments in the Science-Religion Debate
Typologies Relating Science and Religion
Barbour’s Typology
Natural Theology vs Theology of Nature
Peters’ Typology
Drees’ Typology
Religion as Evolutionary Phenomenon
A Critique of Willem B Drees’ Typology
Critical Realism in Science and Religion
Alternatives to a Realist Position
Applying Critical Realism to Theology
The Ongoing Debate on Critical Realism and Theology
The Role of Model and Metaphor
Model and Metaphor Compared
Consonances Between Science and Religion
Greek Philosophy and the Rise of Western Science
Religion and the Rise of Science


Dr. Christopher Southgate, Mr Michael Poole, and Mr Paul D. Murray in God, Humanity and the Cosmos.Published by T&T Clark.

See also:

Saint Augustine
Sir Isaac Newton
Charles Darwin
The Relation of Science & Religion
Books on Science and Religion - General