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Peters’ Typology

Ted Peters offers eight possibilities for understanding the relation between science and religion, varying ‘from pitched battle to an uneasy truce’‘Science and Theology: Towards consonance’ in Science and Theology: The New Consonance ed. T. Peters (Boulder, Co. and Oxford: Westview Press, 1998) pp13-22

His categories are:

  • scientism - religion is outdated, science tells us all we need to know;

  • scientific imperialism - science can give us good information even about what were formerly religious questions (as in for example Frank Tipler’s ‘physical eschatology’ - see the strong anthropic principle);

  • ecclesiastical authoritarianism - the Church should have authority over science (effectively the Roman Catholic Church claimed this until the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s);

  • scientific creationism - geological and biological data attest to biblical truth. Peters points out that creationists are usually seen as anti-science, but scientific creationists see themselves as within science;

  • the two-language theory - ‘peace through separation’ - the two disciplines speak in their own discourse and shared understanding is impossible;

  • hypothetical consonance - the two disciplines do raise questions of concern to the other, and should be open to subjecting their assertions to further investigation;

  • ethical overlap - theology has a vital role in speaking to questions of value raised by science and technology, especially in respect of the ecological crisis;See God, Humanity and the Cosmos pp203-20, 377-82

  • New Age spirituality - a term covering certain recent attempts to fuse science and spirituality.See God, Humanity and the Cosmos pp229-31, 239-43

Oddly, Peters’ scheme does not develop the nuances of the crucial area between ‘two-languages’ (‘independence’ in Barbour’s Typology), and ‘hypothetical consonance’ (‘dialogue/integration’ in Barbour’s Typology). Peters does however clarify the nature of positions at the extremes.

To explore the character of the two types of subject see critical realism in science and religion.

See also consonances between science and religion.

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

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