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  • scientism - religion is outdated, science tells us all we need to know;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

Outlines of the Debate

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

Peters’ Typology

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
Drees’ Typology
Religion as Evolutionary Phenomenon
A Critique of Willem B Drees’ Typology
Critical Realism in Science and Religion
Judging the Fit Between Data and Reality
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