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Cross-Explanatory Reductionism

Certain biologists who reject the possibility that religious truth-claims could be valid go beyond a mere preference for a certain level of scientific explanation.

Monod, Dawkins, and E.O. WilsonSee Can Darwinism Rule Out Truth in Religion? (on Monod) - alsoRichard Dawkins and E.O.Wilson against the possibility of the truth of religion.are also what might be called ‘cross-explanatory reductionists’, in that they assert that naturalistic explanations, interpretative and descriptive in nature, render unnecessary explanations which give reasons in terms of purposes.

To them theistic truth-claims are unnecessary and misplaced, and the underlying reasons for them must be sought in terms of behaviours which were adaptive at earlier points in the history of humanity.

This cross-explanatory reductionism presumes not simply that lower-level, gene-based description is adequate, and other explanations such as the religious are therefore redundant, but that the lower-level, the scientific, is adequate and that therefore the religious must be wrong.Dawkins’ strategy for undermining the possibility of religious truth is actually two-pronged: One prong is to show that religion has failed as a scientific explanation in biology. It is not necessary...

The weakness of this sort of argument should be evident. It could be valid only if its particular, often unstated, presuppositions were also accepted. Dawkins’ presuppositions are listed by Keith Ward as:

  • that only material entities have any existence,
  • that the universe lacks purpose or meaning,
  • that scientific explanations are the only proper explanations.Ward, K, God, Chance and Necessity (Oxford: Oneworld, 1996) pp96f. See also Poole, M, Science and Christian Belief 6, (1) pp41-59 (1994).

As Ward shows, theism, which rejects these assumptions, operates on presuppositions of a similarly metaphysical kind, and may be considered to be a simpler and more comprehensive explanation of the universe as we find it.Ward, K, 1996, Chs.4-7, especially Ch.5.

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

Reductionism and Theology

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

Cross-Explanatory Reductionism

Related Book Topics:

Can Reductionism Rule Out Truth in Religion?
Can Darwinism Rule Out Truth in Religion?
Richard Dawkins and E.O.Wilson Against the Possibility of the Truth of Religion
An Examination of Reductionism
The Concept of Emergence
The Particular Case of Genetic Reductionism
Criticisms of Genetic Reductionism Within Science
Ethical Concerns Raised by Genetic Reductionism


Dr. Christopher Southgate in God, Humanity and the Cosmos.Published by T&T Clark.

See also:

What Religion Can Learn From Science
Books on Science and Religion