Contrasting Logics: the role of counter-evidence in science and religion
Visiting Fellow of Dept Applied Mathematics
Some philosophers argue that the discourse of science and that of religion form a seamless whole and that the role of empirical evidence manifests the superiority of the former. According to them, the epistemic attitude of natural science is superior because it depends on evidence and falsifiability. The search for counter evidence in fact is the primary driving force for science. The epistemic attitude of religion, on the contrary, is essentially related to faith, whereby the effects of counter evidence are always minimised or neutralised. In this paper, I question this simplistic analysis of the role of evidence in the two kinds of discourse. I argue that the debate has systematically neglected the question of holism of meaning. When we take such holism into consideration, the very idea of a purely given experience becomes questionable. I argue that this neglected area is as pivotal in our understanding of religious discourse as it is in the philosophy of science. I then propose a refined account of religious language to illustrate that between the role of evidence in science and in religion there is a lot in common.
Louis Caruana, S.J., obtained his PhD from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, and is now Dean of Philosophy at the Gregorian University, Rome, and Research Associate of Heythrop College, University of London, where he used to be Reader. His published books and research papers deal with points of interaction between philosophy of science, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion.