Science and Theology as Self Correcting Version 2.5
First, my apologies to Knockgoats and Johann for not replying directly to their latest responses. Our conversation has made me rethink a number of points about my original post and I think I would like to take this conversation in a different direction.
This thought line was prompted by something Knockgoats said when he asserted that science can correct the scientific method. It was an interesting thought and one I had not considered. I asked a number of different scientists that I know (PHD in physics and another a graduate from MIT) about the statement. They gave some good wide ranging feed back and has help me rethink a few things.
So, now, I would say, neither science nor theology is fully self correcting.
I realize this position is probably more controversial than just asserting that theology is self correcting. As a number of you pointed out, theology, as a discipline, is not fully self correcting. It has a number of different conversation partners. Many of you want to go on about science as being the Lord of theology, but this is simply not the case, no matter how much you assert it. Has science contributed to the theological discussion? You better believe it has and in very constructive ways. However, there are a number of things that have contributed to the theological discussion as well, history, archeology, and literary studies.
Whethere you like it or not, science has been corrected by all the above disciplines. Example One: The Eugenics discussion at the end of the 19th and 20th century. I know many of you will assert this is pseudoscience. We know this to be the case now. However, at the begining of the century, it was a hot mess tearing through the scientific community. How did it stop? It wasn’t self corrected by science. It was corrected by philosophy, human experience and in many cases, theology. It showed us what happens when science tries to build a whole philosophy of life without the other disciplines to check it.
The reason for both disciplines not being fully self correctional is because both are done by individual human beings with all of our limitations, passions and abilities. None of those things are bad. They drive us to find the truth. Science and theology are both driven by a passionate desire to find the truth. Science gives us great truth in how the natural world works. However, it has been unable to give us any sort of worldview or ethical guidelines, Dawkins protestations notwithstanding.
I’m not a huge fan of Stephen A Gould’s “seperate magistarium” illustration. I think it’s a great idea in what it attempts to do. It would be a great thing if human beings could be that coldly objective. We aren’t, so the illustration falls apart. I prefer to think of science, history, theology, literary studies, archeology and all the academic disciplines as overlapping circles. That is, they can be convesations partners on shared topics and should be hands off the other where they can’t. For example, no one should take “God into the laboratory” when they are trying to do science. I don’t mean that theist scientists can’t pray or whatever when they are in the labroatory. I mean they have to be careful not to fudge the experiment just because it might fit their particular theological framework.
So, as conversation partners, they can argue and correct each other when the time’s are apporiate. They can correct each other.
Now, this should do away with the need for either science or theology to protest they are self correcting. Theology has it’s own internal process, no question about it. Same with science. However, each of those processes can be subject to correction when they step over into the other disciplines area.
Awaiting the firestorm…..