Danger of Relativism for Religion and Science

The book Nancy Pearcey, Charles Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy happened to be a nice review of recent historical works in history of science. It seems that ‘God exists’ played the major role in the development of science in Europe. It is quite consistent with what Collingwood writes in An Essay of Methaphysics.

A couple of quote to show that although the authors of the book use historical results, they do not completely agree with historians (this is a sign that historians have not been paid be the Church)

But the new approach harbors its own dangers. Historical sensitivity may give way to historical relativism, in which all cultures and beliefs are regarded as equally true or valid. When that happens, the study of history merges into historicism – the belief that there is no transhistorical truth and that all knowledge is caught up in a continual process of historical change.

Many scholars in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science today in fact display a marked tendency toward historicism. They dismiss the idea that science is a search for truth and instead reduce scientific theories to constructions of the intellectual, economic, or political conditions of a particular society and period. The history of science even has its enfants terribles, such as Paul Feyerabend, who go so far as to argue that the accumulation of knowledge we call science is a limited, culture-bound worldview not to be prized more highly than any other worldview, be it pagan myth or medieval witchcraft.”

Attention to the metaphysical and social context of scientific knowledge does not lead necessarily to reductionism or relativism. But the fact is that it often does. A study of the mystical neo-Platonic roots of a Bruno or a Copernicus can lead to a greater appreciation of the rich interconnectedness of human thought; but it can also be interpreted to mean that science is at its foundations nothing but mysticism in a new guise.”

Considering the relativistic, anti-Western, deconstructionist climate in American universities today, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the latter set of interpretations is fast becoming dominant.”

Interestingly enough that David Deutsch in his The Beginning of Infinity also strongly criticizes relativism. I was really surprised his Good vs. Bad (for example, he condemns Wittgenstein and logical positivism). In the book above, this seems to be logical but to hear something like this from David Deutsch was a surprise.

Let me quote The Soul of Science once more:

Old-fashioned realism, usually with a positivist flavor, has long been used in arguing that science is the only reliable source of truth. Religion is relegated to the realm of private feeling and experience. The newer historicism undermines claims to transcendent and universal truth — and hence likewise relegates Christianity to the realm of private opinion.”

Well, it could be that The enemy of my enemy …

As for me, I like Feyerabend and his The Tyranny of Science.

Made for the discussion on the everything list: