Does religious belief influence scientific research

religion : Can reason and faith become friends?

Recently, on Tagesspiegel.de, the theologian Heinz-Werner Kubitza contradicted the thesis that theology is a science. The press spokesman for the Archdiocese of Berlin, Stefan Förner, took the opposite view. The question seems unanswered: Is there an irreconcilable contradiction between the Christian faith and a mindset that is only bound to logic and verifiability? Or can this contradiction be undone by "reasonable" reasons or by belief-based convictions? In this essay I try to give an answer.

Originally, human thinking did not yet differentiate between religious feeling and reasoned thinking. In the earliest times, religious belief was essentially determined by what one experienced and felt emotionally and what followed from the traditional myth. In the event of doubt, the "truths" of religion always stood above all reason. Papal teaching wants to restore this "innocent" state and argues that the knowledge of the (natural) sciences is embedded in a "higher truth" to which only faith has access.

Do reason and faith complement each other?

Pope John Paul II said on the occasion of an address to scientists and students in 1980 in Cologne Cathedral: "Because between a reason that is based on truth through its God-given nature and is capable of recognizing the truth, and the belief that the owing to the same divine source of all truth, there can be no fundamental conflict. "

That almost sounds like a respectful recognition of reason through faith. Two sentences later the cat is let out of the bag: "This shows at the same time that belief and science belong to different systems of knowledge that cannot be converted into one another."

In other words: Science may find out what it wants, but faith will in principle never and never allow itself to be influenced by it. A few paragraphs later it sounds similarly clear: "It [the Church's Magisterium with reference to Vatican II, UL] has expressly expressed the difference in the order of knowledge of faith and reason, it has recognized and is the autonomy and freedom of the sciences advocated the freedom of research. We do not fear, yes, we consider it out of the question that a science that is based on reasons of reason and progresses in a methodologically secure manner will come to discoveries that come into conflict with the truth of faith. "

Reason should be opened to the "eternal truth"

Again, this sounds surprisingly understandable. But the withdrawal follows immediately: "This can only be the case where the difference in the order of knowledge is overlooked or denied." At the end of his remarks, the Pope openly states what he really means: "Human reason is a great instrument for understanding and shaping the world. However, it needs an opening in order to realize the full range of human possibilities for the word of eternal truth, made man in Christ. "

The evangelical theologian and former bishop Wolfgang Huber expresses himself similarly boldly and only assertively in his book "The Christian Faith": "Christian freedom also includes the freedom to use one's understanding. But this freedom also includes the insight that the human reason is finite, and that the cult of reason is a form of idolatry. It serves the freedom understood by Christianity when reason follows faith and enters into its service. " ... "A reason that is not enlightened by faith remains inexperienced and unenlightened because it does not give itself an account of its limits. It fails to recognize its character as finite reason, entrusted to man so that he can learn to deal with his finite freedom."

Then at least restrictive: "A belief that has not been brightened up by reason carries the danger of becoming barbaric and violent. Instead, it is necessary to continually re-develop the mutual reference between reason and belief."

Terms such as "cult of reason" and "idolatry" clearly show the subordinate role that Old Bishop Huber assigns reason. And Pope John Paul II speaks of "opening [reason] to the word of eternal truth which became man in Christ". Comprehensible reasons for these statements are not recognizable to me, only theologically clad assertions are made. In the past, philosophy had to serve as the maid of theology, a function which, according to the self-confident definition of the supreme representatives of the faith, is nowadays supposed to be assumed by reason vis-à-vis faith. The theologian Richard Schröder speaks in the subtitle of his book "Abolition of Religion?" generalizing and downright contemptuous even of "scientific fanaticism".

Science, also a belief?

In discussions on this question, it is often said at this point that "religious belief tied to scientific belief" stands here? But is that really the case? Religious, here Christian belief is essentially based on dogmas, i.e. on allegedly revealed statements that also claim validity for all time, i.e. their basic statements are irrevocable because they go back to divine word and divine will. Science, on the other hand, does not "believe"; it gains its knowledge through methodical and systematic observation and checks its knowledge and theories against reality. Science justifies its approach and its statements by finally checking the correspondence between theory and practice, for example in the correct arrival of a prediction. And science relies on justification, at least evidence, intersubjective traceability and logical consistency.

Theology likes to speak of "scientific belief" and tries to suggest that science, even natural science, is based on assumptions that have the character of belief. But science does not make such assumptions. Science does not work without preconditions either, but it does not know the tacit setting of assertions or the anticipation of results that have to be proven. Science does not make claims that these are the prerequisites for its research results. But this is what theology does when it assumes as true that God exists, that Jesus was risen or that, for example, Jesus is the Son of God. A discipline based on such prerequisites cannot claim to be scientific, no matter how logically flawless, methodically and systematically developed and free of contradictions. Theology must make such presuppositions for the sake of its existence. Religious studies does not need such specifications, it consequently fulfills the criteria of scientific nature.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page