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Religion and Science as Forms of Life: Anthropological Insights into Reason and Unreason

Carles Salazar
Joan Bestard
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 238
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  • Book Info
    Religion and Science as Forms of Life
    Book Description:

    The relationships between science and religion are about to enter a new phase in our contemporary world, as scientific knowledge has become increasingly relevant in ordinary life, beyond the institutional public spaces where it traditionally developed. The purpose of this volume is to analyze the relationships, possible articulations and contradictions between religion and science as forms of life: ways of engaging human experience that originate in particular social and cultural formations. Contributions use this theoretical and ethnographic research to exploredifferent scientific and religious cultures in the contemporary world.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-489-2
    Subjects: Religion, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction: Science, Religion and Forms of Life
    (pp. 1-22)
    Carles Salazar

    Science and religion are modes of thought, ways of knowing or forms of life that have been pervasive in Western cultural formations for the last three to four centuries. As theories about the world and human life, they have often engendered conflicting viewpoints redolent of acrimonious social and cultural struggles. However, all theories and systems of truth are, simultaneously, the product of human endeavours, creations of the human mind in particular social and cultural contexts. The purpose of this book is to reflect upon the relationships, possible articulations and/or contradictions between religion and science as quintessentially human phenomena. Our goal...

  4. Part I Cognition

    • Chapter One Maturationally Natural Cognition Impedes Professional Science and Facilitates Popular Religion
      (pp. 25-48)
      Robert N. McCauley

      Both defenders and opponents have portrayed religion in a slow but inexorable intellectual retreat as science has relentlessly gained epistemic authority and cultural prestige. Since the Europeans’ rediscovery of ancient science in the Middle Ages, many have attempted to forestall that retreat by squaring religious beliefs and doctrines with the theories and findings of the sciences. During this secular age, religion faces not only intellectual but social reversals too (Talmont-Kaminski 2013). In northern Europe, the state provides citizens with many of life’s basic requirements (education, health care, mass transportation and so on), and the churches are empty.

      For a variety...

    • Chapter Two Scientific versus Religious ‘Knowledge’ in Evolutionary Perspective
      (pp. 49-61)
      Michael Blume

      Throughout the twentieth century, evolutionary and religious explanations of life have mostly been discussed as conflicting and exclusive. Even those models that tried to separate these perspectives into non-overlapping magisteria indicated that religious lore would lose parts of its functionality. But over the last few years, new and interdisciplinary evolutionary studies of religiosity and religions have yielded empirical findings supporting a hypothesis first formulated by Friedrich August von Hayek in 1982: religious beliefs in super-empirical agents watching and motivating behaviour may be adaptive or even necessary for human life, although they seem to conflict with modern scientific knowledge. For example,...

    • Chapter Three Magic and Ritual in an Age of Science
      (pp. 62-84)
      Jesper Sørensen

      Several theories have prophesized the end of ‘religion’ and ‘magic’ as scientific progress expands the human ability to control its environment. Thus, secularization hypotheses claim that religion in general should decline under modernity, even if some aspects might remain as basic identity markers in a globalized world. In contrast, other theories argue that modernization would not influence religion as it is based on non-falsifiable claims, whereas magic, addressing particular pragmatic concerns, should decline as a result of increasing technological control. In this chapter it shall be argued that modernity brings new pragmatic dangers not easily fixed by technology; that perceived...

  5. Part II Beyond Science

    • Chapter Four Moral Employments of Scientific Thought
      (pp. 87-103)
      Timothy Jenkins

      Modern sciences share a number of characteristics concerning the kind of knowledge they produce, the communities of scientists who produce such knowledge, and the relation of the motivation behind the research to the discoveries made. From the social-scientific point of view, the interesting question is how the discoveries of science are recaptured by the categories of common sense and put to work in moral descriptions of the world, map pings that are very selective regarding which characteristics of scientific practices they choose to notice. These ‘moral’ employments of science fall under two broad headings. First, there are hybrids of various...

    • Chapter Five The Social Life of Concepts: Public and Private ‘Knowledge’ of Scientific Creationism
      (pp. 104-119)
      Simon Coleman

      I begin with a secular parable about knowledge, evidence and belief. Many years ago I was standing on top of a cold, windy hillside in South Wales after two weeks of working on what my fellow workers and I had all believed was a Palaeolithic cave site. I say ‘believed’ because after a fortnight’s digging we had found precisely nothing. Addressing his crestfallen team on that windy day, the director of the dig – bravely summoning up a combination of hope and irony – announced that we had indeed made an important discovery: that there was something called ‘negative evidence’, and that...

    • Chapter Six The Embryo, Sacred and Profane
      (pp. 120-136)
      Marit Melhuus

      While scientists are claiming the human embryo for research into what is presented as one of the most promising fields in modern biomedicine – stem-cell research – the embryo is being subjected to philosophical, theo logical, ethical and political examination worldwide. The ‘modern’ embryo is imbued with qualities that make it an exceptionally vibrant entity, and the various perceptions of the embryo are neither localized nor limited to one belief system or cosmology. Quite the contrary. The contemporary em bryo articulates particular shifts in technoscience, circuits of licit and illicit exchange, systems of governance and regimes of ethics and values (Collier and...

    • Chapter Seven The Religions of Science and the Sciences of Religion in Brazil
      (pp. 137-152)
      Roger Sansi

      In Brazil, the supposed contradiction between religion and science is full of ambiguity. In fact it could be argued that in their different incarnations, ‘religion’ and ‘science’ have been mutually constitutive, in similar ways that Cuba has been ‘enchanted by Science’, according to Palmié (2002, 2011). First, many of the religions of the Brazilian elites have historically made a claim to be religions of science: from the Freemasonry, of which even the emperor-scientist of Brazil during the nineteenth century was a member (Moritz-Schwartz 1998), through the Positivist Church, which was the religion of choice of the military elites who overthrew...

    • Chapter Eight Science in Action, Religion in Thought: Catholic Charismatics’ Notions about Illness
      (pp. 153-170)
      Maria Coma

      I begin this chapter with a testimony, narrated by a guest preacher at a Spanish Catholic Charismatic Renewal national conference in 2011.

      One day, after a healing mass I officiated in Maracaibo [Venezuela], a young couple came to me. They asked for a special blessing and laying on of hands for their five-year-old son. The little boy, Miguel, had a malignant brain tumour and was heading to the United States, where he would undergo a very risky operation. I acceded to their request and prayed over Miguel. As I was told later, the surgery went well and physicians were able...

  6. Part III Meaning Systems

    • Chapter Nine On the Resilience of Superstition
      (pp. 173-187)
      João de Pina-Cabral

      Anthropologists and philosophers have always taken very seriously the concept of ‘belief’ orcroyance. Nevertheless, it has led to a long series of perplexities that do not seem to be fully resolved even today, nearly forty years after Rodney Needham published his fundamental essay on the topic (Needham 1972). On the other hand, the concept of ‘superstition’ as used by the fathers of anthropology (e.g. Frazer 1909) has simply been discarded as ethnocen tric. The first has been pushed aside for its logical uncertainty, the second for its ethical uncertainty.

      Yet the two concepts are surprisingly resilient, and they remain...

    • Chapter Ten Religion, Magic and Practical Reason: Meaning and Everyday Life in Contemporary Ireland
      (pp. 188-206)
      Tom Inglis

      Belief in a supernatural reality is not the same as the belief that the sun will rise in the morning. These two beliefs can, following Habermas (2004), be analytically conceptualized as belonging to different categories of knowledge that are directed by different interests. Knowledge of gods, saints, church teachings and so forth can be seen as belonging to the realm of religion and meaning; this knowledge emerges from an interest in bonding and belonging. The knowledge that the sun will rise belongs to the realm of science and technology, which emerges from an interest in mastering and controlling the environment....

    • Chapter Eleven Can the Dead Suffer Trauma? Religion and Science after the Vietnam War
      (pp. 207-220)
      Heonik Kwon

      Interest in how modern warfare can cause destructive effects on the human mind and soul, as well as the human body, have long been part of modern anthropology. Above all, the work of W.H.R. Rivers comes to mind. Rivers was a pioneer of comparative method in kinship studies but, during the First World War, he also worked at the Craiglockhart War Hospital for Officers near Edinburgh as a psychopathologist. His encounter with the renowned poet Siegfried Sassoon at the hospital is widely known thanks to Pat Barker’s gripping novels, theRegenerationtrilogy. It was partly through Rivers’s clini cal engagement...

  7. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 221-224)
  8. Index
    (pp. 225-232)