Although science can be objective, there are always elements of subjectivity to it. Scientists interpret their findings by looking at some criteria while looking past others. Those in medicine, for instance, sometimes categorize diseases based on their causes, though they could instead categorize them based on their symptoms. Furthermore, each scientific observation, no matter how mundane, relies on prior knowledge and understanding. The author suggests that even understanding that one thing is on top of another means relying on our interpretation and understanding of positions (Sharpe, 2005, p. 140).

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Science and Religion: Cultural Traditions and Contemporary World Views

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Contemporary secular views about the environment and the world as a whole require interpretation. Some scientists, looking at human behavior, have claimed that genes alone are often responsible for how humans act. Others have argued that nurture is more important than nature. Yet, today, one of the most commonly held views is that genes are a factor which contribute to human behavior, but that a mixture of genes, will and environment help shape human choices (Sharpe, 2005, p. 123).

Thinkers from different traditions have offered different explanations of the creation of the world and how it works. Often science and religion have been at odds with those who believe in religion believing in the divine as a God who is created all things and is the source of all things and who interacts with his creation and guides it along. Religious thinkers believe that it is the divine that helps us rise above our selfish genes to be able to achieve altruism (Sharpe, 2005, p. 123). Yet modern theories suggest that humans are not slaves to genes and that they can often act against selfish desires, whether that is because they are influenced by the divine or not. Furthermore, science sometimes seems to conflict with divine explanations. Gods who work within the restrictions of natural laws, for instance, can’t do miracles.

Sharpe suggests that science and religion can coexist if people accept a sort of reductionist view of the divine. He suggests that the divine, rather than being the kind of helpful, personal healer traditionalists would like their God to be, can be seen as an even present force, lacking in human motivation and character, but operating alongside creation from the big bang onward. His view does offer a way in which those who embrace spiritual explanations for life and those who accept scientific explanations of life can work together; however, it requires both sides to accept ideas that neither one is likely to truly believe in.

It is unlikely that someone who typically rejects divine intervention would embrace the idea of the divine guiding life and even “holding” the hands of mothers through life as Sharpe suggests it does. It is even more unlikely that those who believe in the divine and who believe that the divine helps people conquer the selfishness of their genes could be convinced to give up the idea of this force that helps conquer selfishness.

Robert McCauley writes that the religious often fear that the scientific tries to explain away the spiritual (McCauley, 2016, p. 11). This is very much like what Sharpe seems to be doing here.

  • McCauley, R. (2016). Explanatory pluralism and the cognitive science of religion. Mental Culture: Classical Social Theory and the Cognitive Science of Religion, 11.
  • Sharpe, K. J. (2005). Has science displaced the soul? Debating love and happiness. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.