Types of Science and Religion Relationships*

Category School  Description Advocates
Dualist Metaphysical
(Hard)
The cosmos is divided into two realms of being: Matter and Spirit (Mind).  The Spiritual domain is superior to the material. While rooted in Hebrew sensibilities about divine transcendence and classical Greek metaphysical distinctions, these took modern form in the works of Descartes and Kant. They are reflected tacitly in the softer forms.
Epistemological
(Moderate)
Science deals with nature; questions of how; is detached, impersonal and uses the descriptive language of logic and mathematics; Religion deals with God, questions of why, is involving, personal and subjective; and uses an evocative, metaphorical language.
Theological
(Soft)
Theological language emphasizes divine transcendence and the metaphysical distinction between the spiritual and the material: the independence of God and the dependence of the world; the eternity of God and the temporality of the world; God as Creator and the world as creature. The religious is taken to be the more significant for authentic personhood than the scientific. Christian existentialism (Kierkegaard), Neo-orthodoxies: e.g. Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, Thomas Torrance
Pragmatic
(Softest)
An implicit dualism; rarely articulated. Science and religion cannot conflict because they do not properly interact. They are essentially and self-evidently different. Many clergy and laity in contemporary churches as well as many scientists and science societies.
Imperialist Fundamentalist Science must conform to religious dogma. "Scientific creationism"
Positivist / Reductionist Science is the only source of genuine knowledge. Religion is nothing but a manifestation of anthropological, psychological, economic and/or political forces. Ludwig Feuerbach, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, A. J. Ayer, Richard Dawkins
Social ideological Science is nothing but a social enterprise in service to power elites. It must be challenged and constrained through prophetic witness and action. Many of the social pronouncements of the churches and social movements critical of science and technology.
Syncretistic The combining of elements of contemporary science (especially quantum physics and ecology) with elements of religious mysticism (Eastern and Western) form a contemporary magical religious perspective. Fritjof Capra, "New Age" movements
Interactionist Ambiguous Strongly affirms that science and religion are interrelated in general but uncertain how.  Tends to use Neo-orthodox type religious language which does not serve well to express this interrelation. Many clergy and laity in the contemporary churches.
Dialogical Seeks conversation between science and religion for the sake of mutual understanding and appreciation. Mainline religious institutions and leaders, professional scientific organizations.
Asymmetrical Science provides the conditions of credibility for religion. Religion provides a framework of meaning for science. Ian Barbour, John B. Cobb, Sally McFague, Nancey Murphy, Arthur Peacocke, John Polkinghorne
Integrationist Science and religion can be merged into a single unified perspective. Teilhard de Chardin, Ralph Wendel Burhoe

*Table based on data from James B. Miller


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