Ch2 - Chapter 2 Science, Religion, and Psychology Modern...

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J.M. Nelson, Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality, DOI 10.1007/978-0-387-87573-6_2, @ Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009 43 Chapter 2 Science, Religion, and Psychology Modern discussions about the relationship between psychology and religion are now over a century old. However, this dialogue is part of a more general conver- sation between science and religion that goes back hundreds of years. This gen- eral discussion provides a broad context for our study that is important in a couple of ways. First, it helps us better understand a number of problematic issues that have appeared in the psychology and religion dialogue. Second, it helps us to better understand the nature of science, including the strengths and limitations that any scientific discipline like psychology will bring to a conversation with another field of human endeavor. In this chapter, we introduce some basic philosophical concepts that are involved in discussions about the nature of science. We will then look at how ideas about science have changed over time and the affect of these shifts on the relationships between religion, science, and psychology. We will see that the philosophy of sci- ence one adopts will have a large impact on whether science and religion are seen as partners or competitors. It will also become apparent that perceived conflicts between science and religion are mostly based upon philosophies of science that are problematic and have been rejected in contemporary thought. 2.1 Philosophical Concepts and Issues in Science and Religion 2.1.1 Empiricism Any understanding of science must begin with the fact that it is an empirical endeavor. Empiricism is a philosophical position related to epistemology , a branch of philosophy that considers the ways we gain knowledge about the world and our- selves. Empiricism is the view that knowledge should be based on experience. It is often contrasted with metaphysics , an inquiry into the basic nature of the world that relies primarily on reasoning rather than experience. While metaphysics is thought to be desirable and necessary by many scholars (particularly in philosophy), empiri- cism is generally taken to be a fundamental beginning point for science, includ- ing scientific explorations of religion (Hawley, 2006; Helminiak, 1996). Scientific
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44 2 Science, Religion, and Psychology empiricism limits the kinds of experiences that can be considered a basis for knowledge, excluding things that do not fit comfortably within a framework of scientific investigation (MacIntyre, 1984, pp. 80–81). Psychology generally adopts an epistemological position of scientific empiricism and tends to limit acceptable experience to things that can be directly observed by an investigator. Opponents of this strict scientific empiricism point out that many important aspects of the human person—including religious experiences—cannot be directly observed. Thus, sci- entific empiricism makes knowledge about some aspects of the human self difficult
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This note was uploaded on 12/07/2011 for the course PSYCHOLOGY 321 taught by Professor Reber during the Fall '10 term at BYU.

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Ch2 - Chapter 2 Science, Religion, and Psychology Modern...

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