Faith and Reason. The beginning of confrontation

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The science-centric philosophy of the 17th and 18th centuries was aimed at creating a new picture of the world, built entirely on rational grounds and fully filled by empiricism. Therefore, The Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment as a historical period led to a fundamental change of the deep religious understanding of human knowledge, its problems and place in society to the scientifically empirical way of the world perception and the explanation of universal phenomena. it can be assumed that religion and science became two different conflicting subjects, two different ways of perceiving the world and two different criteria of reliability for people, but it can also be inferred that this was their intensive confrontation as well as integration what made religion and science be quite independent and examined by each other.

Submitted: June 21, 2016

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Submitted: June 21, 2016

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Tokay Ahmadov

Bachelor degree in Public Affairs, ADA University,

2016,

Ahmadov, T. (2016). Faith and Reason. The beginning of confrontation. Retrieved from www.booksie.com

 

The Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment. Conflicts between faith and reason

The ideology of rational reasoning that grew and became influential in such historical period as The Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment (16 c. - 18 c.), as opposed to any theological-religious worldview with its primacy of faith, relied on the real successes of the mathematics and natural sciences and their later development. Moreover, the emergence of rationalism as a philosophical movement took shape largely conditioned by the crisis of the religious logic, which could not explain how individual and quite personal experience could produce a strictly universal, but absolutely necessary at an individual level the truth values. It is believed that in the mentioned period of European history the existing religion (Christianity) sought to identify a man’s lost integrity of worldview by offering knowledge perceived in the faith, and a sort of axioms that used to deepen and get updated in the process of personal communication with God. On the other hand, science, presenting knowledge in the form of empirical facts, contributed to a new vision of the world perception and universal phenomena, what in turn made an upheaval in the overall knowledge of Europeans, and later massively influenced the continents. Considering the fact that in the mentioned historical period of European history the hegemonic ideologies which people used to strongly abide were the ones set by the Catholic and Protestant churches, it can be understood that any emergence of a new thought which could promote or lead to a socio-political change and progress was about challenging the Church by what creating a conflict between people’s faith and reason.

It is believed that the intensive development of science, and the rise of new forms of world understanding based on empiricism, which explained socio-political and scientific innovations of the historical period by experience and direct observation, brought rationality, improvement, modernity and socio-political progress which led to the periodization of the world history (Elliott, 2010, p. 220). Such personalities of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment period as Nicolas Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, The Marquis of Pombal, Frederick II of Prussia, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Pain and many other scholars and theorists of 17-18 c. introduced and advanced natural sciences and socio-political philosophy in Europe as well as influenced social, political and religious spheres of people’s life what in turn gave rise to free censor, criticism, optimism, revolutions, feeling of better life and an overall progress of mankind (Rodopi, 2006, p. 1). It is also necessary to note that due to the increased criticism of the Church and questioning the dominant religion (Christianity), deism took a wide range of followers who rejected the Church and its rulings, and believed only in the creator. Moreover, the so-called “program” and premises of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment were to construct de novo the existing deep religious world perception which in turn was behind the blinding veil of Christian faith (Owen, 2011, p. 111). Therefore, it is reasonable to argue that the huge influence of people’s deep faith and strong compliance with Christianity and its standards became a proper ground for challenging them through the development of science, reason and rationality in the mentioned historical period.

Analyzing the central figures of The Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment, it is perfectly seen that the scientific studies and socio-political ideas that they conducted and brought were the consequences of the existing mood of reason, rationality and empiricism which certainly were directed towards the authority of the Church and attempted to question religious faith. Vivid examples can be Galileo Galilei, astronomer/physician whose works, disseminating the idea of religion as a dogma and superstition, served to make a question of religion central in this historical period (Owen, 2011, p. 18), a prominent French philosopher Diderot strongly condemned blind religious faith, which for his opinion hindered the development of an individual and overall social progress (Encyclopedia, 2008), a deist Thomas Pain rejected religion, naming it a creature of the Church which has no evidence of the written in the holy book “miracles”, by what also disputed reasonableness and the authority of religious books (Fordham University, 1998), or Frederick II of Prussia who claimed that religion is merely superstition, but is useful as a source of money, and that it was due to proper reasoning and mind he became an absolute ruler, and that the divine power had nothing to do with it (class 4, slide 4). It is also important to note that not all figures of the historical period questioned religious faith. The Marquis of Pombal, a Portuguese statesman, was a great public contributor of this period, who effectively reconstructed Lisbon after the earthquake. However, he also saw the cause of the backwardness of Portugal in the power of the Church, and therefore limited the dominance of the feudal nobility and the church in the newly reconstructed city (Wiesner, 2006, p. 302). Consequently, this all targeted and challenged religious faith of Europeans, and as a result led to significant changes in the European outlook.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to mention such actors of the period of The Scientific Revolution as Nicolas Copernicus and Isaac Newton who regardless of their scientific inventions remained loyal to their faith. That is, the idea can be derived that for Copernicus it is the depth of the religious feelings for scientists what determine their findings and induce the delight towards the all-powerful builder of the universe. The same logic can be applied to Isaac Newton who saw the need to appeal to religion to explain the universe and asserted the necessary existence of The Maker (God) and his being everywhere both substantially and virtually (Dao, 2008; Hooker, 1997). However, despite the Church’s permission for Copernicus to publish his scientific book, where he observed the fact of the sun-centered cosmos by what disproved the Church’s earth-centered understanding of it, later the Church found it as an attack to its political and spiritual authority in Europe and banned the book (Pogge, 2005). Therefore, in this historical period, while remaining a religious one, but at the same time being a driver of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment, it was inevitable not to target the established ideology and canons of the Church and its religion (Christianity). That is, it can be understood that the boundaries between religion and science became determined by their confrontation, integration and a critically constructive cooperation in which both parties are complementary and retain their own spheres mutually enriching each other and trying to better understand the reality as a whole in all its dimensions (Houlis, 2007).

The science-centric philosophy of the 17th and 18th centuries was aimed at creating a new picture of the world, built entirely on rational grounds and fully filled by empiricism. Therefore, The Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment as a historical period led to a fundamental change of the deep religious understanding of human knowledge, its problems and place in society to the scientifically empirical way of the world perception and the explanation of universal phenomena (Hooker, 1997). Thus, the driving studies and ideas of thinkers, theorists and scholars of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment were about challenging the religious approach to human knowledge due to what apparent conflicts between people’s increasing reason/rationality and decreasing religious spirit was inevitable. However, the public consciousness in general and the science-centric philosophy in particular still could not give up the existing religion due to the fact that it was necessary as well as time taking to answer all the questions for which the Church had been exclusively responsible for many centuries. Consequently, it can be assumed that religion and science became two different conflicting subjects, two different ways of perceiving the world and two different criteria of reliability for people, but it can also be inferred that this was their intensive confrontation as well as integration what made religion and science be quite independent and examined by each other.

Bibliography

Faith in the Enlightenment. (2006). Amsterdam, NL: Rodopi. Retrieved from http://0-www.ebrary.com.library.ada.edu.az

Elliot, P. A. (2010). Enlightenment, Modernity and Science. London, US: I.B.Tauris. Retrieved from http://0-www.ebrary.com.library.ada.edu.az

Owen, I. J. M., & Owen, J. J. (Eds.). (2011). Religion, the Enlightenment, and the New Global Order. New York, NY, USA: Columbia University Press. Retrieved from http://0-www.ebrary.com.library.ada.edu.az

"Diderot, Denis." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 31 Jan. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Fordham University, 1998. Modern Sourcebook: Thomas Paine: Of the religion of deism compared with the Christian religion. Available on: http://legacy.fordham.edu/Halsall/mod/paine-deism.asp

Dao, C. 2008. Man of Science, Man of God: Isaac Newton. Acts & Facts. 37 (5): 8. Available on: http://www.icr.org/article/newton/

Wiesner, M. E. (2006). Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789. New York, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Pogge, R. (2005). Astronomy 161: An Introduction to Solar System Astronomy. Available on: http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~pogge/Ast161/Unit3/response.html

Hooker, R. (1997). World Cultures: The European Enlightenment/The Scientific Revolution. Available on: http://richard-hooker.com/sites/worldcultures/ENLIGHT/SCIREV.HTM

Houlis, G. M. (2007). Faith and Science: Contradictory or complementary meanings? Translation by A. N. Available on: http://oodegr.co/english/epistimi/sxesi3.htm


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