Mother Theology and Daughter Science: Harmony in the Mind

A daughter and a mother can and do fall out, but this is always sad and a bit unnatural. There would be no daughter without the mother and no future without the daughter. So, it is with theology ("religion") and science. Without monotheistic religions, we have no reason to think that scientific methods would have been discovered and without science, theology is cut off from an important part of reality.

An amazing number of people believe the falsehood that there is a war between science and religion. This falsehood was convenient to secularists who had contributed little to history and Protestant Christians who disliked the Roman Catholic Church. This nineteenth century view of the conflict between theology and science was spread by late Victorians like Andrew Dickson White. It lingers on in those who may have a good education in their specialty, but lack training in history, philosophy, or theology. You can recognize the "conflict lie" when you run into otherwise thoughtful people who talk about the "dark ages" or do not know that these same "dark ages" produced the basic ideas that helped make science possible.

Scientific methods got a kick start from thinkers like Robert Grosseteste or Roger Bacon who were motivated by their religion to study nature scientifically. William of Ockham pushed the idea that we should not multiply entities needlessly in our explanations of the world based on his understanding of the nature of God. Even a basic history of science like that of John Losee will get rid of the old "conflict thesis." Perhaps science could have been born without monotheism or sustained without the ideas of Christianity, but science was born in that culture and that culture alone.

Christians believed nature was good as God's creation and so avoided the disdain for nature that frustrated Aristotle in so many of his pagan students. Christians also knew that nature was not God, so they did not feel as if they were committing impiety in looking at the works of creation. Nature was good, but not God.

Of course, between any two ways of knowing, there are always going to be tensions when the best ideas of one area seem to conflict with the best ideas of the other area. For example, philosophers or mathematicians might decide that ideas like numbers most likely exist, while many scientists may assume that only matter and energy exist. Tensions have existed between theology and science as each field used the tools of their disciplines to try to understand reality. Sometimes the scientists have been correct, as they were on the motion of the Earth, and sometimes the theologians have been correct, as when many scientists pushed eugenic ideas in the early twentieth century.

Mother theology and her daughter science are part of the family of knowledge traditions and together give us the fullest picture of all the cosmos: matter, energy, ideas, and mind.