Implicit Religion, Vol 12, No 3 (2009)

Faith and the Scientific Mind / Faith in the Scientific Mind: The Implicit Religion of Science in Contemporary Britain

Timothy Jenkins
Issued Date: 9 May 2010


Consultation at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, 11-12February 2008. “Social Values in a secular age: what sort of religion do they imply?”

Modern sciences share a number of characteristics concerning the kind of knowledge they produce, the communities of scientists who produce such knowledge, and the relation of the motivation behind the research to the discoveries made. From the social scientific point of view, the interesting question is how the discoveries of science are recaptured by the categories of common sense, and put to work in moral descriptions of the world, mappings that are very selective regarding which characteristics of scientific practices they choose to notice. These “moral” employments of science fall under two broad heads. First, there are hybrids of various moral authorities—scientific and religious—that allow us to offer a description of the historical development of “non-standard” religious forms (Fundamentalisms, New Religious Movements, New Age…) in the last century. And second, there is a spectrum of literature, from Fantasy and Science Fiction to popular science, which plays on the same materials and issues, again in a strictly time- and context-bound fashion. This latter material (which includes, among others, Dawkins’ discussions of faith and science) may be said to represent an urban folklore, and is both diffuse and influential. The project of critical thinking is, then, less a matter of relating science and faith, and more a matter of comparing the relations of orthodox to popular faith with those of orthodox to popular science.

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DOI: 10.1558/imre.v12i3.303


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