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Overview. Assumptions & Definitions Brief History Major Current Issues. Faith & Reason Background & Major Issues. Assumptions. Faith and reason are both sources of authority upon which beliefs can rest.

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Faith reason background major issues


  • Assumptions & Definitions

  • Brief History

  • Major Current Issues

Faith & ReasonBackground & Major Issues


  • Faith and reason are both sources of authority upon which beliefs can rest.

  • The key philosophical issue regarding the problem of faith and reason is to work out how the authority of faith and the authority of reason interrelate.

  • The focus of this inquiry will be in the context of the Western religious and wisdom traditions.


  • Word: God

Dictionary Definition

Merriam-Webster Online


  • Word: God(continued)


  • Word: Faith (continued)


  • Word: God(continued)

  • God’s Perfections


  • Word: God(continued)

  • And who is Sai Baba anyway?


  • Word: Reason

  • Using principles for a methodological inquiry, whether intellectual, moral, aesthetic, or religious.

  • Not simply the rules of logical inference or the embodied wisdom of a tradition or authority.

  • Some kind of algorithmic demonstrability is ordinarily presupposed.

  • Once demonstrated, a proposition or claim is ordinarily understood to be justified as true or authoritative.


  • Word: Faith

  • A stance toward some claim that is not, at least presently, demonstrable by reason.

  • A kind of attitude of trust or assent.

  • Ordinarily understood to involve an act of will or a commitment on the part of the believer.

  • Religious faith involves a belief that makes some kind of implicit or explicit reference to a transcendent source.

  • A person's faith is usually based on the authority of some revelation ─ either directly (via a direct infusion), or indirectly (usually from the testimony of an other).


  • The revelations or sets of revelations on which most religions are based is usually described and interpreted in sacred pronouncements, either in an oral tradition or canonical writings, backed by some kind of divine authority.

  • These writings or oral traditions are usually presented in the literary forms of narrative, parable, or discourse.

  • They are, in some measure, immune from rational critique and evaluation.

  • But up until modern times, people did not see any conflict between their religious beliefs and their “scientific” beliefs.

  • Word: Faith (continued)

Brief history


470 - 399 BCE


427 - 347 BCE


384 - 322 BCE

Brief History

  • At the beginning of the Western wisdom tradition…

  • Early thinkers respected their gods.

  • For Socrates and Plato, the gods guided people in virtue and practical affairs. Moral virtue involved the rational control of one’s desires. And virtue required good upbringing, education, and habits. That was not enough, however (e.g., Plato’s Meno).

  • For monotheists like Aristotle, God was little more than the Prime Mover.

  • Although the gods were respected, philosophers still asked questions about their nature and actions. These intellectual pioneers were critical thinkers and believers.

Brief history1
Brief History

  • Reason and faith have been tightly linked in the Western tradition from the beginning.

  • A prevailing model in Western culture is known as the "two books."

  • There was the book of Scripture and the book of Nature.

  • From the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century, most people in the Western world believed that both books were the work of God.

  • With the same author, it was impossible that the two should conflict.

Brief history2
Brief History

  • The religious world played a major role in the history of science.

  • In the early Middle Ages, a time when Christian Europe turned away from scientific thinking. The science, mathematics, and astronomy of the ancient Greeks was kept alive in the Islamic world.

  • Moslem scholars translated the Greek texts, and developed and enriched them.

  • In the thirteenth century, this scientific heritage began to filter back into Western Europe.

  • Inheriting the Islamic scholarship, Christian monks and theologians continued the scientific process.

Brief history3
Brief History

  • Throughout the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, most scientific leaders were men of the church or men of faith.

Brief history4

  • Galileo Galilei

Brief History

  • More men of faith who were scientific leaders…

  • 1564 - 1642

  • Great Italian physicist

  • A committed Catholic who sought the Pope’s endorsement of his vision of the heavens. He wrote Dialogs Concerning Two New Sciences, which established his role as a founder of modern physics.

  • 1473 - 1543

  • Canon at Frauenburg Cathedral

  • Proposed the revolutionary idea that the sun was at the center of the cosmic system in his book On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres, published 1543.

Brief history5
Brief History

  • And another scientific leader…

Brief history6
Brief History

  • And another giant of science…

Brief history7
Brief History

Isaac Newton…

"When I wrote my treatise about our system, I had my eye upon such principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a deity; and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose."

─In answer to a question from a clergyman about the connection between his cosmology and belief in God

  • Up until the eighteenth century, most of those in Europe studying science were indeed men of deep religious faith, many of them formally schooled in theology.

  • A big reason for this linkage: the church controlled the institutes of higher learning, particularly the universities (which had been set up originally as training grounds for the clergy and other church functionaries).

Brief history8
Brief History

And then…Enlightenment

With the rise of a new rationalistic climate in the Enlightenment, philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that science and religion were two separate domains that must be kept apart.

  • Wrote a bombshell: On the Evolution of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

  • In the wake of this book, some Christian believers and theologians began to see science as a threat to their faith.

  • On the other hand, some scientists also began to see religion as a threat to scientific freedom.

  • The warfare model of the relationship between faith and reason emerges.

Brief history9
Brief History


  • The scientific method is self-correcting, and as a result, our most reliable method for determining the truth of the physical world.

  • The scientific method is our most reliable means of establishing the truth of an empirical proposition beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • Science seeks to understand the world by identifying general principles that are both explanatory and predictive.

  • In general, any procedure that serves to systematically eliminate reasonable grounds for doubt can be considered scientific. For example, consider this general method:

1.Observe, measure, quantify, correlate mathematical data.

2.Induce (creatively construct) general hypotheses (possible explanations) for what was observed.

3.Deduce specific things that must also be true if an hypothesis is true.

4.Test the hypothesis by checking out the deduced implications.

Major current issues
Major Current Issues

Evolution versus Creationism

  • For many people today, the relationship between science and religion is epitomized by the clash over evolution.

  • Darwin's book suggested that instead of being specially created by God, humans are the product of biological evolution.

  • Many religious believers in the nineteenth century felt that Darwinian evolution had robbed humanity of its dignity.

  • Over the past two decades, America has seen a significant rise in the number of Christian "creationists" who believe the biblical story of creation must be taken literally.

  • The majority of Christian believers understand this story as an extended metaphor.

  • Can an evolutionary perspective be compatible with faith?

Major current issues1
Major Current Issues

Genetic Engineering

  • Geneticists are now engaged in one of the biggest scientific projects of all time: the Human Genome Project.

  • The aim is to decipher the entire genetic code of human beings, and to try to understand the functioning of the 100,000 or so genes that make up the DNA that lies at the heart of every cell in our bodies.

  • Thousands of researchers in many countries are engaged in this project, and the US government alone has committed three billion dollars to the effort over a fifteen year period.

  • Genetic engineering enables scientists to create plants, animals and micro-organisms by manipulating genes in a way that does not occur naturally.

  • How far should / can science go in probing the secrets of human life?

Major current issues2

Scene from Gattaca, a futuristic story of a genetically imperfect man and his seemingly unobtainable goal to travel in space...

Major Current Issues

Genetic Determinism

  • As scientists understand more about our genetic makeup, one thing they are beginning to explore is the possibility of links between genes and behavior.

  • Already it has been reported, that there may be genetic predispositions for alcoholism, violence, and even sexual orientation.

  • Some people believe that much of our personality and behavior is genetically determined.

  • For many people of faith, the notion of genetic determinism raises serious theological questions, because if behavior is largely determined by our genes, what becomes of the idea of free will ─ the notion that we have a choice about how we act?

  • If we are compelled to do things by our genetic makeup, then how can we be held morally accountable?

Major current issues3
Major Current Issues


  • In February 1997 Dr Ian Wilmut at the Roslin Institute in Scotland announced that he had produced a cloned sheep named Dolly.

  • Dr Wilmut and his team took an unfertilized egg from one sheep and removed its DNA by removing the egg's nucleus, and leaving just the surrounding cytoplasm.

  • They then took a cell from the udder of another sheep and fused this udder cell with the empty egg. In this way, they forced the egg into beginning the process of growing into a fetus without the input of a sperm.

  • The lamb which resulted from this process was a genetic clone of the second female sheep.

  • Since then, other researchers have used similar processes with mice and cows ─ proving that cloning mammals is now a reality.

  • Is it ethical to clone any type of human cells?

Major current issues4

M100, one of the spiral nebulae, in the nearby Virgo cluster of galaxies

Major Current Issues


  • It is not just biological evolution that poses challenges to traditional religious views. Cosmological evolution also raises issues for people of faith.

  • According to the Book of Genesis, God created the universe and all the heavenly bodies ─ the sun, the moon, and the stars ─in six days.

  • But according to contemporary cosmologists, the universe began with a great explosion known as the Big Bang, after which the stars and galaxies slowly formed over billions of years.

  • Just as Darwin proposed that the evolution of life was a long, slow, and gradual process, so cosmologists now believe that our universe evolves by long slow processes.

  • Can an evolutionary cosmology be compatible with faith?

Major current issues5
Major Current Issues of galaxies

Design / Purpose

  • Physicist Steven Weinberg has made famous the statement that "the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless."

  • According to this Nobel laureate, what physicists are discovering through science is "an impersonal world governed by mathematical laws that are not particularly concerned with human beings, in which human beings appear as a chance phenomena."

  • Weinberg interprets the mathematical "laws of nature" as having nothing to do with human beings.

  • But an increasing number of physicists see these very laws as "finely tuned" to allow for the emergence of life ─ a view known as the "anthropic principle."

  • How can people of faith today see the universe as inherently purposeful ─and humanity's role as important?

  • The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.

  • With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

    • ─Steven Weinberg, US physicist (1933 - )

Major current issues6
Major Current Issues of galaxies

What are your personal issues in encountering God in today’s world?