Re: Science and Religion

Sun, 8 Oct 1995 13:04:00 PDT

Tomaso replies (and I should note that I may have misread what he was
saying in the post to which I replied):

"....wrote about their messaiah's life
and the fact that they more or less agree about the facts of that life,
right? How far removed is this from ethnography? or experiments that took
place years ago - for that matter? Do we want to proviledge hypothesis
testing over witnessing and life experience?"

If you are scientific then you are committed, when engaging in scientific
discourse, to privilege hypothesis testing over witnessing and life
experience when you are communicating to others about what your claims
when you also expect your claims to be accepted as validated. To my
mind there is an enormous difference between saying: "I accept the accounts
made of experiements n years ago, which were subjected to scrutiny,
challenge and the like at the time, and are experiments which I could
replicate today if I were so disposed" and saying " the apostles are in
agreement about the purported facts of Jesus's ministry," with that
account never subjected to publice scrutiny, chanllenge and the like and
which is also a non-replicable event.

Tomaso continues:

" To put this into terms that Read might agree with - science engages reality
mediated through formal, tested theoretical structures, while religion engages
reality through its totalizing theory."

I'll agree with that.

Tomaso continues: " I do not agree that the similarity between
scientific and religious faith is, in any way, superficial. "

I would prefer to say that it is possible and probably even useful, to
examine in what ways there are non-superficial similarities between
religious faith and and what we might call "scientific faith."

Tomaso continues:

" I take structure (in
Levi-Strauss/Marshall Sahlins' sense) and evolution as matters of faith."

At this point we part company. I argue for structures in the work I do on
kinship terminologies. I do not take structures "on faith" but DEMONSTRATE
that kinship terminologies are strucutred, conceptual systems. The fact that
a structure is abstract (i.e., exists at the level of concepts, not at the,
external, empirical level) does not require "faith." See for, example, the
work of El GUindi on structure in Zapotec Ritual in which she provides an
ethnographic/empricial grounding for her arguments about structure in their
concpetual systems.

I do not take "evolution" on faith, but as a proposition about how the
organic material world comes to have the structure that it has and a
propostion that is based upon falsifiable theoretical arguments.

D. Read