Scientific and religious information use in public debates around the existence of God and the creation of the Universe: A discursive approach

Iulian Vamanu, Rutgers University, School of Communication and Information

Description

This paper uses a discourse theoretical framework (the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse) to explore the tensions between the “science discourse” and the “theology discourse” manifested within public debates around two major issues: the existence of God and the creation of the Universe (including human beings). Scientific information is often marshaled by representatives of scientific-academic organizations (scientists, academics, and public intellectuals) as evidence against the existence of God and the intelligent design theory of the Universe. Representatives of religious and theological organizations (clergy leaders and theology scholars) mobilize religious information to respond to these scientific challenges. The paper aims at mapping out the main types of information used in these debates and the relationships between the “science discourse” and the “theology discourse” emerging from them.

This paper has three objectives: (1) identify the main types of scientific information frequently mobilized in public debates by scientists, academics, and public intellectuals to challenge theological views of God and the Universe (including human beings); (2) identify the main types of religious information mobilized by clergy leaders and theology scholars to address these scientific challenges; and (3) map out the spectrum of extant types of relationships between the “science discourse” and the “theology discourse.”

The paper employs a discourse theoretical framework called the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse which assumes that discourses determine what kinds of information count as evidence in specific contexts. The paper analyzes a sample of twenty recorded public debates around two major issues: the existence of God and the creation of the Universe (including human beings). These debates involve actors representing scientific-academic organizations (scientists, academics, and public intellectuals) on one hand and Judeo-Christian religious and theological organizations (clergy leaders and theology scholars) on the other hand. These actors are publicly known as the strongest advocates of their respective positions in regard to the existence of God and the creation of the Universe.

The paper uses content analysis of debate transcripts to identify the relevant types of scientific and religious information employed in these debates. Also, the paper relies on topological metaphors to map out extant relationships between the “science discourse” and the “theology discourse” with regard to the existence of God and the creation of the Universe.

First, I anticipate finding among scientists an emphasis on the use of scientific information to explain natural phenomena in terms of a combination of hazard and physical laws, without the need to postulate a Creator.

Second, I anticipate finding among theologians an emphasis on the limitations of information acquired through scientific experiment. I also expect them to discuss the relevance of religious information acquired through religious practice and, ultimately, the personal experience of faith.

Third, I anticipate finding a range of relationships between the “science discourse” and the “theology discourse” with regard to the existence of God and the creation of the Universe: (1) use of scientific information in support of theological views; (2) accommodation of scientific information within the theological framework; (3) irrelevance of scientific information to religious matters.

This study is relevant in the present context where the “science discourse” is dominant, yet many people continue to declare their religious commitments. Since both discourses are valuable to our contemporaries and neither shows signs of decline, it is important to examine the kinds of information people mobilize to talk about religious issues and map out of the strongest existing positions. This has the potential of clearing out the ground for a better engagement with both science and religion. Also, the study will reveal bodies of information that are often marginalized or even neglected, e.g., religious information embedded in the Scriptures, the tradition of Biblical interpretation, and liturgical practice.

I am a PhD candidate in Library and Information Science at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information. My dissertation uses a discourse theoretical framework called the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse to study discursive constructions of indigenous knowledge by North American indigenous curators of museum exhibitions. Also, I have a background in Philosophy and Theories of Interpretation which has provided me with a thorough understanding of Discourse Theory and of philosophical aspects of Christian spirituality. All these lines of intellectual inquiry are brought together in this interdisciplinary study of religion and information.

 
Jan 1st, 12:00 AM Jun 5th, 10:30 AM

Scientific and religious information use in public debates around the existence of God and the creation of the Universe: A discursive approach

This paper uses a discourse theoretical framework (the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse) to explore the tensions between the “science discourse” and the “theology discourse” manifested within public debates around two major issues: the existence of God and the creation of the Universe (including human beings). Scientific information is often marshaled by representatives of scientific-academic organizations (scientists, academics, and public intellectuals) as evidence against the existence of God and the intelligent design theory of the Universe. Representatives of religious and theological organizations (clergy leaders and theology scholars) mobilize religious information to respond to these scientific challenges. The paper aims at mapping out the main types of information used in these debates and the relationships between the “science discourse” and the “theology discourse” emerging from them.

This paper has three objectives: (1) identify the main types of scientific information frequently mobilized in public debates by scientists, academics, and public intellectuals to challenge theological views of God and the Universe (including human beings); (2) identify the main types of religious information mobilized by clergy leaders and theology scholars to address these scientific challenges; and (3) map out the spectrum of extant types of relationships between the “science discourse” and the “theology discourse.”

The paper employs a discourse theoretical framework called the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse which assumes that discourses determine what kinds of information count as evidence in specific contexts. The paper analyzes a sample of twenty recorded public debates around two major issues: the existence of God and the creation of the Universe (including human beings). These debates involve actors representing scientific-academic organizations (scientists, academics, and public intellectuals) on one hand and Judeo-Christian religious and theological organizations (clergy leaders and theology scholars) on the other hand. These actors are publicly known as the strongest advocates of their respective positions in regard to the existence of God and the creation of the Universe.

The paper uses content analysis of debate transcripts to identify the relevant types of scientific and religious information employed in these debates. Also, the paper relies on topological metaphors to map out extant relationships between the “science discourse” and the “theology discourse” with regard to the existence of God and the creation of the Universe.

First, I anticipate finding among scientists an emphasis on the use of scientific information to explain natural phenomena in terms of a combination of hazard and physical laws, without the need to postulate a Creator.

Second, I anticipate finding among theologians an emphasis on the limitations of information acquired through scientific experiment. I also expect them to discuss the relevance of religious information acquired through religious practice and, ultimately, the personal experience of faith.

Third, I anticipate finding a range of relationships between the “science discourse” and the “theology discourse” with regard to the existence of God and the creation of the Universe: (1) use of scientific information in support of theological views; (2) accommodation of scientific information within the theological framework; (3) irrelevance of scientific information to religious matters.

This study is relevant in the present context where the “science discourse” is dominant, yet many people continue to declare their religious commitments. Since both discourses are valuable to our contemporaries and neither shows signs of decline, it is important to examine the kinds of information people mobilize to talk about religious issues and map out of the strongest existing positions. This has the potential of clearing out the ground for a better engagement with both science and religion. Also, the study will reveal bodies of information that are often marginalized or even neglected, e.g., religious information embedded in the Scriptures, the tradition of Biblical interpretation, and liturgical practice.

I am a PhD candidate in Library and Information Science at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information. My dissertation uses a discourse theoretical framework called the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse to study discursive constructions of indigenous knowledge by North American indigenous curators of museum exhibitions. Also, I have a background in Philosophy and Theories of Interpretation which has provided me with a thorough understanding of Discourse Theory and of philosophical aspects of Christian spirituality. All these lines of intellectual inquiry are brought together in this interdisciplinary study of religion and information.