About Me

My photo
Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Monday, December 26, 2011

"Science is about explanation. Religion is about meaning"?

So says Alister McGrath.

Really? I reckon you could drive a truck through this. Discuss.

(H/T Tim Dean.)

10 comments:

Steve Zara said...

I think we should start placing bets on what will be the next 'dark matter' for theologians. It's quite possible that the LHC will sort out what dark matter actually is, and so it will no longer be able to be the great scientific mystery compared to the mystery of God.

Darrick Lim said...

Good grief, where to even begin? All those subjective claims about McGrath's particular brand of sky-fairyism! Plus the typical theist assumption that meaning can only be derived from religion. It's like these highly intelligent, erudite, sophisticated theologians are conveniently 'forgetting' about non-theist sources of meaning, like humanism or Buddhist and similar Greco-Roman philosophies.

Svlad Cjelli said...

Meaning is either explanation or meaningless.

I can only take the statement seriously if it is suggesting that religion is about nothing.

Lincoln Cannon said...

It's reasonable to contend that to the extent philosophies provide meaning, they are engaged in religion. Of course, some of us seem to define religion as something along the lines of "anything irrational or superstitious that others believe", in which case our philosophies are never religious.

James Sweet said...

Yet another twist on the old "science isn't everything, therefore religion is something" argument.

One can make a case that science does not lead us to meaning. But that does not mean that religion does.

Russell Blackford said...

My definition - or, rather, description - of religion can be found in Freedom of Religion and the Secular State. It's actually in the chapter that is available for free online, so you don't even need to buy the book (though obviously I hope it whets people's appetites). I pretty much follow what the courts tend to say religion is, and what Charles Taylor says it is. I certainly wouldn't go along with a definition along the lines that Lincoln mentions.

Kel said...

It's amazing how much print time Alister McGrath can get out of such inanity. What meaning can Christianity give to the properties of a carbon atom? If the carbon atom was slightly different, it seems, then there would be no Jesus to redeem our sins! Or sins, for that matter...

Hallelujah!

Svlad Cjelli said...

@ James Sweet

Would you say that it's time to get in the fuckin' sack? :p

Ben said...

I read in a post somewhere recently the phrase "Science is about explanation, philosophy and ethical analysis are about clarity". Without thinking to deeply, I would initially say that I'm comfortable with that.
The trouble with talking about meaning, as best I can see is that a lot of people who do, assume that everything has meaning. What is the meaning of life is a non-question. A category error at best. Yet still people ask it.

Russell Blackford said...

I agree that it's a confused question. At best, it's a confused attempt to ask something that makes more sense - e.g. for advice on what might be a satisfying life, or something of the sort.