Empiricism, Conceptual Cleavers, and the Discourse on Religion and Science

Authored by: Francisca Cho

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Science

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415492447
eBook ISBN: 9780203803516
Adobe ISBN: 9781136634178


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This essay uses the concept of “empiricism” to demonstrate a way of connecting religion and science that gets around the enormous problem of defining them. I use the term empiricism not as a definition, but as a scalpel to carve religion and science into manageable entities that can be related to each other. I pick empiricism in particular because of the way it re-envisions religion within the framework of religion and science. By turning to the example of Buddhism, I bolster the view of religion as a form of empiricism, and also demonstrate how knowledge of diverse religious formations can help us expand the content of our “religion and science” discussions. The utility of the idea of religion as empiricism lies in its ability to explain the persistence of religion despite the widespread and long-standing expectation that it should fade away in the face of scientific progress. This essay argues that, ultimately, any characterization of religion and/or science needs to be measured by the particular insights it reveals, rather than the claim to be exhaustive.

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