January 15, 2009

The Intersubjective Worlds of Science and Religion

The Intersubjective Worlds of Science and Religion

By B. Alan Wallace

Science is often characterized as providing objective knowledge of the world as it exists independently of consciousness, whereas the humanities in general, and religion in particular, pertain to human experience. In this way, science is commonly viewed as being "objective," whereas religion is "subjective."

In contrast to this popular idea, in this paper I shall argue that both scientific and religious truths cover a spectrum in terms of their invariance across multiple cognitive frames of reference. A highly objective truth, for instance, is one that is invariant across a wide range of cognitive frames of reference, including different modes of observation and different types of conceptual frameworks. A highly subjective truth, on the other hand, is one that is valid only for a very limited range of cognitive frames of reference.

Following this model of intersubjective frames of reference, the validity of a truth-claim is tested, not in reference to some purely objective realm of existence, independent of all modes of inquiry, but in reference to multiple modes of perceptual and conceptual knowledge. With this criterion of truth, both scientific and religious modes of knowledge are seen to be inextricably embedded in human experience. Moreover, following this model, human consciousness--so long omitted from the scientific worldview--is seen to play a central role in both the natural world of science as well as the world of religious truths.

Read More: Here

B. ALAN WALLACE is a Buddhist Monk ordained by H. H. the Dalai Lama in 1975, and holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Stanford University. He has lectured and taught on Buddhism and the philosophy of mind for over 30 years. Wallace is currently the founder and president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies.


jjensenii said...

Just from what's posted here, it seems like he's simply saying what pragmatists like William James have been saying about science and religion for over a century now: "truth" is just praise we give to ideas that seem to work where we need them to work.

BrightAbyss~ said...

I can agree with you there. But I do think Wallace's points are (typically of his style) a little more complex than that.

His approach may be pragmatic, similar to James', in that he considers 'subjective truths' to be true in so far as they work for subjective aims (interpretation), and 'objective truths' to be true only in so far as they deal with objective claims - and, as James said, 'no farther'.

It is our awkward mixing of epistemic claims with ontological claims (as maybe John Searle talks about) that creates a situation where science and religion seem opposed.


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