Missed Opportunities in Dialogue Between Psychology and Religion

Volume 34
Fall 2006
Missed Opportunities in Dialogue Between Psychology and Religion

In the Middle Ages, studies of the natural world, human behavior and theology were part of an interwoven body of knowledge. However, in modern times an increasing divide has separated science and religion. A careful review suggests that currents and accidents in intellectual and social history have served to unnecessarily foreclose lines of thought that might lead to rapprochement of religion with science, including psychology. Developments in Western views of epistemology and the philosophy of science have been a major factor in this estrangement. In the early modern period, flexible views of science (e.g. Bacon) were replaced by doctrinaire formulations emphasizing quantitative methodologies. Especially important was the development of positivism, which opened the door to a reductionistic naturalism that intended not only to reduce dialogue with religion but also to replace it with science. Within psychology, Freud and other early psychologists were eager to establish psychology as a "€œreal"€ science and enthusiastically embraced the positivist perspective and rejected possible alternatives. Although this positivist approach is philosophically untenable, it continues to dominate psychology and obstruct dialogue between science and religion as well as progress in psychology as a whole. A return to a broader and more modest conception of science is warranted.

Dr. J.M. Nelson
205 - 216
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