In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Science and Religion

  • Introduction
  • Aristotle’s Eternity of the World Versus Scriptural Creation in the Finite Past
  • Medievals and a Flat Earth?
  • Science–Theology Warfare?
  • Faith and Reason in the Middle Ages
  • Copernicanism and Galileo
  • Early Modern Reason and Faith, Rationalism versus Voluntarism
  • Enlightenment versus Enthusiasm and Miracles
  • Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent Life, Deism, and Natural Theology
  • Realism, Naturalism, Completeness, and History
  • Skepticism and Induction before the 20th Century
  • Bayesian Probabilities, Scientific Logic, Evidence, and the Problem of Induction
  • The Hexaemeron, Chronology, and Noah’s Flood
  • Scientific Inductive Geology and the Overcoming of Texts
  • Objectivity of Science, Demarcation, and Bayesian Convergence
  • Realism versus Antirealism
  • Theory Change, History, and the Rationality of Science
  • Roman Catholicism, the Bible, the Faith–Reason Relationship, and Historical Sciences
  • Divine Action, God-of-the-Gaps Arguments, and Theistic Explanation
  • Cosmic Fine-Tuning
  • Eschatology
  • Origin of Modern Science
  • Religion, Ethics, and the Environment
  • Faith and Reason in Contemporary Work
  • Unreasonably Effective Mathematics in Science
  • God and the Big Bang
  • God, Omniscience, and the Flow of Time versus Relativistic Physics
  • Philosophy of Mind, Anthropology

Philosophy Science and Religion
J. Brian Pitts
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0147


The science–religion interaction spans so many fields, years, sources, etc., that a comprehensive view is no small task. This survey will be especially oriented to the discussion that has grown primarily out of the intellectual tradition of Western Christendom, but which aspires to universality. The Western Christian discussion, of course, profited in the late medieval era from Arabic transmission of Greek texts, whether pagan or Christian, as well as more distinctively Islamic and Jewish contributions. The Western Christian tradition, however, ultimately took some dramatic turns in response to the 16th-century Protestant Reformation and its aftermath. The history of science lately has produced many informed and balanced treatments. One important theme is the rejection of “Whiggish” history, which portrays the past with a bias to ratify the present. Instead, one must aim to enter sympathetically into the mindsets of the historical actors. Can one then return to the present in a more critical way? One major task of philosophy is to assess the types and bases of knowledge claims in other disciplines. Thus, the philosophy of science and the philosophy of religion, broadly construed to include certain traditional parts of theology (prolegomena, apologetics), are relevant, as is much of medieval philosophy. Besides sciences and theologies (including church history), one thus also needs an adequate command of the history of science, the philosophy of science, the sociology of science, and relevant parts of general intellectual history. Such, at least, were some of the aspirations involved in this article’s compilation. The question of whether science(s) has, or needs, a logic is important. Certainly, deductive logic is inadequate. Bayesianism, making systematic use of the probability calculus, might be adequate. A key issue is Hume’s problem of induction. Many philosophers agree that it cannot be solved, and some—generally those who are still working on a solution—think that the lack of a solution would render science no more justifiable than fortune telling (or Bible reading, for that matter) as a source of beliefs. This article is organized more or less chronologically in terms of the issues discussed, forming a selective slice of the intellectual history of the West since the medieval period, while encouraging critical reflection using methodological insights available in the early 21st century. It is hoped that this organization facilitates both a non-Whiggish history and a useful critical understanding for contemporary application.

Professionalization and Reference Works

The professionalization of the science–religion interaction, at least in its current iteration, is rather recent and still quite incomplete. Besides books of all sorts and Journal articles in adjacent fields such as the history of science, there has arisen a growing body of serial publications devoted to the science and religion interaction, many of which will be mentioned in the following sections. As further evidence of the tendency of the science–religion interaction toward becoming an academic discipline in itself, there are now encyclopedic treatments and textbooks.

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