The Dialogue between Science and Orthodoxy: Specificity and Possibilities

  1. Lemma
  2. The Dialogue between Science and Orthodoxy: Specificity and Possibilities
  3. English
  4. Tampakis, Kostas
  5. Concepts of knowledge and modes of reasoning - Orthodox theological tradition and practice
  6. 2010
  7. Journal for Interdisciplinary Research on Religion and Science
  8. Hermeneutics - Galilean science - Neopatristic movement
  9. Click Here
    1. This article aims to evaluate the peculiarities of the dialogue between Orthodox Christianity and the sciences. It distinguishes Orthodox Christianity from other religions and other Christian dogmas, arguing that it is has specificities which render it specifically suited for a rapprochement with modern science.

      The author starts by describing the emergence of the current paradigm of scientific rationality as an historically situated event which was inaugurated after the Middle Ages. Galileo is credited with providing its original formulation, which rests on the assumption that the only valid form of knowledge is the one produced by reason and therefore, mathematics. From there on, Baruch Spinoza, René Descartes and the British Empiricists perfected this approach, which ended up dominating philosophical and scientific discourse up to the nineteenth century. As a result, a specific form of rationality was seen as the only way of achieving knowledge, while the ‘natural’ and the ‘supernatural’ came to be seen as forming a conceptual antithesis.

      However, in the beginning of the twentieth century, a different cultural context was articulated, starting with Wilhelm Dilthey and continuing with Henri Bergson, Martin Heidegger and Hans Georg Gadamer. Dilthey articulated the difference between explanation, which is proper for the sciences of nature, and experience. Bergson proposed that reason has limits, which do not enable the understanding of life. In this account, physics and mathematics thrive on spatial, quantitative relations, while life is more closely connected to temporality. Heidegger is credited with providing an analysis of the inadequacy of modern technical attitude towards nature. Finally, philosophical hermeneutics explored another deficiency of the cultural model of modernity, by stressing the differences between the horizon of the author and that of the interpreter. Different époques have different rationalities and different intrinsic mentalities, which should be recognized within their own historicity. Consequently, the currently prevailing paradigm of Galilean science, articulated as such during the Enlightenment, is exactly such a culturally situated historical conception.

      With that analysis in mind, the author lists a number of traits of Orthodox Christianity, which render it especially suited for a dialogue with modern science. Prominent among them is the realization that the Orthodox tradition should be recognized as crystallization of individual concrete experiences, which cannot be fully articulated and catalogued within the paradigm of Western Galilean science. Furthermore, the Neopatristic movement of Stăniloae, Popovici and Florovsky, among others, has described the total dimension of Christian doctrine, while engaging the insights provided by modern philosophy. This leads to a new awareness of Orthodox concepts such as those of the person, of askesis, and of hesychia, which render them especially suited for discussing modern scientific achievements. Finally, the author states that the specificity of the Orthodox Christian spirituality is obviously closer to a certain meaning of science than to the morality and pietism that were more typical of the Western theological discourse. The contemporary cultural context exceptionally facilitates such proximity between science and Orthodox theology.