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Ways of thinking about the apparent contradictions between science and religion


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Billingsley, Berry-Anne 2004 , 'Ways of thinking about the apparent contradictions between science and religion', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This study looked at how people respond to the apparent contradictions between modern
science and Biblically based religion. The research presents a typology of approaches to
science-religion dilemmas and describes the wide range of approaches taken by experts in
the area and laypeople.
The primary instrument for data collection was a semi-structured interview which used
direct personal questions and questions about science-religion dilemmas. Interviews with
a sample of 20 undergraduate students revealed several strategies that are not described in
the formal academic literature. A five-fold typology was devised which included these
A dimension of developmental levels was identified in the transcripts, based on each
individual's ability to identify and reflect on the apparent contradictions and on students'
self-descriptions of their past approaches. The findings were used to devise a conceptual
sequence to describe the cognitive development that takes place in this kind of thinking.
A method of analysis was devised which inferred information about students' views of
science and religion from the apparent contradictions that they identified. It was found
that many students held views of science and religion that were in conflict and that they
had not examined these views.
The scheme was original in that it was based on semi-structured interviews about
dilemma situations in the area, and it was accompanied by a relatively precise scheme of
The conceptual sequences presented here could become the foundation of a
developmental sequence, showing how students might advance in their thinking about
science-religion dilemmas from novice to expert. In the field of cognitive development,
many researchers including Piaget and Kohlberg have used cross-sectional designs when
formulating developmental sequences. Once the initial concepts have been established,
studies with a longitudinal design have been used to test and confirm the sequences.
In the study here, a single age group was used and the descriptions of students' thinking
cannot be presented as developmental sequences. The stages do, however, follow from
one another conceptually. Further studies could look for evidence that they follow one
another in time.
When devising the conceptual links between the steps in the sequence, attention was paid
to the published responses of philosophers, theologians and scientists to these kinds of
science-religion dilemmas. These responses made by experts in their fields were studied
with a view to discovering the characteristics of the thinking of individuals at the most
advanced stage within the conceptual sequence.
The analysis method developed in the project was applied to a second sample of 20
The findings of this research have implications for the teaching of science and religion at
school and university. It has been suggested that when students with a Christian
background reach adolescence, some students discard their religious beliefs on the basis
that they seem like fairy tales, while other students reject science because it is perceived to oppose their religious beliefs and a third group find the simultaneous contemplation of
science and religion too challenging to bear. To prevent these outcomes, it has been
suggested that students should be exposed to more sophisticated ways of thinking about
science-religion dilemmas. This research indicates that if students are to consider these
alternative ideas, they will need to simultaneously explore other views of science and
religion. It is also argued that one way to raise students' interest in learning more about
the natures of science and religion would be to hold classroom discussions about science-religion

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Billingsley, Berry-Anne
Keywords: Religion and science
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2004 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 2004. Includes bibliographical references

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