Ian Barbour connecting science and religion

After World War II the deadly possibilities of the Atomic Age raised questions that science couldn’t answer. the world had seen two horrible wars where lives of people were destroyed as if they where of no value. Man had chosen to play god with several experiments, trying to get a proper human Germanic race, destroying those which were seen as the unjust or as the haters of Jesus. Men had become playing for God, wanting to create there own justified world and taking the right to judge in their own hands.

Ian Barbour

Ian Barbour in his office in the chapel at Carleton College in 1999, when he won the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. In the 1950s, when Barbour began to promote discourse between the two fields, scientists had little tolerance for religion, and theologians had little interest in science. His was a lonely voice for rapprochement. (Jean Pieri, St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Born in Beijing, China the second of three sons of an American Episcopalian mother and a Scottish Presbyterian father, Ian Barbour spent his childhood in China, the United States, and England.  After completing his doctorate in physics he enrolled in Yale University‘s Divinity School and forged a career devoted to bridging the chasm between science and religion. Even before completing his divinity degree in 1956, he was appointed to teach in both the religion and physics departments of Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., in 1955. With his degrees in Theology and Physics, Ian Barbour explored the theological implications of science and methodological issues in both fields. In the 1970’s, he co-founded of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy program at Carleton, which later became the Environment and Technology Studies program. He retired in 1986 as the Winifred and Atherton Bean Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology and Society, but continued to put his ideas on paper. He wrote or edited sixteen books. From 1989 to 1991, he gave the Gifford lectures from 1989 – 1991 at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and in 1999, he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

In the citation nominating Barbour for the 1999 Templeton Prize, John B. Cobb wrote

“No contemporary has made a more original, deep and lasting contribution toward the needed integration of scientific and religious knowledge and values than Ian Barbour. With respect to the breadth of topics and fields brought into this integration, Barbour has no equal”

Barbour pledged $1 million of the prize money to the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences, an educational organization affiliated with the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif.

Barbour claimed the basic structure of religion to be similar to that of science in some ways but also differing on some crucial points. Both being part of the same spectrum display ‘subjective’ as well as ‘objective’ features. The subjective include the theory on data, the resistance of comprehensive theories to falsification, and the absence of rules for choice among paradigms. Objective features include the presence of common data, evidence for or against a theory, and criteria which are not paradigm-dependent. The presence of subjective and objective features in both science and religion makes his thinking valuable and original. Barbour’s arguments have been developed in significant and diverse ways by a variety of scholars, including Arthur Peacocke, John Polkinghorne, Sallie McFague and Robert John Russell. His subjective / objective approach is prominent in the evolving paradigm of Religious Naturalism.

Critical realism could be seen as an alternative to the competing interpretations of scientific theories: classical or naive realism, instrumentalism, and idealism.

A critical realist perspective sees scientific theories yielding partial, revisable, abstract, but referential knowledge of the world that can be expressed through metaphors and models.

Director of the association’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion, Jennifer Wiseman said:

“Scientists particularly have appreciated the humble and insightful ways he has considered how we imagine and model the unknowns in each realm.”

His book Myths, Models, and Paradigms (1974), which compared concepts and methods of inquiry in science and religion was nominated for a National Book Award.
Religion in an Age of Science (1990) and Ethics in an Age of Technology (1993), a two-volume set based on a series of lectures he presented in Scotland, received the 1993 book award from the American Academy of Religion.
He later published an updated and revised version of Religion in an Age of Science as Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (1997). In When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? (2000), translated into 14 languages, Barbour reviewed possible responses to the conflict between science and religion, ultimately concluding that the two are not mutually exclusive. In the book he looks at ‘Religion And Science’, The Beginning: ‘Why Did the Big Bang Occur?’, Quantum Physics: ‘A Challenge to Our Assumptions About Reality?’ and Darwin And Genesis: ‘Is Evolution God′s Way of Creating?’.

Barbour’s wife of 64 years, Deane Kern, died in 2011. Barbour suffered a stroke on December 20, 2013 at his home in Northfield, Minnesota, and remained in a coma at Abbott Northwestern Hospital until his death four days later. He is survived by his brother Hugh (Sirkka) of Sleepy Hollow, New York; four children, John (Meg Ojala) of Dundas, Blair of Oak Park, Illinois, David of Richfield, and Heather (Tom Eberhart) of Arlington, Virginia; three grandchildren, Graham Ojala-Barbour (Yinfei Wu) of Minneapolis, Alexandra Barbour Albers of San Francisco, and Reed Ojala-Barbour of Big Bend, Texas; and his great grandson, Edgar Deane Ojala-Barbour.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 18th, at 3 p.m., at Carleton’s Skinner Memorial Chapel with a reception following in Great Hall. Remembrances of Ian may be left in the comments below. The family’s obituary is available on the Bierman Funeral Home’s website.

Ian was a member of the First United Church of Christ in Northfield, where he was a steady worshiper and active member of his congregation. Ian left a wide and deep intellectual legacy, and he also led a life of great kindness and generosity. He was a humble man of deep faith, finding awe and wonder in the natural world, and great love and joy in his family and friends.

Ernest Simmons (Concordia College) wrote:

As a mentor and friend in the theology and science dialog, Ian opened a world of creative interaction for me and his groundbreaking book Issues in Science and Religion contributed to me becoming a theologian and committed to the dialog. He demonstrated that one could be a scientist and with intellectual and scientific integrity affirm the existence of God. My faith was sustained because of his reflection. No words can fully express the gentle kindness with which he approached others whether they be friends or detractors and modeled a way of intellectual and scholarly debate that was constructive to the field. Also, no words can fully express what he has meant to all of us in science and theology as a founder of the field. Blessed be the memory of Ian Barbour. We are all better persons for having been touched by such a gentle giant of an intellect housed in such a kind and caring human presence. Pax Aeterna my friend.

Takashi James Kodera ’69, Professor of Religion, Wellesley College; Rector, part-time, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Hudson, MA, wrote:

May I share with all those who have known Ian Barbour my heart felt gratitude for his pioneering teaching and scholarship. Trained first as a physicist, and later in the academic study of religion, with an abiding commitment to the Quaker tradition, he spearheaded the field of “Science and Religion.”

When I took my first Religion course at Carleton as a “foreign student,” in today’s PC phrase “international student,” it was a course, team taught by Ian Barbour and Bardwell Smith. Due, in large measure, to my woeful language preparation, I did not follow the class proceedings very well. As a “courtesy grade,” as the put it, I received one of the lowest but passing grade.

What I remember of him is the rare combination of personal gentleness and intellectual acumen.

His beloved wife, Deanne, preceded him.

May their souls rest in eternal peace.


Please Browse Inside Religion and Science by Ian G. Barbour

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Additional reading:

  1. Ian Barbour dies at 90; academic who bridged science-religion divide
  2. Ian Graeme Barbour  (October 5, 1923 – December 24, 2013)
  3. Notices of the passing of members of the Carleton community: Ian Barbour
  4. Ian Graeme Barbour (October 5, 1923 – December 24, 2013), American scholar on the relationship between science and religion.
  5. Ian Barbour, in full Ian Graeme Barbour


Science and Religion are portrayed to be in ha...

Science and Religion are portrayed to be in harmony in the Tiffany window Education (1890). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Ian Barbour: An Appreciative Note Now That He Has Died (ithinkibelieve.wordpress.com)
    The eminent, perhaps the original, scholar of science and religion leaves a huge legacy behind, one which many of us are very thankful for. Anyone who takes science-and-religion seriously is familiar with his classic 1966 book, Issues in Science and Religion. He had a PhD in physics from the University of Chicago and did graduate work in theology at Yale. He was, by all accounts, also a very pleasant man.
    He isn’t announcing how science and religion ought to or should relate, but rather attempts to understand how they do relate. And the fact is that they relate in several different ways. There’s nothing wrong, as such, to throw your lot in with one particular kind of relation – say, independence, like Stephen Jay Gould did with his NOMA model -, but you’ve stopped being a scientist when you do so, and have proceeded to sit down in the philosophical armchair. Which is quite all right, of course. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. But it isn’t scientific.
  • Ian Barbour, academic who bridged science-religion divide, dies at 90 (mcclatchydc.com)
    He “gave birth almost single-handedly to the contemporary dialogue between science and religion,” said Robert John Russell, the founder-director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, a nonprofit teaching and research institute affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union. “He made a convincing and lasting case that science and religion are more alike and analogous than unlike and conflictive.”
  • Science without Religion (thoughtuncommon.wordpress.com) > Science without Religion (mortusvox.wordpress.com)
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
    Science and Religion Harmonized (Once and For All…)  > Science and Religion Harmonized (Once and For All…)
    Religion (or spirituality or relation to the Divine, as you prefer) is the realm of the unknown, the unseen, the ethereal and subjective. Science deals with the head, religion with the heart.
    If we can open our minds to science and our hearts to religion, the conflict disappears and harmony results.+Mooney on the Psychology of Evolution Denial
    Our brains are a stunning product of evolution; and yet ironically, they may naturally pre-dispose us against its acceptance.
    Religion, especially the extreme versions, is soon going to disappear as well. I don’t believe that those seven things are innate, hard-wired, ways of thinking. They are mostly learned behaviors. There’s no reason to suspect than we can’t teach our children different, and better, ways of thinking. There’s no evidence that I know of that convinces me that essentialism, teleological thinking, dualism, and inability to understand vast time scales are more “natural” than other ways of thinking.Well, if Mooney is wrong about the science that’s one thing. My experience teaching mathematics suggests to me that careful, logical thinking is not something that comes naturally to most people, and the sheer ubiquity of religion in the world suggests that there is some underlying psychological basis for it. So I’m not sure why Larry regards Mooney’s hypothesis as obviously false.

    Texas A&M professor blends neuroscience, religion in new course

    The course objective is to show that science — especially neuroscience — and religion don’t have to contradict each other.

    “I admit, it’s complicated,” Klemm said. “And sometimes people don’t want to think about complicated things. It’s easier to gloss over ideas.”
    the important issue to Klemm is how the brain decides what to believe. His syllabus states that an important objective “is to explore how past experiences, secular and religious, train the brain to respond to experiences in spiritual ways and determine the neurobiology of emotional and cognitive processes by which the brain comes to believe anything it accepts as valid.”

    Einstein’s famous quote about science and religion: what did he mean?

    “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

    It’s often used to show both Einstein’s religiosity and his belief in the compatibility—indeed the mutual interdependence—of science and religion.  But the quote is rarely used in context, and since I’ve just read the essay in which it appears, I’ll show you that context. But first let me show you how, in that same essay, Einstein proposes what is essentially Steve Gould’s version of NOMA (Non-overlapping Magisteria):

    It would not be difficult to come to an agreement as to what we understand by science. Science is the century-old endeavor to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thoroughgoing an association as possible. To put it boldly, it is the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization. . .

    Science & Religion
    While Science speaks of facts and logic, religion rely on hope and faith. Science deals with material world that we know; religion is concerned with a divine order that we imagine. Science believes in things that can be proved; religion deals with spiritual ideas that cannot be proved. Science depends on reason; religion on intuition and inner conviction or faith. The scientist works in the laboratory of material world; religious teacher probes into the chambers of the inward mind. The goal of science is achievement; that of religion is realization.  The truths of science can be proved to all; the truths of religion have to be taken on trust. Thus, the two worlds are antithetical.

  • Science vs Religion (shawnong.wordpress.com)
    Using force to obtain one’s ambitions results in devastating consequences and instils intense resentment as seen from historical world events, such as World Wars and the Holocaust. Figures like the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis exemplify the use peaceful methods as opposed to using force, and have consequently attained immense public approval.Therefore, to create union is a forced process of blending everyone into the same mixture. It’s like how one pizza does not have every kind of topping but there are many pizzas with different toppings and that works with pizza-lovers.
    +Science is human’s natural mode of exploration while Religion answers a whole different set of questions.“The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go.” ― Galileo Galilei
  • Science & Religion (lacecurtain.wordpress.com)
    I saw that science and religion are forever locked together, back to back, facing opposite directions, each turning in their own direction opposite to each other, yet both together turning in the same direction, rolling along the path of truth.
  • Science and Religion (nasirghumman.wordpress.com)
    One of the epic and historic controversies, which involves certain disputes which changed the course of history over time to a great extent, which affected the definition of faith and which made us to reconsider our believes and faith, yes of course the dispute between Religion and Science. This historic dispute falls back into the 1600s to the time of Galileo Galilei, if we specifically talk about a dispute between Christianity and Science. But of course, in modern world, this dispute is not over yet, rather it has taken a different form.   From the beginning, when humans evolved enough to use the brain and made certain theories, the questions were also born with such evolution, the questions pointing towards their origin, how is this universe came into existence, how our Earth was born, why are we here and what is the purpose behind our existence. Man has been trying to get answers to each of these particular questions and some other questions too. For this purpose, Religion steps forward and tries to provide answers. Gradually, Science becomes powerful enough to compete Religion and provided mankind with more relevant answers along with the logic. But there is one Religion whose teachings are those of Quran’s, Islam. Islam tend to answer each and every question which mankind has asked of it’s origin. Quran, acting as a complete code of life, explains every aspect of life to mankind. This fact that, many Scientific laws and principles have been predicted long ago by Quran, has been admitted by many scientists all over the world. For instance, Quran says that the only reason mankind is created is that it worships it’s true Lord, Allah or God, one single God.
  • Science….Religion….Science?….Religion…. (freecitizenproject.wordpress.com)
    They are the two sides of the spectrum that tear the world in half by its groin.The job of empirical science is to observe and find absolutes, where as religion serves as a solution to the unanswerable.Although so different, they inevitably coincide, and I am utterly fascinated with them both.
  • An Interesting, Yet Scary, Debate (crawfordgarrett.wordpress.com)
    A couple years ago Bill Nye released a video on youtube entitled “Creationism is Inappropriate for Children.”  While this post was a bit extreme in my opinion, the science he presented was 100% accurate.  Of course, Ken Ham, who’s just as much, if not more militant, has to respond with his ignorant, ridiculous ideas.  Now, as if all of this garbage between these two guys wasn’t enough, Nye has agreed to debate Ham.  I’m interested to see this debate for many reasons.
  • Science & Religion: The Paramount Candour (umbrascriptor.wordpress.com)
    Scientific truths are cautious. Science believes that nothing is absolutely true. What is regarded as true today may be proved to be false the very next day by further experiments and observations. Thus, there was a time when the earth was supposed to be motionless and the sun was supposed to go round it but gradually science proved that this was wrong and showed that it is the earth which goes round the sun. Similarly, Newton’s law of gravitation held the day till Einstein came out with his superior theory of relativity. In this way, science advances towards truth as absolute. But whatever is written in religious books is regarded as absolutely true. Anyone who criticizes the teaching of religion is considered to be a heretic and is violently condemned. In the past, those who dared to question a religious truth were mercilessly persecuted and punished, and the example of Galileo readily comes to mind in this connection. Even more, who knows not about the Darwin’s theory of evolution. In short, science is progressive and dynamic while religion are static and orthodox and this shows that there is a great conflict between science and religion.
  • A Savvy Investor’s Spiritual Exploration (nytimes.com)
    Templeton, who died in 2008 at 95, practiced thrift and, once he entered the investment world, preached a doctrine of patience and of looking for opportunities in pessimistic times. Beginning with the Templeton Growth Fund, his investment businesses enjoyed impressive success, partly because of his early enthusiasm for foreign markets.

Templeton, who died in 2008
at 95, practiced thrift and, once he entered the investment world,
preached a doctrine of patience and of looking for opportunities in
pessimistic times. Beginning with the Templeton Growth Fund, his
investment businesses enjoyed impressive success, partly because of his
early enthusiasm for foreign markets.

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English: 1. Believers 2. Religion 3. Atheists ...

1. Believers 2. Religion 3. Atheists 4. Science (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10 thoughts on “Ian Barbour connecting science and religion

  1. Bill Tammeus writes:
    “The problem is that we have people at opposite ends of the spectrum who dismiss the other side and think science and religion have nothing to say to one another. We have the flat-earth anti-evolutionists who say all you need to know about science you can find in the book of Genesis. And we have the ultra-materialists who think religion is a pile of worthless superstitions and that the people who follow a religion are simpletons not worth talking to.”

    Read more here: http://billtammeus.typepad.com/my_weblog/2014/01/1-4-14.html#storylink=cpy


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