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Education The Faculty Graduate Schools Graduate School Theology and Religious Studies PhD Programme PhD ceremonies Graduations 2004

18-03'04 | T.A. Smedes

Conflict between religion and science is just an illusion

In our current Western society the idea that God is actively present in our world is far from readily accepted. This is mainly due to scientism, a philosophy of science that denies the truth of God’s actions and has tacitly determined our way of thinking since the Enlightenment. Some theologians, including John Polkinghorne and Arthur Peacocke, are trying to include God’s actions in the scientific debate by reconciling theology and the ideas of scientism. They do this, for example, by referring to chaos theory and self-organization. PhD student Smedes studied several such models and has come to the conclusion that they are problematic. Smedes claims that there is a difference between the language of the natural sciences and that of religion. This difference, however, is overlooked in favour of the natural-scientific language as scientism prioritizes the natural-scientific way of thinking. God’s actions are thus discussed as if they were human actions, including all the limitations that human actions have, such as the impossibility of breaking the laws of nature. The possibility of God not being hindered by these limitations is overlooked. Religion and science thus do not necessarily have to conflict, says Smedes, it is more a matter of philosophical confusion between different types of language being used. In addition, Smedes disputes the claims of certain natural scientists that religion is ‘nonsense’. These claims are not based on science itself, but on their scientific ‘belief’: scientism. Smedes aims to show both religious and non-religious people that even in a world that is dominated by natural science and technology there is still room to believe in an active, personally involved God – but only if we stop trying to explain and rationalize everything in natural-scientific terms. /GG

Taede Anne Smedes (Drachten, 1973) studied theology in Groningen and conducted his PhD research at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Groningen. In 2002 he won the ESSSAT Student Award of the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology for an article about determinism and God’s actions. On 1 February 2004 Smedes was appointed as a postdoc at the Faculty of Theology of Leiden University.

Date and time

Thursday 18 March 2004, 4.15 p.m.

PhD student

T.A. Smedes

PhD thesis

(a fully revised commercial edition has been published under the title Chaos, Complexity, and God: Divine Action and Scientism (Louvain:

Peeters Publishers 2005))

Avoiding balaam’s mistake: exploring divine action in an age of scientism


Prof. L.J. van den Brom and Prof. H.W. Broer

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