The Project on Science and Religion

Chaired by Professor Thomas Nagel

The subject is the relation between science and religion.  The project's initial focus was on epistemological questions. Later in the study, we take up legal, political, and ethical issues as well.

These issues are at present salient because of the highly politicized controversy over intelligent design, but our interest is broader. We want to explore:

  1. The boundaries between science and other forms of belief
  2. The epistemological status of religion
  3. The role of probabilistic reasoning in biology and cosmology (e.g. with respect to the origin of life), and how it is affected by nonempirical background assumptions
  4. The ways in which different forms of religious belief are and are not in competition with scientific claims
  5. The relation between religious views about the scope and limits of scientific explanation and secular alternatives to naturalistic reductionism in ethics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind.
  6. Whether there is a place for discussion of these issues in the public educational system of a secular democracy.

The basic questions about what physical science, including molecular biology and evolutionary theory, can be expected to explain are substantially independent of religion, but they set the larger context in which controversies over the implications of science for religion, and vice versa, arise.  The aim of the project will be to try to identify and treat with as much clarity, patience, and civility as possible the intellectually difficult problems in this area, through the presentation and mutual criticism of individual work.

In addition to Professor Nagel, the other permanent members of the Project on Science and Religion are Professors:

The current Graduate Fellows of the Project are Jeff Sebo and Shamik Dasgupta.