What are the four “models” related to the nature of the relationship between Religion and Science?

The Answer

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8.2.1-Religion-Science Relationship: Four Models

Ian Graeme Barbour (1923-2013), who made a breakthrough with his studies related to religion-science relationship and made significant contribution to the issue, presents four "models" about the nature of the relationship between religion and science. With this classification, he aims to make the discussions of religion and science in history more meaningful. Although there are other classifications regarding the issue, Barbour’s classification is generally accepted despite some criticism since it is accurate.

Barbour’s four models on interaction between science and religion consists of "conflict, independence, dialogue and integration" in brief.

According to John B. Cobb, one of the famous process philosophy thinkers, “Barbour has no other contemporary thinker who made the original, profound and continuous contribution to the integration needed between science and religion." Therefore, this classification is often used by many scientists to explain the relationship between religion and science.

Barbour’s four models on interaction between science and religion:

4- Integration

     1. Conflict

In the West, religion and science make contradictory and irreconcilable claims related to the same field. Since those contradictory claims could not be reconciled, the conflict of religion-science between the church and scientists became inevitable.

     2. Independence

Religion and science have different fields. Science and religion are completely independent of each other in terms of their boundaries, methods and purposes. Science tries to explain objective, general and reproducible data. As for religion, it explores the existence of order and beauty in the realm and experiences in our inner world (on the one hand, crime, anxiety and meaninglessness, on the other hand compassion, trust and charity). For example, when evolution and creation are in question, science seeks to answer the question “How? And religion the question “Why?”. Therefore, there can be no conflict between science and religion.


There may be both contradictions and similarities between science and religion in terms of structure. This can only be demonstrated through dialogue. The aim of the dialogue is not to reveal the contradictions between science and religion, but to reveal similarities. Barbour deals with the religion-science dialogue in two parts: limit questions and methodological parallels. He states that “science can understand the data revealing the problems pointed out by religion" as a result of this dialogue.

    4. Integration

Religion and science can establish a partnership in a systematic metaphysical synthesis. The intense relationship between science and religion, which has continued for centuries, shows that these two fields are a whole. Einstein wanted to draw attention to this point when he said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”.1

Muhammad Abduh’s views on the relationship between religion and science are a good example of it. Muhammad Abduh states that there is no contradiction between mind-science and religion, that they both come from the same source, that science shows the means which support our material life and by which we can benefit from the forces of nature and teaches us to be happy in this world, that religion takes us to happiness in the hereafter by developing our ethical faculties and educating our spirit and that the world will not end before science and religion become brothers as the Quran and mind want.2

Barbour, who made the classification above, emphasizes dialogue and adaptation models. Thus, he supports a systematic synthesis that transcends both natural theology and theology of nature. In other words, it aims at a metaphysical synthesis to which both science and religion contribute.

Another important point is that when the discussions about religion and science are viewed, it is seen that religion and science have different meanings in different civilizations and they are based on different understandings. When this distinction is not taken into consideration, confusion of concepts and misunderstandings become inevitable. From this point of view, it will be useful to define the concepts of religion and science though briefly.

1.Mehdi, N. (2002). "Bilim-Din İlişkisi Problemine Süreççi Yaklaşım ve Ian G. Barbour’un Dörtlü Tipolojisi",M.Ü. İlâhiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, 23/2, pp. 59-75.; Bigliardi, S. (2015). “Barbour’un Sınıflandırması ve  İslam BilimHakkındaki ÇağdaşTartışma”, Din-Bilim Okumaları, compiled and translated by: H. Aydeniz- F. Topaloğlu, Ankara: Elis, pp. 204-230.
2.Abduh. Tevhid Risalesi. Ankara, Fecr Yayınları, Ankara 1986), p. 55.

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