We often view these three disciplines of study as separate endeavors, each bounded by their own methods, aims and theory’s. History being an enquiry into the past, religion being a call to faith, and a provider of a set of beliefs and underlying values, and science being an ongoing investigation into how our world, and that beyond it works. What is also evident is that these three areas are all inextricably linked in more than one way. A pair of questions that demonstrate this suggestion would be:
- How has our understanding of history and/or science affected our understanding of religion over time?
- Conversely, how has our sense of religious boundary affected our study of history and/or science?
In regards to the first question, we must not fail to identify one important fact. Attitudes to religious practice have changed significantly over time. What caused this…our developing understanding of history and science of course. As we realize that divine/supernatural causation (in a historical or scientific mindset) can be discounted as a legitimate means of explaining creation, then our attitude towards our faith changes. This development is demonstrated through the ages, and is evident in the changing methods of historians over time, from Herodotus to Thucydides to more modern historical enquirers, with an increasing emphasis being placed on scientific truth rather than religious truth. In this sense, context is the key. Ancient historians legitimately felt that supernatural causation was in fact a true method of creation, as their contextual society tells them this. As we progressed, and science became a more prominent endeavor, this continued, until the present day, where we discount religious truth in historical/scientific investigations, and vice versa.
As we know also, our sense of religious boundary has also affected our study of the histories and sciences. I’m sure people like Galileo, persecuted for developing (as we are aware now) perfectly justifiable scientific theories, but upsetting the ruling church could tell you. I guess it is fair enough that the church becomes uneasy that people are using new historical and scientific knowledge, which directly questions what the church teaches.
All in all, while they are all linked in some way or another, I think it comes down to one thing. Faith vs. Scrutiny. Religion is there to provide us with a method of approaching life in a way that maximizes our positivity towards each other and ourselves, and is there for faith, rather than scrutiny. On the other hand, the practices of history and science are very much areas of scrutiny, and continually trying to achieve a higher sense of historical/scientific truth, without the need for faith.
A rather opinionated discussion really... But if you think I’ve missed anything of note, feel free to leave a comment, and I will do my best to treat your opinion with what it deserves =P.