Assess the view that science has replaced religion as the main ideological influence in society today. (33)

Authors Avatar by muttley-rlbhotmailcouk (student)

Assess the view that science has replaced religion as the main ideological influence in society today. (33)

Following the period of the Enlightenment when scientific and evidence-based rational thought was seen to be increasingly replacing religion in explaining the world, one might have predicted that religion would one day be displaced by science. However, in the twenty-first century, while science has gained in influence and knowledge, it would be wrong to say that religion has been displaced, as it still plays an important role. In addition, in an increasingly postmodern world, many individuals are seeking sources of spirituality through new religious movements, while for fundamentalists religion is as relevant today as at any time in the past. Therefore the debate surrounding religion and science is one of fluctuating beliefs.

Comte saw the growth of scientific explanation as a feature of modernity. And today its achievements in many basic features of daily life such as, transport, communication and economic productivity has raised our standard of living. Also its achievements in medicine have eradicated fatal diseases. This success has led to a widespread faith in science. However even though science has gained respect by increasing our standard of living with its achievements it has created its own manufactured risks. Improved technology through science has led to weapons of mass destruction which historically have created thousands of deaths. As well as that disturbing factor, pollution is causing serious global warming increasing extreme weather patterns which is also causing thousands of deaths on a yearly basis. Yet whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ effects of science the fact is that it enables us to explain the world in a way that religious belief systems cannot do, shows that science has a large influence on society today.  

Popper defends science by saying it is a ‘open belief system’. This is where scientist’s theories are open to scrutiny by others. Science is governed by the principle of ‘falsification’, whereby scientists set out to try and falsify existing theories this therefore creates the truth. For example for centuries it was believed that the sun revolved around the earth until Copernicus demonstrated this was false. Merton agreed with Popper and believed that science has a set of norms that makes science more influential in society today; he calls them ‘CUDOS’.

Join now!
  • Communism: Scientific knowledge is not private and it must be shared otherwise it cannot grow.
  • Universalism: Falsification of knowledge is judged universally and not by a particular race or sex etc.
  • Disinterestedness: Discovering knowledge for its own sake not yourself.  
  • Organised Scepticism: No knowledge claim is regarded as ‘sacred’ or the ‘truth’.

These ‘CUDOS’ norms give science an advantage over religion as only truthful and factual theories are produced. To add to this religion may seem less influential in society today as it’s seen as a closed belief system. ...

This is a preview of the whole essay