Creation and the World of Science

By A. R. Peacocke | Go to book overview

APPENDIX C
(to Lecture VIII)
Reductionism and religion-and-science: 'the Queen of the sciences'?

IN Lecture IV we expanded our original discussion of interfaces between the sciences beyond the confines of the natural sciences in general, and of the biology/physics-and-chemistry interface in particular, into the sciences of the human individual and of human society. We noted the relation between a science whose focus of study is a higher level in the complex hierarchy of natural systems and one whose focus is a lower level. We noted also that there is no automatic and inevitable possibility of reducing the theories and concepts of the science of the higher level to theories and concepts of the science of the lower level. We had to make a distinction between reduction of theories, which is about the deduction of one set of empirically confirmable statements from another such set, and the reduction of processes. We found that we should not expect to derive one set of properties, or a phenomenon at a higher level, from another set of properties at a lower level. As Nagel puts it:

The conception [that reduction is a process of deriving one set of properties of one subject matter from the properties of another] is misleading because it suggests that the question of whether one science is reducible to another is to be settled by inspecting the 'properties' or alleged 'natures' of things rather than by investigating the logical consequences of certain explicitly formulated theories (that is, systems of statements). For the conception ignores the crucial point that the 'natures' of things and in particular of the 'elementary constituents' of things, are not accessible to direct inspection and that we cannot read off by simple inspection what it is they do or do not imply. Such 'natures' must be stated as a theory and not the object of observation.1

We have also seen that although a theory applicable to a higher

____________________
1
E. Nagel, The Structure of Science ( Harcourt Bruce, New York, 1961), p. 364.

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