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  You are in: Home > Theology & Religion > Science and Religious Experience Are they similar forms …  
 

Science and Religious Experience
Are they similar forms of knowledge?

Grahame Miles

Grahame Miles taught Religious Education in Grammar and Comprehensive Schools, in selective and open-access Sixth Form Colleges, and in Primary Schools. He was Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Homerton College in the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1997. Two research projects focused on the development of religious concepts, attitudes and understanding in students aged 15–18, and one project with pupils aged 6–11years.

 
The nineteen, self-contained chapters, written by an experienced teacher of Religious Studies especially for undergraduates, A-level use, and other interested students and adults, explore our different ways of knowing, and how they relate to each other.

Many people believe that science provides facts while religion is just opinion or beliefs. This book explores the structure and value of science and religious experience, and demonstrates how similar they are and how equally valuable and valid they are. After defining different forms of knowledge, e.g. biological, personal, moral, religious, the author explains how the structures of both the humanities and the sciences involve what we grasp through our senses, and how we interpret those impressions first by description, then by evidence collected, then by reason and understanding – all based on the foundation of basic beliefs.
… One can no more prove scientific theory or that Moses heard God’s call, for each is upheld by a believing community. For factual claims are interpretations in both science and religion. In this work, objective science is examined against the subjective world of personal relations, the humanities and religion. Many scientists and religionists acknowledge a hierarchy of different forms of knowledge, e.g. empirical, chemical, personal and religious. Some fundamentalists (both scientific and religious) focus on one form of knowledge, when a range of forms of knowledge would provide a more balanced multi-focal perspective


Foreword by Janet Scott
Acknowledgements
Note to Students

Introduction

PART I UPLIFTING EXPERIENCES: RELIGIOUS AND HUMANIST
1 Sources of Uplifting Experiences
Lake Windermere: a modern experience of union with nature
“Forms of knowledge” and experiences of “union with nature”
Foundational beliefs
Back to lake Windermere: Wordsworth and nature mysticism
Wordsworth, personal union and rapport
Comment on Wordsworth’s work
Michael Paffard’s Inglorious Wordsworths
Paffard’s transcendental experiences: religious and secular
Paffard’s classification
Comment on Paffard’s work
Sources of uplifting experiences: an overview
Looking back
Notes and References
References

PART II WHAT IS KNOWLEDGE?
2 How Do We Know What Knowledge Is?
A European Search for Objective Knowledge
Kinds of knowledge
Different kinds of sentences
Using language
Empirical knowledge
Perception
Intuition
Memory
Inner Consciousness
Reason
Empiricism
Rationalism
The relationship of mind to matter
Nineteenth-century scientific knowledge
Logical positivism’s view of knowledge, c.1920– c.1953
Knowledge and philosophical analysis: the use of language after 1953
Why did Logical Positivism collapse?
Summary
Notes
References

3 How Do We Know What Knowledge Is? An American Search for Personal Knowledge
Personal knowledge for humans
Pragmatism
Personalism
Personal knowledge about being human: humanistic psychology
Humanistic psychology’s models of being human
The atheistic humanist group
The religious humanist group
Personal knowledge about being human: psychiatry and psychotherapy
Scott Peck
Summary: psychiatric insights into being fully human
Personal knowledge of human evil
A psychiatric view: Scott Peck
A religious view: Judaeo-Christian insights
Evil: A summary
Summary
Notes
References

4 Are There Different Kinds of Knowledge?
Educationalists’ Views of Knowledge after 1960
Wittgenstein: kinds of language use indicate forms of knowledge
Oakshott: knowledge is that which is interpreted as significant
Hirst: seven forms of knowledge
Comment on Hirst
Phenix: realms of meaning
Bailey: knowledge of the human and material worlds
Bonnett: knowledge, reason and emotion
Summary of educational philosophers’ views on knowledge
Piaget: exploration of knowledge in science and religion
Notes
References

5 Changing Views of Scientific Knowledge
Classical physics
Relativity
Quantum mechanic
Chaos theory
Darwin’s theory of evolution and its development
Darwin’s theory
The Structure of DNA
Reductionism
Ultra-Darwinism
Revised Darwinism
Darwinism and complexity theory
Sociobiology
Human responses to the theory of evolution
A comment on science as the only form of knowledge
Notes
References

6 The Integrity of Science
Is Science Objective or Personal Knowledge?
Personal knowledge
The nature of scientific knowledge
Tacit knowing
Polanyi’s philosophical aims
Gestalt knowledge
The development of “higher” ways of knowing
A hierarchy of forms of knowledge
Mind and body: mind and brain
The nature of a person
Kinds of knowledge: Aesthetic, literature, religion
Levels in the hierarchy of knowledge
Focal level 1: The physical basis of human being
The bridge between levels 1 and 2: Molecular biology
Focal level 2: Human beings as living organisms
The bridge between levels 2 and 3: Cognitive science, socio-biology and behaviour genetics
Focal level 3: Sciences concerned with human behaviour
The bridge between levels 3 and 4: The social sciences
Focal level 4: Human culture and its products
Taking stock: forms of knowledge
Reductionism: a method and a philosophy
A method
A philosophical outlook
Language and knowledge: Steiner’s quotation
the revised nature of scientific knowledge
The effect of quantum theory on the nature of knowledge
Chaos theory and the nature of knowledge
Summary and Hopes
Notes
References

7 Forgotten Knowledge
What Happened to Emotion?
Macmurray: scientific, aesthetic, personal and religious
knowledge
Reason and emotion
Scientific and personal ways of knowing
The aesthetic way of knowing
Objective values: Personal knowing and religious knowing
Religion: The impulse to communion with other persons and with God
The birth of personal and religious knowing
Macmurray and other views on emotion
Some historical views of emotion
A 1990s theory that emotional knowledge is real knowledge
Multilevel cognitive science theories of emotion
Emotional intelligence
Emotion: the medium for religious experience
Becoming a person through dialogue
The basic nature of personal being - the image of God
A reductionist view of the basic nature of being a person
The restoration of broken relationships
The gifts of life and relationships restored
Notes
References

8 Is All Knowledge Relative?
Who said all knowledge was relative?
Postmodernism rejects . . .
Modernity
Modernism
Foundationalism
Essentialism
Naïve realism
Critical realism
Grand narratives or metanarratives
Structuralism
Postmodernism embraces . . .
Post-structuralism
Deconstruction
Postmodernism and its weaknesses
Cognitive freedom
Freedom and determinism
Freedom and licence
Relativism: a concluding comment
Notes
References

9 Religion and Transcendence
“To be” and “to become”
Objective and subjective writers
Uses of religion
Implicit religion
What is a religion?
Subject-based views of religion
Different kinds of definitions of religion
Transcendence
Uses of transcendence
Transcendence, spirituality, religion and humanism
The spirit of the child
Conclusions
Notes
References

PART III THE INTEGRITY OF RELIGIOUS AND MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE
10 Religious and Mystical Experience
Empirical Studies
Seven uses of the term “religious experience”
Starbuck: conversion experiences
James: bipolar, conversion and mystical experiences
Underhill: mystical experiences
Buber: bipolar experiences
Glock and stark: bipolar, conversion and mystical experiences
Greeley: bipolar, conversion and mystical experiences
Hardy: bipolar, conversion and mystical experiences
The main elements in and effects of these religious experiences
Hay: bipolar, conversion and mystical experiences
Summary
Notes
References

11 Religious and Mystical Experience
Humanist Studies
Nature mysticism: a humanist metaphysical stance
Leuba: The Psychological Study of Religion
Huxley: The Doors of Perception
Laski: Ecstasy
Maslow: Religions, Values and Peak Experiences
Transpersonal psychology
Overview
Notes
References

12 Religious and Mystical Experience
The Model Builders
Five model builders: James, Otto, Zaehner, Stace, smart
Otto: The Idea of the Holy
Zaehner: Mysticism Sacred and Profane
Stace: Mysticism and Philosophy
Smart: Dimensions of the Sacred
Summary of Smart’s model
Comments on Smart’s model
Summary
Notes
References

13 Religious Experience and Interpretation
Non-realist critics of critical realism
Models and pictures in science and religion
Critical realism: levels of interpretation
“Raw” experience
Reflexive interpretation
Incorporated interpretation
Retrospective interpretation
Doctrinal interpretation
Generalized interpretation
Secondary interpretation
A tradition's interpretation
External interpretation
Internal pan-religious interpretation
External pan-religious interpretation
Interpreting transcendental experience
The process of interpretation: hermeneutics
Stage 1: Initial understanding: the hermeneutical circle
Stage 2: Explanation, Critical Evaluation and Interpretation
Stage 3a: Post-critical understanding
Stage 3b: Application
Textual criticism
Philosophical Claims
Common Practice
Summary
Notes
References

14 Religious Experience
Insights from Depth Psychology
Freud, psychoanalysis and religion
Freud and human nature
Freud, neurosis and religion
Freud, society and religion
God as a Projection of a father-figure
Religion as “an illusion”
Science is “the proper religion”
Freud and religious experience
Freud, Moses and religion
Freud: Summary
Jung, analytic psychology and religion
Comments
Object relations theory and religious experience
Notes
References

15 Religious Experience
Insights from the Main Psychological Approaches
Emotions and religious experience
Cognitive approaches to religious experience
Cognitive theory and religious experience
Developmental approaches to religious experience
Attachment theory and religious experience
Piaget and religious experience
Significance of religious experience at different ages
social psychology and religious experience
Role theory and religious experience
Attribution theory and religious experience
Transpersonal theory and religious experience
Psychological approaches to religious conversion
An approach through the emotions: Powerful defence solution to an unconscious conflict
An approach through cognition: Identity and quest for understanding
An approach through developmental psychology: Personality predisposition
An approach through social psychology: Recruitment and persuasion
The effects of religious experience
Notes
References

PART IV SCIENCE AND RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
ARE THEY SIMILAR FORMS OF KNOWLEDGE?
16 Philosophy and Religious Experience
Knowing god through religious experience
Ramsey: Disclosures and Religious Knowledge
Farrer: Revelation, religious experience and religious knowledge
Tillich: Conscience, religious experience and religious knowledge
Swinburne: Religious experience is knowledge
Katz: A pluralist model of religious mysticism
Proudfoot: A unique model of religious experience
Questions about interpretation
Alston: Perceiving God
Wynn: Emotion – The medium of religious experience
Franks Davis: The Evidential Force of Religious Experience
Criteria for testing religious and mystical experience
The argument for religious experience from basic beliefs
Notes
References

17 Gathering Threads
the sociological context of religious experience
A case for the social learning of the Jamesian approach
Bridging psychological and sociological approaches to religious experience: Poloma’s sociological model
Phenomenological psychology and religious experience
Feminist theory revisited
Psychotherapy revisited
Interpreting intense emotional experience
Bottom-up and top-down interpretations of emotional experience
Transitional space
religion and neuroscience
Reductionism and religious experience
Religious experience, temporal lobes and epilepsy
Neuropsychology and religious experience
Physical networks and religious experience
Comments
Notes
References

18 The Wallas Models of Religious Experience in Context
Batson’s model: religious experience and personal
Transformation
Miles’ model: personal enrichment and personal transformation
Kinds of religious experience
The roots of religious experience
Triggers of religious experience
The elements of religious experience
The static structure of religious and mystical experience
The function of religious experience
The dynamic structure of religious and mystical experience
Phenomenological psychology and religious experience
Phenomenological psychology of religion
Schools of thought concerning psychology of religion
Transcendental experiences, language and student understanding
The structures of forms of knowledge
Reflections on the structures of the Forms of Knowledge
Is religious experience knowledge?
Are transcendental experiences life enhancing?
Realistic news . . .
Better news . . .
Notes
References

19 Science and Religious Experience
Are they similar forms of knowledge?
Philosophical assumptions and psychological structures
Wildman and brothers: a sign-transformation model of Religious experience
Bottom-up and top-down causation
The ants: a religious experience of a five-year-old
When does insight within an experience become personal knowledge and then communal knowledge?
The intuitive emotional selection of a form of knowledge
Science and religious experience: are they similar forms of knowledge?

Notes
References
Glossary
Bibliography
Index

“A very reader-friendly and comprehensive defence of the cognitive value of religious experience, and its relation to scientific knowledge. It gives a very good exposition of the state of intelligent discussion in this area.” Keith Ward, FBA, Christ Church, Oxford

“Miles explores empirically, and through a review of recent literature, the question of the relationship of religious experience and scientific knowledge. Commencing with a brief examination of transcendental experiences, he looks at historical and contemporary theories of knowledge in detail from a broad, interdisciplinary perspective. A similar exploration of religious and mystical experience leads finally to the author’s effort to answer the question posed in his title. Miles rejects alike reductionistically conceived science and scientifically naïve theology as no longer viable in light of contemporary theories of knowledge. On the other hand, he believes that scientific and religious forms of knowledge are actually very similar and may complement one another. Also affirmed on the basis of his study of the nature of religious knowledge is the existence of fundamental values and beliefs shared by humanists (whether atheist or religionist) and by all faith communities that permit dialogue, peace, and harmony among them. This will be a critical text for all students of religious education, and may be read with profit by anyone interested in epistemology. Highly recommended.” Choice

“An excellent lecture in Cambridge, followed by a generous invitation to lunch from Sir Alister Hardy, and to see his Religious Experience Research Unit in Oxford in 1976, re-awakened Grahame Miles’ interest in religious experience. He then began thirty years of exploration and reflection. This book is, in part, a personal odyssey, begun as a boy aged ten, developed through a career as a Religious Education teacher in secondary schools and Senior Lecturer at Homerton College in the University of Cambridge. Miles focuses on religious experience and its relationship with science, and on what kind of knowledge they are. The book is partly designed for 6th form (levels 12 & 13) ‘A level’ and General Studies work on religious experience. Undergraduates would also find the book useful in this area. The book would also be of interest to teachers and the general reader.

A guide as to how to use the book is given, with a clear overview of the contents of each chapter, which are divided into easily digestible sections, with the arguments summarised at the end. This is invaluable, particularly as the material becomes more complex. School students in particular often do not have library resources to study many of the authors quoted, so Grahame Miles summarizes their work and follows that with his own comments.

The book offers a user-friendly guide to the epistemology of science and the humanities, showing how both types of knowledge begin with sense impressions, which are then interpreted through reason and understanding and ultimately accepted through the support of a believing community. Miles’ particular interest is in religious experience as a form of knowledge and he moves from a study of scientific knowledge to an overview of moral, personal and religious knowing. In all forms of knowledge there is room for interpretation, from very little in science, to more in the humanities and even more in the spiritual.

At the beginning is an encouraging disclaimer. Grahame Miles explains his own wariness of fearsome words such as ‘hermeneutics’ and admits to a distaste for footnotes but has to accept the use of both. He does, however, frequently explain difficult words and concepts. All this leads the student in gently, as does the first chapter, with a personal experience on Lake Windermere. Things get more complicated from then on, but Miles manages to summarise different kinds of knowledge in a lively and cogent manner. He traces the development of scientific thinking from Newtonian clarity to Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and Chaos Theory and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is also explained.

Miles then considers different ways of knowing which cross the boundaries of science and the humanities, showing that scientific discovery is not in fact objective, but subjective, led by scientists pursuing their own search for truth, formulating hypotheses which are subsequently rigorously tested. Miles then moves on to personal knowledge and emotional intelligence and brings the argument on to religious knowing. Various thinkers and approaches to religion are considered and then religious and mystical experiences. Research from Starbuck’s study of conversion in 1899 onwards is summarised.

Miles describes the work of Sir Alister Hardy and the Religious Experience Research Centre at the University of Wales, Lampeter. To obtain data on the religious experiences of ordinary people, Hardy posed a question in the national press, ‘Have you been aware of, or influenced by a presence or power, whether you call it God or not, which is different from your everyday self?’ The 3000 replies he received form the basis of the present day archive of over 6000 accounts of spiritual experiences. Miles discusses what can be learned from them, using the same process as for attaining scientific knowledge and describes his own research project with sixth form pupils (aged 17–19 years), where he found that 56% answered the ‘Hardy Question’ in the affirmative.

This is a fascinating read as well as an invaluable resource for students and teachers, a comprehensive account of a vast and complex subject.” Marianne Rankin, Chair of the Alister Hardy Society

“This is an important text that will take its place among the classic expositions of religious experience. The book could be used with profit in upper undergraduate and graduate classes despite the huge amount of material it covers and its complexity at times. G. Miles, retired senior lecturer in religious studies at Homerton College, University of Cambridge, presents an ambitious interdisciplinary work which provides solid expositions of the relevant material about religious experience from psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and theologians. He demonstrates convincingly that we can no more prove scientific theory than religious experience since a believing community in fact must uphold each. All forms of knowledge (excluding mathematics and logic) are based in sense perceptions interpreted by descriptions, by collected evidence, and by reason and understanding. In short, the structure of scientific and religious knowledge is similar and equally valid for their respective perspectives. Both are pragmatically justified, though on different bases. Miles discusses claims of knowledge in logical positivist and humanistic psychology. He dismantles the view that only empirical knowledge and scientific knowledge is cognitive and explores the nature of scientific knowledge. Finally, he offers an impressive, detailed exposition of religious experience, the main empirical studies, philosophical and psychological views — all of which include discussions of the leading figures involved.” Journal

“The book offers a user-friendly guide to the epistemology of science and the humanities showing how both types of knowledge begin with sense impressions, which are then interpreted through reason and understanding and ultimately accepted through the support of a believing community. Miles’ particular interest is in religious experience as a form of knowledge and he moves from a study of scientific knowledge to an overview of moral, personal and religious knowing. In all forms of knowledge there is room for interpretation, from very little in science, to more in the humanities and even more in the spiritual.

Miles manages to summarise different kinds of knowledge in a lively and cogent manner. He traces the development of scientific thinking from Newtonian clarity to Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and Chaos Theory and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is also explained, Miles then considers different ways of knowing which cross the boundaries of science and the humanities, showing that scientific discovery is not in fact objective, but subjective, led by scientists pursuing their own search for truth, formulating hypotheses which are subsequently rigorously tested. Miles then moves on to personal knowledge and emotional intelligence and brings the argument on to religious knowing. Various thinkers and approaches to religion are considered and then religious and mystical experiences. Research from Starbuck’s study of conversion in 1899 onwards is summarised.

This is a fascinating read as well as an invaluable resource for students and teachers, a comprehensive account of a vast and complex subject.” British Association for Study of Religions

“In this book, Miles has chosen to write what amounts to a professional and intellectual autobiography, dealing at an intellectual level with the leading academic challenges of the day and attempting to communicate them within, and relate them to, teacher trainees. The book is divided into four parts: ‘Uplifting Experiences’, ‘What is Knowledge?’, ‘The Integrity of Religious and Mystical Experience’ and ‘Science and Religious Experience’, containing between them 19 chapters. The RE world owes a debt of gratitude to Grahame Miles for the work that has gone into this book over a working lifetime. As an intellectual and professional history of a period of rapid educational and philosophical change in which RE has played a major role it would be difficult to surpass.” British Journal of Religious Education

 

Publication Details

 
Hardback ISBN:
978-1-84519-116-0
 
Paperback ISBN:
978-1-84519-117-7
 
Page Extent / Format:
360 pp. / 246 x 171 mm
 
Release Date:
April 2007
  Illustrated:   No
 
Hardback Price:
£55.00 / $85.00
 
Paperback Price:
£25.00 / $35.00
 

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