Assess The View That Science Has Replaced Religion As The Main Ideological Influence In Society Today

1388 words - 6 pages

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

Many argue that the radical social changes brought about by industrialisation have led to religion being undermined by scientific rational thought. For instance, many phenomena, such as earthquakes and diseases, are explained in terms of science rather than through religion. On the other hand, religious thoughts are still dominant in some aspects of life- for instance; many still reject the theory of evolution, or see evolution as guided or initiated by some divine force.
Whether or not science has replaced religion as the main ideological influence in modern society is a question ...view middle of the document...

Science can be seen as acting likewise. Gomm argued that the scientific theory of evolution had been used for ideological purposes; through supporting ‘the survival of the fittest’, the theory of evolution justified the inequality created by capitalism in which the wealthy was seen as ‘the fittest’.
Therefore, if we accept that science and religion are ideological forces which maintain social hierarchies, we must now look at the arguments which view science as supplanting religion as the main ideological force. Although we may refer to the above arguments on justifying inequalities, as in this sense both science and religion promote the same ideology, it is difficult to assess which system is the dominant one, an arguments such as secularisation can be criticised to such an extent (i.e. many parts of the world cannot be described as secular) that we cannot assume this is proof of science being dominant. Instead, I would like to draw our attention to Lyotard, a postmodernist, and his work on language games, through which we can clearly see a distinction between scientific and religious ideology.
Lyotard argued that in pre-modern types, language games were based on narrative; that is the legitimacy and truth of a statement was dependent upon the status of the speaker. Religious ideology can be seen as supporting this social phenomenon; for instance, the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church is seen as holding the highest authority due to his status. The legitimacy of the rule of monarch through divine right can be seen as an extension of this; religious ideology maintains the status of the individual. On the other hand, scientific ideology rejects this and through its emphasis on objectivity and establishing fact through experiment and empirical evidence it supports denotative language games; the statement is judged as true or false through evidence rather than the status of the speaker. A trend towards social interactions to be based on denotative language games can be seen as evidence that science is replacing religion as the dominant ideology. For instance, in many developed countries, the right to rule is established through democracy and voting (the number of votes representing an objective way of gaging social opinion) rather than divine right.

The second type of ideology defined by Manheim is one which presents a utopian view of future society. Again, both systems can fit into this definition. By defining moral behaviour such as ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ or values (such as the value of fidelity), religion promotes a view of behaviour to which it thinks society should adhere too. Of course, it is highly unlikely that all religious morals will be obeyed in a uniform manner across society; therefore it can be seen as a ‘wish image’ of society. Similarly, science promotes the view that all human suffering can be overcome through progress and rational thought. This again, is a distortion of the future as science has in fact created...

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