Conjunctive Explanations: How Science and Religion Can Work Together

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When are two explanations (scientific and religious) better than one (a scientific explanation)? Within science, two (or more) explanations are often better than one, but even in science, it is not always clear when this is the case. Other things being equal, Ockham's razor suggests that a single explanation would be more parsimonious and hence preferable, but often things are not equal. Perhaps the conjunctive explanation accounts for the relevant evidence much better, so this needs to be considered along with the increased complexity. I explore these issues by first considering explanatory pluralism and different ways in which it can arise, before turning to a Bayesian account of explanatory goodness and conjunctive explanation: two explanations are better than one when the explanatory gain achieved by adopting both outweighs the explanatory cost of doing so. In the final section, I explore how general principles from this approach might be applied to science and religion. I argue that in addition to the general compatibility and complementary nature of scientific and religious explanations, there may also be instances of conjunctive explanations where science and religion can work together to provide a better explanation than either would on its own.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConjunctive Explanations in Science and Religion
EditorsDiarmid A. Finnegan, David H. Glass, Mikael Leidenhag, David N. Livingstone
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781003251101
ISBN (Print)9781032139685
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 28 Feb 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge Science and Religion Series

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 selection and editorial matter, Diarmid A. Finnegan, David H. Glass, Mikael Leidenhag and David N. Livingstone; individual chapters, the contributors. All rights reserved.


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