Models (Encyclopedia of Science and Religion)
Models are widely used in many disciplines to turn complex or abstract information or ideas into a form that is more easily understood and workable, basically as representations of the information or ideas. A scale model is an actual construction that resembles the original object. Models using analogy or mathematical logic display varying degrees of abstraction. Of the many types of models, several are commonly used in science and theology, though there are differences in their applications in each discipline.
In the natural sciences, the use of models generally implies the idea of interpretation of a deductive system, carried over from mathematical logic. Scale models and analogues are also commonly used, whether similar in substance to the thing modeled or similar in the relations between its parts. Formal analogies show analogy of structure between the model and the system modeled. Material analogies show material similarities between the original system and its model, such as in replicas. Mary Hesse notes that the relation of analogyormal or materialmplies differences, denoted as negative analogy, as well as similarities, called positive analogy. The billiard ball model of gases offers both positive and negative analogy. From the early part of the twentieth century on, there have been debates over whether models are essential to successful theorizing in the sciences or whether the use of such models is potentially misleading and dispensable.
In theology, models may be utilized in order to better understand doctrines such as the relation between God and the world, as well as doctrines of God or theological anthropology. In the history of theology, it has usually been the practice to speak in terms of analogy or metaphor, tropes of language that serve as a type of "momentary" model. By contrast, Sallie McFague defines models as metaphors with "staying power."
In discussions about the relation between religion and science over the last third of the twentieth century and into the early twenty-first, the use of models has played a highly significant role. Different epistemological models show how the modern period has described knowledge of the world and the status of models in scientific theorizing. These include naïve realism (the model is a literal picture of reality), logical positivism (theories are directly deducible from data, dismissing models), utilitarianism (models are useful fictions), and critical realism (models are representations of reality in interaction with the observer). It is the last that has dominated discussions of the relation between religion and science. By the 1980s, other epistemological models began to be proposed. Challenges to standard interpretations of critical realism have been raised in the light of developments of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. These challenges include postmodern critiques of foundationalism, "science and technology studies" that have expanded upon Thomas Kuhn's concept of paradigm in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) as well as feminist and postcolonial critiques and writings in the sociology of knowledge.
Models are also used in the science and religion dialogue and serve to show how relations between religion and science have been conceived. Most widely used of this kind of modeling is the four-fold typology of Ian Barbour: conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration. Models that include historical examples have come under criticism by historians, who point out that models give only a partial picture. Many argue that misunderstandings occur because models may oversimplify the historical situation. Many recent studies examine and elaborate upon the complexity of the social and political situations that bear upon the perception of a conflict between religion and science.
See also METAPHOR; PARADIGMS; SCIENCE AND RELIGION, METHODOLOGIES; SCIENCE AND RELIGION, MODELS AND RELATIONS
Barbour, Ian. Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study in Science and Religion. New York: Harper, 1974.
Gregersen, Niels Henrik, and Van Huyssteen, J. Wentzel, eds. Rethinking Theology and Science: Six Models for the Current Dialogue. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1998.
Ferré, Frederick. "Mapping the Logic of Models in Science and Theology." Christian Scholar 46, no. 1 (1963): 99.
Hesse, Mary B. Models and Analogies in Science. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966.
Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 3rd edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
McFague, Sallie. Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language. Philadelphia, Pa.: Fortress, 1982.
LOU ANN G. TROST