Godel Meets Carnap: A Prototypical Discourse on Science and Religion

Zygon 32 (2):207-217 (1997)
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Abstract

Modern science, based on the laws of physics, claims validity for all events in space and time. However, it also reveals its own limitations, such as the indeterminacy of quantum physics, the limits of decidability, and, presumably, limits of decodability of the mind-brain relationship. At the philosophical level, these intrinsic limitations allow for different interpretations of the relation between human cognition and the natural order. In particular, modern science may be logically consistent with religious as well as agnostic views of humans and the universe. These points are exemplified through the transcript of a discussion between Kurt Gödel and Rudolf Carnap that took place in 1940. Gödel, discoverer of mathematical undecidability, took a proreligious view; Carnap, one of the founders of analytical philosophy, an antireligious view. By the time of the discussion, Carnap had liberalized his ideas on theoretical concepts of science: he believed that observational terms do not suffice for an exhaustive definition of theoretical concepts. Then, responded Gödel, one should formulate a theory or metatheory that is consistent with scientific rationality, yet also encompasses theology. Carnap considered such theories unproductive. The controversy remained unresolved, but its emphasis shifted from rationality to wisdom, not only in the Gödel-Carnap discussion but also in our time. -/- .

Author's Profile

Alfred Gierer
Max-Planck-Institute of Developmental Biology, Tuebingen, Germany

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