Graduation Year


Publication Date

Spring 4-22-2011


The secularization thesis predicts that science will eventually render religion useless due to inherent incompatibilities. Modern discourses have created a similar conflict between scientific competence and more humanistic aspects of medicine. I will use the secularization thesis to analyze the unusual role of medicine as both a scientific discipline and a venture into the moral realm. Religion affects the way humans understand nature, which impacts the possibility of the scientific method as well as the role of the sick person in society. Though individuals have always been healers, institutionalizing healthcare through the creation of hospitals indicates a profound shift of values. The Greeks did not share these convictions, and thus did not have a mechanistic view of science nor a community responsibility towards healing.

I will argue that non-scientific modes of competence are ancient. Christianity has contributed to these values by building upon the contributions of the ancient Greeks, bringing forward shifts in both realms—scientific and moral—that have created the paradigm in which modern medicine exists. The persisting religious values and assumptions in medicine provide a practical example of the secularization thesis applied and overcome; they illustrate how a “scientific” discipline is inextricably bound to religion, both historically and in contemporary expectations. These foundations have never gone away; religious assumptions remain crucial for the scientific and moral capacities of the modern doctor. Medicine provides a lens to evaluate the role of religion in today’s pluralistic and secular society.



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Religion Commons