constructs, science and religion

Michael McKee (
Fri, 14 Jun 1996 11:26:06 -0700

I'm going to display my ignorance about constructs and Kelly now. I'm new to
the group and haven't yet had the opportunity to read any othodox pcp. My
small experience in this field comes from reading the work of narrative
therapists and the people at MRI. As a practicing family therapist my interest
has been more in the practical realm than that of philosophy and my formal
discussion skills are a couple of decades rusty. So if I offer anything
blatantly silly, please bear with me. I learn quickly.

There has been a discussion of the notion of science and religion as mental
constructs. So far, I'm with you. It does seem to me that the descriptions of
these concepts as constructs deals with constructs as single, unitive
constructions. Please help me if I am way off base. In my everyday practice,
people come to me with problems. And those problems seem to me to be anything
but simple construals of how the world is or operates. Often (in family therapy
language) these people experience double, even multiple, binds. It occurs to
me that one way to describe such problems is to say that we don't make unitary
or simple representational constructions, rather we develop multi-layered,
contradictory, and very complex constructions.

When I consider the term science, I conjure up a number of associations. I think
of science as a methodology, a simple reality testing tool. I also think of
science as a philosophy. Even as a philosophy I have several not congruent
notions. My early training in the physical sciences brings associations of
numerical descriptions. My later training in the social sciences offers concepts
like, phenomenology, heuristics and qualitative studies. In trying to hold these
differing concepts simultaneously I do experiencs some internal discord.
Further, as a practical, problem solving social scientist I find moral comfort
in utilizing the best scientific knowledge I have privy to. Science, to me, is
also a social force, pervading so much of our everyday life. Were it to come to
a decision of whom to believe between a scientific professional like an MD as
opposed to accepting folk wisdom I would certainly weigh the opinion of the
doctor as being more valuable. I would do this even though I have had doctors
do some very stupid things to me. I would go so far as to admit, that in some
sense, I consider science as an ethically positive force.

And science is the easy concept for me to consider! My views of religion are
vastly more confused. I have been the unwilling recipient of several
mystical/religious experiences. As one who finds most of organized religion
quite silly, contradictory, even damaging this is quite uncomfortable. Having
consciously rejected religious belief systems, I am compelled to be a believer.

So which dogma, scientific or religious, is right? I really don't believe that
such a question has any value. Both "constructions" address overlapping domains,
so attempts at determining the respective truths of both are probably
inevitable. It seems to me that one of the problems I encounter is that since
science and religion are singular words I have a tendency to try to make science
and religion to be single entities. Neither is in any way a single or unified
concept. The best I have been able to come up with is to consider such words as
domain markers. To borrow from and warp Bateson, such words as science and
religion point to whole ecologies of constructions. If I consider science as a
mental construct then I have to consider all the components of that construct as
sub-constructs. And those sub-constructs may be contradictory, even competitive
in my imagination. Science occupies social, experimental, ethical, moral, even
entertainment positions in my constructed reality. And so does religion. Where
these ecologies of constructs overlap there is a great potential for conflice.
Where they don't overlap, I have no problems. So it helps me to consider complex
constructs as ecologies constantly interacting, evolving and occasionally
competing. To make science and religion as the two ends of a polar conflict
seems about as helpful as making desert and rainforest the two poles. That is
logically it makes no sense. To follow the ecology analogy though it makes
perfect sense to me to notice that there are places where the rainforest and
desert ecosystems do compete for the same local. This morning I was pulling
weeds from my garden imposing my chosen, artificial ecology in place of the
native plants, which I call weeds.

Anyway I think that I have pointed in the direction of my thoughts. I would
love to recieve some feed back, suggestions for reading etc. on these thoughts.
Hopefully I have not totally mangled the discussion etiquite of the group.

Best regards,

"You say I contradict myself. I say yes, I contradict myself. I am large. I
contain multitudes."
Walt Whitman