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“What I Cannot Build I Cannot Understand”: Transgressive Discourses in Life Sciences and Synthetic Biology

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Abstract The article scrutinizes the genealogy of transgressive discourses in the fields of the natural sciences, metaphysics, and religion. Throughout Western cultural history, and still today, we find influential examples that transgress the borders between empirical method and metaphysical knowledge claims. These borders are shifting constantly and thus it seems more fruitful to address their negotiation as an ongoing discourse in Western culture, rather than trying to fix the distinction between knowledge of nature and knowledge of the divine, linking these fixed borders to the systems of religion and philosophy on the one hand, and to the natural sciences on the other. The article analyzes the discursive entanglements of scientific and religious systems of knowledge about nature and the divine. Within a theoretical framework of historical discourse analysis, the “scientification” of religion since the eighteenth century is discussed, followed by a case study that addresses contemporary life sciences and synthetic biology.

Affiliations: 1: University of Groningen Department of Comparative and Historical Study of Religion Oude Boteringestraat 38 9712 GK Groningen The Netherlands


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