Research Project


Interdependence of Science and Religion in Modern Japan: The Background of Fukushima

Prof. Dr. Takahiro Nakajima

How can we reconcile science with religion? This has been one of the most fundamental and complicated questions in modern Japan. Modern western science is regarded as decisively different from traditional East Asian science, because it seems that the former is only possible on the basis of a secularized worldview, while the latter is often considered overly religious or superstitious.

The main task for Japanese philosophers is to constitute a new type of religion in order to introduce science to their modernized society. Science and religion are not separated indifferently, but are brought closer by the secularization process. Concretely speaking, expertise in science stood side by side with State Shintoism as the modern secularized religion in prewar Japan.

This situation seems to have changed in postwar Japan. The secularization process has developed considerably and religion is excluded from the public sphere, including the science world. However, religion continues to haunt science. The optimism of progress has become a new belief in the science world. Futurology as a style of prediction is growing in popularity, as if it cured by the trauma of war. The discourse on nuclear power plants is a good example of this new belief. By analyzing this belief, I would like to shed light on the background of Fukushima. It was not a simple "accident" caused by a natural phenomenon, but a complicated result of the interdependence between science and religion in modern Japan. It is hoped that this research will complement the direction of the International Research Consortium at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.

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