The Science of Unknowable and Imaginary Things

Jack David Eller

Eller holds a PhD in anthropology and has conducted fieldwork on religion and religious change among Australian Aboriginals. His other areas of interest include ethnic and religious violence, and he is the author of a number of books on cultural anthropology, anthropology of religion, psychological anthropology, and atheism/secularism.

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Article Information:

Author: Jack David Eller

Title: "The Science of Unknowable and Imaginary Things"

Journal: Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry

Journal Issue: Volume 1, Number 2

Date: Fall 2019

Pages: 178-201



In this paper, I address the question of whether metaphysics and theology are or can become science. After examining the qualities of contemporary science, which evolved from an earlier historic concept of any body of literature into a formal method for obtaining empirical knowledge, I apply that standard to metaphysics and theology. I argue that neither metaphysics nor theology practices a scientific method or generates scientific knowledge. Worse, I conclude that both metaphysics and theology are at best purely cultural projects—exercises in exegesis of local cultural and religious ideas and language—and, therefore, that other cultures have produced or would produce radically different schemes of metaphysics or theology. At its worst, metaphysics is speculation about the unknowable, while theology is rumination about the imaginary.


Keywords: Science, Metaphysics, Theology, Exegesis, Cultural Comparison

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(footnote) Jack David Eller, “The Science of Unknowable and Imaginary Things,” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 1, no. 2 (Fall 2019): 178-201,

(bibliography) Eller, Jack David. “The Science of Unknowable and Imaginary Things,” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 1, no. 2 (Fall 2019): 178-201.


Eller, Jack David. “The Science of Unknowable and Imaginary Things.” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry, vol. 1, no. 2, Fall 2019,, pp. 178-201.


Eller, J. D. (2019). The Science of Unknowable and Imaginary Things. Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry, 1(2), 178-201. Retrieved from

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