VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
6. Religion and Science
An historic reconvergence of scientific and religious encounters is underway but the project seems daunted by trying to reconcile the old, materialist, Darwinian version with belief in and proof of a Divine creator. Signs of an ordained design by way of the “anthropic principle” are a prime endeavor. Glimpses of an innately self-organizing cosmos occur but the waxing realization of a genesis universe whereof earth and human have their own intrinsic value has not yet registered.
Metanexus Institute. www.metanexus.net. Founded by theologian William Grassie, this popular, multifaceted site features an online journal, articles, discussion topics from Anthropos to Techne, book reviews, and so on. The parent Metanexus Institute sponsors lecture series, a Local Societies Initiative, an annual conference and related activities.
Murphy, Nancey and George Ellis. On the Moral Nature of the Universe. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996. A theologian and a cosmologist seek a deeper meaning for the hierarchical emergence of life and the human personal presence in the universe. Science alone is not enough, in addition a “kenotic” ethic of cooperative self-sacrifice which reflects the moral character of God is required.
Albright, Carol Rausch. Spiritual Growth, Cognition, and Complexity: Faith as a Dynamic Process. Koss-Chioino, Joan and Philip Hefner, eds. Spiritual Transformation and Healing. Lanham, MD: Altamira Press, 2006. A theologian and author at the Lutheran School in Chicago who specializes in neuroscience topics contends that a person’s life journey passes through six stages of spiritual encounter: Intuitive-Projective, Mythic-Literal, Synthetic Conventional, Individuative-Reflective, Conjunctive, and Universalizing. She then makes the unique leap that this developmental course expresses and can be modeled as a complex dynamical system.
As its central contribution, this chapter suggests that spiritual transformation and spiritual growth may be understood within the context of a scientific theory that has extremely broad applicability within both natural and social processes: the paradigm that comprises self-organization, complexity, and emergence. (168) Very basically, complexity theory asserts that a tendency to self-organization pervades natural systems, from the basic building blocks of the universe to the most sophisticated forms of human social interaction. (176)
Artigas, Mariano. The Mind of the Universe. Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2000. In this wide-ranging work, a scientist attempts to integrate the properties of dynamic systems and the organic cosmos they imply with an actively creative Divinity. Typical headings are Self-Organization and Divine Action, A Self-Created Universe?, and Reading the Book of Nature.
Barbour, Ian. Nature, Human Nature, and God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002. Barbour’s latest work is conversant with the complexity sciences but looks more to signs of God’s intervening activity than for an earthly purpose.
These ideas have led to new concepts of God – as designer of a self-organizing system, as determiner of indeterminacies, as top-down cause, or as communicator of information. (7)
Barbour, Ian. Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997. An update to Barbour’s 1990 Religion in an Age of Science tailored for classroom use. One of the premier books in the field lays out a metaphysics to join religion and science by way of process philosophy. The tacit implication is a Divinely ordained and subtly assisted self-creation of free and novel beings.
Barbour, Ian. When Science Meets Religion. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000. Barbour’s four options or stages of Conflict, Independence, Dialogue, and Integration between religion and science have gained much currency and are here applied to Astronomy and Creation, Quantum Physics, Evolution and Continuing Creation, and Genetics, Neuroscience and Human Nature.
Barnes, Michael. Stages of Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. With a subtitle: “The Co-Evolution of Religious Thought and Science,” the author contends their historical interplay proceeds through several versions that roughly parallel the Piagetian stages of individual learning.
Belden, David. Science and Spirit. Tikkun. November/December, 2007. A report on a roundtable discussion moderated by managing editor Belden, with such sages as Frithjof Capra, Nancy Abrams, Joel Primack, George Lakoff, and Ty Cashman (altogether one woman and nine men). As usual much time was spent on auxiliary issues of ‘scientism,’ religion vs. spirituality, and the like, rather than the subject itself which begs a sorting between a waning moribund and dawning genesis universe. But a good engagement by deeply concerned thinkers.
Braxton, Donald. Natural, Supernatural, and Transcendence. Zygon. 41/2, 2006. An introduction to the “cosmologies of emergence” inspired by complexity science, which are seen as an historic shift from a transcendent Divinity to a naturalized immanence. Theological implications – “emergence as the new vocabulary for sacrality” – are then viewed with regard to ecological ethics and Philip Hefner’s sense of human beings as “created co-creators.” A good entry to this welling discussion.
How can Christian theology engage the best knowledge provided by the modern natural sciences if it is unaware that the cosmological background has changed against which all theologizing can take place? (350) To look at the world trained with the eyes of complexity theory is to see a universe composed of nested structures. (354) In this new vision of the marvelous nested biological and cultural communities of the cosmos we are given a new model for understanding our religions. (360)
Brun, Rudolf. Cosmology, Cosmic Evolution, and Sacramental Reality. Zygon. 37/1, 2002. An innovative attempt to integrate Holy Scripture and the Book of Nature via the nonlinear sciences. A dynamic, self-developing cosmogenesis with a Divine future is seen to emerge through a universal creative process in self-similar effect everywhere.
Clayton, Philip. Mind and Emergence: From Quantum to Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. A philosopher of science at the Claremont School of Theology carefully explains an imminent paradigm shift from an insensate, mechanical cosmos based on the method of physical reduction to the incarnate evolutionary rise of a nested hierarchy of complex life, intelligent reflection and spiritual values. Also noted in Part I: Current Vistas.