VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
6. Religion and Science
Murphy, Nancey and Christopher Knight, eds. Human Identity at the Intersection of Science, Technology and Religion. Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2010. Who after all are Me and We, do our aware, capable selves have a phenomenal value within a greater creation? With scientific, theological, humanist and cultural mores in fluid flux, scholars such as the editors, George Ellis, Martinez Hewlett, Noah Efron, and others perseverate whether any vital modicum of meaning might be limned. A recurrent theme is to sort and join older abstract reductions and novel dynamic system emergences, as if trying to bring these left and right brain modes into balance. A typical good chapter is “Human and Artificial Intelligence: A theological Response” by Noreen Herzfeld, professor of theology and computer science at St. John’s University.
Nesteruk, Alexei. Light from the East: Theology, Science, and the Eastern Orthodox Tradition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003. In a quite thoughtful, well-written volume of its kind, the Russian-British, University of Portsmouth, philosopher physicist explains how, in contrast to mechanical Greek and western schools, this ancient heritage can bring vital perspectives on a numinous universe and our participatory purpose. In this 21st century view, “humanity is the hypostasis of the universe” whence human beings emerge from and epitomize a cosmic milieu and logos source. In regard, this legacy and scenario is an example of the Eastern “cosmist” vision whence an ordained, incomplete genesis is to be carried forth by human “co-creators.” See also a decade later arXiv his A Participatory Universe of J. A. Wheeler as an Intentional Correlate of Embodied Subjects and an Example of Purposiveness in Physics (search).
Nesteruk, Alexei. Universe, Incarnation, and Humanity. Participatio. Vol. 4, 2013. This is the Journal of the Thomas Torrance Theological Fellowship, the paper is available on the author’s University of Portsmouth website. Thomas Torrance (1913-2007) was a prominent, innovative Scottish theologian and author. We note this along with AN’s other papers because, as the quotes cite, it offers a rarest vision of an awesome significance for infinitesimal human persons with regard to the infinite cosmos by way of our, intended, transformative ability to think through and achieve its consciously perceived witness and description.
If one tries to articulate the grandeur of the world in terms of typical sizes, putting atoms, molecules, DNAs, etc. together with mega-objects like planets, stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and even the whole universe, then human beings find themselves in a somewhat strange situation because the inhabited planet Earth occupies a tiny portion of the space of the volume of the visible universe. (224) The paradox which is present here arises when one realizes that the very representation of the universe as a whole, and all particular objects in the universe organized against a spatial grid, are the products of human intellectual activity. The paradox is obvious: the finite, even insignificant embodied human agencies in the vast universe articulate the entire universe from a point-like position in space and time. Humanity actualizes in knowledge the totality of the universe as its intentional correlate and this manifests a fundamentally non-local essence of the human presence, being a quality and a mode of being which transcends the finitude of its corporeality, as well as all particular objects and laws associated with it. (225)
Peacocke, Arthur. Paths from Science to God. Oxford: Oneworld, 2001. In this work quantum physics, chaotic systems, the anthropic principle and so on are considered in a search for ways that God might interact with the world.
Peacocke, Arthur. The Challenge and Stimulus of the Epic of Evolution to Theology. Dick, Steven, ed. Many Worlds. Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2000. The British biochemist, theologian and author finds the gathering story of a progressive evolution to augur for a sacramental, Christ-centered future earth and universe.
Hence his imperative “Follow me” constitutes a call for the transformation of humanity into a new kind of human being and becoming. What happened to Jesus, it was thought, could happen to all. (113)
Peters, Ted and Gaymon Bennett, eds. Bridging Science and Religion. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003. One of the more comprehensive and incisive collections that sets aside the old “warfare” metaphor by way of discerning bridges and interfaces between theology and discovered evidence. The tacit metaphor, as the Hess paper above elaborates, is to revive the tradition of natural law and the book of nature as a second scripture.
Peters, Ted and Martinez Hewlett. Evolution from Creation to New Creation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003. A theologian and a scientist attempt to sort out the many facets of comparing and integrating traditional religious and modern cosmological worldviews. A working metaphor is the convergence with Renaissance roots of the Two Books of scripture and nature. In so doing, a spectrum of approaches stretches from Theism: scientific creationism and intelligent design ID to a wide midrange of Theistic Evolution as an innately developing cosmic genesis to an Atheism of materialist theories. The authors provide a good summary of the thought of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Philip Hefner, Ursula Goodenough, John Haught, Kenneth Miller and others, along with the ID school.
Peters, Ted, ed. Science and Theology: The New Consonance. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998. An array of authorities such as Nancey Murphy, Paul Davies, Philip Hefner, Robert Russell, Francisco Ayala, and John Haught, attempt to clear the ground for an imperative reconvergence.
Picoli, S. and R. Mendes. Universal Features in the Growth Dynamics of Religious Activities. Physical Review E. 77/036105, 2008. As lately found everywhere else in nature and society, Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Brazil, physicists find human spiritual encounters and groupings to similarly manifest such ubiquitous features. The second quote is a good synopsis for this dual evident discovery of a common code. Search Picoli for more from this group.
We quantify and analyze the growth dynamics of a religious group in 140 countries for a 47-year period (1959–2005). We find that (i) the distribution of annual logarithmic growth rates exhibits the same functional form for distinct size scales and (ii) the standard deviation of growth rates scales with size as a power law. Both findings hold for distinct measures of religious activity. These results are in surprising agreement with those found in the study of economic activities and scientific research, suggesting that religious activities are governed by universal growth mechanisms. (Abstract, 036105)
Polkinghorne, John. Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. The British physicist and theologian’s latest ruminations on how to integrate a dynamically self-organizing nature with a creative Divine presence. In a temporally unfolding eschatology this is seen to occur as a “two step process,” between an “old and new creation” which requires an act of human free will and witness.
Polkinghorne, John. Science and the Trinity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. A closely reasoned theology of a Trinitarian God of Father, Son (Word) and Spirit that can providentially interact with new appreciations of the universe as an information-generating, open (if veiled) process. But the work exemplifies the current conflation of its machine and genesis versions. Although the mechanical view is said to be waning, the cosmos is still fated to expire, taking any human essence with it. So our hope remains an external Deity who will save the day.
It is proposed that the human soul may best be understood as the immensely complex information-bearing pattern carried by the body, a modern version of the Aristotelian-Thomistic concept of the soul as the form of the body. (xvii) Either way, (expand or contract) the cosmos is condemned to eventual futility. It is as certain as can be that carbon-based life will everywhere prove to have been a transient episode in its history. (85)
Polkinghorne, John. The God of Hope and the End of the World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. An essay on the difficulty of squaring the Christian expectation of eventual salvation with the “cosmic futility” of an expiring physical universe indifferent to life. A resolve would require belief in a Divine Creator who assures its ultimate fulfillment, in spite of such mechanistic evidence to the contrary.