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VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Twndividuality

6. Contrasts of Religion and Science

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.

Polkinghorne, John. Theology in the Context of Science. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009. The redoubtable Cambridge University physics professor and Anglican priest seems to write a constantly lucid book each year, this one being his October 2008 John Albert Hall lectures at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. But this historical task is presently compromised by the conflation of two kinds of cosmoses – an old insenate material universe, indifferent to life and mind as it fades to black, or an organically self-arranging emergence whence people, ‘someone in gestation’ Teilhard would say, are co-creator selves whom are to freely organize it. Anyway, the quotes give some sense of such mixing of Ptolemy and Copernicus.

The evolutionary character of the universe is consonant with a theological understanding that God’s act of creation is a kenotic act of divine self-limitation, bring into being a world in which creatures are allowed ‘to make themselves.’ In a creation of this kind, death is the necessary cost of the development of new life, and physical process has to operate ‘at the edge of chaos,’ in regimes where chance and necessity, order and disorder, interlace. (xxii)

On this view, the eschatological destinies of human beings and of the whole universe lie together in the world of God’s new creation (cf. Romans 8:19-21). This new creation is not a second divine attempt at creation ex nihilo, an action which would seem to imply the ultimate irrelevance of the first creation, but rather it is a creation ex vetere, the transformation of the old into the new. (157)

Polkinghorne, John and Michael Welker, eds. The End of the World and the Ends of God. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000. Scholars struggle to reconcile the apparent entropic expiration of space and time with the mysterious presence of sentient human life. Glimpses occur of a Divinely assisted “New Creation” if life and mind indeed is found to have cosmic import.

Pruett, Dave. Reason and Wonder: A Copernican Revolution in Science and Spirit. New York: Praeger, 2012. A former NASA scientist, Dave Pruett is an emeritus James Madison University professor of mathematics. His interest in this integral endeavor began a decade ago when he initiated an honors course “From Black Elk to Black Holes: Shaping a Myth for a New Millennium.” A big hit with students, it garnered a Science-Religion Course Award from the Templeton Foundation. As an astute, insightful edition of its kind, the text proceeds through three historic expansions of our understanding: explorations across cosmological reaches and the depths of space and time, life’s emergent evolution from hydrogen to humankind, and thirdly in our day, the rise of a psychic, noosphere envelope consciousness, with a numinous promise to “redefine the spiritual place of humans in the cosmic order.”

Richardson, W. Mark and Gordy Slack, eds. Faith in Science. London: Routledge, 2001. Interviews with scientists such as Arno Penzias, Bruno Guideroni, Anne Foerst, Brain Cantwell Smith, and Charles Townes on how their various disciplines might perceive signs of Divine action in an evolving nature.

Ruse, Michael. Can a Darwinian be a Christian? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. A yes answer can be given, but with a lot of juggling of two opposite worldviews of an intentional, numinous creation or a contingent evolution without guidance or direction.

Ruse, Michael. Darwin and Design. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003. Although an avowed materialist, Ruse applies philosophical and historical acumen to sort out the design argument in light of the theory of evolution by natural selection. The door is left ajar.

Ruse, Michael. The Evolution-Creation Struggle. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005. Philosopher Ruse recounts the checkered interaction between a seemingly vicarious Darwinian natural selection and traditional beliefs in a Divine origin and purpose. Within these domains a present tension stands between a bible-based world awaiting its end of days and an evolutionary creation whose ordained cosmic to human course brings a modicum of promise.

Russell, Robert, et al, eds. Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action. Vatican City: Vatican Observatory Press, 1995. A theological rethinking gets underway in response to the incarnate dynamic creativity of nonlinear complex systems. The essay by Denis Edwards of especial interest in this regard.

Russell, Robert, et al, eds. Evolutionary and Molecular Biology. Vatican City: Vatican Observatory Press, 1998. Proceedings from an interdisciplinary conference to explore “scientific perspectives on Divine action” in a developmental universe. In articles by Charles Birch and Ian Barbour, the science of complexity and philosophy of process might expand Darwinian theory to include an inherent self-organization which God may then constantly facilitate.

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