VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality
6. Contrasts of Religion and Science
Rutman, Joel Yehudah. Why Evolution Matters: A Jewish Approach. London: Valentine Mitchell, 2014. This thoughtful, well researched work by a pediatric neurologist, who practiced in central Texas for some years, and presently in Israel, reflects how much personal views influence what is perceived. In his studies, the author duly consulted scientists such as Eva Jablonka, Douglas Futuyma, Jack Cohen, Leon Kass, and more. If one does not accept the standard rejection by Richard Dawkins and cadre of any cosmic, evolutionary teleological source or direction, if actualities can be seen as they are, then a quite different scenario is possible. While it is allowed that vicarious probabilities do exist, life is intended to evolve from universe to us due to natural constraints, convergences on the same end, and an intrinsic self-organization. The traditional option of an unknowable reality is set aside, in this new light it is averred that our human purpose is tzaddikim, the achievement of a “righteous humanity.”
Why Evolution Matters examines the concept of evolution in relation to Judaism, showing that far from something to be avoided within the religion, evolutionary thought deepens an understanding of classic areas of Jewish concern, including free will, moral behavior, suffering, and death. The book presents a novel interpretation of biological evolution in which convergences, self-organization, constraints, and progress are seen as components of the divinely intended world. Why Evolution Matters confronts some major questions that are leveled at the Jewish religion: How can God have created the world when evolution says everything just happened? How can we believe in the truth of Genesis when it conflicts with the facts of evolution? How did we evolve and why does it matter? The book explains how Genesis and evolutionary cosmology and biology reinforce, rather than contradict, one another.
Sacks, Jonathan. The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning. New York: Schocken Books, 2012. The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, author of many good works such as To Heal a Fractured World (2007), offers a rapprochement to these often disparate portals. In conversation with Iain McGilchrist, a realistic alignment of the religious and scientific persuasions and methods with their right and left brain hemisphere proclivities could be a novel pathway to their synthesis. While Sacks acknowledges that religions have caused much harm, he equally indicts science for its current, quite unwarranted, atheist extremism.
Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. Without going into neuroscientific detail, the first is a predominately left-brain activity, the second is associated with the right hemisphere. (2-3) So, to summarize: Science is the search for explanation. Religion is the search for meaning. Meaning is not accidental to the human condition because we are the meaning-seeking animal. To believe on the basis of science that the universe has no meaning is to confuse two disciplines of thought: explanation and interpretation. The search for meaning, though it begins with science, must go beyond it. Science does not yield meanings, nor does it prove the absence of meanings. (37-38)
Schmitz Moorman, Karl. Theology of Creation in an Evolutionary World. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1997. By way of Teilhard and Whitehead comes a process view of an organic genesis more knowable from Whom it may become than from whence material basis it came. If earth and cosmos are suitably divinized, we might encounter an expectant God, who is both Alpha and Omega. Schmitz Moorman, assisted by the Jesuit scientist James Salmon, finds the creative, vectorial informative that rises with life’s evolution to be spiritual in kind.
Setia, Adi. Taskhir, Fine-Tuning, Intelligent Design and the Scientific Appreciation of Nature. Islam & Science. 2/1, 2004. A typical paper from this new journal edited by Muzaffar Iqbal. Its author is a Research Fellow at the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Sloan, Phillip, et al, eds. Darwin in the Twenty First Century: Nature, Humanity, and God. Norte Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. As the book summary notes, it is a select composite from 2009 anniversary conferences, Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories at Gregorian University, Rome, and another at Notre Dame with the above title. Proceedings from the first event appeared in a 2011 book with that meeting title from Gregorian Press but not widely available. The present volume has three revised papers from Rome by Scott Gilbert on evo-devo and symbiosis, Stuart Newman on physical sources for evolutionary life, and David Depew on accident, adaptation and teleology. Other contributors include Alessandro Minelli, Celia Deane-Drummond, Gennaro Auletta, Peter Bowler, and Jean Gayon. A final chapter Evolutionary Theism and the Emergent Universe by the late Archbishop Jozef Zycinski is a promising surmise of a hopeful resolution.
This collection of essays originated in conferences held at the Gregorian University in Rome and at the University of Notre Dame to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. These essays, by leading scholars, assess the continuing relevance of Darwin's work from the perspectives of biological science, history, philosophy, and theology. The contributors focus on three primary areas: developments in evolutionary biology that open up new ground for interdisciplinary dialogue; reflections on human evolution, with a particular focus on evolution and ethics; and new reflections on theology and evolution, particularly from a Roman Catholic perspective, drawing both on traditional perspectives and on new currents in Catholic theology.
Smedes, Taede. Chaos, Complexity, and God. Leuven: Peeters, 2004. A Dutch theologian considers a self-organizing universe, aided by Arthur Peacocke, as a means to reimagine Divine creative action.
Smith, Howard. Let There Be Light: Modern Cosmology and Kabbalah. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2006. The senior Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist discerns a deep accord between these complementary modes of human interpretative encounter. The tacit theme is that Jewish mysticism and cosmic science reflect in their ways, as they must, the one, same numinous creation. A prime concept is an expressive Sefirot image to convey Divine sources, energies and stations, quoted next. His 2016 article (search Great Earth) broaches that by the latest findings, human beings appear to be unique in the universe. And in consideration, if one may, the term “sefirome” occurred for it seems so genomic in essence.
Sefirot is a channel of Divine energy or life-force. This most fundamental concept of Kabbalah is that in the process of creation an intermediate stage was emanated from God’s infinite light to create what we experience as finite reality. These channels are called the Ten Sefirot, Ten Divine Emanations, Ten Divine Radiances, Ten Divine Eluminices, or Ten Divine Powers which are the basic terms and concepts of the inner wisdom of the Torah which is called Kabbalah. (web definition)
Southgate, Christopher, et al. God, Humanity and the Cosmos. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1999. A multi-author textbook that covers a wide range of subjects from epistemology, the new physics, evolutionary biology, psychology to Islamic thought and biotechnology and makes efforts to engage students with issues such as “Models of God in an Ecological Age.”
Spitzer, Robert, SJ. Indication of Supernatural Design in Contemporary Big Bang Cosmology. Ultimate Reality and Meaning. 27/4, 2005. The president of Gonzaga University carefully considers various models of the anthropic principle, including the current multiverse version, to conclude that our cosmos requires and exhibits such an array of finely-tuned parameters that it begs the presence of a Divine designer.
Stump, J. B. and Alan Padgett, eds. The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. This copious, inclusive tome is distinguished by 54 chapters in nine sections: Historical Episodes; Methodology; Natural Theology; Cosmology & Physics; Evolution; The Human Sciences; Christian Bioethics; Metaphysical Implications; The Mind; Theology; Significant Figures of the 20th Century. Full contents are on the publisher’s site. For a sample, we found Simon Conway Morris’ pithy “Creation and Evolutionary Convergence,” Jacqueline Broad’s “Women, Mechanical Science, and God in the Early Modern Period,” John Haught’s “Christianity and Human Evolution,” and “The Trinity and Scientific Reality” by John Polkinghorne to be of notable quality.
Taylor, Mark. After God. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. The prolific Williams College philosopher and new chair of religion at Columbia University writes an extensive essay of a 21st century encounter with numinosity reconceived in terms of a nonlinear dynamics. His earlier work, The Moment of Complexity, stands as one of the best humanist appreciations of this revolution. But it has a deep flaw similar to other works of this kind. Taylor draws in a provincial way upon the European philosophies of Gregor Hegel and Immanuel Kant to propose that the course of history, as it runs from transcendence to immanence, is really about the “self-embodiment of God,” which is fine and catches this epochal adjustment. The work goes on to provide in several places a lucid course in complex systems principles. But does Columbia know that now theologian Taylor concludes, as the final quote alludes, that all this proceeds as a fluidic novelty for its own sake, sans any ordained design and end? Other well-intentioned efforts such as Stuart Kauffman and Catherine Keller are similarly troubled in this way –much exoteric surface ‘creativity’ goes on, but the sense of a discernible, esoteric source and aim is not in play or excluded. (See “The Lord and Taylor” by Bernard Prusak in Commonweal for April 11, 2008 for a good review.)
As I have indicated, emergent complex adaptive networks are not limited to culture but can be found throughout the natural and social systems that compose the everyday world. They are not, in other words, merely subjective and epistemological but are also objective and ontological. In the final two chapters, I will attempt to show how life itself is an emergent complex adaptive network that harbors important religious dimensions, ethical norms, and political imperatives. (28)
Kabbalah and Complexity: Two Routes to One Reality.
A posting from the website of the Beth Israel Medical Center philosophical pathologist that illumes lucid parallels, as there must be, between traditional Jewish wisdom and new self-organization science, from which we quote. Each try to convey in their vernacular a greater dynamic creation of interactive individuals which repeats and arrays itself into a nested ascendant hierarchy.
Now let’s play the film backward, instead of descending downward through levels of scale, let’s start from this ground of Being and move upward. The smallest elements of physical existence pop in and out of the void and then, interacting, they self-organize into different subatomic particles which then self-organize into still larger sub-atomic particles, and then, in turn, into atoms, then into biomolecules, cells, bodies, communities (of all kinds: villages, cultures, ecosystems, Gaia). All of existence, then, is simply the emergent self-organization of whatever arises from the Ground of Being.
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