Does it make sense - can it make sense - for someone who appreciates the explanatory power of modern science to continue believing in a traditional religious account of the ultimate nature and purpose of our universe? This book is intended for those who care about that question and are dissatisfied with the rigid dichotomies that dominate the contemporary debate. The extremists won't be interested - those who assume that science answers all the questions that matter, and those so certain (...) of their religious faith that dialogue with science, philosophy, or other faith traditions seems unnecessary. But far more people today recognize that matters of faith are complex, that doubt is endemic to belief, and that dialogue is indispensable in our day. -/- In eight probing chapters, the authors of The Predicament of Belief consider the most urgent reasons for doubting that religious claims - in particular, those embedded in the Christian tradition - are likely to be true. They develop a version of Christian faith that preserves the tradition's core insights but also gauges the varying degrees of certainty with which those insights can still be affirmed. Along the way, they address such questions as the ultimate origin of the universe, the existence of innocent suffering, the challenge of religious plurality, and how to understand the extraordinary claim that an ancient teacher rose from the dead. They end with a discussion of what their conclusions imply about the present state and future structure of churches and other communities in which Christian affirmations are made. (shrink)
In the West panentheism is known as the view that the world is contained within the divine, though God is also more than the world. I trace the history of this school of philosophy in both Eastern and Western traditions. Although the term is not widely known, the position in fact draws together a broad range of important positions in 20th and 21st century metaphysics, theology, and philosophy of religion. I conclude with some reflections on the practical importance of this (...) position. (shrink)
Looking back over the last 40 years of work in the philosophy of religion provides a fascinating vantage point from which to assess the state of the discipline today. I describe central features of American philosophy of religion in 1970 and reconstruct the last 40 years as a progression through four main stages. This analysis offers an overarching framework from which to examine the major contributions and debates of process philosophy of religion during the same period. The major thinkers, topics, (...) positions, and controversies are presented, analyzed, and critiqued. In the concluding section I offer a critical appraisal of the state of the field today based on the results of these historical analyses. (shrink)
This Afterword looks back over both parts of the discussion of “God and the World of Signs”—“Semiotics and the Emergence of Life” in the previous issue of Zygon and “Semiotics and Theology” in this issue. Three central questions in this extended debate are identified: What is the nature of biological organisms and biological evolution? What is the relationship between the natural world and the Triune God of the Christian theological tradition? What should be the goals of Science/Religion Studies? I summarize (...) the answers that Christopher Southgate and Andrew Robinson have given in their program and the challenges raised by their critics. Their strengths and weaknesses are assessed. In the conclusion I ask readers to imagine that this particular research program were to be taken as a model program in science-and-religion research (with some tweaking) and then consider the features of the program that could function as standards for scholars working in other areas of the dialogue. (shrink)
Open theism represents an important mediating position between more traditional or evangelical theology and process thought. But open theists have in general failed to engage panentheism. The increasingly significant role of panentheism not only in process thought but now across the theological spectrum—including among evangelical thinkers—suggests a new mediating position, open panentheism. Its panentheistic themes allow this new constructive theology to draw more deeply from process sources than most open theists do. At the same time, along with more traditional theologies, (...) it affirms a free creation by God ex nihilo, and hence the free self-limitation (kenosis) of God in the creative act. (shrink)
This volume introduces readers to emergence theory, outlines the major arguments in its defence, and summarizes the most powerful objections against it. It provides the clearest explication yet of this exciting new theory of science, which challenges the reductionist approach by proposing the continuous emergence of novel phenomena.
Ultimately we will only understand biological agency when we have developed a theory of the organization of biological processes, and science is still a long way from attaining that goal. It may be possible nonetheless to develop a list of necessary conditions for the emergence of minimal biological agency. The authors offer a model of molecular autonomous agents which meets the five minimal physical conditions that are necessary (and, we believe, conjointly sufficient) for applying agential language in biology: autocatalytic reproduction; (...) work cycles; boundaries for reproducing individuals; self-propagating work and constraint construction; and choice and action that have evolved to respond to food or poison. When combined with the arguments from preadaptation and multiple realizability, the existence of these agents is sufficient to establish ontological emergence as against what one might call Weinbergian reductionism. Minimal biological agents are emphatically not conscious agents, and accepting their existence does not commit one to any robust theory of human agency. Nor is there anything mystical, dualistic, or non-empirical about the emergence of agency in the biosphere. Hence the emergence of molecular autonomous agents, and indeed ontological emergence in general, is not a negation of or limitation on careful biological study but simply one of its implications. (shrink)
Strong claims have been made for emergence as a new paradigm for understanding science, consciousness, and religion. Tracing the past history and current definitions of the concept, Clayton assesses the case for emergent phenomena in the natural world and their significance for philosophy and theology. Complex emergent phenomena require irreducible levels of explanation in physics, chemistry and biology. This pattern of emergence suggests a new approach to the problem of consciousness, which is neither reducible to brain states nor proof of (...) a mental substance or soul. Although emergence does not entail classical theism, it is compatible with a variety of religious positions. Clayton concludes with a defence of emergentist panentheism and a Christian constructive theology consistent with the new sciences of emergence. (shrink)
The author responds to criticisms from the four respondents to his “Emergence, Supervenience, and Personal Knowledge,” acknowledging areas where their points have improved the interpretation of science and the interpretation of Polanyi. The discussion focuses on the extent of the “causal decoupling” between parts and emergent wholes, with special attention to the question of whether (and if so, to what degree) brain activity causes thought.
Michael Polanyi was perhaps the most important emergence theorist of the middle of the 20th century. As the key link between the British Emergentists of the 1920s and the explosion of emergence theory in the 1990s, he played a crucial role in resisting reductionist interpretations of science and keeping the concept of emergence alive. Polanyi’s position on emergence is described and its major strengths and weaknesses are analyzed. Using Polanyi as the foundation, the article surveys the major contemporary options in (...) thephilosophy of mind and defends a particular understanding of the relationship of mental properties to brain states. (shrink)
This essay provides practical tips for effective teaching in science-and-religion courses. It offers suggestions for dealing with difficult questions and creating a climate of shared learning. Along with pedagogical advice, it covers fundamental principles for teaching broadly integrative religion-and-science courses. Instructors are encouraged to reflect on their purpose(s) in offering their course and to formulate specific objectives using the techniques and resources outlined here.
The article traces the links between theism and the concept of infinity in modern philosophy. Descartes appealed to "infinite perfection" as intuitive and immediately knowable, basing his theism upon it. Leibniz's quantitative understanding of infinity, as in the infinitesimals, made the break between finite and infinite less central without erasing it. Both are challenged by the infinite set theory of Georg Cantor, which finally provides a mechanism for speaking of greater and lesser infinite quantities--and yet he still posits an "absolute (...) infinite," beyond all sets! I show how infinity remains central to philosophical theology even apart from theistic proofs. (shrink)