Faced with the ambiguities of this world, in which ugliness and suffering co-exist with beauty, the article rejects the attribution of disvalues to a Fall-event. Instead it faces God's involvement even in violence and ugliness. It explores the concept of divine glory, understood principally as a sign of the divine reality. This includes both the great theophanies of the Hebrew Bible and Jesus’ glorification in his Passion and Crucifixion. It then considers the contemplation of the natural world, using the terminology (...) of “inscape” and “instress.” Divine glory can be discerned even in events as tragic as the Indian Ocean tsunami or the activity of the malarial mosquito. A full Christian contemplation of these events will include scientific understanding and poetic apprehension, and consideration of soteriology and eschatology as well as the theology of creation. Glory is understood to include God's power and sovereignty, and also the divine humility and sacrifice. (shrink)
Abstract. This article offers one response from within Christianity to the theological challenges of Darwinism. It identifies evolutionary theory as a key aspect of the context of contemporary Christian hermeneutics. Examples of the need for re-reading of scripture, and reassessment of key doctrines, in the light of Darwinism include the reading of the creation and fall accounts of Genesis 1–3, the reformulation of the Christian doctrine of humanity as created in the image of God, and the possibility of a new (...) approach to the Incarnation in the light of evolution and semiotics. Finally, a theodicy in respect of evolutionary suffering is outlined, in dialogue with recent writings attributing such suffering to a force in opposition to God. The latter move is rejected on both theological and scientific grounds. Further work on evolutionary theodicy is proposed, in relation in particular to the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. (shrink)
We offer a general definition of interpretation based on a naturalized teleology. The definition tests and extends the biosemiotic paradigm by seeking to provide a philosophically robust resource for investigating the possible role of semiosis (processes of representation and interpretation) in biological systems. We show that our definition provides a way of understanding various possible kinds of misinterpretation, illustrate the definition using examples at the cellular and subcellular level, and test the definition by applying it to a potential counterexample. We (...) explain how we propose to use the definition as a way of asking new questions about what distinguishes life from non-life and of formulating testable hypotheses within the field of origin-of-life research. If the definition leads to fruitful new empirical approaches to the scientific problem of the origin of life, it will help to establish biosemiotics as a legitimate philosophical approach in theoretical biology and will thereby support a theological appropriation of the biosemiotic perspective as the basis of a new theology of nature. (shrink)
We provide an overview of a proposal for a new metaphysical framework within which theology and science might both find a home. Our proposal draws on the triadic semiotics and threefold system of metaphysical categories of C. S. Peirce. We summarize the key features of a semiotic model of the Trinity, based on observed parallels between Peirce's categories of Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness and Christian thinking about, respectively, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We test and extend the semiotic model (...) by exploring how Peirce's taxonomy of signs offers a new approach to theological reflection on the Incarnation. This leads to a novel way of framing scientific questions about human evolution in semiotic terms and to a new approach to theological anthropology. Finally, we use the semiotic model of the Trinity as the basis of a trinitarian approach to the theology of creation according to which the semiotic processes that are fundamental to life and to human behavior and cognition may be understood as “vestiges of the Trinity in creation.”. (shrink)
We introduce a two-part collection of articles (Part 2 to appear in the September 2010 issue) exploring a possible new research program in the field of science and religion. At the center of the program lies an attempt to develop a new theology of nature drawing on the philosophy of C. S. Peirce. Our overall idea is that the fundamental structure of the world is exactly that required for the emergence of meaning and truth-bearing representation. We understand the emergence of (...) a capacity to interpret an environment to be important to the emergence of life, and we see the subsequent history of biological evolution as a story of increasing capacities for meaning making and meaning seeking. Theologically, we understand God to be the ground of all such meaning making and the ultimate goal of the universe's emerging capacity for interpreting signs. Here we explain our reasons for seeking a new metaphysical framework in which science and theology may each find a home. We survey the contributions to the two-part collection, and we suggest that the interdisciplinary collaboration from which these have arisen may serve as a methodological model for the field of science and religion. (shrink)
Kalevi Kull and colleagues recently proposed eight theses as a conceptual basis for the field of biosemiotics. We use these theses as a framework for discussing important current areas of debate in biosemiotics with particular reference to the articles collected in this issue of Zygon.
We draw on Short’s work on Peirce’s theory of signs to propose a new general definition of interpretation. Short argues that Peirce’s semiotics rests on his naturalised teleology. Our proposal extends Short’s work by modifying his definition of interpretation so as to make it more generally applicable to putatively interpretative processes in biological systems. We use our definition as the basis of an account of different kinds of misinterpretation and we discuss some questions raised by the definition by reference to (...) parallel problems in the field of teleosemantics. We propose that interpretative responses fulfilling the criteria of our definition may be made by relatively simple molecular entities and we suggest two specific empirical applications of the definition to experimental work in the field of origin of life research. Our wider aim is to suggest that a well formulated naturalistic definition of interpretation will allow a re-evaluation of the role of semiotic phenomena in biological systems, including the generation of empirically testable hypotheses. (shrink)
This article considers the current state of the science–religion debate in the United Kingdom. It discusses the societies, groups, and individual scholars that shape that debate, including the dialogue between theology and physics, biology, and psychology. Attention is also given to theology's engagement with ecological issues. The article also reflects on the loss of influence of denominational Christianity within British society, and the impact both on the character of the debate and the role of the churches. Finally, some promising trajectories (...) of development for the future are outlined. (shrink)
This fully revised and updated edition of God, Humanity and the Cosmos is an essential companion to the field, with exercises for the student, a comprehensive bibliography, and suggestions for further reading.
In the preceding article in this section, F. LeRon Shults responds to our article preceding his, “Semiotics as a Metaphysical Framework for Christian Theology.” We respond here to his criticisms of our proposal. We discuss his concerns about the concept of “vestiges of the Trinity in creation” and argue that this does not undermine the absolute ontological difference between God and creation. We offer a clarification of our idea that the Incarnation may be understood, in terms of Peirce's taxonomy of (...) signs, as a qualisign of God's being. Finally, we discuss the idea that all symbols “break on the infinite.”. (shrink)
We introduce the second part of a two-part collection of articles exploring a possible new research program in the field of science and religion. At the center of the program lies an attempt to develop a new theology of nature drawing on the philosophy of C. S. Peirce. Our overall idea is that the fundamental structure of the world is exactly that required for the emergence of meaning and truth-bearing representation. We understand the emergence of a capacity to interpret an (...) environment to be important to the emergence of life, and we see the subsequent history of biological evolution as a story of increasing capacities for meaning-making and -seeking. Theologically, we understand God to be the ground of all such meaning-making and the ultimate goal of the universe's emerging capacity for interpreting signs. Here we summarize the articles in Part 1, which focused on scientific and philosophical aspects of the research program, and introduce Part 2, which turns to the theological outworking of the project. (shrink)
This article surveys and classifies the kinds of appeal to the Bible made in recent theological discussions of ecology and environmental ethics. These are, first, readings of `recovery', followed by two types of readings of `resistance'. The first of these modes of resistance entails the exercise of suspicion against the text, a willingness to resist it given a commitment to a particular (ethical) reading perspective. The second, by contrast, entails a resistance to the contemporary ethical agenda, given a perceived commitment (...) to the Bible. This initial typology and the various reading strategies surveyed are then subjected to criticism, as part of an attempt to begin to develop an ecological hermeneutic, a hermeneutic which operates between recovery and resistance with an approach that may be labelled `revision', `reformation' or `reconfiguration'. (shrink)
David Clough’s two-volume work On Animals claims to be the first systematic Christian theological reflection on the place of nonhuman animals within creation which also provides an ethical reflection on what that might mean for our relationship with nonhuman animals in contemporary society. In this extended review, we provide a summary of the cumulative arguments across both volumes of On Animals before offering our reflections. While we agree with many though not all of Clough’s theological conclusions, we ultimately conclude that (...) Clough’s ethical solutions are too radical in places, and too optimistic without economic and systemic changes as to how humans relate to the nonhuman world. (shrink)
This chapter discusses the type of natural theology appropriate to the reading of ecosystems, and gives a number of examples of such an approach. It begins by discussing the impact of Darwinism and the possibilities for a natural theology of the biosphere, and then presents the author's own approach to a theological reading the ecological world. The approach involves stressing the integrity of the scientific account, and hence the ambiguity of ecosystems; taking seriously the few scriptural passages that seem to (...) offer clues about the eschatological relationships between God, humans, and the non-human creation; developing a theology of gift; and fusing scientific insights with those of poets and other contemplatives. (shrink)