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)
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)
Panentheism is best understood as a philosophical research program. Identifying the core of the research program offers a strong response to the demarcation objection. It also helps focus both objections to and defenses of panentheism — and to show why common objections are not actually criticisms of the position we are defending. The paper also addresses two common criticisms: the alleged inadequacy of panentheism’s double “in” specification of the relationship between God and world, and the “double God” objection. Once the (...) research program framework is in place, topics like these become opportunities for panentheists to engage in the kind of careful constructive work in theology and philosophy — historical, analytic, and systematic — that is required for making long-term, positive contributions to our field. (shrink)
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 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)
This article offers a vision for work at the intersection of science and religion over the coming seven years. Because predictions are inherently risky and are more often than not false, the text first offers an assessment of the current state of the science-religion discussion and a quick survey of the last 50 years of work in this field. The implications of the six features of this vision for the future of the field are then presented in some detail. Rather (...) than bemoaning the current diversity of approaches and conclusions as a negative result, I endorse it as a healthy sign—if acknowledged honestly and managed well. (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)
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)
Panentheism has often been put forward as a means for bringing theology and science into dialogue, perhaps even resolving some of the major tensions between them. A variety of “faces” of panentheism are distinguished, including conservative, metaphysical, apophatic, and naturalist panentheisms. This series of increasingly radical panentheisms is explored, each one bringing its own core commitments, and each describing very different relationships between religion and science. We consider, for example, the diverse ways that the radical panentheisms construe emergent phenomena in (...) the natural world. In the end, comparing the increasingly radical forms of panentheism yields a new understanding of the state of the religion/science dialogue today. (shrink)
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)
Any discussion of the possibility of ‘science and religion’ as a distinct field of study represented a clear step forward from the dominant prejudice of an earlier age. By contrast, it seems hard to deny that a new area of study has emerged, one devoted to the study of the complex and multifaceted relationships between science and religion. The text in this book testifies to the existence of a distinct field of inquiry. One can hope that carefully studying how differently (...) the various religions conceive their relationship with the sciences will help to overcome the tendency, until recently dominant in Western scholarship, to equate ‘religion and science’ with ‘Christianity and science’. (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)
. The startling success of the religion‐science discussion in recent years calls for reflection. Have old walls been broken down, old antagonisms overcome? Have science and religion finally been reconciled? Or is all the activity just so much sound and fury signifying nothing? Postmodern equations of scientific and religious beliefs disregard a number of enduring differences that help make sense of the continuing tensions. Yet the skepticism of authors such as John Caiazza is also ungrounded. I describe five major types (...) of approaches that are being employed in the recent literature. These methods have led to a deeper understanding of the commonalities between science and religion and have produced new productive partnerships between them. (shrink)
. Imre Lakatos's philosophy of science can provide helpful leads for theological methodology, but only when mediated by the disciplines that lie between the natural sciences and theology. The questions of relativism and truth are used as indices for comparing disciplines, and Lakatos's theory of natural science is taken as the starting point. Major modifications of Lakatos's work are demanded as one moves from the natural sciences, through economics, the interpretive social sciences, literary theory, and into theology. Although theology may (...) consist of Lakatosian research programs, it also includes programs of interpretation and programs for living. This conclusion must influence our definition of theological truth and our assessment of theological relativism. (shrink)
Not to be confused with pantheism-the ancient Greek notion that God is everywhere, an animistic force in rocks and trees-the concept of panentheism suggests that God is both in the world, immanent, and also beyond the confines of mere matter, transcendent.One of the fundamental premises of this groundbreaking collection of essays is that panentheism, despite being unlabeled until the nineteenth century, is not merely a modern Western invention. The contributors examine a number of the world's established and ancient religious traditions-Christianity, (...) Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and others-to draw out the panentheistic dimensions of these traditions and the possibilities they suggest. Panentheism is not only an esoteric, potentially heretical, and deeply mystical vision of the world's great religious pasts; it is also a key feature of contemporary global spirituality. As this volume demonstrates, the metaphors and practices associated with modern panentheism speak powerfully to the realities of our evolving species and our evolving technological world. Panentheism's enticingly heretical vision of the relationship between the divine and matter has historically been denied a serious place in scholarship. As Panentheism across the World's Traditions shows, the dynamism between matter and spirit that panentheism offers has had a profound influence in the modern world. (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.
This thesis looks at explanation in the natural sciences, the social sciences, and in religious reflection. Although these fields differ radically in the objects studied and the methods employed, they do evidence certain formal commonalities when one inquires into the nature of the explanatory endeavor as it is manifested in each. By exploring the links between explanations and the various contexts or disciplines in which they occur, I attempt to provide a general framework for speaking of rational explanations in these (...) diverse areas. ;In an opening chapter I consider several alternatives regarding the epistemic status of religious explanations, focusing finally on the model of "intersubjective explanation." Contemporary defenses of intersubjective religious explanation are placed within the context of the broader faith/reason debate, and a quick survey is made of recent advocates of this position. I then turn to the methodology dispute in the philosophy of the natural sciences . My aim is to mediate between purely formal analyses of explanatory structure and the more recent emphasis on contextual and pragmatic factors. ;In the social sciences, many have argued, explanation is subordinate to intuitive understanding. After tracing the explanation versus understanding debate from Dilthey to the present, I present the recent work of Jurgen Habermas as a case study in the problems of social scientific rationality. Explanations in the social sciences are rational reconstructions of human meaning contexts, and "Verstehen" is required as a precondition for material adequacy. Such explanations are linked to the individual or communal effort to "make sense" of, or bring coherence into, subjective and intersubjective "worlds." ;After an excursus on philosophical explanations and the problem of philosophical rationality, I attempt a brief phenomenology of religious beliefs as explanations. As in the social sphere, religious explanations represent the believer's attempt to "make sense" of her experience in light of a given religious tradition. Although the comprehensive nature of religious explanations makes comparisons difficult--in the limit case they verge on ineffability--the concepts of meaning and coherence allow us to speak of the rationality of religious belief without total equivocation. ;The final chapter turns to the study and evaluation of religious explanations as they occur in the discipline of theology. Under the rubric "theology as a science," I defend theology's dual status as an academic discipline and as believing reflection in the service of the religious community. Through vitally concerned with the truth of its assertions, theology also shares the goals of coherence and intersubjective criticizability with its scientific counterparts. (shrink)
In this book Philip Clayton defends the rationality of religious explanations by exploring the parallels between explanatory effects in the sciences and the explanations offered by religious believers, students of religion, and theologians. Clayton begins by surveying the types of religious explanation, offering a synopsis of the most significant competing positions. He then critically examines recent important developments in the philosophy of science regarding the nature of scientific explanations—including the work of Popper, Hempel, Kuhn, and Lakatos in the natural sciences (...) and Habermas, Weber, and Schütz in the social sciences. Clayton outlines the process of rational evaluation in these disciplines, defining the explanatory quest as the attempt to make sense of or bring coherence into subjective and intersubjective worlds. He briefly discusses explanations in philosophy and then turns to the explanatory role of individual religious experience, drawing on a coherence theory of meaning and on the conclusions from his discussion of science. Based on his defense of the doubting or “secular” believer, he concludes by advocating a model of theology in which questions about the truth of a religious tradition are intrinsic to its theology. “A valuable exposition of the thesis that the explanatory work of theology possesses formal similarities with that of the physical sciences, the social sciences, and philosophy. Clayton exhibits an impressive command of a broad area of scholarship, and his reflections are balanced and carefully argued.” –Michael J. Buckley, S.J., professor of religion at the Jesuit Theological Seminary and author of _At the Origins of Modern Atheism_ “I know of no philosopher writing today who has dealt in as informed and thoughtful a way with the broad subject of this book. Clayton guides the reader through important discussions with ease, illuminating the path all along the way.” –Josiah B. Gould, professor of philosophy at the State University of New York, Albany. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: * A Neuroscientific Theory of Cognition: The Global Workspace Model * The Burden of Proof and the Loss of Innocence * The Harshest Attack on Freedom and Consciousness: Daniel Dennett * A More Radical Entailment? * Consciousness as an Emergent Property * Conclusion * Notes.