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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
. 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)
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.
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)
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)
This chapter contains sections titled: * 1 The Birth of Strict Naturalism and Its Theory of Knowledge * 2 Six Challenges to Strict Naturalism * 3 Constructive Formulations of Broad Naturalism * 4 The Epistemic Presumption in Favor of Broad Naturalism * 5 Final Questions * 6 Conclusion: Grounds for Optimism and Pessimism * Notes.
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.
. 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)