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Anne L. C. Runehov
Neuroscientific Research on the Self: A Case for Panentheism?


In order to obtain an interdisciplinary understanding of the world that also includes theology, I believe panentheism, as a potential explanatory model of a God relationship to the world, needs to be revisited. Naturalistic explanations leave out the possible existence of God, and hence deprive millions of religious believers of a satisfactory explanation. The present paper deals with this neglect. It asks the question, if God exists, how then can we understand God’s relationship to the world in a scientific age? From contemporary neuroscientific research on the self, the following explanatory models are suggested:

  1. ES((NS ↔ (SNS ∩ STS)); STS > (NS ∩ SNS)

Where ES stands for one Emergent Self comprising a Neural Self (NS), a Subjective Neural Self (SNS) and a Subjective Transcendent Self (STS), there is mutual causation between the neural and subjective selves. Furthermore, the subjective transcendent is bigger than both the neural and subjective neural self.

  1. EU(UR ↔ (NR ↔ ES)); ES > NR and UR > (NR ∩ ES)

Where EU stands for one Emergent Universe comprising Ultimate Reality (UR; GOD), Natural Reality (NR; world) and all Emergent selves (ES), there is mutual causation between God and the world, between the world and Emergent Selves (the ES being part of it) and between God and Emergent Selves within the world. Furthermore, the Emergent Selves are bigger than the world, and God is bigger than both the world and Emergent Selves.

Dr. Anne L.C. Runehov is an Associate professor (research lecturer) in the department of Systematic Theology at the Copenhagen University.  She earned a Master’s degree in theoretical philosophy, concentrating in the philosophy of the mind, at the University of Stockholm, Sweden and a doctoral degree in theology, concentrating in philosophy of religion, at the University of Uppsala, Sweden.  Dr. Runehov is a co-editor of the new Encyclopaedia of Sciences and Religions, which is forthcoming by Springer, and also of the European Journal of Science and Theology.  She is the author of Sacred or Neural? The Potential of Neuroscience to Explain Religious Experiences (2007) and has published several articles.

She is the 2006 ESSSAT research prizewinner.  She has the leadership for the Copenhagen Network of Science and Religion of which the Forum of Science and Existence is sponsored by Metanexus together with the Centrum for excellence Naturalism and Christian Semantics.

Runehov is working within the research field of Science and Theology.  Her main research interests are Neuroscience, Cognitive science and Quantum Mechanics, which are studied from a perspective of Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology and Philosophy of Science.


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