Love of Neighbor in Classical Judaism

Jacob Neusner will be presenting this paper at the Metanexus 2007 Conference as part of a special public evening plenary at Irvine Auditorium, University of Pennsylvania on Monday, June 4, 2007. Also included on the panel are Stephen Post, Mahmoud Ayoub, Martin Seligman, and Bruce Chilton. The program is entitled Prospects for Our Common Humanity: Love of Neighbor in the Monotheistic Traditions. For more information on Metanexus 2007, visit the conference website.

Classical Judaism is set forth by the Hebrew Scriptures of ancient Israel, a.k.a., the Old Testament, as interpreted by the Rabbinic sages of late antiquity ó the first six centuries of the Common Era ó in the Talmud and related writings. That Judaism maintains that the biblical commandment, ìYou shall love your neighbor as yourselfî (Lev. 19:18), defines the heart of the Torah, which is to say, what we should call the essence of Judaism. That judgment is set forth in the Talmud, the extension and amplification of the Torah, in a famous story about the sage, Hillel:

I.12
A. There was another case of a gentile who came before Shammai. He said to him, ìConvert me on the stipulation that you teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot.î He drove him off with the building cubit that he had in his hand.

B. He came before Hillel: ìConvert me.î

C. He said to him, ìëWhat is hateful to you, to your fellow donít do.í Thatís the entirety of the Torah; everything else is elaboration. So go, study.î

Bavli Shabbat 31a

The concluding counsel, ìGo, study,î points to the task of elaborating the Golden Rule to cover a variety of specific cases. Notice how the formulation shifts from the positive, love, to the negative, what is hateful to you to your fellow donít do. But in both positive and negative formulations, the focus is on your fellow, and that superficially at least excludes the stranger.

Why do people limit the definition of neighbor to the fellow believer?

That minimalist reading of Lev. 19:18 is sustained by a dispute on the encompassing principle of the Torah:

7.
A. Öbut you shall love your neighbor as yourself: [I am the Lord]:

B. R. Aqiba says, This is the encompassing principle of the Torah.

C. Ben Azzai says, 'This is the book of the generations of Adam' (Gen. 5:1) is a still more encompassing principle.

Sifra CC:III

So who is my neighbor? The dispute between Aqiba and Ben Azzai makes clear that by ìmy neighborî not everyone is meant. Aqiba, like Hillel before him, identifies the commandment to love oneís neighbor as oneself as the encompassing principle of the Torah. But Ben Azzai chooses a still more compendious principle, ìThis is the book of the generations of Adam,î which encompasses not only ìyour neighborî but all humanity. For the ìbook of the generations o Adamî covers all the peoples known at that time and by showing how all nations derive genealogically from Adam and Eve establishes that humanity forms a common family. In the context of Genesis, which sets forth the theory that ìIsraelî is constituted by the extended family of Abraham and Sarah, the metaphor of a family covering all of the nations of the world carries a weighty message.

So at issue is the governing metaphor. Ben Azzai sees humanity as united in genealogy, cousins all, and it is in that context that Ben Azzaiís reading of ìLove your neighbor as yourselfî rejects the Golden Rule as too limited in application. For Ben Azzai implies that loving oneís neighbor limits the commandment of love to oneís own group. This he does when he selects a statement that transcends the limits of a particular group.

Lev. 19:17-18 establishes a context for his criticism. For it states: You shall not hate your brother in your heart, [but reasoning, you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord] (Lev. 19:17-18). The clear intent is to frame matters in terms of your brother and your own people. No wonder, then, that Ben Azzai has chosen a verse that refers to all humanity.

But that is not the end of the story. Leviticus 19:31-32 explicitly extends the rule of love to the stranger or outsider:

1.
A. [When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Lev. 19:31-32).]

4.
A. Öyou shall not do him wrong:

B. You should not say to him, Yesterday you were worshipping idols and now you have come under the wings of the Presence of God.

5.
A. Öas a native among you:

B. Just as a native is one who has accepted responsibility for all the teachings of the Torah, so a proselyte is to be one who has accepted responsibility for all the words of the Torah.

6.
A. Ö shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself:

B. Just as it is said to Israel, You will love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18),

C. so it is said with regard to proselytes, You shall love him as yourself.

7.
A. Öfor you were strangers in the land of Egypt:

B. Know the soul of strangers, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Sifra CCV:I

Here is an explicit definition of the commandment to love the outsider, and Lev. 19:18 is cited to apply to the stranger.

How is love conceptualized and encouraged?

Rabbinic Judaism depicts God in human terms. The human emotion of love is therefore imputed to God. The proclamation of Judaic faith, the Shema, says, ìYou will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mightî (Dt. 6:4), and that implies God craves humanityís love. Rabbinic Judaism sees God and man as consubstantial, sharing in particular the same emotional traits. God has three major character traits, power, love, and justice. Power pertains to Godís creation, control of history, and imposition of morality on human kind (Muffs 1992, 4). Love invokes the imagery of family. Justice means God metes out justice measure for measure (M. Sot. 1:7). What happens to human beings responds to the actions of the person who is subject to judgment, and fairness governs. All relationships come to their final resolution in the resurrection of the dead and the judgment of humanity for eternal life or eternal death.

The relationship of love defines the interplay of God and Israel (the holy community), man and man, man and himself. Love of God and love of the neighbor set the norms of right action. God is the model throughout, since he is conceived in personal terms. Godís love for Israel is expressed in such language as, ìYou have given us the Sabbath as a gift of love, given willingly.î Godís relationship to Israel then is one of pure love, balanced by justice. ìLoveî is given spontaneously, not under coercion, thus ìwho chooses his people Israel in loveî means, ìspontaneously, without reservationî (Muffs 1992, 187). The gift of the Torah is the most important manifestation of Godís love for humanity and Israel, and the fact that God has informed humanity and Israel of his love for them is still greater evidence:

A. R. Aqiba would say, ìPrecious is the human being, who was created in the image [of God].

B. ìIt was an act of still greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in the image [of God],

C. ìas it is said, ëFor in the image of God he made maní (Gen. 9:6).

D. ìPrecious are Israelites, who are called children to the Omnipresent.

E. ìIt was an act of still greater love that they were called children to the Omnipresent,

F ìas it is said, ëYou are the children of the Lord your Godí (Dt. 14:1).

G. ìPrecious are Israelites, to whom was given the precious thing [the Torah].

H. ìIt was an act of still greater love that it was made known to them that to them was given that precious thing with which the world was made,

I. ìas it is said, ëFor I give you a good doctrine. Do not forsake my Torahí (Prov. 4:2).î

Tractate Abot 3:14

The commandments are marks of Godís love and concern for Israel. They express Godís love for Israel, by showing that God concerns himself for Israelite conduct and character:

A. R. Hananiah b. Aqashia says, The Holy One, blessed be he, wanted to give merit to Israel.

B. Therefore he gave them abundant Torah and numerous commandments,

C. as it is said, ëIt pleased the Lord for his righteousness' sake to magnify the Torah and give honor to it (Is. 42:21).

Mishnah-tractate Makkot 3:`16

Just as God loves Israel, so Israel loves God. Acts of loving kindness are valued by God. These cannot be coerced by only prompted by the actorís generous heart. When the Temple was destroyed, acts of loving kindness replaced the animal sacrifices as media of atonement. Yohanan ben Zakkai, surviving authority after the destruction of the Temple in 70, is portrayed in a late Midrash-compilation as saying to his disciple, distressed at the loss of Temple sacrifice as a medium of atonement, ìWe have another mode of atonement, which is like [atonement through sacrifice], and what is that? It is deeds of loving kindnessî (The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan IV:V.2). Accordingly, in the aftermath of the loss of the sacrificial cult in 70, love formed the principal relationship between Israel and God.

A. One time [after the destruction of the Temple] Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai was going forth from Jerusalem, with R. Joshua following after him. He saw the house of the sanctuary lying in ruins.

B. R. Joshua said, ìWoe is us for this place which lies in ruins, the place in which the sins of Israel used to come to atonement.î

C. He said to him, ìMy son, do not be distressed. We have another mode of atonement, which is like [atonement through sacrifice], and what is that? It is deeds of loving kindness.

D. ìFor so it is said, ëFor I desire mercy and not sacrifice, [and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings] (Hos. 6:6).íî

The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan IV:V.2

Love in these contexts is commanded, but not coerced; God yearns for Israelís love. But love can only be freely given, not forced, and the commandment to love bears the paradox that God can only beseech, not coerce, love. God can command Israel to love him, but cannot force Israel to obey his commandment. Love in the end is an emotion that is freely given or withheld as an act of will. Oneís attitude determines the weight of an action, and an act can be one of love or one of mere submission, depending on the feeling of the person who performs the action.

The exposition of the commandment to love God in the Talmud of Babylonia stresses the universality of the commandment to love God. It speaks of acts of love that are material and those that are intangible. Martyrdom means voluntarily giving oneís life for the love of God and the sanctification of his name. That is done in public and sets an example for Israelites to follow:

XVIII.1
A. ìYou shall love the Lord your Godî [M. 9:5B]:

B. It has been taught on Tannaite authority:

C. R. Eliezer says, ìIf it is said, ëWith all your soul,í why is it also said, ëWith all your mightí? And if it is said, ëWith all your might,í why is it also said, ëWith all your soulí?

D. ìBut if there is someone who places greater value on his body than on his possessions, for such a one it is said, ëWith all your soul.í

E. ìAnd if there is someone who places greater value on his possessions than on his life, for such a one it is said, ëWith all your might.íî

F. R. Aqiba says, ìëWith all your soulí ó even if he takes your soul.íî

Bavli Berakhot 9:5 61b

The highest expression of love of God is to give oneís life in martyrdom:

XVIII.2
A. Our rabbis have taught on Tannaite authority:

B. The wicked government once made a decree that the Israelites should not take up the study of Torah. Pappos b. Judah came and found R. Aqiba gathering crowds in public and taking up the study of Torah.

C. He said to him, ìAqiba, arenít you afraid of the government?î

D. He said to him, ìI shall show you a parable. What is the matter like? It is like the case of a fox who was going along the river and saw fish running in swarms place to place.î

E. He said to them, ìWhy are you running away?î

F. They said to him, ëBecause of the nets people cast over us.í

G. ìHe said to him, ëWhy donít you come up on dry land, and you and I can live in peace as my ancestors lived in peace with yours?í

H. ìThey said to him, ëAre you the one they call the cleverest of all wild beasts? You are not clever, youíre a fool. Now if in the place in which we can live, we are afraid, in a place in which we perish, how much the more so [should we fear]!í

I. ìNow we too, if when we are in session and taking up the study of Torah, in which it is written, ëFor it is your life and the length of your daysí (Deut. 30:20), things are as they are, if we should go and abandon it, how much the more so [shall we be in trouble]!î

J. They say that only a few days passed before they arrested and imprisoned R. Aqiba. They arrested and imprisoned Pappos b. Judah nearby. He said to him, ìPappos, who brought you here?î

K. He said to him, ìHappy are you, Aqiba, because you were arrested on account of teachings of Torah. Woe is Pappos, who was arrested on account of nonsense.î

L. The hour at which they brought R. Aqiba out to be put to death was the time for reciting the Shema. They were combing his flesh with iron combs while he was accepting upon himself [in the recitation of the Shema] the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven.

M. His disciples said to him, ìOur master, to such an extent?î

N. He said to them, ìFor my whole life I have been troubled about this verse, ëWith all your soulí [meaning] even though he takes your soul. I wondered when I shall have the privilege of carrying out this commandment. Now that it has come to hand, should I not carry it out?î

O. He held on to the word, ìOne,î until his soul expired [as he said the word] ìone.î An echo came forth and said, ìHappy are you, Rabbi Aqiba, that your soul expired with the word ëone.íî

P. The serving angels said before the Holy One, blessed be he, ìIs this Torah and that the reward? ëFrom them that die by your hand, O Lordí (Ps. 17:14) [ought to have been his lot].î

Q. He said to them, ìëTheir portion is in lifeí (Ps. 17:14).î

R. An echo went forth and proclaimed, ìHappy are you, R. Aqiba, for you are selected for the life of the world to come.î

Bavli Berakhot 9:5 61b

The ultimate gift of love fulfills the commandment of love. But love involves not only Israelís love for God but Godís love for Israel.

In the relationship of love that binds the Israelite to God, God takes the part of the suitor, Israel, the besought: ìI will betroth you to me for ever, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lordî (Hos. 2:19-20) ó these words, recited every weekday morning in prayer, capture the relationship to which we of holy Israel aspire to form with God who loves Israel.

How Rabbinic Judaism portrays the metaphor of love between God and Israel comes to full expression in Song of Songs Rabbah, a Rabbinic commentary to the Song of Songs, which turns the Song of Songs (a.k.a., the Song of Solomon) into a series of love-songs that celebrate Godís love for Israel and Israelís love for God. In reading the Song of Songs as a statement of the relationship of God and Israel, Israel is identified as the female-beloved, God as the male-lover. The relationship of Israel to God is the same as the relationship of a wife to the husband, and this is explicit in Song of Songs Rabbah to Song 7:10: The yearning of Israel is only for their Father who is in heaven, as it is said, ìI am my belovedís, and his desire is for me.î To be ìIsraelî is to accept Godís love.

Romantic love found no place in Rabbinic Judaism. Yet the following story captures the full meaning of love embodied in that religious system:

Song of Songs Rabbah IV:v.2

B. If one has married a woman and lived with her for ten years and not produced offspring, he has not got the right to stop trying.

C. Said R. Idi, There was the case of a woman in Sidon, who lived with her husband for ten years and did not produce offspring.

D. They came before R. Simeon b. Yohai and wanted to be parted from one another.

E. He said to them, By your lives! Just as you were joined to one another with eating and drinking, so you will separate from one another only with eating and drinking.

F. They followed his counsel and made themselves a festival and made a great banquet and drank too much.

G. When his mind was at ease, he said to her, My daughter, see anything good that I have in the house! Take it and go to your father's house!

H. What did she do? After he fell asleep, she made gestures to her servants and serving women and said to them, Take him in the bed and pick him up and bring him to my father's house.

I. Around midnight he woke up from his sleep. When the wine wore off, he said to her, My daughter, where am I now?

J. She said to him, In my father's house.

K. He said to her, What am I doing in your father's house?

L. She said to him, Did you not say to me last night, 'See anything good that I have in the house! Take it and go to your father's house!' But I have nothing in the world so good as you!

M. They went to R. Simeon b. Yohai, and he stood and prayed for them, and they were answered [and given offspring].

That combination of yearning, commitment, affection, and devotion defines love in Rabbinic Judaism, beginning with the love of God, extending to the neighbor, and pertaining also to the self, as Hillel said (Mishnah-tractate Abot 1:14): ìIf I am not for myself, who is for me? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?î

How we can make progress toward a common humanity

Ben Azzai thinks that the conception of a common humanity begins in the metaphor of a family, the metaphor of Israel as formed by the children of Israel forming a concrete example. How would such a mode of thought do its work? A single example suffices. The Rabbis of late antiquity had to explain the paramount status of Rome and its power over Israel, Godís people. To do so, they imputed common ancestry to Israel and to Rome. They made a place for Rome in the history of Israel. This they did in conformity to their larger theory of who is Israel, an extended family related to common ancestors, specifically by assigning to Rome a place in the family. Rome as an autonomous actor, as an entity with a point of origin (just as Israel has a point of origin) and a tradition of wisdom (just as Israel has such a tradition). So as Rome is Esau, so Esau is part of the family and therefore plays a role in history. And ó yet another point of considerable importance ó since Rome does play a role in history, Rome also finds a position in the eschatological drama.

This sense of poised opposites, Israel and Rome, comes to expression in two ways. First, Israelís own history calls into being its counterpoint, the anti-history of Rome. Without Israel, there would be no Rome ó a wonderful consolation to the defeated nation. For if Israelís sin created Romeís power, then Israelís repentance would bring Romeís downfall. Israel and Rome ó these two contend for the world. Still, Isaac plays his part in the matter. Rome does have a legitimate claim, and that claim demands recognition ó an amazing, if grudging ó concession on the part of sages that Christian Rome at least is Esau.

1.
A. When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry [and said to his father, ëBless me, even me also, O my father!í]î (Gen. 27:34):

B. Said R. Hanina, ìWhoever says that the Holy One, blessed be he, is lax, may his intestines become lax. While he is patient, he does collect what is coming to you.

C. ìJacob made Esau cry out one cry, and where was he penalized? It was in the castle of Shushan: ëAnd he cried with a loud and bitter cryí (Est. 4:1).î

Genesis Rabbah LXVII:IV

So Rome really is Israelís brother. No pagan empire ever enjoyed an equivalent place; no pagan era ever found identification with an event in Israelís family history. The passage presents a stunning concession and an astounding claim. The history of the two brothers forms a set of counterpoints, the rise of one standing for the decline of the other. I cannot imagine a more powerful claim for Israel: the ultimate end, Israelís final glory, will permanently mark the subjugation of Esau. Israel then will follow, the fifth and final monarchy. The point of No. 1 is to link the present passage to the history of Israelís redemption later on. In this case, however, the matter concerns Israelís paying recompense for causing anguish to Esau.

How the agent of love benefits from loving others

Let me close by dealing with more general questions. How does the agent of love benefit from loving others? Love defines a relationship of responsiveness to the other. ìLove your neighbor as yourselfî extends to the other the affirmation of self that sustains life.

The chief impediments to love for a common humanity

The dispute between Aqiba and Ben Azzai captures the challenge: to love the one like oneself presents no challenge. To love the outsider requires effort. And the source of love for a common humanity is the narrative that we are able to formulate, the governing metaphor.


Bibliography

Borowitz, 1971: Eugene B. Borowitz, ìLove,î Encyclopaedia Judaica, Jerusalem, 1971: Keter Publishing Co., 11:523-530,

Buechler, 1928: A. Buechler, Studies in Sin and Atonement in the Rabbinic Literature of the First Century, pp. 119-176.

Feldman, 1975: David M. Feldman, The Jewish Family Relationship, N.Y., 1975: United Synagogue of America.

Glueck, 1967: Nelson Glueck, Hesed in the Bible. Translated by Alfred Gottschalk. Cincinnati, 1967: Hebrew Union College Press.

Gordis, 1978: Robert Gordis, Love and Sex: A Modern Jewish Perspective. N.Y., 1978: Farrar Straus Giroux.

Muffs, 1992: Yochanan Muffs. Love & Joy. Law, Language and Religion in Ancient Israel. NY and Jerusalem, 1992: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Neusner, 1997: Jacob Neusner, The Components of the Rabbinic Documents: From the Whole to the Parts. V. Song of Songs Rabbah. Atlanta, 1997: Scholars Press for USF Academic Commentary Series. Now: Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Part i. Introduction. And Parashiyyot One through Four Part ii. Parashiyyot Five through Eight. And a Topical and Methodical Outline of Song of Songs Rabbah

Neusner, 2003: Jacob Neusner, Androgynous Judaism. Masculine and Feminine in the Dual Torah. Macon, 1993: Mercer University Press. Jewish Book Club Selection. Reprint, Eugene, OR, 2003: Wipf and Stock

That Judaism maintains that the biblical commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' (Lev. 19:18), defines the heart of the Torah, which is to say, what we should call the essence of Judaism. 3/22/2007 03/22/2007 9854 Useless Arithmetic and Inconvenient Truths

A Review of Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future by Orrin H. Pilkey and Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, Columbia University Press, 2007.
ISBN 0-231-13212-3

My story begins with the intriguing title of a new book -- Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future (Pilkey 2007).  The authors are a father and daughter team.  The father is Orrin H. Pilkey, an emeritus professor of geology at Duke University’s Nicolas School of the Environment.  He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.  The father is a prolific author and expert in shoreline developments.  The daughter, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, is also a geologist.  She hails from McCleary, Washington, working in Washington State’s Department of Ecology, managing the state’s oil spill programs.

The book is a delight to read.  The Pilkeys recount dozens of scientific vignettes, unfolding like detective stories, of scientists gone astray, lost following their predictive models to unexpected consequences and tragic failures.  As the Pilkeys make clear, science has not been very successful in predicting or managing environmental changes.  The problems, they argue, are inherent in any attempt to model complex natural and human systems.  Predictions from any computer simulations of any complex reiterative dynamic processes are not worth the binary code they were written in, nor the supercomputers they were run on.  The book reads like a series of parables, each illustrates what Whitehead meant by “the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness.”  The problem is endemic to all modeling of any complex environmental or human process.

Chapter Four alone should be required reading for anyone concerned with the debate over climate change.  To address the larger question, the authors begin by pulling on the string of sea level change.  Readers get a brief tutorial on eustatic and isostatic changes in sea level.  Eustatic variations are changes in the volume of liquid water in the Earth’s oceans, more or less depending on the amount of glaciated ice, atmospheric water, and geologically bounded water captured in aquifers, lakes, soil, and rock.  Isostatic changes in sea levels are dramatic geological changes in the contours of Earth’s ocean basin, increasing or decreasing the volume of the ocean containers.  When the ocean basin is smaller, global sea levels rise everywhere.  The ocean cup runneth over unto all of the continents.  Or as the case may be in the reverse, sea levels can also drop dramatically.

These dynamics and others have been at work on the Earth since its beginning.  Major climate changes in the past have been caused by wobbles in the Earth’s axis of rotation.   Indeed, the magnetic poles have even flipped – south becomes north and north becomes south.  Our orbit around the sun is also ever so slightly out of kilter.  Our sun too is dynamic, sometimes overly exuberant in bathing the Earth with excess solar energy, and sometimes too little.  In addition, there are disruptions caused by volcanic activity and terrestrial impacts.  And life itself is also an important part of the story, like the invention of photosynthesis or the formation of large hydrocarbon deposits hundreds of millions of years ago.  All of these can dramatically impact global climate and maybe even your vacation plans this summer.

Climate change is hardly front-page news for geologists; climate change is the whole story from beginning to end.  Geologists read this story from the text of rock, mud, water, ice, and air, in the half-lives of radioactive isotopes, in the orientation of magnetic sediments, in geological deposits, in the traces of ancient glaciers, mountain ranges, canyons, fossils, bygone oceans, and tectonic plates.  The 4.5 billion year old Earth story is one of continuous and dramatic metamorphoses on a time scale difficult to imagine; unless, of course, you happen be a geologist – or in this case, two geologists.

This is the backdrop to the Pilkeys’ exploration of useless arithmetic in the current debate on anthropogenic global climate change.  Their message undermines everyone and every position in the current global debate about global climate change. The book came out before the release of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, but we do get a careful analysis of the 2001 IPCC Report.  Perhaps this section can be updated in future releases of the book, even though there is no problem in extrapolating from 2001 to 2007, unlike some of the other extrapolations discussed in their book.

There are about fifteen major climate models used by scientists around the world.  Favored are bottom-up models, involving a long chain of events and very complicated computer simulations running on supercomputers.  This approach uses a great aggregation of models, and models of models, all the way up.  In other words, it is models all the way down too.  The assumption here is that the more variables included in the meta-model, the better the meta-model.  Another approach, the minority view, favors top-down models, focusing only on larger systems – simplify, averaging, estimating, testing, but not presuming to include every potentially relevant variable.  Predicting future sea-levels, of course, is only one piece of the climate puzzle.  Up or down, the Pilkeys profess:

What a daunting task faces those who choose to predict the futures of the sea-level rise!  We have seen that the factors affecting the rate are numerous and not well understood.  Even if our understanding improves, the global system simply defies accurate and quantitative prediction because of its complexity. (76)

Their argument is not whether our climate cup is half full or half empty.  Geologists have a different perspective on time.  Their earthy timescale is some 4.5 billion years.   All rock is ultimately metamorphic rock.  And this includes the concrete, steel, and glass monuments of human engineering and architecture built in cities around the world.  Imagine my beloved New York City, and every other at some point in the future, crushed under mile-thick glacier ice, or perhaps absorbed back into the molten core of the Earth through normal plate tectonics, or perhaps someday under the ocean.  A geologist knows, it is only a matter of time -- hot and cold, sea levels up and down, round and round the sun -- before there are dramatic changes on our restless and creative planet.  Maybe this will happen soon, maybe suddenly, and maybe not for a long time, at least relative to the scale of human life, but it will happen, if the past is any guide.

The American Petroleum Institute and Dick Cheney should take no pleasure in the Pilkeys’ thorough challenge to the global climate-change prediction industry.  Anthropogenic climate change may be a real concern.  And furthermore, the same types of modeling errors and unknowns presumably also call into question industry models of global petroleum reserves.  The Pilkeys’ real argument is that no scientist can offer cogent predictions of the Earth’s climate – too hot, too cold, or just right.  No matter how much data is collected, no matter how sophisticated the computer program, no matter how powerful the supercomputer employed to run the simulation.  Complex natural systems cannot be modeled in a way that generates useful predictions.   There are too many variables, too many feedback loops between variables, and the system is dynamic in ways that we do not understand and cannot represent mathematically. 

In the case of climate change, a short list of variables and feedback loops might begin:

  • the absorption of CO2 by the ocean,
  • the heat exchange between the oceans and the atmosphere,
  • the effect of cloud cover,
  • variations in the Earth’s albedo,
  • ocean current circulation,
  • local climate perturbations,
  • long-term climate cycles
  • arctic ice melt,
  • release of methane from melting  artic tundra,
  • health of phyloplankton,
  • variations in amounts and  types of precipitation, and
  • many more confounders large and small.

Any of these variables could accentuate or ameliorate climate change and could do so with runaway dynamics. The authors are leaning agnostic to pessimistic on the prospects for near-term climate change (resulting from anthropogenic causes).  It may not be all that bad.  It may even be worse. We have no way of knowing, in spite of the $2 billion-per-year industry funded by the United States government to studying climate change.  The Pilkeys use strong words to criticize these expenditures:

Assumption upon assumption, uncertainty upon uncertainty, and simplification upon simplification are combined to give an ultimate and inevitably shaky answer, which is then scaled up beyond the persistence time to make long-term predictions of the future of sea-level rise.  Aside from the frailty of the assumptions, there remains ordering complexity: the lack of understanding of the timing and intensity of each variable. (82)

The authors advocate instead a qualitative methodology that settles with tendencies, directions, and magnitudes of change.  A supercomputer is not required to document actual glacial declines around the world over the last few decades.  Before-and-after photographs from a tourist camera of Muir Lake, Alaska from 1941 and 2004 provide compelling evidence for major changes (83).  Over twenty years of space telemetry and ground observations in Antarctic give us disturbing short-term trends.  Over a three-year period, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet lost 36 cubic miles of ice per year.  The complete melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet alone would produce a 13-foot global sea level rise (78).  Maybe you should rebook that summer vacation after all.

The Pilkeys certainly seem to think that global climate change is a serious problem.  It is just that “A serious societal debate about ‘solutions’ can never occur so long as modelers hold out the probability, just around the corner, of accurate projections of future climates and sea-levels” (86).  There will be no accurate projections.

Along with their scathing critique, the authors do manage a backhanded compliment to climate change modelers, at least by way of a negative comparison to their own guild in applied geology.  They write:

The publications of this diverse international group (IPCC) are filled with painfully long discussions about error, uncertainties, and missing data.  The objectivity of these global change modelers stands in stark contrast to the arrogance of the coastal engineers or the overconfidence of ground water modelers (79).

It is not that mathematical predictions are always impossible.  Far from it.  At one point, the authors quote reassuringly the New York Times for June 7, 2004:

In New York City sunrise will be at 5:25 am.  Eastern time on Tuesday, and Venus is to begin leaving the solar disc at 7:06 am, when the sun is 17 degrees above the horizon.  The planet’s final contact with the sun’s edge should occur about 7:26 am when the sun is 20 degrees high.  There will be another transit on June 6, 2012…” (34)

It is comforting that some things can be known with certainty.  I can plan on another transit of Venus in 2012.  Predictive success is thought to be the sine qua non in most science, technology, and engineering fields.  Regularity and reproducibility have traditionally been seen as one of the hallmarks of science.  I count on it every time I log onto this computer, get on an airplane, or take an elevator to the 40th floor.  In some domains, however, science is going to need to let go of prediction.  Two things have changed:

1) the rise of complexity and

2) the rise of computation. 

Environmental and human processes have always been complex.  This is not new.  It is just that now we have a lot more insights and background information.  We know a lot more of the details, so we are compelled by the known facts at every turn to ask more and more complex questions.  This is true in many disciplines, but for the Pilkeys, it is the key to understanding our human power in affecting major environment changes by our actions.  For instance, they launch the first chapter showing how industrial fishing wiped out the North Atlantic cod fisheries, in spite of mathematical models predicting levels for maximum sustainable yields. 

The complexity challenge also arises because of the availability of the computer.  Every scientific discipline has been dramatically changed over the last twenty years by the availability of computers.  Scientists can now collect enormous datasets, query the datasets, and run computer simulations.  Without computers, there would be an epistemic bias towards asking simpler questions and ignoring questions that were thought to be beyond the capabilities of science.

Climate change is only one of two-dozen different kinds of quantitative modeling projects that the Pilkeys discuss in their book.  Each example demonstrates failures of quantitative modeling, including:

  • maximum sustainable yield and the Atlantic cod fishery,
  • plans for storing highly radioactive nuclear waste in Yuka Mountain,
  • invasive weed species,
  • 1972 Club of Rome Report, Limits to Growth,
  • McNamara’s management of the Vietnam War,
  • abandoned pit mines water toxicity,
  • forecasting on Wall Street,
  • Enron collapse,
  • EPA second-hand smoke studies
  • Lord Kelvin and the age of the Earth
  • soil erosion on sandy coasts
  • engineered beaches
  • salt-marsh grass
  • Brown Tree Snakes on the Island of Guam

We also get a thorough introduction to Orrin Pilkey’s specialty -- developed shorelines, treated in two chapters and the appendix.   These should be required reading for anyone living in the coastal communities on any of the seven seas.

Already in the second chapter, the Pilkeys begin to develop a typology for modeling.  This comes with a long list of common modeling errors.  This genealogy of models – mathematical, applied, quantitative, qualitative, statistical, epidemiology, simulations, analytic, numerical, static, dynamic, conceptual – are all discussed with an eye to how the model employed can distort our understanding of reality.  Other sources of reality distortion result from computer coding, uncertain debugging and quality assurance in computer programming, algorithmic biases based on important assumptions, situational bias, model-tweaking, pessimist and optimist biases, advocacy and politically correct biases. All of this, compounded and confounded by increasing complexity, causes us to often ask the wrong questions. We don’t look back. I will refer to these as tragic errors,  distortions that arise because we are always imperfect humans being.  We are finite and mortal.  We make mistakes.

There are other sets of modeling distortion.  Let’s call these complexity errors, becausethese errors result from the nature of complexity itself.  Our models necessarily make assumptions about partially known and unknown relationships, expressed in ordering complexity with different valences, intensities, and vectors.  There are negative and positive feedback, linear and nonlinear systems, deterministic or probabilistic strategies.  So too I might add exponentially more data sets, but also exponentially more models.  It’s models all the way down.

Complex models often exhibit sensitivity.  This means that when some small variable is changed, the system changes dramatically.  Complex models can exhibit sensitivity to initial conditions, variations in guiding assumptions, and minor modifications in ordering the parameters.  The Pilkeys remind us that “the sensitivity of the parameters in the equation is what is being determined, not the sensitivity of the parameters of nature.”(25)  The italics is theirs, so let me restate and interpret. 

There are two problems that need to be solved in every model of complexity.  First, what is the ordering of complexity in the system, the timing and intensity of different parameters?  And second, how does one best “re-represent” this ordering of these parameters and complexities mathematically on a computer?  Algorithms need to be imagined.  Relationships defined.  Data collected.  Data analyzed. Values assumed.  Code written.  Models tested.  Simulations run.  And all of this -- the algorithms, the lines of code, sets of data, computer storage and processing -- have all been growing exponentially over the last three decades.  But, and this is what the Pilkeys are emphasizing, as a simulation leading to predictions, the computer model is only simulating and testing itself.   The computer re-representation is not “run” on the actual complex natural phenomena. 

The Pilkeys show that substituting mathematics for nature is itself a source of errors in modeling nature.  What is most illuminating are the varied ways that models are corrupted and misguided.  What is the impact of substituting laboratory measurements for nature?  What happens when we scale up short-term predictions into long-term predictions?  What happens when one chooses and omits different parameters in a model of nature?  What we do not know about initial conditions in a model of nature?  What happens with the intrusion of forces from outside of a particular model of nature?

The Pilkeys are advocates of qualitative modeling, which at best can be used only to predict general directions of change and possible magnitudes.  Qualitative modeling will not presume to offer a numerical answer with a range of error.  The approach asks why, how, and what if.  Qualitative modeling can also use large datasets, computer simulations, and lots of arithmetic, but they used to explore different scenarios, contingencies, and normative relationships.  At the end, there is also humility and uncertainty, multiple scenarios, and no hard and fast predictions.  The authors offer the following chart, in other words, a model of modeling (200).

Scenario Planning

Strategic Planning or Mathematical Modeling

Qualitative input

Quantitative input

Exploits uncertainties

Minimizes uncertainty

Long-range planning

Short-term planning

Multiple answers

Single answer

Planning for the future

Predicting the future

Hypothetical events

Predetermined goals

The bad news about complex predictions is that we don’t know anything and we can’t know anything --  not about future climate change,  not about storing radioactive waste over eons, not about managing declining fisheries or invasive weed species.  Science is butting its head against more and more complexity horizons, my term, not theirs.  Science discovers complexity horizon that it cannot cross, but cannot yet accept.  This is not a problem that can be solved with bigger datasets, more code, more powerful supercomputers, and less flawed and politicized science. 

We cannot look over this horizon of complexity, in part, because we are mortal humans with normal human problems.  We do not have a God’s eye view of the world and ourselves.  This means that science will always be distorted by political and economic interests, the culture and personalities of the scientists at that time.  Even if we could minimize all of these “externalities”, science is still confronted with the problem of complexity itself.  When the phenomenon is networked, reiterative, nonlinear, creative; then prediction will not work. 

The Pilkeys focus on environmental changes, but I suspect that many scientists are on similar wild-goose chases when it comes to hope for understanding and controlling complex genetic systems, developmental biology, cognitive neurosciences, and a whole slough of other phenomena.  Complexity is not just more; it is something new.  There are known limits to computational complexity (Harel 2000).  There are known limits to science (Barrow 1999).  And the really creative processes in nature and by humans in nature tend to be complex distributed systems, not amenable to deterministic modeling (Kelly 1994)  This is the greatest challenge for science today.  It is also a challenge to any applied bioethics or environmental ethics, because the consequences of actions cannot be known in advance.

Again science produces lots of useful and reliable predictions.  Mathematical modeling works well enough with simpler systems, like plotting the motion of the stars and planets in the evening sky or designing a modern bridge with stress-engineering of concrete and steel under variable loads and conditions.  Multiply the variables, however, add a lot feedback loops, grow the complexity of a system, and suddenly predictive modeling becomes an exercise in futility.  Predictive modeling cannot yield valid predictions for any complex natural and human related processes. This is truly the Earth shattering story, which really should be on the front page of the New York Times, not to mention Fox News.  This story is about the approaching limits of science, at least a certain kind of science.

After goring so many sacred cows, it is perhaps understandable that the Pilkeys resist the temptation to move into metaphysics, philosophy, and applied ethics.  These iconoclasts have already gotten themselves into a lot of hot water with their colleagues.  One conclusion to be drawn is that humanity is now thrust willy-nilly into the role of managing the Earth, not that we really know what we are doing.  The Pilkeys advocate a qualitative modeling approach, which aspires to predict mere tendencies, directions, and magnitudes of changing systems.  After all of the qualifications and caveats though, I am not sure qualitative modeling has much more to offer in the way of certainty, comfort, or a clear plan of action.  The future will always be shrouded in a cloud of uncertainty.

And that is the bad news enumerated in Useless Arithmetic.  Humans will never have the complete know-how, even though we certainly have increasing can-do.  Humans have themselves become an important variable in the future evolution of the planet.  This book offers no comfort or consolation.  The Pilkeys offer no hard and fast predictions.

The good news is that we live and think in a networked universe.  Our environment is networked, as are our networked bodies with our networked brains in our networked culture.  Let’s call it a metanexus.  You and I are surrounded by, constituted by, and are also ourselves dynamic components within all kinds of complex distributed systems.  These systems transcend us and form us, even as we also participate in their transformation.  The universe is metanexus all the way down.  These complex distributed systems exhibit creative intelligence, even elegance, though not unfailingly to our benefit.  Still some amazement and gratitude are evoked.  This seems like a promising point of departure for a new theology of nature based on a rather different understanding of nature (and science).  I also find it hopeful that science has known theoretical and practical limits.  Do not get me wrong.  Push the mechanistic, reductionist, and predictive envelope as far as possible.  Without the skeptics like the Pilkeys, however, there would be no way of escaping from “misplaced concreteness”.

Science must now recognize that there are non-reducible emergent, transcendent systems, which seem to constitute many of the most interesting and creative phenomena in our contextual universe – ecosystems, genomics, brains, and culture.  No amount of mathematical modeling, computer simulations, reiterative databases, and paradigm filtering will get us beyond this horizon of complexity.   We may hope that an “Invisible Hand”, reputably at play in free economic markets to the maximum benefit of all, is also at play in the free evolution of technology, culture, and the planet.  We won’t know for certain, but the very hope itself now becomes a variable in our future modeling and doings.

None of this relieves us of the risks and responsibilities of taking action.  We have to make choices.  We have to project desirable outcomes.  Let us try to model, design, and build for sustainable and better futures.  Expect adaptation.  Think geology.

How should governments, business, and citizens respond to the real and/or perceived threat of global climate change?   The Pilkeys don’t really say.  Perhaps the question is as perplexing as asking how one would plan for and respond to a dramatic non-anthropogenic climate change?   Still I wish they had been more explicit in their recommendations for the stray business leaders, elected leaders, and eclectic citizens who might pick up this book.

For my part, we need to deemphasize climate change and look at other variables.  There are many compelling arguments for radically reducing fossil fuel consumptions.  These reasons do not depend on prognostications of climate models.  Reducing fossil fuel consumption will improve local environmental air and water quality.  It will increase health, safety and quality of life.  It will slow resource depletion.  Reducing fossil fuel consumption can improve the bottom-line for individuals, corporations, and entire economies.  There are also important national security interests at risk, if we do not dramatically reduce fossil fuel consumption.  We don’t need a global climate change scare, in order to justify, rationalize, or motivate, what should already be obvious and sound public and private policy.  It is in the best interest of the United States and the world to dramatically reduce fossil fuel consumption, especially through increased efficiency, while also developing alternative energy sources.  I wonder whether the Pilkeys would agree.  After reading their chapter on nuclear waste storage, I doubt they would be enthusiastic about increasing nuclear power production as one of those alternative strategies.  Again, the authors leave us hanging, perhaps intentionally.

Useless Arthmetic is a book that should be adopted widely in college courses because professors and students both need to read it.  It is directly relevant in departments of engineering, environmental science, economics, public policy, medicine, sociology, psychology, history of science, law schools, computer science, and applied mathematics.  I would also add departments of philosophy, religion, and theology, who have a vested interest in understanding the content, practices, limits, and interpretations of science.

In the end, the qualitative modeling advocated by the Pilkeys will also fail to make useful predictions.  Perhaps their approach offers more understanding with less explanation.  When they do fail, they will do so humbly and with multiple scenarios in their back pocket.  This may not be very satisfying.   Remember that humans are being asked to make major political and economic decisions in response to an unknown threat of anthropogenic climate change.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of the many and varied complex ways that humans and nature interact.

The Pilkeys call for an adaptive management.  To this we might add adaptive epistemology.  This strategy is the most potentially transformative take-home from the book, but very few examples are offered.  It would be nice if they developed adaptive management and adaptive epistemology with lots of specific examples. How do corporations, governments, and people actually implement an adaptive management strategy?   How would scientists practice adaptive epistemology?  Perhaps their next book will offer stories of successful case studies, the lessons learned, the successes counted, and the adaptations made. We need a lot more examples of successful case studies in the world today.


References

Barrow, John D. (1999). Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits. New York, Oxford University Press.

Harel, David (2000). Computers Ltd.: What They Really Can't Do. New York, Oxford University Press.

Kelly, Kevin (1994). Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World. New York, Addison-Wesley.

Pilkey, Orrin H. and Linda Plkey-Jarvis (2007). Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can't Predict the Future. New York, Columbia University Press.

"Science must now recognize that there are non-reducible emergent, transcendent systems, which seem to constitute many of the most interesting and creative phenomena in our contextual universe – ecosystems, genomics, brains, and culture.  No amount of mathematical modeling, computer simulations, reiterative databases, and paradigm filtering will get us beyond this horizon of complexity.   We may hope that an “Invisible Hand”, reputably at play in free economic markets to the maximum benefit of all, is also at play in the free evolution of technology, culture, and the planet.  We won’t know for certain, but the very hope itself now becomes a variable in our future modeling and doings.  None of this relieves us of the risks and responsibilities of taking action.  We have to make choices.  We have to project desirable outcomes.  Let us try to model, design, and build for sustainable and better futures.  Expect adaptation.  Think geology." 3/26/2007 03/26/2007 9855 Genesis according to Hindu visions

The Rig Veda, which is said to date back to more than five millennia, has visions of cosmic origins. The best known of these is the Nâsadîya or Creation Hymn which appears in the tenth book of the work. Here one speaks of a pre-creation stage in which there was nothing in the universe, a poetic vision of the pre-Big Bang phase, as it were.

Not even nothing existed then
No air yet, and no heaven.
Who encased and kept it where?
Was water in the darkness there?

Neither deathlessness nor decay
No, nor the rhythm of night and day:
The self-existent, with breath sans air:
That, and that alone was there.

Darkness was in darkness found
Like light-less water all around.
One emerged, with nothing on
It was from heat that this was born.

In it did Desire, its way did find:
The primordial seed born of mind.
Sages do know deep in the heart:
What exists is kin to what does not.

Across the void the cord was thrown,
The place of every thing was known.
Seed-sowers and powers now came by,
Impulse below and force on high.

Who really knows, and who can swear,
How creation arose, when or where!
Even gods came after creation’s day,
Who really knows, who can truly say

When and how did creation start?
Did He do it? Or did He not?
Only He up there knows, maybe;
Or perhaps, not even He.

In a truly anthroposensitive way, the verse says that desire found its way into that void, suggesting the primordial seed was born of a cosmic Mind. This vision affirms a spiritual under-grounding to the world at large. Note the statement here: "Even gods came after creation’s day." In this reflection on Genesis, we find a disarming modesty, for the sage-poet also exclaims, "Who really knows, and who can swear!" It is simplistic to imagine that a religious worldview will necessarily have to be dogmatic.

Hinduism is unique in offering more than one interpretation for cosmogenesis. Given that all life seems to arise from an egg, ancient Hindu thinkers pictured the world too as sprouting out from an egg. For so magnificent an entity as the world the origin had to be grand and glorious and golden. Thus, it all emerged from Hiranyagarbha or the Golden Womb "which floated upon the surface of the primeval waters." This is the Cosmic Intelligence, the Designing Mind which came to be called Brahmâ. It is interesting that in the twentieth century L'Abbé Lemaître, a proponent of the Big Bang theory used a similar imagery when he spoke of the universe arising from the explosion of the cosmic egg.

Beyond all the mythologies and the mathematics, beyond all the poetry of physics and the tales of tradition, Brahmâ stands for the supreme abstraction of that unfathomable mystery of Crea­tion from which has sprung this magnificent universe we experience.

The Rig Veda, which is said to date back to more than five millennia, has visions of cosmic origins. The best known of these is the Nâsadîya or Creation Hymn which appears in the tenth book of the work. Here one speaks of a pre-creation stage in which there was nothing in the universe, a poetic vision of the pre-Big Bang phase. 3/26/2007 03/26/2007 9856 R.O.S.C.O. (Right On Schedule, Chill Out): Global warming as inevitable

I burnt my feet very badly once, spilling ignited gasoline on them by mistake. I went up in flames. For a while I felt no pain. I got to experience the way the body sets upper limits on excruciation in the short term. I take comfort from knowing that some sudden physical shocks donít feel as bad as they look.

I learn about global warming. It worries me the way nuclear war used to. Well, not really the same way. Nuclear war is the heart attack of global disasters. It would be a sudden shock, jumping us as though from behind. Global warming is more like cancer. It approaches you slowly, and at first abstractly from the front. The doctors inform you that itís coming to get you.

The news these days--really just in the last few years--informs us weíve got the cancer. Itís malignant.

Anyone who has witnessed someone struggling with severe cancer knows that the complications compound and cascade. Global warming has that in common with cancer.

Still, thereís a limit on how much pain the news causes me. Next to every article about global warming, thereís an article about something with milder implications--the Oscars, local politics. In a way itís absurd. If the bigger-news-means-bigger-font headline format were applied to whole newspapers, global warming stories should saturate the paper in ink. Still, we read, heave a deep but short sigh, and move on to other news.

When we look into the future and see something coming, we call it inevitable. When we look into the past and say, ìHad we known then what we know now,î weíre also tempted to call it inevitable, even if it wasnít. Hindsight is always 20-20.

I suspect that global warming was inevitable, as was our inability to predict it, and as is our limited response to it. Indeed, I suspect that if intelligent--that is, symbol- and tool-using--life were to evolve anywhere else in the universe, it too would deal with a climate crisis like ours, and deal with it as ambivalently as we do.

In the mid-1700s we discovered fossil fuels. By 1800 we had found ways to use them to do work. By the late 1900s, having become dependent on fossil fuels, we began to recognize global warming, the perilous side effect of using fossil fuels. By the early 2000s, though the evidence is quite clear, many still deny it, and far more donít do much about it.

Inevitable? Really, what are the odds of such a turn of events? If you ran thousands of planets through the process of evolving life, and eventually intelligent life, how likely is it that they would end up dealing with a cancer like global warming?

Unbeknownst to our ancestors, say 15,000 years ago, pooled beneath their feet was the accumulated biomass of roughly 300 million years of life. Whatís the likelihood that such an enormous accumulation of concentrated energy from the past would be pooled within a planet occupied by an intelligent life form--one well on the way to complex tool and symbol use?

Given that it would take a very long time for intelligent life to evolve anywhere in the universe, then anywhere intelligent life evolved, there would likely have been many prior life forms. By their nature, life forms concentrate potential energy. By its nature, evolution depends upon cycles of life and death. So an intelligent life form standing (crawling, slithering, hoverboarding, or whatever) atop a concentration of prior biomass? Intelligent life forms arenít that likely, but were they to emerge, their chances of sitting on a goldmine of concentrated energy would actually be pretty high.

Whatís the likelihood that this intelligent life form would learn how to tap and use its planetís biomass reserve to do work? Also very high, if it got far enough to make complex tools. Tool use is an inevitable evolutionary adaptation. Using oneís body to fashion tools that in effect extend the body would be the inevitable outcome for any creature capable of complex mental modeling and subtle manipulation of the physical world.

Whatís the likelihood of a substantial delay before this intelligent life form noticed the unintended and undesirable consequences of consuming in a very short time the potential energy that had accumulated over a very long time? Well, how likely is it that an intelligent life form would learn tool use before learning to predict subtle, complex long-term consequences?

Very likely. Indeed, for us it was burning through the fossil fuels that made the industrial revolution possible, which made the institutions of continual scientific progress possible, which gave us the ability to predict subtle, complex long-term consequences. We couldnít have known about global warming without having caused it--and not just because by causing it we gave ourselves something to know about. It was in the process of causing it that we became perceptive enough to detect something as complex as a long-term trend in climate change.

Well, even without predicting global warming, couldnít we have guessed that using the fossil fuel would have drastic consequences? Whatís the likelihood that an intelligent life form anywhere in the universe would have behaved more responsibly to future generations by resisting the temptation to exploit the concentrated potential energy so quickly?

Low. What precedent is there for any beings to collectively resist exploiting ready resources? All species consume whatever resources they can exploit. Weíre not greedier than other organisms, weíre just far better than most at finding new ways to exploit resources. Intelligence makes us much better than other creatures at resisting temptation, and we were never more intelligent than we are now. That intelligence provides us with greater capacity to exploit resources and greater capacity to resist temptation, but the latter is unlikely to outpace the former in any intelligent life form. Our intelligence arises from our powers of exploitation, which would always tend to get ahead of our capacity for foresight-motivated self-restraint.

Itís hard to imagine a creature that would gain the capacity for collective self-restraint in the service of very long-term goals before gaining the capacity to tap into accumulated biomass. But thatís what it would have taken to even retard the blaze that has consumed roughly half of our oil reserves in the last fifty years.

The ìPolitically Incorrect Guide (PIG) to Global Warmingî is number 55 on Amazonís best-seller list this week. Written by a senior fellow at the ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, its inside cover text reads: ìFor decades, environmentalism has been the Leftís best excuse for increasing government control over our actions in ways both large and small. Itís for Mother Earth! Itís for the children! Itís for the whales! But until now, the doomsday-scenario environmental scares theyíve trumped up havenít been large enough to justify the lifestyle restrictions they want to impose. With global warming, however, greenhouse gasbags can argue that auto emissions in Ohio threaten people in Paris. . . . î

Last week, House ranking Republican member Jim McCrery argued against measures to curb global warming, saying that he doubts whether hurting the nationís economy and losing jobs to China and India is worth preventing ìa mere one degree rise in global temperature.î

George Bush hasnít seen ìInconvenient Truth.î

This too is entirely predictable. Human symbolic capacity has given us, among other things, an extraordinary power for ambiguity. Symbols are useful largely because they are so flexible. With our symbolic capacity, we gain the ability to infer, to find possible meanings in things. This helps us find clues to reality, inferring from ice core measurements a realistic assessment of carbon dioxide levels millennia ago. It also gives us the ability to infer unrealistically optimistic interpretations that sidestep reality. Language is intrinsically slippery. Language without the potential for rhetoric would not be language.

So of course we would have people reading the signs on global warming differently. And of course a substantial number of us would ease the abstract pain of a global cancer diagnosis with the rhetoric of denial.

Iím fifty and I realize now that I blew it. Iíve wasted my whole life learning things I now already know. Not only that, Iíve been imprudent. Like the guy who eats all his french fries and dessert before his broccoli, I used up all my best years first rather than spreading my adolescent vitality evenly across the entire length of my life.

I take some comfort from recognizing that itís not just me. We all do that. We couldnít help but do it. Weíre right on schedule, doing what any late-blooming intelligent life form would have done, exploiting the rich stuff first before realizing that there might be costs, and then denying the costs as long as slippery language would let us.

R.O.S.C.O.: Right on schedule, chill out. We are probably one of several intelligent life forms in the universe that have gotten this far, to the brink of a puzzle our native wit may or may not have the wherewithal to solve. At the very macro-evolutionary scale, intelligence is being vetted for viability, probably not just here but on several planets throughout the universe dealing with similar problems.

At the rate diseases are becoming treatable, a lot of illnesses these days impose a bitter irony. If you die of an illness today that becomes treatable within the next two hundred years, think about your haplessness. Four billion years of life on earth and just your luck to be born two hundred measly years before life figured out how to cure what youíve got. With global warming, it could be that way for all of us, afflicted with a cancer just shy of the collective native wit and wherewithal necessary to treat it.

One of the slipperiest aspects of language is the way it slips between levels of analysis. Notice how the rhetoric from the book jacket implies that itís addressing global warming but really itís an analysis one level up--an analysis of how the Left addresses global warming.

R.O.S.C.O. is a handy concept, but one that can easily be construed as an argument for complacency. Yes, at one level the conflict between forces for denial and alertness to global warming within and between us are right on schedule and in perfect harmony with each other. But thatís no reason to stop fighting. Chill out about the fact that thereís a fight, and keep fighting the forces of denial.

R.O.S.C.O. is a handy concept, but one that can easily be construed as an argument for complacency. Yes, at one level the conflict between forces for denial and alertness to global warming within and between us are right on schedule and in perfect harmony with each other. But thatís no reason to stop fighting. Chill out about the fact that thereís a fight, and keep fighting the forces of denial. Originally published on Mind Readers Dictionary; www.mindreadersdictionary.org. 3/26/2007 03/26/2007 9857 John Haught Explores Contemporart Science and Christian Faith

PHILADELPHIA, PA…Georgetown theologian John Haught, 2006-07 Metanexus Fellow, will give a series of thought-provoking talks entitled Science and Christian Faith beginning December 6 and continuing into 2007. The five-part series will take place at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, co-sponsor of the events with Metanexus Institute. The talks will begin at 7:30 pm and are free and open to the public. Sessions will include respondents from other religious traditions and offer opportunities for the audience to participate in the dialogue.

A prominent theologian, Haught specializes in systematic theology, with a particular interest in issues pertaining to science, cosmology, ecology, and religion. This series of talks constitutes some of the content that Haught is developing into a new book. In his own words, Haught describes his subject matter,

Developments in geology, evolutionary biology and cosmology have left no doubt that the whole of nature, and not just our planet and human history, have an essentially narrative character. Formerly the heavens seemed steady enough to frame all the stories unfolding on earth. The firmament was a place of refuge to which worldlings could flee, at least in contemplation, from the flow of events here below. But during the last century the heavens too got swallowed up by a story, one that now seems almost too large for the telling.

What is Christian theology going to make of this larger story, one that infinitely outstrips in time and space the brief span of human flourishing and the even more fleeting moments of Hebrew and Christian religious history? Science has discovered a world that moves on a scale unimaginable to the prophets and evangelists. Is it possible that the universe has outgrown the biblical God who is said to be its Creator? Many thoughtful people today have concluded that this is exactly what has happened.

The very substance of Christian faith seems irreversibly intertwined with the outworn imagery of an unmoving planet nested in an unchanging cosmos. Can Christianity and its theological interpretations find a fresh foothold in the immense and mobile universe of contemporary science, or will science itself replace our inherited spiritualities altogether, as many now see happening? The Jesuit geologist Teilhard de Chardin asks: “Is the Christ of the Gospels, imagined and loved within the dimensions of a Mediterranean world, capable of still embracing and still forming the centre of our prodigiously expanded universe?”

The individual talks and dates are:

  1. Wednesday, December 6: “Einstein, Religion and Christian Theology”
  2. Wednesday, January 10: “What's Going on in the Universe?: A Christian Perspective”
  3. Monday, February 19: “Scientific Truth and Christian Faith”
  4. Wednesday, April 25: “Darwin and Christ: Toward a Theology of
    Evolution
     
  5. Wednesday, May 23: “Science, Death and Resurrection”

John F. Haught is Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University. His area of specialization is systematic theology, with a particular interest in issues pertaining to science, cosmology, ecology, and religion. He is the author of Deeper Than Darwin: Evolution and the Question of God (Westview, 2003); Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution (Paulist Press, 2001); God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution (Westview Press, 2000); Science and Religion: From Conflict to Conversation (Paulist Press, 1995); The Promise of Nature: Ecology and Cosmic Purpose (Paulist Press, 1993); Mystery and Promise: A Theology of Revelation (Liturgical Press, 1993); and many others, as well as numerous articles and reviews. He lectures often on topics related to religion and science, cosmology, theology, and ecology. Haught serves as chairman of the Academic Advisory Board of Metanexus Institute.

The Metanexus Institute advances scientific research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion. Metanexus is a leader in a growing network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature, and culture in communities and on campuses throughout the world. Metanexus sponsors dialogue groups, lectures, workshops, research, courses, grants, and publications. Metanexus leads and facilitates over 300 projects in 43 countries. Projects include the Local Societies Initiative, the Templeton Research Lectures, and topical interdisciplinary research projects such as the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Project, Spiritual Capital, Templeton Advanced Research Program, and other endeavors. A membership organization, Metanexus hosts an online journal with over 370,000 monthly page views and 9,000 subscribers in 57 countries.

Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church is located at 625 Montgomery Avenue in Bryn Mawr, PA, 610-525-2821. The church has a 133-year history and, with more than 3000 members, is one of the larger congregations of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Priorities include excellence in worship music and preaching, commitment to outreach and worldwide ministries, Christian education for all ages, connecting faith with the culture in which we live, and a spirit of inclusivity. For directions, go to www.bmpc.org/Directions.html.

10/23/2006 03/26/2007 9858 Local Societies Initiative Final Round Awards Ten Science and Religion Dialogue Groups

PHILADELPHIA, PA…Ten international science and religion dialogue groups were awarded $15,000 three-year grants in the final round of the highly successful Local Societies Initiative of the Metanexus Institute. They will join 230 other groups in 40 countries who are doing outstanding work advancing the constructive engagement of science and religion and to promote transdisciplinary approaches to foundational questions. The new groups are in Australia, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, and the USA. The LSI network brings multiple perspectives to the worldwide dialogue on nature, culture, and cosmos.

The LSI grant program, made possible by the generous funding of the John Templeton Foundation of Conshohocken, PA, and supported by participating educational and religious institutions around the world, has provided organizational and programming support for dynamic associations of scientists, theologians, clergy, philosophers, and other engaged citizens interested in exploring issues arising at the intersection of science and religion. With the new grantees, the LSI network is comprised of more than 240 dialogue societies in 42 nations on six continents. LSI societies are found on the campuses of major research universities, both national and international; elite liberal arts colleges; seminaries; state universities; private religious schools; graduate academies; and faith communities. As LSI enters its sixth year, the program to date has driven over $6.5 million in mutual support for the science and religion dialogue, resulting in an LSI network that has become what may be the most diverse, broadly competent, and dynamic association of academics, clergy, and intellectuals anywhere in the world, committed both to the rigorous exploration of the most fundamental questions of the cosmos and human existence and to the search for creative solutions to the most profound challenges the contemporary world presents.

Metanexus Institute is a leader in a growing network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature, and culture in communities and on campuses throughout the world. Metanexus sponsors dialogue groups, lectures, workshops, research, courses, grants, and publications. Metanexus leads and facilitates over 300 projects in 43 countries. Projects include the Local Societies Initiative, the Templeton Research Lectures, and topical interdisciplinary research projects such as the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Project, Spiritual Capital, Templeton Advanced Research Program, and other endeavors. A membership organization, Metanexus hosts an online journal with over 370,000 monthly page views and 9,000 subscribers in 57 countries.

For further information on the 240 Local Societies and their extraordinary work, please go to www.metanexus.net/lsi.

Local Societies Initiative July 2006 Grantees

 

UWS Psychology and Spirituality Society
Department of Psychology, University of Western Sydney Penrith, Australia Chair: Maureen H. Miner, Ph.D.

 

Science & Spirituality Society
Fundaci—n SOLES Santiago, Chile Chair: Daniela Cecilia Thumala, M.Sc.

 

Oklahoma Society for Science and Faith
Southern Nazarene University Bethany, Oklahoma, USA Chairs: Brint A. Montgomery, Ph.D. and Mark Winslow, Ph.D.

 

The Stetson Center for Science, Nature, and the Sacred
Department of Religious Studies, Stetson University Deland, Florida, USA Chair: Donald W. Musser, Ph.D.

 

Foro de Di‡logo Ciencia y Fe (Dialogue Forum on Science and Faith)
Sociedad Educativa Champagnat, A.C.
Universidad Marista de San Luis Potos’
San Luis Potos’, Mexico
Chair: José Ignacio Algara Coss’o, M.Sc., M. Phil.
 

 

Working Group on Religion, Ethics and Nature
Ohio Northern University Ada, Ohio, USA Chairs: Forrest Clingerman, Ph.D. and Mark Dixon, Ph.D.

 

Theology and the Natural Sciences in Aotearoa Auckland (TANSAA)
Tyndale-Carey Graduate School, Bible College of New Zealand Henderson, Waitakere City, New Zealand Chair: Nicola Hoggard Creegan, Ph.D.

 

Baltimore Society for Science/Religion Understanding
Physics Department, Loyola College Maryland Baltimore, Maryland, USA Chair: Gregory N. Derry, Ph.D.

10/17/2006 03/26/2007 9859 Eric Weislogel Named New Executive Director of Metanexus

PHILADELPHIA…Metanexus Institute, headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, announced today that organization founder and executive director Dr. William Grassie has stepped aside as executive director, but will retain important responsibilities with the organization. Dr. Eric Weislogel, who has been with the organization for five years as director of the Institute’s highly successful Local Societies Initiative, will become the new executive director effective October 1. The announcement was made by Dr. Kathleen Duffy, S.S.J., president of the Metanexus Board of Directors.

William Grassie will continue to serve as executive editor of Metanexus Institute’s online magazine, as Metanexus launches a new publication called The Global Spiral in the coming months. Grassie will also continue to travel and speak on behalf of the Institute, and he will oversee several initiatives, including the Templeton Research Lectures project. Grassie serves on the Institute’s governing and academic boards.

“We are enormously grateful to William Grassie for his extraordinary vision and boundless energy and for a leadership style that has enabled the Metanexus Institute to develop so rapidly into a dynamic worldwide organization,” said Duffy. “At the same time, we have every confidence in Eric Weislogel’s leadership and creativity. His experience in shaping Metanexus’ powerful global network of dialogue groups provides a strong platform upon which to build future programs.”

“Change in leadership is healthy,” noted Grassie. “By giving up the day-to-day responsibilities of managing this remarkable organization, I hope to be able to better serve the institution and its partners in more focused ways—writing and speaking, teaching and networking, publishing and fundraising.”

William Grassie began the organization in 1997 with the creation of the “Meta-List,” a small-moderated listserv providing scholarly articles and dialogue on religion and science. From an initial list of 600 subscribers, the forum quickly grew to nearly 9,000 subscribers. The publication has evolved into a rich collection of thousands of essays from many of the leading scholars of our time. It receives hundreds of thousands of page views every month and has become a primary resource in the science and religion dialogue. The organization has grown into a worldwide network of some 300 partners in 43 countries.

Grassie received his doctorate in religion from Temple University in 1994, where he specialized in the philosophy of religion and science. In 1995, while teaching in Temple’s Intellectual Heritage Program, Grassie applied for and received a grant from the Templeton Science and Religion Course Program. He taught “Science and the Sacred” at the University of Pennsylvania to general acclaim in the spring of 1996. With the success of the Meta-List in 1997, Grassie and four professors at the University of Pennsylvania incorporated in 1998 as the Philadelphia Center for Religion and Science (PCRS). In 2000, the Meta-List became a website, www.metanexus.net.

In 2001, PCRS changed its name to the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science to reflect the organization’s growing international profile and to capitalize on the successful website publication. Grassie led the Institute through a period of rapid growth, managing a staff of 17 and many consultants. The organization has developed and administered several hundred projects through strategic alliances, including many university-based projects funded by the Templeton Foundation. This past spring, Grassie led an delegation to Iran for dialogue on science and religion. This fall, Grassie will lecture in China, Thailand, India, and Indonesia as part of Metanexus’ Local Societies Initiative.

Incoming executive director Dr. Eric Weislogel initiated and developed Metanexus’ growing network of Local Societies from its inception in 2001. He brings to the Institute unique skills, developed in both higher education and industry. Before coming to Metanexus, Weislogel served as the manager of business process consulting for UEC Technologies, a unit of U.S. Steel, and was assistant professor of philosophy at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania from 1990 to1997. Weislogel received his masters in philosophy from Villanova University in 1987 and his doctorate in philosophy from the Pennsylvania State University in 1995. He has published a number of philosophical essays and reviews in such journals as Philosophy Today, Idealistic Studies, Philosophy in Review, Science and Theology News, and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Weislogel's main philosophical interest consists in the interplay of postmodernism, religion, science, and politics.

Weislogel commented, “This is a very exciting time in the evolution of Metanexus and the worldwide movement to promote transdisciplinary and intercultural dialogue on the great questions of our time. The Metanexus Institute is poised to strengthen existing projects and resources as it pursues a variety of exciting new ideas. I look forward to this leadership opportunity to help Metanexus make a significant contribution to education and to global intellectual and cultural life in general.”

The Metanexus Institute advances scientific research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion. Metanexus is a leader in a growing network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature, and culture in communities and on campuses throughout the world. Metanexus sponsors dialogue groups, lectures, workshops, research, courses, grants, and publications. Metanexus leads and facilitates over 300 projects in 43 countries. Projects include the Local Societies Initiative, the Templeton Research Lectures, and topical interdisciplinary research projects such as the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Project, Spiritual Capital, Templeton Advanced Research Program, and other endeavors. A membership organization, Metanexus hosts an online journal with over 370,000 monthly page views and 9,000 subscribers in 57 countries. 

9/30/2006 03/26/2007 9860 $160,000 Awarded to Societies Around the World Fostering Science and Religion Dialogue

Philadelphia, PA (June 6, 2006) In support of an ongoing effort to advance the constructive engagement of science and religion and to promote transdisciplinary approaches to foundational questions, grant prizes of $10,000 each were awarded on June 6, 2005, to sixteen (16) outstanding religion and science dialogue societies from around the world by the Local Societies Initiative (LSI), a project of the Philadelphia-based Metanexus Institute.

The LSI grant program, made possible by the generous funding of the John Templeton Foundation of Conshohocken, PA, and supported by participating educational and religious institutions around the world, provides organizational and programming support for dynamic associations of scientists, theologians, clergy, philosophers, and other engaged citizens interested in exploring issues arising at the intersection of science and religion. The LSI network is comprised of more than 230 dialogue societies in 40 nations on six continents. LSI societies are found on the campuses of major research universities, both national and international; elite liberal arts colleges; for-profit educational institutions; seminaries; state universities; private religious schools; graduate academies; and faith communities. As LSI enters its sixth year, the program to date has driven over $6.5 million in mutual support for the science and religion dialogue, resulting in an LSI network that has become what may be the most diverse, broadly competent, and dynamic association of academics, clergy, and intellectuals anywhere in the world, committed both to the rigorous exploration of the most fundamental questions of the cosmos and human existence and to the search for creative solutions to the most profound challenges the contemporary world presents.

The 2006 LSI Grant Prizes, supplemental to the basic program grants every society is awarded, were presented by Dr. Eric Weislogel, Director of the Local Societies Initiative, accompanied by Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr., MD, President of the John Templeton Foundation, to selected LSI societies in recognition of organizational excellence, creative programming for their communities, and significant contributions to the larger science and religion movement. This year’s winning societies come from China, England, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, Spain, Thailand, and Turkey.

According to Dr. Weislogel, “Metanexus and the LSI global network aim to integrate the best of religion and the best of science in the service of humanity and our world in a practical and effective way. The imperative for constructive engagements between scientific and religious communities, and for undertaking the kinds of diverse and creative projects in which the LSI societies around the world engage, has never been more pressing. We hope to promote a more integral or holistic understanding of ourselves and our world in order to forge new and healing relationships in a troubled world.”

“LSI brings together visionary and creative thinkers, researchers, and teachers in support of our mutual efforts to come to understand ourselves and our world, the cosmos and the divine,” said Dr. Weislogel.

  • The $10,000 LSI Grants Prizes were awarded to:
    Bursa Local Society Initiative
    University of Uludag
    Bursa, Turkey
    Chair: Bülent Şenay, Ph.D.
  • Nature, Intentionality, and Finality – Oxford Group
    Ian Ramsey Centre, Theology Faculty
    University of Oxford
    Oxford, UK
    Chair: Margaret Yee, Ph.D.
  • Center for the Study of Science and Human Spirituality
    Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST)
    Wuhan, China
    Chair: Ouyang Kang, Ph.D.
  • Etruscan Local Group
    Universit‡ Degli Studi di Perugia
    Universit‡ di Pisa
    Perugia, Italy
    Chair: Lodovico Galleni, Ph.D.
  • Salatiga Circle for In-dept Study of Science and Religion Relation (SCISOSSAR)
    Yasa Luhur Foundation
    Salatiga, Indonesia
    Chair: Liek Wilardjo, Ph.D., D.Sc.
  • Fundaci—n Xavier Zubiri LSI
    Fundaci—n Xavier Zubiri
    Madrid, Spain
    Chair: Diego Gracia, Ph.D.
  • Local Society of the Studio Filosofico Interprovinciale “San Tommaso d’Aquino”
    Napoli, Italy
    Chair: Fernando di Mieri, Ph.D.
  • The Thousand Stars Buddhism and Science Group
    The Thousand Stars Foundation
    Nonthaburi, Thailand
    Chair: Soraj Hongladarom, Ph.D.
  • GeoChris Institute for Ecozoic Spirituality
    GeoChris Foundation.
    Marikina City, Philippines
    Chair: Fr. Georg Ziselsberger, SVD
  • TRIESTE-NIF (Nature, Intentionality and Finality Research Group)
    Departimento di Filosofia, Universit‡ degli Studi di Trieste
    Trieste, Italy
    Chair: Antonio Russo, Ph.D.
  • Seminari de Teologia i Ciéncias (STIC) of Barcelona
    Institut de Teologia Fonamental
    Barcelona, Spain
    Chair: Fr. Manuel G. Doncel, Ph.D.
  • St. Petersburg Educational Centre for Religion and Science (SPECRS)
    St. Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy
    St. Petersburg, Russia
    Chair: Alexey Chernyakov, Ph.D.
  • Centro de Estudios de Ciencia y Religion (CECIR)
    Universidad Popular Aut—noma del Estado de Puebla
    Puebla, Mexico
    Chair: Eugenio Urrutia
  • Science – Human Being – Religion
    Evangelische Akademie Arnoldshain
    Schmitten, Germany
    Chair: Hermann Düringer, D. Theol.
  • C‡tedra Ciencia Tecnolog’a y Religi—n LSI
    Universidad Pontificia Comillas Madrid
    Madrid, Spain
    Chair: Javier Leach, Ph.D., Javier Monserrat, Ph.D.
  • The Pari Dialogues on Religion and Science
    Pari Center for New Learning
    Pari, Italy
    Chair: F. David Peat, Ph.D.

In addition to the $10,000 prize, the recipients each received a beautiful plaque featuring original artwork in honor of their efforts.

Representatives from all the LSI societies held their annual meeting in conjunction with the Metanexus Institutes’ Continuity and Change: Perspectives on Science and Religion conference, June 3 through June 7, 2006, on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania . The awards were presented on the evening of June 6 during the closing banquet.

The LSI program, inaugurated in July 2001, now funds more than 230 local societies around the world as part of a global collaborative educational network. All societies funded by LSI receive three-year challenge grants of $5,000 per year and have the opportunity to compete for the supplemental Grant Prizes for additional funding. Applications for LSI grants are being accepted; program deadline is July 1, 2006.

This unique international interfaith-interdisciplinary program has helped participating societies to hold lecture series, conferences, workshops, and study groups; to produce scholarly journals, CD-ROMs, videos, and radio and television programs; and to design course materials and study guides.

The Metanexus Institute advances scientific research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion. Metanexus is a leader in a growing network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature, and culture in communities and on campuses throughout the world. Metanexus sponsors dialogue groups, lectures, workshops, research, courses, grants, and publications. Metanexus leads and facilitates over 300 projects in 40 countries. Projects include the Local Societies Initiative, the Templeton Research Lectures, and topical interdisciplinary research projects such as the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Project, Spiritual Capital, Religion and Health, Religion and Human Flourishing, Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology, and other endeavors. A membership organization, Metanexus hosts an online journal with over 180,000 monthly page views and 8,000 subscribers in 57 countries .

The mission of the John Templeton Foundation is to pursue new insights at the boundary between theology and science through a rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodology, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise. .

For more information about the Local Societies Initiative and its member societies, see www.metanexus.net/lsi.

6/6/2006 03/26/2007 9861 Institute Awards $4.6 Million to Further Scientific Research on Religion

PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia-based Metanexus Institute announced today the awarding of $4.6 million to fund eleven research teams seeking to further the scientific understanding of religion and spirituality. Grants in the Templeton Advanced Research Project (TARP), funded by the John Templeton Foundation as part of its mission to advance religion and science, were made by competitive application from over 400 qualified proposals.

Most scientific studies of religion focus on specific faith communities and utilize a single social scientific paradigm," noted William Grassie, Executive Director of the Metanexus Institute. "What is unique about this project, and the Templeton Foundation in general, is the attempt to do broad comparative studies of religion and spirituality using multiple methods spanning disciplines as diverse as economics and the neurosciences." Grassie worked with a team of twelve distinguished judges and over sixty external peer reviewers to make the difficult selections of which projects will utilize the most innovative methodologies and promise the most significant results.

The Templeton Advanced Research Project is broken down into three topical areas with different levels of funding—

Two awards of $1 million each were made on the theme of "Religion, Spirituality, Healing and Health Outcomes." The funded projects are:

  • Michael Boivin, Principal Investigator, at Michigan State University will lead a three-year study of Breast Cancer Disease and Treatment: Modeling the Relationships Among Spiritual and Emotional Well-Being, Quality of Life, Neuropsychological Function and Immunological Resilience.
  • Brenda Cole, Principal Investigator at the University of Pittsburgh, will lead a three-year study of The Health Effects of Spiritually-focused Meditation for People with Acute Leukemia.

Two awards of $1 million each were made on the theme of "Religion, Spirituality and Human Flourishing". The funded projects are:

  • Dacher Keltner, Principal Investigator at University of California, Berkeley, will lead a three-year study of Spiritual Experience, Pro-Social Emotion, and Human Flourishing.
  • Petr Janata, Principal Investigator at University of California, Davis, will lead a three-year study of Music, Spirituality, Religion, and the Human Brain.

Seven awards varying from $50,000 to $150,000 were made on the theme of "Competitive Dynamics and Cultural Evolution of Religions and God Concepts". The funded projects are:

  • Pascal Boyer, Principal Investigator at Washington University, St. Louis, will lead a two-year study of Ritual Behavior and the Dynamics of Religious Commitment.
  • Adam Cohen, Principal Investigator at Arizona State University, will lead a two-year a two-year study of Effects of Faith, Nature of God, and Community on Health and Well-Being: A Multi-Method, Multicultural Study.
  • Virginia Garrard-Burnett, Principal Investigator at the University of Texas at Austin, will lead a two-year study of Faces of God in Latin America.
  • Scott Garrels, Principal Investigator at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, Pasadena, California, will lead a two-year study of Imitation, Mimetic Theory, and Religious and Cultural Evolution.
  • Michael Graves, Principal Investigator at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, will lead a two-year study of The Ecological Evolutionary Dynamics of Hawaiian Ritual and Social Complexity.
  • Tom Smith, Principal Investigator at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, will lead a two-year study of Basic Theories and Models of Religious Change.
  • David Sloan Wilson, Binghamton University, and William Scott Green, University of Miami, Co-Investigators, will lead a two-year study of Religious Conceptions of the Afterlife from a Cultural Evolutionary Perspective and a General Field of Evolutionary Religious Studies.

For more information on the Templeton Advanced Research Project including detail on the funded projects, bios of the principal investigators, lists of the judges and reviewers, selection criteria, and field analyses, go to: http://www.metanexus.net/tarp .

Quotes from Principal Investigators

Never before have the fields of neuropsychology, immunology, fMRI brain imaging, psychological and emotional well-being, and spirituality within a theology of personhood been brought together by such an accomplished team of experts. - Michael Boivin.

My colleagues and I are trying to understand why most religious traditions have rituals. They study the brain processes at work when people perform rituals and consider how these processes create or strengthen religious commitment - Pascal Boyer

This research builds on work in cultural psychology, personality psychology, and psychology of religion in a number of ways. First, it uses multiple methods, as opposed to asking people to tell us about their conscious views of God. We use a sophisticated computer program to analyze the meaning of people¡¯s descriptions of God. We will also use computer software to time how long it takes people to answer questions about their views of God, to gain insight into the structure of their unconscious attitudes. Second, we are examining views of God in different religious groups and countries, to gain insight into how views of God and broad cultural syndromes build upon each other. - Adam B. Cohen

This project is significant because it will allow for the initiation of cross-fertilization between imitation researchers and mimetic scholars who, up to this point, have more or less been working independently from one another, yet at the same time have been calling for a dramatic shift in thought and research based on the rediscovery of imitation as an incredibly dynamic and foundational force in human development and cultural evolution. -Scott Garrels

We will study the co-evolution of traditional Hawaiian religious practices with social strategies and natural environmental variability from AD 1300-1825. This work is innovative in its integration of archaeological and historical materials within an explicity evolutionary framework that includes the development of social simulations based on agent based models. - Michael Graves

This is the first large-scale scientific research project that critically examines what seems to be a universal link between music and spirituality. We hope to understand the interaction of these core human experiences and how they facilitate human social and emotional well-being. -Petr Janata

Our program of research is based on the assumption that spiritual experiences of different kinds amplify the central of pro-social emotions like compassion, gratitude, awe, and love of humanity in the individual¡¯s life. Our work will begin to characterize how spiritual transformation: (1) activates central nervous system structures involved in compassion and awe; (2) creates a pro-social orientation that leads to the contagion of cooperation; and (3) plays a role in the lives of women in their seventies, and traces back to certain life histories and predicts long term life outcomes. -Dacher Keltner

This project will be the most comprehensive review to date on what people believe about God and other transcendental matters and how those beliefs have changed across time and countries. Major data sources such as the General Social Surveys and the International Social Survey Program studies will be analyzed to examine people¡¯s view across cohorts, time, and nations.- Tom Smith

This project will study the diversity of conceptions of the afterlife in the same way that evolutionists study the diversity of biological life forms. In addition, the project is designed to accelerate the establishment of evolutionary religious studies as a general field of inquiry. - David Sloan Wilson

5/30/2006 03/26/2007 9862 International Conference Presents Big Ideas from Big Thinkers on Science and Religion

PHILADELPHIA, USA… A new curriculum proposal for more effective science education and current perspectives on the evolution/intelligent design controversy highlight the Metanexus Institute's annual international conference on science and religion, June 3-7 on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The conference, Continuity + Change: Perspectives on Science and Religion, presents leading international scholars whose work delves into important new and emerging ideas at the intersection of science and religion scholarship and research. Complete details are posted at www.metanexus.net/conference2006. Registration is available for a single session, an entire day, or the full conference.

The tension between continuity and change is not simply philosophical conundrum; it is also at the root of the most pressing questions of our time. We wrestle with the tensions of tradition vs. innovation in the law, religious thought, and political life. The pace of change in scientific discovery, technological advancement, environmental transformation, and globalized culture is accelerating at such a dizzying rate that our abilities to cope are tested to the limits. The key to surviving and flourishing as human beings depends on how we find continuity and make the right choices in the midst of such rapid change.

Featured public sessions, co-sponsored by the Academy of Natural Sciences (Philadelphia), include Beyond Intelligent Design, Science Debates, and Culture Wars: A Teach-In on Evolution, , Sunday, June 4. This day-long series of talks will investigate the question of the origins and evolution of life, taking into account scientific, theological, philosophical, historical, and political considerations, many of which impact education and public policy. Distinguished presenters and respondents for these sessions include Ian Barbour (Carleton College), John Haught (Georgetown University, the only theologian to testify in the Dover trial), George Ellis (University of Cape Town), and Nancey Murphy (Fuller Theological Seminary.

Teaching the History of Nature: Towards an Integrated Science Curriculum is the topic for discussion on Monday evening, June 5. As the world becomes ever more scientific and technological, Americans demonstrate not only declining scientific knowledge, but also the inability to effectively address philosophical, religious, and moral issues. To participate in a meaningful way in our democratic society, to make informed policy decisions that will affect not only our lives but also the world’s future generations, we must transform our ways of educating and of learning. Our curriculum reform discussion will propose an integrated science curriculum organized around teaching of the history of nature as an effective framework that will enable students to better understand science, as well as important philosophical, religious, moral, and practical issues at the interface of science and society. Featured speakers are Ursula Goodenough (Washington University of St. Louis), George Ellis (University of Cape Town), and Dennis Cheek (Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation).

Spiritual Capital: Global Perspectives on Economics and Religion, Saturday evening, June 3. This opening plenary session will explore the influences that religion and spirituality have on economic and societal realities—locally and globally. While capitalism certainly has spread far beyond the Protestant countries in the last century, the hypothesis that capitalism’s advance— along with other aspects of the modern world—would necessarily lead to religion's demise is clearly false. This interdisciplinary forum will explore the economic and societal consequences of religion and spirituality as part of the emerging social science of “spiritual capital.” Featured speakers include Theodore Malloch (the Roosevelt Group), Timur Kuran, (University of Southern California), and Robert Putnam (Harvard University; the author of Bowling Alone).

“We live at an extraordinary moment in the natural history of our planet and the cultural evolution of our species,” said William Grassie, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Metanexus Institute. “The domains of science and the domains of religion, however understood, stand at the center of our hopes for a healthier and safer future. This is a moment for integrating the best of religion and the best of science in service of humanity and the world. This conference is an important opportunity to pursue this multifaceted, multidisciplinary, and multifaith challenge.”

Other conference sessions include

  1. Indic Religions in an Age of Science
  2. Positive Psychology and Character Strengths
  3. The Emergent Mind
  4. Worldviews in Mathematics, Physics & Cosmology
  5. Pentecostalism and Science

Metanexus Institute is an international organization based in Philadelphia that advances research, education, and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion through a variety of projects and opportunities for dialogue. Metanexus supports nearly 300 projects in 37 countries. The annual conference is, in part, a gathering of representatives of Metanexus’ Local Societies Initiative (LSI) members, who have established science-and-religion dialogues in their communities, networked with the global programs.

5/2/2006 03/26/2007 9863 Grant Recipients Announced for 2006 Templeton Research Lectures

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia-based Metanexus Institute announced today that Stony Brook University in New York, and Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, were the 2006 recipients of the Templeton Research Lectures grants. The three-to-four year project grants provide up to $500,000 to promote important conversations at the forefront of the field of science and religion through interdisciplinary study groups and an annual distinguished lectureship. The projects were selected through an international competition.

“As the pace of scientific discovery and innovation accelerates, there is an urgent cultural need toreflect thoughtfully about these epic changes and challenges” notes William Grassie, Executive Director of the Metanexus Institute, who manages this international grant competition. "The challenges of the 21st century require new interdisciplinary collaborations, which place questionsof meanings and values on the agenda. We need to put questions about the universe and the universal back at the heart of the university."

The Stony Brook University project is headed by Dr. Robert P. Crease, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy. The project is entitled “Trust: Prospects for Science and Religion” and will explore how issues of trust play out similarly and differently in both religious and scientific enterprises. In addition to the Principal Investigator, the project involves sixteen faculty from a variety of academic disciplines at Stony Brook University, and from nearby academic, religious, and scientific institutions.

“Trust is central to the practice of both science and religion on many levels – personal, public, and institutional,” says Crease. “Without trust, the scientific process would grind to a halt like a machine drained of oil. Trust is also central to religion – among members of a congregation, between individuals and leaders, and between individuals and God. Moreover, recent controversies have shaken confidence in both scientific and religious institutions. What fosters trust? What erodes it? How it can be restored once lost? At Stony Brook, we aim to create an interdisciplinary dialogue about a rarely discussed subject that is at the core of both fields – and about which each field has much to say to the other.”

The Arizona State University initiative, based at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, is headed by Dr. Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Professor of History. The project, entitled “Facing the Challenge of Transhumanism: Religion, Science, and Technology,” will examine the development and convergence of genomics, stem-cell research, robotics, nanotechnology, and neuropharmacology in the transforming and enhancing of human nature, posing difficult religious and philosophical questions in what some refer to as our “posthuman” future. In addition to the Principal Investigator, the project involves nine faculty from a variety of academic disciplines at ASU as well as a number of research centers and institutes within ASU.

“ASU is committed to addressing the most pertinent issues of our times,” notes the historian Dr. Tirosh-Samuelson. “In this project we will examine and evaluate the claims of transhumanism, focusing on philosophical issues; social, legal, and political questions; environmental issues; and the religious aspects of transhumanism. This multi-faceted investigation will take into consideration the entire scope of human evolution and culturally specific conceptions of humanity. It will illustrate how the humanities can and should interface with the social and natural sciences, and how scientific discourses are culturally bound and historically situated.”

The judges in this year’s selection were:

  1. George Ellis, Physics, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  2. Scott Gilbert, Biology, Swarthmore College.
  3. Antje Jackelén, Theology, Zygon Center and Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago
  4. James Proctor, Environmental Studies, Lewis and Clark College
  5. V.V. Raman, Physics and Humanities, Rochester Institute of Technology
  6. W. Mark Richardson, General Theological Seminary, New York City

The Metanexus Institute advances research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion. Metanexus is a leader in a growing network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature, and culture in communities and on campuses throughout the world. Metanexus sponsors dialogue groups, lectures, workshops, research, courses, grants, and publications. Metanexus leads and facilitates over 300 projects in 37 countries. Projects include the Local Societies Initiative, the Templeton Research Lectures, and topical interdisciplinary research projects such as the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Project, Spiritual Capital, Religion and Health, Religion and Human Flourishing, Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology, and other endeavors. A membership organization, Metanexus hosts an online journal with over 180,000 monthly page views and 8,000 subscribers in 57 countries.

Past winners of the Templeton Research Lectures grants are the University of Frankfurt, the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, the University of Arizona, the University of Southern California, UCLA, University of Montréal, Stanford University, Bar Ilan University, Columbia University, and University of California at Santa Barbara. The deadline for the 2007 applications is January 1, 2007.

The Templeton Research Lectures are made possible by a generous grant from the JohnTempleton Foundation. The mission of the John Templeton Foundation is to pursue new insightsat the boundary between theology and science through a rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodology, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise. Using "the humble approach," the Foundation typically seeks to focus the methods andresources of scientific inquiry on topical areas that have spiritual and theological significance ranging across the disciplines from cosmology to healthcare. For more information about the Templeton Foundation, go to <www.templeton.org>.

3/2/2006 03/26/2007 9872 Society for Pentecostal Studies and the Wesleyan Theological Society, "Sighs, Signs, and Significance," 13-15 March

The Society for Pentecostal Studies and the Wesleyan Theological Society are issuing a call for papers for their third joint meeting, titled:

"Sighs, Signs, and Significance:  Pentecostal & Wesleyan Explorations of Science & Creation"

13-15 March 2008
Duke University Divinity School
Durham, NC
USA

Proposals Due:
Saturday, 30 June 2007

Proposals for the meeting should be 250-300 words. Authors should send their proposals and brief biographical information to WTS session chairs (see websit) no later than 30 June 2007.

Pentecostals and Wesleyans have affirmed that God is Creator and that in God we live, and move, and have our being. The two theological traditions have also acknowledged that science provides significant hypotheses and data with which Christians must work to understand their experiences and to articulate well their affirmations about the world that God has created. Yet there has been little sustained engagement between either tradition with the theological questions raised by modern science.

For more information, visit: 
http://wesley.nnu.edu/wts

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In the third joint meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies and the Wesleyan Theological Society, we invite paper proposals that explore facets of the theology-and-science dialogue and of Pentecostal and Wesleyan approaches to theology of creation. Here is a sampling of topics that society members might address:

  • Biblical perspectives on theology of creation
  • Major figures (e.g., Augustine, Aquinas, Wesley, G. T. Haywood) in the Christian tradition as they responded to the opportunities and challenges of science;
  • Christian anthropology, the mind-body relation, and the nature of the human spirit;
  • The Cognitive sciences, mind, and spirit;
  • Pastoral practice in light of the psychological and sociological sciences;
  • Spiritual gifts and the charisms in light of modern science;
  • Christian discernment, including discernment of spirits, in the context of a theology of creation;
  • Divine action and the work of the Holy Spirit in light of modern cosmology;
  • Pentecostal and Wesleyan perspectives on the doctrines of creation out of nothing, continuing creation, evolution, and intelligent design;
  • Ecological and environmental issues in scientific, theological, and pneumatological perspectives;
  • Indigenous and cultural perspectives on creation, nature, and the sciences;
  • Theological and relational perspectives on the nature of time and of the future;
  • Methodological issues in the theology and science dialogue;

3/29/2007 03/29/2007 9873 Radio Broadcast: 'Fresh Air from WHYY,' NPR, 28 & 29 March 2007 Fresh Air from WHYY  on NPR has recently interviewed two important people involved in debates about science and religion, Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins, as a two-part discussion.   This discussion ran on the 28th and 29th of March. 

To listen to the interviews, visit:
www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9180871

About Dawkins

In his most recent book, British scientist Richard Dawkins writes about the irrationality of a belief in God, examines God in all his forms and sets down his arguments for atheism. The book is The God Delusion.

Dawkins is a professor of "the public understanding of science" at Oxford University.

The New York Times Book Review has hailed him as a writer who "understands the issues so clearly that he forces his reader to understand them too."

About Collins

Geneticist Francis Collins is director of the National Human Genome Research Project. He is also an evangelical Christian, and author of the book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

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Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio's most popular programs. Each week, nearly 4.5 million people listen to the show's intimate conversations broadcast on more than 450 National Public Radio (NPR) stations across the country, as well as in Europe on the World Radio Network.

Though Fresh Air has been categorized as a "talk show," it hardly fits the mold. Its 1994 Peabody Award citation credits Fresh Air with "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights." And a variety of top publications count Gross among the country's leading interviewers. The show gives interviews as much time as needed, and complements them with comments from well-known critics and commentators.

Fresh Air is produced at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and broadcast nationally by NPR.

3/30/2007 03/30/2007 9874 Discussion Series: Wilma Theater, The Galileo Project, 16 April - 7 May 2007, Philadelphia, PA 19111

“Knowledge Is Only Won Through Doubt”: Science and Culture from Galileo to the 21st Century

How have “scientific revolutions” of the past such as Galileo, Darwin, relativity, and genomics affected society and our understanding of humanity? What role does skepticism play in scientific progress?

Moderator:Paul Grobstein, Biology, Bryn Mawr College

Panelists include:M. Susan Lindee, History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania

  • Joel R. Primack, Physics, University of California at Santa Cruz, and co-author of  ------------------------------------

 

Monday, 23 April 2007 at 7:00pm: Arthur L. Caplan, Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania

Panelists include:

  • Daniel Kevles, History of Science, Yale University
  • Michael Yudell, Public Health, Drexel University

 ----------------------------------------------------

Monday, 30 April 2007 at 7:00pm: Walter Bilderback, Dramaturg and Literary Manager, Wilma Theater

Panelists include:

  • In Gods We Trust
  • The Scientist as Rebel
  • Gino Segre, Physics, University of Pennsylvania

 --------------------------------------------------------

Monday, 7 May 2007 at 7:00pm: John Timpane, Commentary Page Editor, Edward B. Davis, History of Science, Messiah College

  • God’s Universe
  • Moral Minds

 

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Additional panelists to be announced. Program subject to change. For updates, go to www.wilmatheater.org
 

The Galileo Project Panel Discussion Series is sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.

 

 

 

3/30/2007 03/30/2007 9875 Urizen Struggling in the Waters of Materialism

 src=http://www.metanexus.net/Magazine/Portals/0/VisualExplorations/urizon_lg.jpg></p><p>© 2003 The William Blake Archive, Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi<br>(Plate 12 of <em>The First Book of Urizen</em>, by William Blake)</p><p>"<em>The First Book of Urizen</em>, as its title suggests, can be seen as the first book of Blake's “Infernal Bible”. In it he offers an alternative view of creation in a rewriting of the biblical Book of Genesis. According to this view, creation itself needs to be seen as an evil act because it follows from a command; it is the despotism of the god of reason and law, Urizen, that has called the world into being, and this is why it has automatically assumed a fallen form. In the poem, Urizen, having created the fallen world, is then drawn down into it himself, finding himself bafflingly and chaotically embroiled in his own nets and webs. The god Los, standing for the imaginative power, has been set to watch over Urizen, but instead he too gets drawn into the general collapse."<br><br>From David Punter, University of Stirling. "The Book of Urizen." <u>The Literary Encyclopedia.</u> 17 Jul. 2001. The Literary Dictionary Company. 14 March 2007. <http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=1402></p>					3/30/2007	03/30/2007<br />
9876	Wind Map	<p class=ve_image><a href=<a href=http://www.metanexus.net/Magazine/Portals/0/VisualExplorations/cornell(lg).jpg><img height=413 alt=" width="552" border="0" />
(Click for a full size image)

©2007, Deborah Cornell

Nothing exists in isolation. This work connects the precision of scientific investigation with the complex flowing patterns of temporal change. Intricate natural interrelationships can produce unexpected outcomes, such as the subtle filtering of altered organisms throughout environments, and their effect on humans and other species. The digital print "Wind Map" is from the suite Species Boundaries, and uses a geoanalytical chart of the wind directions of the northern hemisphere to suggest the migration of physical matter (including genetic escapes) worldwide.

3/30/2007 03/30/2007 9877 In Saturn's Shadow

 border=0 src=http://www.metanexus.net/Magazine/Portals/0/VisualExplorations/In_Saturns_Shadow(mm).jpg><br>(Click for a full size image)</a></p><p>©2006, <font size=-1><span class=style1>NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute</span></font></p><p>With giant Saturn hanging in the blackness and sheltering Cassini from the sun's blinding glare, the spacecraft viewed the rings as never before, revealing previously unknown faint rings and even glimpsing its home world.</p><p>This marvelous panoramic view was created by combining a total of 165 images taken by the Cassini wide-angle camera over nearly three hours on Sept. 15, 2006. The full mosaic consists of three rows of nine wide-angle camera footprints; only a portion of the full mosaic is shown here. Color in the view was created by digitally compositing ultraviolet, infrared and clear filter images and was then adjusted to resemble natural color.</p><p>The mosaic images were acquired as the spacecraft drifted in the darkness of Saturn's shadow for about 12 hours, allowing a multitude of unique observations of the microscopic particles that compose Saturn's faint rings.</p><p>Ring structures containing these tiny particles brighten substantially at high phase angles: i.e., viewing angles where the sun is almost directly behind the objects being imaged.</p><p>During this period of observation Cassini detected two new faint rings: one coincident with the shared orbit of the moons Janus and Epimetheus, and another coincident with Pallene's orbit. (See <a target=_blank href=http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/image-details.cfm?imageID=2277>The Janus/Epimetheus Ring</a> and <a target=_blank href=http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/image-details.cfm?imageID=2312>Moon-Made Rings</a> for more on the two new rings.)</p><p>The narrowly confined G ring is easily seen here, outside the bright main rings. Encircling the entire system is the much more extended E ring. The icy plumes of Enceladus, whose eruptions supply the E ring particles, betray the moon's position in the E ring's left-side edge.</p><p>Interior to the G ring and above the brighter main rings is the pale dot of Earth. Cassini views its point of origin from over a billion kilometers (and close to a billion miles) away in the icy depths of the outer solar system. See <a target=_blank href=http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/image-details.cfm?imageID=2279>Pale Blue Orb</a> for a similar view of Earth taken during this observation.</p><p>Small grains are pushed about by sunlight and electromagnetic forces. Hence their distribution tells much about the local space environment.</p><p>A second version of the mosaic view is presented here in which the color contrast is greatly exaggerated. In such views, imaging scientists have noticed color variations across the diffuse rings that imply active processes sort the particles in the ring according to their sizes.</p><p>Looking at the E ring in this color-exaggerated view, the distribution of color across and along the ring appears to be different between the right side and the left. Scientists are not sure yet how to explain these differences, though the difference in phase angle between right and left may be part of the explanation. The phase angle is about 179 degrees on Saturn.</p><p>The main rings are overexposed in a few places.</p><p>This view looks toward the unlit side of the rings from about 15 degrees above the ringplane. Cassini was approximately 2.2 million kilometers (1.3 million miles) from Saturn when the images in this mosaic were taken. Image scale on Saturn is about 260 kilometers (162 miles) per pixel.</p><p>The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.</p><p>For more information on this image visit <a target=_blank href=http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/image-details.cfm?imageID=2314>http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/image-details.cfm?imageID=2314.</a></p>					3/30/2007	03/30/2007<br />
9878	Interpretation of the Time Frame	<p>One obvious difficulty with the Biblical Genesis picture must have struck  quite a few thinkers over the ages, although they don't seem to perturb some  current apologists for literalism. As early as in the fourth century, Gregory  of Nyasa wondered how any "man of sense would believe there could have  been" any day at all before the sun was (allegedly) created on the fourth  day. </p><p>Developments in modern science,  especially in astrophysics and cosmology  invoke billions of years rather than just a Babylonian week for bringing  the world to its current phase of  stellar and galactic multitude. It is difficult to reconcile this with the time-periods in the  Biblical narrative, unless one is willing to make drastic compromises and  suitable scale changes. Many thoughtful theologians have done precisely that,  although here again, some have stretched their theory and imagination a bit  much. Thus, for example, one author has no hesitation in declaring: “With the  insights of Einstein, we have discovered in the six days of Genesis the  billions of years during which the universe developed.” </p><p>To solve the puzzle that a day  is a terrestrial unit which has no cosmic significance whatever, and that  according to the Book of Genesis "evening and the morning were the second  day," waters, land and the Earth appeared <em>after</em> this, and that  "God made two great lights" (the sun and the moon) <em>after</em> He  had made the earth, Schroeder explained in his <em>The Science of God</em> that the Biblical day in the first Book does  not refer to the terrestrial unit of time. And he goes on to give a new  interpretation: “The description of time in the Bible is divided two  categories: the first six days and all the time thereafter.” In this  interpretation, humankind began one fine day with Adam and Eve who lived for  more than a century. Indeed, if he can take inspiration from the <em>yuga</em> concept of the Hindu world (1 day for Brahma is equivalent to 4.2 billion  earth-years, one can reconcile the one-week creation with current cosmological  time scales.</p><p>However, not all scholars in the  Judeo-Christian tradition applaud and accept such ingenious transformations to  concord with the latest findings of Big Bang cosmology. Henry M. Morris, for  one, appropriately reminds of the fourth of the Ten Commandments where one is  asked to observe the Sabbath explicitly on the seventh day. Surely, the Lord  was not thinking of eons when He commanded this. Efforts to twist and turn ancient utterances,  of no matter what tradition, in order to bring them in harmony with the latest  harvests of current groping on the age of the cosmos are bound to cut awkward  figures, if critically examined. In a sense, those who hold steadfast to books  they regard as infallible, even in the face of blatant contradictions with well  established facts, are better off in their secure convictions than those who  erect pseudo-logical frameworks to sustain worldviews that are no longer  sustainable.</p><p>Aside from the Bible, there were  other esoteric writings on Creation by mystical scholars as early as in the  first century C.E. One of them, called Sefer Yezira, of unknown authorship is reported to have a  joint authorship: God and Abraham. Its thesis was that the world had been  created on the basis of ten basic principles. But the truly wise expressed the  view that ultimately all of this was mystery, and that the few who are privy to  it ought not to be sharing it with all and sundry. The authors of this work  clearly understood that such sharing will prompt questions as well as answers which  would be dissected with the logical razor and found unsatisfactory, raising  doubts in the minds of the masses who generally accept vague assertions without  probing into their rational consistency. </p><p>We may note in passing that medieval schoolmen, upon discovering  Neo-Platonism, exerted similar efforts to reconcile this with Biblical  cosmology, and were no less successful. They spoke of transcendent God having  an immanent aspect, of supernatural beings like cherubim and seraphim and angel  and archangels connecting God and Man, somewhat as modern physics pictures  virtual field bosons bonding fundamental physical entities. From a historical  humanistic perspective one would say that it is not unlikely that the authors  of the Book of Genesis, extraordinarily brilliant and awakened intellects that  they were, would, if confronted with the data of current science, choose to  present a revised edition of their work.</p>			From a historical humanistic perspective one would say that it is not unlikely that the authors of the Book of Genesis, extraordinarily brilliant and awakened intellects that they were, would, if confronted with the data of current science, choose to present a revised edition of their work.		4/2/2007	04/02/2007<br />
9879	Science, Religion, and the Bomb	<div style=text-align: center>Presented at the First International Congress on Religion and Science,<br>Tehran, Iran, May 2006<br> </div><br><div style=text-align: center>In the name of God, the compassionate and merciful.<br> </div><br>I want to thank the organizers and sponsors of this First Iranian International Congress on Religion and Science.  Many years and a lot of hard work brought us to this event.  Much study and thought has gone into preparing the many wonderful lectures.  Thank you also for your gracious hospitality in hosting us.  I hope there will be many more such opportunities in the future to listen and learn from each other.<br><br>Concurrent with the planning of this Congress has been a growing conflict between Iran and the West about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, not to mention the US invasion of Iraq on the pretext of finding weapons of mass destruction.  And so I want to address some of these sensitive political and military issues with you today, because science and religion also are also involved in these debates about international relations and military power.  In the history of nuclear armaments, science and religion intersect in multiple and profound ways.  <br><br>I want to emphasize at the outset that I speak about these matters as a private citizen.  I certainly do not represent the U.S. government, nor for that matter any of the other Americans participating in this Congress.  Nor do these reflections today represent the views of the Metanexus Institute or any of our sponsors.<br><br>Since the beginning of the nuclear age sixty years ago with the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many scientists and religious leaders have united in opposition to nuclear weapons.  In the United States, there are hundreds of scientific, environmental and religious organizations that have actively opposed nuclear weapons for many decades now.  The list includes the Federation of American Scientists www.fas.org, the Union of Concerned Scientists <a href=http://www.ucsusa.org>www.ucsusa.org</a>, Physicians for Social Responsibility <a href=http://www.psr.org>www.psr.org</a>, Pugwash <a href=http://www.pugwash.org>www.pugwash.org</a>, the National Resources Defense Council <a href=http://www.nrdc.org>www.nrdc.org</a>, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists <a href=http://www.thebulletin.org>www.thebulletin.org</a>, Peace Action <a href=http://www.peace-action.org>www.peace-action.org</a>  - it would be a long list.  Every major religious organization in the United States has made public statements against nuclear weapons<sup>1</sup>, including the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.<sup>2</sup>   As a young man in 1982 I participated in and helped to organize the largest demonstration in the history of the United States with a million people gathered to oppose the US nuclear weapons build-up in New York City.  The core support for these activities has come from scientists and religious leaders, and also many retired military leaders<sup>3</sup>, united in their conviction that nuclear weapons are inherently immoral and provide no real security, rather only insecurity.  The same concerns extend to chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.<br><br>Traditional just war theory sets two criteria for the lawful, moral use of military force.  First, there must be just cause, which minimally includes self-defense.  Second, the war must be conducted by just means.  The second point includes rules-of-engagement that limit war to combatants and exclude violence directed at civilian populations.  The second point also includes notions of proportionality.<sup>4</sup>   Nuclear weapons, as well as other weapons of mass destruction and even many so-called conventional weapons today, cannot distinguish civilians from combatants. Nuclear weapons also have destructive consequences extending many decades after their formal intended consequences (e.g., cancer resulting from radiation).  And thus on both accounts, nuclear weapons, by their very nature, violate the traditional just war doctrine.  <br><br>Unfortunately, the logic of war always undermines the just war doctrine, because winning by whatever means necessary becomes the precondition for survival in armed conflicts.  The history of warfare in the 20th century points ever more to the harsh logic of war.  Civilian casualties now regularly exceed those of combatants in wars waged around the world.<sup>5</sup>  The logic of war also always dictates that governments tend towards dictatorships, restricting freedoms and waging war against dissent among their own citizens.  Warfare is always dehumanizing, so the logic of war quickly leads to the torture of prisoners and committing other atrocities.  In the future, nuclear weapons may be used again, perhaps between Pakistan and India, perhaps in the Korean Peninsula, perhaps in the Middle East.<br><br>Nuclear weapons are a terrible fact of life.  Wishful thinking and pious proclamations are not going to “put the genie back in the bottle”.  The most difficult part of the manufacturing process is obtaining enriched uranium or plutonium.  Once these are in hand, the actual bomb is not particularly difficult to build.<sup>6</sup>   The current nuclear club includes the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, South Africa, India, Pakistan, and probably North Korea.<sup>7</sup>  <br><br>Many in the West believe that Iran is about to become part of this nuclear weapons club.  Strategic planners in Iran, looking at the world today, might feel well justified in seeking their own nuclear weapons.  Iran is surrounded by the US military in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf.  Many of its neighbors already have nuclear weapons, including India, Pakistan, Israel, and Russia, not to mention the United States with forward deployment of weapons on our navy fleet in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. <br><br>Of course, the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty itself provides for the possibility of acquiring enrichment and reprocessing technology for civilian purposes.  Unfortunately, those provisions are the fatal flaw in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a treaty written several decades ago by naÔve enthusiasts of nuclear power. The goal of the Non-Proliferation Treaty was to make civilian nuclear power available to all humanity, while restricting the spread of nuclear weapons capabilities.  Once a country has enrichment or reprocessing technology, however, it is not far from being able to build nuclear weapons.  <br><br>The 1950s vision of civilian nuclear electricity, “power too cheap to meter” we were told, is bankrupt today<sup>.8</sup>  By way of example, there are currently 104 civilian nuclear power plants in the United States, generating more electricity by nuclear power than any other nation.  And yet this still accounts for only 20 percent of our total US electric power.  The civilian nuclear power industry in the United States is dying.  There have been no new licenses to build nuclear power plants now for 29 years.  The last commercial reactor to come online took 34 years to complete construction.<sup>9</sup>  Many of these plants are soon to be decommissioned and we don’t really know what that means or the actual cost of doing so. The electricity is quite expensive.  Moreover, the commercial nuclear energy industry exists in the United States today because of massive government subsidies and government protection.<sup>10</sup>   The free market would not have built these expensive, toxic dumps.  <br><br>The big worry is safety and waste disposal.  While there has not been a catastrophic nuclear accident in the United States, the industry has been plagued with numerous safety problems too long to list.<sup>11</sup>  The disposal of nuclear waste continues to be the number one problem.<sup>12</sup>  Currently, the United States has about 40,000 tons of spent fuel rods awaiting long-term disposal.  These hot highly radioactive rods are stored in pools of water at the reactor sites and need to be continuously cooled.  Just to be clear here, the half-life of plutonium, one of the by-products of nuclear reactors, is 24,000 years.  Plutonium is one of the most toxic substances ever created, so humans need to discover a way to isolate plutonium from the human and natural environment for up to 100,000 years.  Again, science and religion intersect.  What are our obligations to the planet and future generations?  Science may give us the technology and inform us of the benefits and dangers, but by itself it cannot tell us whether these long-term risks are worth the short-term benefits.<br><br>Still petroleum and natural gas will not last forever.  Global demand is increasing, production is peaking, and supplies appear to be dwindling.  And with the threats of global climate change resulting from the burning of these fossil fuels, many scientists and even environmentalists are suggesting that we take a new look at nuclear power technology.  The Chinese, for instance, are developing a new, small-scale, “fool-proof” graphite reactor design and planning to mass-produce these.<sup>13</sup>  There are many efforts in the United States to restart the nuclear power industry, but still no consensus, no new construction, and no longterm solution to the waste disposal.<br><br>In the 1960s and 1970s, Iran received significant assistance from the United States and Europe in developing civilian nuclear power.  The Shah had plans to construct 23 nuclear power stations.  Iran spent many billions of dollars in contracts with Western companies to build these plants.  In 1976, U.S. President Ford authorized helping Iran build fuel reprocessing facilities without any thought of the proliferation issues; other U.S. plans existed to help Iran build a uranium enrichment facility.  All of these agreements ended with the Iranian Revolution in 1979.  Western governments broke contracts with Iran and kept billions of dollars.<sup>14</sup><br><br>Obviously, one of the differences between then and now is the lack of trust.  The United States and Europeans believe that Iran’s real goal is to obtain nuclear weapons and that Iran has set up a massive program, partly clandestinely, to obtain highly enriched uranium necessary for nuclear weapons.  Iran sees the United States as hypocritical and harboring designs on overthrowing the Iranian government (again) and dominating the region and its oil resources.<br><br>On August 9, 2005, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. The fatwa was referenced in an official statement at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, though the text of it has not been released.  This position is consistent with other statements from Iranian leaders.  Khamenei has been quoted in the press as saying "The Islamic Republic of Iran, based on its fundamental religious and legal beliefs, would never resort to the use of weapons of mass destruction. In contrast to the propaganda of our enemies, fundamentally we are against any production of weapons of mass destruction in any form."<sup>15</sup>  I can only applaud the declared intentions of your Supreme Leader and hope they are sincere.<br><br>Of course, I speak here today as a citizen of the United States, the country that has more nuclear weapons than any other country in the world and the only country to actually use them.  I am ashamed of this.  Reason and faith tell me that these weapons are an abomination; they offend God and humanity.  The United States also has obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and should, I believe, give a full accounting of its own nuclear weapons, their deployment around the world, and a plan to decrease those weapons and withdraw them from deployment outside of United States, for instance from the Persian Gulf today.<sup>16</sup>    If the United States continues to see strategic utility in possessing, improving, and deploying these weapons, then in the long run there will be no reason for other countries not to also want to obtain them.  <br><br>I am not here to chastise Iran or lecture its leaders.  As a citizen of the United States, I can hardly criticize Iran on this point, even if its intentions are to obtain nuclear weapons.  An Iranian bomb will hardly change the balance of power in the world.  An Iranian nuclear first strike on Israel, for instance, would result in a massive retaliation by Israel; therefore any rational leader should be deterred from using these weapons. The big danger today, in any case, is more that a terrorist group will obtain a bomb.<sup>17</sup>  In the current climate, even a nuclear terrorist strike against Israel, a bomb delivered clandestinely with no return address, might well result in a massive “retaliation”.  A nuclear terrorist attack on a US, European, or Russian city would also generate some kind of response, though not likely as indiscriminately as the probable Israeli “retaliation”.  The problem, of course, is that one may not know precisely who was responsible for the initial attack.   We must strive to make sure that this nightmare never comes to be.  A little bit of sober strategic realism might go a long way to reducing tensions.  <br><br>For some fifty years, the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union lived with a similar logic of destruction, known as “Mutual Assured Destruction,” or MAD for short.<sup>18</sup>   Strategic planners on both sides of the Cold War did the gruesome calculations, involving exchanges of hundreds and even thousands of nuclear weapons, many in the megaton range.  No matter how you did the calculations, first strike or counterforce strike, there was no way either side could really escape the depressing conclusions.  The death toll would need to be calculated in the tens of millions minimally, and potentially much, much higher.  If the nuclear war were large enough, the hypothesized “nuclear winter effect” would wreak havoc on the rest of the planet.  These stark assessments of the strategic situation helped pave the way for arms control and disarmament agreements, dÈtente, and eventually the transformation of the Soviet Union and China, unfortunately less so the United States.  It turns out the concept of mutual assured destruction had a sobering—and perhaps even salutary—effect on the superpowers during the Cold War.<br><br>If you are a strategic planner in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, or Egypt, or for that matter simply a citizen in any of these countries, how should you plan for the growing threat of a nuclear terrorist attack and the possible repercussions.  It is perhaps an increasingly realistic threat that a terrorist group may soon have the power, indirectly by attacking Israel, to also cause the destruction of your own armies, cities, wealth, and families.  How does one respond to such a horrific threat?<br><br>Of course, one possibility is that Middle Eastern countries could go through the “bomb shelter phase,” as we did in the United States back in the 1950s and 1960s.  School children could practice air raid drills like those I experienced in elementary school.  The anti-Israeli and anti-American rhetoric could be turned up a notch or two.  Middle Eastern countries could also arm themselves to provide a credible retaliatory threat.  Having a strong air force and army equipped with nuclear weapons, however, would not provide any deterrence or security in the event of a nuclear terrorist attack.  Indeed, it would just make one more of a target for retaliation.  There might be some short-term political advantages in consolidating domestic power with an “act tough” strategy.  In politics, it is sadly always useful to have an enemy, a scapegoat to divert attention from domestic problems and to consolidate power.  In the end though, it is just a fact of life that you and your nation may no longer exist on the fateful day that a bomb goes off in Tel Aviv or Washington, D.C. <br><br>Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) is the logic of the technology itself, a new state in the human condition; it is not something one can opt out of.  Albert Einstein warned us that “The splitting of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.”  MAD has come to the Middle East. <br><br>The only other rational option to a MAD strategy for countries in the Middle East, strange and improbable as it may seem at first glance, is to pursue dÈtente with Israel, with the United States, and with its neighbors.  DÈtente requires diplomatic relationships, setting up communication channels to manage crises, trade and economic cooperation, and educational, cultural, and religious exchanges.  Such activities existed between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War beginning in the 1960s and increasing in the 1970s and 1980s.<br><br>This hoped for dÈtente is not likely, so let’s not hold our breath.  Everything has changed, except our ways of thinking, to repeat Einstein’s warning.  Again, I confess that the United States is very much a part of the problem.  The U.S. government has been foolish and short-sighted in the aftermath of the Cold War.  A great opportunity was lost to lead by example, rather than by threat and force.<br><br>Friends, I am sorry I have darkened your thoughts with these terrible visions.  Science has brought many wonderful blessings to humanity, but also great dangers.  Similarly, religion can be used to inflame hatred and intolerance or to motivate compassion and peace.  <br><br>The dilemma for humanity created by nuclear weapons and their proliferation is a symbol of a growing problem for humanity in the 21st century vis-‡-vis many new scientific developments and new technologies.  We live at an extraordinary moment in the natural history of our planet and the cultural evolution of our species  -- a moment with terrible dangers and great possibilities.  Our scientific, technological, and economic prowess has grown exponentially in the last century; but there is no indication that humans are any wiser, more compassionate, or more moral.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it succinctly, “we have guided missiles and misguided men”.<br><br>"Religion”, writes the 20th century American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, “is more frequently a source of confusion than of light in the political realm. The tendency to equate our political with our Christian convictions causes politics to degenerate into idolatry."  Niebuhr goes on to say that “Civilization depends upon vigorous pursuit of the highest values by people who are intelligent enough to know that their values are qualified by their interests and corrupted by their prejudices." <br><br>Brothers and sisters, I would rather stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you exploring and celebrating the many mysteries of the universe, than go head-to-head with you in an escalating conflict.  The world needs us to combine the best of science with the best of religion.  Let us resolve to use these unspeakable dangers as an impetus to engage each other more, to promote more contacts between our societies, to build bridges of understanding and friendship, to open channels for communication, debate, and cooperation.  May we all live to be better human beings, better countries, more moral, more just, more free, more peaceful, and more prosperous.  A God of Love and Justice, as Christians and Jews so often proclaim, or a God characterized by Compassion and Mercy as Muslims so often proclaim, cannot possibly wish for humans to have or to use these terrible weapons.  This is the responsibility of our generation.  May it also be our gift to the world, for the greater glory of God.  <br><br>1. http://www.ncccusa.org <br>2. http://www.usccb.org <br>3. http://www.cdi.org . See also http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/armsjoin.htm <br>4.  http://www.iep.utm.edu/j/justwar.htm  and http://www.justwartheory.com. <br>5.  http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/misc/misery.html <br>6.  Frank Barnaby, How to Build a Nuclear Bomb: And Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, New York: National Books, 2004.<br>7.  Israel, India, and Pakistan have not signed the NPT.<br>8.  http://www.cns-snc.ca/media/toocheap/toocheap.html <br>9.  http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/nuc_reactors/reactsum.html <br>10.  http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/power/power.pdf <br>11. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/nuclear_safety/ <br>12.  http://www.history.rochester.edu/class/EZRA/ <br>13.  “Let a Thousand Reactors Bloom” by Spencer Reiss, WIRED 12.09, September, 2004. http://wired-vig.wired.com/wired/archive/12.09/china.html <br>14.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A3983-2005Mar26.html , see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran's_nuclear_program.  The freezing of Iranian assets in the West and the cancellation of these contracts to build nuclear power plants was part of the response to the taking of hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran.  For a full account of the Iranian Revolution and its consequences, see Kenneth M. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran and American, New York: Random House, 2004.<br>15.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran's_nuclear_program <br>16.  Technically, the NPT requires reducing nuclear weapons to zero, but this is not a realistic goal.  Any country that has had nuclear weapons could easily hide some number of those weapons or in a matter of days or weeks reconstruct those weapons from stored materials.  There will always be nuclear weapons on the planet somewhere or the prospects that these weapons could be quickly reassembled in the event of a war.<br>17.   Graham Allison, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, New York: Times Books, 2004.<br>18.  http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj97/win97/parrin.html <br>19.  Reinhold Niebuhr, Christianity and Crisis, 1952.<br><br><br><br>William Grassie, Ph.D., is founder and emeritus director of the Metanexus Institute, which works to promote the constructive engagement of religion and science with 400 partners in 43 countries www.metanexus.net .  Grassie has his doctorate in comparative religion from Temple University.  Prior to graduate studies, Grassie worked for ten years in arms control and disarmament advocacy.			"Friends, I am sorry I have darkened your thoughts with these terrible visions.  Science has brought many wonderful blessings to humanity, but also great dangers.  Similarly, religion can be used to inflame hatred and intolerance or to motivate compassion and peace.  The dilemma for humanity created by nuclear weapons and their proliferation is a symbol of a growing problem for humanity in the 21st century vis-‡-vis many new scientific developments and new technologies...  Our scientific, technological, and economic prowess has grown exponentially in the last century; but there is no indication that humans are any wiser, more compassionate, or more moral.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it succinctly, “we have guided missiles and misguided men”.	For  more information about William Grassie visit <a href=http://www.grassie.net>www.grassie.net</a>.	5/3/2006	04/02/2007<br />
9880	MOGIBO (Me Outside. Good Inside. Bad Outside): Personal popularity in popular culture	<p>MOGIBO is the sentiment expressed in  many popular tunes, old and new: <em>I’ve lost at love. I’m out of the loop and  it’s sad. I can’t win in the mainstream. The world has left me behind. </em>MOGIBO  is one of just a few basic relationships possible between the in-crowd, the  out-crowd, good and bad, and the songster. </p><p>I was asked to teach a popular  culture class to some students who had already been with me for a few terms. I  decided to run the class as a seminar, a collaborative and informal content  analysis of songs, humor, and other pop cultural artifacts. We tried to  mind-read pop culture’s producers and consumers, looking for what makes the popular  stuff popular. </p><p>We concluded that a lot of it seems  to center on whether happiness is to be had inside or outside the mainstream.  Where is cool? Is it in the main culture or the subculture? Should you play the  game or abandon the game? </p><p>A lot of popular music is about  doing well at the mainstream game. <em>I’m rocking this party. I’m in the  groove. I’ve played the game and I’m finally earning the power that’s due me. </em>MIGIBO:  Me Inside. Good Inside. Bad Outside. </p><p>These days, of course, we also have  a lot of songs about the mainstream game as a wasteland, not worth it, only for  losers. The real <a href=http://www.mindreadersdictionary.com/Dictionary/Item.aspx?user_id=site&dict_id=157>value</a> is to be found at the margins of society,  in the subculture that rejects the main game. <em>I’m an outcast and I’m cool.  Now that we’ve broken out of the rat race everything is better. </em>MOBIGO: Me  Outside. Bad Inside. Good Outside. </p><p>And some songs say that winning the  mainstream game doesn’t turn out to be as good as it’s cracked up to be. <em>Success  makes me weary. I’ve done what I was told would make me happy, but I’m not  happy after all. </em>MIBIGO: Me Inside. Bad Inside. Good Outside. </p><p>Songs about partnerships play off  the same in/out theme. The beloved often becomes the symbol of the inside, the  very object of the mainstream game. <em>I finally won the inside game. I got  you. </em>MIGIBO: Me Inside. Good Inside. Bad Outside. </p><p>Conversely, <em>I’ve lost the main  game because I don’t have you. or If I could be with you, I’d be a winner. </em>MOGIBO:  Me Outside. Good Inside. Bad Outside. </p><p>Sometimes a partnership is what  stands in relationship to the inside and outside. <em>We’re making it in the  mainstream together. We’re helping each other be successful. </em>WIGIBO: We  Inside. Good Inside. Bad Outside. </p><p>Sometimes it’s us against the world.  WOBIGO: We Outside. Bad Inside. Good Outside. <em>For we’re living in a world of  fools, breaking us up . . . </em></p><p>Popular patriotic and religious  songs also play on the theme of insider/outsider relationships and where the  good is. The theme isn’t arbitrary. How to win at the game of life is naturally  a prevailing obsession. </p><p>Some songs try to eradicate the  boundary between good and bad. MIGIGO or MOGIGO. It’s all good. We are the same  whatever we do. Let’s ignore the in/out distinction. These songs can be  especially healing because they run counter to so much experience. They’re like  a trip to a fantasy land, a land free from preference, <a href=http://www.mindreadersdictionary.com/Dictionary/Item.aspx?user_id=site&dict_id=157>value</a> judgment, or distinction. <em>No hell below  us; above us only sky. </em></p><p>In popular humor, the in/out theme  is also central. Between the lines a lot of humor addresses the same questions.  Is it cooler to be conventional or unconventional? Where are you in  relationship to the inside and the outside? </p><p>With some humor, we identify with  the cool, conventional insider: a straight, clever hero surrounded by foolish,  cartoonish characters. In other humor, all the players are fools, and we laugh  knowingly, experiencing the contrast between ourselves and all those marginal  characters. Whether by associating with the conventional hero or by laughing at  everyone, we experience MIGIBO: Me Inside. Good Inside. Bad Outside. </p><p>With a lot of humor, we identify  with the cool, unconventional, irreverent, and eccentric hero. This stuff is  called “picaresque,” meaning humor in which the hero is a rogue. A classic  would be “Beverly Hills Cop,” in which Eddie Murphy plays a realist from the  inner city injected into the superficial culture of Beverly Hills. He’s sharp.  The other men range from dull-witted to bland to evil. The woman love interest  is fundamentally both judge and prize. She recognizes Murphy as the winner and  kisses him accordingly. The picaresque hero enters the mainstream but does not  join it. “Picaresque” probably comes from the Latin picar--to pierce, as in  pikepole, piercing the boundary between inside and outside. </p><p>While most humor plays with the  relationship between inside and out, not all of it deals with status. Most, if  not all of it reveals our near-infinite fascination with simple context  flipping. From peek-a-boo on, we’re mesmerized and tickled by watching the  frame shift from inside to out and back again. It’s magic to us. It’s the hocus  pocus of hokey pokey. More on that next week. </p><p>Here's a great NY Times article  about recent research showing that most laughter is a pressure release for  tense social situations. When it's getting a little hot in here, it's a way to  get outside of it. </p><p><a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/science/13tier.html?ex=1331611200&en=60e7544dbf3dbbff&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink>NY Times: What's so funny? Well, maybe nothing </a></p>			MOGIBO is the sentiment expressed in  many popular tunes, old and new: <em>I’ve lost at love. I’m out of the loop and  it’s sad. I can’t win in the mainstream. The world has left me behind. </em>MOGIBO  is one of just a few basic relationships possible between the in-crowd, the  out-crowd, good and bad, and the songster.	Originally published on Mind Readers Dictionary; www.mindreadersdictionary.org.	4/2/2007	04/02/2007<br />
9881	Hope springs eternal: a Metanexus reflection on the religious feasts of Pesach and Pascha	<p><img border=0 align=left alt=While the first buds of spring break through the hardened earth and deliver us in the northern hemisphere from the bleakness of winter, Pesach and Pascha—or the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter—come into view.  Despite intimate linkages between the two feasts, deriving from the Christian tradition’s beginnings in the Hebrew one, Passover and Easter are as different from each other as are the religious systems they are a part of.  And yet a responsible synthesis, one that respects and preserves the integrity of these distinct traditions, can entertain a truth that seems to transcend their particulars:  At the heart of both Pesach and Pascha is a timeless story of redemption and renewal.

Passover and Easter fall together this year during this first week of April.  At candlelit Passover Seders earlier this week, the tale of the Hebrews’ deliverance from slavery and exodus from Egypt was recounted so that its message of freedom and hope could live on in the minds and hearts of future generations.  And multitudes of Christians of all denominations are gathering formally and informally this week to reenact and relive the central mystery of their faith:  That by dying and resurrecting, Christ delivered the world from the tyranny of death. 

Historians, anthropologists, and scholars of religion have taken pains to point out that we should understand the central stories of Pesach and Pascha as part of a broader tradition of Ancient Near Eastern agrarian myth.  This insight in no way diminishes our observance of these feasts but rather accomplishes what good scholarship ought to.  It enriches our worldview by adding layers of depth to our understanding.  In the case of Passover and Easter, we are connected not only to the cycles of nature, but also through a continuity of culture and shared systems of meaning that have lived on while nations, races, and creeds have risen and fallen.  Pesach and Pascha connect us to the eternal.

The goal of Metanexus Institute and the Global Spiral is to foster transdisciplinary dialogue, research and education into humanity’s most profound and enduring questions and challenges.  In this effort, we bring together scholars representing diverse disciplines, scientists, clergy, and citizens alike as well as their various philosophical and spiritual views and religious practices.  All are encouraged to bring all of themselves.  It is our hope that this publication and your participation will contribute positively to these aims. 

To our Jewish friends, we wish a blessed Passover.  To our Christian friends, a joyous Easter.  And to all, a springtide resplendent with purpose, joy, and hope.

Image courtesy of Andy Ilachinski

4/4/2007 04/04/2007 9882 Religious and Scientific Views of Cosmogenesis

The fundamental thesis of the religious view, as implied in Vedic utterances, as stated in the Book of Genesis and as amplified in the opening to the Holy Qur’an, Man plays a central role as a purported end-product (indeed intended goal) of Creation. The will and guidance of an omnipotent and omniscient Creator are implicit in all religious cosmologies.

It was difficult to reconcile this after the scientific revolution of the 15th/16th centuries, which erected a framework in which inexorable, and mathematically precise laws operate without pause or exception to keep the universe rolling in time. This instigated a new vision of God as an omnipotent Creator of physical laws, who left the vast machine tick away like a well constructed clock: smoothly, precisely, and interminably. Some were prepared to admit that if and when the mechanism needed fixing, this Creator of the cosmic clock would intervene to set it right again. Its two advantages were this: It prevented science from sliding into atheistic materialism, and it made God more rational than whimsical, more respectful of rules than of arbitrary behavior. But its serious disadvantage was that it made God no more than a First Cause, who, after the first and only act (Creation) receded into eternal inaction, becoming what the French called le dieu fainéant (the do-nothing god). More seriously, it was only one more step to dispense with even this God.

Indeed, in the current scientific framework, the universe stumbled into existence on its own, because of some mishap in a silent and latent symmetry, intelligible only to the initiated (in group theory and high energy physics), blowing away as matter every which way, creating space and time in the process. As a result of the co-nascent laws of nature which included a few fundamental interactions, matter and radiant energy such as we know came to be, stars and planets were slowly formed by gravitational enticements, heavy elements were synthesized in the crushed core of super-hot supernovas.

After eons of mute and mechanical routine, mindless matter in elliptical orbits, rugged rocks and slime and sand and things like that, there occurred in this tiny speck in a cosmic corner we call the earth, and quite by accident too, a most remarkable event: the bonding of the first self-replicating molecules igniting biogenesis. This started the unpredictable slide down the giddying path of biological evolution. One thing led to another, and before we knew it, Homo sapiens emerged from apes, and began roaming around in the wilds of Africa. Then there was thought and language and agriculture and culture, and what do you know, thinkers were arguing about how it all began.

This picture was not painted overnight. Nor did it arise from the meditation of a serene sage, the proclamation of the wise man of a clan, or revelations from an archangel. Rather, it has developed from the search and struggle of countless people doing experiments, gathering data, formulating and weighing possibilities, mutually critiquing, revising, reviewing, verifying, rejecting, and finally accepting those ideas that seem most plausible. What matters here is not the correctness of the picture painted, or the sanctity in the source, but the reasons and routes by which one arrived at conclusions.

Some people find this account to be at least as interesting as what our distant ancestors came up with. They also find it persuasive because it is fortified by charts and data and mathematical theories to boot. It is more conjectural conclusion than solemn declaration. Those who are inclined to scientific cosmology grant that there is, as there always will be, something tentative in the scientific vision, but the reasonable coherence in it makes it more appealing to them. After all, if explain you must, then you better pay attention to detail and the deductive mode.

On the other hand, to those who are conditioned to scriptural authority and revealed truths, scientific cosmology is one drab and dismal story in which human beings are mere byproducts, accidents or worse, like some inconsequential mushrooms that sprout in the wilderness and perish. All the grandeur of a magnificent universe with splendid stars in the firmament is reduced in the scientific picture to tenuous hydrogen gas pervading all over and concentrating here and there, to dying stars with nuclear fire at the core, galaxies running amuck every which way like swarms of frightened fowl, sea salts cooking into animalcules. And then, one gives the cold shoulder to God Almighty, there is no room for reverence, no one to laud, sing hymns or be thankful to. All this, from the perspective of traditional religion, is not so much poverty of thought, as mischievous materialism, haughty in its cocksureness, lacking in humility, ignorant of the Divine, and pale when compared to the power and poetry of a glorious God-engendered Creation sanctified by meaning and morality and purpose. Cosmologists, like Laplace, may not need a God-hypothesis, but, like Lagrange, many find it to be beautiful and soothing too.

To those who are conditioned to scriptural authority and revealed truths, scientific cosmology is one drab and dismal story in which human beings are mere byproducts, accidents or worse, like some inconsequential mushrooms that sprout in the wilderness and perish. All the grandeur of a magnificent universe with splendid stars in the firmament is reduced in the scientific picture to tenuous hydrogen gas pervading all over and concentrating here and there, to dying stars with nuclear fire at the core, galaxies running amuck every which way like swarms of frightened fowl, sea salts cooking into animalcules... All this, from the perspective of traditional religion, is not so much poverty of thought, as mischievous materialism, haughty in its cocksureness, lacking in humility, ignorant of the Divine, and pale when compared to the power and poetry of a glorious God-engendered Creation sanctified by meaning and morality and purpose. 4/10/2007 04/10/2007 9883 Multi-Level-Headed: The ins and outs of humor

Last week I wrote about insider and outsider status within popular songs. I ended by extending that theme into humor. There is a lot of humor in which we watch to see whether the insider or the outsider prevails in status. Who’s in first place? Who’s in second? In picaresque humor like Beverly Hills Cop for example, Eddie Murphy, the outsider is clearly cooler than the insiders. A street-savvy outsider dropped into Beverly Hills, wins first place status among a bunch of second place insiders.

Of course, not all humor speaks to whether it’s cooler to be inside our outside. Still, an amazing amount plays with shifts between insider and outsider perspectives. We’re fascinated by the relationship between inside and outside because it plays off the most amazing commonplace we ever ignore: We act levelheaded but we’re really multi-level-headed. (See Going Meta, Upleveling, Four I’s. )

At its simplest, multi-level-headedness plays out on two planes: We’re either participating as insiders or observing from the outside. When things are going smoothly we’re just in it, doing what we’re supposed to be doing. When we encounter resistance, ambiguity, strangeness, or ambivalence, our perspective shifts from being in it to being outside observing it. When a relationship starts to feel less like a groove and more like a rut, we start to think about it rather than merely being in it. A lot of humor plays with the jumps we make between being within it and about it--up out of it.

Multi-level-headed humor starts early. Peek-a-boo is a teasing bounce between in and out. “I’m in here with you. No I’m not. Yes I am.”

Are you laughing at me or with me? If you’re laughing with me, we’re in it together. If you’re laughing at me, you’re outside, observing and parodying me.

A lot of puns are built on this inside/outside tension:

What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino?

Elephino.

Is “elephino” an answer within the context of the question or is it about the question’s unanswerability? It sits unsteadily on the ridge between inside and out.

Abbot and Costello’s “who’s on first; what’s on second” is the same game: Is “who” a reiteration of the question or an answer within the context of the question. The skit is thoroughly implausible--really, whose name sounds anything like “who’s”?--and yet it remains a classic. We’re as enchanted as babies watching the reference point shuttle between in and out.

Parody plays with the jump from inside to outside. You know what it’s like to accommodate someone’s eccentricities up to a point beyond which they feel like parodies of themselves. That is, you’re in it with them until their eccentricity pops you out, and you laugh a little, “sorry, you lost me there,” laugh. Parody takes that outsider perspective to its logical extreme. The characters are all the way inside, and you’re outside observing and laughing.

Austin Powers has no capacity for self-exploration. He never doubts himself, but we do throughout. He’s drawn so eccentrically, with all the features of a secret agent distorted by exaggeration, that the audience is completely outside observing him. Never while watching an Austin Powers movie are we on the edge of our seats rooting for or identifying with him.

If life were all lived at one level it wouldn’t be funny. Cows live at one level. Cows can be funny, of course, but only in the context of our multiple levels. Gender aside, cows are straight men. Cow-tipping, for example, wouldn’t amuse us if the cows were multi-level-headed and saw the humor in it. It’s only funny (to those who think it is) because the cows are so oblivious.

Wallace and Gromit offer an interesting division of labor on multi-level-headedness. Like Austin Powers or a cow, Wallace, the cheese- and invention-loving middle-class British gent, thinks at one level. Though he’s very bouncy, he never bounces out of the action to observe himself. Gromit, the mute (and in fact mouthless) dog, is the sophisticated and multi-level-headed character. He’s often put in compromising situations and we see through his eyes as he bounces from inside his relationship with Wallace to outside observing it. So who is the straight man? By lack of expression it’s Gromit; by lack of self-observation, it’s Wallace.

And if it weren’t tickle enough popping in and out between two levels, there’s the uber-tickle of multiple or infinite levels. The classic is Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic .” A guy goes to the clinic to buy an argument and falls into argument with the service provider about whether they’re having an argument, and then about whether they’re having an argument about having an argument. Abouts about abouts, pushing us ever further up and out.

But mostly, bouncing between a couple of levels is tickle enough. The deadpan delivery of the last word that pops us out of the mainstream game reveals our unedited perspective, as with Oscar Wilde’s line, “Nature is a dark damp place where birds fly about uncooked.”

But seriously (inside), I’m only joking (outside). . . no, but seriously (inside), I’m reminded of Eeyore’s birthday in Winnie the Pooh, a story that I always thought ended very strangely, very uncharacteristically, but now seems to make cosmic sense.

Eeyore the donkey is a beast of burden, a straight man in a state of permanent disappointment. MOGIBO: Me Out. Good In. Bad Out. Because nothing ever goes right for him, he’s always in a rut, and therefore always stuck between levels. He tries to stand outside his circumstances, calmly observing his own misery. When his friends forget his birthday, he says, “After all, what are birthdays? Here today and gone tomorrow.” But really, he’s neither resigned nor grieving, with no signs of shifting reliably to accepting his fate or fighting against it. His standard greeting is “Good morning, if it is a good morning which I doubt.” It’s right on the edge between hoping it’s a good morning and giving up on its being good.

Piglet and Pooh remember Eeyore’s birthday at the last minute. They run home to get him presents. Pooh gets him a pot of honey, but on the way to Eeyore’s house, he forgets that it’s a gift. He eats all the honey and at the last bite suddenly remembers. He decides to just bring the empty honey pot anyway.

Piglet gets Eeyore a leftover balloon from someone else’s birthday party, but on the way to Eeyore’s he trips and the balloon bursts. Piglet decides to bring the balloon shrapnel anyway.

We see what’s coming, another Eeyore disappointment and disaffirmation, another reason for him to half-resignedly bemoan an unjust world.

Pooh and Piglet try desperately to persuade Eeyore that they really meant well but Eeyore is uncharacteristically oblivious. For the first and only time in the book, he is really at peace, joyful in fact. He has discovered a new game.

“Why!” he said. “I believe my Balloon will just go into that Pot!”

“Oh, no, Eeyore,” said Pooh. “Balloons are much too big to go into Pots. What you do with a balloon is, you hold the balloon.”

“Not mine,” said Eeyore proudly. “Look, Piglet!” And as Piglet looked sorrowfully round, Eeyore picked the balloon up with his teeth, and placed it carefully in the pot; picked it out and put it on the ground; and then picked it up again and put it carefully back.

“So it does!” said Pooh. “It goes in!”

“So it does!” said Piglet. “And it comes out!”

“Doesn’t it?” said Eeyore. “It goes in and out like anything.”

“I’m very glad,” said Pooh happily, “that I thought of giving you a Useful Pot to put things in.”

“I’m very glad,” said Piglet happily, “that I thought of giving you something to put in a Useful Pot.”

But Eeyore wasn’t listening. He was taking the balloon out, and putting it back again, as happy as could be. . . .

Eeyore is mesmerized. It goes in and out like anything. Like us wondering who’s on first and what’s on second.

At its simplest, multi-level-headedness plays out on two planes: We’re either participating as insiders or observing from the outside. When things are going smoothly we’re just in it, doing what we’re supposed to be doing. When we encounter resistance, ambiguity, strangeness, or ambivalence, our perspective shifts from being in it to being outside observing it. When a relationship starts to feel less like a groove and more like a rut, we start to think about it rather than merely being in it. A lot of humor plays with the jumps we make between being within it and about it--up out of it. Originally published on Mind Readers Dictionary; www.mindreadersdictionary.org. 4/10/2007 04/10/2007 9884 Lecture: Dr. Christopher Stoughton, Augustine of Hippo and the Cosmologists, 16 April 2007, Villanova, PA, USA

Villanova University is hosting a renowned astrophysicist as part of its Vivian J. Lamb Lecture Series who will speak on: 

"St. Augustine of Hippo and the Cosmologists”

This lecture will be given by:
Dr. Christopher Stoughton of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Monday, 16 April 2007
4 PM

Connelly Center Cinema 
For further information,  call (610) 519-4780 or visit the Augustinian Institute web site at http://www.3.villanova.edu/augustinianinstitute.

----------------------------------------------------------
What do St. Augustine and cosmology have in common? In his 4th century writings did this profound thinker reflect on cosmological issues probed by today’s cartographers of the universe? Might this research lead to a correspondence between religion and science? These and other questions will be explored at a free public lecture with a reception with light refreshments will following in the Presidents’ Lounge.
“The enormous success of physical cosmology leads many to profess the philosophy of materialism. This conclusion is far from inevitable,” he added.
Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), which is systematically mapping the night sky by observing one million spectra and hundreds of millions of images. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Columbia University.

The Lamb Lecture Series, sponsored by Dr. Michael G. Lamb, a Villanova graduate and physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, acts as a platform for faith and religion to be in conversation with each other without prejudice or presuppositions. Instituted in 2004, the series has brought leading thinkers in religion, the sciences and philosophy to Villanova to lecture on thought-provoking topics like “Looking for God in All the Wrong Places: Evolution and the challenge from Intelligent Design,” “Why god Won’t Go Away,” and “Philosophical History and the Problem of Consciousness.”
“The role of a Catholic Augustinian university is to provide a forum for the open discussion of these questions. The inspiration for these lectures was St. Augustine’s belief that there is no incompatibility between science and religion – that they all come from God,” Martin added.

Jones, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, ruled in 2005 that the Dover School Board improperly introduced religion into the classroom when it required science teachers to read a statement to 9th grade biology students stating that evolution is "just a theory," and that there were alternative theories to consider. Since the only alternative theory offered was intelligent design, Jones ruled that the school board was, in essence, incorporating God into the public classroom.

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect," Jones wrote. "However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom to misrepresent well-established scientific proportions."

Jones' presentation follows intelligent design supporter Dr. Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and author of "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution."

Jones was named one of the "10 Sexiest Geeks of 2005" by the Website Wired News, and was one of Time magazine's "100 most influential people of the year" in 2006.

"It's very important that these open dialogues regarding religion and science take place in an environment that promotes both intellectual and spiritual development," said Dr. Antoinette Iadarola, president of Cabrini. "One does not need to choose between religion and science, and may find a balance between the two."

 

 

4/12/2007 04/12/2007 9897 Announcement: Prof. J. Wentzel van Huyssteen is the first recipient of the Andrew Murray-Desmond Tutu Prize for the Best Christian Theological Book by a South African

The Alone in the World?,published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in the USA.

 /></p><p style=font-family: Arial;><font size=2>This book, with the subtitle <em style=Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology, is an edited version of Van Huyssteen’s Gifford lectures, given in Edinburgh, Scotland, during 2004. Van Huyssteen discusses at length the extremely important issue of the relationship between science and religion. The judges describe it as a “complete book in a way that you rarely see.” Van Huyssteen is at home in theology as well as philosophy, and here he deals with human origins in paleoanthropology in relation to theological anthropology. One could say that the very notion of interdisciplinarity requires specialized skills in more than one field, and professor Van Huyssteen has demonstrated those skills in an exemplary way. What we have in this book is nothing less than a text, which will move the whole issue of the relationship of science and religion a long step forward. Gone are the days, it seems, when the one (leaning towards scientism) tried to make do without the other (leaning towards fundamentalism). Van Huyssteen explored the interdisciplinary dialogue between theology and paleoanthropology, and specifically questions of human uniqueness, by focussing on the meaning of prehistoric European cave paintings as some of the oldest surviving expressions of human symbolic activity. His conclusion is that theology and paleoanthropology converge on the fact that humans, with Die Burger).

Van Huyssteen studied at Stellenboch and the Free University of Amsterdam, was minister of the Dutch Reformed Congregation Noorder-Paarl, and lectured at the University of Port Elizabeth, before he became the James I. McCord Professor of Theology and Science at Princeton Theological Seminary, USA, in 1992. Some of his other publications are Duet or Duel? Theology and Science in a Postmodern World (1998), and www.mindreadersdictionary.org. 4/18/2007 04/18/2007
9901 shalom/salaam: The Untold Story of a Mystical Entanglement <p class=ve_image><a href=http://www.tomblock.com/detail.php?id=130><img class=ve_image alt=;">  src=http://www.metanexus.net/Magazine/Portals/0/VisualExplorations/baalshemtovsm.jpg></a> <a href=http://www.tomblock.com/detail.php?id=132><img class=ve_image alt=  src=http://www.metanexus.net/Magazine/Portals/0/VisualExplorations/dhulnunsm.jpg></a><br><a href=http://www.tomblock.com/detail.php?id=137><img class=ve_image alt=
 src=http://www.metanexus.net/Magazine/Portals/0/VisualExplorations/ibnarabism.jpg></a> <a href=http://www.tomblock.com/detail.php?id=136><img class=ve_image alt=  src=http://www.metanexus.net/Magazine/Portals/0/VisualExplorations/rabiasm.jpg></a> <a href=http://www.tomblock.com/detail.php?id=157><img class=ve_image alt=
(Click each for information and full size image)

©2007 Tom Block

Shalom/Salaam: The Untold Story of a Mystical Entanglement is an interdisciplinary project predicated on the belief that contemporary art, at its best, can move outside of the narrow confines of the art world, approaching the general public through genuinely creative thought and a gentle activism.

Specifically, my Shalom/Salaam Project highlights the strong Sufi influence on the development of Jewish mysticism, following this unfamiliar tale from 11 th century Spain and Egypt, through the Kabbalah and into the Baal Shem Tov's Hasidism in the 18th century. I believe that the popularization of this positive story can help facilitate the peace dialogue between Jews and Arabs, becoming part of the healing process of that fractured relationship.

Based in my own original research about Jewish and Muslim mystics that studied together, read each other's texts and openly borrowed ideas from the other religion's mystical masters, Shalom/Salaam is a unique mixture of art, writing, scholarship and activism. Through a series of art shows, written pieces, forums and other activities, the Shalom/Salaam project introduces this tale of spiritual entanglement to a diverse audience.

Read more about Shalom/Salaam, and see more images in the series, on the artist's website.

4/23/2007 04/23/2007 9902 Lecture: Dr. Scott Hegrenes, Understanding Evolution: From 'Missing Links' to Modern Science, 2 May 2007, Kenosha, WI

The Science and Religion Colloquium at Carthage with support from the Metanexus Institute’s Local Societies Initiative presents  a lecture by Dr. Scott Hegrenes of the Carthage Biology Department, titled:

“Understanding Evolution: From ‘Missing Links’ to Modern Science”

 Wednesday, 2 May 2007
8:00 pm

Niemann Media Theater
Hedberg Library
Carthage College
Kenosha, WI

For more information, contact:
Dan Schowalter
schowa@carthage.edu

4/24/2007 04/24/2007 9903 Website: Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, Launched a New Website, 15 April 2007 The Center for Spirtuality, Theology and Health's new website just became live within the past week. They have been working to update the form and content on the website for 6 months.  It is now an unparalleled source of information about spirituality and health.

Information on the following topics is available there:

(1) spirituality and health grants
(2) workshops and lectures
(4) spirituality & health membership society
(5) post-doc fellowships
(6) past research on spirituality and health
(7) latest research at Duke and throughout the world from 2000-2007
(8) books
(9) national and international speakers schedule
(10) links to other spirituality and health organizations

Please visit the website at www.dukespiritualityandhealth.org.

Bear with STH since there may be a few kinks that still need to be worked out.

NOTE: There are still a few slots left for the summer research workshops.  The July 16-20 workshop is almost full, although the August 13-17 workshop has about 10 slots available.  The August 4 clinical practice workshop also has slots available.  Information about these workshops and how to register for them can be found on the website above.

In about a week, STH will announce a Request for Research Proposals (RFP) on spirituality and health (seven $200,000 grants), so be alert for that.

4/24/2007 04/24/2007 9904 Call for Papers: SophiaEuropa Project, European Identity: Culture, Technology and Religion,ù 2-4 July 2007, Cracow, Poland Sophia Europa is hosting its 2nd International Conference, titled:


“European Identity: Culture, Technology and Religion”


2-4 July 2007


Conference Place:


                                                                                                Notification to authors:
Monday, 14 May 2007
 

 The accepted papers will be published in the conference post-proceedings volume.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

 


- RELIGION & CULTURE
- VALUES & EUROPE
- TECHNOLOGY, SCIENCE & VALUES
- CULTURE & VALUES


For a more detailed Conference thematic description, please visit:Program Committee

-         Eoin Devereux (University of Limerick, Ireland)

-         Zbigniew Kotulski (Polish Academy of Sciences, Instit. of Fund. Technol. Res., Poland)

-         Chris Russell (University of Wales Institute, Great Britain)

 

  The full cost of the conference is 360 Euro and covers participation at the conference, coffee breaks during the Conference, 3 nights at the hotel 2/3, 3/4, 4/5 with breakfast, lunches at 3.07 and 4.07, dinners at 2.07 and 4.07, Conference dinner at 3.07.

 
For details, contact the Conference Office, at:

sophiawa@ippt.gov.pl.

-         1st International Conference on Culture, Technology and Religion Topic (SophiaEurope Project) - Limerick, May 11-13, 2006 – (http://www.mic.ul.ie/theology/researchcentres.htm).


 

The speaker will be Marco Bersanelli, Full Professor of Astrophysics in the State University of Milan and Chairman of the National Euresis Society.
7.30 p.m.

 

Main Lecture Hall
Dept. of Physics and Astronomy
University of Catania
Via S. Sofia, 64
Catania, Italy

 

For more information, please contact:
Prof. Raffaele Bonomo at rbonomo@dipchi.unict.it
or
Prof. Franco Riggi at franco.riggi@ct.infn.it

--------------------------------------------------

 

Marco Bersanelli will speak about the relationship between human reason and physical reality from the viewpoint of an astrophysicist engaged in research in the field of cosmology at the forefront of contemporary science. 

This conference is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Metanexus Institute through the LSI grant project, and the University of Catania.

4/24/2007 04/24/2007 9906 Lecture: Michael Ruse, ìThe Evolution-Creation Struggle: An American Story,î 9 May 2007, Madison, WI

The Isthmus Society Presents:  

“The Evolution-Creation Struggle: An American Story”

A public lecture by Michael Ruse, Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at FSU

Wednesday, 9 May 2007
4-5:30

325/326 Pyle Center
UW-Madison
702 Langdon Street
Madison, WI


This event is FREE and OPEN to the PUBLIC.


Dr. Andrew Newberg, Program Director of the newly formed multidisciplinary center, the University of Pennsylvania Center for Spirituality and the Mind is pleased to announce the 10th Annual Spirituality Research Symposium. 

 

---------------------------------------------------------  This symposium will also consider the more global role of spirituality in health care service delivery.

 

Jean Kristeller, Ph.D., received her doctorate in clinical and health psychology from Yale University in 1983.  Previous appointments have been at Harvard University Medical School and the Univ. of Massachusetts Medical School.           

  At Penn he has taught courses in spiritual belief and in alternative healing traditions since 1979.Rev. Paul Derrickson is an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served at the Hershey Medical Center since 1981 as the Associate and as Coordinator since 1995.  Paul's primary focus has been developing and articulating the new role for chaplaincy in the changing health care environment.Gail Morrison, MD, is Vice Dean for Education and Director of the Office of Academic Programs at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  She developed and implemented Curriculum 2000® and Virtual Curriculum 2000® -- an innovative, integrated and modular four-year curriculum for students of the 21st century.  She was one of the five founding members of the Clerkship Directors of Internal Medicine, and was recently appointed Chair of the AAMC Medical Student Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee.  She interned in Internal Medicine at Beth Israel in Boston and completed her residency at Georgetown Hospital.           

  She currently teaches courses on humanistic medicine, holistic healthcare and therapeutic writing.  As a research assistant professor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine, she was the principal investigator of a study on spirituality and mental health.  She is the co-editor of Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Older Adults a compendium of articles on holistic approaches to healthy aging.Andrew Newberg, M.D. is an Associate Professor of Radiology at the University of Pennsylvania and is director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind.

4/24/2007 04/24/2007 9908 Lecture: Dwight Hopkins, Ecological Justice/Environmental Racism, 25 April 2007, Chicago, IL, USA The Zygon Center for Religion and Science is hosting an Earth Week Lecture, titled:

“Ecological Justice/ Environmental Racism.”

Dwight Hopkins, Professor of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School

Wednesday, 25 April 2007
7:00 to 8:30 p.m.


 

---------------------------------------------------

 

Hopkins is Professor of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School.  He researches and writes on contemporary models of theology, black theology, and liberation theologies.http://www.ashgate.com/subject_area/downloads/sample_chapters/Exploratio... contents list</a><br /><a target=_window href=http://www.ashgate.com/subject_area/downloads/sample_chapters/Exploratio... /><a target=_window href=http://www.ashgate.com/subject_area/downloads/sample_chapters/Exploratio... the 1990s great strides were taken in clarifying how the brain is involved in behaviors that, in the past, had seldom been studied by neuroscientists or psychologists. This book explores the progress begun during that momentous decade in understanding why we behave, think and feel the way we do, especially in those areas that interface with religion. What is happening in the brain when we have a religious experience? Is the soul a product of the mind which is, in turn, a product of the brain? If so, what are the implications for the Christian belief in an afterlife? If God created humans for the purpose of having a relationship with him, should we expect to find that our spirituality is a biologically evolved human trait? What effect might a disease such as Alzheimer's have on a person's spirituality and relationship with God? <br /><br />Neuroscience and psychology are providing information relevant to each of these questions, and many Christians are worried that their religious beliefs are being threatened by this research. Kevin Seybold attempts to put their concerns to rest by presenting some of the scientific findings coming from these disciplines in a way that is understandable yet non-threatening to Christian belief.</p><p align=left>----------------------------------------------------</p><p>Contents:<br />Introduction – Neuroscience – Psychology – Religion - Philosophy of Science - Integration issues - Brain and religion - The self - Evolutionary psychology - Religion/spirituality and health - The future? – Bibliography - Index. <br /></p><div>$99.95/£50.00</div><p>ISBN: 0 7546 5563 6 <br />Publication Date: 05/2007<br />Number of Pages: 174 pages<br />British Library Reference: 612.8'01<br />Library of Congress Reference: 2006022470<br /></p> 4/24/2007 04/24/2007
9910 Book Announcement: Maxwell Bennett, Baniel Dennett, Peter Hacker and John Searle, Neuroscience & Philosophy: Brain, Mind, and Language, Columbia University Press, 2007 <p class=MsoNormal><font size=3><o:p></o:p>Columbia University Press has recently published a book where three prominent philosophers and a leading neuroscientist clash over the conceptual presuppositions of cognitive neuroscience.<span style=;"> 
The book is titled:


“Neuroscience and Philosophy:  Maxwell Bennett, Daniel Dennett, Peter Hacker, and John Searle with an introduction and conclusion by Daniel N. Robinson
 

BUY ONLINE

$24.50
cloth
240 pages
10 halftones, 0 color illus., 0 line drawings, 0 tables
ISBN: 0-231-14044-4

For more information, please contact Customer Service.
 

  Introduction, by Daniel Robinson - The Argument, Selections from Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience - Neuroscience and Philosophy, by Maxwell R. Bennett - The Rebuttals - -

"If you can get two sworn and unrestrained philosophical enemies such as Daniel Dennett and John Searle to join forces against you, you must at the very least be described as the controversialists of our time."

—Akeel Bilgrami, Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy and director, Heyman Centre for the Humanities, Columbia University

 

Neuroscience and Philosophy presents the thought-provoking intellectual exchange on the conceptual presuppositions of cognitive neuroscience that took place at the 2005 meeting of the American Philosophical Association in New York.  It aroused widespread interest and was chosen for an "authors and critics" debate at the APA.  In the impassioned debate that ensued, fundamentally different conceptions of philosophical method, cognitive-neuroscientific explanation, and human nature clashed.

The themes discussed in this engaging and highly readable confrontation have a wide range.  It is left to the reader, as it was left to the audience of the original debate, to decide which conception is appropriate.

In his conclusion, Daniel Robinson (Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University) summarizes the arguments and makes clear why the debate is so crucial for the understanding of neuroscientific research.
About the Authors


www.metanexus.net/>www.metanexus.net</a>). <o5p></o5p></p> 4/24/2007 04/24/2007
9916 scientific biogenesis and some religious reaction <p>from the perspective of traditional religions, life-forms were invariably created very soon after the creation of the physical world. here is another context in which science differs radically in its view of biogenesis. </p><p>for, per current science, it was only billions of years after cosmogenesis that biogenesis occurred. in the remote past, more than three billion years ago, and barely a billion years after the formation of our planet, there were lands barren and waste, volcanoes steaming and puffing sulfuric fumes, and oceans of salt-free waters. the earth's atmosphere consisted then largely of hydrogen, ammonia, methane, and a few other gases. gigantic clouds and torrential rains rose and fell, seeping salts from land to pristine sea. in the mammoth laboratories of the earth's oceans and airs, kindled by heat and lightning, by radiations from the sun and other excitants, the turbulent chemistry of the early molecules churned out the first organic structures. carbohydrates and amino acids were thus concocted. these increased in complexity as further reactions took place. the waters of the period constituted what has been described as a primordial soup in which mutual interactions of the components gave rise to molecules of ever increasing size and intricacy. energy trapping mechanisms came into play. after myriad patterns and permutations, mysterious entities with the property of self-replication emerged. these again grew in numbers and variety, until at last nucleic acids and proteins were formed. the wonder of life had begun.</p><p>all we can say is that such seem to been some of the natural consequences of the physicochemical context in which the earth found itself at that time. whatever the ultimate cause of it all, the end result, the first palpitations of life were truly magnificent. but this was only an inkling of grander glories yet to come.</p><p>once the spark of life was lit, the self-replicating systems began to multiply in number and variety. the nucleic acids embodying the subtle coding that preserves life patterns slipped now and then. these changes in structures were the mutations which may be looked upon either as responses to unceasing turmoil in the earth's physicochemical features, or as alterations resulting from changing conditions.</p><p>the first embers of life began to evolve along countless directions. as ages rolled by, and grand upheavals shook the planet's crust, ever newer kinds of plants and creatures shaped themselves. both land and sea became homes for innumerable life forms. amphibians, insects, reptiles, and mammals, all evolved along with a picturesque plethora of plants and trees. after well over a billion years of such experimentation, the evolving principles brought forth the product we call the human race. homo sapiens emerged from apes, and began roaming the wilds of africa. then there was thought and language and agriculture and culture, and thinkers arguing about how it all began.</p><p>this picture of the origin of life was not painted overnight. it did not arise from the meditation of a serene sage, or the proclamation of the elder of a clan, or from revelations from archangels to a selected personage. rather, it developed from the search and struggle of countless people doing experiments, gathering data, formulating and weighing possibilities, mutually critiquing, revising, reviewing, verifying, rejecting, and finally accepting those ideas that seem most plausible. what matters in science is not the correctness of the picture painted, nor the sanctity in the source, but the reasons and routes by which one arrives at conclusions.</p><p>some people find this account to be at least as interesting as what our distant ancestors came up with. they also find it persuasive because it is fortified by charts and data and mathematical theories to boot. it is more conjectural <em>conclusion</em> than solemn proclamation or intelligent speculation. those who are inclined to scientific cosmology grant that there is, as there always will be, something tentative in the scientific vision, but its reasonable coherence makes it more appealing. after all, if explain you must, then you better pay attention to detail and to the deductive mode.</p><p>on the other hand, to those who are conditioned to scriptural authority and revealed truths, scientific cosmology is one drab and dismal story in which human beings are mere byproducts, accidents or worse, like inconsequential mushrooms that sprout in the wilderness and perish. all the grandeur of a magnificent universe with splendid stars in the firmament is reduced in this picture to tenuous hydrogen gas pervading all over and concentrating here and there, to dying stars with nuclear fire at the core, galaxies running amuck every which way like swarms of frightened fowl, sea salts cooking into animalcules. more seriously, the scientific picture seems to gives the cold shoulder to god almighty, it leaves no room for reverence or thankfulness. </p><p>from the perspective of traditional religions, al this is not so much poverty of thought, as mischievous materialism, haughty in its cocksureness, lacking in humility, ignorant of the divine, and pale when compared to the power and poetry of a glorious god-engendered creation sanctified by meaning, morality and purpose. cosmologists, like laplace, may not need a god-hypothesis, but many find it to be beautiful, soothing, and worth having.</p> once the spark of life was lit, the self-replicating systems began to multiply in number and variety. the nucleic acids embodying the subtle coding that preserves life patterns slipped now and then. these changes in structures were the mutations which may be looked upon either as responses to unceasing turmoil in the earth's physicochemical features, or as alterations resulting from changing conditions. the first embers of life began to evolve along countless directions. as ages rolled by, and grand upheavals shook the planet's crust, ever newer kinds of plants and creatures shaped themselves. both land and sea became homes for innumerable life forms. 4/25/2007 04/25/2007
9917 coherence5 making our ideas consistent with each other <p><strong><em>"you’re wrong4 it's not the same thing at all." </em></strong></p><p>you press a friend on an inconsistency, some double standard that has him talking out of both sides of his mouth. he denies it and you're left to wonder who's right, him or you? </p><p>well of course it depends. maybe he is being consistent and his subtle reasoning is simply beyond you, or maybe he just doesn't want to look at the conflict between two beliefs he embraces. if he's a friend you don't want to lose, you don't press too hard. </p><p>in the pursuit of truth, there are two primary standards. one is correspondence -- that your ideas are consistent with the evidence. the other is coherence -- that your ideas are consistent with each other. we challenge each other on both correspondence and coherence. challenging on correspondence, we say, "you're not facing the evidence.” challenging on coherence, we say, "you’re contradicting yourself." </p><p>it’s generally easier to get people to face evidence than it is to get them to face their own double standards. if you pursue someone down the rabbit hole in an effort to nail down inconsistency, you're likely to get lost, and your target is likely to get away with a dismissive, "i’m being consistent, you just don't get it." as an outsider, you’re more qualified to bring outside evidence to bear than you are to inventory inconsistencies inside someone's mind. </p><p>there are taboos against confronting people on their inconsistencies. we talk about people’s inconsistencies a lot but mostly behind their backs. and we generally act as though our minds and everyone’s are perfectly coherent, or at least as though everyone holds coherency as a supreme <a href=http5//www.mindreadersdictionary.com/dictionary/item.aspx?user_id=site&dict_id=.... </p><p>but how could we really? we accumulate our beliefs one by one. before adding each new belief, we couldn't possibly test it against everything we already believe. some incoherence is inevitable. </p><p>nonetheless, when we go spelunking around in our own minds, we generally find coherence. maybe that's because we're careful to avoid looking directly at the inconsistencies. straightening out our inconsistencies generally entails hard work and sacrifice. if you find a real inconsistency between two of your cherished beliefs, you may have to give one of them up. </p><p>we’re all a little reluctant to do the hard work of cleaning up our double standards, but some of us are less reluctant than others. some of us even cultivate a countervailing enthusiasm for discovering our own double standards. we’re still troubled by them, but we've discovered that approaching rather than avoiding them, and doing the hard work necessary to resolve them rather than the easy work of papering over them, often pays off in new wisdom -- beliefs that more accurately correspond to the universe we live in. </p> when we go spelunking around in our own minds, we generally find coherence. maybe that's because we're careful to avoid looking directly at the inconsistencies. straightening out our inconsistencies generally entails hard work and sacrifice. if you find a real inconsistency between two of your cherished beliefs, you may have to give one of them up. 4/25/2007 04/25/2007
9925 the new sciences of religion <p>the last few years have witnessed a torrent of new books by noted scientists purporting to scientifically explain religion, mostly with the intentions of explaining religion away (stenger 2007), (dawkins 2006), (dennett 2006), (harris 2006), (hamer 2005), (harris 2004), (wilson 2002), (boyer 2001). what is religion? what is spirituality? how does one study it? how does one teach it? what does it mean to take a scientific approach to the study of religion? are religions healthy and functional for individuals and societies, or are they unhealthy and dysfunctional? these are difficult questions at the center of some of the most challenging controversies of the 21st century.</p><p>in this essay, i employ the metaphor of <em>inside</em> and <em>outside</em> to characterize different ways of studying religion (mccutcheon 1999). in studying religion from the <em>outside</em> through science, i will survey different theories advocated and the limitations of those theories. i will argue for pluralistic methodologies in the scientific study of religious and spiritual phenomena. i will also argue that religious persons and institutions should welcome scientific investigation, because science impacts only interpretative strategies and does not present a fundamental challenge to core religious commitments. in the end, i will deconstruct the circle and challenge the boundaries that place religion on the <em>inside</em> as the subject and science on the <em>outside</em> as the objective on-looker. i begin and end with the problem of definitions.</p><p align=center><strong>the problem of definitions</strong></p><p>the words themselves – religion and spirituality – beg for rigorous definitions, but this will prove elusive. the term “religion” is derived from the latin verb <em>religare</em>, which means “to tie together, to bind fast”. in the original understanding, “religion” was about expressing proper piety, i.e., binding oneself to god. later the term would also be used to designate a bounded belief systems and set of practices, as in the religions of the greeks, romans, jews, muslims, hindus, chinese, and others.</p><p>today, in the united states, it is quite common for people to say that they are “spiritual, not religious”. the definition of “spiritual” is also elusive. the term derives from the latin <em>spiritus</em>. the latin verb root is <em>spirare</em>, literally, “to breathe or blow”. the connotation is that we are surrounded by a divine reality as pervasive, intimate, necessary, and invisible as the air we breathe. similar concepts can be found in the hindu word <em>prana</em>. the chinese concept of <em>chi</em> energy may be analogous. jewish mystics noted that the sacred name of god in hebrew, <em>yhwh</em>, a name written in the bible but never pronounced aloud by pious jews, might itself be understood as the sound of human breath – an inhalation <em>yh</em> and an exhalation <em>wh</em>. thus, every time a person breathes, she is actually saying the name of god. muslim mystics made similar claims about the aspiration of the name <em>allah</em>. to talk of spirituality then is to affirm that there is an all-encompassing realm, an invisible reality that somehow transcends and sustains human life, consciousness, and values.</p><p>in the contemporary context, the use of the phrase “spiritual, not religious” is to disassociate oneself from the institutional and historical manifestations of religions. one wants the “goods” without the long histories of failures and hypocrisy. religions are organized groups. spirituality is something an individual can have without being implicated in the ambivalent complexity of human societies and institutions. in this sense, “spiritual, not religious” can be seen as a modern manifestation of a historical, sociological cycle of trying to recapture the imagined authentic origins of religion. humans, of course, are a social and political species, so it is only a matter of time before “spirituality” also gets messy. indeed, the notion “spiritual, not religious” is itself the product of a culture that emphasizes individualism and consumerism. it is also the product of a religious history of recurrent reformations that seek to return to an original, unmediated, pure connection with a foundational moment, a mystical experience, or the teachings of a charismatic leader.</p><p>i prefer the term “religion” precisely because it invites us to look at, and more importantly take responsibility for, the entire complexity of the phenomena – the good, the bad, and the ambivalent – which is not to say that i do not also seek to breathe and take direct personal inspiration from an invisible spiritual reality which is all around me, everywhere, all of the time. i just do not trust myself or anyone else to be an unbiased and uncorrupted pure vessel for that everywhere-present presence, whatever it might be.</p><p>the term “religion” does not simply translate into other cultures and languages. in sanskrit, the hindu term used to indicate “religion” is <em>dharma</em>, which means the teaching or practice, but this is hardly a parallel concept, and much that is not <em>dharma</em> would count as religion in hinduism. in chinese, the term <em>zongjiao</em> was coined in the modern era to mean “religion”. the etymology of the term reflects a confucian understanding of the teaching of lineage. in judaism, the hebrew word <em>dat,</em> meaning law, is used to indicate “religion,” reflecting a jewish religious pre-occupation with religious laws and justice. in arabic, the term “religion” is translated as <em>din</em>, meaning simply the path or the way. regardless of how it is translated, the modern european concept of religion has now traveled the world and humans everywhere in our global civilization struggle to understand how religions stand apart from and perhaps transcend other dimensions of human culture.</p><p align=center><strong>religion from the inside</strong></p><p>most people in the past and even today study religion from the <em>inside</em>, as a believer and a practicioner of a particular tradition. a jew studies judaism4 a buddhist studies buddhism4 a muslim studies islam. later we will consider what it means to study religion from the <em>outside</em>, as a non-believer and non-practitioner, but for now it is important to note that a serious study of a religion from the <em>inside</em> is complicated and engaging work. the subject matter – “my religion” – deals with <u>self, society, and cosmos</u>. religion from the <em>inside</em> has a lot to say about what it means to be a fully realized individual human, living in a social context with other humans in a universe imbued with power, purpose, and significance.</p><p>the subject matter – my religion – is <u>diverse, particular, and universal</u>. any serious study of one’s own religion from the <em>inside</em> will show that there is heterogeneity within any major tradition. the tradition as a whole and in its diversity relates to particular histories, languages, and cultures. in spite of this diversity and particularism, every religion is also making universal truth claims that apply to all humans everywhere at all times, indeed truth claims about the fundamental character of the universe as a whole. one of the major preoccupations of the study of religion from the <em>inside</em> is this diversity and arguing for normative views of one’s particular understanding of a tradition in opposition to what would be seen as heretical understandings of that same tradition – liberal interpretations versus conservative interpretations, charismatic mystical approaches versus rational textual approaches, sunni muslims versus shiite muslims, theravada buddhists versus mahayana buddhists, protestant christians versus catholic christians, evangelical protestants versus other protestants, and so forth.</p><p>for instance, there are hundreds of different sects within christianity. recently, i had the opportunity to visit with maronite christians in lebanon. they speak arabic in their homes and use the ancient language of syriac-aramaic in their liturgies. their priests marry, but the maronite church is affiliated with the roman catholic church that forbids priest to marry. it would take a lot of history to explain this interesting situation. in spite of this particularism, their understanding of christianity - of sin, sacrifice, sanctification, and salvation - is taken to be universally true for all people, not just lebanese maronites. we could fill this article and indeed many libraries with other examples around the world of a tradition’s diversity, particularity, and universality.</p><p>it turns out that a serious study of religion from the <em>inside</em> requires a lot of work. one needs to study the tradition, its sacred scriptures, the original languages in which scriptures were written, the translations and interpretations of those scriptures, the histories of the tradition, the legal codes and case law within that tradition, the liturgical practices, the saints and sages, the tradition’s teachings about the everyday mundane life, and all of this while paying attention to one’s own personal experiences as a believer and practitioner within the tradition. of course, studying the tradition – my religion – is supremely about some concept of the sacred, the divine, a notion of transcendence, god-by-whatever-name (see diagram 1).</p><br clear=all><p><strong>diagram 1</strong></p><p align=center><img height=435 alt=diagram 1 width=575 src=/magazine/portals/0/articles/9921_diagram1.jpg></p><p>we will come back to the divine mystery, the god-by-whatever-name question, at the center of all religious phenomena again and again in this discussion. we will never be done with it. note, however, how intimidating a serious study of religion from the <em>inside</em> would be. a scholar of christianity, for instance, would need to know latin, greek, and hebrew, just to begin with biblical interpretation. if he is a serious scholar, he is also going to study aramaic and syriac, because these were the languages actually spoken in first century palestine by jesus and the apostles. then he is certainly going to need to know french, german, and english, because so much of christian history and thought was shaped <em>inside</em> of these european languages and cultures. and that is just the language study part of the curriculum.</p><p>believers and practitioners of a religion are always looking for a short cut to the sacred that will by-pass all of this hard work - and understandably so. it is just too much homework and life is short. hence, the contemporary phenomenon of “spiritual, not religious” is indeed a recurrent phenomenon as old as humanity. religion would be pretty useless if one were required to do all of this hard work. hence, the hope and the promise of having “authentic” experience and “unmediated” inspiration of the spiritual origins that motivates the religious quest. in the christian idiom, we might call such an experience being “born again”, but who would not prefer the ecstasy of saint paul at the crossroads instead of the agony of jesus on the cross. spiritual inspiration is just so much easier than strenuous scholarship or sacrificial service. of course, a lifetime devoted to the serious study of religion from the <em>inside</em>, particularly in the contemporary world, is not likely to be a very remunerative career choice.</p><p align=center><strong>the challenge of comparative religion</strong></p><p>today, we are also all confronted with the challenge of studying religion from the <em>outside</em>, because we live in a world where we are confronted with diverse beliefs and practices. the german poet and philosopher johann wolfgang von goethe said that “he who knows one, knows none”. goethe was talking about human languages. if you only know your <em>muttersprache</em>, the language you were raised speaking, then you do not even really understand the magic of language at all. it is precisely by learning a foreign language with some facility and felicity that one understands grammatical, semantic, and semiotic structure of language in general, including one’s own.</p><p>the question is whether goethe’s aphorism about human languages is applicable to human religions. when studying a human language, after a lot of hard work and practice, one can hope to experience a remarkable and progressive gestalt shift in which <em>outside</em> knowing becomes <em>inside</em> knowing. when fluency is acquired, the student begins to think, feel, and dream <em>inside</em> of that foreign language, no longer translating as she goes, but living within that language. can one have the same experience of a foreign religion? can one be fully muslim and buddhist, at the same time, switching back and forth, as if between english and french? can one be christian, jewish, and hindu at the same time, especially when we understand that the traditions themselves sometimes talk of exclusive truth claims available only to the initiated member? it may not be possible, but one of the useful insights from the analogy to human languages is that we should not think it easy to obtain multiple “fluencies” in comparative religions. comparative religion may be no easier to approach than say learning mandarin or tamil as an outsider.</p><p align=center><strong>the religion of no religion</strong></p><p>another reason that we are confronted with the challenge of studying religion from the <em>outside</em> is that many today claim to have no religion at all, to have rejected religious claims to truth as false consciousness and irrational ideologies. the supposed vantage point that allows one to reject all religious worldviews <em>in toto</em> is science or more appropriately scientism. the aim of scientism is to replace religion with a scientific and rational view of the self, society, and cosmos, a view that must be both factual and normative. this, of course, is the view of most of the authors mentioned at the beginning of this essay, who in these current books purport to naturalize and explain religion away – as far away as possible.</p><p>with the rise of modern science and the european enlightenment, religion was increasingly seen as a thing apart, a set of beliefs and practices that were superstitious, irrational, regressive, and backwards. the french philosopher august comte (1798-1857) proposed a theory of cultural history understood as staged developments in which religion would be replaced by science. thus, science was seen as the rational and natural successor to religion. it is in this milieu that the social sciences arose in the 19th century, including the notion of the scientific study of religion (sharpe 1986) (pals 1996).</p><p>karl marx (1818-1883) argued that the economic system was foundational in understanding human society. if the economic system changed, then everything about the society would also change – legal system, educational system, the family system, and also the religious beliefs and institutions. marx used the metaphor of a house with its foundation and the superstructure built on top of this base. economics was privileged in marx’s view, because it was through the economic system that humans got the very necessities of survival. change the economic base, i.e., the modes of production, and everything in the superstructure would have to change as well. the medieval economy was based on feudal estates owned by nobility and agricultural labor provided by peasants. in marx’s understanding, this feudal economic system gave rise to the institution and beliefs of the catholic church. with rise of middle class merchants, guilds, and industrialization in early capitalism, catholicism gave way to protestantism. marx developed the idea of alienation and false consciousness. belief in god was a fantasy, akin to children believing in santa claus, and resulted in humans being alienated from their true potential to become creative laborers. marx famously referred to religion as “the opium of the masses” because it promoted docility among terribly oppressed workers in the growing industrial cities in europe.</p><p>[to the extent that marx was on to something true about religions, we should be expecting profound changes in religions in the 21st century based on the current globalized economic system of production.]</p><p>sigmund freud (1856-1939) also believed that religion was an unhealthy illusion. he rejected marx’s theories as overly optimistic about human capacities to lead moral lives in harmonious cooperation with others. for freud, the base or foundation of human society was to be found in the instincts and structures of the human psyche. the human brain was shaped by millennia of evolution and the necessity of survival and reproduction. note that freud shares with marx a materialist understanding of psycho-social causation. note also that freud is influenced by darwin in emphasizing survival and reproduction as the biological backdrop imprinted in the structures of our brain. freud understood there to be an eternal struggle between our individual instincts for sex, food, and aggression and the needs of society for us to control our instincts. fulfilling our instinctual desires makes us content, but renders life short and brutish, full of deadly competition. denying our instinctual desires, as required by civilization, makes us miserable, but renders life orderly and luxurious. freud understood religion to be one of the ways that society programmed the “superego”, the internalized “should”, the guilt that regulates the instinctual “id”. freud understood belief in god to be a form of “infantile regression”. man creates god in our own image, not the reverse, in order to have an imaginary protective parent-figure in our psyche to comfort and control us in adult life.</p><p>there are many other social scientists we could mention and discuss at this stage – emil durkheim (1858-1917), maximillian weber (1864-1920), e.b. tylor (1832-1917), james george frazer (1854-1915). they all bought in to what would later be called “secularization theory,” a recycling of august comte’s vision of historical progress of leaving religion behind (preus 1996). their philosophy became the default ideology of elite european and american universities in the 20th century with the disestablishment of the protestant establishments in most of those same universities (marsden 1996), (hollinger 1996). whatever else one can say about religion in the 21st century, it appears that secularization theory is patently wrong. increased scientific insights and economic benefits do not inextricably lead to secularization. this empirical fact is alternately ignored or denounced by many in higher education today.</p><p>one important exception in this anti-religious trend among social scientists was the american psychologist william james (1842-1910). james is regarded as a pioneer in the philosophical movement known as pragmatism and the psychological movement known as functionalism. james argued that the truth of a belief or practice is established <em>a posteriori</em> by its practical, functional consequences in someone’s life. if belief in god leads to a healthy and constructive life, then it could be understood as true for all practical purposes. the individual’s experiences and the lived consequences of those experiences in life were proof enough of the truth of religion. in his famous book <em>varieties of religious experience</em> (1902), james developed a phenomenological approach to religion, taking first person accounts of religious experiences of numerous historical persons at face value, adopting an attitude of positive agnosticism towards the larger truth claims, and looking towards the functional and practical consequences of those beliefs, practices, and experiences in the individual’s life (james (1902) 1961). we shall return later to this approach – the phenomenology of religion, along with functional accounts and pragmatic assessments of religion.</p><p>what is important to note at this stage of our discussion is that the social sciences – psychology, sociology, economics, and anthropology – were largely founded by thinkers who took fore-granted that there was no truth content or value to religions, that religions were irrational, superstitious, regressive, and dysfunctional. they all bought into august comte’s vision that the natural trajectory of human civilization, as it became more economically and scientifically developed, would be to forsake these childish beliefs and adopt scientific attitudes and worldviews. to use psychological terminology, the social sciences were founded with a lot of <em>anima</em> towards religion, so it is little wonder that the faith factor is the forgotten variable in much of the social sciences in the decades which followed, as these sciences and their respective guilds within the university developed, expanded, and evolved.</p><p>it is not an overstatement to say that the modern research universities were founded with an explicit agenda of getting rid of religion. the religious virtue of spiritual enlightenment was turned upside down by the enlightenment. perhaps we can laugh about this as a backhanded proof of freud’s oedipal complex. in this case the “father to be killed” was the religious institutions that created the modern university in the first place. freud met a similar fate, as the “father of psychology”, and is largely denied and displaced within his own guild.</p><p>in any case, what is important to note at this stage in exploring the sciences of religion is that there is ironically a lot of ideological and emotional baggage here. science, most would agree, needs to be first descriptive, not prescriptive. because of the ideological baggage of scientism, disciplines like sociology, psychology, and anthropology have largely not developed an adequate descriptive phenomenology of religion and spirituality. instead, the founders of these disciplines and their intellectual descendents have dismissively sought to put religion neatly into an intellectual box, a single, simplistic paradigm by which it could be neatly dismissed.</p><p align=center><strong>deconstructing the base-superstructure</strong></p><p>the early social theorists on religion all used some version of marx’s base-superstructure model of causation, though they may not have used these exact terms. some natural or material factor is foundational – economics for marx, the human psyche for freud, society for durkheim – and this determines the beliefs and behaviors of individuals in society. religion was created and determined by other forces. religion was not itself a cause. when the foundation changes, so too changes that built on top, in this case religion. the early freud was more optimistic about the enlightenment project. he believed that if we could understand the origins of religion in human history, we might better take control over it, hence his book <em>totems and taboos </em><em>(freud (1918) 2000)</em>. without necessarily crediting august comte, all adopted a progressivist view of increased secularization as a good that resulted from economic and scientific development. the latter freud was less optimistic. he did not really understand the foundation to be all that mutable, so we are simply stuck with the dilemma described in his book <em>civilization and its discontents </em><em>(freud (1930) 1961)</em> and with it a dark premonition about the violent chaos about to be unleashed in enlightenment europe.</p><p>the german sociologist max weber wrote his famous book, <em>the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, </em>partly as a rebuttal to marx (weber (1905) 1958). the point was to reverse marx’s causal relationship, to take religion out of the realm of the superstructure and put it into that of the foundation as a driver of economic change. weber argued that the values of worldly asceticism, independence, and self-discipline nurtured by protestant christianity, particularly calvinism, played a central, albeit unintended, role in the development of european capitalism. he contrasted this with the influence of catholicism. in other writings, weber argued that the religions of china, india, and the muslim worlds were antithetical to the rationalities and sensibilities of modern capitalism. weber himself was not a religious man. he understood science and its mode of rationality to be an “iron cage”, which required the disenchantment of the world (1905, p.181).</p><p>today, most social theorists would reject the base-superstructure model of explanation as too simplistic. it is not clear what is foundational and what is the causally dependent variable since everything reciprocally affects everything else. religions, like humans, are complex and dynamic. today, most informed social theorists are also forced to reject secularization theory. religions are on the rise throughout the world, in spite of dramatic economic growth and scientific advance. it is hard to deny the fact, even if one wishes it were not so.</p><p align=center><strong>universal or particular</strong></p><p>today, the intellectual despisers of religion are most likely to turn to darwinism for their theoretical models. in the early decades of the darwinian revolution, we were offered competing visions of social darwinism, which were used to justify all manner of conflicting ideologies – predatory capitalism, european racism, european colonialism, eugenics, and sexism. even communism sought to align itself with the darwinian worldview. after the horrors of stalinism and nazism, biological approaches to understanding human behavior fell into disrepute. it was not until the 1970s that the application of darwinian theory to humans was revived under the rubric of sociobiology (wilson 1978). today the term <em>de jour</em> is evolutionary psychology (cartwright 2000).</p><p>there is a lot to commend in the application of biological principles to the study of religion. we are, after all, evolved animals. we are all constrained by the necessities of survival and reproduction. our genetic and psychic dispositions were encoded over hundreds of thousands of years of our species recent evolution. much has changed in recent human history, but we are still basically the same biological beings as our near ancestors on the savannahs of africa, eking out their existence as hunters and gatherers in small wandering tribes. the basic physiological trajectory and psychological repertoire of human life has changed little over the millennia. we are conceived in passion, born in pain, and have a long period of childhood dependency. if we are lucky, we grow older and are initiated into adulthood with its pleasures and pains and a growing mastery of skills and ideas, always with the necessity of crafting our lives and identities in networks – familial, social, economic, cultural, and ecological. we may have children. if we are lucky, we grow old, perhaps wiser. we all anticipate and someday confront the terror and the mystery of death. in that respect, we are the same creatures as our early pleistocene relatives one to two million years ago.</p><p>it matters not with respect to our biology whether we are muslim, hindu, christian, buddhist, jew, atheist, or stoics. it matters not what ethnic or racial background we belong to. we can all interbreed, i.e., we are one biological species, and we are all confronted with similar psychological, social, and biological challenges by virtue of being <em>homo sapiens sapiens</em>. anthropologist donald brown has compiled a list of 300 human universals that appear in every human culture (brown 1991). the question now becomes how then do we account for the variation in human cultures and religions and how significant are these variations.</p><p>in the last decades, the academic study of comparative religion has rebelled against grand theories of religion and instead has focused on differences, described with increasing detail and nuance. it is too simplistic and certainly counterfactual to simply say that all religions are the same. the academic rebellion is partly in opposition to mircea eliade (1907-1986) and others, who purported to have a grand unified theory of religion, theories which were obscurantist in their leaps to over-generalize. other religious universalist theorists, like carl gustav jung (1875 – 1961), tended themselves to be morphed by their intellectual descendents into their own sectarian creeds and cults (jung 1971). the fashion today in the guild of the american academy of religion is to distrust religious universalism, grand theories, triumphant syntheses, even as the new sciences of religion aspire to achieve this god’s-eye analytic vantage point on the phenomena of religion.</p><p>religions themselves tend to be uncomfortable with the label “religion,” suggesting that they are merely one among many. “authentic” christianity, for instance, invites its followers to have a personal relationship with “jesus christ, the lord and savior”, and “by no other name” shall salvation be achieved. it makes an exclusivist claim, although we could point to other scriptural sources and interpretations that would argue within the christian idiom against this exclusivism. there is simply no such thing as “generic religion,” which puts a damper on the proposed scientific study of religion as a category. the 20th century harvard philosopher and atheist george santayana notes5</p><blockquote>all religion is positive and particular. any attempt to speak without speaking any particular language is not more hopeless than the attempt to have a religion that shall be no religion in particular… every living and healthy religion has a marked idiosyncrasy. its power consists in its special and surprising message and the bias which that revelation gives to life. the vistas it opens and the mysteries it propounds are another world to live in5 and another world to live in – whether we expect ever to pass wholly over into it or no – is what we mean by having a religion (santayana [1905-06] 1993). </blockquote><p align=center><strong>an analogy to linguistics</strong></p><p>let’s turn santayana analogy between particular religions and particular human languages upside down, recalling also our discussion of goethe’s aphorism. instead of supporting his extreme particularist conclusion about religions as incommensurate, the analogy to human languages actually provides a new way to think in universal categories about religions.</p><p>while all human languages are particular and idiosyncratic, there is nevertheless the field of linguistics that allows us to talk about the common grammatical structures of different human languages. true, one cannot practice linguistics without using a particular human language to discuss the philosophy and structure of language. english linguists speak in english as they compare chinese and russian. french linguists speak in french as they compare hindi and arabic. chinese, russian, hindi, and arabic-speaking linguists are happy to return the favor in comparing english and french. all of them use the same concepts and terminology –nouns, verbs, tense, phonemes, semantic meanings, semiotic codes, and so on – and apply these concepts universally to deciphering the universal regularities of particular human languages.</p><p>nor are these particular living human languages ever really isolated islands unto themselves. particular human languages evolve over time, and this often involves significant borrowing from other languages. furthermore, while something is surely lost in translation, every living human language can be translated. the term for “dog” or “god” in various languages is particular, seemingly arbitrary, but that which is universally referenced is real, explicitly in the case of the dog and perhaps implicitly in the case of god. the diversity of human languages is surely particular and idiosyncratic, but it would be strange to declare chauvinistically that the only valid way one can order a cup of coffee is in german. <em>eine tasse kaffee, bitte! </em>the implication here is that there is a universal “grammar” of religions, that they are not fundamentally incommensurate, and that we can go beyond the particularism and idiosyncrasies to decode common patterns, structures, and functions.</p><p>the idea of creating a universal human language, esperanto, is and was a misconceived idea, because it would necessarily become merely one new particular language among the many. so too is the case with religions. a religion of all religions is simply a new particular religion, as in the case of the baha’i faith. a science of all religions, not unlike linguistics, may be a possibility, though we might be forced to employ a particular religion in order to plum the deeper semantics of the phenomena.</p><p>nor is it the case that all religions necessarily reject the validity of other faiths, even as they make their own particular claims. part of the genius of hindu civilization is its ability to absorb and incorporate many diverse religions and incompatible philosophies into its synthesizing spirit. jews understand themselves to be a chosen people with a special covenant with god, but this is not to say that god does not also relate to other peoples and faiths. islam also affirms the diversity of faiths as part of god’s plan5</p><blockquote>we have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. the noblest of you, in the sight of allah, is the best in conduct (qu’ran, sura 49513). </blockquote><p>these are complex texts and traditions, so other verses and examples also can be cited to contradict this implied inclusivity. later, i will argue that these contradictions are necessary in any great religious tradition, simply as a by-product of an objective phenomenology of the human condition and the ambiguity of life in the universe in which we find ourselves. at this stage, i need only note that particular religions recognize and sometimes affirm the legitimacy of other particular religions. concerns about orthodoxy and heterodoxy are historically mostly matters internal to particular traditions and not so much between traditions.</p><p align=center><strong>unity and diversity</strong></p><p>let me go one step further and make the bold assertion that there is more functional diversity within a great tradition than between great traditions. this is perhaps analogous to what we now know about ethnic diversity and genetics. if we trace the genetic diversity of humans through our mitochondrial dna, it turns out that we may have more in common genetically with someone of another race than with our own. in the case of religions, i am asserting that there is more functional diversity of beliefs between christians and other christians than between christians in general and buddhists in general. making this assertion requires phenomenological and functional analyses of religion. for instance, western appropriations of buddhism tend to focus on meditative practices and supposed lack of belief in supernatural deities, but this totally obscures the actual practices of the vast majority of buddhist around the world. the largest branch of buddhism by far is known as pure land buddhism, in which believers devote themselves to a particular bodhisattva in hopes of sitting out eternity in a hedonistic heaven through the grace and supernatural intervention of the bodhisattva. this is functionally the equivalent of pentecostal christianity, bhakti hinduism, and devotional islam.</p><p>similarly, scholars of religion and apologists for particular religions have tended to draw a sharp divide between the monotheism of the abrahamic faiths, the “western religions,” and the polytheism and non-theism of “eastern religions”. here too, i think we miss the point. in his book, <em>god5 a biography</em>, jack miles offers a psycho-historical reading of the <em>book of genesis</em> and concludes that we have traded many gods with many personalities for a single god with multiple personality disorder (miles 1995). in practice, the monotheistic traditions often elevate satan to a force independent of god, thus reverting to what is technically a heresy and turning themselves into something more akin to zoroastrianism, with its concept of the dueling deities of light and darkness. furthermore, the monotheistic faiths included a whole apparatus of angels, archangels, and saints, which further blurs the lines with the supposed hindu polytheism. hinduism, in theory, is more accepting of this ambiguity, even as it affirms its own kind of transcendent unity in the notion of brahman. “the truth is one, but the wise man calls it by many names” is the classic verse from the ancient rig veda.</p><p>the new sciences of religion should be understood as something akin to the field of linguistics, seeking the “grammatical” structures of religion in general based on a careful analysis of particular religions. we can also study the evolution of particular religions and their family trees. only then can we engage in philosophical speculation about the nature of religion as such and whatever universals might be deduced or implied. based on the biological and anthropological commonality, there is a lot of exciting work to be done, but this must also embrace textual, theological, and philosophical analyses. it is time for the intellectual pendulum to swing forward towards a study of the universality of religions, though in doing so we cannot ignore the details.</p><p align=center><strong>studying religion from the outside</strong></p><p>first, we must note that the new sciences of religion, to which we now turn, include all of the old disciplines – sociology of religion, psychology of religion, economics of religion, and anthropology of religion. the old masters in these fields need to be studied and debated anew, the new empirical research critically considered and absorbed. important new theorizing and empirical research about religion is currently being done in these fields. these disciplines are also more mature than they were in the past. there is now a self-critical history of the fields that is appropriately taught, studied, and debated, and this leads to some appropriate humility and critical introspection about the fields themselves and the mistakes that have been made in the past.</p><p>the new sciences of religion, as already alluded, tend to focus now on biological models in studying religion from the <em>outside</em>. these disciplines are often quite new - cognitive neurosciences of religion, behavioral genomics of religion, medical epidemiology of religion, physiology of religion, evolutionary psychology of religion, game theory of religion (diagram 2).</p><p><strong>diagram 2</strong></p><p align=center><img height=437 alt=diagram 2 width=575 src=/magazine/portals/0/articles/9921_diagram2.jpg></p><p>studying religious and spiritual phenomena from the <em>outside</em> can fruitfully involve all of these disciplines, but what it cannot do is ignore the details and complexity of the phenomena <em>inside</em> the circle. one cannot be an effective scientist of religion without also being a humanistic scholar of religion. the details <em>inside</em> the circle still matter – history, tradition, authorities, scriptures, languages, interpretations, legal systems, saints and sages, rituals, liturgies, practices, daily life, and subjective experience are all part of the data set for any responsible scientific study of religion.</p><p>nor should we assume that religious and spiritual phenomena can be exhaustively described, understood, or explained by any single scientific paradigm on the <em>outside</em>. the scholar-scientist might be enamored with the using of rational choice theory in economics to understand religions or with the role of neurotransmitters in specific religious experiences inside the brain, but these cannot be a complete understanding of the phenomena, which involves the self, society, and cosmos, and which is heterogeneous, particular, and universal. if the scientist uses a single analytic framework to understand religion, the phenomena will surely tend to conform to the theory, because the theory acts as a filter for what we see or fail to see. a single scientific paradigm induces empirical myopia.</p><p>the new disciplines being applied to the scientific study of religious and spiritual phenomena are exciting and promising, but they are not yet mature, in comparison with the more established fields of psychology, sociology, and anthropology of religion. the new disciplinary protagonists often display a lack of familiarity with the history of these endeavors and the complexity of the phenomena they purport to scientifically study. too often, they are motivated by ideological concerns, going back to august comte, of displacing and abolishing religion from the world.</p><p>in the case of richard dawkins (dawkins 2006) and daniel dennett (dennett 2006), i am reminded of the proverbial arm chair anthropologist, who sits in his university study theorizing about some tribe in borneo or brazil, but who has never done any field work. he is not going to live among the natives, learn their languages, eat their food, play with their children, and talk with the elders. this victorian-era anthropologist was certainly not going to be a “participant observer”. furthermore, this anthropologist is studying the tribe with the intention of ensuring its extinction, because he detests the “ignorant heathens”.</p><p>actually, it is not clear to me that scientists can ever legitimately study something – animal, vegetable, or mineral – that they do not on some level believe is intrinsically fascinating and beautiful, worthy of respect, and a great deal of their considerable efforts. science is perhaps best understood as <em>altruistic fidelity to the phenomena</em>, and it matters not whether the phenomena are particles, proteins, or people. beware of rotten fruit in sheep’s clothing, to mix jesus’ mixed metaphors, and radical atheist scientists purporting to study religion.</p><p align=center><strong>naturalizing religion</strong></p><p>of particular note is the claim that we can naturalize religion, explaining the phenomena specifically with evolutionary categories. the new intellectual fad assumes that darwinian categories – variation, survival, and reproduction – can be applied to understanding the origins and function of religion. what is curious to note is that there is no agreement about how to apply evolutionary models.</p><p>one protagonist in this school is pascal boyer, a physical anthropologist at washington university of st. louis. boyer argues that the human brain evolved in the pleistocene, if not long before, to be an “agency detector”. in other words, there was survival fitness in thinking of objects in the environment as potential agents, given that some of them were also predators who intended to eat humans for dinner. the human brain has evolved to be a <em>hyperactive agency detection device</em> (hadd) and it is in this capacity that we find the origins of religion. humans began to attribute agency and personality to the forces of nature given their proclivity to see agency in the phenomenal world. for boyer, religion is a <em>dysfunctional by-product</em> of a naturally evolved mental capacity. religion has no survival function, indeed quite the opposite in his view (boyer 2001).</p><p>a second school in this debate on how to apply evolutionary theory to the study of religion is represented by richard dawkins and daniel dennett. both argue that hominid evolution gave rise to an <em>ideational capacity independent of our genes</em>. once you have human brains in a cultural space, ideas can take on a life of their own. ideas replicate and spread in the software of human brains, independently of the hardware of our genes. dawkins coined the term “memes”, an analogy to genes, as a metaphor which some take quite literally. the supposed memes act just like selfish genes by hijacking individual brains in order to replicate. the religion meme in dawkins view is a deadly virus, “not unlike small pox, just harder to eradicate”. religions are delusional, regressive, dysfunctional, and antithetical to science. teaching children religion is “a form of child-abuse” (dawkins 1976) (dawkins 2006) (dennett 2006).</p><p>a third school of thought about how to apply evolutionary theory to the study of religion assumes that religions must be functional because they persist. religions must have adaptive value in promoting survival and reproduction, or otherwise they would not exist. david sloan wilson, a biologist at binghamton university, promotes this point of view by resurrecting multilevel selection theory. wilson argues that religions promote in-group altruism and social cohesion, thus promoting the survival and reproduction of the group in competition with other groups. wilson believes that religions are functionally adaptive in evolutionary terms, even if they are literally just elaborate fairy tales (wilson 2002).</p><p>a fourth school sees human culture transcending biology. evolution surely gave rise to the human brain and its capacity for language, toolmaking, and culture, but once these have been achieved through darwinian evolution, human culture begins to evolve in a lamarckian-pattern. jean baptiste lamarck (1744-1829) was a french biologist who postulated a theory of evolution prior to darwin. in his understanding, the transmutation of species occurred through acquired characteristics being accumulated and passed on from one generation to the next. this is not how biological species evolve, at least not directly, but it is a fair description of human cultural evolution. through education, our children do not need to reinvent the wheel or the microprocessor. nor do they need to reinvent plato or shakespeare. to benefit from these cultural accomplishments, future generations need not be genetically related to those who did the work of discovery, invention, and creation. these cultural achievements are accumulated and passed on through education. religion, in this understanding, may be functional or dysfunctional, but it cannot be evaluated simply in terms of darwinian categories, because human culture has partially transcended biology (deacon 1997) (donald 1991) (rolston 1998). science, of course, is an example of such a self-transcending cultural achievement. science may also be functional or dysfunctional, depending on the criteria used to evaluate it. in this view, a purely biological mechanistic account of religion is as silly as a purely biological mechanistic account of science.</p><p>for the protagonists and partisans in these debates, these theories are presented as mutually exclusive, but this is not necessarily the case. all of these evolutionary approaches are potentially true and also limited. it depends on the context and the nuance. hadd brains, ideational independence of memes, group selection theory, and lamarckian models of cultural evolution can all be partially true and can provide interesting insights into the complex phenomena we designate as “religion”. none of these theories adequately accounts for the subjective religious experiences that you as an individual may have, experiences of being grabbed by a transcendent reality and ultimate existential truth.</p><p>to fully naturalize religion implies first that we can also fully naturalize human consciousness. what is good for the religious goose is also good for the scientific gander, so we will also need to naturalize science. so let’s do a little thought experiment. let’s examine physicists as a particular “tribe” of humans. let’s examine their brains when they do their physics with the use of positron emission tomography (pet scans) and the other tools of contemporary neuroscience. we will no doubt find that certain parts of their brain “light up”. this in itself is interesting data, but it tells us nothing about whether the physics is true. similarly, we might investigate whether the activity of doing physics has evolutionary fitness value, by seeing whether physicists as a group are more successful in passing on their genes. we might wonder whether physicists exhibit more in-group altruism and social cohesion than chemists or classicists. all of these approaches would be an absurd way to judge the truth claims of physics.</p><p>to say that there is a correlation of certain objective brain states with certain subjective experiences does not necessarily imply causation. the opposite may be the case. intentionality can itself change brain states. i can intend to learn physics, practice meditation, engage in devotional prayer, and these intended activities will alter my brain states, assuming i have a normally functional human brain of a certain age with the adequate training. we need some concept of top-down causation in order to understand physical brains, mental minds, and the objective capacities of humans to change themselves and their environments.</p><p>to postulate that some human beliefs and practices are functional or even dysfunctional, for instance in promoting group survival and reproduction or not, does not exhaust the meaning of the belief or practice. science itself may be functional, or tragically dysfunctional, say in the case of building nuclear weapons, but this does not adequately account for the evolving content of science and its meaning. perhaps there is a strong correlation between the mathematical genius of physicists and asperger syndrome4 this still gives us no insight into the truth of physics. a reductionistic naturalization of science leads to philosophical absurdities. the british geneticist j.b.s. haldane (1892-1964) came to the same conclusion in thinking about the brains of scientists5</p><blockquote>it seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. for if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain i have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. they may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. and hence i have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. in order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which i am sitting, so to speak, i am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter (haldane [1927] 1932). </blockquote><p>science itself is an example of self-transcending learning processes. science cannot be simply naturalized and dismissed through scientific explanations of scientists, as some scientists now purport to be able to do for religion. why is scientific cognition the only human activity to be exempted from reductionist and materialist explanation? why then should we assume at the outset that religion is “wholly conditioned by matter”? scientists can and must push the envelope on exploring causal patterns, but they should do so with a kind of positive agnosticism, free of an ideological agenda, full of intellectual curiosity, and expressed also with humanistic compassion towards the subjects of their studies – other humans and ultimately also themselves.</p><p align=center><strong>a metaphysical detour</strong></p><p>at this stage, we have already started to take a brief detour into the realm of metaphysics and philosophy of science. typically science tries to understand a phenomenon by taking it apart, trying to see how the constituent components work to create the phenomenon. this is reflected in the etymology of the word <em>science</em>, which derives from the latin <em>scire</em>, to know, probably akin to the latin <em>scindere</em> to split and the sanskrit <em>chyati</em>, to cut off. the connotation of religion is to bind together, while the connotation of science is to split apart. holism versus reductionism is embedded in the very etymological roots of the words religion and science.</p><p>for instance, in the science of botany, we might see what plants are made of with our microscopes, noting the existence of differentiated cells, the chemical composition of these cells, the molecular processes inside the cells, the genetic structure of the plant species, the interactions of plants with their environment, the evolution of a plant over eons. the working assumption is that a plant, or any phenomenon, is best understood by a reductionistic approach, taking it apart as it were, seeing how all the pieces fit together. the science of botany would further assume that the causal influences that give rise to the particular plant in question are all material4 there are no mystical vitalist forces behind living things, there is just a lot of complicated chemistry underneath the biology and physics underneath the chemistry. science works by pursuing causation from the bottom-up, even if the scientist herself is an example of causation from the top-down.</p><p>to say one is a materialist today requires some explication because matter turns out to be rather bizarre stuff. atoms are not fundamental4 they are divisible, on the first order, into protons, neutrons, and electrons. far from being “matter”, the atom turns out to be mostly empty space on a scale difficult to conceptualize. the single proton at the center of a simple hydrogen atom is something like a baseball sitting on the pitcher’s mound at yankee stadium, and the single electron is not even the size of a mosquito buzzing around in a “probability space” at the farthest edge of the stadium. if we break these components of the atom down further we end up with other subatomic particles whose “materiality” is rather strange indeed. materialism reduced to this level of matter disintegrates into forces and fields, entangled relationships and ephemeral existence. reductionism and materialism, however useful as a methodological approach in science, self-destruct as a philosophical propositions, when we push them to the limits of the very small, the very fast, the very cold, the very hot, the very dense, the very large, and the very complex. frankly, it is embarrassing that otherwise brilliant people think nothing of invoking “materialism” as one of the hallmarks of science. the concept of materialism deconstructed itself with the advent of quantum mechanics and particle physics. none of this discussion means that we are compelled to therefore adopt some form of supernaturalism, but fundamental nature turns out to be fantastically super.</p><p>today, an informed metaphysics and philosophy of science would also need to talk about emergent properties of phenomena and different levels of organization. the concept of emergence says simply that <em>the whole is more than the sum of its parts</em>. we can learn a lot of interesting things about a plant cell by studying its parts and its chemistry. a quick perusal of the typically heavy undergraduate textbook on cell biology should be adequate to demonstrate just how much we have learned in the last century through this kind of reductionist approach. that being said, the cell itself could not be predicted or adequately described solely on basis of its constituent components, even less so the phenomena of the particular plant. the plant is an emergent phenomenon, both in its ontogeny – developmental biology – and its phylogeny – evolutionary biology. to this we must add the smoke and mirrors of ecological systems in which the plant both contributes to creating the selective environment and is also acted on by the selective environment in a fine piece of circular logic. ecology, we are told, is a “subversive science” precisely because it is about emergent phenomena and does not fit the dominant reductionist paradigm.</p><p>it is not just “soft” concepts from ecology that burst the reductionist dream of a mechanistic account of complex phenomena. from the surface tension of water in a glass to superfluidity and superconductivity in a physicist’s lab, the behavior of huge numbers of particles cannot be deduced from the properties of a single atom or molecule. in accepting the nobel prize for physics in 1998, robert laughlin notes5</p><blockquote>“the world is full of things for which one's understanding, i.e. one's ability to predict what will happen in an experiment, is degraded by taking the system apart, including most delightfully the standard model of elementary particles itself. i myself have come to suspect most of the important outstanding problems in physics are emergent in nature, including particularly quantum gravity” (laughlin 1998). </blockquote><p align=center><strong>levels of explanation</strong></p><p>the sciences are organized hierarchically from the microcosmic, to the mesocosmic, to the macrocosmic. at the bottom of the reductionistic hierarchy is particle physics, which is required for atomic physics. the properties of atoms are necessary for simple and complex chemistry to arise. the chemistry is necessary for there to be biology, geology, and other mesocosmic phenomena. the biology is necessary for there to be human consciousness and culture. and of course, a universe is required to create the atomic particles and properties of physics in the first place, as well as the container for all the complex, evolving stuff – space-time and matter-energy. in ways not fully understood it also appears that the science of the very small, particle physics, may tell us something important about the science of the origins of the universe as a whole, so the microcosmic and macrocosmic scales may loop back together. particle physics turns out to be helpful in thinking about cosmological questions about the early universe (primack 2006). this might all be referred to as the hierarchy of size.</p><p>there is also a hierarchy in the chronological unfolding of the 13.7 billion year evolving universe. stellar fusion creates the heavy elements, which then gives rise to complex chemistry in second and third generation solar system, which at least on one planet gave rise to life and consciousness. so there is both a hierarchical scale and chronological unfolding of increased, emergent complexity in the sciences.</p><p>what emerges is novelty, increased layers of complexity. particle physics, however, is not the least bit helpful in doing plant biology. indeed, particle physics has limited utility in even in normal chemistry. nor does knowing chemistry help an economist. the pursuit of a reductionist account of phenomena has not led to a grand unified theory of science, but to now thousands of disciplines and sub-disciplines and specializations within science. there is no such thing as a “scientific method” true for all of these disciplines and specializations. scientists pragmatically try to solve particular problems within the confides of the phenomena in question, pragmatically adopting the tools and methods most appropriate to that problem. there are levels of analyses and biologists, or for that matter economists, can safely know nothing about particle physics and still do excellent science.</p><p align=center><strong>a musical interlude</strong></p><p>let’s imagine a scientific study of music, in this case of classical choral music. our case study will be johann sebastian bach. we will examine in scientific detail one of bach’s cantatas, bmv 99 1. coro – “was gott tut, das ist wohlgetan”.</p><p>our first approach will be to carefully examine the paper on which this cantata was written. we will study the chemical composition of the paper and the ink in which the score was written. we can also study the semiotic development of the notation system used and the music theory behind it. this is all relevant to the subject matter, but it is not likely we will discover much of interest about bach, his cantata, or our experience of listening to it.</p><p>another approach will be to study the physics of acoustics and the instrumentation. this cantata calls for string and wind instruments and of course a choir. this is going to lead us into some interesting directions, including question about how the human ear and vocal chords function, but we are still not going to learn much about bach or this cantata.</p><p>another approach will be neurological. we will place you under a fmri or pet scan to try to ascertain through neuro-imaging analyses the effect of listening to this cantata on your brain. technically, we are also going to have to do a lot of comparative work here to other sound perception and music perception studies, in order to isolate what is unique, if anything at all, to listening to this particular cantata, as opposed to other sounds, musical pieces, and genres of music. no doubt we might learn lots of interesting things, at least about your brain, because it is not clear yet that another subject, say a chinese or indonesian person unfamiliar with the genre or even the tonal structure, would have the same neurological experience when listening to this bach cantata.</p><p>another approach would be to employ a mathematical analysis of the music itself. with bach, in particular, there is clearly not only a musical genius composing, but also a mathematical genius. so this might lead to some interesting insights, including now computer programs that can generate “original” scores in bach’s style.</p><p>we could also take a historical approach, considering bach’s life and time, the musical influences, his biography, his musical and perhaps mathematical genius. this may be more instructive than studying the chemical properties of the paper on which the cantata was written or the physics and physiology of acoustics. here the level of analysis better fits the topic, not that the physics and physiology are wrong or uninteresting in themselves.</p><p>a scientific study of the cantata would surely also reflect on the philosophical, religious and theological significance of this cantata, compare it to the other 200 cantatas that bach wrote for the liturgical calendar and wonder about bach’s own religious beliefs. what does it mean to assert “was gott tut, das ist wohlgetan” – “what god does is done well”. how does the music reinforce the message? what influence does bach’s music and theology have on us today. how do we feel when we listen to this song or perform it?</p><p>our scientific analysis of a single song by bach can be posed on many different levels, lead us in many different directions, including into interpretative humanistic disciplines not normally thought of as scientific. furthermore, none of these directions and levels of analysis necessarily conflict with each other. the only problems arise when we insist on a single, valid level of analysis to the exclusion of others. for instance, a neuroscientist might insist that brain science is the only valid level of understanding the phenomena of bach’s music.</p><p>in this discussion of a new science of music, we see many intriguing parallels and problems common to the proposed new sciences of religion.</p><p align=center><strong>emergence and transcendence</strong></p><p>we need to employ the concepts of emergence in science in order to go further in this inquiry. there is ontological emergence in nature and with it different levels of reality and different practices appropriate at each level. emergence should place philosophical limits on the claims of social scientists to reductionistically explain away religion (or for that matter any other complex human or natural phenomena). a scientist might find correlations, say, between the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism (to reference max weber), but this does not mean causation. a scientist might also establish a functional outcome, say orthodox jewish marriage practices leading to maximal human fertility and reproduction, but this does not exhaust the meaning of what it means to be an orthodox jew, which might best be understood on a completely different level of analysis.</p><p>sorry to belabor the point, but let’s revisit my simple thought experiment. imagine a neuro-imaging study of nobel laureate steven weinberg when he is doing physics. we note that different parts of his brain have increased activity when he is working the problems. so we learn something interesting about his brain, possibly generalizable to other physicists’ brains, but we learn nothing about whether the physics is true or not. nor would a genetic analysis of stephen weinberg or physicists as a group tell us anything about the truth claims of physicists. nor is there anything in evolutionary psychology (i.e., the survival and reproduction value of doing physics) that can tell us anything interesting about the truth or falsity of any particular detail of physics. physics, like chemistry, like biology, and indeed like religion, is <em>sui generis</em> – a class alone, peculiar and unique to itself – except of course that everything is connected in scale and time in this universe of ours.</p><p>a robust understanding of emergence, and with it different levels of analysis and interpretation, opens up a possibility space within the mind and soul of the scientific enterprise for religious notions of transcendence, the god-by-whatever-name mystery. contemporary science is actually more suggestive of some notion of transcendence than it is of atheistic materialism, whatever that means. there is a cultural lag in absorbing these insights.</p><p>it is possible to think from the bottom-up towards the probability of god-by-whatever-name. it is not possible to think from the bottom-up to establish god-by-any-particular-name of any particular revealed tradition. science will not give us the god of abraham, isaac, and jacob, or jesus christ, my lord and savior, or allah and mohammad as his prophet, peace be upon him, or the buddha nature in all things. once we grant the possibility of a god-by-whatever-name, however, we should also grant the possibility, however improbable, that this may also be a god-by-a-particular-name. who are we to tell god what god can and cannot be in the realm of ultimate reality. of course, the interpretations and faith commitments of particular religious communities are certainly self-serving on this point4 but god may well enough choose one particular historical moment and revelation to be the definitive text. for instance, maybe the revelation received by mohammad, peace be upon him, is indeed god’s final revelation, given to an illiterate merchant in the language of arabic some 1400 years ago in the deserts of arabia. science cannot rule out that the god might choose to reveal itself to humans through certain privileged revelations, but it can certainly put some parameters on the plausibility of different readings of those traditions. in other words, certain readings of the first chapters of <em>genesis</em> are just wrong, not that the book of genesis is stupid – far from it. god, as often understood by traditional religions, seems rather small and parochial in view of what we now understand to be a fantastically large universe.</p><p><em>caveat emptor</em> – buyer beware. just because nature turns out to be super, fantastically super, does not mean that it is supernatural. and while much of science is also fantastically strange, this does not mean that every supernatural belief and practice humans have or have had is therefore true. just because quantum mechanics is weird does not mean that every weird idea that people come up with is true, even if it is dressed up with the patina of quantum mechanics. just because there is ontological emergence of novelty in the evolution of the universe does not mean every novel notion that people invent is true. in the name of religion and spirituality people also make the same mistake of reducing all phenomena to a single analytic framework. the concept of emergence creates a possibility space for a lot of strange beliefs and practices – the i-ching, the bible-code, reike, the book of revelations, astrology – but it does not mean that any of this stuff is, in fact, true. indeed, it can be patently false if interpreted at certain levels, as young earth creationists do when promoting an alternative natural history of the planet based on uninformed biblical literalism and no serious understanding of science. the bible is not true4 it is profound.</p><p align=center><strong>exploring the phenomenological god</strong></p><p>none of this is to say that an atheist cannot study religion, but to do this adequately, he would need to develop a phenomenology of god-talk. a scientist of religions needs a way to bracket the question of whether god exists. the scientific study of religious and spiritual phenomena cannot, as a matter of philosophy, and should not, as a matter of science, be motivated by a desire to disprove the existence of god. the philosophical debate was settled by our medieval ancestors in the form of apophatic theology. this <em>via negativa</em> argued that any positive assertion about the character and nature of god is necessarily untrue, because the eternal perfect cannot be described by finite human minds with our finite human languages. any “god” that could be discovered or disproved by the science simply would not be god. this is basically the position taken by the character philo in david hume’s <em>dialogues concerning natural religion</em> (1779). the apophatic god of philosophical monotheism provides an important point of departure.</p><p>what science can study is the phenomenology of what people think, say, and do in relationship to their perceptions, experiences, beliefs, practices, communities, and values. to locate god in a particular natural phenomenon, “whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,” or even in the form of a particular sacred book or a particular community of faith, is an expression of idolatry. “you shall not make for yourself an image” (exodus 2052-17, deuteronomy 556-21). from a biblical perspective the ten commandments prohibit such idolatry, but ironically unreflective theists are mostly idolaters in their tendencies to absolutize their particular scriptures, traditions, and faith. when studying humans, including our religions, it helps to have an appreciation of paradox and irony.</p><p>of course, the word “god” is itself merely another term from one of our finite human languages. if we cannot define it, why not dispense with it completely, the scientifically minded atheist is inclined to ask. an analogy to mathematics at this point can inform our scientific study of religions. once upon a time, in indo-arabian cultures, humans invented and discovered the concepts of zero and infinity. the mathematical concepts turn out to be very difficult to define. there are many different meanings of zero and many different types of infinities, nevertheless, it would be impossible to do advanced mathematics without 0 and ∞.</p><p>god is kind of like zero and infinity. god is a placeholder and concept that humans <em>invented and discovered</em> in order to talk about what the 20th century theologian paul tillich referred to as “ultimate concern” (tillich [1957] 2001). proofs of the existence of god have definitely fallen out of favor in contemporary theology. rather, we should talk about what one means when one talks about “god”. even the atheist has a very particular understanding of the god that he does not believe in. in this pragmatic and phenomenological view, abolishing god-talk in our civilization might be like abolishing zero and infinity from mathematics. god-talk can be an invitation for a very engaging conversation, not a club used to terminate conversations.</p><p>finally, the scientifically minded atheist will argue, turning the design argument upside down, if there is a creator god, why was he so incompetent or perhaps malevolent in crafting a universe, earth, and humanity so flawed, so filled with suffering, death, and now also moral evil in humans. this is the theodicy argument, and modern science does give it a new edge, even though the problem existed long before darwinism or contemporary cosmology.</p><p>so for instance, there are several verses in the qur'an which suggest that the good and the badallcomes from god<em> (sura 4: 78-79)</em>. Similar arguments might be constructed by reading the Book of Job or Romans 9. Like any sacred texts worthy of the name, this is not the only relevant citation, but citing it serves a purpose in my argument. The text is open to interpretation and there is an internal tension with other verses. Never mind all that for now. What happens if we take out the word 'God' and substitute 'Universe.' The good and the bad, it all comes from the Universe. To a scientific mind, that would be self-apparent, without problem. In fact, substituting 'Universe' for 'God' solves nothing. Humans experience a universe filled with <em>logos</em>, that is the precondition for science, but also <em>eros</em>, <em>filia</em>, <em>agape</em>, <em>ethos</em>, and <em>pathos</em>. The universe we encounter is filled with profound ambivalence. The universe giveth and the universe taketh away. The universe is ambivalent from our limited perspective, on the one hand, elegant and delightful to us, on the other, painfully limited and destructive.</p><p>Any God that humans could imagine as creator and sustainer of this universe, if we are being phenomenologically observant and honest, would have to include this profound ambivalence. Abolishing god-talk does nothing to solve the theodicy problem; it only relocates it to the universe. a more interesting place to look for god is in our own unreasonable expectations that life should be otherwise, better than it is, and that we should also be better people than we actually are. this unreasonable hope, which can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy, is where we are most likely to find the religious impulse. in that respect, it is perhaps better to draw a sharp distinction between beliefs and faith. beliefs are a series of propositions that one holds to be true. faith is about a series of questions for which one has no answers. faith requires doubt, not certainty. a leap of faith that does not carry these uncertainties with it is not faith at all (smith 1987).</p><p align=center><strong>definitions revisited</strong></p><p>in the beginning of this essay, we explored etymological roots of the words religion and spirituality and begged the question of how best to actually define religion. without a definition it will be difficult to know what it is we are studying with our new sciences of religion. in the scholarly community, there is no commonly accepted definition of religion.</p><p>one definition that i am particularly fond of is by the anthropologist clifford geertz (1926-2006). geertz did extensive fieldwork in indonesia and north africa, so he was seeking a definition that would encompass the diversity of beliefs and practices he encountered around the world. he writes: </p><blockquote>Religion is: (1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in people by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (Malthus) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.(Geertz 1973) </blockquote><p>This is what we would call a phenomenological definition of religion. It talks about “systems of symbols” and “moods and motivations”, but it does not try to pre-judge the content of the beliefs, practices, and values. Theistic, polytheistic, pantheistic, animistic and non-theistic religions are all included. Geertz’s definition does not use the word “supernatural”, which itself begs definition and would draw us into metaphysical debates. Geertz’s definition includes things that we do not normally think of as religions. For instance, there is an entire chapter in his book on how communism functioned in the Soviet Union as a form of religion.</p><p>The weakness in Geertz’s definition of religion is that it is not clear what is excluded. Baseball, football, and other sporting obsessions can take on all of the characteristics of a religion, which is not a surprise to most baseball fanatics. Political movements and parties take on some of the characteristics of religions. Western Europe no longer seems so secular, if environmentalism can also function like a religion for many of its followers. With Geertz’s definition, my daughter’s Suzuki violin classes start looking like a strange cult. And as already noted, when some enthusiasts of science see science as a substitute for religion, science is turned into scientism, i.e., another faith among many with its own “systems of symbols” and “moods and motivations.” Indeed, scientism can be seen to offer its own secular apocalyptic and prophetic narratives, for instance in the fear of climate change, and its own secular salvation story, for instance in the promise of science fiction or transhumanism.</p><p>It can be illuminating to see “religion” in some of the least expected places. Indeed, if religion is a human universal, then we should expect to see it everywhere. This renders the scientific study of “religion” all the more difficult, but also so much more compelling.</p><p align=center><strong>Other Caveats</strong></p><p>A scientific study of religion presupposes a kind of objective distance from the subject matter. I have labeled this “a positive agnosticism,” even though I also promote being a “participant observer”. Unfortunately, people, scientists included, generally have strong opinions about religions. Indeed, the juxtaposition of the concepts, science and religion, is a kind of Rorschach Test for all kinds of deeply held prejudices and beliefs.</p><p>I have been critical of August Comte and his contemporary successors, but let me also be equally critical of those advocates of religion and spirituality who want to use the scientific study of religion to support or establish their positive biases. For instance, we see this particularly in the field of religion, spirituality, and health. Epidemiological studies seem to suggest that church attendance is good for your health, perhaps adding as much as seven years to a person’s life expectancy (Hufford 2005). Are these positive health outcomes a factor of social support and the promotion of healthier habits, or are these health outcomes intrinsically and causally linked to the church experience per se? Of course, not all churches are the same. Is it healthier to attend high-church or low-church Anglican services? Is a fire-and-brimstone Southern Baptist sermon better than the academic ponderings of a Unitarian-Universalist sermon? Is Orthodox Judaism better than Reform and how do they compare with Christian or Neo-Pagan practices. If frequency of church attendance is the key, then do devout Muslims, who pray five-times each day, have exponentially better health outcomes, than Christians who pray once a week? How would one compare the effect of liturgical music, say Bach versus Gospel versus Gamelan? (Sloan 2005)</p><p>A robust science of religion will not simplify and flatten the complex, heterogeneous phenomena. A rigorous science of religion must be free of apologetic biases in favor of a particular faith, faith in general, or no faith at all. To be science, we need to let the data tell the story, not our preconceptions of what the data should say. Further, we must resist the tendency to see religion only in terms of our own culture and confessions or only in terms of our own pet scientific paradigm. We need multiple methodologies, multiple perspectives, and a great deal of humility.</p><p align=center><strong>Symbolic Systems of Value</strong></p><p>We can make an interesting analogy to economics at this stage. All around us, humans use a “system of symbols” – money – that comes with its own “moods and motivations”. Money is merely a symbol system of value. It is not real. I cannot literally eat a dollar bill, nor would it literally be much use in providing shelter or clothing. The miracle is that a mere symbol system dramatically changes our material and cultural lives in ways that are both intimate and global.</p><p>It is well established now that the psychology of the market matters. The psychology of the market is a significant factor in how economies perform. We are warned of the dangers of “irrational exuberance,” which leads to economic bubbles bursting and fortunes real and virtual being lost. So too, if the market becomes cynically cautious, this will depress economic exchange and investment, leading to negative outcomes. We would hope to all be “considered optimists”, investing wisely in the hopes of a positive return through companies and nations that are well-managed with sound finances and wealth-creating innovations. Some days, the best that I can muster is hopeful pessimism. In all of these cases, the psychology of the market is partially a self-fulfilling prophecy.</p><p>Religions are minimally also symbolic systems of values. Again, we can bracket for the time being their truth claims, adopting instead a phenomenological, functional, and pragmatic approach to religions. In the market place of religious ideas, we can also invoke these concepts. Irrational exuberance on the part of religions also can result in very dangerous and destructive outcomes for societies. Cynical caution can also be toxic for individuals and societies. Considered optimism is hypothetically optimal for religions. In their prophetic roles, religions should minimally promote hopeful pessimism, a hope against all odds carefully and soberly reckoned. As with economics, so too religions, all of these attitudes are partially self-fulfilling prophecies, both for individuals and for societies. Religions broadly defined are part of the distributed system of values that shape human thought and behavior.</p><p align=center><strong>Moral, Believing Animals</strong></p><p>Humans are certainly animals, biological creatures risen to our current state from millions of years of hominid evolution. Humans are peculiar animals. We always have a normative attitude of our environment and ourselves. We cannot help but ask is this or that is good or bad, useful or not, healthy or dangerous. We use language to talk about, explore, and promote our values in our social interactions and our private thoughts. These norms are encoded into stories that are transmitted culturally within social groups, so we are also “Moral, Believing Animals” to use the title of a book by sociologist Christian Smith (Smith 2003):</p><blockquote>We moderns... not only continue to be animals who make stories but also animals who are <em>made by</em> our stories. We tell and retell narratives that themselves come fundamentally to constitute and direct our lives. We, every bit as much as the most primitive or traditional of our ancestors, are animals who most fundamentally understand what reality is, who we are, and how we ought to live by locating ourselves within the larger narratives and metanarratives that we hear and tell, and that constitute what is for us real and significant (Smith 2003, 64).</blockquote><p>Smith goes on to define what a narrative is:</p><blockquote>Narrative is a form of communication that arranges human actions and events into organized wholes in a way that bestows meaning on the actions and events by specifying their interactive or cause-and-effect relations to the whole. Narratives are much more than chronicles, which merely list discrete events by placing them on timelines. Narratives seek to convey the significance and meaning of events by situating their interaction with or influence on other events and actions in a single, interrelated account. Narratives, thus, always have a point, are always about the explanation and meaning of events and actions in human life, however simple these may be (Smith 2003, 65). </blockquote><p>Religious stories are one of the ways that we exhibit our species-specific traits as <em>moral, believing animals</em>, but surely not the only way. Stories are part of political movements, the entertainment industry, the news industry, psychotherapy, and business. Humans not only receive stories; we retell stories; we transform stories; and in so doing we recreate ourselves.</p><p>science is also a form of story-telling. the evidence is assembled into a coherent narrative that structures what data is significant and how causal relations should be understood. these are the factual stories that science tells about the universe, which are nonetheless narrative in structure. there are other stories that also get attached to science, which are not really science, but more about the cultures of scientists. there is the enlightenment story about progress. there is the story of the epistemological break with the past. there are explicit scientific myths whose genealogy can be traced historically – like the <em>life of</em> <em>galileo </em>as presented by bertolt brecht ([1938] 1964), inventing the myth of the flat earth (russell 1997), and the reputed <em>history of the warfare between science with theology in christendom</em> (white [1896] 2004). actually, these are not science per se, but rather whig historiographies that distort our understanding of history and science, in order to conform to the dictates of an ideological program. these stories can be profoundly influential in the culture of science, though they have little to do with the actual content of science. scientists are also moral, believing animals.</p><p>let us hope that the new sciences of religion will tell lots of different stories by generating lots of new observations that surprise and humble us before these complex and important human phenomena.</p><br clear=all><p align=center><strong>outside in / inside out</strong></p><p>i have employed the metaphors of <em>inside</em> and <em>outside</em>, bottom-up and top-down, to explore what might be entailed in the new sciences of religion. we are hopefully humbled in the face of the complexity of the phenomena we propose to study from the <em>outside</em>. we are also all “participant observers” in the sense that we cannot really avoid certain existential, ethical, and metaphysical questions which are traditionally part of the domain of religion. when we study religion from the <em>outside</em>, we employ disciplines like sociology, psychology, and anthropology. those are the obvious candidates. today, we can also use disciplines like behavioral genomics, evolutionary psychology, economics, game theory, computer simulations, linguistics, and philosophy. we are also going to need to pay close attention to all of the stuff <em>inside</em> the circle of religious studies. it is not enough to theorize from <em>outside</em>, one also needs to check the validity of the theories with the data from <em>inside</em>.</p><p>many of those who purport to offer us a new science of religion are still encumbered with the old enlightenment <em>animus</em> towards religion. they seek to explain religion away and enthrone science as sacred. they detest that which they purport to scientifically study. the normal course of a scientific career begins by falling in love with the phenomena that one then studies in excruciating detail for years, if not decades. how could one devote so much effort to something that one detests? true science might better be characterized as altruistic fidelity to the phenomena. if the phenomena are going to be religion and spirituality, then the science thereof is going to need to begin with deep empathy and engaged fascination. now comes the rub, in order to be a science, a science of religion, this empathy and fascination, is also going to need to maintain a certain distance, rigor, and objectivity. at every stage, we must resist the seduction of filtering our sciences of religion through ideological and apologetic filters, which invariably predetermine the results of our studies.</p><p>e.o. wilson writes in his book <em>consilience</em> that “science faces in ethics and religion its most interesting and possibly humbling challenge, while religion must somehow find the way to incorporate the discoveries of science in order to retain credibility…” this is a sage observation and sound advice on both sides. wilson continues, “the eventual result of the competition between the two world views, i believe, will be the secularization of the human epic and of religion itself.” this is a statement of wilson’s faith and not a necessary or even obvious conclusion. indeed, with the collapse of secularization theory, wilson’s hope appears counter factual. wilson concludes: “However the process plays out, it demands open discussion and unwavering intellectual rigor in an atmosphere of mutual respect” (Wilson 1998). The new sciences of religion still have a long way to go in fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect, open discussion, and unwavering intellectual rigor.</p><p>The late Pope John Paul II weighed in:</p><blockquote>Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.</blockquote><p>i would only add that error, superstition, idolatry, and false absolutes seem to be shared in different measures of both sides of the science and religion ledger. the corrective is certainly to be found in more and better science, and in more and better religion, but especially in vigorous, open-ended exploration between both domains.</p><p>what is thought to be on the <em>inside</em> of religion and what is thought to be <em>outside</em> is something we should continually question. we need to be pushing on these boundaries, testing certain assumptions and prejudices. religious people should be the first to erase the boundary. there is no reason to fear any of the sciences of religion. these are just an enlargement of the relevant curriculum and can be helpmates in the hermeneutics of authenticity that every religion confronts from the <em>inside</em>.</p><p>nor can the scientifically minded atheist or the secular society simply avoid existential, ethical and metaphysical questions, which are normally thought to be of the domain of religions. indeed, in encountering these questions, scientists should expect to learn much from thousands of years of human experimentation in these domains at different times and in different cultures. to my colleagues in the sciences, please do push the scientific envelope as far as possible, but be humble and self-critical, as religious people must also be. and whether we are working from the top-down or the bottom-up, from the inside-out or the outside-in, we can hope to meet some day in the middle with many beautiful, good, and true stories to tell each other.</p><p><strong>references</strong></p><p>boyer, pascal (2001). <u>religion explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought</u>. New York, Basic Books.</p><p>Brown, Donald E. (1991). <u>Human Universals</u>. New York, McGraw Hill.</p><p>Cartwright, John (2000). <u>Evolution and Human Behavior: Darwinian Perspectives on Human Nature</u>. New York, Palgrave.</p><p>Dawkins, Richard (1976). <u>The Selfish Gene</u>. New York, Oxford University Press.</p><p>Dawkins, Richard (2006). <u>The God Delusion</u>. New York, Houghton Mifflin.</p><p>Deacon, Terrence W. (1997). <u>The Symolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain</u>. New York, Norton.</p><p>Dennett, Daniel C. (2006). <u>Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon</u>. New York, Viking.</p><p>Donald, Merlin (1991). <u>Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition</u>. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.</p><p>Freud, Sigmund ((1918) 2000). <u>Totems and Taboo</u>. New York, Prometheus Books.</p><p>Freud, Sigmund ((1930) 1961). <u>Civilization and Its Discontent</u>. New York, W.W. Norton.</p><p>Geertz, Clifford (1973). <u>The Interpretation of Cultures</u>. New York, Harper.</p><p>Haldane, John B.S. ([1927] 1932). When I Am Dead. <u>Possible Worlds and Other Essays</u>. London, Chatto and Windus.</p><p>Hamer, Dean H. (2005). <u>The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes</u>. New York, Anchor.</p><p>Harris, Sam (2004). <u>The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason</u>. New York, W.W. Norton.</p><p>Harris, Sam (2006). <u>Letter to a Christian Nation</u>. New York, Knopf.</p><p>Hollinger, David A. (1996). <u>Science, Jews, and Secular Culture: Studies in Mid-Twentieth-Century American Intellectual History</u>. Princeton, Princeton University Press.</p><p>Hufford, David J. (2005) An Analysis of the Field of Spiritual, Religion, and Helath. <u>Metanexus Online</u>, DOI:</p><p>James, William ((1902) 1961). <u>Varieties of Religious Experience</u>. New York, Macmillian.</p><p>Jung, Carl Gustav (1971). <u>The Portable Jung</u>. New York, Penguin.</p><p>Laughlin, Robert B. (1998). 'Fractional Quantisation.' <u>Review of Modern Physics</u> 71(4): 863-874.</p><p>Malthus, Thomas Robert (1766-1834) (1798). <u>An Essay on the Principle of Population</u>. London, J. Johnson.</p><p>Marsden, George M. (1996). <u>Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief</u>. New York, Oxford University Press.</p><p>McCutcheon, Russell T., Ed. (1999). <u>The Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Religion: A Reader</u>. London, Cassell.</p><p>Miles, Jack (1995). <u>God: A Biography</u>. New York, Alfred A. Knopf.</p><p>Pals, Daniel L. (1996). <u>Seven Theories of Religion</u>. New York, Oxford University Press.</p><p>Preus, J. Samuel (1996). <u>Explaining Religion: Criticism and Theory from Bodin to Freud</u>. Atlanta, Scholars Press.</p><p>Primack, Joel R. and Nancy Ellen Abrams (2006). <u>The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos</u>, Riverhead.</p><p>Rolston, Holmes (1998). <u>Genes, Genesis, and God: Values and Their Origins in Natural and Human History</u>. New York, Cambridge University Press.</p><p>Russell, Jeffrey Burton (1997). <u>Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians</u>. Westport, CT, Praeger.</p><p>Santayana, George ([1905-06] 1993). <u>Life of Reason</u>. New York, Prometheus Books.</p><p>Sharpe, Eric J. (1986). <u>Comparative Religion: A History</u>. Chicago, Open Court Publishing.</p><p>Sloan, Richard P. (2005) Field Analysis of the Literature on Religion, Spirituality, and Health. <u>Metanexus Online</u>, DOI:</p><p>Smith, Christian (2003). <u>Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture</u>. New York, Oxford University Press.</p><p>Smith, Wilfred Cantwell (1987). <u>Faith and Belief: The Difference Between Them</u>. Princeton, Princeton University Press.</p><p>Stenger, Victor J. (2007). <u>God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist</u>. New York, Prometheus Books.</p><p>Tillich, Paul ([1957] 2001). <u>Dynamics of Faith</u>. New York, HarperCollins.</p><p>Weber, Maximillian ((1905) 1958). <u>The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism</u>. New York, Charles Scribner's Sons.</p><p>White, Andrew Dickson ([1896] 2004). <u>A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom</u>, Kessinger Publishing.</p><p>Wilson, David Sloan (2002). <u>Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society</u>. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press.</p><p>Wilson, Edward O. (1978). <u>On Human Nature</u>. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.</p><p>Wilson, Edward O. (1998). <u>Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge</u>. New York, Knopf.</p> What is religion? What is spirituality? How does one study it? How does one teach it? What does it mean to take a scientific approach to the study of religion? Are religions healthy and functional for individuals and societies, or are they unhealthy and dysfunctional? For more information about William Grassie visit <a href=http://www.grassie.net>www.grassie.net</a>. 5/2/2007 05/02/2007
9926 Poetic Visions <p>Among the many capacities of the human brain are imagination and creativity. The two are not unrelated. If imagination is the brain's ability to bring forth for our mental perception objects and events that are not in our immediate vicinity, creativity conjures up entities that are endowed with charm and beauty, even meaning and substance which may not even be there in the tangible world.  All of us share these gifts, but they  are most developed among poets and artists. As Shakespeare’s Theseus said perceptively, </p><p>                        The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,<br />                        Doth glance from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven; <br />                        and, as imagination bodies forth<br />                        the forms of things unknown, the poet's pen<br />                        turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing<br />                        a local habitation and a name.</p><p>at one time poets played important roles in many cultures and civilizations. poets elevate us to higher modes of perception.  through their rhythmic lines we begin to see aspects of the world that escape  our ordinary cognition. we have all seen rainbows, but hear how wordsworth exclaims5 </p><p>                        my heart leaps when i behold<br />                              a rainbow in the sky5<br />                        so was it when my life began4<br />                              so is it now i am a man4<br />                        so be it when i shall grow old,<br />                              or let me die!</p><p>we not only rejoice at the rainbow with greater joy, but recognize how such joy at a beauteous wonder of nature can add meaning to life's  experience.</p><p>whether it be flowers in bloom, birds chirping, or bare trees in wintry whiteness, there is, in the words of a poet again, "more than meets the eye"  in every facet of nature. the setting sun and the crescent moon, the cascade, the meadow and the gentle brook, every scene and action on nature's grand arena has been captured and reflected upon  by this poet or that. not that it was always praise and admiration5 if shelly saw "the mountains kiss high heaven", andrew marvell moaned that mountains  do "the earth deform  and heaven fright.”  poetic phrasing more than a garland of words pleasing to the ears. it brings us to levels of  awareness that  would otherwise have been beyond our being. it makes us regard the world such as we had not done before. it conjures up a new world of reality, not of material things, but of images and ideas that compete with the very stuff of reality.           <strong></strong></p><p>now there are at least two ways of interpreting this transformation of words and sounds into palpable truths. the first is to say that poetry transports us to a new dimension of reality.  the poet's vision is <em>logophonic</em>: its  instruments are words and sounds. Francis Berry analyzed and illustrated the thesis that a 'poem\'s significance also depends on the kind of voice conveying the information.' In order to fully appreciate the import of the poet's vision, we must refine our notion of reality. </p><p>Contrary to common sense, reality is not so much substantiality as a framework for our feelings and actions. It is not airy idealism but unadulterated realism to hold that no matter what exists, its perception, recognition, and description are very much a function of the mind that perceives, recognizes, and describes. Everything that we swear to be reality, the whole reality, and nothing but reality dissolves or disappears if our visions change, either as a result of more information or simply due to modifications in brain chemistry.. </p><p>A great many arguments and controversies on the question may be averted, and much insight  gained, by enlarging our definition of reality, not by giving a blanket certificate of reality to anything and everything one says or dreams of, but by categorizing different dimensions of reality. It would be presumptuous and unnecessary to attribute any  hierarchical status to these. Human beings function in various modes, and each mode has its own framework of reality. </p><p>We have all experienced the optical illusion of the moon in motion behind cottony clouds in the sky. But we may experience that common  sight somewhat differently  after reading Milton's lines in <em>Il Penseroso</em>,</p><p>                        I walk unseen<br />                        On the dry-smooth-shaven green,<br />                        To behold the wandering moon,<br />                        Riding near her highest noon,<br />                        Like one that had been led astray<br />                        Through the heav'n's wide pathless way; <br />                        and oft, as if her head she bowed,<br />                        stooping through a fleecy cloud.</p><p>to another poet (alfred noyes) the moon was "a ghostly galleon tossed over the purple moon.” and to alfred musset, who saw the moon on top of a church-bell, it seemed like the dot on the letter i. <br />                         "c'était, dans la nuit brune, <br />                              sur le clocher jauni,<br />                         la lune,<br />                              comme un point sur un i.  </p><p>every poet that spied the moon and expressed how he or she saw the heavenly ball of changing shape felt and said a different thing. to each perceiving soul, reality is not simply what there is, but how what there seems to be strikes it at a particular instant. when a thoughtful and charismatic individual articulates his or her version of what is perceived in the world around in effective modes - metrical, musical or mystical - it is transferred to the thought processes of others, and so a group or a community forms its own vision of reality.</p>                         the poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,<br />                        doth glance from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven;<br />                        and, as imagination bodies forth<br />                        the forms of things unknown, the poet's pen<br />                        turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing<br />                        a local habitation and a name. 5/3/2007 05/03/2007
9928 exempt by contempt5 “i've checked with me and we both agree you're inferior” <p><strong><em>“i can’t believe how closed-minded he is.” </em></strong></p><p>we might conclude that the person who says this is pretty open-minded. after all the more open-minded one is, the less one is able to believe how closed-minded other people can be, right? </p><p>not necessarily. for three reasons, it's easier to detect others' closed-mindedness than one's own. first, it's more fun and profitable to notice other people's faults. second, we tend to diagnose others by our personal standards. ( <em>“he's closed-minded because he disagrees with me.” </em>) third, seeing through one's own closed-mindedness defeats its purposes--and yes, closed-mindedness does have <a href=http: //www.mindreadersdictionary.com/Dictionary/Item.aspx?user_id=site&dict_id=.... </p><p>When we're thinking of closed-mindedness as a vice, we tend to follow a four-step recipe for convincing ourselves and others that we are exempt from that vice. <br />  <br /><strong>Exempt by contempt recipe: </strong></p><p>1. Show contempt for another person’s closed-mindedness. </p><p>2. Thereby deem oneself an expert about who is and is not closed-minded. </p><p>3. As an expert, do a conclusive self-examination finding a total absence of closed-mindedness. </p><p>4. For added effect, return to step one, showing greater contempt. </p><p>The <em>Exempt by contempt </em>recipe can be applied to other so-called vices, such as self-deceptiveness, ego, and self-indulgence (each of which also has its virtues). The recipe is consistent with what Freud called "projecting," finding in others the traits one is loath to see in oneself. But here's the rub: Not every critique of others is a projection. Sometimes they really are more closed-minded than you. </p><p><em>Exempt by contempt </em>is a weak argument in defense of one’s relative virtue.  Just because one can spot someone else’s vice but not one’s own, it doesn’t necessarily mean one don’t have that vice. Still, <em>Exempt by contempt </em>is remarkably persuasive. In politics, it’s key to mudslinging, that reigning strategy for persuading voters of one’s relative virtue. </p><p>Notice  <em>Exempt by Contempt </em>as it flies by in your thoughts and your conversations. You'll be more discerning about criticism of yourself and others. </p> The <em>Exempt by contempt </em>recipe can be applied to other so-called vices, such as self-deceptiveness, ego, and self-indulgence (each of which also has its virtues). The recipe is consistent with what Freud called "projecting," finding in others the traits one is loath to see in oneself. But here's the rub: Not every critique of others is a projection. Sometimes they really are more closed-minded than you. Originally published on Mind Readers Dictionary; www.mindreadersdictionary.org. 5/3/2007 05/03/2007
9929 human origins and religious awareness: In Search of Human Uniqueness <p>As a Christian theologian interested in human origins, the origin of religion, and the controversial issue of human ‘uniqueness’, I have been increasingly drawn to the contributions of paleoanthropologists and archeologists to this challenging problem. In my recent Gifford Lectures I have been deeply involved in trying to construct plausible ways for theology to enter into this important interdisciplinary conversation (cf. van Huyssteen 2006: forthcoming). As a way of facilitating this kind of cross-disciplinary dialogue I have argued for a<em> postfoundationalist </em>approach to interdisciplinary dialogue, which implies three important moves for theological reflection. <em>First</em>, as theologians we should acknowledge the radical contextuality of all our intellectual work, the epistemically crucial role of interpreted experience, and the way that disciplinary traditions shape the values that inform our reflection about God and what we believe to be God’s presence in the world. <em>Second</em>, a postfoundationalist notion of rationality should open our eyes to an epistemic obligation that points beyond the boundaries of our own discipline, our local communities, groups, or cultures, toward plausible forms of <em>interdisciplinary dialogue</em> (cf. van Huyssteen1999). Against this background I have argued for distinct and important differences between reasoning strategies used by theologians and scientists. I have also, argued, however, that some important shared rational resources may actually be identified for these very different cognitive domains of our mental lives (cf. van Huyssteen 2006, forthcoming). <em>Thirdly</em>, it is precisely these shared rational resources that enable interdisciplinary dialogue, and are expressed most clearly by the notion of <em>transversal rationality</em>. In the dialogue between theology and other disciplines, transversal reasoning promotes different but equally legitimate ways of viewing specific topics, problems, traditions, or disciplines, and creates the kind of space where different voices need not always be in contradiction, or in danger of assimilating one another, but are in fact dynamically interactive with one another. This notion of transversality thus provides a philosophical window to our wider world of communication through thought and action (cf. Schrag 1992:148ff.; welsch 1996: 764ff.), and teaches us to respect the disciplinary integrity of reasoning strategies as different as theology and the sciences.<sup class=ftn><a title=;">1

This way of thinking is always concrete, local, and contextual, but at the same time reaches beyond local contexts to transdisciplinary concerns. The overriding concern here is as follows: while we always come to our interpersonal and cross-disciplinary conversations with strong personal beliefs, commitments and even prejudices, a postfoundationalist approach enables us to realize that, in spite of our radically different reasoning strategies, there is also much that we share in terms of our rational resources. An interdisciplinary approach, carefully thought through, can help us to identify these shared resources in different modes of knowledge so as to reach beyond the boundaries of our own traditional disciplines in cross-contextual, cross-disciplinary conversation. It can also enable us to identify possible shared conceptual problems as we negotiate the porous boundaries of our different disciplines.

One such shared interdisciplinary problem is the concern for human uniqueness, and how that may, or may not, relate to human origins and the evolution of religious awareness. It is, therefore, precisely in the problem of ‘human uniqueness’ that theology and the sciences may find a shared research trajectory. Our very human capacity (or mania?) for self-definition can most probably be seen as one of the ‘crowning achievements’ of our species. As we all know today, however, no one trait or accomplishment should ever be taken as the single defining characteristic of what it means to be human. Morever, what we see as our humanness, or even our distinct human ‘uniqueness’, ultimately implies a deeply moral choice: we are not just biological creatures, but as cultural creatures we have the remarkable but dangerous ability to determine whom we are going to include, or not, as part of ‘us’(cf. Proctor 2003:228f.). Talking about human uniqueness in reasoning strategies as different as theology and the sciences, therefore, will always have a crucially important moral dimension. We do seem to have a profound moral responsibility when defining ourselves, for naming ourselves always assumes a specific kind of reality that gives shape to the worlds we create and experience. It is also important to ask, however, how reasonable (or not) it might be for a theologian, after immersing him/herself in the challenging contemporary debates in paleoanthropology and archeology, to expect scientists to provide a starting point, or important links, for an interdisciplinary discussion of issues like human origins, human nature, human uniqueness, and even human destiny. And last but not least: how realistic is it for a Christian theologian to expect scientists to take theological contributions to these crucially important topics seriously?

An interesting part of our self-perception is that it is often the less material aspects of the history of our species that fascinates us most in the evolution of modern humans. We seem to grasp at an intuitive level that issues like language, self-awareness, consciousness, moral awareness, symbolic behavior and mythology, are probably the defining elements that really make us human (cf. Lewin 1993:4). Yet exactly these elements that most suggest humanness are often the least visible in the prehistoric record. For this reason paleoanthropologists correctly have focused on more indirect, but equally plausible material pointers to the presence of the symbolic human mind in early human prehistory. Arguably the most spectacular of the earliest evidences of symbolic behaviour in humans are the paleolithic cave paintings in South West France and the Basque Country, painted toward the end of the last Ice Age. The haunting beauty of these prehistoric images, and the creative cultural explosion that they represent, should indeed fascinate any theologian interested in human origins.

At first blush there does in fact seem to be a rather remarkable convergence between the evolutionary emergence of Homo sapiens, and Christian beliefs in the origins of the human creature (cf. García-Rivera 2003:9). In a sense the famous ‘cultural explosion’ of the Upper-Paleolithic, although in no sense the ‘beginning of a new species’, does exemplify the most distinctive traits of our species much as the creation myths of the Abrahamic religions refer to the arrival of a new species, created in the ‘image of God’3.

Against this background it is already clear that certain themes naturally emerge as seminal for the interdisciplinary dialogue between paleoanthropology and theology. It is in these scientific discussions that theologians need to find transversal connections to their own discipline(s). Scholars like Steven Mithen (1996), Ian Tattersall (1998), Merlin Donald (1991; 2001) and Paul Mellars (1990) have all argued that knowing the prehistory of the human mind will provide us with a more profound understanding of what it means to be uniquely human. It certainly helps us to understand a little better the origins of art, technology, and of religion, and how these cultural domains are inescapably linked to the ability of the cognitively fluid human mind to develop creatively powerful metaphors by crossing the boundaries of different domains of knowledge. Iain Davidson has argued that early humans worked out their relationship with their environment and with each other precisely through paleolithic ‘art’, and he sees the burst of image making after 40,000 BP as reflecting the way that these ancestors of ours explored the limits and possibilities of the power of their recently discovered symbolically based communication. Because of this, most scholars in the field would take the Upper Paleolithic as the standard for recognizing symbolism (cf. Davidson 1997:125; cf. also Diamond 1998), although powerful and convincing arguments have now been made by Christopher Henshilwood and his team for a more gradual emergence of modern human behavior in Africa, most notably by the discovery of personal ornaments from around 75 thousand years ago at the Blombos Cave in South Africa (cf. Henshilwood, C., d’Erico, F., Vanhaeren, M., van Niekerk, K., Jacobs, Z., 2004:404f.). For Iain Davidson any kind of symboling power is tied directly to the origins of language: it would have been impossible for creatures without language to create symbolic artifacts, or to hold opinions about the making or marking of surfaces that would eventually turn them into imagery or ‘art’. For this reason Davidson argues that it is precisely the exceptional artistic artifacts from the Upper Paleolithic that give us unique insights into evolutionary processes, into the evolution of human behavior, and into the very nature of what it might have meant to become a modern human.

The important question now is, what does the origin of language mean for our understanding of prehistoric imagery? For Davidson one of the most distinctive features of language is the arbitrariness of symbols, and how that necessarily results in inherent ambiguity, especially when compared to pre-linguistic communication systems (cf. the complex calls of Vervet monkeys) which have no possibility of ambiguity because they have been honed by natural selection. One way to cope with the proliferation of this kind of ambiguous creativity was to produce emblems or signs which we, even today, can recognize as in some sense iconic (cf. Davidson 1997:126f.). I believe that successful communication, therefore, requires means of identification that the utterances or images are trustworthy, and in some sense represent a recognizable continuity. We should, therefore, not be surprised to find these kinds of emblems among early language users. We should also not be surprised, I think, that we too are still fascinated by the enigmatic character of these symbolic images and signs, especially since they still appeal to our own aesthetic and symbolic capacities.

This argument that paleolithic imagery or ‘art’ is symbolic, and not just decorative, is considerably strengthened by Margaret Conkey’s persuasive arguments against trying to capture the generic ‘meaning’ of paleolithic art as a single, inclusive metatheory, and for a more contextual understanding of the ‘meaning’ of this art as enmeshed in the social context of its time. On this view, the original meaning can only be said to have existed through the contexts in which it was first produced as individual paintings or parts of paintings (cf. Davidson 1997:128). ‘Meaning’, therefore, is not a timeless property of paleolithic imagery in itself, but, as in the case of religious texts, is the result of the interaction, then and now, between the human agents and the material. We also, in our own relational, interactive interpretations of this imagery, discover and produce meaning. Therefore, the symbolism or ‘meaning’ we find in the earliest ‘art’ produced by people like us clearly is a product of our own interpretative interaction with this stunning imagery. What emerges here is an important convergence between theological and paleoanthropological methodology, a postfoundationalist argument for the fact that we relate to our world(s) through highly contextualized, interpreted experience only.

For theology, the most important lesson learnt is that, from a paleoanthropological point of view, all talk of symbolism should be seen as part and parcel of turning communication into language, but the use of symbols separate from language could only have been a product of language (cf. Davidson 1997:153). What this implies is that the prehistoric cave paintings in southwestern France and in the Basque Country of Northern Spain could only have had whatever symbolic, expressive quality they did because of the linguistic, symbolic context in which they must have been created. Hence the imagination, productivity and creativity we associate with humans are very much a product of language, which, in both theology and the sciences, make language and expressive symbolic abilities central to a definition of embodied human uniqueness.

Throughout the history of paleoanthropological research, one of the primary questions has always been, when did humans begin to think, feel, and act like humans? Central to this question has always been the issue of cognition or creative self-awareness, and how it might be recognized in its initial stages (cf. Donald 1991; 2001). Steven Mithen’s answer to this question is an evolutionary approach to the origins of the human mind, and the development of a three stage typology of cognition that follows the evolution of domains of intelligence from the earliest members of the genus Homo through to their final integration in modern humans. Only in the final phase, in Homo sapiens, do we find a dramatic behavioral break, a ‘big bang’ of cognitive, technical and social innovation with the rise of cognitive fluidity as the final phase of mind development (cf. Mithen 1996). William Noble and Iain Davidson, in a slightly different approach, see one development, namely language, as pivotal in the evolution of human cognition. Here social context is seen as a primary selective force, and language, symbolization and mind are integrated into an explanatory framework for the evolution of human cognition, centered on the human ability to give meaning to perceptions in a variety of ways. Ultimately Noble and Davidson see language as emerging out of socially defined contexts of communication, encouraged as a more efficient form of gesture, with the selection of language occurring because of its efficiency and flexibility (cf. Noble and Davidson 1996; also, Simek 1998:444f.).

For Terence Deacon, arguing from a neuroscientific point of view, early symbolic communication would not have been just a simpler form of language; it would have been different in many respects as a result of the state of vocal abilities. Deacon argues that our prehistoric ancestors used languages that we will never hear and communicated with symbols that have not survived the selective sieve of fossilization. And as far as specific Upper-Paleolithic imagery goes, Deacon seems to be in complete agreement with Iain Davidson: it is almost certainly a reliable expectation that a society which constructed complex tools and spectacular artistic imagery also had a correspondingly sophisticated symbolic infrastructure (cf. Deacon 1997:365). Deacon’s argument confirms the transversal impact of paleoanthropology on the interdisciplinary dialogue with theology: a society that leaves behind evidence of permanent external symbolization in the form of paintings, carvings, and sculpture, most likely also included a social, iconic function for this activity. As far as paleolithic imagery goes, then, the first cave paintings and carvings that emerged from this period may not be the first direct expression of a symbolizing mind, but it certainly emerged as one of the most spectacular expressions of the symbolic human mind..

What has emerged from the work of Mithen, Noble and Davidson, Donald, Tattersall and Deacon, and should be of primary interest to theologians working on anthropology, is that human mental life includes biologically unprecedented ways of experiencing and understanding the world, from aesthetic experiences to spiritual contemplation. In a recent article, Terence Deacon makes the important point that the spectacular paleolithic imagery and the burial of the dead, though not final guarantees of shamanistic or religious activities, do suggest strongly the existence of sophisticated symbolic reasoning and a religious disposition of the human mind (cf. Deacon 2003:504ff.). The symbolic nature of Homo sapiens also explains why mystical or religious inclinations can even be regarded as an essentially universal attribute of human culture (cf. Deacon 1997:436), and opens up an important space for David Lewis-William’s persuasive argument for a shamanistic interpretation of some of the most famous of the paleolithic imagery (cf. Lewis-Williams 1997; 2002; Clottes and Lewis-Williams 1996).

In trying to find an adequate explanation for modern human behavior during the Upper-Paleolithic, Lewis-Williams has been highly critical of any over-emphasis on intelligence, and the evolution of intelligence, that might marginalize the importance of the full range of human consciousness in human behavior. This reveals a one-sided focus on ‘the consciousness of rationality’, and has marginalized the fuller spectrum of human consciousness by suppressing certain forms of consciousness as irrational, marginal, aberrant, or even pathological. This is especially true in the case of altered states of consciousness, which in science and even within mainstream religion often has been eliminated from investigations of the deep past (cf. Lewis-Williams 2002:121).

In a move closely resonating with Antonio Damasio’s recent work, Lewis-Williams suggests that we think of consciousness not as a state, but as a continuum, or spectrum of mental states that includes a trajectory from shifting wakefulness to sleeping (cf. Lewis-Williams 2002:122). In addition to this spectrum of consciousness from shifting wakefulness to sleep, Lewis-Williams also suggests another trajectory that passes through the same spectrum but with different effects. He calls this an intensified trajectory, and it is more profoundly concerned with inward-direction and fantasy. Lewis-Williams argues that dream-like autistic states may be induced by a wide variety of means other than normal drifting into sleep: fatigue, pain, fasting, and the ingestion of psychotropic substances are all means of shifting consciousness along the intensified trajectory towards the release of inwardly generated imagery. At the end of this trajectory there emerges pathological states, such as schizophrenia and temporal lobe epilepsy, that take consciousness along the intensified trajectory. Hallucinations may thus be deliberately sought, or may emerge unsought (cf. Lewis-Williams 2002:124).

For Lewis-Williams this second trajectory has much in common with the one that takes us into sleep and dreaming, but there are also important differences. Dreaming gives us an idea what hallucinations are like, but the states toward the far end of the intensified trajectory - visions and hallucinations that may occur in any of the five senses - are generally called altered states of consciousness (cf. Lewis-Williams 2002:125). Lewis-Williams argues that this phrase can equally be applied to dreaming and to ‘inward’ states on the normal trajectory, even if some prefer to restrict its use to extreme hallucinations and trance states. Importantly, all the mental states described here are generated by the neurology of the human nervous system, and they are thus part and parcel of what it is to be fully human. In this sense they are literally ‘wired into the brain’, although we have to remember the mental imagery humans experience in altered states are overwhelmingly, although not entirely, derived from memory and thus culture specific. This is the reason why Inuits will see polar bears in their visions, the San see eland, and Hildegard from Bingen experienced the Christian God (cf. Lewis-Williams 2002:126). The spectrum of consciousness, therefore, is indeed wired, but its content is mostly cultural.

For Lewis-Williams the concept of a spectrum of consciousness will indeed help us to explain many specific features of Upper-Paleolithic imagery. In fact, it provides us with a neurological bridge that leads back directly to the Upper-Paleolithic, especially if we take a careful look at the visual imagery of the intensified spectrum and see what kinds of percepts (the representation of what is perceived) are experienced as one passes along it. Lewis-Williams identifies three stages on the intensified spectrum of consciousness, each of which is characterized by particular kinds of imagery and experiences (cf. Lewis-Williams 2002:126):

- in the first or ‘lightest’ stage people may experience geometric visual percepts that include dots, grids, zigzags, and meandering lines. Moreover, because these percepts are wired into the human nervous system, all humans, no matter what their cultural background, have the potential to experience them. They flicker, scintillate, expand, contract, and combine with one another, and importantly, they are independent of an exterior light source. Lewis-Williams also argues that such percepts cannot be consciously controlled: they seem to have a life of their own. These entopic phenomena (from the Greek ‘within vision’) may originate anywhere between the eye itself and the cortex of the brain. Entopic phenomena should be distinguished from hallucinations, the forms of which have no foundation in the actual structure of the optic system. Unlike neurologically ‘wired’ entopic phenomena, hallucinations include iconic imagery of culturally controlled items such as animals, as well as somatic (bodily), aural (hearing), gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell) experiences (cf. Lewis-Williams 2002:126f.).

- in stage two of the intensified trajectory, subjects try to make sense of entopic phenomena by elaborating them into iconic forms, i.e., into objects that are familiar to them from their daily life. In addition, in altered states of consciousness, the nervous system itself becomes a ‘sixth sense’ that produces a variety of images, including entopic phenomena (cf. Lewis-Williams 2002:128).

- as subjects move into stage three, marked changes in imagery may occur: at this point many people experience a swirling vortex or rotating tunnel that seems to surround them and to draw them into its depths. In fact, there is a progressive exclusion of information from the outside as the subject moves into a more and more autistic state. This tunnel hallucination is often associated with near-death experiences, and sometimes a bright light in the center of the field of vision creates this tunnel-like perspective. In non-Western cultures shamans typically speak of reaching the spirit world via this kind of vortex of hole in the ground. From this Lewis-Williams can then plausibly conclude that the vortex, and the ways in which its imagery is perceived, are clearly universal human experiences (cf. Lewis-Williams 2002:129). Furthermore, in this third and final stage iconic images derive from memory and are often associated with powerful emotional experiences. In this stage subjects may also enter and participate in their own imagery, and it is in this sense that people sometimes feel themselves to be turning into animals and undergoing frightening or exalting transformations.

All anatomically modern people, not only from the Upper-Paleolithic but also from our own time, had, or still have the same nervous system and, therefore, cannot avoid experiencing the full spectrum of human consciousness, refrain from dreaming, or escape the potential to hallucinate. And exactly because our Paleolithic ancestors were fully human, we can confidently expect that their consciousness were as shifting and fragmented as ours, though the ways in which they regarded and valued various states would have been largely culturally determined1. In December 2004, J. Wentzel van Huyssteen delivered the Olaus Petri Lectures at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. This article reflects in summarized version the heart of the argument developed in that series of lectures.

3. Tattersall also argues that, ironically, it is precisely in our notions of God that we see our human condition most compactly reflected. Human beings, despite their unique associative mental abilities, are incapable of envisioning entities that lie outside their own experience, or that cannot be construed from what they know of the material world. For Tattersall the notion of God is just such an entity. And even with our dramatic increase in knowledge about the unimaginably vast expanse of our universe, our concepts of God – even when expanded commensurately – remain resolutely anthropomorphic (cf. 1998:202). We continue to imagine God in our own image simply because, no matter how much we may pride ourselves on our capacity for abstract thought, we are unable to do otherwise.

Importantly, from a theological point of view, however, this does not imply the illusory character or the non-existence of God, but in fact might actually reveal the only intellectually satisfying way of believing in the kind of God with whom we might have a humanly comprehensible personal relationship at all.

1

This leads to consideration of yet another theodicy, Manicheanism, in which the universe is the site of the titanic struggle of roughly equal forces of good and evil. For Manicheans there is no necessary reason why the transhumanist development of human capacities could not contribute to the struggle for good. As with arms races in temporal reality, if the forces of good refuse to avail themselves of all the means at their disposal the forces of evil will be guaranteed to use those powers to gain advantage. A Manichean bioconservative may believe that all enhancement technologies are poisoned pills which will doom the user, and that the only armaments necessary in the battle are spiritual. But many contemporary Manichean evangelical Christians – those who inveigh against the wiles of Satan as if he was God's co-equal – have no problem using television, medicine, computers and so on in their battle for the Lord. So presumably some will also soon see the spiritual necessity for Christians to be as smart, wired and long-lived as the agents of Beelzebub.

The transhumanist philosopher Mark Walker is probably the leading writer on reconciling transhumanism with Christian theology. In his essay “Becoming Gods: A neo-Irenaean Theodicy” (Walker, 2002c) he argued that the theodical position of a Polkinghorne (2000) or Hick (1977, 1981) – that God gave us free will in order to give us the opportunity to struggle for self-improvement – can be applied to a transhumanist theodicy:

it is not the mere possession of free will that guarantees the production of evil, rather it is free will in conjunction with our finite nature that leads to the production of moral evil. Thus, it is our duty to attempt to move beyond our merely finite selves, to become gods. When, and only when, we have discharged this duty will evil be expunged, only then will the problem of evil be fully answered. (Walker, 2002c)

Walker notes that since we are considered God's children rather than God's pets that the expectation should be that we are being nurtured and encouraged to become adults and not to remain in perpetual pet-itude.

If God is an ideal parent His mission must be to allow us to develop to become type identical with Him. (Walker, 2002c)

Walker goes on to argue that the transhumanist project, applied to the moral improvement of humanity as well as to the usual goals of longevity, super-intelligence, post-biology and emotional regulation, would be the fulfillment of such a Christian theodicy.  Peters makes a similar point about humanity being in Imago Dei, the image of God; doesn't this imply that we are enjoined to also be god-like in all our attributes, instead of only our spiritual virtues? Philippians 3:21 says He “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” Couldn’t transhumanist technologies be part of the working out of the divine plan that we become godlike as well?

While some Christians insist that humanity was created as we are today, and that no evolution has taken place or should take place so that we remain in Imago Dei as intended, many other Christians have no problem imagining that Creation was simply a prima causa of the Big Bang, or a sparking of life on Earth. Christians who accept that humanity has evolved since Creation should also have no problem believing that we can remain in Imago Dei as posthumans. For instance Robert Schneider notes in "Evolution and the Image of God":

If this is the biblical understanding of what it means to be created in "the image of God," then does it require a separate creation for human beings, that is, for H. sapiens, to be made in this image? …"That God created human beings (Gen. 1:27; Ps. 100:3) does not imply instantaneous action.  God's creation of humanity encompasses past primate history, the present, and whatever is to come.  The sweep of human evolution illustrates how God's work of creation is a continuing relationship of dependence between the world and God, a continuing act of God's will, an eternal covenant relationship"…Genesis itself implies that humanity and all the other living beings are made of the same stuff and given the same breath of life (Gen. 2:7, 9, 19, cf. Eccl. 3:19-21; Miller 1993), and modern science has shown that we share the same DNA and other molecules with virtually all living things…It does not denigrate either God or humanity to hold that God's creative evolutionary processes brought humanity to a point where it would be capable of expressing those qualities that both Scripture and theology have associated with the "image of God." (Schneider, 2007).

In summary, in theodicies as in metaphysics, there is no inconsistency between most religious views and transhumanist aspirations. In the next section I will consider some of the soteriological positions on virtue and transcendence that are similarly consistent with a transhumanist project of radical human enhancement.

 

Virtue, Happiness and Soteriology

Patrick Hopkins (2005) argues that both religion and transhumanism are soteriological efforts to transcend animality. Most transhumanists are libertarian in respect to life goals. While they may personally aspire to enlightenment, salvation, moksha or a life of virtue, they have little evangelical or authoritarian impulse to guide others away from vice or self-indulgence. But there is an implicit conception of the good personality in transhumanist thought, from the evolving Extropian Principles, which urged transhumanists to be more rational and dynamically optimistic, to the writings of Bostrom, Walker and myself which have dealt with issues of eudemonia and the benevolent obligation to restrict others from self-harm. A positive moral and political agenda for transhumanism is riskier than strict liberal neutrality about life ends, since bioconservatives already suspect transhumanists of totalitarian ambitions. But given the types of moral and psychological harms people could cause themselves and society with future neurotechnologies a pro-active theory of the good posthuman personality is inescapable.

The idea of linking transhumanism with moral improvement and soteriology has developed rapidly in the last couple of years in reaction to the growing body of evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetic explanations for religion (Boyer, 2001, 2003, 2004), and the emerging fields of positive psychology, neurophilosophy and neurotheology (Seligman, 2004; Alper, 2006; Hamer, 2004; Newberg, 2002). If our impulses for virtue, vice and religiosity are in some part determined by genetic, hormonal or neurological predispositions why then shouldn't we redesign ourselves to have better impulses, superior moral reasoning and more frequent experiences of meditative or prayerful transcendence.

In Walker's essay "Genetic Virtue" (2003d) he argues that there is a growing body of evidence to support genetic predispositions for friendliness, which has been generally considered a virtue. The literature he cites is based on the "five factor" personality model, which shows that everyone’s personality can be described as a mix of five basic characteristics, all of which are substantially set at birth and stable across one’s life: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Kerry Jang at the University of British Columbia has found that the agreeableness or sociability trait is especially strongly influenced by genes (Jang, 1998). People who score high on sociability are more compassionate, trusting and helpful while people low in sociability are uncooperative, unsympathetic and easily irritated. Genetic enhancement to make people more compassionate, trusting and helpful, Walker argues, will therefore be both ethical and commendable.

One drug that has been shown to increase our capacity for trust and cooperation is the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is released during breast feeding, orgasm and the infatuation period of romance, contributing to bonding. In experiments in Switzerland Ernst Fehr and colleagues have found that subjects covertly dosed with oxytocin were more cooperative and trusting in laboratory experiments (Kosfeld, 2005). 

Similarly applying psychopharmaceutical, genetic or cybernetic control to our vices would also be commendable. Substantial research suggests that our predispositions for addictions, anger, self-absorption, gluttony and sexual promiscuity have a neurochemical basis which can be treated with drugs and potentially gene therapies (Medina, 2000).

Most religious critics of transhumanism assume however that no such biomedical enhancement of human virtue is possible. For instance Christopher Hook wrote in Christianity Today that:

Transhumanist philosophy claims that technology can correct the fundamental problems of humankind. As Christians, we know that our elemental problems arise from the corruption of the human heart (Mark 7:21-23). Sin is real, observable, and unexplained by empirical tools. All technological innovations will not only fail to produce true happiness but also will be corrupted intrinsically by sin.  (Hook, 2004)

Nonetheless, the recent controversy over the proposal by Baptist theologian Albert Mohler that Christian parents would be obliged to fix their gay embryos' sexual orientation in utero shows that the idea of genetic or cybernetic moral enhancement will be compelling for even those religious who are otherwise bioconservative:

Research into the sexual orientation of sheep and other animals, as well as human studies, points to some level of biological causation for sexual orientation in at least some individuals.  Given the consequences of the Fall and the effects of human sin, we should not be surprised that such a causation or link is found. After all, the human genetic structure, along with every other aspect of creation, shows the pernicious effects of the Fall and of God's judgment….If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin.  (Mohler, 2007)

If sinful genetic predispositions are the mark of the Fall of Man in the genome, why stop with the correction of just the impulse to same sex relationships and not include predispositions to greed, anger, lust, gluttony, sloth and pride? Since Adam's loss of longevity was his gravest punishment in the Fall, wouldn't correcting genes for aging be a means to redress genetic sin?

General cognitive enhancement of intelligence will lead to improvement in some virtues, such as more sophisticated moral reasoning (Colby, 1983) and our ability to predict the consequences of our behavior for others. But enhancing our capacities for empathy, compassion and cooperation will require different interventions. “Emotional intelligence,” our understanding of our own and other’s feelings, is not correlated with IQ tests (Gardner, 1993). Autistics can display high levels of intellectual ability, while being completely incapable of understanding or empathizing with the emotions of others, and we are coming to understand that damage to specific "mirror neurons" are the cause of autists' disabled empathy (Oberman, 2005). Similarly our ability to perform moral decision-making, our capacity to experience outrage at lying and injustice, and our feelings of love and shame, appear to depend on specific brain structures (Allman et al., 2001).   Developing drugs, gene therapies or devices which enhance the functions of these structures would have profound effects on our moral sense, potentially making us more ethical and compassionate people.

The growing field of positive psychology has developed a meta-cultural model of the six basic, pancultural virtues, and is working on the balance of congenital and environmental factors that determine your virtue orientation on each one. In turn one's level of each virtue, like several of the congenitally set personality traits and one's basic happiness set point, all influence one's level of happiness. People who are congenitally set to be friendly, trusting, energetic and not neurotic are happier than they would otherwise be given their happiness set point. Happily, virtue – energy, diligence, friendliness and so on - leads to happiness (Seligman, 2004).  As yet, the positive psychologists have focused on behavioral and cognitive interventions to modify individual virtues, but their work also provides a model for a complementary neurotechnological approach.

If enhancement technologies could suppress our vices and enhance our virtues, is there any reason to believe they would interfere with salvation, grace or enlightenment, the other component in most soteriology? In his 2005 essay "Trans-Spirit: Religion, Spirituality and Transhumanism" Zen priest Mike LaTorra argues that the emerging investigations of neurotheology  (Alper, 2006; Newberg, 2002) – the genetic and neuron-physiological bases of meditation, rapture, awe, sudden insight and contentment – should be the basis for new neurotechnologies to enhance these capacities. David Pearce and the "abolitionist" school of transhumanism are researching neurotechnologies that provide a consistently high level of contentment, and other desirable altered states of consciousness.  The Council on Spiritual Experiences (Forte, 1997), and a growing network of "entheological" researchers (Hoffman, 2000; Smith, 2000; McGraw, 2004; Economist, 2004), are documenting the effects of "entheogens," traditional psychedelics and novel psychopharmaceuticals that appear to induce spiritual experiences. In Michael Persinger's (2001) research on transcranial magnetic stimulation to temporarily suppress activity in specific parts of the brain he has been able to generate the feeling that a spiritual being was in the room with the subject, and brain lesions have been linked to out of body experiences and "religious reverie."

There is a frequent religious objection to the notion of "push-button Zen" that I think is cogent, and it goes to the transhumanist rejection of the myth of authenticity. Kass et al.'s Beyond Therapy, Fukuyama's Our Posthuman Future and Sandel's The Case Against Perfection all argue that enhancement technologies will rob us of a sense of accomplishment, an argument that often bleeds over into the idea of learning through suffering.  While I do not think this complaint is an argument for sickness, aging and death, or poverty and injustice for that matter, I do think some people will feel differently about their spiritual health if they overcome their licentiousness or drug addiction with a pill rather than through arduous self-examination. The person who has spent twenty years meditating to achieve a satori experience of oneness with the universe will feel differently, and get different benefits, than the person who is able to induce such an experience with a brainjack. Spending years in community with fellow seekers, talking about your life, your struggles, and sitting on a cushion to master the drunken monkey of mind is not reducible to transient, inducible experience.

Perhaps some of us will still choose to forego engineered virtue and push-button enlightenment, and persist with the spiritual slog, just as people still like to ride horses even though they have cars, or climb mountains when they could take a helicopter. Nonetheless many mountain climbers appreciate having the latest camping gear, GPS locators, climbing boots and a cell phone to call in a helicopter just in case they need one. Similarly, when we have neurotechnologically enabled virtue, grace and transcendence I believe it will be up to each seeker to decide their own combination of technological and pre-technological methods.

Perhaps the ability to use neurotech to occasionally taste contentment and transcendence will provide a little motivation for those who prefer mostly non-technological methods. Those who don't feel the need to slog slowly up the mountain, generosity, patience, self-control, energy and even enligthenment will be easily available.

 

Eschatology

Reflecting on the likely capacities of emergent superintelligence in this century and in the far future has led a number of secular transhumanist thinkers to develop eschatologies. These eschatologies are structurally and psycho-culturally isomorphic with religious eschatologies, reflecting the recurrent logic of questions of origins, interruptions and endings. As the religious come to see these similarities they will understand them as a scientific secular validation of their prophesies and visions, with superintelligent humans and machines, and the rest of the transhumanist project, cast as prophecied parts of the eschatological narrative.

The Singularity as Techno-Millennialism

Joel Garreau's (2005) psycho-history of accelerating change, Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies-and What It Means to Be Human, is structured in three parts: Heaven, Hell and Prevail. In the Heaven scenario he focuses on the predictions of a coming Singularity of transhumanist inventor Ray Kurzweil, summarized in Kurzweil's 2005 book, The Singularity is Near. The idea of a techno-millennial "Singularity" is usually associated with a 1993 paper by mathematician and science fiction author Vernor Vinge. Vinge projected the millennial/apocalyptic consequences of the emergence of self-willed artificial intelligence, which he projected would emerge within the next couple of decades. In physics "singularities" are black holes, within which we can’t predict how physical laws will work. In the same way, Vinge said, greater-than-human machine intelligence, multiplying exponentially, would make everything about our world unpredictable.

Since 1993 a "Singularitarian" subculture has emerged within the transhumanist movement predicated on anticipation of the dramatic abruption of history by technological acceleration.   Most Singularitarians, like Vinge and Kurzweil, have focused on the emergence of super-human machine intelligence. But the even more fundamental concept is of exponential technological progress, with the multiplier quickly leading to point of either catastrophe or a transition to a new phase of history.

The most famous accelerating trend is "Moore's Law," articulated by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965, which is the observation that the number of transistors that can be fit on a computer chip has doubled about every eighteen months since their invention. Kurzweil goes to great lengths in The Singularity is Near to document that these trends of accelerating change also occur in genetics, mechanical miniaturization, and telecommunications, not just transistors. Kurzweil projects that the "law of accelerating returns" from technological change is "so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history." For instance Kurzweil predicts that we will soon be able to distribute trillions of nanorobots in our brains, and thereby extend our minds, and eventually upload our minds into machines. Since lucky humans will at that point merge with or become superintelligence, some refer to the Singularity as the "Techno-Rapture" or "the Rapture of the Nerds" pointing out the similarity of narrative to the Christian Rapture; those foresighted enough to be early adopters of life extension and cybernetics will live long enough to be uploaded and "vastened" after the Singularity. The rest of humanity may however be "left behind."

This secular "left behind" narrative is very explicit in the Singularitarian writings of computer scientist Hans Moravec (1988, 1998).  For Moravec the human race will be superceded by our robot children, among whom some of us may be ale to expand to the stars. In Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind, Moravec says "Our artificial progeny will grow away from and beyond us, both in physical distance and structure, and similarity of thought and motive. In time their activities may become incompatible with the old Earth's continued existence…An entity that fails to keep up with its neighbors is likely to be eaten, its space, materials, energy, and useful thoughts reorganized to serve another's goals. Such a fate may be routine for humans who dally too long on slow Earth before going Ex." (Moravec, 1988)  Here we have the Tribulations and damnation, in addition to the millennial utopian outcome. Rather than consigning the late adopters to eternal damnation, however, as in the Christian Rapture narrative, Moravec argues for the far gentler institution of a universal welfare state to provide comfortably, even splendidly, for the ur-humans, revealing less a vengeful damnation of the unbelievers and more of a Universalist embrace of salvation, heaven on earth for the stubborn humans while the posthumans become gods.

While Kurzweil acknowledges hypothetical apocalyptic potentials inherent in these technologies, such as the "Terminator" scenario of malevolent AI and robots intent on wiping out humanity, he is nonetheless recognizably millennialist about the utopian promise of the Singularity. Hence Garreau's label that Kurzweil's is a  "Heaven" scenario of the human future. Kurzweil acknowledges his continuity with millennialists by, for instance, specifying the date 2029 as the specific year in which he expects the Singularity, and including a picture in The Singularity is Near of himself holding a sign with that slogan, referencing the classic cartoon image of the EndTimes street prophet.

For most Singularitarians, as with most millennialists before them, the processes that lead to the millennium are seen as autonomous of human agency (Baumgartner, 1999), and little attention is given to ways that war, regulation, energy crises or human incompetence might slow or stop the trajectory. Kurzweil is quite explicit on this point, referencing the continuous curves of technological acceleration that appear to have been unperturbed by wars and recessions in the 20th century. In this sense Singularitarians are more similar to the most familiar Christian millennialism, the "pre-millenialists" who also see the EndTimes coming on God's pre-ordained timing, not hastened or slowed by human agency. Singularitarians share the premillennialist fatalist optimism that the deus ex machina does not depend on human collective action. Many Singularitarians are apolitical or libertarian; believing that public policy can contribute little to hastening or improving the Millennium, although Luddite regulations may slow it down.

On the other hand, Singularitarianism is also similar to Christian "post-millenialism," which believes that human agency is required to establish the Kingdom on Earth, to "immanetize the Eschaton" and bring about the EndTimes.  For Singularitarians the millennial event comes at the apogee of accelerating progress, rather than after intense Tribulations, similar to the "post-millennialist" eschatologies.  Some Singularitarians are focused on the fact that continued human economic and social progress is required to create artificial intelligence, and are dismayed at the slow progress of cybernetic science and the prospects for setbacks to technological civilization. Others are more focused on the possibility of a Manichean conflict between good AI and bad AI, and the importance of human agents in ensuring the success of the former.

An example of such concerns is found in the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI). SIAI is perhaps the leading exponent of Singularitarianism, centered on the writings and ideas of the autodidact cyber-philosopher Eliezer Yudkowsky. Yudkowsky and the SIAI hold that the first machine mind to emerge will likely take over the entire world, and therefore it is extremely important that it be "friendly" to humanity. If it emerges spontaneously, without pro-human friendliness having been woven into it's fabric from the beginning, it will probably either ignore humanity or see us as a competitor for resources, and we could be wiped out. Drawing on films about a future dominated by hostile AIs, some call this the "Terminator scenario." Therefore for the SIAI it is extremely important that the very few programmers who take seriously the need for friendliness, principally Mr. Yudkowsky and his followers, be the first to produce a machine mind. The SIAI has attracted some support from Silicon Valley philanthropists who share their desire to promote friendliness engineering among AI designers. Like an order of secret warrior-monks performing vital rituals necessary to ensure the incarnation of a divine avatar in order to defend humanity from the forces of evil, the SIAI sees itself as all that stands between humanity and destruction. If the first emergent AI is friendly it will be transcendently benevolent, and only it will have the capacity to solve human problems, from war and hunger to eternal life.  The SIAI worldview is a form of messianism, albeit a more loosely organized, nerdily diffident and nonviolent messianism than its religious cousins.

The SIAI researchers have nothing but contempt for any suggestion of a parallel between their own eschatological beliefs and those of religious believers, and they make a cogent point in response; for medieval apocalyptics there was no danger of fire actually falling from the sky, while today we have nuclear weapons. Fear of an noon-negligible empirical threat, and expectation of a scientifically plausible utopia, is empirically entirely different from fear of fictional supernatural threats and expectations of supernatural salvation. The point is important, but it does not change the psycho-cultural similarities between scientistic seculars and religious with similar millennialist expectations; neither see any reason to plow their fields much less stop climate change. If only the deus ex machina can solve human problems, then all energies must be turned to ensuring its appearance on the stage. Any expectation that we might control or regulate the deus ex machina are absurd.

Other Singularitarians are more explicitly millennial in their thinking. John Smart, founder and director of the California-based Acceleration Studies Foundation, often notes the similarity between his own "Global Brain" scenario and the eschatological writings of the Jesuit mystic Teilhard de Chardin (1959).  In the Global Brain scenario propounded by Smart (2005), Stock (1993) and Bloom (2000), collective intelligence will emerge as all human beings are be linked to one another and to machine intelligence in the emerging global telecommunications web. Again, this scenario is more similar to the "post-millenialist" form of Christianity since the Global Brain will include all or most of humanity, and come as a culmination of social progress. Smart and a growing group of more mystically inclined Singularitarians believe this scenario is similar to Chardin's idea that humanity would evolve into the global "noosphere," or info-sphere, leading to a postmillennial "Omega Point" of union with God.

Possible Posthuman Telos in a Natural Universe

The most common transhumanist cosmology is that the universe is impersonal and purposeless. The emergence of intelligence is a chance occurrence, with no inevitability or pre-ordained end. Given our existence and the immensity of time and the universe, however, intelligence must have emerged in many places and is presumably out there now. All intelligence presumably has the capacity to evolve into superintelligence, go star-faring and engage in galactic engineering of some kind. We should be able to perceive the ubiquity of superintelligence in galactic anomalies.

Thus the Fermi Paradox – the puzzling lack of visible evidence of superintelligence in the universe – provides transhumanists with both a mystery and a moral warning.  The mystery is that the telos of evolved extraterrestrial superintelligence may be so ineffable that our expectation that they would be building giant neon signs out of stars, or blasting out radio messages of mathematical formulae in order announce themselves to us may be akin to our intestinal bacteria despairing that we advanced multicellular organisms have not sent an intracellular chemical semaphore to announce our presence to our intestines. We might be swimming in evidence of superintelligent beings who have no interest in communicating with us and not even know it.

The moral warning of the Fermi Paradox is that there are many pitfalls on the path from the chance emergence of life to superintelligence, many "filters" (Hanson, 1998) the passage through which most species never survive. Some astro-biologists suggest that the universe is full of bacteria, but that complex creatures and intelligent species rarely evolve (Ward and Brownlee, 2000). Intelligence may be a rare and not terribly successful evolutionary path. Intelligence may lead inevitably to the creation and use of self-negating technologies and weapons. Superintelligence may tend toward static self-absorption and decline, transforming themselves into inert ecosystems calmly contemplating eternity on their home planets.

We are thus enjoined to take seriously that our posthuman future faces such enormous odds (Rees, 2004) and thoroughly consider all the "existential risks" (Bostrom, 2002) that intelligent species have had to face, and that we ourselves face. Those risks include natural phenomena such as asteroid impacts, supervolcanoes, plagues, and gamma ray bursts (Æirkoviæ, 2003), as well the capricious randomness of evolution, which could run even an intelligent species back into cul-de-sacs and devolution.

In Bostrom's canonical existential risks paper (2002) he outlines four types of risks:

Bangs – Earth-originating intelligent life goes extinct in relatively sudden disaster resulting from either an accident or a deliberate act of destruction.

Crunches – The potential of humankind to develop into posthumanity is permanently thwarted although human life continues in some form.

Shrieks – Some form of posthumanity is attained but it is an extremely narrow band of what is possible and desirable.

Whimpers – A posthuman civilization arises but evolves in a direction that leads gradually but irrevocably to either the complete disappearance of the things we value or to a state where those things are realized to only a minuscule degree of what could have been achieved.

A "crunch," the permanent unattainability of posthumanity, is posed by various natural or man-made catastrophes that could permanently end human technological progress, sending us back into a pre-technological state. Bostrom describes several "shriek" risk scenarios involving totalitarian superintelligences, with some narrow, unattractive flaw that eliminates all other evolutionary possibilities. The Terminator scenario is one such "shriek" assuming that the Terminator civilization becomes static and does not go on to develop the dynamic capacities of human intelligence. Another possibility is that a hegemonic superintelligence has a very narrow goal set – to make all living things as efficient as possible for instance – leading it to engineer all the diversity and autonomy out of all inferior beings in order to serve its ends. In the novel Accelerando by Charles Stross (2005), for instance, post-Singularity superintelligences tend to evolve out of computerized trading systems, and devolve into static communicators of buy and sell orders.

The risk that intelligence might willy-nilly end in an evolutionary cul-de-sac, without the imposition of totalitarianism but simply through the results of aggregate free choices, is the final "whimper" risk. This is the island of the lotus eaters, or the Eloi and Morlocks of Wells' The Time Machine, or any number of other static u/dystopian far futures.

In order to avoid these risks we need not only foresight and posthuman technological mastery over nature, argues Bostrom (2002, 2005b), but also the capacity for collective action through posthuman, hegemonic global governance (a "singleton"). Given the risks of too tight or too loose governance, the global governance system must permit individual and subcultural diversity for the continual evolution of the creative, diverse and dynamic intelligence. 

If we can anticipate and navigate these risks we – we as in all intelligences in the universe, and we human beings, and perhaps we personally –  may be able to evolve to superintelligence and to spread out to manipulate and become one with everything within this universe or even multiverse. No matter how powerful and sublime it becomes, however, intelligence will still be constrained by the impersonal laws of the multiverse. Superintelligence – singular or plural, sublime or autistic –  will either face its end with the heat death of this universe, or achieve some kind of immortality by writing itself into the structure of the universe before the heat death (Kurzweil, 2007) or by building a new and more congenial universe to migrate to as proposed by physicist Michio Kaku (Kaku, 2005; Holt, 2004).

Transhumanist Affinities in Buddhist Eschatology

Buddhist cosmology and eschatology is similar in some respects to Singularitarianism and the standard transhumanist cosmology described above. Buddhism rejects the idea of a created or designed universe, and all beings are subject to the natural laws of cause and effect, impermanence and insubstantiality. After the emergence of this universe, and the first emergence of intelligent beings in the heavens, earth realms and hells, all sentient beings develop dukkha or suffering. In the effort to escape from the cycle of sickness, aging and death, and transcend dukkha, a few rare people begin to discover the path of enlightenment that leads to freedom from causality, Buddhahood. Rebirth into the human realm is especially propitious for working on the path to enlightenment, since the suffering of the hells and hungry ghost realms, and the pleasures of the heavens, are so distracting.  Even the way to enlightenment has many pitfalls however, including millennia-long absorption into meditative dead-ends and spiritual cul-de-sacs. Having navigated all these challenges the Buddha is in a unique position to point them out.

Each Buddha then establishes a lineage of instruction which gradually loses its soteriological potency until no one can achieve enlightenment through it. Then another Buddha appears and the cycle starts again. We are currently thought to be in the period between the last Buddha, Gautama Shakyamuni, and the coming Buddha, Maitreya.

The Buddhist text The Lion Roar of the Wheel-Turning Monarch describes the events that lead to the coming of Maitreya, the next Buddha, a mythos that has been an inspiration for Buddhist millenarian rebellion from Burma to China (Hughes, 1993). First humanity is nearly destroyed by a seven-day war, engulfing the whole world and destroying civilization. The war is followed by a seven-month plague, spread by non-human beings, and an eight-year drought and famine, all resonant with other apocalyptic narratives and projections of the potential consequences of the use of nuclear and biological weapons. The survivors unite and establish a peaceful, united world.

Humans will evolve into a new species. After many generations these new humans will live 80,000 years.  Age of first marriage will be 500 years. The climate will always be good and mild. The earth will be thickly populated, and the scripture comments that we might think such a world to be like the hell of the "Waveless Deep", crushed by these billions of humans like being at the bottom of the ocean. But rather than an overpopulated, urban sprawl of polluted mega-cities, in this future humanity will pervade the world "as a jungle is by reeds and rushes," and the countryside will be like "an adorned garden."  

The people will be tranquil, safe, and free from danger. They will be happy and joyful, enjoying festivals. They will have plenty to eat and drink... In squares at the gates of the city, there will be shining wishing trees: one blue, one yellow, one red, and one white. Divine adornments and ornaments as well as all sorts of wealth and possessions will be hanging on the trees.

The world is ruled by a righteous, nonviolent king, Sankha. The next Buddha, Maitreya, is born into this utopia. Like previous Buddhas he will have 32 distinctive physical characteristics, such as a long tongue, webbed fingers and toes, spoked wheels on his hands and feet,  a spiral lump on his head, his penis hidden in a sheath, arms longer than his knees, unblinking eyes, and 40 even, white teeth. He will be considered beautiful by all.

When Maitreya reaches the age of 8,000 he leaves the householder life to become a monk, but this time accompanied by hundreds of thousands of male and female followers in his flying palace. After a short, intense period of meditation he achieves full enlightenment and becomes the next Buddha. He then travels the world spreading enlightenment. "Seeing people who are ready to be Awakened, he will go 100,000 leagues in a moment to cause them to be Awakened." On his return to the capital his ministry brings about the final, peaceful "withering of the state."

The Maitreyan millennial period will also then come to an end, leading to many more historical cycles before the destruction of the universe, which is not described in the official canon. The fifth century Sri Lankan monk Buddhaghosa systematized Theravadan Buddhist apocrypha and monastic commentaries on the canon in his work Visuddhimaggha (The Path of Purity), including a story of the end of the universe. In Buddhaghosa's account as this universe comes to an end humanity is warned by heavenly beings "who have seen the end of the universe and the new one being born." We are told to prepare for the end by meditating ourselves into immaterial states that can survive the destruction of all matter.  After the emergence of the new universe, all the immaterial spirits that have survived may re-enter the cycle of samsara as gods, humans, animals and ghosts, continuing their cycles of rebirth until they achieve enlightenment.

A universal human desire to transcend the limitations of human life. The risk of absorption into psychic dead-ends on the road to superintelligence. Radical longevity. A utopian world with eco-friendly wish-fulfilling technology. Flying palaces and teleportation. A superintelligent posthuman avatar of salvation spreading mind vastening. Uploading into hyperspace to escape the death of the universe aided by benevolent aliens. While secular transhumanists are uninterested in prophecy, those who believe in or are inspired by these ancient myths and stories may find their parallels and correspondences to the transhumanist worldview exciting, validating a creative trans-spiritual eschatology.

Posthuman Teleology in a Created Universe

Another, more theistic, correspondence between Buddhism and transhumanism can be found in the mythos of the supernatural bodhisattva of Mahayana Buddhism. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who decide to remain in samsara after their enlightenment in order to save all beings from suffering. Their salvific mission is focused on human beings since the gods are too besotted with pleasure and power to engage with spiritual growth, and the animals, ghosts and hell-dwellers are too stupid, hungry and miserable. A human rebirth is therefore a rare precious opportunity between much longer periods of spiritual stasis in the other realms.

The supernatural bodhisattva has the power however to make "Buddha lands" which provide a utopian existence with peace, plenty and long lives, but in which these are provided to support and encourage spiritual growth instead of frivolous entertainment and indulgence. The Buddha land is not a terminal paradise, but a kind of Extropian utopia providing the material preconditions for maximum spiritual dynamism until you transcend it and move to the next level of reality. The Pure Land sects of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism are based on worship of Amitabha, the bodhisattva who presides over the Western Paradise.  Amitabha ensures that those who call his name are reborn in his realm in which they are assured to achieve enlightenment.

As discussed in relation to theories of theodicy, the idea of superpowerful superintelligences opens the possibility that this universe could be created, perhaps even with benevolent teleological goals for humanity. One very influential transhumanist text that argued for a version of a created universe teleology was the physicist Frank Tipler in his 1995 book The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead. Tipler attempted to reconcile the then dominant scientific cosmological theory of an eventual Big Crunch, with transhumanism and the Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead. He argued that when the universe began to crush back down in on itself, that it would form an enormous black hole, the "Omega Point." On the edge of a black hole the laws of time and space twist so that we would theoretically experience an eternity in our fall further down into final annihilation, with a theoretically infinite amount of matter and energy with which work. Tipler further argued that by the time the universe reached this end they would have gathered and recorded information about all the creatures that had ever existed in this universe. With infinite computing resources they would then be able to create infinitely detailed recreations of all the beings to populate the endless stretches of the End Time black hole. Thus, there could be bodily resurrection for all dead at the End of Time.

The subsequent discovery that the universe is accelerating in its expansion without sufficient arresting gravitational mass, leading eventually to a heat death and not a crunch, has not changed Tipler's convictions; by his current calculations we can still arrest the expansion to heat death, and bring on the Big Crunch, if we can migrate our consciousness into dark matter/energy and destroy all baryonic matter in the universe (Tipler, 2005).

Somewhat more proximate, plausible, and far more disturbing, is Nick Bostrom's (2003) "simulation hypothesis." Bostrom calculates that if superintelligences emerge and spread with any frequency in the universe, with 50 billion years before the heat death of the universe, during which time the intelligences will be able to convert all matter and energy into information processing capacity, one of the things that will likely occur to them to do to do will be to play a god-like version of SimCity. Except that these future virtual worlds could be simulated down to the behavior of subatomic particles, back to the beginning of time, and out to reaches of visible light. Or at least the virtual creatures within them would never be quick enough to catch the gaps in the simulation, which could produce a star up for every astronomer and a quark for every atom smasher consistent with the illusion of a material universe.

Not only would such detailed simulations be possible, but uncounted numbers of such simulations could be run in parallel, testing every possible evolutionary trajectory for intelligence, exploring every possible war, art form, philosophy and scientific paradigm. Perhaps the superintelligences will compete in an inter-galactic tournament, with the winners being the simulations whose species succeed in destroying all their virtual baryonic matter and creating their own simulated eternal paradises. Perhaps it is pointless to speculate on the mind and aims of God, and simply to posit that a large number of such simulations are likely before the end of the universe. If so, it is not very likely that we are in an original, authentically material universe, and much more likely that we are in a simulation, merely dreams in the minds of gods.

Bostrom's simulation hypothesis was then further complicated by Stephen Wolfram's hypothesis that the material universe itself is a computation, whether simulated or not (Wolfram, 2002). In his book A New Kind of Science, Wolfram proposes that from the quantum level on up the universe builds itself through algorithmic computation. Although he does not propose that the universe was designed, or is intended to compute anything in particular, he does discuss the "scientific pantheistic" implications of his theory in the book, and his ideas have been seized upon by intelligent design theorists and other religionists to argue that the universe is intelligent in its very substance.

In his latest book Ray Kurzweil also finds himself entertaining the possibility of a created universe which may also be intelligent, partly from the observation that the cosmological constants for our universe are set in the very unlikely narrow range which permit intelligent life, and partly as a consequence of his musings on the possibility that superintelligence may upload itself into the quantum flux of all things (Kurzweil, 2007).

So materialist transhumanism can, through certain logical steps, come full circle to the idea that we live in a created universe, perhaps a natural universe infused with the quantum mind of God, perhaps because we are a simulation being run in the mind of gods, or a resurrection of ourselves at the End of Time. None of these materialist ideas of a created or intelligent universe necessarily argue that God is unitary, benevolent or even aware of our existence. As discussed above in theodicy, we may be intended to evolve towards a posthuman apotheosis, or we may choose to become gods ourselves in order to challenge the Creator(s) for dominion. But for those inclined toward a theistic trans-spirituality these cosmologies provide yet another bridge to trans-spirituality.

One such extant manifestation of the religious seeing transhumanist ideas about the Singularity and a posthuman apothesosis as a fulfillment of their religious prophecies is the Mormon Transhumanist Association (MTA). They note in a 2007 document:

Mormon teachings of the Millennium and immortality parallel Transhumanist ideas regarding the Singularity and transhumans in at least the following ways:

First, a period of dramatic and unexpected change is imminent. Although some ridicule and few have recognized its signs, the Millennium approaches, and we should prepare ourselves for the Day of Transfiguration and its attending changes. Likewise, although critics scoff and despite the intuitive linear view of change, the Singularity is nearer than we anticipate, and we should review and mitigate associated risks.

Second, minds and bodies may be changed diversely. In the twinkling of an eye, we and other animals may be transfigured or resurrected to bodies of varying types and degrees of glory. Similarly, information technology may enable genetics, nanotech and robotics to enhance the minds and bodies of humans and other animals.

Third, anatomical changes may extend lives indefinitely. From one transfiguration to another, exchanging blood for spirit, we may attain immortality. Analogously, as transhumans, we may extend or exchange our biological substrate with another to ensure persistence of our identity.

Fourth, our work may contribute to these changes. Transfiguration and resurrection may be ordinances for us to perform for each other. Comparatively, our science may provide technology that enables us to enhance ourselves and attain indefinite longevity.

Others see transhumanism as a fulfillment of the prophecy of a rise of demonic powers, apocalyptic trials and false prophets in the End Times:

A terrifying future thunders toward mankind, an impending fate embodied by monstrous, blasphemous combinations of human and animal genetic materials, of man/machine cyborgs, and of beings not only with increased capacities and extended life-spans, but also with re-engineered morality void of compassion. This future is so abhorrent as to almost defy the imagination. These new beings, and the transhumanists looking forward to their arrival, will not be benevolent. (Quayle, 2003)

In summary, posthumans and other aspects of the transhumanist project are likely to be woven into the eschatological beliefs of the world's faiths, sometimes as a fulfillment of the promise of a millennial future and sometimes as agents of evil.

 

Conclusions

Improving the human condition is not a criticism of a Creator's work left undone; it is rather using His free will, and His gifts of the intellect, in fulfillment of our destiny. (Rich, 2003)

While many religious today are skeptical of materialist, atheist transhumanists, and see transhumanism as contrary to the teachings of their faiths, there are already many transhumanists with religious faith who attest to the compatibility of religion and transhumanism. As transhuman possibilities increasingly develop, the compatibilities of metaphysics, theodicy, soteriology and eschatology between the transhumanist and religious worldviews will be built upon to create new "trans-spiritualities." In this future religious landscape there will be bioconservative and transhumanist wings within all the world's faiths, and probably new religious traditions inspired by the transhumanist project. We will create new religious rituals and meanings around biotechnological and cybernetic capabilities, just as we did around fire, the wheel, healing plants, and the book. Human creativity will manifest itself not only in technological mastery, but in the ongoing quest to imbue life and the universe with mytho-poetic meaning. I look forward to seeing the results.

 

References

“’I’m not afraid to die, I’ll go to heaven’: 


 

5/7/2007 05/07/2007 9952 Test title 4 Test Abstract Test Quote 5 5/7/2007 05/07/2007 9953 3 6 4 5

7

5/7/2007 05/07/2007 9954 3 6 4 5 7 5/7/2007 05/07/2007 9955 3 67 4 5 7 5/7/2007 05/07/2007 9958 test test 5/7/2007 05/07/2007 9963 Lecture Series:  Shanghai Normal University, "Dialogues among Science, Philosophy and Religion," April - June 2007, Shanghai, China The LSI Shanghai Workshop of Science and Religious Dialogue at Shanghai Normal University is hosting a lecture series, titled:

"Dialogues among Sciences, Philosophy and Religion"

The series will run from April to June 2007.

All events will be held at:
1002 Lecture Hall
Building Wen Yuan
Xuhui Campus
Shanghai Normal University
Shanghai, China

All events are free and open to the public. 

For more detailed information, please kindly contact the coordinators of Shanghai Workshop for Dialogue between Science and Religion in the Urban Society:

Prof. Gao Huizhu at 
huizhu@shnu.edu.cn

or

Prof. Wang Jianping at
wangjp27@shnu.edu.cn
 

---------------------------------------

The following are details about the different lectures in the series:

Title: Sciences and Greek Philosophy in Islam
Speaker: Wang Jianping, Professor of Religious studies, Dept. of Philosophy, Faculty of Law and Politics, Shanghai Normal University.
Date: 6:30 pm. May 9, Wednesday, 2007

Title: World Civilizations and World Religions
Speaker: Zhuo Xinping, Professor of Religious studies, Institute of World Religions, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, China.
Date: 6:30 pm. May 10, Thursday, 2007

Title: Taoism and Lifestyle
Speaker: Xu Xiaoyue, Professor of Religious studies, Dept. of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanity Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China.
Date: 6:30 pm. May 14, Monday, 2007

Title: Confucianism in China
Speaker: Li Shen, Professor of Religious studies, Dept. of Philosophy, Faculty of Law and Politics, Shanghai Normal University.
Date: 6:30 pm. May 16, Wednesday, 2007

Title: Dialogue between Man and God in the Renaissance
Speaker: Zhou Chunsheng, Professor of History, Dept. of History, Faculty of Humanity Sciences, Shanghai Normal University.
Date: 6:30 pm. May 17, Thursday, 2007

Title: The Common Source and Diversity between Tao and Sophia
Speaker: Zhao Dunhua, Professor of Religious studies, Dept. of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanity Sciences, Beijing University, Beijing.
Date: 6:30 pm. May 22, Tuesday, 2007

Title: Sages and Mystical Monks in Buddhist History of China and Japan
Speaker: Ma Delin, Professor of Philosophy, Dept. of Philosophy, Faculty of Law and Politics, Shanghai Normal University.
Date: 6:30 pm. May 24, Thursday, 2007

Title: The Correlation and Interaction between Religions and Contemporary Metropolitan Cultures in the Context of Chinese Culture.
Speaker: Gao Huizhu, Professor of Marxism Philosophy, Dept. of Philosophy, Faculty of Law and Politics, Shanghai Normal University.
Date: 6:30 pm. May 28, Monday, 2007

Title: The New Religions in Contemporary World
Speaker: Ye Luhua, Research Fellow of Religious studies, Institute of Religious Studies, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Shanghai.
Date: 6:30 pm. May 30, Wednesday, 2007

Title: Religion and Sino-American Relation Today
Speaker: Xu Yihua, Professor of Politic Science, Center of American Studies, Faculty of International Relational Studies, Fudan University, Shanghai.
Date: 6:30 pm. May 31, Thursday, 2007

Title: Buddhism and Sciences
Speaker: Master Juexing, Monk of Jude Buddha Temple, Chairman of Shanghai Buddhism Association, Shanghai
Date: 2:00 pm. June 5, Tuesday, 2007

Title: Faith and Religious Behaviors: on Religious Phenomenology of Max Scheler
Speaker: Zhang Zhiping, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dept. of Philosophy, Faculty of Law and Politics, Shanghai Normal University.
Date: 6:30 pm. June 5, Tuesday, 2007

-------------------------------------------------
 
The Series Lectures of Dialogue among Science, Philosophy and Religion are partly supported by the Local Society Initiative program of the Metanexus Institute, Philadelphia, U.S.A.

5/7/2007 05/07/2007 9964 Conference:  University of Copenhagen, "Religion in the 21st Century:  Transformations, Significance, Challenges," 19-23 September 2007, Copenhagen, Denmark The University of Copenhagen is hosting a conference, titled:

"Religion in the 21st Century:  Transformations, Significance, Challenges"

19-23 September 2007

Ceremonial Hall, Frue Plads,
University of Copenhagen, Denmark

For more information, contact the conference secretary, Niels Valdemar Vinding, at:
nvv@teol.ku.dk

or visit:
http://www.ku.dk/satsning/religion/copenhagenconference/

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Over the past quarter of a century it has become increasingly clear that religion is and will continue to be a decisive factor in many areas of life in the modern society. Therefore, there is a need for an overall look at the transformations, significance and challenges of religion in the 21st century. The Copenhagen Conference provides an interdisciplinary effort to come to terms with the primary question of the conference: How does religion matter?

Conference Planning Committee:

Ass. Prof. Hans Raun Iversen, Chairperson
Ass. Prof., Dr. Lisbet Christoffersen, Research Coordinator
Dr. Jonas Adelin Jørgensen, Papers Secretary
Niels Valdemar Vinding, Conference Secretary

5/7/2007 05/07/2007 9965 Lecture Series:  LSI group at Innsbruck, "Human Soul," 10 May - 14 June 2007, Innsbruck, Austria The LSI Group at Innsbruck, "Research group on the Soul and the Naturalistic Challenge" is happy to announce the next talks of the
colloquia series on the Human Soul:

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Prof. Dr. Brigitte Falkenburg of the Institut für Philosophie, Universität Dortmund

"Was heißt es determiniert zu sein? Grenzen der naturwissenschaftlichen
Erklärung." (What does it mean to be determined? Limits of scientific explanations)

Madonnensaal
Karl Rahner Platz 3, 1
Stock, um 18.00 s.t.

------------------------------------------------

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Prof. Dr. Uwe Meixner - Philosophisches Institut, Universität des Saarlandes

"Was ist Dualismus? Das Verhältnis von Dualismus zu Wissenschaft und christlicher Religion." (What is dualism? The relationship of Dualism to science and Christian Religion)

Hörsaal 1
Karl Rahner Platz 3
Parterre, um 18.00 s.t.

-------------------------------------------------

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Univ. Prof. Dr. Brüntrup Godehard - Hochschule für Philosophie, München

"Brauchen wir die Seele? Die Kohärenz des christlichen Materialismus." (Do we need the Soul? The coherence of Christian Materialism)
Hörsaal 1
Karl Rahner Platz 3
Parterre, um 18.00 s.t.

--------------------------------------------------

For further information about the LSI group Innsbruck, past and present activities and abstracts of the talks please visit the homepage of the LSI group Innsbruck:
http://www.uibk.ac.at/philtheol/lsi-innsbruck/events.html.en

5/7/2007 05/07/2007 9966 Conference:  Lancaster University, "Science & Religion: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives," 23-26 July 2007, Lancaster, UK

The University of Lancaster is hosting a major international conference in honor of John Hedley Brooke, titled:
"Science & Religion:  Historical and Contemporary Perspectives"

23-26 July 2007

Lancaster University
UK

For more information visit the conference website or contact Thomas Dixon at 
t.dixon@lancaster.ac.uk

--------------------------------------------------

This international and interdisciplinary conference is being held to mark the retirement of Professor John Hedley Brooke, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford. It will bring together historians, philosophers, scientists, and theologians from around the world to debate the latest research into science-religion relationships. The topics to be discussed range from "Intelligent Design" to scientific naturalism, and from new understandings of the "Scientific Revolution" to the role of teleology in contemporary evolutionary biology. Speakers will include Simon Conway Morris, Frank Turner, Peter Lipton, Nancey Murphy, Wentzel van Huyssteen, and John Hedley Brooke.

The cost of registration for this major international conference will increase after 1 May.
5/7/2007 05/07/2007 9967 Book Announcement:  Bill Kramer, "Unexpected Grace:  Stories of Faith, Science and Altruism," Templeton Foundation Press, June 2007 The Templeton Foundation Press is releasing a new publication in June 2007, titled:

"Unexpected Grace:  Stories of Faith, Science, and Altruism"

By:  Bill Kramer

Templeton Foundation Press
ISBN:  978-1-59947-112-9
Price: $22.95, paperback
Publication:  June 2007

For more information, contact Diane Glynn Publicity at: 

Tel.: 203.259.4586
or
E-mail: dglynnpublicity@aol.com

About the author:

Bill Kramer is a freelance writer who has written for magazines, nonprofits, corporations, theater, and film.  Several of his plays have been produced, and two of his screenplays have won independent film festival awards. He has traveled extensively in America and throughout the world, including multiple trips to India. For nearly thirty years, he has practiced meditation, and, as a result, is deeply interested in the way individuals attempt to integrate spiritual beliefs with the challenging circumstances of real world social agendas.  Unexpected Grace, his first book, reflects this interest.  Kramer lives with his wife and son in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

“Bill Kramer has given us all a wonderful gift, a visionary, moving, and transfixing guide to the human heart. Unexpected Grace is itself unexpected grace: a surprisingly gripping exploration of the keystones of social harmony, empathy, and compassionate actions.”
Daniel Goleman, author Social Intelligence

---------------------------------------------------

What makes scientists undertake a study?  What are the personal histories they bring to their research?  Who are the participants who volunteer to become statistics in the studies?  And how do the studies impact the lives of those involved with it?

In Unexpected Grace: Stories of Faith, Science, and Altruism (Templeton Foundation Press, $22.95), Bill Kramer explores the human side of scientific research.  He goes behind the scenes of four scientific investigations on diverse aspects of the study of unlimited love and eloquently shares the personal stories behind the research. 

First is the heartrending and inspiring story of Courtney Cowart, who was a part of a group of theologians who met at Trinity Place in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, not knowing her experience would become the subject of a study.  The group’s struggle to survive led to the formation of a practical, effective altruistic community. 

Students from a University of California Santa Cruz psychology department study embarked on a study of the formation of friendship.  Focusing on the dynamics of prejudice and stereotypes, with the goal of learning how intergroup friendship might reduce prejudice, they found their own perceptions changed radically in the course of their research.

The third study, from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, focused on the benefits of religion on mental and physical health, which led its researcher to a fuller understanding of forgiveness, humility, and grace. 

The final powerful story is about a physiology of love study conducted in Iowa City.  Here, a functional MRI is the vehicle for measuring empathy and brings the researcher to wonder, “Is there a point at which empathy shuts down and we turn away?” Ultimately she comes to recognize that past experiences influence our ability to respond empathetically.

Each story candidly unveils the transformations the researchers and their subjects experienced in the course of their work.  This unique behind-the-scenes view of the research process is a powerful testament both to those who do the research and those who participate in the studies.

5/7/2007 05/07/2007 9978 Symposium & Workshop:  University of California-Davis, "Music and the Brain:  From Real World Experience through Laboratory Experiment," 11 May 2007, Davis, CA, USA
The Center for the Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis is hosting a symposium and workshop, titled:

"Music and the Brain:  From Real World Experience through Laboratory Experiment"

Friday, 11 May 2007
8:30AM – 8:00PM

UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain
267 Cousteau Place
Davis, CA 95618

Registration is free but required.

Information regarding the program and registration is available online at http://tarp.ucdavis.edu/symposium.

or

Contact Dr. Petr Janata at pjanata@ucdavis.edu.

The event is sponsored in part by the Metanexus Institute as part of a Templeton Advanced Research Program project titled, “Music, Spirituality, Religion, and the Human Brain.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

The program is highly interdisciplinary and targeted toward an educated lay-audience.  It features talks by prominent scholars from the fields of religious studies, musicology, psychology, and neuroscience as well as workshops and discussions delving into research linking music, emotion and spiritual experience.

Program
           
8:30–9:00 -  Registration & Coffee

9:00 – 9:10 -  Welcome and Introduction

9:10–10:00 -  “Music and Spiritual/Religious Experience” - Robin Sylvan, The Sacred Center

10:00–10:30 -  Coffee

10:30–11:15 -  “Synchronization in piano duos” -  Peter Keller, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

11:15–12:00 -  “Analyzing temporal dynamics in the experience of music:  Differential Calculus, Physics, and Functional Data Analysis Techniques” -  Bradley Vines, UC Davis

Noon–1:30 -  Lunch

1:30–1:50 -  Orientation to workshops -  Petr Janata, UC Davis

2:00–4:00 -  Workshops – Music, Flow, and the Groove

4:00–5:00 -  “Music and the Brain” -  Petr Janata, UC Davis

* PLEASE NOTE: Dr. Ed Large who was originally scheduled to give a talk titled, "Musical Experience and Musical Universals," had to cancel due to unforseen circumstances.

5:00-8:00 -  Discussion/Reception/Center for Mind and Brain BBQ, with generative music by Custom Mixes

  5/9/2007 05/09/2007 9979 Television Production:  PBS, "A Brief History of Disbelief,"  Premiered May 4th A new  three-part documentary on public television will explore the hidden story of atheism and broaden the belief vs. disbelief debate.  This documentary is hosted by Jonathan Miller and titled:

"A Brief History of Disbelief"

Premiers on Friday, 4 May 2007

Please check the broadcast calendar at http://www.abriefhistoryofdisbelief.org/NewFiles/Disbelief%20Calendar.pdf .

This website lists when the documentary will be aired on different television stations around the country. 

For more information, visit: 
www.abriefhistoryofdisbelief.org

This documentary features Dr. Pascal Boyer an anthropologist and a grantee of Metanexus' TARP program.  To learn more about Boyer's work, visit: 
http://www.metanexus.net/tarp

----------------------------------------------------------

 This spring the debate over belief-disbelief-atheism intensifies with the national airing of A Brief History of Disbelief on public television stations, premiering May 4. Hosted by Jonathan Miller, the three-part series comes in the midst of the upcoming release of two provocative books on atheism: Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and Joan Konner’s The Atheist’s Bible.

God has rarely been such a contentious issue. Best-selling books The God Delusion, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation and Breaking the Spell have forcefully challenged the sacred cows, doctrines and dogmas of conventional religious belief.

A Brief History of Disbelief is a deeply intelligent and rational journey through the highly divisive topic. A Brief History of Disbelief premiers in the U.S. on most public television stations on Friday, May 4, 2007 (check local listings). The series is presented by the Independent Production Fund, executive director Alvin Perlmutter.

Written and narrated by acclaimed British intellectual Jonathan Miller — author, lecturer, TV producer/host, director of theater, opera and film, and neurologist — A Brief History of Disbelief originally aired on the BBC in the U.K. It was the first-ever historical look at the controversial topic on television. It is only during the last few years in the U.S. that atheism can be fully and widely discussed. Many leaders and celebrities are “coming out of the closet.” Just this week, U.S. Congressman Pete Stark publicly declared that he does not believe in a supreme being.

"This series is about the disappearance of something: religious faith," Miller says in the opening. "It's the story of what is often referred to as 'atheism,' the history of the growing conviction that God doesn't exist."

A Brief History of Disbelief combines an exploration of the origins of Miller’s own lack of belief with historical perspective and interviews with leading authorities, including biologist Richard Dawkins, philosopher Daniel Dennett, recently deceased playwright Arthur Miller, and physicist Steven Weinberg.

"In making this series I have inevitably discovered that the history of faith and doubt is a great deal more complicated that it might seem," Jonathan Miller declares. Among the program’s surprising revelations is that philosophy, not science as often assumed, played a larger role in the gradual erosion of belief. And contrary to what many Christian fundamentalists today consider America’s founding principles, the first presidents were actually skeptical of religion. A Brief History of Disbelief traces the history of the first  “unbelievers” in ancient Greece through the role of disbelief in America’s founding to its flourishing today.

Part I: Shadows of Doubt

Miller visits the site of the absent Twin Towers to consider the religious implications of 9/11 and meets Arthur Miller and the philosopher Colin McGinn. He searches for evidence of the first "unbelievers" in ancient Greece and examines some of the modern theories around why people have always tended to believe in mythology and magic.

Part II: Noughts and Crosses

With the domination of Christianity from 500 AD, Miller wonders how disbelief began to re-emerge in the 15th and 16th centuries. He discovers that division within the Church played a more powerful role than the scientific discoveries of the period. He also visits Paris, the home of the 18th century atheist Baron D'Holbach, and shows how politically dangerous it was to undermine the religious faith of the masses.

The Final Hour

The history of disbelief continues with the ideas of self-taught philosopher Thomas Paine, the revolutionary studies of geology, and the evolutionary theories of Darwin. Miller looks at the Freudian view that religion is a "thought disorder." He also examines his motivation behind making the series touching on the issues of death and the religious fanaticism of the 21st century.

A Brief History of Disbelief is presented by the Independent Production Fund, which has produced highly acclaimed information programming for over thirty years. The company and its producers have used television to educate, engage and challenge viewers to consider issues, ideas and public figures from new perspectives.

Major funding for A Brief History of Disbelief is provided by The Center for Inquiry, with additional funding from American Ethical Union, American Humanist Association, Institute for Humanist Studies, and HKH Foundation. 5/9/2007 05/09/2007 9980 Lecture Series:  The Warsaw Research Group Philosophy of Fundamentals of Science, "Science & Theology," 10 May 2007 and 6 July 2007, Warsaw, Poland The Warsaw Research Group Philosophy of Fundamentals of Science, supported by the Metanexus Institute on Science and Religion,
in cooperation with the Academic Ministry at Campus Crusade for Christ, is pleased to announce and invite you to attend  the lectures on Science and Theology given by Guest Lecturers:

"Modernism and Postmodernism in Crisis" - Dr. Thomas Woodward (Trinity College of Florida, USA)

Thursday, 10 May 2007
1:30 p.m.

Polish Academy of Sciences
Institute of Fundamental Technological Research
Swietokrzyska 21 str., lecture room 108.
Warsaw

Intelligent Design Movement and Theology  Modernism and Postmodernism in Crisis - Dr. Stefano Visintin (Pontifical Athenaeum Sant Anselm, Italy)

Friday 6 July 2007
12:00 p.m.

Polish Academy of Sciences
Institute of Fundamental Technological Research
Swietokrzyska 21 str., lecture room 108
Warsaw, Poland

For further information, contact:
Boguslawa.Lewandowska@ippt.gov.pl

or

visit the Warsaw Research Group home page:
http://sophiawarsaw.ippt.gov.pl/

------------------------------------------------------

Abstracts of lectures:

Modernism and Postmodernism in Crisis - Dr. Thomas Woodward (Trinity College of Florida, USA)

Shows the powerful role of modernism and postmodernism in taking over  the flow of thought in universities, and spotlights the revolution that is now  building against these two philosophical systems as they start to collapse.

Intelligent Design Movement and Theology  Modernism and Postmodernism in Crisis - Dr. Stefano Visintin (Pontifical Athenaeum Sant Anselm, Italy)

The Intelligent Design Movement is trying to explain phenomena of the physical and biological world postulating the existence of an Intelligent Being; and this, it is claimed, following a purely scientific way of thinking. In so doing it wants to give an explanation of our universe and of the origin of life that natural sciences can not explain in a satisfactory way. It also wants to build a bridge between modern natural sciences and theology, reintroducing the concept of a world seen as the plan of an Intelligent Being that has been the main link between these two disciplines from the beginning of modern science.

But is this a correct approach to this kind of problems? Is it really doing a good service to theology? And to what extent? Answering these questions will require clarifying the relation of theology with natural sciences. But this will give also the opportunity to see how theology deals with causality  and motivation.
5/9/2007 05/09/2007 9984 Book Announcement: Stephen Post, Ph.D. and Jill Neimark, "Why Good Things Happen to Good People," Broadway Books, 2007 Broadway Books is publishing a new book, titled:

"Why Good Things Happen to Good People:  The Exciting New Research that Proves the Link Between Doing Good and Living a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life"

By:  Stephen Post, Ph.D. and Jill Neimark

With  a forward by Reverend Otis Moss, Jr.

On sale Tuesday, 8 May 2007
$23.95
978-0-7679-2017-9

-----------------------------------------------------

 "In my entire lifetime I have never read a book on the subject of giving and love that presents the truth of its benefits to the giver as a powerful science as well as this book does."

-Robert H. Schuller, Founder, The Crystal Cathedral

Altruism and charitable giving is a popular new trend among billionaires (think Bill Gates, George Soros and Warren Buffet among others) and regular folks alike. Dr. Stephen Post is at the helm of the new breakthrough science connecting being good and doing well. As the President of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, his  research on the life-enhancing benefits of caring, compassion, kindness and altruism has been making headlines since the institutes' founding in 2001. WHY GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE: The Exciting New Research that Proves the Link Between Doing Good and Living a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life  reports the latest findings from neuro-imaging, psychological measures, and major longitudinal studies that show how loving interactions and acts of altruism in our lives add up to big gains in health, quality of life and life expectancy.

WHY GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE is about a love that each and every one of us has at our fingertips: the ability to give, to be generous, to be generative. It is that part of love, new research is discovering, that is the key to health, happiness and a long life. Dr. Post shows us that there is more than one way to give, and none requires you to write a check. In fact, there are ten ways to give, in four domains of life (family, friends, community & humanity), all proven by science to improve your health, and even add to your life expectancy. They include:

- Celebration
- Humor
- Creativity
- Generativity (helping the next generation)
- And more...
 

Dr. Post has taken the research and distilled it into a much-needed inspirational message. WHY GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE movingly tells the stories of lives transformed by giving. What's more, his unique "love and longevity scale" allows readers to test their own habits of giving, and a chapter by chapter plan teaches readers how to use the ten ways to change their own lives. The connection between generosity and health is so convincing that it will inspire readers to change their lives in ways big and small. This is a groundbreaking book on the new science of "goodness" that reveals how acts of giving add up to big gains in health, quality of life and life expectancy for the giver.

 
-----------------------------------------------------------------
 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Stephen Post, Ph.D., is Professor, Department of Bioethics, at the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as Senior Research Scholar in the Becket Institute at St. Hughs' College, Oxford University. He is President of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, founded in 2001 with a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The Institute focuses on the scientific study of altruism, compassion and service.

Jill Neimark collaborated with Dr. Post on the writing of Why Good Things Happen to Good People. Her novel, Bloodsong, was a BOMC selection, published in hardcover and paperback, and in five foreign countries. She is a columnist for Spirituality & Health, has published three children's books and is a former features editor for Psychology Today. Her journalism credits include The New York Times, Readers' Digest, Discover and many others. 5/9/2007 05/09/2007 9985 Poetry as Revelation of Human Nature

      Whether it is the joy or the despair of love, the celebration of life or the gloom of grief, whether it is anger or anguish or mirth or moaning, every state of the human heart and every mode of the human condition has been brought to words by the poet's pen. When we read the lines thus constructed,  the nature and pattern of our passions seem unveiled, for the poetic vision exposes the hidden facets of  tears and aches, the unreckoned recesses of laughter and love.  These are as real as any substantial thing, for they too exist, however subtly, in the universe in which the human mind dwells.

      Thus poetic vision creates a worldview which impresses on our very being experiences without material instruments. It incites feelings and emotions from totally intangible entities and happenings. It can also inspire action and activity for no apparent physical reason at all. The poeticic vision is  at the root of much of human culture and civilization. It is certainly one of the  most pristine manifestations of the human spirit. Its impact is inescapable, even on the least poetic among us, because its ancient vestiges are still powerful in human societies, and also because it resonates with our innermost being,  etched, as it were,  in the human psyche through some subtle genetic code. 

      In many ancient cultures poets narrated long stories, cladding  them  in the colorful costumes of  words that was their gift to conceive and concoct. It was thus that the great epics of the human family came to be created. The epics narrated momentous sagas in majestic meters, and the rhythmic lines with descriptions of the world around. They  influenced people’s perception of  the world, as when the Illiad speaks so often of rhododactynos Eos:  rosy-fingered Dawn. But in the process they also infused the listeners with a sense of action and participation, sometimes inspiring them to lofty ideals. Thus, when the heroic Hector declares in the Illiad,

            Let me at least not die without a struggle, inglorious,
            but do some big thing first, that men to come shall know of it,

a value is imprinted in our minds: that we should aspire to do something of significance during our lifetime. Which is what prompted Oliver Taplin to remark  that  "The Illiad is not so much concerned with what people do, as with the way they do it, above all the way they face suffering and death."

            More importantly, the events and heroes of the epics, to all appearances emerging for the most part from poetic imagination around surviving anecdotal scarps of ancient beliefs and happenings, infused the characters and episodes with historical authenticity by the sheer power of words and rhythms. In the minds of the listeners, the grand narration and vivid descriptions on the lofty canvass of epic poetry were transformed into historical reports of things that  once did transpire. The charming stanzas of Homer paint a myriad facets of that ancient age, but  more significantly, through them the gods of pre-Christian Greece acquired a flesh of reality. The great god Zeus was prolific in progeny, both divine and mortal. Through his wife Hera he sired Ares,  but he fathered many more   through an array of other females also, though for Athena he needed no mate. Artemis and Apollo came to be because Zeus made love to Leto, and Maia was mother to Hermes, another daughter of Zeus. The poet speaks in solemn tones of Helen as born of  Zeus too: but now, it was as a swan that he seduced King Tyndareus' wife Leda who thus conceived Helen, the fairest of the ancient. The  gods of Greece play their roles in these narrations, engaging in quarrels and conflicts, rivalries and tricks. Though few, if any,  in this day and age take these as anything but stories,  once in the faded past,  Apollo and Hercules were real beings who lived and lasted, the Greek gods  fought and prevailed. But in due course, even as  phlogiston  of eighteenth century chemistry gave way to newer recognitions of heat and fire, other more persuasive visions of the Divine dethroned Zeus and Ouranos, Apollo and Aphrodite, and all the rest of the gods of the ages from their  pedestal of reality, and reduced them to lively beings in the imaginary mythological realm.    

Whether it is the joy or the despair of love, the celebration of life or the gloom of grief, whether it is anger or anguish or mirth or moaning, every state of the human heart and every mode of the human condition has been brought to words by the poet's pen. 5/10/2007 05/10/2007 9986 Careful Caring: We can't always care, so why feel guilty when called uncaring?

"Don't say I don't care. I do care."

Like many words, care means different kinds of things. It has its descriptive meaning--its denotation: Caring is a certain kind of behavior. But it also has its prescriptive meaning--its connotation: Caring is good. You should care. Being uncaring is bad.

Combining denotation and connotation you get a rule: if caring , then good ; if uncaring , then bad . Someone who calls you uncaring speaks with the authority of simple description--but smuggled into the description is an accusation that can make you feel guilty.

When you stop to think about the implied rule that caring is always good, it's obviously absurd. If caring is always good, you should never stop caring about anything and anyone. You should always care about everything and everyone.

Since that's impossible, we bend either the word's denotation or its connotation. That is, we redefine caring behavior ("I do care; I just don’t feel like being with or helping you"), or we challenge the assumption that caring is always good ("It's true, I don't care anymore; I’ve chosen to move on"). The former is kinder, the latter more honest.

It would be nice if the rule for caring were as simple as always just do it . Realistically, what to care about is about the most important question in your life. And not just your life, but all of life. From evolution to the serenity prayer, it's all about investing attention and effort in those things that pay off and not in things that don’t. For us humans, that includes caring for people who will care back. Perhaps it also means being careful how we define care, neither accepting nor imposing the absurd rule that caring is always good.

It would be nice if the rule for caring were as simple as always just do it . Realistically, what to care about is about the most important question in your life. And not just your life, but all of life. From evolution to the serenity prayer, it's all about investing attention and effort in those things that pay off and not in things that don’t. Originally published on Mind Readers Dictionary; www.mindreadersdictionary.org. 5/10/2007 05/10/2007 9987 Poetry Transmission and Vision of Reality

Poetic visions often passed on from age to age through rote repetition. In our own times, not many learn to recite by rote a verse of even a dozen lines. But all the lines of the Iliad and the Odyssey were once transmitted from generation to generation through their imprints on human memory. Hundreds of humans served the cause of cultural continuity in a many societies. Thousands of lines of  the Üligers of Mongolia, lengthy narratives of ancient deeds of glory, used to be recited from memory by native rhapsodists. Here may be found historical personages like Genghis Khan , but also  manggus, the polycephalous monster. Then there were  the Chansons de Geste of the medieval French tongue which raised Charlemagne to lofty heights and spoke of happy days of yore when in the mornings birds would sing sweetly in Latin, and joy inflamed the universe at large:

                                    Et les oiseaux en leur latin

                                    Doucement chantent au matin,

                                    La joie enflamme l'univers.

But equally, in these and in other epics, the themes of the rise and fall and the re-emergence of things occur. For, often the reality exposed by the poetic vision is not so much the scenes or episodes presented, but an underlying pattern or motif in the scheme of things. The particular may be exciting and interesting as we read or listen to the story, but the general principles relating to the human condition are what make the epics insightful and everlasting.

The Anglo-Saxon Beowulf,  presumably born in England, speaks of a hero of another land. Though Grendel, the dragon who kidnapped and devoured warriors from King Hrothgar's realm, may be sheer imagination for us of this age, medieval times when the work was composed, many common folk believed in their actual existence, with at least as much conviction as some in our own times who swear that the Lochness monster  and UFOs do exist.

The dragon represents in some way the halfway world between  scientific and poetic reality. For, its origins are in the serpents of the world, creatures that inherited the earth long before humans descended to the ground, but whose horizontal alacrity, subterranean habitat and venomous fangs spelled terror in the hearts of many ancient peoples. Poetic imagination, basing itself on stray instances of deaths from snake-bites, drew the image of a fearsome beast, out to wreak havoc on human life. So the Egyptian Ra fells Apophis who ruled a lightless realm, and Hebrews imagined the snake to be the cause of sin. The Gorgons and Hydra of ancient Greece were fearsome no less. But some, like the Romans, tried to appease the serpents in temples like Aesculapius, as was done in Hesperides and in India also, while Adisesha, the primordial serpent served as seat for the great Vishnu himself.  In China, the snake evolved to wingless dragons of mammoth proportions ruling  the air and duly worshiped by  gentle Taoists.  But from Homeric times to much of the Middle Ages, dragons were by and large evil creatures to be overcome by heroes, monsters to be subdued by the righteous and the mighty. Siergmund and Sigurd, Tristram and Lancelot, and a great many more of classic chivalry slew a dragon and won a name.

Today eager children listen the stories with eyes wide open, tasting to the full every moment of the thrill, but there was a time when dragons were no mere beasts of poetic conception. They were as real as the rhinoceros, not mere monsters made by the mind's eye. As late as in the 16th century,  Konrad Gesner's monumental Historia animalium listed dragons among the variety of species inhabiting the planet.         

Then there are the great sagas of Iceland telling of rival Norse knights and  magic potions, where Brunhild  in the Volsungasaga has her errant husband Sigurd killed, only to  give up her own life on his funeral pyre, not unlike some wailing widows in the Hindu world .

Deeds of bravery and revenge, acts of glory and heroism; beings strange and powerful, often superhuman; gods and godlings, the recall of events of a distant past: such are the ingredients of the great epics of humankind. The world they created, the personages they fashioned, the beings they conceived, all with the poetic clay, lived on for ages, and some live to this day, as part of what many thinking and feeling mortals regarded and regard as aspects of reality.

Deeds of bravery and revenge, acts of glory and heroism; beings strange and powerful, often superhuman; gods and godlings, the recall of events of a distant past: such are the ingredients of the great epics of humankind. The world they created, the personages they fashioned, the beings they conceived, all with the poetic clay, lived on for ages, and some live to this day, as part of what many thinking and feeling mortals regarded and regard as aspects of reality. 5/22/2007 05/22/2007 9988 Sweating the Petty vs. Petting the Sweaty: Two ways to play the game of life

"Life is a game."

People interpret the parallel between life and games in two ways. The most common implies that like a game, life is no big deal, so you should just relax. This notion can be a comfort when you're feeling stressed—stressed, in fact by the other way to take the statement: that in the game of life, you’re really trying figure out how to win, live right, make the world work better for you and others. And sometimes it’s not easy.

The first interpretation counsels looking beyond the game of life, as though the real action were elsewhere. The second interpretation counsels focusing on the game of life as if to say it’s no dress rehearsal.

This week I noticed that, simplifying a bit, the first interpretation reflects Plato's contribution to philosophy and the second, Aristotle's. Platonists, including most religious people, turn away from earthly matters to focus on the transcendental perfection of some other realm. Aristotelians, including most scientists, focus on earthly matters—seeing the potential for real action, progress, and improved understanding right here.

Which counts more, life or the afterlife? If religious doctrine is right that earthly life is merely a grubby boot camp test that will decide whether you will spend eternity (eternity!) in heaven or hell, then of course it pays to keep your eyes on the prize, which is elsewhere. Throughout much of history, widespread suffering, stress, and lack of earthly progress have dominated people’s experience. Think of how many people have been whipsawed from disease to torture, oppression to calamity without any prospect of an earthly explanation as to why.  It’s no wonder the Platonic idea that life is a simulation in the service of some higher, fairer realm has had a lot of appeal.

As with any of your life’s particulars—job, relationship, career—there's no use flogging a dead horse. You shift your attention away from long shots so you can focus on the investments most likely to pay out. In a way, then, Plato and Aristotle squared off over this everyday question applied to life as a whole. If the chances of finding happiness here are vanishingly low, your mind naturally shifts to the potential elsewhere.

It's also not surprising that the more stressful life is, the more attractive Platonic transcendentalism becomes. This worries me. In the years ahead, facing global warming and other large-scale discouragements, we may flock in ever greater numbers to Platonism, shifting attention away from the potential for earthly improvement just when we need it most. And towards what alternative? To Aristotelians like me, the battles between Shiites and Sunnis, Protestants and Catholics, Jews and Arabs are founded on ridiculously petty theological differences.  All these violent conflicts over imaginary afterlives and which rituals will gain you God’s grace—God isn’t dead, he’s deadly.

By 390 AD most of Aristotle’s writings were lost to the West. Christian leaders, campaigning to stamp out paganism, had burned many books, including Aristotle’s. Plato, commingled with Christianity, prevailed here through the dark ages (476-1000 AD) while Aristotle prevailed in the Muslim centers of learning such as Bagdad. The West rediscovered Aristotle during the Crusades (1095-1291). Aquinas (1225-1274) finessed an integration of Aristotle into Christianity, and the central power of the Papacy helped spread the new Aristotelian Scholasticism that resulted. In the 1600s the Aristotelian vision of continued earthly progress and innovation broke free from the Church’s insistence on a fixed, infallible dogma, and the rest is modern history.

To Aristotelians, Platonists seem obsessed with trivialities. With all the real-world challenges we face, why fuss over the details of some magically perfect, unseen metaphysical realm? To Platonists, Aristotelians seem too content to embrace this flawed earthly existence.

So take your pick: sweat the petty or pet the sweaty. I’d pet the sweaty any day. But then my days aren’t so stressful. I get to experience the extraordinary progress we’re making in the game of life. Good things happen for me every day. So, of course, I don’t sweat the petty details about how I can improve my chances of spending eternity in some alleged other world where good things supposedly happen. I’m Aristotelian because I can afford to pet the sweaty.

People interpret the parallel between life and games in two ways. The most common implies that like a game, life is no big deal, so you should just relax. This notion can be a comfort when you're feeling stressed—stressed, in fact by the other way to take the statement: that in the game of life, you’re really trying figure out how to win, live right, make the world work better for you and others. And sometimes it’s not easy. Originally published on Mind Readers Dictionary; www.mindreadersdictionary.org. 5/22/2007 05/22/2007 9991 Book Announcement:  Paul Davies, "The Cosmic Blueprint:  New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe," Templeton Foundation Press, 1988 Templeton Foundation Press has just re-released a book  first published in 1988 for the first time in paperback.

The Cosmic Blueprint:  New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe

By:  Paul Davies

978-1-932031-66-9
$16.96
Paperback

In this critically acclaimed book, first published in 1988 and now reprinted in paperback, scientist and author Paul Davies explains how recent scientific advances are transforming our understanding of the emergence of complexity and organization in the universe.

To read more about this book or to purchase, visit:
http://www.templetonpress.org/book.asp?book_id=67#author

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About the Author

Paul Davies is professor of natural philosophy in the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University. His research has spanned the fields of cosmology, gravitation, and quantum field theory, with particular emphasis on black holes and the origin of the universe. He is currently working on the problem of the origin of life and the search for life on Mars. He is a well-known author, broadcaster, and public lecturer and has written over twenty-five books. Among his better-known works are God and the New Physics, The Mind of God, About Time, The Fifth Miracle, and How to Build a Time Machine. In recognition of his work as an author, he was elected as Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature in 1999.

His contributions to science have been recognized by numerous awards, including the 2002 Michael Faraday Prize by the Royal Society and the 2001 Kelvin Medal and Prize from the UK Institute of Physics. In April 1999 the asteroid 1992 OG was officially named (6870)Pauldavies in his honor. His most significant award was the 1995 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, the world’s largest prize for intellectual endeavor.

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About the Book

 Melding a variety of ideas and disciplines from biology, fundamental physics, computer science, mathematics, genetics, and neurology, Davies presents his provocative theory on the source of the universe’s creative potency. He explores the new paradigm (replacing the centuries-old Newtonian view of the universe) that recognizes the collective and holistic properties of physical systems and the power of self-organization. He casts the laws in physics in the role of a “blueprint,” embodying a grand cosmic scheme that progressively unfolds as the universe develops.

Challenging the viewpoint that the physical universe is a meaningless collection of particles, he finds overwhelming evidence for an underlying purpose: “Science may explain all the processes whereby the universe evolves its own destiny, but that still leaves room for there to be a meaning behind existence.”

“ A provocative book that should be widely read.”—Library Journal

“ Unquestionably, Paul Davies has established himself as one of the most felicitous writers on physics at the frontier.” —Abdus Salam, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Nature

Highlights

    * An origin-of-the-universe classic, back in print
    * Insightful theories clarified for both lay readers and scientists
    * Perfect for classroom use

5/23/2007 05/23/2007 9992 Book Announcement:  Nicolaas A. Rupke, "Eminent Lives in Twentieth-Century Science and Religion," Peter Lang GMBH, 2007 The Peter Lang Publishing Group has recently published a new book, titled:

Eminent Lives in Twentieth-Century Science and Religion

By:  Nicolaas A. Rupke (ed.)

Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2007.
255 pp.
ISBN:  978-3-631-56803-3

€ 38 / $ 49.95 / £23.10

For more information or to purchase the book, visit:
www.peterlang.de/index.cfm?vID=56803&vLang=E&vHR=1&vUR=2&vUUR=1

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Book Synopsis

Can science and religion coexist peacefully, even symbiotically? Or is conflict inevitable and are the enterprises mutually exclusive? In this volume an international team of distinguished scholars address these enduring yet urgent questions by examining the lives of eminent twentieth-century biologists, chemists and physicists whose careers were marked by the interaction of science and religion: Charles Coulson, Theodosius Dobzhansky, R.A. Fisher, Julian Huxley, Pascual Jordan, Ivan Pavlov, Michael Pupin, and E.O. Wilson. The team's rich empirical studies show a diversity of creative engagements between science and religion that defy efforts to set the two at odds.

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Contents

Contents: Nicolaas A. Rupke: Introduction: Telling Lives in Science and Religion - Arie Leegwater: Charles Alfred Coulson: Mixing Methodism and Quantum Chemistry - Jitse M. van der Meer: Theodosius Dobzhansky: Nothing in Evolution Makes Sense Except in the Light of Religion - James Moore: Ronald Aylmer Fisher: A Faith Fit for Eugenics - Peter J. Bowler: Julian Huxley: Religion without Revelation - Richard H. Beyler: Pascual Jordan: Freedom vs Materialism - Torsten Rüting: Ivan Petrovich Pavlov: From Russian Orthodox Monastery to Big Science Laboratory - Edward B. Davis: Michael Idvorsky Pupin: Cosmic Beauty, Created Order, and the Divine Word - Mark Stoll: Edward Osborne Wilson: The Gospel According to Sociobiology - Ronald L. Numbers: Epilogue: Science, Secularization, and Privatization.

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About the Editor

Nicolaas A. Rupke is professor of the history of science and director of the Institute for the History of Science at Göttingen University. With a doctorate from Princeton, he has held research positions at Oxford and the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University. His latest study of scientific biography is Alexander von Humboldt: a Metabiography (2005). Rupke is a fellow of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Göttingen Academy of Sciences. 5/23/2007 05/23/2007 9994 Conference Call for Papers:  St. Andrew's Biblical Theological Institute, "Epistemological Paradigms of Science & Theology," 14-18 November 2007, Moscow, Russia St. Andrew's Biblical Theological Institute is issuing an invitation and a call for papers for an international conference, titled: 

Epistemological Paradigms of Science and Theology:  Historical Dynamics and Universal Foundations

14-18 November 2007

Moscow, Russia

Abstract are due:
Saturday, 1 September 2007

For more information, visit:
www.standrews.ru

This international conference is supported by The John Templeton Foundation. 

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Since 2000 St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute with the support of the John Templeton Foundation has organized four International Conferences on the theme of religion and science dialogue: “Science and Theology” (2000), “Theology and Science: An Anthropological Perspective” (2003), “Responsibility of Religion and Science: Technology, Environment, Bioethics” (2005), “Ultimate Purposes of Theological and Scientific Understandings as Explored in Cosmology, Creation, Eschatology” (2006). Our next conference is devoted to epistemological paradigms of science and theology.

The Conference will take place in Moscow from 14 to 18 November 2007. Leading theologians, philosophers and scientists, who made important contributions into the development of religion and science dialogue are invited. The conference will include plenary and sectional lectures, discussions and cultural events.

THEME OF THE CONFERENCE

Epistemological issues have always been of great importance for the Christian thought. The problem of correlation between faith and reason, of connection between the divine revelation, rational discourse and empirical experience was a subject of constant discussion for theologians and philosophers. In the new time, one aspect of this problem, namely the question of relationship between science and religion, came to the fore. After Kant’s destructive criticism of metaphysics and rational theology, the Ockham model, separating the sphere of rational and empirical knowledge from that of divine revelation, seemed to be the best option. Science became an autonomous area with its own epistemological principles, independent of theological and metaphysical conceptions. Thus the ways of science and theology completely diverged. Science was considered a sphere of objective description of the observable spatial-temporal reality, whereas theology pretended to explicate the eternal divine truth. However, they had one thing in common. Both science and theology pretended to some pure knowledge, whose content is taken from an immutable source and does not (or, at least, should not) depend of particular circumstances of human existence. For science such a source was the world, for theology the divine revelation. Epistemological strategies of science were supposed to represent universal principles of knowledge, remaining the same for all epochs, cultures and societies. Theology did not develop its own epistemological principles, but it also claimed that its doctrines had universal character. At least its methods of argumentation, as well as formulated theological opinions (especially dogmas) were supposed to be independent of language and culture.

Modern philosophy of science does not allow holding this ideal of knowledge any more. Relatively short history of science demonstrates a quick change of world pictures and epistemological paradigms. Together with changes in culture, style of communication and social practices, epistemological principles and patterns of research change too. Methods of scientific research and criteria of plausibility turn out to be tightly connected with values and norms shared by the scientific society. In producing its results, science rests also on extra-scientific ideas. Therefore, even if we agree that there exists only one truth about the world, we must acknowledge that explication of this truth depends on the character of an epistemological paradigm shared by the scientific society.

To what extent does this situation apply also to theology? Is not theology dependent, like science, on cultural preconditions, communicative norms and social values? Many 20th century theologians addressed this issue and today it is clear that theology not only explicates divine truth but also expresses human attitude to it, which cannot be formed outside of a certain social and cultural context. In this sense it would be interesting to draw a parallel between changes of epistemological paradigms in science and theology, e.g. as these changes are described by Thomas Kuhn (for science) and Hans Küng (for theology). The most important question is how to explicate universal and immutable aspects of science and theology, acknowledging at the same time historical dynamics of scientific and theological paradigms.

Within the framework of the conference, a wide-ranging discussion will take up issues connected with paradigm approach to science and theology. In particular, the following questions will be addressed:
· Are there universal principles and norms of scientific and/or theological investigation?
· Is it true that different cultures predefine the character of scientific and theological paradigms?
· How does language influence the character of scientific knowledge and theological argumentation?
· To what extent does the content of theological doctrines depend on cultural peculiarities of the epoch when they were formulated?
· What is the role of the personal factor in scientific and theological investigation?
· How important is the aesthetical criterion in building scientific theories and theological constructions?
· How does contemporary science influence the character of theological argumentation?
· Do theological preconditions influence epistemological strategies of science?

The given list does not exhaust all the aspects of the topic announced in the title of the conference but provides a focus for the expected discussion.

KEY SPEAKERS

Adrian Lemeni, Ph.D
Professor of Dogmatic and Fundamental Theology at the University of Bucharest. Secretary of state in the Romanian Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs

Nancey Murphy, Ph.D., Th.D.
Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. Ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. Member of John Templeton Foundation Board of Advisors.

Rev. Canon Keith Ward, D.D., FBA
Gresham Professor of Divinity, Gresham College, London, Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus at the University of Oxford. Member of John Templeton Foundation Board of Advisors.

Michael Welker, Ph.D.
Chair for Systematic Theology at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Director of the Internationales Wissenschaftsforum der Universitat Heidelberg, a center for international and interdisciplinary research. Member of John Templeton Foundation Board of Advisors.

Grigoriy Goutner, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow of the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Chair of Philosophy at St. Philaret’s Orthodox Christian Institute, Moscow. Professor of St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute. Author of a number of publications.

Alexei Nesteruk, Ph.D.
Researcher in cosmology and quantum physics in the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth, England, and a research associate in the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, England. Visiting Professor of St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute, Moscow.

Vladimir Porus, Ph.D., D.Habil.
Professor, Chair of Ontology, Logic and Epistemology at Moscow Higher School of Economics. Author of numerous books and articles. Chairman of St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological College monthly academic seminar “Theology, Philosophy and Science”.

PAPERS AND PUBLICATION

Those who wish to present a paper should send a summary (1000 words at most) by e?mail to St. Andrew’s by 1 September 2007. The Organizing Committee selects papers for the Conference and sends invitations to the speakers. The full text of all the papers selected will have to be submitted by 1 October 2007. However, it will be possible to participate without a paper (some priests, teachers, and students are expected to be present). The working languages of the conference will be Russian and English.

Upon arrival at the conference every participant will receive summaries of all the papers presented and the conference programme. Plenary and sectional papers are scheduled for 30 minutes each. Some papers will be published in St. Andrew’s quarterly Pages: Theology, Culture, Education and we will publish a collection of papers in a separate volume. Summaries and papers should be sent to:

Mikhail Tolstoluzhenko
St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute
Jerusalem St. 3, Moscow, 109316, Russia
Tel/Fax: +7 495 6702200; +7 495 6707644
E-mail: info@standrews.ru

ORGANIZATION AND ACCOMMODATIONS

The Conference will assemble on Wednesday, 14 November for a reception and opening ceremony in the evening. Participants will depart after breakfast on Sunday, 18 November. The price of a single room and full board will be approximately €70 per day.

REGISTRATION

Numbers are limited and early registration is strongly advised. Registration will become effective when the registration form and the full conference fee have been received and acknowledged by the registration officer. The conference fee covers registration, accommodation, meals, participation in all conference activities, excursion, conference dinner and entitles the participant to receive summaries of all conference papers.

Early conference fee (before 1 July 2007):
- accommodation in single room  €395
- accommodation in double room  €305
   
Late conference fee (after 1 July 2007):
- accommodation in single room  €435
- accommodation in double room  €345

A limited number of scholarships will be provided – mainly for speakers from Eastern European countries. Should you cancel your registration before 1 October, €30 will be deducted and the remainder of your conference fee will be refunded. No refund is possible after 1 October. Payment of conference fees may be made by bank transfer or by check in US$, EURO or UK pounds.  Please write to the registration officer for advice.

All registration forms must be sent to the registration officer:

Ms. Olga Bogoslovskaya
St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute
Jerusalem St. 3, Moscow, 109316 Russia
Тel./Fax: +7 495 6702200; +7 495 6707644
E-mail: info@standrews.ru 5/23/2007 05/23/2007 9995 Lecture, "Society for the Integration of Science and Human Values (SISHVa), "Organ Transplantation, Ethics & Religion," 1 June 2007, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka The Society for the Integration of Science and Human Values (SISHVa) is hosting a lecture, titled:

Organ Transplantation, Ethics & Religion

By:  Arjuna Aluwihare - Emeritus Professor

Friday, 1 June 2007
11 AM - 12:30 PM

Arts Faculty Seminar Room
University of Peradeniya
Peradeniya, Sri Lanka 5/23/2007 05/23/2007 9996 Workshop:  University of Lincoln, "The Religious Roots in Information Systems (RRIS)," 24-26 May 2007, Lincoln, UK The University of Lincoln is hosting a three-day workshop funded by the Metanexus Institute, titled:

The Religious Roots in Information Systems (RRIS)

24-26 May 2007

This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, pleas contact the Editorial Team at:
editorialteam@lincoln.ac.uk

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The main activity of RRIS is exploratory discussions aimed at developing a new approach to insight into the tensions in the field of IS that arise from religious presuppositions. Such questions include the issue of artificial intelligence; diversity of information and communication technology (ICT); development of systems and artefacts; problems in methodological development of IS in relation to historical and contemporary shifts in determinism to freedom in cultural, religious, and scientific endeavour; the difficulty in predicting and ensuring the benefits of technology; and ICT, technological determinism and society.

This group joins together scholars of philosophy, information systems, gender studies, Christianity and contemporary culture, critical theory, biology, and ethics in technology to collaborate in understanding information systems (IS) through the lens of philosophical and theological thought.

This workshop intends to open up and explore the general area of faith influences within IS and organisational practice. The workshop aims to explore the religious roots of information systems and the link to the tensions that emerge as a result of religious motivations.

We welcome attendees from all backgrounds who are interested in these debates and would also like to extend an invitation to individuals interested in submitting papers or hosting discussion groups.

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Timetable of the Workshop

Thursday 24th

- Introduction to the workshop by Carole Brooke and Andrew Basden
- Group Discussions
- Dinner at ‘The Bowlful’ restaurant 6:30 for a 7:00pm start

Friday 25th

9:30 – 12:30 Presentations and discussions
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch (Will be provided by the University)
13:30 – 16:30 Presentations and discussion
Dinner at ‘Café Zoot’ restaurant 6:30 for a 7:00pm start

Saturday 26th

9:30 – 11:00 Presentations and discussions
11:00 – 12:30 Round-up and summary of the workshops (report to be produced)
12:30 Lunch (Will be provided by the University) and depart

5/23/2007 05/23/2007 9997 Book Announcement:  Beverly Lanzetta, "Emerging Heart:   Global Spirituality and the Sacred,"  Fortress Press, 2007 Fortress Press recently published a book, titled:

Emerging Heart: Global Spirituality and the Sacred

By Beverly J. Lanzetta


Item Number: 978-0-8006-3893-1

Price: $18.00 / CAN $21.50 / UK £9.99
Specs: 5.5” x 8.5”, paperback, 176 pages
 
To order, call Fortress Press at 1-800-328-4648 or visit the Web site at www.fortresspress.com.
 
To request review copies (for media) or to inquire about speaking opportunities and interviews with the author, please call 1-800-426-0115 ext. 234 or e-mail toddb@augsburgfortress.org

To request exam copies for classroom use, (professors) go to www.fortresspress.com/examcopy. 

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“Beverly Lanzetta is a powerful voice for those who find truth and beauty in a global spirituality. Emerging Heart presents us with her journey toward spiritual nonviolence and engages the reader with the core ideas of such spiritual teachers as Ewert Cousins, Raimon Panikkar, Mohandas Gandhi, Thomas Merton, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and the Dalai Lama. Readers should be put on notice that this book may well change the way they see the world.”

—Harold Kasimow, George Drake Professor of Religious Studies, Grinnell College

Beverly J. Lanzetta is Research Associate at the Southwest Institute for Research on Women at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is the author of Radical Wisdom: A Feminist Mystical Theology (2005, 978-0-8006-3698-2).

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Millions of Americans have adopted and adapted spiritual practices and virtues from a variety of traditions. What are they looking for? Theologian and retreat leader Beverly Lanzetta believes that our contemporary world desperately seeks a shared spiritual foundation adequate to meet our most pressing moral, religious, economic, and social issues. We need, she argues, a spiritual vocabulary to describe the unspoken, to interpret our common humanity, and to articulate our earthly concerns in a way respectful and inclusive of all. In her latest book, Emerging Heart: Global Spirituality and the Sacred, Lanzetta provides readers with a powerful exploration of an emerging global spirituality with justice at its core.

Highlighting pioneers of global spirituality such as Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh, Abraham Heschel, Mohandas Gandhi, Howard Thurman, Bede Griffiths, and Dorothy Day, Emerging Heart shows how a variety of religious traditions emerge from and converge on a divine nature and mystic quality that creates a loving heart. Lanzetta first describes this phenomenon in her own experience and then elaborates on that mystical core, the notion of the divine, the new shape of interreligious dialogue, pioneers of this new global spirituality, and the personal, spiritual, and ethical challenges that it poses to us.

This is a book of breathtaking insight and high moral ambition to restore our sense of human possibility and high purpose.

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“Emerging Heart is an immensely moving account of Lanzetta’s own spiritual experience combined with probing reflections on the mystical heart of world faiths, the significance of interreligious dialogue, and the reality of a newly emerging global spirituality. An inspiring vision inviting to daring ventures.”

—Ursula King, Professor Emerita of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol,

Professorial Research Fellow, University of London

“Emerging Heart is Lanzetta’s most personal and most profound book. She weaves together a tapestry of personal narrative, interreligious reflection, and spiritual insight with eloquence and force. This book heralds—and helps to catalyze—the emergence of a global spiritual wisdom grounded on interfaith exchange, contemplative practice, and creative participation in Mystery.”

—Jorge N. Ferrer, Associate Professor, California Institute of Integral Studies

 

 

 

 
5/23/2007 05/23/2007 9998 Publication Announcement:  Basarab Nicolescu (Director) and Magda Stavinschi (Editor), "Science and Religion:  Transdisciplinary Studies," Curtea Veche The Curtea Veche editing house in Bucharest, Romania is publishing a new transdisciplinary review, titled:

Science and Religion:  Transdisciplinary Studies (SRTDS)

Editorial Board consists of:

- Basarab Nicolescu (Director)
- Magda Stavinschi (Editor)
- Philip Clayton
- Thierry Magnin
- Ioan Chirila
- Radu Constantinescu
- Adrian Lemeni

Our magazine is peer-reviewed. We have the ambition to gradually introduce high standards in the acceptation of contributions. However, at the same time, we wish to keep an accessible level for any cultivated reader and for students from different specialties.

SRTDS comports four sections: Studies, Research Works, Book Reviews and Events. The magazine has the form a book and therefore has not a given periodicity. However, our aim is to publish at least two issues per year.

Contributions can be presented in three languages: English, French and Romanian. English is, beyond doubt, the dominant language today. French is very important in the context of Europe and francophone areas of the world. We accept also contributions in Romanian, in order to encourage the development of the science and religion dialogue in a country still marked by the memory of a totalitarian system which had forbid such a dialogue for a long period of time.

We would be happy if you can contribute to the issue No 2 of  Science and Religion:  Transdisciplinary Studies (SRTDS). The texts must not to exceed 10 pages in Times 12 (single space) and they have to be sent in electronic form to Basarab Nicolescu at nicol@club-internet.fr  or to Magda Stavinschi at magda_stavinschi@yahoo.fr.

Contributions are due:
Saturday, 1 September 2007

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Of course, there are several transdisciplinary magazines in the world, but this is the first one completely dedicated to the dialogue between science and religion. Also, in comparison with the multi- and interdisciplinary magazines in the same field, the present one is focused on the transdisciplinary methodology of the dialogue: identification of levels of Reality, use of the logic of the included middle and full consideration of complexity.

Homo religiosus probably existed from the beginnings of the human species, at the moment when the human being tried to understand the meaning of his life. The sacred is his natural realm. Homo economicus is a creation of modernity. He believes only in what is seen, observed, measured. The profane is his natural realm. The transdisciplinary hermeneutics, natural outcome of the transdisciplinary methodology, is able to identify the common germ of homo religiosus and of homo economicus and to engage them in a constructive dialogue.

The transdisciplinary dialogue between science and religion can not be conceived in isolation from other fields of knowledge, like arts, poetry, architecture, mass-media, economics, social life and politics, so crucial in the science/religion debate. This is the reason why our magazine will be also open to contributions concerning other fields of knowledge.

We acknowledge support, in making possible such a magazine, from the Templeton Foundation (USA), the Association for the Dialogue between Science and Theology in Romania (ADSTR), the Institute for Advanced Studies in Science and Orthodoxy (IASSO) and the editing house Curtea Veche.
 
 
   5/24/2007 05/24/2007 9999 Seminar:  AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships Seminar, "The Language of God:  A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," 30 May 2007, Washington, DC, USA This years AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships Seminar is titled:

The Language of God:  A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

Speaker:
Francis S. Collins, MD, Ph.D.
The Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute

Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Beginning at 6 PM
With a book signing and reception to follow

AAAS Auditorium
1200 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC

Please RSVP by Friday, 25 May 2007 at:
www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=984923873655

 
Please contact Emily MacGillivray at emacgill@aaas.org if you need further information.

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Dr. Collins is recognized for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project (HGP), a multi-institutional, international effort to map and sequence all human DNA.  His accomplishments have been recognized by numerous awards and honors, including election to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences.  He is the author of the book "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief", and he is invited to many settings to discuss his views on Christianity in debates about the existence of God and evolution.
 

  5/24/2007 05/24/2007 10000 Conference:  SophiaEuropa, "Human Persons and the God of Nature," 3-6 September 2007 SophiaEuropa in association with the Ian Ramsey Centre, Theology Faculty, University of Oxford, UK is hosting a conference, titled:

Human Persons and the God of Nature

3-6 September 2007

Oriel College
Oxford, UK

Supported by Metanexus Institute and The John Templeton Foundation.                

Further details (including the draft programme) and for booking details consult: www.ianramseycentre.org/
or email margaret.yee@theology.ox.ac.uk  (Conference Director)
 

Early booking discounts apply before July 1st

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Speakers and Participants

Prof. John Brooke                                              Dr. Collete Moloney
Prof. Ronald Cole-Turner                                   Prof. Nancey Murphy
Prof. Eamonn Conway                                        Prof. John Ozolins
Ms. Fiona Dowling                                              Prof. Roberto Poli
Prof. Jürgen Ehlers                                             Dr. John Polkinghorne
Ms. Amanda Hayes                                             Dr. Patricia Rehm
Prof. Edward Henderson                                     Prof. Antonio Russo
Prof. Michael Howlett                                          Mr. Colin Tudge
Ms. Angeliki Kerasidou                                        Prof. Stephan Schaede
Prof. Burkhard Liebsch                                        Dr. Eric Weislogel
Prof. Thomas Moellenbeck                                  Dr. Margaret Yee

5/24/2007 05/24/2007 10002 Conference:  Metanexus Granada, "El Conflicto de Racionalidades" or "Struggle of Rationalities," 20-23 September 2007, Granada, Spain

LSI METANEXUS GRANADA, FACULTY OF THEOLOGY


Leandro Sequeiros, Director of the LSI Metanexus Granada invite you to participate in the meeting about
 

Struggle of Rationalities

 

El conflicto de racionalidades
Organized by A S I N J A
c/ Alberto Aguilera, 23 - 28015 Madrid
Tel. 91 542 28 00 - E-mail:asinja@hotmail.com
_________________________________________________


P R E S E N T A C I Ó N

          El tema que queremos analizar en estas Jornadas es el "Conflicto de racionalidades", un tema básico para cualquier debate interdisciplinar y, probablemente, una clave de comprensión de buena parte de los conflictos de nuestro tiempo y de las dificultades del entendimiento entre individuos y culturas. Se trata de analizar el conflicto que se puede plantear entre diferentes racionalidades, modos de pensamiento, presupuestos epistemológicos, ideologías (científicas, técnicas, éticas, políticas y religiosas). Nos interesan los temas de controversia, pero, sobre todo, y principalmente, el porqué de dichos conflictos. Cuáles son los elementos que obligan a mantener una postura, unos presupuestos innegociables o una ideología incontrovertible, y cómo ello imposibilita o complica una discusión y hace imposible el entendimiento. Cómo la inmersión en un cierto paradigma condiciona y determina las posiciones. Por qué hay tanta dificultad para flexibilizar las posiciones y escuchar comprehensivamente al interlocutor.

 

P R O G R A M A

 

Jueves 20 de Septiembre
19.00h. Actividad cultural preparatoria: Proyección de película
22.00h. Actividad cultural: Coloquio sobre la película.

Viernes 21 de Septiembre
9.30h. Primera ponencia: "Conflictos de racionalidades en el pensamiento. Perspectiva desde la filosofía"
           Ponente: Mercedes Torrevejano. Profesora de Filosofía. Universidad de Valencia
12.00h. Comunicaciones
16.30h. Segunda ponencia: "Conflictos de racionalidades en el mundo actual. Perspectiva sociológica “
           Ponente: Juan Luís Pintos. Profesor de Sociología. Universidad de Santiago de Compostela
19.00h. Comunicaciones

Sábado 22 de Septiembre
9.30h. Tercera ponencia-debate: "Bioética: autonomía y gestión del cuerpo"
           Ponentes:       Javier Sádaba. Profesor de Filosofía. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
                                       Juan Carlos Álvarez. Profesor de Bioética. Universidad Pontificia Comillas. Madrid
9.30h. Exposición ponente 1: "Identidad humana e Ingeniería Genética"
10h. Exposición ponente 2: "Bioética: autonomía y gestión del cuerpo"
13.00h. Comunicaciones
16.30h. Película para debate: "¿Y tú qué sabes?” (What The Bleep Do We Know? 2004)
             Presentador: Leandro Sequeiros. Profesor de Antropología filosófica y de Teoría del Conocimiento.
                                    Facultad de Teología de Granada
19.00h. Asamblea General de ASINJA

Domingo 23 de Septiembre
9.30h. Cuarta ponencia-debate: "Cosmología y teología: sentido o sinsentido de la creación"
           Ponentes:       Luís Joaquín Boya. Catedrático de Física Teórica jubilado. Universidad de Zaragoza.
                                  Manuel García Doncel. Profesor emérito de Física Teórica, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Director del     
                                  Seminario de Teología y Ciencias de Barcelona (STICB)
9.30h. Exposición ponente 1: “Cosmología científica: exposición y presentación de puntos de vista de científicos actuales”
10h. Exposición ponente 2: “Sentido teológico de la creación en evolución”
13.00h. Reunión conclusiva: Evaluación y cierre de las Jornadas. Propuestas para el año próximo
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COMUNICACIONES PREVISTAS
 
1. Leandro Sequeiros y Cándido M. García Cruz: "Conflictos de racionalidades en las Ciencias de la Tierra, El caso del conflicto de Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) con las ideas darwinistas"
2. Antonio Blanch: "Conflicto de interpretaciones desde una misma fe cristiana"
3. José Luís San Miguel: "Tradiciones culturales, paradigmas e intolerancias"
4. José Ramón García-Murga: "Teología trinitaria, racionalidad, conflicto, empiría"
5. Lydia Feito: “Cerebros de mujeres y cerebros de hombres: ¿conflicto de racionalidades?”
6. José Miró Nicolau: "Una causa racional de los conflictos entre racionalidades"

for further information: Leandro Sequeiros lsequeiros@probesi.org
www.upcomillas.es/centros/cent_asoc_asinja_pres.aspx 

5/24/2007 05/24/2007 10003 Human Evolution from an Anthropic Universe (Report of the Iberia-Network of LSI)

This paper concerns some specific aspects of the combined research promoted by the Iberia-Network of LSI. A general scheme of the combined research was already presented in Metanexus Conference, June 2006: “Human Evolution - Script for Research Project to be carried out by the LSI and the Iberia-Network in Spain.” This is a restricted research project, carried out in parallel to the Sophia-Iberia in Europe Project by a team of approximately thirty university researchers and professors. It will deal with “Human Evolution” using the same general approach as the Sophia-Iberia in Europe Project. This research project will be enriched by the same course of reflections begun by Sophia-Iberia in Europe.

The study of human evolution enables us to obtain a scientific knowledge of the processes and causes which lead to the appearance in time and the constitution of human reality. This knowledge has two aspects: 1) knowing how nature has formed human nature through evolution as a biological system which has a number of psychic faculties and processes (sensation, perception, conscience, attention, memory, knowledge…) which permit specifically human action; 2) the specific products of human action which have constituted and continue to constitute history: the human being uses faculties to produce emotions, perceptions, knowledge, organizing a memory which accesses history, language, etc., and forms culture. This process, as a whole, constitutes human evolution: and this can be expressed very specifically in computational terms as the fact that human evolution occurs in the formation of the “hardware” of the biological system and in the production of the specific “software” with which each individual and each culture has filled his own history with content.

Evidently the theology of any religion always refers to the real man: it is the real man who, using his psychic powers, constructs in his mind, let us say, the “software” of a determined religion in response to the stimulus of his own nature in the universe. Moreover, in the Christian religion, the comprehension of the supposed Revelation in the history of Israel and in Christ is always made by constructing a theology founded on certain idea of the human being (conditioned by the circumstances of a time in the history of culture). Consequently, if the image of human evolution in modern science helps us to draft an image of the real man, this must be considered to be a basic presupposition for a Christian theology which “understands” Revelation from the parameters of modern culture. This new “explanation” (or hermeneutics) of Christianity would be a candidate to substitute the “explanation” generally presented, at least, in the Catholic Church, from within the parameters of Greek Philosophy and its image of man.

Research on human evolution in the Iberia-Network of LSI is oriented towards theology. Therefore, the study of human evolution is a means to present and discuss the type of theology the new image of man in science leads us to. However, in this communication for the 2007 Philadelphia meeting, we are not going to deal with theological conclusions, but with another more specific aspect, which is also related to our research o the human evolution: the roots of human evolution in an anthropic universe. Thus, we limit ourselves to this methodological question.

We use the term “anthropic” in the “weak” sense. We mean that, if man has been produced in the evolutionary process of the universe (and this is the presupposition for the principle of science), thus, the supposition should be established that only an anthropic universe can provide sufficient explanation of the real presence of man in its interior, where “anthropic universe ” is understood to be a universe which includes the necessary, or at least the appropriate, ontological properties so that the evolutionary emergence of man might be possible. Another case would not be justified in science. This is really a question of the classical Scholastic axiom “ab esse ad posse valet illatio” (from the factual being it is possible to correctly infer the possibility of its beginning).

Thus, we say that the universe is “anthropic” but not in the sense that the universe which produces man is a universe which responds to the “design” of a superior intelligence. We address this problem in our research, but not in this communication in which by “anthropic principle” we only understand the initial “weak” presupposition that from the fact (man) it is possible to infer his possibility (in the ontological conditions of the universe).

Human Evolution from an anthropic Universe begins from the ontological conditions of the universe in evolution until the appearance of man with his own psychic faculties and the exercise of these faculties in history. The evolutionary universe constitutes man and man constitutes history as he appropriates himself of objective possibilities. Of especial interest among the past, present and future possibilities opened up by history are the appearance and meaning of religion (theology) within the framework of human evolution.

Consequently, a basic aspect of the study of human evolution must consist of the ontological properties of the universe which have made this possible. In fact, the roots of human evolution in all its aspects must be found in the germinal properties of the universe. This must be “anthropic” in the weak sense. If it were not so, or, and this is not the same, if science were not capable of describing an anthropic universe to us, then, human knowledge would fall into a dramatic state of confusion: or “reduce” the explanation of man without assuming aspects which are essential to our human experience (reductionism), or “postulate” that man is not explained by the universe and is “something else” (dualism). In fact, reductionism and dualism radical adversaries in the theory of man in recent years. This dispute has today been transformed into the struggle between a non-humanistic idea of man (computational reductionism) and another humanistic idea (represented by emergentism).

In any case, the study of human evolution cannot be done properly without taking into account its cosmic roots. These must be analyzed with “anthropic” correction in order to avoid both reductionism and dualism. However, what is the method for studying the anthropic properties of the universe? Evidently there must be a “heuristic” method for searching for anthropic properties.

The objective or finality of Human Evolution from an anthropic Universe is not to make a complete, in depth study of the whole process of human evolution.

Its first objective is selective. First, the selection of evolutionary states: the selection of some important states which contain the keys to the process which makes human evolution possible and enable us to understand its nature. Second, the selection of relevant evolutionary profiles: at each of these evolutionary states and the selection of certain properties, states and processes which, in fact, contribute to the constitution of evolutionary lines which will make man possible. These will be the anthropic profiles, principles, content or properties which make man possible.

Its second objective is synthetic. That is to say, to relate these with each other, coordinating the evolutionary states and the relevant evolutionary profiles in a unit with sense in order to understand how and why and how human evolution makes religion (theology) possible or not possible.

In order to achieve these two objectives, selective and synthetic, we need an epistemological criteria: that is to say, previous principles which make it possible to construct arguments to select the evolutionary states and the relevant evolutionary profiles. This criteria must be epistemological because epistemology is the discipline which tells us which productive method we must follow (methodology) in order to achieve a certain type of knowledge (intention of knowledge). For us, the intention is to scientifically know human evolution and the methodology is the form of the cognitive process which leads us to this knowledge.

The basic criteria is offered by epistemology in the general form of all scientific explanations.

A) In the first place, this always supposes the selection of a natural phenomenon, termed explicandum (what must e explained). It is not possible to explain something if we do not know what we want to explain. Therefore, the explicandum must be first delimited with precision: this task is called “phenomenology” (the objective description of the phenomenon). Science must explain what has made it possible for us to be where we are and where we cannot doubt that we are. Thus, anthropic research of the universe will consist of seeking those properties of the universe which make the “phenomenological man” who constitutes our personal and social experience possible. Which phenomenological characteristics does our human experience present? For the study of human evolution it is essential to formulate these precisely as they constitute the obvious point of arrival: what currently constitutes our personal and social human experience. In a way, these are the “explicandum” of a scientific reconstruction of human evolution: namely the knowledge of the causes which have made it possible to reach here. We will stress four contents which are considered to be essential in our phenomenological experience.

B) However, in the second place, the scientific explanation also supposes knowing the causes (or “reasons”) which make it possible to understand why this phenomenon (explicandum) has been produced in nature: the set of explanatory causes are termed scientific explicans (that which carries out the explanatory function).

Therefore, all scientific explanations consist of referring a phenomenon or explicandum to a system of causes or explicans. The explicandum always carries out a control function in the knowledge process (science) which makes it possible to reach the causes. First control the search for the causes aiming at where they are probably located. Second, once a certain proposal of the causal system is reached, a check must be made whether it effectively enables an “explanation” of all the content and nuances in the phenomenological description of the explicandum. The “facts to be explained” (or explicandum) are thus the appeal court in which to judge the pertinence of the scientific explanations (or explicans) proposed.

However, returning to the objectives of the workshop, we can now specify and order them better, in the light of the epistemological criteria of how a scientific explanation is constructed.

a) For us, human evolution is the explicandum. Therefore, it is not possible to move forward unless we start from a phenomenological description of the fact whose scientific explanation we are trying to construct. Human evolution, or man as the terminal result of his evolutionary process, is the terminal phenomenological experience of a process which leads to man for us. It is a question of proposing the phenomenological description of its content in such a way that its serves as a control to orientate the search for its explicans (the causal system which produces the human phenomenon): both for controlling the search and for controlling the explanatory proposals.

b) The evolutionary states and the relevant evolutionary profiles are the explicans. In fact, the selection of evolutionary states must be made depending on their importance for human evolution. However, the selection of relevant evolutionary profiles, within each one of these states, must be made with the same criteria: its contribution to causing human evolution. Both aspects (states and profiles) must be explained (explicans): what causes have made man, what we see phenomenologically today, and why religion (theology) finally appeared in his mind.

We now refer, first, to human evolution as the phenomenological explicandum where we must start from. Then, in the second place, we refer to both aspects, evolutionary states and relevant evolutionary profiles, as the explicans selected to propose a causal system of human evolution.

Human evolution as the phenomenological explicandum

The human sciences normally understand phenomenological as “reality as it is presented in ordinary experience”. It is not a question of establishing what reality is like in itself, but how it appears before us objectively. That it appears as we verify it cannot be doubted: what must be sought are explanations that it appears as such. These explanations can also lead, perhaps, we do not know, to constructing explanations on what reality is like in itself (ontologically) to a greater or lesser degree.

Therefore, we then make a selection of the phenomenological content or features present in our human experience. We live these as the terminal result of an evolutionary process which finally makes us human. In synthesis they respond to an experience already described at the dawn of Western Philosophy in Greece: the experience of unity and difference.

a) A time-space world of differentiated objects. Each man as a living being has an individual condition (his body), differentiated from other objects, living beings and men, which permits him to occupy a determined place and time in time-space. Thanks to this construction of the universe, known phenomenologically, man can move among things and live his life adapting to physical and social environment.

b) A world of stable, determined events. Both the psychobiophysical constitution and human action are possible because the universe is stable and the changing processes are determined by a number of regularities and laws. Thus, man knows that his body is “reliable”. Moreover, the interactions are firm and man can design his life knowing that the world will behave regularly and his actions will be possible. Furthermore, the human reality as a species which transmits the same human condition by inheritance would not be possible without a world of determinations which functions with stable, genetic regularities.

c) A world which produces holistic states. Human phenomenology shows the evidence that the world produces holistic environments: that is to say, environments in which differentiation seems to disappear and unified wholes are formed. Holism already appears at different levels (a body, although it is differentiated and located in time and space, it is holistic). However, it is in psychic experience that a more stunning type of holistic experience appears: the experience constituted from the systems of sensation-perception-consciousness, principally in self-perception and in vision (as described in the phenomenology of the American Psychologist, James J. Gibson).

d) An open world of indetermination and freedom. The experience of what it means to be a man goes together with the experience of being in an open universe where human freedom can plan several vital routes: all are possible and dependent on being taken, that is to say, assumed by human freedom. Thus, the phenomenological experience situates us in an open universe which creates its own future through choices, therefore, it is partly absolutely indeterminate (indetermination compatible with the part of determination mentioned above). This flexible oscillation regarding the choice of the future by “creative self-determination” is known intuitively by extension throughout all of nature, especially in the animal world.

e) A world open to the emergence of reason. In the human experience of the phenomenological exercise of reason, can be seen the unity of the four phenomenological contents mentioned (points a-d). Reason would not be possible without a stable and determined world which forms the solid ground on which reason may walk. However, reason is in itself the experience that this world of stable determinations has generated in reason itself as the power to weigh up, criticize and choose a future through free, responsible options. This is the synthesis of creative determination and indetermination.

In conclusion, we can say that the phenomenological experience unifies and lives the contents we have just summed up: differentiation, determination, holism, indetermination-freedom and reason, as simultaneously possible and factually non-contradictory. The phenomenology of human self-experience is not only an isolated psychic experience of the “world”, but is rather the unitary experience of a physical body among objects in a differentiated world of fields of time-space interactions, energy, stability, in which psychism occupies a congruent place and makes existence possible. It is a personal and social experience, agreed to inter-subjectively; This consensus gives meaning to society and culture.

Man is conscious of his phenomenological self-experience in this way (explicandum) and this means that human evolution has been the process which makes this possible. Therefore, the scientific explanation of human evolution must know the system of causes (explicans) which have produced this. If the universe was produced from primordial matter which derived towards its organisation as universe and as life, it is not possible to doubt that we are factually obliged to admit that the real matter-universe-life system has anthropic properties: that is to say, they make life possible as this would not have occurred with something else. These anthropic causes are essential to know the nature of human evolution.

If the expectations of science is that all that has been produced in the universe is explained from the same dynamic properties of matter in evolution, then, undoubtedly science also has the interdisciplinary expectation that all that man sees in his psychobiophysical constitution (by phenomenology) has been produced from the germinal properties of the matter whose organization has given rise to the universe.

Therefore, it is evident that physics as disciplinary scientific knowledge can methodologically dispense with biology, psychology, philosophy and anthropology. However, from an interdisciplinary perspective which seeks the unity of knowledge (an eminently scientific pretension), physics cannot dispense with being firstly “bio-pic” and, in the end, “anthro-pic”. That is to say, must first make life intelligible and, then, man. Otherwise, it would not be an acceptable science.

If physics does not achieve this “living” and “human” intelligibility, it would place the interdisciplinary project of science in a serious position: having to accept a view which is non-congruent with cosmic facticity (life and man), and would have to retreat towards reductionism or dualism. However, science, correctly understood, must flee from this radicalism in order to adapt its image of matter and the universe and provide them with congruence with the facts and explanatory capacity regarding life and man. That is to say, when the physical image of matter and the universe becomes interdisciplinary science, it must become an “anthropic” image.

Thus, the heuristic approach of our research on human evolution assumes that understanding the evolutionary emergence of the human being cannot be achieved without reference to the ontological roots of this evolution in the ontology of matter and in the construction of the universe –world as the human habitat. Consequently, the study of human evolution logically commences by “anthropic” physics: the physics which endeavors to collect the properties of the matter-universe which make man possible and explain essential aspects of human ontology and its psycho-bio-physico functioning.

The phenomenological aspects mentioned connect with properties which are recognized in the ontology of matter-universe: intense holism from quantum mechanics, the differentiation of matter and genesis of the classical macroscopic world, the persistence of intense or holistic environments in the classical macroscopic world, determination and legality, indetermination, either by the classical, chaotic, probabilistic, statistic way, etc. Drafting the “anthropic” profiles of the physical image of matter-universe in this way is the first step in a study of the human evolution which can, as we have said, form the basis of the subsequent argumentation of a theology of science.

Evolutionary states and relevant evolutionary profiles as explicans of human evolution

Where is this system of evolutionary causes which lead to the constitution of humans found? The control of where to search and the pertinence of the causes found depend on human phenomenology, and these must lead to where we are now. The project has made a selection of evolutionary states where the relevant evolutionary profiles can be sought and these will make it possible to explain human evolution. In a way, human evolution has been possible because our universe was formed in accordance with certain anthropic conditions (which made man possible). The explanation and evaluation of human evolution and the nature of man cannot be achieved without understanding these anthropic conditions at the different evolutionary states.

These are the following:

a) Matter. This is the first evolutionary state from which everything is produced. A certain type of matter would not have made human evolution possible. What are the properties of matter which lead to the production of life and man?

b) Universe. The organisation of mater is produced in the form of the universe. What are the anthropic conditions of the universe which make man possible?

c) Life. Life arises from the physical universe. It represents a first evolutionary step towards the remote anthropic properties of matter/universe. Life emerges really and proximately within the universe in an intermediate stag which in turn generates new anthropic properties, more proximate to the emergence of humans.

d) Man/Neurology. The evolutionary appearance of man through the formation of his mind by his neuronal system becoming more complex is the result of anthropic evolution of matter/life/universe. What evolutionary possibilities does the human mind lead to?

e) Formal Sciences. Formalisation is one of the most relevant products of the human mind. The formalising capacity of the mind makes it possible to probe the hyper-complex profiles of future human evolution.

f) Religion/theology. Another of the historically more relevant products of human evolution is the metaphysical, religion, theology. Why did the human mind create theology? Will current scientific knowledge of human evolution permit the human mind to be occupied in the construction of theology? What type of theology does the image of human evolution in science lead to?

Each one of these six points responds to a part of the project. The first five evolutionary states will make it possible to discuss the relevant profiles which constitute the evolutionary appearance of man as described phenomenologically. In the sixth state, the way in which human evolution enables access to the evolutionary state in which the human mind opens up to the metaphysical can be studied within the framework of religious and theological speculation.

 

This paper concerns some specific aspects of the combined research promoted by the Iberia-Network of LSI. It deals with “Human Evolution” using the same general approach as the Sophia-Iberia in Europe Project.

The study of human evolution enables us to obtain a scientific knowledge of the processes and causes which lead to the appearance in time and the constitution of human reality. This knowledge has two aspects: 1) knowing how nature has formed the human being through evolution as a biological system which has a number of psychic faculties and processes (sensation, perception, conscience, attention, memory, knowledge…) which permit specifically human action; 2) the specific products of human action which have constituted and continue to constitute history: the human being uses faculties to produce emotions, perceptions, knowledge, organizing a memory which accesses history, language, etc., and forms culture.

The theology of any religion always refers to the real man. Research on human evolution in the Iberia-Network of LSI is oriented towards theology. Therefore, the study of human evolution is a means to present and discuss the type of theology the new image of man in science leads us to. However in this communication we are not going to deal with theological conclusions, but with another more specific aspect, which is also related to our research o the human evolution: the roots of human evolution in an anthropic universe. Thus, we limit ourselves to this methodological question.

We use the term “anthropic” in the “weak” sense. We mean that the supposition should be established that only an anthropic universe can provide sufficient explanation of the real presence of man in its interior, where “anthropic universe ” is understood to be  which includes the necessary, or at least the appropriate,The anthropic research of the universe will consist of seeking those properties of the universe which make Human evolution as the phenomenological explicandum: a) a time-space world of differentiated objects. b) A world of stable, determined events. c) a world which produces holistic states. d) an open world of indetermination and freedom. e) a world open to the emergence of reason.

The project has made a selection of evolutionary states where the relevant evolutionary profiles can be sought that make it possible to explain human evolution. These are the following: a) matter. b) universe. c) life. d) man/neurology. e) formal sciences. f) religion/theology.

5/24/2007 05/24/2007 10004 From Quarks to Human Communities, Towards the Triune God.  A Transdisciplinary Integral Approach of the Evolutionary Creation

1.- Introduction

There are solid evidences of the way the Universe evolved from the initial Big Bang to human beings ruled by different physical laws and by natural selection of random mutations. Atheists are convinced that natural laws and chance are enough to explain our existence. On the contrary, believers are convinced that the Universe was created by God in an act of love, although there are different theological theories about the action of God after that initial moment. There is the question whether the Creator made an unique initial divine act, and after that the Universe is evolving by its own physical laws, as defended by deists, or, on the contrary, there is a continuous divine influence on it. Even more, Creationists will defend that not only there is a continuous influence, but also a direct interventions with definite purpose, but we scientist believe that the physical laws of nature are not violated by the Creator.

This question is difficult to explain and it is easy to fall into many difficulties. For instance, if God does not exert His action, there is no room for Divine Providence, and if we can not interact with Him, there is no way to express the reciprocal love between Creator and creatures.

On the other hand, if we accept a direct Divine intervention, the problem of evil arises. For example, if God is driving evolution through gene mutations, why He selected an eye with myopia instead of selecting a better one not needing glasses? or why He designed a genetic code prone to mutations that can cause cancer?

In this paper we will review different alternatives to these questions specially by three different authors (Karl Rahner, Karl Schmitz-Moormann, and Denis Edwards) always keeping in mind that God does not ordinarily violate the laws of the nature, and that evolution is perfectly compatible with creation. But first we will take a look at the way our cosmo-bio-evolution is happening.

2.- Scientific view of cosmo-bio-evolution

Only 50 years ago, it would be impossible to even pose fundamental questions that we are trying to answer now. Our knowledge about how are beings able of thinking in the universe is based on a limited amount of observational data, together with accurate enough theories, trying to explain them.

An enormous amount of work has been done in many different areas, as quantum and gravitational physics, biochemistry, biology, and mathematics, and new theories have been proposed. Different discoveries, as the inhomogeneities in the cosmic microwave background radiation or the DNA structure, are corroborating our theories. Also the development of mathematics and the use of powerful computing simulation programs are helping in obtaining models for the evolution from big-bang to humans. Nevertheless, there are still huge gaps that we can not explain. Of course, scientists are not still, and newer concepts have been developed, as chaos theory and emergence. Despite our ignorance in many aspects, there is also large consensus in a lot of them.

It is widely accepted that initially it was something like a big explosion and only pure energy existed. We do not know what happened in the initial point, we can not even ask about that moment, as there are no physical theories describing it. We can only explain from an initial time tp, called Plank's time that is in the order of 5´10-44 seconds.

After this initial moment, different structures began to appear. It is important to point out that in each step of evolution a higher degree of complexity emerged. In principle these complex states are not inferred from the elementary constituents. From the point of view of information, each new state can accommodate more information than the single constituents by themselves. Also, each state of complexity implements new ways of communication among the different elements, and again, this new ways of communication are not inferred from the single parts.

In short, the cosmo-bio-evolution is based in the standard Big Bang theory and in the Darwinian evolution theory, and we can distinguish the following steps:

1) Physics domain
Universe emerged from an extremely dense and hot singularity 1.37×1010 years ago. We do not have information about what was before Planck's time. From that moment space and time appeared and the universe started expanding at the speed of light. Only energy existed at the beginning, but soon quarks, that is, matter was originated from energy. Also gravitational force is differentiated from the rest of forces.

Later, at about 10-36 seconds, strong force is also decoupled. From 10-36 to 10-32 an extremely fast expansion, called inflation occurs, like a universe phase transition. At this moment it was only energy —that is, photons— quarks and antiquarks, and the exchange particles, named gluons. Due to the high energy density, quarks can not bind to form larger particles (baryons) and form what has been named quark-gluon plasma. Later, at about 10-12 seconds, weak and electromanectic forces are also separated, yielding to the final four forces, as we observe now.

As the universe continued growing in size, the temperature dropped, and quarks can combine to form protons and neutrons (baryons) at 10-5 seconds. All the different types of particles that are a part of the present universe were in existence, even though the temperature was still too much high for the formation of nuclei. At this point a not well understood symmetry breakdown occurs, and the equality between matter and antimatter is unbalanced. As a result of this process, a small excess of ordinary matter over antimatter remains, and it is the matter we are made of and we observe nowadays.

As the universe becomes colder, below 109 K, elements start to be formed. Initially only deuterium and helium in a process called primordial nucleosynthesis. Around 200,000 years, gravitation starts having importance, gas clouds, galaxies, stars, planets are formed. Later, heavier elements are formed inside stars: C, O, N, ... At 380,000 years, matter becomes neutral atoms and radiation is decoupled from matter, the Universe becomes transparent, leaving behind the cosmic microwave background radiation.

In summary, at this physics level, the only basic building blocks we can observe are the elementary particles. The information is identified with the support, and the only information is the particle itself.

A preliminary way of information exchange or interrelation can be identified in the four forces of the nature: gravitational, strong, weak and electromagnetic. These forces act by means of virtual boson exchange between particles. Table 1 shows the complete set of elementary particles and forces. There is also a complementary set of anti-particles, not present in nature, only observable in laboratories.

Particles

Leptons

Quarks

e- (electron)

ve (electron neutrino)

u (up)

d (down)

m (muon)

nm (muon neutrino)

c (charm)

s (strange)

t (tau)

nt (tau neutrino)

t (top)

b (bottom)

Forces

Force

Exchange bosons

gravitation

graviton

strong

gluons

weak

W+, W-, Z0

electromagnetic

photon

Table 1: types of elementary particles and forces

2) Chemistry domain
After the explosions of supernova, with the formation of secondary stars, with planets rich in bio-elements already formed and the temperature low enough it is possible to form complex entities by combining atoms. The earth was formed 4,600 million years ago. Then, during a phase of slow cooling of planets, with high pressures, and moderate temperatures, simple inorganic molecules, as silicates or carbonates appear by means of chemical bonds that are mediated by interchange of photons, electrons or protons (Hydrogen nucleus forming a hydrogen bridge). These primary molecules were necessary for the next evolutionary step, the formation of complex molecules.

At this level, there is a new source of information as in addition to the chemical formula, the spatial arrangement of atoms, driven by chemical bonds in molecular orbitals which is key for the chemical activity.

3) Biochemistry domain
Biomolecules are complex molecules composed primarily of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen along with nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur. Other elements also form part of biomolecules, but in very small proportions. This biomolecules are the chemical compounds that naturally occurs in living organisms The main classes are carbohydrates, amino acids and proteins, polysaccharides, lipids, and nucleic acids, as shown in Table 2, and they are often long chains,

Small molecules

Monomers

  • Lipid, Phospholipid, Glycolipid, Sterol
  • Vitamin
  • Hormone, Neurotransmitter
  • Carbohydrate, Sugar
  • Disaccharide
  • Amino acid
  • Nucleotide
  • Phosphate
  • Monosaccharide

Polymers

Macromolecules

  • Peptide, Oligopeptide, Polypeptide, Protein
  • Nucleic acid, i.e. DNA, RNA
  • Oligosaccharide, Polysaccharide
  • Prion

Table 2: Types of biomolecules

The particular series of amino acids that form a protein is known as that protein's primary structure. Proteins have several, well-classified, elements of local structure and these are termed secondary structure. The overall 3D structure of a protein is termed its tertiary structure. Proteins often aggregate into macromolecular structures, or quaternary structure.

At this stage of complexity we can identify a new source of information in the folding of the macromolecules. For instance, in the case of proteins, the particular linear series of amino acids that form the proteins configures its primary structure. There is a secondary structures made by local amino acid arrangements (in helices or sheets). The overall 3D structure of a protein is the tertiary structure. And often there is a quaternary structure when proteins aggregate into macromolecular compounds.

This macromolecules interact and eventually replicate in adequate environments by means of chemical reactions.

4) Biology domain.
Biomolecules combine, and the structure of surface membrane is developed. From it, between 3,900 to 4,100 million years ago, a new structure appears: the cell with the genes. It has a very high complexity level, and has the capability of growth and self-reproduction. We can say that for the first time in the cosmo-bio-evolution history living organisms, with the capacity of reproduction, exist. Initially cells were simple prokaryotes, without nucleus.

In a simplistic way, a unicellular organism is a series of complex chemical reactions, nevertheless, to reduce life to mere chemistry is an error. It is the entire organism, as a whole that determine their adaptation to the environment and their survival.

Organisms are semi-closed chemical systems. Although they are individual units of life they are not closed to the environment around them. Each cell interact with to its neighbors by chemical interchange, and a new degree of relationship and complexity emerged.

1,400 million years ago, more sophisticated cells with a nucleus (eukaryotes) appear. And later, 700 million years ago, multi-cellular organisms emerged on the earth, starting cell specialization. A group of specialized cells form a tissue. Several types of tissue work together to form an organ to produce a particular function. Several organs functioning jointly conform an organ system. Finally, many organisms are composed of several organ systems which coordinate to allow for life.

Domains

Archaea

Bacteria

Eukaryota (divided in four Kingdoms)

 

Fungi

 

Plantae

 

Animalia

 

Protista

Table 3: Domains and Kingdoms of living organisms

The organism information is stored in DNA molecules located in cell nucleus, constituting the genome. This information is also transferred to descendents. The DNA information can mutate by influence of external media: temperature, chemicals or radiation, in a random process.

The information is written in an alphabet based on four different letters, that are nucleotide bases named: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T). In RNA, thymine (T) is replaced by uracil (U).

A typical cell has about 10,000 different proteins, and it has about 1 million molecules of each kind in average (it can range from 10,000 to 10 millions), this means 1010 protein molecules.

The genetic information written in the DNA molecules of the cell genome is translated into proteins by means of a genetic code. Every set of three nucleotide bases (named codon) determines one of the 20 different amino acids that in long sequences form proteins. This genetic code is shown in table 4.

 

Amino acid code

Amino acid name

RNA codon

Ala

Alanine

GCU, GCC, GCA, GCG

Arg

Arginine

CGU, CGC, CGA, CGG, AGA, AGG

Asn

Asparagine

AAU, AAC

Asp

Aspartic acid

GAU, GAC

Cys

Cysteine

UGU, UGC

Gln

Glutamic acid

CAA, CAG

Glu

Glutamine

GAA, GAG

Gly

Glycine

GGU, GGC, GGA, GGG

His

Histidine

CAU, CAC

Ile

Isoleucine

AUU, AUC, AUA

Leu

Leucine

UUA, UUG, CUU, CUC, CUA, CUG

Lys

Lysine

AAA, AAG

Met

Methionine

AUG

Phe

Phenylalanine

UUU, UUC

Pro

Proline

CCU, CCC, CCA, CCG

Ser

Serine

UCU, UCC, UCA, UCG, AGU, AGC

Thr

Threonine

ACU, ACC, ACA, ACG

Trp

Tryptophan

UGG

Tyr

Tyrosine

UAU, UAC

Val

Valine

GUU, GUC, GUA, GUG

START

 

AUG

STOP

 

UAG, UGA, UAA

Table 4: The genetic code

All living organisms share the same cellular structure and genetic code, so there is a solid evidence that all living organisms share a common ancestor, from which all of them evolve.

5) Zoology domain
In further evolution steps, from chordates to vertebrates, animals with a true neural system and a brain appeared. Having a new complexity level, new ways of information appear, vertebrates manipulate information using neurotransmitters and electrical pulses inside the nervous central system. There is also communication between individuals by chemical compounds as pheromones.

6) Ethology domain
Primates. They have superior brain functions that are unveiled for example in their ability of self-recognition. For the first time in evolution there are entities that feel themselves as individuals. There are some polemics if other mammals as elephants or dauphins also can recognize themselves, but to fix from which degree of brain development this is true is not relevant. Primitive forms of culture also appear in apes, teaching and learning can be observed, that is, there are primitive ways of transmitting information between individuals. There are also primitive languages based on gestures.

7) Psychology domain
At the top of the evolution, the humans appear. The most relevant aspect is self-consciousness: for the first time the creation is thinking about itself. In terms of information, language means a breakthrough. Information is stored outside the living organisms in books or other physical supports, and information reaches a planetary scale.

8) Sociology domain
Humans are not fully developed unless they live in relationships with other people. Humans are social animals, and it is in communities where we reach the highest degree of development by means of interpersonal love. Civilizations are a higher degree of evolution. Humans are a symbiosis of genes and culture. But humans are something more. Already in very primitive humans (Homo neanderthalensis) we discover burials that denote an idea of transcendence and religious sense. We can say that humans are capable of God and are able to respond the initiative of the Creator.

9) Information domain
From the point of view of human development, certainly the previous step is the last one. Nevertheless, from the point of view of information maybe we can consider a new one in computers and Internet, although in my opinion this is arguable.

Even though it is not yet fully developed, Internet introduces ubiquity and immediacy. It is not difficult to imagine, in a not so distant future all the people, on Earth interconnected all the time and having access to huge amounts of information. But it is important to point out that the information has been created by humans. Computer can help humans, but not develop its own conscious.

Information in general, in contraposition as its support, has to be considered non material. In the history of evolution, we observe that information is step after step less material, more effective, more spiritual. With humans, new concepts as beauty, mysticism and religious beliefs appear.

3.- Scientific theories

The previously described cosmo-bio-evolution is based on well established theories, the main of them are:

1) Gravitation or general relativity
It describes the geometrical structure of space and time. With current physical instruments, the accuracy of the theory has been proven up to one part in 1014, which is really amazing. This theory is used to calculate gravitational attraction and trajectories of bodies for example. In principle it is a deterministic theory, but if a systems offers chaotic behavior it is impossible in practice to predict the evolution of it. Simplifying, chaotic systems are systems very sensitive to initial conditions and small changes on them yield big differences in the final state.

2) Quantum theory
It describes the behavior of elementary particles or very small bodies. The most relevant point is that it introduces the notions of uncertainty and probability. Instead of corpuscles with their observable physical magnitudes we consider systems with their states that are represented by a wave function. The wave function does not correspond to definite values for each of the observables, but to a probability distribution of them.

This uncertainty is ontic, and not due to our ignorance of the state of the system. When quantum systems interact in a way that a magnitude should be fixed, in a process called measure, one possible states is randomly fixed. We call this process wave function collapse.

The interpretation of this theory is not yet clear. Some scientists think that it is an incomplete theory, but all the experiments point in the direction that there is no a hidden mechanism, but pure randomness. The main consequence is that it is not possible to predict the future of quantum systems as they are randomness in the evolution of them.

Although these theories are able to describe with very high precision many aspects of the world, they still have many unknowns. Gravitation and quantum are not compatible among them, and there are no satisfactory ways to mix both in a unified Quantum Gravity.

For complex organisms it is not possible to apply quantum theory directly. If they are many different bodies the wave function is not useful as the total uncertainty is too big. Then we have to appeal to statistics. We can mention two theories based on statistics.

Statistical mechanics
On top of these two physical theories we also have a statistical theory named statistical mechanics that reinterprets thermodynamics. Is does not introduce new natural laws, but offers a mathematical description of the behavior of systems with an extremely large number of elements. The main prediction is that entropy, interpreted as improbability or disorder, always increases in closed systems (those that do not exchange energy, matter and entropy with the exterior). To increase the order (or decrease entropy) we have to expend some energy and also expulse some entropy to another place.

Usually statistical mechanics is limited to closed systems in equilibrium, but living organisms are open systems not in equilibrium, and therefore it can not be used to describe them. Nevertheless, there are attempts to extend the theory. Ilya Prigogine (1917-2003) proposed the dissipative system as an attempt to address the behavior of systems far from equilibrium. A dissipative system is an open system which is operating far from thermodynamic equilibrium. A dissipative system is characterized by the spontaneous appearance of symmetry breaking and the formation of complex, sometimes chaotic, effects.

Darwinian evolution theory
Is a biological theory proposed by Charles Darwin (1809-1882) in 1859, which tries to explain how living organisms evolve from one species to another. It is based in species evolution by means of natural selection and random mutations through self-replication (inheritance). Evolution does not act in a linear direction towards a pre-defined target, it only responds to various types of adaptive changes.

Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975), in 1937 proposed the Synthetic evolution theory or neo-Darwinism, that is a combination of Darwin's concept of natural selection, Mendel's basic genetics, along with the facts and theories of population genetics. It was later modified with the discovery of DNA double helix and the ulterior studies of molecular biology and genetic code.

Nevertheless, it is a controversial theory, as it has several unclear points. Many people questions if only chance can produce the continuous progress in the speciation, as nature shows a clear but never explained tendency towards complexity. Also there is the problem of lack of continuous intermediate species.

Dobzhansky, in his book The Biological Basis of Human Freedom (p.68) in 1956 proposed the "genetically controlled adaptive plasticity of the phenotype" as a complement to Darwin's theory applicable to the evolution of superior primates to humans.

Another step towards the knowledge of speciation was the publishing of the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium en 1992 by the biologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) that is a theoretical model of evolution in which species remain unchanged for long periods of time and then at times rapidly change as a result of major alterations in the environment and, subsequently, in natural selection.

Emergence and self-organization theories
Emergence is the appearance of new properties in complex system that can not be traceable to their components. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And we call self-organization this increases in complexity produced without any guidance by an outside source, but as a result of internal properties of the complex system. The motivation is well explained by Anderson:

"The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from those laws and reconstruct the universe. The constructionist hypothesis breaks down when confronted with the twin difficulties of scale and complexity. At each level of complexity entirely new properties appear. Psychology is not applied biology, nor is biology applied chemistry. We can now see that the whole becomes not merely more, but very different from the sum of its parts."(Anderson 1972)

For the biologist and complex system researcher, Stuart Kauffman (1939- ), it is necessary something more than natural selection to explain biological evolution. He looks for a previous organizative order previous to selection. This leads him to the study of life as global phenomenon of complex systems in regions of order close to deterministic chaos and to the search of general purely statistical laws of self-organization that show the characteristics of life. As an example, he describes cellular life as a collective self-catalysis. Cellular life is studied with simplified mathematical models of graphs in which the points represents the different proteins (in some cells more than 10,000 different), linked by chemical reactions (synthesis and division) controlled by catalytic enzymes, that are, in turn, proteins of the system (the cell). It is a complex system of molecules whose presence or absence depends on the presence or absence of others, leading to chaotic systems, with their attractors.

The physicist Per Bak (1984-2002) introduced a theory to explain the non-continuous rhythm (as the Darwin's model predicts) of speciation and extinction of species that corresponds to avalanches that follows a classical statistical law (Frequency = k/Intensity) that could explain the Punctuated Equilibrium of Stephen Jay Gould.

Self-Organized Criticality (SOC): it is known that in artificially imposed critical situations, order is created (phase transitions), but Bak proposes that there are other natural criticalities that are self-organized. A typical example are sand piles formed by a sequential fall of sand grains in random locations. Avalanches are produced when the last grain fall in a critical location, but it is produced naturally by the previous grains fallen. The magnitude of avalanches is governed by a reverse law with the probability of occurrence. A similar law is found in many other natural phenomena.
4.- Metaphysical perspective
We can observe from the evolutionary history that each time a more complex entity appears, it is more than the sum of its parts. Karl Schmitz-Moormann (1928-1996) in his book Theology of Creation in an Evolutionary World, chapter 2, with a brave philosophical view, changes our traditional metaphysics of being in a metaphysics of becoming through union. It is inspired in the Union Metaphysics by Teilhard de Chardin:

Plus esse = plus a pluribus uniri

That is, being more means being more united from more elements.

This explains the continuous growing of the evolutionary progress previously presented. He points out that, in this continuous growing, there are evolutionary steady states, as the landings in a stair, that are the states of successive "uni-totalities" (an English neologism translating German Ein-Ganzheit) or "united totalities".

This metaphysics fits our knowledge of the evolutionary science. The elements are richer and richer, and the unions more and more perfect. Going back to our scientific cosmo-bio-evolution, we can present the list of "united totalities" in table 5.

 

Domain

United totalities

Union

Physics

elementary particles, atoms

boson (gluons, photon) exchange

Chemistry

molecules

chemical bonds

Biochemistry

biomolecules

chemical compounds

Biology

cells

complex chemical interchange

Zoology

animals

neural system

Ethology

primates communities

gestures

Psychology

humans

self consciousness

Sociology

human communities

interpersonal love

Table 5: "United totalities" along cosmo-bio-evolution

5.- Theological perspective
In our classical theological view, creation is an act from God. God creates everything:

"We believe in one God, the Father the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen"

And, in consequence, all that has been created has to be good as it proceeds from an act of God. This view contrasts with our knowledge of the Universe originated in a Big-Bang and continuously evolving.

God could have chosen to create a finished world, but instead he choose to given existence to an universe that creates by itself, developing even human beings. In this way, humans have total freedom and are capable of loving other humans and God or to reject Him.

In order to allow the human freedom, God should avoid presenting Himself in an epiphanic way. Believing in God is not the result of a formal logic deduction, it is a matter of faith. Nevertheless, I believe that we can find the lovely call of God in the creation from the evolution.

Karl Rahner (1904-1984), the German catholic theologian, proposed a new view of the causality for explaining evolution inspired in his Transcendental Metaphysics. Aristotle had proposed a transient causality based on four different causes: material, formal, efficient and final. This view was dominant over many centuries. All these causes are external, coming from outside of the effect.

Aristotle could not see anything about evolution, he could perhaps observe the larva transforming in a chrysalis and finally in a butterfly, but this ontogenetic example can not help to understand the evolution of species.

The scholastic tradition, based in the Genesis description and this philosophical Aristotelian view of causality, could not consider a creation with evolution. Creation is an initial making of things followed by their conservation. A process of progressing evolution or a sense of spontaneous improvement or overcoming is not easily considered.

Rahner (The Problem of Hominisation, 1961) therefore, in his philosophical and theological reflections on evolutionary vision, considered an immanent causality, acting on the same agent or efficient cause. And this immanent causality enriches the agent itself. As an example, if a person has an idea, the idea originates from inside the person, and remains inside himself (the idea could be later separated from him and even publish, but this is not relevant now). The human being with the idea is more that the human being alone. It has been a process of growth.

We can now question what is it needed for this growth. Where is the origin of the enrichment? And the answer from Rahner is God's action. But not a "categorical" action of God, that is, a direct production of this growth by an irruption of God in our world that directly produces the effect. It is not God who places the idea inside the person's brain. If so it would be a God's idea, not a person's idea. It is enough a "transcendental" action of God. This Transcendental action of God is an action that sustains the created agent and its capability of causing, and is common on all creatures because of their contingency.

This is the Rahner's explanation of why it can be something new:

person + idea > person

The origin of this growth is the support of God. But for the person, the growth is a "self-overcoming", a "dynamical self-transcendence", sustained by the transcendental action of God.

This self-overcoming operates in the becoming of every "united totality" of the universe, from the initial Big-bang. It operates from quarks interacting by means of gluons to form protons to persons expressing the interpersonal love in human communities, passing through all the stages in our evolution. The transcendental action of God operates even in the case of catastrophes or when somebody is sinning, but this is the cost of world autonomy and human freedom.

The crucial thesis of Rahner concerning this paper is that the dynamical self-transcendence sustained by the transcendental action of God is enough to explain all the cosmo-bio-evolution, including hominization. Other theologians claim for categorical actions of God, at least in the hominization, but following Rahner, these actions are no needed.

The others say that in the evolutionary context the hominization is just the emergence of spirit from matter. But following Rahner, although spirit is clearly different from matter, this emergence can be defended because of the existing "kinship" between them. This kinship is proven by philosophical and theological reasons (the latter grounded in the common becoming of matter and spirit in the creation, Incarnation and eschatology). To express this kinship, he even calls the matter "frozen spirit".

Rahner, nevertheless, explains from his point of view the traditional doctrine of "the immediate creation of the human soul", both in the evolutionary hominization and in present procreation of human beings. This creation can not mean a categorical action of God, independent from the action of the parents, but it means the transcendental action that sustains it. We could analogously speak on the creation of life, but we refer only to the mentioned traditional doctrine of the human soul because of its theological relevance: the emergence of a human being capax Dei, a being able of entering in communication with God.

Karl Schmitz-Moormann, as we have seen, presents his theology of creation in the context of the evolution and in the metaphysics of union inherited from Teilhard de Chardin. He does not distinguish a primordial creation and further conservation, but he explains it as a unique and eternal continuous creation of God unfolded in time. He also mentions Rahner's concept of dynamical self-transcendence, widely spread in the theological literature. But he vividly presents his own concept of continuous creation under three different aspects in the chapter 6 of his cited book.

Continuous creation is a "creatio appellata", a "called creation", in which God pronounces His creative call. This, more than a fiat lux ("let there be light", Gn 1, 3) is a "come!, approach to Me!" not locally, but ontically understood: "approach to My richness of being". In this way He invites both the not-yet-being and the evolving beings to constitute "united totalities" more and more perfect, and more and more alike to the "Supreme United Totality" that constitutes our Trinitarian and Creator God. Trinity, which we conceive as Persons united by interpersonal love (using analogically these concepts of person, totality and love).

In this view, each emerging "united totality" in the evolutionary process constitutes a trace or footprint of the Creator, and the interpersonal totalities united by love bonds constitute a true image of the Creator ("God created man in His image; in the divine image He created him; male and female He created them", Gn 1, 27).

Continuous creation is also "creatio informata", a progressive creation of information, which means a continuous spiritualization of the world making it more similar to the "Supreme Information" that is God. This allows the Creator to transmit his information to the world by means of "top-down causality" (also conceived as "whole-part causation").

Downward causation is the way a process at higher levels of complexity influences those at lower levels, (for example, the mind that can move the arm). Schmitz-Moormann proposes an analogous mechanism for the exercise of God's Providence in the world: God transmits only information, and does not violate any of the laws of nature, in particular, the energy is conserved.

Continuous creation is finally a "creatio libera", a creation that respects the autonomy of the world and the human freedom. This freedom emerges at the expense of wastefulness and physical evil. But the Creator wants it because only free beings are responsible and capable of love. And, as stated in the Christian Anthropic Principle of George Ellis, the purpose of the creation is that love can exists beyond the eternal interpersonal relations of the Trinity, in the human persons among them and in relation to Divine Persons.

We present finally the proposal of the Australian catholic theologian Denis Edwards (1943- ), that has strongly influenced the science and religion dialogue, specially by instilling the Trinitarian concept of God as "persons in communion" instead of the philosophical concept of actus purus (pure actuality).

Inspired by Rahner and his concept of dynamical self-transcendence to explain the evolutionary process, he develops a theology of the Holy Spirit as Creator in his recent book Breath of Life. The book is based in two building blocks: the view of modern cosmo-bio-evolution and the doctrine about the Holy Spirit by Saint Basil from Caesarea (c. 330-379). Although Saint Basil died two years before the council of Constatinople (381), his work had a great influence in the formulation of our Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

We have traditionally conceived the Holy Spirit as the Koinonía or Communion both in the Trinitarian relations and in Christian human assemblies. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is also the Divine Breath of Life which is immanent in all creatures, at the bottom of their hearts, and is the Giver of life (Zoopoiuntos, maker of life).

Edwards reasons that we can conceive the Holy Spirit today as the support of the creation in his existence and his capability of progressive evolution (presented by Teilhard and Schmitz-Moormann as the enrichment of the successive totalities by union), and formulates his central thesis: "The Spirit of God is the Source of the new in an emergent universe". This corresponds to the same transcendental action of God, from Rahner, but presented in a theological Trinitarian view.

6.- Final considerations
The former Theological reflections do not fix clearly the combination with natural laws. There is the question of how it can be combined the Divine Call and the Holy Spirit action with the laws, without violating them.

We think that the Universe is open in the sense that not everything is defined in it since the beginning. Quantum uncertainty, and probably also chaos theory, opens the door to new information creation. That is, the Universe admits new information entering on it without violating any law. And this new information could come from God. This uncertainty is also the key point for human freedom. We are not pre-destined, we have some control on our acts, and we also have the freedom to approach God by means of love or not.

We do not know the physical mechanism of this Divine action, and we will not speculate with anyone in this paper. Some authors propose different options, as for instance wave function collapse induced by God. There is also an open question on energy balance. The input of new information from God has to be done without any energy consumption, or there would be a violation of energy conservation principle. The Universe would allow that input through quantum probabilities, for example. It is compatible as long as there is not a categorical intervention, but just an invitation.

This Call of the Holy Spirit could also explain Divine Inspiration through an action in the brain. The way the brain creates thoughts is a mystery, but we want to point out that some authors, as the physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose (1931- ), sustains that brain thought is based on quantum behavior of neurons. If this was true, the brain would also be open to input of information, and we could feel the Divine invitation to join Him.

It is also missing in this theological view of Rahner, Schmitz-Moormann and Edwards to distinguish when the divine action is purely the transcendental action that supports the creation and its growing and when it is an action of the Holy Spirit, that, as Rahner's "Non-created Grace", truly raises the human creatures to a supernatural order. It would be necessary to define the transition from one kind of action in the whole world to the other one proper of human beings.

7.- Bibliography
Anderson, P.W. "More is Different: Broken Symmetry and the Nature of the Hierarchical Structure of Science", Science 1972 (177) 393-396.

Dobzhansky, Theodosius. The Biological Basis of Human Freedom. Columbia Univ. Press, New York, 1956.

Edwards, Denis, "Breath of Life", Orbis Books, New York, 2004.

Edwards, Denis, "The Discovery of Chaos and the Retrieval of the Trinity" in Russell, R. J., Murphy, N. and Peacocke, A. R. Eds. Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, Vatican Observatory and Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, 1995.

Heffner, Philip. The Human Factor: Evolution Culture and Religion" Fortress Press Minneapolis, 1993 (especially chapter 7).

Overhage, Paul & Rahner, Karl, "Das Problem der Hominization", Quaestiones Disputatae, 12/13, Herder, Freiburg, 1961. English translation: "Hominisation", Herder and Herder, 1965.

Schmitz-Moormann, Karl, "Theology of Creation in an Evolutionary World", Pilgrim Press, 1997.

 

 

There is solid evidence of the way the universe evolved from the initial Big Bang to human beings ruled by different physical laws and by natural selection of random mutations. Atheists are convinced that natural laws and chance are enough to explain our existence. On the contrary, believers are convinced that the universe was created by God in an act of love.

In this paper first we take a look at the scientific cosmo-bio-evolution. Initially it was something like a big explosion and only pure energy existed. After this initial moment, different structures began to appear. In each step of evolution a higher degree of complexity emerged. We classify these steps as 1) the physics domain, 2) the chemistry domain, 3) the biochemistry domain, 4) the biology domain, 5) the zoology domain, 6) the ethology domain, 7) the psychology domain, 8) the sociology domain, and 9) the information domain.

Next we review the main nature laws or scientific theories: Gravitation or general relativity, quantum theory, statistical mechanics, Darwinian evolutionary theory, and the new emergence and self-organization theories that are trying to explain how very complex systems, as living organisms, can appear from nature. Then we present a short metaphysical perspective following Karl Schmitz-Moormann concept of united totalities, and we show a list of them corresponding to the different evolutionary steps.

Later we study different theological perspectives to explain the influence of God in the evolution by three different authors (Karl Rahner, Karl Schmitz-Moormann, and Denis Edwards). First, the crucial thesis of Rahner concerning this paper is that the dynamical self-transcendence sustained by the transcendental action of God is enough to explain all the cosmo-bio-evolution, including hominization. Second, we present the theology of creation from Karl Schmitz-Moormann framed in the context of the evolution; he explains the process of creation as a unique and eternal continuous creation of God unfolded in time, and presents his own concept of continuous creation under three different aspects: "creatio appellata", "creatio informata", and "creatio libera."

We present finally the proposal of Denis Edwards, based on the Trinitarian concept of God as "persons in communion" instead of the philosophical concept of http://www.collidoscope.com/cgolve/>http://www.collidoscope.com/cgolve/</a> and <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway's_Game_of_Life>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway's_Game_of_Life</a> </p><p>On my knowledge there are no examples so far, with a general approved capability of development, may be due to a missing general definition of development, evolution stages and generally accepted characteristics of life simulation. Therefore, a scientific search or research of possibly simulations needs at least specific definitions of these concepts. Perhaps the results can give more evidence to an increasing, self-organizing complexity of evolutionary systems, which creationistic authors have been doubt so far to be a principal potential, without external support. Since a small area of the game theory has already been dealing with evolutionary structures, cooperation with interested and experienced scientists from the area of applied mathematics or biomathematics seems to be useful. It is not asked to simulate only a certain procedure of nature, but to define a phenomenology arising several times on different evolution stages. So it is needed to rely also on philosophical experiences.</p><p>In particular, this applies to the transfer of possible findings and solutions from the natural sciences to the so-called creation theology and the consequences with the evolutive approach stated in detail for related questions of theology. Here one can build up on interdisciplinary works, which try to interconnect evolution and creation. However, in many of these theological works until today the required precision in the evaluation of natural scientific results is missing. Beside an increasing amount of information, which is difficult to overview, often the interest and acceptance of the results of natural science is missing. Since these results can tell important news from the creation, this kind of divine revelation should belong to the requirements of a scientific and reliable working in the related fields of theology.</p><p>In cooperation with fundamental theology it has to be analyzed, whether a cosmic design with evolutionary potentials can be interpreted as a plan of a creator. Can it be sufficient that the fulfilling of aims mostly have only high probabilities? What kind of aims can be only fulfilled by such a random processing and what kind of consequences have to be accepted, therefore? How far theological questions such as theodicy and salvation could find new explanations? To what extent the earlier teaching of religion has to be changed especially the belief in a creation, which is much less determinate? </p><p><strong>Outreach of a transdisciplinary cooperation</strong></p><p>For many of the mentioned questions suitable answers have already been found, but have not been accepted so far. Therefore, the main question would be how we can accept a world-view that sees the universe as an evolution game and a creator that is playing dice with our fate. Important for that is to realize that evolution is not ready and cannot be understood, without the crucial dimension of spirit. But this dimension has not been proved to work against matter and natural laws, but is included within.</p><p>“The spirit that enables us to design our life and its surroundings is the same spirit that has designed the cosmos and its evolution”. To think and discuss such an idea needs not only a transdisciplinary overview, it needs the capability to analyze the world in its totality. But this understanding is not free from the risk of losing scientific controls, such as the esoteric excesses in the New Age Movement during the last decades of the 20th century have shown. </p><p>Transdisciplinary analyses of creation models are one of the most suitable fields to train a scientific cooperation. It may show the advantages finding specific answers in limited disciplines with its specific methods, but also the errors, which can happen by generalizing these answers on a higher level beyond the disciplinary borders. To what extent disciplines such as astrophysics, applied mathematics and theology can cooperate depends on disciplinary overlaps, which need to be carefully analyzed, partly even by finding common languages. It is often necessary to find out, whether two disciplines speak about the same phenomena or the same dimension of truth. </p><p>Maybe the idea of a hypothetical construction manual of the cosmos can take an exception to think about the credibility of transdisciplinary world-views such as creation models with a designed evolution. Since it opens the possibility of making an approach from different disciplines, it may help to overcome blockades of transdisciplinary thinking. </p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>Appendix:</strong> Relevant data of the significant stages of evolution </p><p align=center><strong>S T A G E S O F E V O L U T I O N</strong> </p><table width=985 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0 border=0> <tbody> <tr> <td width=123 valign=bottom nowrap=;">
Stage:

http://www.collidoscope.com/cgolve/>http://www.collidoscope.com/cgolve/</a> and <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway's_Game_of_Life>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway's_Game_of_Life</a> </p><p>On my knowledge there are no examples so far, with a general approved capability of development, may be due to a missing general definition of development, evolution stages and generally accepted characteristics of life simulation. Therefore, a scientific search or research of possibly simulations needs at least specific definitions of these concepts. Perhaps the results can give more evidence to an increasing, self-organizing complexity of evolutionary systems, which creationistic authors have been doubt so far to be a principal potential, without external support. Since a small area of the game theory has already been dealing with evolutionary structures, cooperation with interested and experienced scientists from the area of applied mathematics or biomathematics seems to be useful. It is not asked to simulate only a certain procedure of nature, but to define a phenomenology arising several times on different evolution stages. So it is needed to rely also on philosophical experiences.</p><p>In particular, this applies to the transfer of possible findings and solutions from the natural sciences to the so-called creation theology and the consequences with the evolutive approach stated in detail for related questions of theology. Here one can build up on interdisciplinary works, which try to interconnect evolution and creation. However, in many of these theological works until today the required precision in the evaluation of natural scientific results is missing. Beside an increasing amount of information, which is difficult to overview, often the interest and acceptance of the results of natural science is missing. Since these results can tell important news from the creation, this kind of divine revelation should belong to the requirements of a scientific and reliable working in the related fields of theology.</p><p>In cooperation with fundamental theology it has to be analyzed, whether a cosmic design with evolutionary potentials can be interpreted as a plan of a creator. Can it be sufficient that the fulfilling of aims mostly have only high probabilities? What kind of aims can be only fulfilled by such a random processing and what kind of consequences have to be accepted, therefore? How far theological questions such as theodicy and salvation could find new explanations? To what extent the earlier teaching of religion has to be changed especially the belief in a creation, which is much less determinate? </p><p><strong>Outreach of a transdisciplinary cooperation</strong></p><p>For many of the mentioned questions suitable answers have already been found, but have not been accepted so far. Therefore, the main question would be how we can accept a world-view that sees the universe as an evolution game and a creator that is playing dice with our fate. Important for that is to realize that evolution is not ready and cannot be understood, without the crucial dimension of spirit. But this dimension has not been proved to work against matter and natural laws, but is included within.</p><p>“The spirit that enables us to design our life and its surroundings is the same spirit that has designed the cosmos and its evolution”. To think and discuss such an idea needs not only a transdisciplinary overview, it needs the capability to analyze the world in its totality. But this understanding is not free from the risk of losing scientific controls, such as the esoteric excesses in the New Age Movement during the last decades of the 20th century have shown. </p><p>Transdisciplinary analyses of creation models are one of the most suitable fields to train a scientific cooperation. It may show the advantages finding specific answers in limited disciplines with its specific methods, but also the errors, which can happen by generalizing these answers on a higher level beyond the disciplinary borders. To what extent disciplines such as astrophysics, applied mathematics and theology can cooperate depends on disciplinary overlaps, which need to be carefully analyzed, partly even by finding common languages. It is often necessary to find out, whether two disciplines speak about the same phenomena or the same dimension of truth. </p><p>Maybe the idea of a hypothetical construction manual of the cosmos can take an exception to think about the credibility of transdisciplinary world-views such as creation models with a designed evolution. Since it opens the possibility of making an approach from different disciplines, it may help to overcome blockades of transdisciplinary thinking. </p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>Appendix:</strong> Relevant data of the significant stages of evolution </p><p align=center><strong>S T A G E S O F E V O L U T I O N</strong> </p><table width=985 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0 border=0> <tbody> <tr> <td width=123 valign=bottom nowrap=;">cosmochemical

http://www.collidoscope.com/cgolve/>http://www.collidoscope.com/cgolve/</a> and <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway's_Game_of_Life>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway's_Game_of_Life</a> </p><p>On my knowledge there are no examples so far, with a general approved capability of development, may be due to a missing general definition of development, evolution stages and generally accepted characteristics of life simulation. Therefore, a scientific search or research of possibly simulations needs at least specific definitions of these concepts. Perhaps the results can give more evidence to an increasing, self-organizing complexity of evolutionary systems, which creationistic authors have been doubt so far to be a principal potential, without external support. Since a small area of the game theory has already been dealing with evolutionary structures, cooperation with interested and experienced scientists from the area of applied mathematics or biomathematics seems to be useful. It is not asked to simulate only a certain procedure of nature, but to define a phenomenology arising several times on different evolution stages. So it is needed to rely also on philosophical experiences.</p><p>In particular, this applies to the transfer of possible findings and solutions from the natural sciences to the so-called creation theology and the consequences with the evolutive approach stated in detail for related questions of theology. Here one can build up on interdisciplinary works, which try to interconnect evolution and creation. However, in many of these theological works until today the required precision in the evaluation of natural scientific results is missing. Beside an increasing amount of information, which is difficult to overview, often the interest and acceptance of the results of natural science is missing. Since these results can tell important news from the creation, this kind of divine revelation should belong to the requirements of a scientific and reliable working in the related fields of theology.</p><p>In cooperation with fundamental theology it has to be analyzed, whether a cosmic design with evolutionary potentials can be interpreted as a plan of a creator. Can it be sufficient that the fulfilling of aims mostly have only high probabilities? What kind of aims can be only fulfilled by such a random processing and what kind of consequences have to be accepted, therefore? How far theological questions such as theodicy and salvation could find new explanations? To what extent the earlier teaching of religion has to be changed especially the belief in a creation, which is much less determinate? </p><p><strong>Outreach of a transdisciplinary cooperation</strong></p><p>For many of the mentioned questions suitable answers have already been found, but have not been accepted so far. Therefore, the main question would be how we can accept a world-view that sees the universe as an evolution game and a creator that is playing dice with our fate. Important for that is to realize that evolution is not ready and cannot be understood, without the crucial dimension of spirit. But this dimension has not been proved to work against matter and natural laws, but is included within.</p><p>“The spirit that enables us to design our life and its surroundings is the same spirit that has designed the cosmos and its evolution”. To think and discuss such an idea needs not only a transdisciplinary overview, it needs the capability to analyze the world in its totality. But this understanding is not free from the risk of losing scientific controls, such as the esoteric excesses in the New Age Movement during the last decades of the 20th century have shown. </p><p>Transdisciplinary analyses of creation models are one of the most suitable fields to train a scientific cooperation. It may show the advantages finding specific answers in limited disciplines with its specific methods, but also the errors, which can happen by generalizing these answers on a higher level beyond the disciplinary borders. To what extent disciplines such as astrophysics, applied mathematics and theology can cooperate depends on disciplinary overlaps, which need to be carefully analyzed, partly even by finding common languages. It is often necessary to find out, whether two disciplines speak about the same phenomena or the same dimension of truth. </p><p>Maybe the idea of a hypothetical construction manual of the cosmos can take an exception to think about the credibility of transdisciplinary world-views such as creation models with a designed evolution. Since it opens the possibility of making an approach from different disciplines, it may help to overcome blockades of transdisciplinary thinking. </p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>Appendix:</strong> Relevant data of the significant stages of evolution </p><p align=center><strong>S T A G E S O F E V O L U T I O N</strong> </p><table width=985 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0 border=0> <tbody> <tr> <td width=123 valign=bottom nowrap=;">geoch.-prebiot.

http://www.collidoscope.com/cgolve/>http://www.collidoscope.com/cgolve/</a> and <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway's_Game_of_Life>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway's_Game_of_Life</a> </p><p>On my knowledge there are no examples so far, with a general approved capability of development, may be due to a missing general definition of development, evolution stages and generally accepted characteristics of life simulation. Therefore, a scientific search or research of possibly simulations needs at least specific definitions of these concepts. Perhaps the results can give more evidence to an increasing, self-organizing complexity of evolutionary systems, which creationistic authors have been doubt so far to be a principal potential, without external support. Since a small area of the game theory has already been dealing with evolutionary structures, cooperation with interested and experienced scientists from the area of applied mathematics or biomathematics seems to be useful. It is not asked to simulate only a certain procedure of nature, but to define a phenomenology arising several times on different evolution stages. So it is needed to rely also on philosophical experiences.</p><p>In particular, this applies to the transfer of possible findings and solutions from the natural sciences to the so-called creation theology and the consequences with the evolutive approach stated in detail for related questions of theology. Here one can build up on interdisciplinary works, which try to interconnect evolution and creation. However, in many of these theological works until today the required precision in the evaluation of natural scientific results is missing. Beside an increasing amount of information, which is difficult to overview, often the interest and acceptance of the results of natural science is missing. Since these results can tell important news from the creation, this kind of divine revelation should belong to the requirements of a scientific and reliable working in the related fields of theology.</p><p>In cooperation with fundamental theology it has to be analyzed, whether a cosmic design with evolutionary potentials can be interpreted as a plan of a creator. Can it be sufficient that the fulfilling of aims mostly have only high probabilities? What kind of aims can be only fulfilled by such a random processing and what kind of consequences have to be accepted, therefore? How far theological questions such as theodicy and salvation could find new explanations? To what extent the earlier teaching of religion has to be changed especially the belief in a creation, which is much less determinate? </p><p><strong>Outreach of a transdisciplinary cooperation</strong></p><p>For many of the mentioned questions suitable answers have already been found, but have not been accepted so far. Therefore, the main question would be how we can accept a world-view that sees the universe as an evolution game and a creator that is playing dice with our fate. Important for that is to realize that evolution is not ready and cannot be understood, without the crucial dimension of spirit. But this dimension has not been proved to work against matter and natural laws, but is included within.</p><p>“The spirit that enables us to design our life and its surroundings is the same spirit that has designed the cosmos and its evolution”. To think and discuss such an idea needs not only a transdisciplinary overview, it needs the capability to analyze the world in its totality. But this understanding is not free from the risk of losing scientific controls, such as the esoteric excesses in the New Age Movement during the last decades of the 20th century have shown. </p><p>Transdisciplinary analyses of creation models are one of the most suitable fields to train a scientific cooperation. It may show the advantages finding specific answers in limited disciplines with its specific methods, but also the errors, which can happen by generalizing these answers on a higher level beyond the disciplinary borders. To what extent disciplines such as astrophysics, applied mathematics and theology can cooperate depends on disciplinary overlaps, which need to be carefully analyzed, partly even by finding common languages. It is often necessary to find out, whether two disciplines speak about the same phenomena or the same dimension of truth. </p><p>Maybe the idea of a hypothetical construction manual of the cosmos can take an exception to think about the credibility of transdisciplinary world-views such as creation models with a designed evolution. Since it opens the possibility of making an approach from different disciplines, it may help to overcome blockades of transdisciplinary thinking. </p><p><strong> </strong></p><p><strong>Appendix:</strong> Relevant data of the significant stages of evolution </p><p align=center><strong>S T A G E S O F E V O L U T I O N</strong> </p><table width=985 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0 border=0> <tbody> <tr> <td width=123 valign=bottom nowrap=;">hominidic

http://www.collidoscope.com/cgolve/>http://www.collidoscope.com/cgolve/</a> and <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway's_Game_of_Life>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway's_Game_of_Life</a> </p><p>On my knowledge there are no examples so far, with a general approved capability of development, may be due to a missing general definition of development, evolution stages and generally accepted characteristics of life simulation. Therefore, a scientific search or research of possibly simulations needs at least specific definitions of these concepts. Perhaps the results can give more evidence to an increasing, self-organizing complexity of evolutionary systems, which creationistic authors have been doubt so far to be a principal potential, without external support. Since a small area of the game theory has already been dealing with evolutionary structures, cooperation with interested and experienced scientists from the area of applied mathematics or biomathematics seems to be useful. It is not asked to simulate only a certain procedure of nature, but to define a phenomenology arising several times on different evolution stages. So it is needed to rely also on philosophical experiences.</p><p>In particular, this applies to the transfer of possible findings and solutions from the natural sciences to the so-called creation theology and the consequences with the evolutive approach stated in detail for related questions of theology. Here one can build up on interdisciplinary works, which try to interconnect evolution and creation. However, in many of these theological works until today the required precision in the evaluation of natural scientific results is missing. Beside an increasing amount of information, which is difficult to overview, often the interest and acceptance of the results of natural science is missing. Since these results can tell important news from the creation, this kind of divine revelation should belong to the requirements of a scientific and reliable working in the related fields of theology.</p><p>In cooperation with fundamental theology it has to be analyzed, whether a cosmic design with evolutionary potentials can be interpreted as a plan of a creator. Can it be sufficient that the fulfilling of aims mostly have only high probabilities? What kind of aims can be only fulfilled by such a random processing and what kind of consequences have to be accepted, therefore? How far theological questions such as theodicy and salvation could find new explanations? To what extent the earlier teaching of religion has to be changed especially the belief in a creation, which is much less determinate? </p><p><strong>Outreach of a transdisciplinary cooperation</strong></p><p>For many of the mention