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A Guide to the Dialogue between Science and Religion
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2009-05-25 09:23:13
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A new primer is out which ought to be an indispensable tool for anybody interested in the ongoing and thriving dialogue between religion and science and those who wish to conduct serious research in the field beyond shallow and sterile caricatures and cartoons. It is titled A Science and Religion Primer. It is edited by two university professors eminently knowledgeable of this new fertile field of study and investigation: Heidi A. Campbell, and Heather Looy.

Professor Campbell has a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, and teaches at the University of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. She has authored Exploring Religious Community Online and has written numerous articles and encyclopedia entries. Heather Looy has a Ph.D. from McMaster University and is professor of psychology at The King’s University College in Alberta, Canada. She specializes in biopsychology and is an active researcher and writer. Both Campbell and Looy participated in the Sir John Templeton Oxford Seminars in Science and Christianity.

The relationship between science and religion has often been portrayed as bellicose. Yet some scholars today view the disciplines as allies that can remain friendly to each other while conducting a robust debate and examining each other’s premises, that can indeed complement and buttress each other. Indeed, some in academia especially in the EU may remain skeptical of this phenomenon and continue to consider the two disciplines as separate and discreet, but I dare say that such is the novel phenomenon of today while the bellicosity of yesteryear is an anachronism that will eventually be superseded.  

That sad unenlightened phenomenon announced itself as the harbinger of light and began with the so called “enlightenment” era but, if truth be told, it has produced precious little light and much disagreement and disagreeable bellicosity in the last three hundred years or so. In the process of condemning the abuses of religion it ended up throwing the baby with the dirty bathwater out the window and advocating the liquidation of religion, never mind that Aquinas had long alerted us to the fact that the abuse does not take away the use. Unfortunately, it is still raising its ugly head wherever ignorance and bias reign supreme in the field of religion and knowledge of the tenets of one’s faith. Be that as it may, undoubtedly the interface of the two disciplines is complex and nuanced, and each has much to learn from the other. The beginner in this novel field may well feel confused and may need an experienced guide. Here is where this primer comes handy.

What Heidi Campbell and Heather Looy have accomplished is nothing short than the assembling of A Science and Religion Primer as the title aptly announces, to guide a respectful, intelligent conversation of today, something that will no doubt turn out to be a much more fruitful dialogue than the sterile cathartic bellicosity of yesterday.

This landmark admirable work is simultaneously an encyclopedia, an annotated bibliography, and a survey. The project has an eminent advisory board made up of  scholars such as Celia Deane-Drummond (University of Chester), Nancey Murphy (Fuller Theological Seminary), George F. R. Ellis (University of Cape Town), Peter Harrison (Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford), Holmes Rolston III (Colorado State University), Craig A. Boyd (Azusa Pacific University).

Four substantive introductory essays—from Peter Harrison (“History of the Science/Religion Dialogue”), Nancey Murphy (“The Role of Philosophy in the Science/Religion Dialogue”), Celia Deane-Drummond (“Theology’s Intersection with the Science/Religion Dialogue”), and Holmes Rolston III (“Science and Technology in Light of Religion”)—set the book’s background.

The second, and primary, section of the book provides an A–Z listing of entries dealing with a variety of philosophical, historical, scientific, and theological concepts, individuals, or events related to the Science-Religion dialogue. Each entry is divided into three parts: a brief summary/definition of the concept, a key-points and challenges section that identifies significant issues, and a “discussion partners” section that lists key related readings. A Science and Religion Primer is an indispensable source in its own right and a springboard for more in-depth research. It is valuable tool, a sort of compass which will serve well those who are embarking on the exploration of this new exciting new dialogue between Science and Religion.

Come to think of it, were one to go back to the pre-Socratic philosophers one would soon discover that science grew out of that primordial dialogue when science and religion were not conceived as separate or separable. Here Eliot’s words come to mind: the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

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Emanuel Paparella2009-05-25 14:14:24
If I may add a relevant footnote: the reader interested or even just curious in the dialogue between religion and science should visit a wonderful on line site which specializes in it. I refer to the Metanexus Internation Institute headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and it publishing arm “The Global Spiral” which has hundreds of contributing scholars from all over the world. Here is the link to it.

After you open the link click on “Global Spiral” and you will be treated to a plethora of insightful and well thought-out articles and activities in this new exciting field. Although intellectuals guide it and plan its goals, it is increasingly becoming a popular phenomenon, judging from the many books on the subject one finds in bookstores nowadays. I suggest that such is the beginning of a new intellectual revolution preparing the ground for a post-capitalist intellectual paradigm and society and going on as we speak, a sort of conspiracy of hope in the midst of an economic and spiritual crisis within Western Civilization. Those who speak of dubious and laughable conspiracy theories a la Da Vinci Code, and of post-Opus Dei US, as was indeed misguidedly argued in this very magazine only a few weeks ago, are unfortunately not part of the solution but part of the problem.

Emanuel Paparella2009-05-25 14:17:07
P.S. I forgot to insert the link:


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