On a planet far, far away, in our Galaxy or in some other one, there might be beings who are more or less like us. Imagining “other worlds” and extraterrestrial life has a long history, from antiquity to the present (Dick 1982, 1996; Crowe 1986). In recent years, science has provided evidence for planetary systems with many other stars—a great achievement based on high-precision measurements, as stars outshine such companions. In this issue, Durham theologian David Wilkinson, also an astronomer and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, informs us on strategies and results in the search for exoplanets. Their discovery has given new impetus to the age-old debate about the possibility of life on some of those planets, and perhaps social and intelligent life, like us.
Several scholars have argued that Internet use might be fundamentally incompatible with Confucian ethics, because the values that are embedded in the Internet might be in conflict with Confucian values. In addition, the design of various social network services (SNS) considers very little of non-Western values in its engineering. Against this background, this article explores the philosophical question of whether Internet use, particularly social network services, is compatible with the fundamental values and norms of Confucian ethics. In addition, the article discusses the Confucian notion of tian xia (under heaven), and argues that tian xia, as a basic structuring principle of Confucian philosophy, helps to innovate a different social media.
Confucianism • Internet • SNSs • tian xia
Xiaowei (Tom) Wang is Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy of Science and Technology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China; e-mail: tomwang @ bnu.edu.cn.
Groundhog Oracles and Their Forebears by Daniel Capper
Groundhog Day animal weather forecasting ceremonies continue to proliferate around the United States despite a lack of public confidence in the oracles. This essay probes religio-historical and original ethnographic perspectives to offer a psychological argument for why these ceremonies exist. Employing Paul Shepard’s notion of a felt loss of sacred, intimate relationships with nonhuman nature, as well as Peter Homans’s concept of the monument that enables mourning, this essay argues that groundhog oracles serve as monuments that allow humans experientially to attempt to heal lost sacred relationships with animals like weather forecasting bears, hedgehogs, and badgers.
animal veneration • Groundhog Day • mourning • oracles • relationships with nature
Daniel Capper is Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religion, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406, USA; e-mail: Daniel.Capper @ usm.edu.
Effect of Academic Degree and Discipline on Religious Beliefs and Evolution Acceptance: Survey at a Chilean University by César Marín and Gullermo d’Elía
Affiliation with a scientific area or degree program could affect one´s religious beliefs and acceptance of evolution; however, this issue has been poorly studied. Moreover, little information is available regarding Chilean university scientists’ views on religion and evolution. This study aims to provide the first documentation of the opinion of scientists at a Chilean University with regard to religion and evolution. This was done by conducting a personal survey of first and last year undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty. We found that nonreligiosity, as well as acceptance of Darwinian evolution, increased with possession of an advanced degree and this correlation was stronger for individuals who study biology and physics in comparison to those who study chemistry. Although less than 30 percent of undergraduate students are atheists/agnostics, more than 70 percent of faculty members are atheist or agnostic. However, most of the surveyed scientists did not see a conflict between science and religion.
academic area • academic degree • atheism • biology • chemistry • Chile • evolution • Latin America • physics • religion
César Marín is a doctoral candidate at the Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Evolutivas, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile; e-mail cesar.marin @ postgrado.uach.cl. Guillermo DʾElía is a Professor at the Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Evolutivas, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile; e-mail guille.delia @ gmail.com.
Chance, Necessity, Love: An Evolutionary Theology of Cancer by Leonard M. Hummel and Gayle E. Woloschak
In his 1970s work Chance and Necessity, Jacques Monod provided an explanatory framework not only for the biological evolution of species, but, as has become recently apparent, for the evolutionary development of cancers. That is, contemporary oncological research has demonstrated that cancer is an evolutionary disease that develops according to the same dynamics of chance (that is, random occurrences) and necessity (that is, law-like regularities) at work in all evolutionary phenomena. And just as various challenges are raised for religious thought by the operations of chance and necessity within biological evolution, so this particular theological question is raised by the findings of contemporary cancer science: Where is love, divine and human, within the evolutionary chance and necessity operative in all dimensions of cancer? In this article, we contribute to the dialogue in science and religion by offering the following responses to this question: (1) the thought of Arthur Peacocke to claim that divine love may be understood to be at work in, with, and under our very efforts to make theological meaning of the chance and necessity that inform the evolution of cancers; and (2) Charles Sanders Peirce’s evolutionary philosophy to make this claim: that the work of scientific communities of inquiry to understand and to find better ways to cope with the disease of cancer is itself the work of divine love amid the chance and necessity of cancer.
cancer • chance • evolution • Jacques Monod • necessity • Arthur Peacocke • Charles Sanders Peirce • religion • science
Leonard M. Hummel is Professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Care and Director of Supervised Clinical Ministry at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Gettysburg, PA 17325, USA; e-mail lhummel @ ltsg.edu. Gayle E. Woloschak is Professor at the Departments of Radiation Oncology, Radiology, and Cell and Molecular Biology, Robert E. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA; e-mail g-woloschak @ northwestern.edu.
Mind within Matter: Science, the Occult, and the (Meta)Physics of Ether and Akasha by Anna Pokazanyeva
The intersection between quantum theory, metaphysical spirituality, and Indian-inspired philosophy has an established place in speculative scientific and alternative religious communities alike. There is one term that has historically bridged these two worlds: “Akasha,” often translated as “ether.” Akasha appears both in metaphysical spiritual contexts, most often in ones influenced by Theosophy, and in the speculative scientific discourse that has historically demonstrated a strong affinity for the brand of monistic metaphysics that Indian-derived spiritualities tend to foster. This article traces the relationship between these groups with special attention to the role of Indian concepts and terminology. More specifically, it argues that Akasha-as-ether comes to operate in a manner that bridges gross matter (of which the individual mind is part and parcel) with the notion of a subtle material and transpersonal mind—a version of panpsychism allowing for a coherent quantum monism.
Akasha • ether • Indian philosophy • metaphysics • mind • monism • New Age • occult • quantum mysticism • Theosophy
Anna Pokazanyeva is a Lecturer in the Religious Studies Program, Department of Philosophy at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407, USA; e-mail: apokazan @ calpoly.edu.
The Neuroscience of Wesleyan Soteriology: The Dynamic of Both Instantaneous and Gradual Change by Alan C. Weissenbacher
In his work Rewired: Exploring Religious Conversion, dealing with Wesleyan soteriology and neuroscience, Paul Markham claims that when one incorporates biology as an epistemic restriction in theologies of conversion, doctrines of instantaneous conversion are invalidated. He asserts that conversion must always be gradual, because the mechanism by which the brain changes in response to experience does not occur instantaneously; rather change is initiated and consolidated over an often lengthy span of time. I argue, however, that doctrines of instantaneous conversion are maintained when taking neuroscience into account. First, for doctrines of conversion that hold to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, neuroscience is irrelevant, because statements of instantaneous change are in terms of a relational status and not biological. Rapid conversion is maintained as a metaphysical position. Second, an embodied and neurologically realized change is expected in theologies of conversion that hold to impartation and, contrary to Markham, immediate change is neurologically possible in a variety of ways.
conversion • justification • Paul Markham • neuroplasticity • neuroscience • nonreductive physicalism • salvation • spiritual transformation • John Wesley
Alan C. Weissenbacher is a doctoral candidate in Systematic and Philosophical Theology at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA, USA; e-mail: aweissenbacher @ ses.gtu.edu.
Religion and Science in the United Kingdom
Science and Religion in the United Kingdom: A Personal View on the Contemporary Scene by Christopher Southgate
This article considers the current state of the science-religion debate in the United Kingdom. It discusses the societies, groups, and individual scholars that shape that debate, including the dialogue between theology and physics, biology, and psychology. Attention is also given to theology’s engagement with ecological issues. The article also reflects on the loss of influence of denominational Christianity within British society, and the impact both on the character of the debate and the role of the churches. Finally, some promising trajectories of development for the future are outlined.
Christianity • Simon Conway Morris • evolutionary biology • hermeneutics • natural evil • Arthur Peacocke • philosophy • physics • John Polkinghorne • psychology • theology and science • United Kingdom
Christopher Southgate is Associate Professor in Interdisciplinary Theology, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon EX4 4RU, UK and Principal of the South West Ministry Training Course, Exeter EX4 3AY, UK; e-mail: c.c.b.southgate @ exeter.ac.uk.
Minimalist Engagement: Rowan Williams on Christianity and Science by Peter N. Jordan
During his time as Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams addressed the relations between Christianity and science at some length. While many contemporary theologians have explored the natural sciences in detail and have deployed scientific ideas and concepts in their theological work, Williams’s writings suggest that theology has little need for natural scientific knowledge. For Williams, the created order’s relationship to God renders the content of scientific theories about how finite causes are materially constituted and interact of little theological importance. At the same time, Williams is convinced that theological and scientific work must each remain within their proper bounds, a position that can best succeed in practice when participants in each discipline are aware of how both disciplines approach their subject matter. Although Williams’s view challenges those who would insist that theology requires anything more than minimal engagement with the sciences, the ability to clearly demarcate and preserve the boundaries between scientific and theological work nevertheless requires of the theologian the kind of understanding of scientific methods and theories that Williams himself demonstrates.
Church of England • creation • Christianity • divine action • God • science • theology • theology and science • Rowan Williams
Peter N. Jordan is a PhD candidate in Studies in Religion at the University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia, and a research coordinator at the University of Oxford; e-mail: peter.n.jordan @ gmail.com.
Exoplanets and Astrotheology
Astrotheology: On Exoplanets, Chrisian Concerns, and Human Hopes by Andreas Losch
Are there planets beyond our solar system? What may appear quite plausible now had only been a hypothesis until about twenty years ago. The search for exoplanets is driven by the interest in the “habitable” ones among them. Could such planets one day in the far future provide resources or even shelter for humankind? Will we find one day a habitable planet that is even inhabited? These kinds of imaginative speculations drive public interest in the subject. Imagining alien intelligent life in the universe is not at all new. When Ted Peters called for establishing the field of “astrotheology,” he was certainly thinking less of historical precedents than of something analogous to the emerging field of astrobiology. Will astrotheology result in the decentering of humanity in cosmic dimensions? One could also conclude that we are alone, at least for all practical purposes.
astrobiology • astrochristology • astrotheology • exoplanets
Andreas Losch. University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland; email: andreas.losch @ csh.unibe.ch.
Searching for Another Earth: The Recent History of the Discovery of Exoplanets by David Wilkinson
The discovery of exoplanets is a small part of the array of scientific arguments for and against the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Yet the recent stunning achievement of this program of observational astronomy has had a significant effect on scientific opinion and public interest. It also raises some key theological questions. New observing techniques are leading to the discovery of extrasolar planets daily. Earth-like planets outside of our Solar System can now be identified and in future years explored for signs of life. This article maps the history of these discoveries and highlights some of the theological issues which are important to bring into dialogue with these scientific insights.
exoplanets • search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) • theology
David Wilkinson is Principal of St. John’s College and Professor of Theology of Religion at Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom; e-mail: david.wilkinson @ durham.ac.uk.
William Whewell, the Plurality of Worlds, and the Modern Solar System by Michael J. Crowe
Astronomers of the first half of the nineteenth century viewed our solar system entirely differently from the way twentieth-century astronomers viewed it. In the earlier period the dominant image was of a set of planets and moons, both of which kinds of bodies were inhabited by intelligent beings comparable to humans. By the early twentieth century, science had driven these beings from every planet in our system except the Earth, leaving our solar system (and perhaps others) as more or less desolate regions for the most part bereft of intelligent life. This essay traces this extinction and its relation to religious thought, noting the role played in it by Sir John Herschel and especially by William Whewell. The inverse square laws for gravitation, heat radiation, and light receive special attention, as does the question of the relevance of the Christian notions of a divine incarnation and redemption.
astrobiology • Christianity • John Herschel • incarnation • plurality of worlds • principle of plenitude • redemption • solar system • William Whewell
Michael J. Crowe is the Rev. John Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Professor Emeritus in the Program of Liberal Studies and the Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556 USA; e-mail: crowe.1 @ nd.edu.
Swedenborg and the Plurality of Worlds: Astrotheology in the Eighteenth Century by David Dunér
The possible existence of extraterrestrial life led in the eighteenth century to a heated debate on the unique status of the human being and of Christianity. One of those who discussed the new scientific worldview and its implications for theology was the Swedish natural philosopher and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. This article discusses Swedenborg’s astrotheological transformation, his use of theological arguments in his early cosmology, and his cosmogony that later on ended up in his use of contemporary natural philosophy in his theology, especially concerning the question of the plurality of worlds. I will first sketch the astrotheology found in his natural philosophical works, and then turn to the astrotheology of his later spiritual teachings. In Swedenborg’s works we find teleological arguments and a stress on the universality of the divine creation and Christianity, as well as anthropomorphic descriptions of extraterrestrial life. By reconciling contemporary astronomical ideas, among others the concept of the plurality of worlds, with Christian dogmas, Swedenborg refuted deistic conclusions that Jesus was merely a mortal, while at the same time keeping his belief in the modern astronomical worldview.
astrotheology • eighteenth century • extraterrestrial life debate • history of astrobiology • history of astronomy • physicotheology • plurality of worlds • Emanuel Swedenborg • teleology
David Dunér is Professor of History of Science and Ideas and Researcher in Cognitive Semiotics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden; e-mail: David.Duner @ kultur.lu.se.
Abstract: Astrochristology, as a subfield within the more comprehensive astrotheology, speculates on the implications of what astrobiology and related space sciences learn about our future space neighbors. Confirmation of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations living on exoplanets will force Christian theologians to decide on two issues. The first issue deals with the question: should Christians expect many incarnations, one for each inhabited exoplanet; or will the single incarnation in terrestrial history suffice? The second issue deals with the question: why is there an incarnation in the first place? Does the divine presence in the historical Jesus mark a divine attempt to fix a broken creation or does it mark a divine self-communication that would occur with or without creation’s fall into sin and death? Sorting these issues out is one task for astrochristology. My own position is to affirm both a single incarnation on Earth valid for cosmic redemption from the brokenness of creation in its present state.
astrobiology • astrochristology • astrotheology • incarnation • prolepsis
Ted Peters is co-editor with Robert John Russell of the journal Theology and Science at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Berkeley, CA, USA; e-mail: tedfpeters @ gmail.com.
We are probably alone in the universe—a conclusion based on observations of over 4,000 exoplanets and fundamental physical constraints. This article updates earlier arguments with the latest astrophysical results. Since the discovery of exoplanets, theologians have asked with renewed urgency what the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) says about salvation and human purpose, but this is the wrong question. The more urgent question is what their absence says. The “Misanthropic Principle” is the observation that, in a universe fine-tuned for life (“Anthropic Principle”), the circumstances necessary for intelligence are rare.
Rabbis for 2,000 years discussed the existence of ETI using scriptural passages. We examine the traditional Jewish approaches to ETI, including insights on how ETI affects our perception of God, self, free-will, and responsibility. We explore the implications of our probable solitude, and offer a Jewish response to the ethical lessons to be drawn from the absence of ETI.
astrobiology • astroethics • astrotheology • exoplanets • extraterrestrial life • Judaism • Kabbalah • Misanthropic Principle • Talmud
Howard Smith is a senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA; e-mail: hsmith @ cfa.harvard.edu.
Life-Value Narratives and the Impact of Astrobiology on Christian Ethics by Lucas John Mix
“Pale Blue Dot” and “Anthropocene” are common tropes in astrobiology and often appear in ethical arguments. Both support a decentering of human life relative to biological life in terms of value. This article introduces a typology of life-value narratives: hierarchical narratives with human life above other life and holistic narratives with human life among other life. Astrobiology, through the two tropes, supports holistic narratives, but this should not be viewed as opposed to Christianity. Rather, Christian scriptures provide seeds of both hierarchical and holistic narratives, each of which may flourish in different environments. By attending to which aspects of human life are valued—or disvalued—relative to biological life, we can better understand how life-concepts do work in ethics, anthropology, and soteriology in secular as well as theological contexts.
astrobiology • bioethics • biology • environment • ethics • theological anthropology
Lucas John Mix is a member of the Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA; e-mail: lucas @ flirble.org or lmix @ fas.harvard.edu.
Re-Vision: A New Look at the Relationship between Science and Religion by Clifford Chalmers Cain reviewed by Christoffer H. Grundmann