Consecrating Science and Scientism
This issue features a book symposium on Lisa Sideriss Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (2017). The symposium is largely composed of contributions to a Zygon panel held at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) in Denver, Colorado on November 17, 2018. The panel and this subsequent book symposium have both been organized by Willem Drees, Zygon Journals previous editor. Given the success of that well-attended event and the high quality of the contributions, I would like to commend Drees for having organized this thematic section. We included another AAR contribution, by Colin McGuigan, and invited an additional contribution, by Mary Evelyn Tucker, and we gave Sideris the opportunity to write a comprehensive response to all contributions.
The term scientism is often used as a denunciation of an uncritical ideological confidence in the abilities of science. Contrary to this practice, this article argues that there are feasible ways of defending scientism as a set of ideologies for political reform. Rejecting an essentialist approach to scientism as well as the view that ideologies have a solely negative effect on history, it argues that the political effect of ideologies inspired by a belief system (including scientism and various religions) must be judged case by case&emdash;and that the appearance of complex politico-scientific problems such as the climate problem in effect warrants some kind of ideological scientism.
evidence • evolution • history of science • ideology • scientism • worldview
Christian Baron is Associate Professor in the Center for Bio-Science and Techno-Anthropology at the Department of Chemistry and Bioscience, Aalborg University, København, Denmark; e-mail: cb @ bio.aau.dk.
Theology and Cosmology: A Call for Interdisciplinary Enrichment by Raymond Hausoul
Today, there is a growing interest in interdisciplinary studies between theology and natural sciences. This article will reveal some core problems in this interdisciplinary relationship. It investigates how cosmic eschatology and natural sciences can benefit the most from each other while dealing with the scenarios which cosmology presents. Doing so, the main emphasis will be on rediscovering the impact of the Resurrection in Christian theology and the possibility of launching a dialogue between natural sciences and theology concerning the new heaven and the new earth.
cosmology • natural sciences • new creation • new heaven and earth
Raymond R. Hausoul is Affiliated Researcher of Systematic and Biblical Theology at the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, Belgium; e-mail: raymond.hausoul @ etf.edu.
Whitehead, Chance, and the Immanently Creative Spirit by Bradford McCall
In this essay, it is argued that God through the Spirit is both the immanent and eminent principle of creativity, ever wooing and empowering the advancements in complexity within biological evolution. I argue herein also that God, particularly in and through the activity of the Spirit of creativity, was fully present in and with and under what is oft called creation, from the very beginning of created time&emdash;and will be to the end of time, proleptically present as the expression of the principle of creativity. I maintain that the Spirit, by her kenosis into the natural world, imbibed the nature with an evolving fertility that has continually manifested itself in and through the increases of complexity in the natural environ. This primal imbibing of herself into the world of nature caused the world to become marked by what principally amounts to an activation of the naturally occurring, inherent potentialities within nature, thereby producing a distinctive self-creativity within the world. Somewhat akin to Peirce, who said that we need a thorough-going evolutionism or none, I contend that we need a thoroughly immanent God or none, all the while noting that both immanent creativity and self-creativity are marks of this overall poietic process known as biotic evolution.
creativity • evolutionary biology • kenosis • multiplicity • mutual immanence • pneumatology • theoplicity • uncontrolling love • Alfred North Whitehead
Bradford McCall is a Ph.D. student in Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA, USA; e-mail: bradford.mccall @ cst.edu.
Lisa Sideriss Consecrating Science
Lame Science? Blind Religion? by Holmes Rolston, III
In Consecrating Science, Lisa Sideris argues that an anthropocentric and science-based cosmology encourages human arrogance and diminishes a sense of wonder in human experience immersed in the natural world, as found in diverse cultural and religious traditions. I agree with her that science elevated to a commanding worldview, scientism, is a common and contemporary mistake, to be deplored, a lame science. But I further argue that science has introduced us to the marvels of deep nature and vastly increased our human appreciation of nature as a wonderland at levels great and small. Sideris is right to fear consecrating science. She&emdash;and the humanists, sages, and saviors&emdash;need also to fear blindness to what science has to teach us about cosmogenesis and wonderland Earth.
cosmogenesis • Lisa Sideris • wonder • wonderland Earth
Holmes Rolston, III, is University Distinguished Professor and Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA; e-mail: holmes.rolston @ colostate.edu
Reacting to Consecrating Science: What Might Amateurs Do? by Sarah E. Fredericks
In Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World, Lisa H. Sideris makes a compelling case that a new cosmology movement advocates for a new, universal, creation story grounded in the sciences. She fears the new story reinforces elite power structures and anthropocentrism and thus environmental degradation. Alternatively, she promotes genuine wonder which occurs in experiences of the natural world. As Sideris focuses on the likely logical outcome of the assumptions and arguments of the new cosmologies, she does not investigate whether and how people react to these new myths. I suggest that methods of documentary studies, applied to popular book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, shed light on the ramifications of the new cosmologies among the general public. While many reviewers exhibit attitudes and behaviors that would concern Sideris, responses are far from univocal. Using this case as a guide, I suggest that attention to the experience of laypeople could contribute productively to religion and science research in general.
Amazon.com • anthropocentrism • Consecrating Science • documentary theology • environment • new cosmology • popular book reviews • Lisa H. Sideris
Sarah E. Fredericks is Assistant Professor of Environmental Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Chicago, IL, USA; e-mail: sfredericks @ uchicago.edu.
Mere Science: Mapping the Land Bridges between Emotion, Politics, and Ethics by Donovan O. Schaefer
Lisa Sideriss Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (2017) proposes that the call by some science advocates for a new moral framework based on scientific wonder is flawed. Sideris develops a typology of wonder with two separate affective axes: true wonder that is the prerogative of a sort of dwelling with the overwhelming mystery of life, and curiosity that presses to resolve puzzles and break through into a space of total clarity. The former, Sideris writes, is an ethical resource that, by placing the human self against the backdrop of the unknowable cosmic expanse, prompts humility and genuine admiration for nature. The latter is the theater of mere science. This essay follows suit with Sideriss line of questioning, but also pushes back on the correlation of wonder with ethical attentiveness and proposes ways that science in its puzzle-solving mode can be brought back into the ethical conversation.
affect • climate change • ethics • Bruno Latour • Lisa Sideris • wonder
Donovan O. Schaefer is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA; e-mail: doschaef @ upenn.edu.
The Shape of This Wonder? Consecrated Science and New Cosmology Affects by Courtney ODell-Chaib
In response to Lisa Sideriss provocative new book Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge and the Natural World and in conversation with voices from feminist technoscience, this article challenges the deracinated wonder of new cosmology encounters in two senses. First, by tracing how it is uprooted from critical perspectives on scientific knowledge production. And second, by contending deracinated wonder is ripped from cultural and historical contexts thus erasing embodied inequalities. Deracinated wonder attached to uncritical forms of science, I argue, solidifies new cosmology as an investment in white environmentalism by directing religion and ecology away from pluralities of encounter and the affective weight of environmental degradation and environmental racism.
affect • consecrated science • embodiment • environmental racism • feminist science and technology studies • new cosmology • Lisa Sideris
Courtney ODell-Chaib is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religion, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA; e-mail: ceodell @ syr.edu.
Wonder Opens the Heart: Pope Francis and Lisa Sideris on Nature, Encounter, and Wonder by Colin McGuigan
This article argues that Pope Franciss invocations of wonder can speak to and at times challenge Lisa Sideriss recent contributions to the interdisciplinary discussion of wonder, science, and religion. Although the importance of wonder to Pope Franciss 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato si is acknowledged, it has not been widely recognized that wonder is implicated in and forms connections between multiple concepts and postures acknowledged as defining marks of Franciss papacy: coming out of oneself, encountering others, going to the margins; aversion to doctrinal rigidity; compassion, mercy, tenderness, and humility; to name a few. These defining concepts and stances resonate strongly with certain views on wonder, ethics, and ecology recently articulated by Lisa Sideris. In Francis, however, one finds a more affirming treatment of science-based wonder and a response to Sideriss criticism of theistic wonder.
encounter • nature • Pope Francis • Lisa Sideris • theology and science • wonder
Colin McGuigan is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, USA; e-mail: colin.m.mcguigan @ gmail.com.
Journey of the Universe: Weaving Science with the Humanities by Mary Evelyn Tucker
This article discusses Journey of the Universe as a project that consists of a film, book, conversation series, online classes, and a website. It describes how the creators worked to integrate science and humanities, not privilege or elevate science. It refutes arguments made in Lisa Sideriss Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World that suggest that Journey overlooks religion and distorts wonder. The article observes that Journey does not dismiss religion but includes it in explicit ways. It does not dictate wonder; it evokes wonder. In short, Journey is a living or functional cosmology with implications for mutually enhancing human-Earth relations.
anthropocosmic worldview • Thomas Berry • Forum on Religion and Ecology • history of religions • Journey of the Universe • living or functional cosmology • new story • science and humanities • self-organizing dynamics • Brian Thomas Swimme • technology • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin • The Universe Story • wonder
Mary Evelyn Tucker is Codirector, Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, and a Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Scholar in Religion and Ecology at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale Divinity School and Department of Religious Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; e-mail: maryevelyn.tucker @ yale.edu.
Wonder Sustained: A Reply to Critics by Lisa H. Sideris
A set of science-inspired cosmic narratives referred to as the Epic of Evolution and the Universe Story or, collectively, the new cosmology, proposes to bring humans closer to nature by placing us into the broader narrative of the cosmos. This article responds to commentary and critique on my book Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World, which critically examines these science-based cosmic narratives and their particular and problematic modes and objects of wonder. Themes include the relationship of wonder to science and ethical engagement; the question of whether wonder, grounded in everyday sensory experience, can scale up to the level of global environmental problems; the relevance of wonder to nonideal environments and negative affects like fear or grief; and the importance of humanistic and religious studies scholarship for critiquing grand narratives of science, among other themes. I also respond to claims that my book misdiagnoses and distorts the work of the new cosmology and its claims to wonder.
consecrating science • humanities • new cosmology • Universe Story • wonder
Lisa H. Sideris is Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA; e-mail: lsideris @ indiana.edu.
Artificial Intelligence and Online Spirituality
Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and the Re-Enchantment with the World by Mohammad Yaqub Chaudhary
There has recently been a surge of development in augmented reality (AR) technologies that has led to an ecosystem of hardware and software for AR, including tools for artists and designers to accelerate the design of AR content and experiences without requiring complex programming. AR is viewed as a key disruptive technology and future display technologies (such as digital eyewear) will provide seamless continuity between reality and the digitally augmented. This article will argue that the technologization of human perception and experience of reality, coupled with the development of artificial intelligence (AI)-based natural language assistants, may lead to a secular re-enchantment of the world, in the sense outlined by Charles Taylor, where human existence is shaped through AR inhabited by advanced personal and social AI agents in the form of digital avatars and daemons, and that enchantment has been persistent throughout the formation of modernity and is being rekindled by the integration of AI in the plane of AR.
artificial intelligence • augmented reality • cyberspace • enchantment • intelligent virtual assistants • natural language processing • philosophy • Charles Taylor • theology • virtual reality
Mohammad Yaqub Chaudhary is Research Fellow at the Cambridge Muslim College, Cambridge, UK; e-mail: yc @ cambridgemuslimcollege.ac.uk.
Reverend Robot: Automation and Clergy by William Young
Digital technology, including artificial intelligence, is having a dramatic impact on the professions of medicine, law, journalism, finance, and others. Some suggest that clergy will also be affected. We describe recent progress in designing artificially intelligent systems, suggesting that this is possible, perhaps even likely. We investigate ways in which technology currently is affecting ministry and outline some plausible scenarios in which digital systems could supplement or supplant clergy in some areas, specifically preaching and pastoral care. We also raise some theological issues raised by the use of digital systems in ministry.
artificial intelligence • clergy • pastoral care • preaching • technology • theology
William Young is Associate Professor of Instruction and Research Scientist in the Computer Science Department at the University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA. He is also ordained clergy with the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches; e-mail: byoung @ cs.utexas.edu.
Evolution and Religious Texts
Old Texts, New Masks: A Critical Review of Misreading Evolution onto Historical Islamic Texts by Shoaib Ahmed Malik
With the increasing interest in Islam and evolution, some Islamic thinkers have vehemently rejected evolution, while others have eagerly embraced it. However, those seeking to embrace evolution sometimes err in their interpretation of historical writings. Indeed, there are texts written by famous historical scholars of Islam who seem to suggest that humans have evolved from lower forms of species. These include Ibn Khaldūn, Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī, al-Jāhiz, and The Brethren of Purity (Ikhwān al Safā). Although this may be true, such readings are a mistaken interpretation of the aforementioned authors who are actually referring to some form of the scalae naturae (the Great Chain of Being). This reference to the Great Chain of Being is unknown to some contemporary readers who mistakenly believe these writers to be discussing an evolutionary or a proto-evolutionary theory. This article demonstrates how and why these historical records do not actually represent any notion of evolution as it is currently understood, in the hope of avoiding any further erroneous claims that seem to be proliferating among modern thinkers.
al-Jāhiz • evolution • Great Chain of Being • Ibn Khaldūn • Ikhwān al Safā • Islam • Muslims • Rūmī
Shoaib Ahmed Malik is Assistant Professor in the College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University, Dubai, UAE; e-mail: Shoaib.malik @ zu.ac.ae.
Soul Making, Theosis, and Evolutionary History: An Ireanean Approach by James Henry Collin
In Romans 5, St. Paul claims that death came into the world through Adams sin. Many have taken this to foist on us a fundamentalist reading of Genesis. If death is the result of human sin, then, apparently, there cannot have been death in the world prior to human sin. This, however, is inconsistent with contemporary evolutionary biology, which requires that death predates the existence of modern humans. Although the relationship between Romans 5, Genesis, and contemporary science has been much discussed&emdash;often with goal of dissipating the idea that the two are in conflict&emdash;the specific issue of death entering the world through sin has remained difficult to resolve. I argue that the Eastern Orthodox tradition has the resources to respect both Romans 5 and contemporary science. Appealing to a broadly Irenaean notion of soul-making, and to the idea of theosis, opens up space for an understanding of these passages that is both scientifically informed and Orthodox.
death • evolutionary biology • Irenaeus • theodicy • theosis
James Henry Collin is Teaching Fellow in the Department of Philosophy, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK; e-mail: james.collin @ ed.ac.uk.
The Organ Shortage Crisis in America: Incentives, Civic Duty, and Closing the Gap by Andrew Michael Flescher reviewed by Kristel Clayville