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Special Issue of Religions CFP: “Science, Theology and Metaphysics”

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Sergei Bulgakov made the profound point that ‘Science is an answer to a question that precedes it’. Profound as this is, it often goes unnoticed. In so doing, cultural divides are generated, divides that accommodate acrimonious encounter, if there be encounter between disciplines at all. Yet it is not simply unnecessary opposition that is undesirable, to say the least, but more importantly, such confrontation and its attendant isolationism distort said disciplines, especially science. If the theologian retreats to the ghetto of fideism, clinging to a sacred book as its sole, discrete resource, eschewing all else, science does likewise, arguably, when it treats itself as a stand-alone activity; one with full autonomy, and bereft of both perspective and context, and more seriously, dependence—a symptom of which can be seen when the very scientist is screened off, which is to say, the human practitioner or theoretician drops out of all consideration, as does their constitutive desire that drives the very advent and perpetual effort of them doing science.

The Western mind, it would seem, is held captive by the hegemonic idea of a base upon which all else is erected. This fixation amputates the imagination, stymies thought and limits disciplines, both intra and inter. Moreover, it encourages forms of fundamentalism, scientific, religious and philosophical, in both professional and populist manifestations. This dominant perspective is the outcome of a picture by which we have been bewitched: the layer cake, to borrow Putnam and Oppenheim’s metaphor from the 1950s. This metaphor provides a mandate for the positing of a base that sucks in all that is supposed to reside above, down to its level, for truth resides only in the base. As Ernest Rutherford once said, ‘There is only physics, all is stamp collecting’. Such ideology is made manifest in the ambitions on display, which seek to develop TOES (Theory of Everything) or GUTS (General Unified Theory). There is, of course, nothing wrong with these as far as it goes, but the inference that accompanies them—‘nothing but’—is where the danger lurks.

Profitably, it may be wise to follow Aristotle, reminding our culture that all disciplines operate under a logic of subalternation. In other words, all sciences operate by employing the work of other disciplines beyond their ken; they live by way of borrowed logics of which they cannot give an account. Here, an operational discourse is replete with other modes of knowledge, what Plato calls an ‘interweaving,’ συμπλοκ- modes that enable it to function, yet they do not, and need not, as far as it goes, speak of them, except to realise their need of them. This is a more creative model, perhaps, than that of the layer cake. As opposed to disciplinary isolationism, we have a marriage of discourse.

We are interested in submissions that contribute to this conversation. How, in the 21st century, do we present a more realistic and creative understanding of a how all knowledge (scientia) works, especially the relation of science to both theology and metaphysics?

Dr. Conor Cunningham
Guest Editor

Topics:

  • What is the relation between disciplines?
  • Where does the person fit in, or is it a fiction?
  • Is there free will?
  • Is truth beyond mere utility?
  • Is ethics reduce to function?
  • Is the commonsense world now untenable?
  • Is Religion a matter of folk psychology?
  • Does science have a foundation?
  • Can science be unified?
  • Can systematic theology make a contribution to how we understand the world?

For more information and to submit a manuscript for this special issue of Religions on the topic of Science, Theology and Metaphysics, click here.

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(Sculpture by Sara Cunningham-Bell)

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