[asa] Re: [asa] Re: [asa] Re: [asa] Re: [asa] Szilágyi

From: George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
Date: Thu May 14 2009 - 17:07:38 EDT

1st, it should be clear from what I said that even though the phrases "science and religion" or "science and theology" are oversimplifications, using them by no means implies an adversarial relationship. My reference to ASA was not a "defense" of the organization but simply an example of a group that discusses "religion and science" & whose members see those two areas in positive relationships. Or since I mentioned Bob Russell's reference to a broader "science-theology-technology-ethics" conversation," it's worth noting that he has had no trouble in founding & heading the "Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences" which certainly does not see "theology" and "the natural sciences" as competitors.

(I won't give a long excursus on the difference between "religion" and "theology" but I speak of "science and theology" when I'm talking specifically about the relationship between science and Christian thought, while I take "science and religion" to include non-Christian religions. Of course it's possible to slice the pie in a lot of different ways. E.g., the ELCA has an "Alliance on Faith, Science and Technology.")

2d, it should be equally clear that I am not "against" philosophy. What's at issue here is the role philosophy should play, & that's complicated by questions about what we mean by, & include in, "philosophy." 300 years ago it would have been redundant to speak of philosophy as a partner in conversations between theology and the sciences because science - or at least the natural sciences - was philosophy, "natural philosophy." & if we just follow the "love of wisdom" etymology, the whole discussion is in a sense "philosophy" (with due attention to I Cor.2).

Although we speak about a "science-theology dialogue" or expand that with "philosophy," "ethics," "technology" (& maybe include art, politics & other things), we shouldn't get the idea that we're talking about who gets to sit at a real or metaphorical table in some kind of formal negotiations. It's not like deciding who gets represented in the UN Security Council. I've been at "science and religion" conferences at which professional philosophers were prominent speakers & no one thought there was anything unusual about it. But the issues they were talking about were in fact ones at the interface of science and religion, not philosophy for its own sake. & that's what I mean by philosophy having a "support role." It can be a very important support role, but the central subject is the relationship between science and religion. & there are other discussions in which scientists or theologians have, at best, a secondary role to play.

To repeat, I think philosophy can play important roles in both science and theology - but its roles are limited. Philosophers don't tell scientists how to do science - or to be more precise, if they do, scientists don't pay any attention. While a sort of informal positivism had some influence on Heisenberg's development of the matrix form of quantum mechanics, what drove the development of quantum mechanics was experimental results & theoretical difficulties with classical physics. But when the basic forms of quantum theory had been developed, philosophy could help to make sense of what it meant. (But not pre-existing philosophy: If the theory forces you to drop the principle of sufficient reason, so be it.) & philosophy has been an important tool in helping to develop the implications of basic Christian commitments - i.e., in doing theology. But it's disastrous to let philosophy sit in judgment on the basic commitments of the faith.

The reason I cited Nesteruk's phrase was simply to point out that for that Orthodox writer making the Christ event foundational for Christian theology doesn't mean devaluing the role of the Holy Spirit. I'm not sure why my reading or not reading Solovyev et al has anything to do with that. Other than a little Berdyaev the answer is "No." The Russian Orthodox theologians I'm most familiar with (though I won't claim any expertise) are Florovsky & Schmemann.

Shalom
George
http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Gregory Arago
  To: asa@lists.calvin.edu ; George Murphy
  Sent: Thursday, May 14, 2009 3:29 AM
  Subject: [asa] Re: [asa] Re: [asa] Re: [asa] Szilágyi

        Can I ask a perhaps silly question, George? Why are you against philosophy or why do you see it as playing such a minor (support) role? Such a view (anti-philosophy) would make your position seem much more fickle than I believe it actually is.

        You wrote: "Bob Russell pointed out 20 years ago that "science and theology" should really be understood as shorthand for "science-theology-technology-ethics." It's a 4-way conversation (at least!). Whether or not philosophy should be considered a full partner in the discussions is debatable - I tend to see it in a support role."

        I can live with a four-fold discussion much more peacefully than with a competitive-dualistic 'science-religion' discussion, which you later return to in defense of people at ASA.

        Incorporating philosophy - love of wisdom - e.g. Boethius, G. Vico, N. Berdyaev, into your perspectives could give them more depth and stability, don't you think, rather than harming them? Indeed, ethics is often considered a branch of philosophy, which you endorse via Russell's tetrad. I'm gettting the impression that it is only because you personally have not studied philosophy that makes philosophy less important, and not that philosophy itself is not suitable in the triad that the Dutch reformed accept today: science, philosophy, theology.

        Fickle without philosophy - how does that sound?

        Gregory

        p.s. yes, I've read parts of Nesteruk's book. Have you read V. Solovyev, Berdyaev, Father S. Bulgakov, or Father A. Men (who was killed on the way to Divine Liturgy)?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Men

        --- On Thu, 5/14/09, George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com> wrote:

          From: George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
          Subject: Re: [asa] Re: [asa] Re: [asa] Szilágyi
          To: gregoryarago@yahoo.ca, asa@lists.calvin.edu
          Received: Thursday, May 14, 2009, 1:06 AM

          
          Gregory -

          A few brief comments -

          Bob Russell pointed out 20 years ago that "science and theology" should really be understood as shorthand for "science-theology-technology-ethics." It's a 4-way conversation (at least!). Whether or not philosophy should be considered a full partner in the discussions is debatable - I tend to see it in a support role. That will annoy you, as you would put it, but it's not bthe 1st time we've disagreed about this.

          I think you are over-generalizing in suggesting that polarization between science and religion afflicts all North Americans. Of course many do hold that view, as the continuing popularity of "warfare" language indicates. But most NAs involved in serious science-religion discussions are committed to some non-polarizing view - Barbour's dialogue or integration types. & the great majority of ASA members, simply by virtue of being Christians as well as scientists, have figured out ways to hold the two together. Of course this doesn't mean that they don't see any tough issues at the interface.

          I'm not particularly annoyed by your pointing out that I didn't refer to the Holy Spirit in my Bratislava talk. It would be nice though for you to acknowledge that I have done that in other settings. (& as far as an "unbalanced Trinity" is concerned it's interesting that one section in Alexei Nesteruk's Light from the East, one of the few modern Orthodox works on science & theology available here, is titled "Christ-Event as the Foundation of Theology."

          Shalom
          George
          http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: Gregory Arago
            To: asa@lists.calvin.edu ; George Murphy
            Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 1:53 PM
            Subject: [asa] Re: [asa] Re: [asa] Szilágyi

                  Hi George,

                  If you'll forgive, I don't have time to give a very detailed answer to your pointed question about 'polarisation' and what I meant (perhaps rhetorically) by saying it. As you know, I've repeatedly offered a way to heal this polarisation between 'science' on one hand and 'theology' or 'religion' on the other. This can be done by taking a more holistic view of the academy that involves the human-social sciences in dialogue with philosophy, theology/religion *and* the natural-physical sciences.

                  Here I suppose I side with the Dutch tradition of Abraham Kuyper and his sphere sovereignty (though not sure if many on the list are familiar with his work, other than Terry Gray), along with his disciple Herman Dooyeweerd and his modal aspects. The Dutch reformed tradition teaches a trio rather than a duo - i.e. science, philosophy and religion, rather than just science and religion. I believe their perspective is insightful and collaborative instead of forcing a competition between science and religion, which a dualistic approach often does.

                  I suppose that Hungarians are likely more holistics thinkers than most North Americans, and can certainly, without a moment's hesitation, admit that Russians are more holistic thinkers than North Americans. Now let's not get all defensive and act as if you've been insulted; it is not a 'better' or 'worse' observation. The fact of greater specialization and fragmentation of knowledge in North American universities leads to more rationalistic and reductionistic views; this has been the western way for centuries.

                  The Soviet Union did not of course actually achieve 'communism,' though it had a Communist Party in which one was required to agree to the ideology/worldview/pseudo-religion of atheism as a condition of membership. In the Soviet era there were indeed many who felt, or better said, believed that science, as you say George, "had eliminated the idea of God." Fortunately for the Christian church in Russia that survived and is indeed thriving today, the average believer didn't think so 'conceptually' about God as a mere idea, but as something ultimately 'real' (protected by myth and mystery) that was beyond the reach of science to prove or disprove. There is thus much less antagonism between science and theology or religion in Russia today than there is in say England or Canada or Australia (but Murray could correct me if I'm wrong in his arena). Incidentally, statistics have indicated that in Russia higher education does not decrease, but rather increases the probability that people believe in God.

                  A quick view of statistics on religion in Hungary says that of the 74% Christians, 54% are Catholic, while 19.5% are Protestant (who'd have thought so many Calvinists!). Almost 70% of Slovaks are Catholics, with a higher percentage of Lutherans at close to 7%. It is indeed quite difficult to make an argument (and surely not in such short space) about which of Christianity's three branches are more 'holistic' and which are more 'polarising.' I'm not sure it would do us much good in this thread to consider this. Nevertheless, I would suggest that the more elements of mystery are involved in a religion, the less likely it is to clash with scientific materialism, scientific naturalism or scientific atheism. As for scientific theism, well, isn't that something that only western Christians are trying to 'prove'?

                  It is certainly true that American missionaries (some of them would even self-identify as 'fundamentalists,' though that name is predominantly pejorative these days in some contexts) came to Russia in the 90s and that anti-evolutionism was preached. But George, I think you highly underestimate the criticisms of Darwinism that had been taking place in Russia since the 1880s (e.g. Danilevksy) and the great shame that was heaped upon none other than Thomas Malthus. Some of Darwin's ideas were spoiled in the minds of many Russians because of Malthus' significant influence on them (e.g. 'stuggle for life' made it into the title of Darwin's 'Origin'), even though the 'purely natural scientific' (which is contestable in this discourse) aspects of his theories were widely accepted.

                  Things have changed somewhat today, e.g. in terms of even welcoming 'evolutionary' ideas into economics, which the Russian's strongly disputed a century ago. In this academic sphere, I am in contact with people in Moscow who are working on new ways to explore what anti-evolutionism means. But don't let if fool you; when I use the term 'anti-evolutionism' it doesn't mean anything like what you think it means when you use it in a North American context.

                  Hopefully that helps a bit, George, about what I meant by 'western polarising' (shall we call it Descartes' dance?).

                  Let me also just note again, though I'm sure this will annoy you, George. It is rather meant as my friendly and small part in critiquing your theology (God knows you would probably have much to critique if I were to display more of mine). The word 'spirit' or 'Holy Spirit' are again not present in your article that you linked to from Bratislava. I suggest there is an imbalanced Trinity on display when one is speaking about 'theology of the cross' without giving equal attention to the two other Persons. But I guess that might just be my ecumenical repetition on that topic.

                  Warm regards,
                  Gregory

                  --- On Sun, 5/10/09, George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com> wrote:

                    From: George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
                    Subject: Re: [asa] Re: [asa] Szilágyi
                    To: gregoryarago@yahoo.ca, asa@lists.calvin.edu, "Dave Wallace" <wmdavid.wallace@gmail.com>
                    Received: Sunday, May 10, 2009, 10:40 PM

                    
                    Gregory -

                    I'm curious about your (perhaps rhetorical) question. You are without doubt more knowledgeable about the situation in Russia than I but I do know a bit about that in former Soviet Satellites &, in particular, the Slovak Republic. But in 1996 I helped to organize a conference on science & theology at the Lutheran seminary in Braitslava & gave one of the papers there. (It's at http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Astronomy-Cosmology/GlaubundDenken1997Murphy.html#FROM%20THE%20SMALL%20CATECHISM ) Part of the reason for this was precisely the way such discussions had been polarized under communism, or course very much in favor Marxism & atheism & the notion that science had eliminated the idea of God. One of the discussions with seminary faculty was a kind of catharsis sessions in which they spoke about the constraints they'd been under as far as any criticism of such claims. Then with the fall of communism American fundamentalist missionaries came to eastern Europe to preach the message of, among other things, anti-evolutionism. Now maybe things have changed a lot in the past 10 years or so, & maybe Hungarians are very different in this regard from Slovaks, but I would be surprised if religion-science polarization were entirely a thing of the past.

                    Shalom
                    George
                    http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm

                      ----- Original Message -----
                      From: Gregory Arago
                      To: asa@lists.calvin.edu ; Dave Wallace
                      Sent: Sunday, May 10, 2009 12:47 PM
                      Subject: [asa] Re: [asa] Szilágyi
                      ............................

                            Perhaps the Hungarians are well ahead of the (negatively) polarising discussions that 'western' 'science and religion' discourse have been facing in recent decades? ......

                            Gregory

                             
  

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Received on Thu May 14 17:08:23 2009

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