ESSSAT News 9:1

ESSSAT News 9:1 (May 1999) – a selection

Dear ESSSAT-members,

I have now taken over the editorial responsibility for ESSSAT-News from Willem B. Drees. With enthusiasm, skill and competence Wim Drees has developed the original small Newsletter into something much more comprehensive and informative. ESSSAT owes him much gratitude for that! My intention is to continue on this basis, trying to supply you with good information on activities and publications. As the magazine Science and Spirit has expanded its book reviews and calendar of events especially in the English speaking world, I feel that the main interest of ESSSAT-News is slightly shifting. I would like to focus still more on the European context and the existing local and regional networks of dialogue between science and theology. Moreover, increasing importance of our website will probably have an effect on the function of our traditional ESSSAT-News. We will see. Moving towards a conference in Lyon I regard it as a special challenge to get ourselves more aware of what is happening in the French speaking world. Sharing results and experiences would probably help to enhance quality and motivation. But that depends on you, of course! Therefore: aside of all kind of information on relevant events and books, please give me a hint concerning your network of dialogue – even new and small ones are of great interest. ESSSAT-News will be as good, interesting and relevant as we members together make it.

With best wishes

Antje Jackelén


ESSSAT and CTNS co-operating
: As you may know the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) in Berkeley, California, has taken over the Science and Religion Course Program funded by the John Templeton Foundation. CTNS was founded in 1981 as a nonprofit international organization supported by research grants and donations. Dedicated to research, teaching, and public service, it focuses on the relation of contemporary physics, cosmology, technology and evolutionary and molecular biology to Christian theology and ethics ( Planning to adjust the current workshop program (as practised in the US and the UK) to Continental European conditions, Professor Ted Peters from CTNS initiated a meeting of a European advisory panel. This consultation took place in Lund in April, and it was arranged in close co-operation with ESSSAT. Apart from Ted Peters CTNS was represented by regional directors Peter Hess and Laurence Freeman. Most of the European participants – Wim Drees, Lodovico Galleni, Ulf Görman, Niels Henrik Gregersen, Halina Grzymala-Mosczynska, Antje Jackelén, Peter Pavlovic, Helmut Reich, Xavier Sallantin, Michael Welker – are ESSSAT-members. The future development is likely to be of great interest and importance to our Society. Everybody agreed on the necessity of creating a distinctively European approach. Vital issues were discussed, such as planning of local colloquia in various languages, translation of significant articles etc., doctoral student networks, and grants program. CTNS also intends to enhance topic centered research projects involving scholars from Europe and other parts of the world.

News from elsewhere

Templeton awards for European courses
 – 98 winners in the 1999 Science Religion Course Competition have been announced. Seven of the awards offered by the John Templeton Foundation went to Europe. Two of these were received by Hungarian scholars: Klara Hajnall (Janua Pannonius University) and Mihaly Toth (Theological College of Szeged). Other European winners are: Geoffrey Cantor (University of Leeds, UK), Robert Cook (Radcliffe College, UK), Svetlana Devyatova (Moscow State University, Russia), Milos Lokajicek (Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic), and Hubert Meisinger (Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany). Congratulations!

 – I know of lots of interesting books I would like to see reviewed in ESSSAT-News. However, time and possibilities are limited. Therefore: I invite you cordially to send me information and reviews concerning books which may be of interest to our members. Anything from a few lines to a more extensive presentation will do!

Lawrence Fagg: Electromagnetism and the Sacred: At the Frontier of Spirit and Matter. Continuum, New York 1999. 144 pp, ISBN 0-8264-1147-9. $24.95. Electromagnetism is fundamental to all matter. At the same time light, i. e. electromagnetic radiation, is a frequent and important religious symbol. Fagg, also author of The Becoming of Time (Scholars Press 1995), explores the potential of the analogy between electromagnetic interaction and God’s presence in creation. He “gives an insightful description of electromagnetism as a physical phenomenon, and he uses electromagnetism in an interesting and original effort to establish an analogy to the immanence of God in Christian belief. When we look at electromagnetism as a force which penetrates every corner of reality, Fagg argues, this reveals the subtlety of God’s immanence.” (Ulf Görman)

Christopher Southgate (ed): God, Humanity and the Cosmos. A Textbook in Science and Religion. T&T Clark, Edinburgh 1999. 480 pp, ISBN 0 567 08679 8. £17.50. Offers an exploration of contemporary perspectives in physics, evolutionary biology and psychology related to theological descriptions of the universe, humanity and consciousness. Recommended as textbook for students: includes exercises to test understanding, suggests topics for discussion and further reading. After an introduction to the field of debate, part 1 deals with truth and reason in science and theology. Part 2 offers presentations on theology and the new physics, on theology and evolutionary biology, and on psychology and theology. Part 3 discusses models of God within Christianity and divine action as “a test-case”. The fourth part is more practically oriented focusing on so various issues as science and education, Islam and science, technology and Christianity, and biotechnology. The final part sketches a possible development of the science and religion debate in the 21st century.

Jürgen Audretsch/Hans Weder in Zusammenarbeit mit Markus Huppenbauer: Kosmologie und Kreativität. Theologie und Naturwissenschaft im Dialog. Forum Theologische Literaturzeitung, Band 1. 100 pp, ISBN 3-374-01714-2 DM 26,80/öS 198/sFr 25. This book is a representative of what might be called “the second way” in our field. It does not explore the relation of science and theology in general terms. Instead, the authors make theology and physics dialogue by focusing on a distinct subject, in this case cosmology and creativity. The physicist’s and the theologian’s presentations are followed by a discussion on important issues invoked by the different perspectives.

John Brooke and Geoffrey Cantor: Reconstructing Nature. The Engagement of Science and Religion. T&T Clark, Edinburgh 1998. Based on the Glasgow Gifford Lectures. In lack of a review I will give you a hint of the contents. It seems to hint at an unconventional treatment of more or less well-known issues. Section I Science and Religion: Is There Value in the Historical Approach? Whose Science? Whose Religion? Section II Reconstructing History: Against the Self-Images of the New Age. The Contemporary Relevance of the Galileo Affair. Section III Having Designs on Nature: Natural Theology and the History of Science. The Language of Natural Theology. From Aesthtetics to Theology. Section IV Structuring Experience: Biographical Narratives. ‘A Taste for Philosophical Pursuits’ – Quakers in the Royal Society of London. Improving on Nature?

The Place of the Scientist in the Life of the Church. Papers presented at the meeting of the Secretariat for Scientific Questions (SIQS). Pax Romana. St Albans 1998. 100 pp. Contributions by J. Zycinski, P.E. Hodgson, G. Tanzelli-Nitti, J.J. Sanguinetti, M. Doncel, W. Derkse, M.L’Abbe Magnin, M. Sharrat, J. Wilkins, L. Morren. The various papers give a good idea of the development of the views held by and within the Roman Catholic church towards science and the relation between theology/church and science. They reflect both on theoretical and practical/educational aspects of the field. Although falling short of ecumenical perspectives, many of the prospects are pertinent also to others than Roman Catholics.

Lucio Florio: La mirada teológica sobre la creación en nuestro tiempo. Fundación Santa Ana. La Plata 1998. A small essay on nature and creation which forms part of a series dealing with creation in relation to science, biblical creation accounts, poetry etc. Floria tries to relate ecological crisis and the impact of culture on nature to a trinitarian understanding of nature as creation.

Guy Consolmagno: “… the Way to the Dwelling of Light” How Physics Illuminates Creation. Vatican Observatory and University of Notre Dame Press, 1998. 180 pp. ISBN 0-268-01954-1. $ 15.00. For Consolmagno, an astronomer and Jesuit brother, religious experience can illuminate our understanding of physics. Popular in style and richly illustrated, the book conveys the message that scientific enterprise is consonant with God’s intentions. The author takes great effort in introducing physics to “people in the pews”, intelligent laypersons, whereas theological knowledge seems to be regarded as self-evident and unproblematic. In his opinion scientists and believers travel along the same road, but in different directions: “Science starts with Understanding, to approach Truth … Religion starts with Truth, but only begins to approach Understanding.”(178) Remains the question: in what direction then does the believing scientist travel? A portion of critical hermeneutics would have done good to this book.

Ulrich Ratsch, Michael Richter, Ion-Olimpiu Stamatescu (eds): Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence. An Interdisciplinary Debate. Springer, Heidelberg 1998. The subject is dealt with from the perspective of philosophy, Germanic philology, mathematics, computer science, physics, neurobiology, and psychology. The impact of AI on the understanding of a human being and of natural intelligence is discussed.

Arthur Peacocke’s magnum opus has appeared in German as Gottes Wirken in der Welt, Theologie im Zeitalter der Naturwissenschaften. Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, Mainz 1998. 211 pp. DM 46.