The Cloud of Unknowing is a late medieval English mystical text; it has inspired Catherine Keller’s title Cloud of the Impossible. A cloud seems fairly diffuse; territory sounds more solid: terra-Earth. However, The Territories of Science and Religion is unsettling for those who assume to be on firm ground when reflecting on religion and on science. And if one considers the articles in this issue, we are in cloudy territory: What have atoms, demons, and E-meters to do with each other? In this issue of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, we continue half a century of studies and discussions, all in one way or another engaging science and technology, religions and worldviews, and contemporary societies and individuals.
This article addresses how the field of religion and science will change in the coming decades by analyzing the attitudes of emerging adults (ages 18-30). I first present an overview of emerging adulthood to set the context for my analysis, especially highlighting the way in which emerging adults find themselves “in between” and in an “age of possibilities,” free to explore a variety of options and thus often become “spiritual bricoleurs.” Next, I expand on how a broadening pluralism in emerging adult culture changes both the conversation of “religion and science,” on one hand, and the locus for their interaction on the other. In the third section, I address the question of whether there exists a consensus view of how to relate religion and science. Paradoxically, though 18-30-year-olds perceive that there is conflict between science and religion, they personally endorse collaboration or independence. Finally, I draw conclusions for practitioners and theorists.
Ian Barbour • philosophy of science • religion • science • theology and science
Greg Cootsona is Lecturer in the Department of Comparative Religion and Humanities of California State University, Chico, CA 95929-0740, USA; e-mail: GCootsona @ csuchico.edu.
An Eastern Orthodox Critique of the Science-Theology Dialogue by Christopher C. Knight
On the basis of both philosophical arguments and the theological perspectives of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, a critique of two beliefs that are common within the mainstream science-theology dialogue is outlined. These relate to critical realism in understanding language usage and to naturalistic perspectives in relation to divine action. While the naturalistic perspectives on the history of the cosmos that are predominant within the dialogue are seen as generally acceptable from an Orthodox perspective, it is argued that they require theological expansion. This expansion suggests an understanding other than the “causal joint” model commonly adopted in relation to “special” divine action. This alternative model renders the distinction between “special” and “general” divine action redundant, and is based on what has been called a “teleological-Christological” understanding of the cosmos, rooted in the fourth gospel’s notion of the divine Logos. The relevance of this critique to scholars outside of the Orthodox community is urged.
causal joint • critical realism • divine action • Eastern Orthodoxy • miracles • naturalism
Christopher C. Knight is the Executive Secretary of the International Society for Science and Religion, a Research Associate of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, England, and a priest of the Eastern Orthodox Church; e-mail: fatherxopher @ gmail.com.
When Must a Patient Seek Healthcare? Bringing the Perspectives of Islamic Jurists and Clinicians into Dialogue by Omar Qureshi and Aasim I. Padela
Muslim physicians and Islamic jurists analyze the moral dimensions of biomedicine using different tools and processes. While the deliberations of these two classes of experts involve judgments about the deliverables of the other’s respective fields, Islamic jurists and Muslim physicians rarely engage in discussions about the constructs and epistemic frameworks that motivate their analyses. The lack of dialogue creates gaps in knowledge and leads to imprecise guidance. In order to address these discursive and conceptual gaps we describe the sources of knowledge and reasoning employed by Islamic jurists and clinicians to resolve the question of when a patient must seek healthcare. As we examine both the scriptural evidence and legal reasoning of jurists and the types of medical evidence used by clinicians to address the same question, we draw attention to the epistemic frameworks and constructs at play and identify how constructs from one field may sharpen the deliberative exercises of the other. Hence our work advances discourses at the intersection of Islam and medicine and offers building blocks for a comprehensive Islamic framework that fully integrates the deliverables of medical science within the deliberations of Islamic jurists.
bioethics • harm • ijtihad (study of Islamic principles to derive legal opinions from the law) • Islamic law • medical decision making • moral reasoning • Shar’iah
Omar Qureshi is a PhD Candidate in Cultural and Educational Policy Studies, Loyola University-Chicago, Chicago, IL, and Principal, Islamic Foundation School, Villa Park, IL, USA; e-mail: fulanq @ hotmail.com. Aasim I. Padela, MD, is Assistant Professor of Medicine and Director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine at The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA; e-mail: apadela @ uchicago.edu.
Nuclear Waste, Conspiracies, and E-Meters: Remarkable Religion and Technology
The Atomic Priesthood and Nuclear Waste Management: Religion, Sci-Fi Literature, and the End of Our Civilization by Sebastian Musch
This article discusses the idea of an “Atomic Priesthood,” a religious caste that would preserve and transmit the knowledge of nuclear waste management for future generations. In 1981, the US Department of Energy commissioned a “Human Interference Task Force” (HITF) that would examine the possibilities of how to maintain the security of nuclear waste storage sites for 10,000 years, a period during which our civilization would likely perish, but the dangerous nature of nuclear waste would persist. One option that was discussed was the establishment of an “atomic priesthood,” an idea that science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov and Arsen Darney had already toyed with. Reading the HITF report alongside sci-fi novels, my article will shed light on the question of how the sheer force of nuclear power (and the longevity of nuclear waste) lends itself to religious interpretations and how the idea of the atomic priesthood is connected with the utopian/dystopian aspects of nuclear power.
ecology • environment • eternity • God • nuclear energy • nuclear waste repositories • religion • science fiction
Sebastian Musch is a graduate student at the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Heidelberg, Germany and Visiting Researcher (2015-2016) at the University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA; e-mail: Sebastian.musch @ mail.com.
Secularizing Demons: Fundamentalist Navigations in Religion and Secularity by S. Jonathon O’Donnell
Since the turn of the millennium, theologians and secular scholars of religion have increasingly begun exploring the relationship between transhumanism and religion. However, analyses of anti-transhumanist apocalypticisms are still rare, and those that exist are situated mainly among broader explorations of religious and secular bioconservatism. This article addresses this lack of specificity by drawing analyses of transhumanism and religion into dialogue with explorations of contemporary demonology through a close study of the beliefs of the evangelical conspiracist Thomas Horn and the anti-transhumanist milieu around him. Exploring the milieu’s multifaceted demonology of the secular world in light of genealogies of religion and secularity, the article situates Horn’s demonology as one attempt to negotiate these genealogies, using what Sean McCloud terms a “‘supernatural’ hermeneutics of suspicion” that sees spiritual forces as the structural base of reality. It argues that, while fringe, milieus like Horn’s illuminate broader cultural tensions and genealogical relations surrounding the place of religion in a secular(izing) world.
eschatology • evolution • Thomas Horn • immanence • original sin • science • secularism • teleology • time • transhumanism
S. Jonathon O’Donnell is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Religion and Philosophies, SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), University of London, London, England; e-mail: sjodonnell @ gmail.com.
New Religious Movements, Technology, and Science: The Conceptualization of the E-Meter in Scientology Teachings by Stefano Bigliardi
This article is aimed at contributing to the study of the relationship that new religious movements entertain with technology and science. It focuses on an object that is central in Scientology’s teachings and practice: the Electropsychometer or E-meter. In interaction with the general public, such as in a 2014 TV Super Bowl advertisement, Scientology seems to claim a unique relationship with science and technology in the form of a “combination” and a “connection” evoked while displaying this very E-meter. Hence, exploring the teachings related to it is relevant in order to understand how such combination or connection is conceptualized.
Dianetics • electropsychometer • E-meter • L. Ron Hubbard • new religious movements • pseudoscience • pseudotechnology • Scientology • technology
Stefano Bigliardi is a postdoctoral fellow at FIIRD (Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue), Geneva, Switzerland; e-mail: stefano.bigliardi @ cme.lu.se.
Peter Harrison’s Territories of Science and Religion: A Symposium
Why We Should Care about Evolution and Natural History by Peter C. Kjærgaard
Historians play it safe. Complex issues are dissected while analytical distance keeps stakeholders at bay. But the relevance of historical research may be lost in caution and failure to engage with a wider audience. We can’t afford that. We have too much to offer and too much at stake. We need to take the discussion of science and religion beyond our own professional circles. Peter Harrison’s The Territories of Science and Religion gives us an opportunity to do so. We can use his book to understand why people consistently get the relation wrong. However, we need to take the next step ourselves, involve historians in the common academic goal, across disciplines, to make sense of the world around us and make that combined knowledge truly useful. Evolution and natural history might help to that effect.
anthropology • biology • creationism • evolution • history • human origins • interdisciplinarity • natural history • religion • science
Peter C. Kjærgaard is Museum Director and Professor of Evolutionary History, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; e-mail: kjaergaard @ snm.ku.dk.
Early Modern Protestant Virtuosos and Scientists: Some Comments by Kaspar von Greyerz
The following essay is divided in three parts. First, while sharing in principle Harrison’s hypothesis of an affinity between the sixteenth-century Reformation and early modern science, it questions the connection between the latter and the Weberian “disenchantment of the world.” Second, it suggests a broader group of possible actors than that envisaged by Harrison in referring to virtuoso collectors and their cabinets of curiosities who are rather marginalized in Harrison’s narrative. And third, it highlights (in agreement with Harrison) the physico-theology of the second half of the seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth century and beyond as an important temporary fusion of religion/theology and science at a time when the new science was still striving for social and religious respectability.
continuities in nature symbolism • differences between natural theology and physico-theology • early modern science and the “disenchantment of the world” • physico-theological bestsellers • physico-theology as a seventeenth- and eighteenth-century phenomenon • seventeenth-century alchemy • virtuoso collectors and their significance
Kaspar von Greyerz is Professor Emeritus of the Department of History, Universitat Basel, 4051 Basel, Switzerland; e-mail: kaspar.vongreyerz @ unibas.ch.
Peter Harrison, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the Problem of Pre-Modern Religion by Nathan J. Ristuccia
Peter Harrison’s Gifford Lectures demonstrate that the modern concepts of “religion” and “science” do not correspond to any fixed sphere of life in the pre-modern world. Because these terms are incommensurate and ideological, they misconstrue the past. I examine the influence and affinities of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy on Harrison’s study in order to argue that Harrison’s project approaches Wittgenstein’s. Harrison’s book is a therapeutic history, untying a knot in scholarly language. I encourage Harrison, however, to clarify how future scholars can progress in their study of phenomena once termed “scientific” or “religious” without succumbing to these same mistakes.
Christianity • critical theory of religion • disciplinary borders • genealogy of religion • naturalistic accounts of religion • philosophia • pre-modern science • Ludwig Wittgenstein
Nathan J. Ristuccia is a Harper Fellow in the Social Sciences and a Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Department of History, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA; e-mail: njristuccia @ uchicago.edu.
Into Terra Incognita: Charting beyond Peter Harrison’s The Territories of Science and Religion by Michael Fuller
Peter Harrison’s The Territories of Science and Religion throws down a serious challenge to advocates of dialogue as the primary means of engagement between science and religion. This article accepts the validity of this challenge and looks at four possible responses to it. The first—a return to the past—is rejected. The remaining three—exploring new epistemic frameworks for the encounter of science and religion, broadening out the engagement beyond the context of the physical sciences and Western culture, and looking at ways in which scientific and theological practitioners may collaborate on practical problems—are all offered as potential ways in which science and religion may engage with one another, in ways which move beyond Harrison’s critique.
contextualization • dialogue • ecumenism • epistemology • Peter Harrison • rationality
Michael Fuller is a Teaching Fellow of New College University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom; e-mail: Michael.Fuller @ ed.ac.uk
The Modern Invention of “Science-and-Religion”: What Follows? by Peter Harrison
I am grateful to the four reviewers of The Territories of Science and Religion for their careful and insightful readings of the book, and their kind words about it. They all got the central arguments pretty much right, and thus any critical comments are not the result of fundamental misunderstandings. While there are some common themes in the assessments, each reviewer, happily, has offered a distinct perspective on the book. For this reason I will deal with their comments in turn, but with a focus throughout on a generally expressed concern about the broader implications of the book’s historical analysis, and what positive or concrete proposals might follow from it.
Christianity • design • epistemology • forms of life • genealogy of religion • Pierre Hadot • language games • natural theology • physico-theology • Ludwig Wittgenstein
Peter Harrison is Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia; e-mail: peter.harrison @ uq.edu.au.
Catherine Keller’s Cloud of the Impossible: A Symposium
Religious Hypotheses and the Apophatic, Relational Theology of Catherine Keller by Kirk Wegter-McNelly
In one of its most urgent folds, Catherine Keller’s Cloud of the Impossible juxtaposes negative theology with relational theology for the sake of thinking constructively about today’s global climate of religious conflict and ecological upheaval. The tension between these two theological approaches reflects her desire to unsay past harmful theological speech but also to speak into the present silences about the (perhaps im)possibility of a future that is not only to be feared. Suffusing Keller’s Cloud is the related (perhaps im)possibility of living out one’s life in conversation with a religious tradition having accepted the nonknowing character of its wisdom. Here, I develop the notion of “hypothetical faith” as an epistemic posture that commits itself to some particular religious tradition even as it acknowledges the unverifiability of that tradition’s deepest truths. Understood as operating at the opposite end of the testability spectrum from science, religion-as-hypothesis provides a way of saying and unsaying one’s tradition at the same time.
epistemology • faith • hypothesis • Catherine Keller • negative theology • relational theology • religious tradition
Kirk Wegter-McNelly is Wold Visiting Professor, Program in Religious Studies, Union College, Schenectady NY, USA; e-mail: wegtermk @ union.edu.
Aporetic Possibilities in Catherine Keller’s Cloud of the Impossible by Carol Wayne White
In stressing the beauty of ignorance, of not knowing in the usual manner, Catherine Keller’s Cloud of the Impossible evokes the death of a metaphysical (A)uthorial presence and the dissolution of closed systems of meaning. In this article, I view her text as part of a crisis of modernity that challenges dominant theological pathways, on which certain problematic views of the human have been constructed. In my reading, Keller’s Cloud enriches humanistic thinking in the West and I explore the themes it shares with my own work in religious naturalism: there is no escape from the radical relationality and the irreducible materiality that structure human existence. I also emphasize that textual strategies are mere seductive, disembodied abstractions without acknowledging the force of materiality. Materiality matters; and I explore ways in which religious naturalism demonstrates how it does. In light of Keller’s rich analysis, I focus on a “learned ignorance” that accompanies all of our limited interpretations emerging from the shifting, precarious positionalities as we rethink our relationality to each other and to all that it is.
apophatic tradition • chiastic thinking • deconstruction • evolutionary biology • humanism • Catherine Keller • logocentricism • materiality • relationality • religious naturalism
Carol Wayne White is Professor of Religious Studies at Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA, USA; e-mail: cwhite @ bucknell.edu.
The Fault in Us: Ethics, Infinity, and Celestial Bodies by Donovan O. Schaefer
Catherine Keller’s Cloud of the Impossible knits together process theology and relational ontology with quantum mechanics. In quantum physics, she finds a new resource for undoing the architecture of classical metaphysics and its location of autonomous human subjects as the primary gears of ethical agency. Keller swarms theology with the quantum perspective, focusing in particular on the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, by which quantum particles are found to remain influential over each other long after they have been physically separated—what Albert Einstein and his collaborators recklessly dismissed as “spooky action at a distance.” This spooky action, Keller suggests, reroutes process thought—classically concerned with flux—to a new concern with intransigence—particularly the intransigence of the ethical relationship. Attending to the ethical urgency of the Other, she leaves process theology in a position of susceptibility to the moral imperative posed by the marginalized, the victimized, and the oppressed. This essay argues that although the ontological work of Keller’s book productively integrates quantum physics into process theology, the ethical dimension of relationality is left cold in the quantum field. This is because, contra the ethical framework of contemporary deconstruction, which, following Emmanuel Levinas, sees ethical relationships as emerging out of a dynamic of infinite distance, moral connection has nothing to do with the remote reaches of the quantum scale or the macro-scale limits of space—nothing to do with “infinity” at all. Ethics emerges out of a much messier landscape—the evolved dynamic of fleshy, finite, material bodies. Rather than seeing ethical labor as a matter of physics, my contention (and here I think I am arguing with, rather than against Keller) is that interdisciplinary undertakings like Cloud of the Impossible are ethical disciplinary practices, re-acquainting us with the non-sovereignty of the self in order to open up new habits of relating rather than spotlighting ethical imperatives.
affect • apophatic theology • Jacques Derrida • ethics • evolutionary ethics • infinity • Catherine Keller • Emmanuel Levinas • process theology • quantum mechanics
Donovan O. Schaefer is Departmental Lecturer in Science and Religion, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom; e-mail: donovan.schaefer @ theology.ox.ac.uk.
Enfolding Violence, Unfolding Hope: Emerging Clouds of Possibility for Women in Roman Catholicism by Colleen Mary Carpenter
In an effort to think through possible impossibilities, and enfold current problems within Catholicism into the luminous darkness of the cloud of the im/possible, this response to Catherine Keller’s Cloud of the Impossible considers what might happen should Keller’s cloud of mindful unknowing and nonseparable difference billow over and through one particular Catholic conundrum: how to respond to the terrifying reality of domestic violence in the context of a marriage defined as indissoluble, imperishable—inescapable.
Catholicism • domestic violence • indissolubility • Catherine Keller • women
Colleen Mary Carpenter is Sister Mona Riley Endowed Chair of the Humanities and Associate Professor of Theology, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN, USA; e-mail: mcarpenter @ stkate.edu.
Theology, Science, and Cloud of the Impossible by Catherine Keller
As a work of constructive theology attentive to the deconstructive edge of theology itself, Cloud of the Impossible offers a contemplative space for fresh transdisciplinary encounters. The ancient apophatic practice (of “unsaying,” docta ignorantia) here fosters a knowledge tuned to its own currently indeterminate edges. The present conversation surfaces issues of religion in relation to both science and ethics. It effects a multilateral advance in thinking the “apophatic entanglement” by which a relational ontology, with its attention to the materiality of our fragile planetary interdependence, is intensified through a theology of disciplined uncertainty.
Karen Barad • Cloud of the Impossible • cosmology • Nicholas of Cusa • ecology • feminist ethics • mysticism • panentheism • quantum entanglement • relationality
Catherine Keller is Professor of Constructive Theology, Drew Theological School, Drew University, Madison, NJ, USA; e-mail: catherinekeller22 @ gmail.com.
Maimonides—Medical Aphorisms Treatises 16-21. [Kitāb al-fusūl fī al-ţibb] A Parallel Arabic-English Editionedited, translated, and annotated by Gerrit Bos reviewed by Christoffer H. Grundmann