Key Figures and Developments in the Science-Religion Debate
Much of the literature in this field builds
on the pioneering work of Ian Barbour, who brought out Issues in Science and Religion
1966 and Myths, Models and Paradigms
in 1974. His Gifford Lectures of 1990, published as Religion in an Age of Scienceand Ethics in an Age of Technology,
gave a valuable overview of the field.
Two English theologians who are both
Anglican priests and former research scientists have also done much to bring
the science-religion debate to wider attention. Arthur Peacockes Bampton
Lectures of 1979, Creation and the World
of Science still
read very well, and his Theology for a
Scientific Age (1993)
continues to be an important text. Sir John Polkinghorne, former Professor of
Mathematical Physics at Cambridge and since then a vigorous and articulate
apologist for Christianity as compatible with science, has brought out an
extraordinary number of books, of which the most adventurous and important is
his Science and Providence
(1989). His Science and Christian Belief
(1994) is the most comprehensive statement of his position.
Just as the development of the Chicago
Center for Religion and Science (directed by Philip Hefner) and the Center for
Theology and the Natural Sciences at Berkeley (directed by R.J.Russell) were
most valuable in establishing the academic integrity of the science-religion
debate, so the endowment of the Starbridge Lectureship in Theology and Natural
Science at Cambridge in 1994 marked another important landmark in the debates
development. Fraser Watts, the first Starbridge post-holder, is a contributor
to God, Humanity and the Cosmos. In
1999 Oxford University appointed the first Andreas Idreos Professor in this
area, John Brooke.
Two other figures not normally thought of
as theologians have also done a great deal to stimulate the debate. The first
is the physicist Paul Davies, who has been drawn towards theism by the
directions he has seen his scientific field take, and who has written of this
journey in books such as God and the New
and The Mind of God.
The second is the biologist Richard Dawkins, whose vigorous dismissals of the claims of religion (see can reductionism
rule out the truth of religion?) have had a most stimulating effect on
believers interested in dialogue with science. Had Dawkins not existed, the
Christian Church might have found it necessary to invent him.
The great explosion of work there has been
in this area has been much facilitated by the work of the John Templeton
Foundation, which has commissioned lecture series, funded courses and sponsored
workshops which have greatly furthered dialogue between educators working in
the field. It is in considerable part due to Templeton funding that there are
at least 300 courses running in this interdisciplinary subject area in the
U.S.A., and probably almost as many again in universities in the rest of the world.
link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999)