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Physics and Cosmology: Topic Index

Imagine an expanding universe 15 billion years old, emerging from a point where "time began"; a world of relativity where space and time are paradoxical but spacetime may be ‘just there’; a quantum world where things ‘just happen’ and nature as a mechanical clock is overturned; a thermodynamic world where entropy reigns but order and novelty emerge spontaneously out of disorder and chaos. These and other ‘windows on the universe’ derived from contemporary physics and cosmology hint at the profound beauty, mystery and enticement of our universe and beckon us to explore the latest results of research science.

At the same time, many people today - and I am one of them - are deeply committed to the religious traditions of the West, with their theological understandings of the universe as the creation of a loving and gracious God revealed through Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. Still others draw on Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American religion, and other rich traditions to speak theologically about human life, the natural world, and the divine. Can these two sources of knowledge and meaning - science and religion - be brought together into a process of creative mutual interaction, in which each voice is respected and the wisdom of each shared fruitfully by the other? Or are science and religion irrevocably in conflict, or perhaps merely irrelevant to each other?

In recent years, an increasing number of scientists, theologians, clergy, and the lay public have challenged both the voices for conflict and for irrelevancy. Instead, they are developing a new approach which fosters dialogue and genuine interaction. In the process, a growing body of literature at both research and semi-popular levels is now available for all who wish to join in. The purpose of this brief essay is to point out some of the key topics of conversation, to suggest where the frontiers of research currently lie, and to invite others to enter into the process. My perspective on this rich and diverse process is that of a Protestant theologian with a doctorate in solid state physics. For the past two decades I have been teaching on the faculty of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and directing the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences affiliated with the GTU. Though I can only speak from this perspective, I hope it will succeed in suggesting at least something of the richness and challenge of this exciting interaction, and in the process will stimulate many others to join in!

In these topics I will offer a brief overview of the key issues in physics and cosmology. I’ll also cover the theologies of creation and providence, and suggest ways in which they can be put into dialogue and interaction with aspects of Big Bang cosmology and quantum mechanics. I’ll close with highlights of other key areas.

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Go to Physics and Cosmology Topic Index

Physics and Cosmology: Topic Index

Physics and Cosmology in the 20th Century
Special Relativity
General Relativity
Quantum Physics
Thermodynamics, Chaos, and Complexity
Relating Science and Theology
The Theology of Creation
Big Bang Cosmology and Creation Theology
The Anthropic Principle and Creation Theology
The Theology of Providence
God’s Providence and Quantum Mechanics
Special Relativity, Time, and Eternity
Evil and the Problem of Suffering in Nature
Science and the Spiritual Quest


Dr. Robert J. Russell


See also:

Physics and Cosmology
The Relation of Science & Religion
Does God Act?
Was the Universe Designed?
Did the Universe Have a Beginning?
Steven Weinberg and John Polkinghorne Debate on Design
Sir Isaac Newton
Albert Einstein
Niels Bohr
Werner Heisenberg
Galaxies and Nebulae
Books on Physics and Theology