Main   Terms   People   Interviews   Resources   Events

The philosophical argument begins with a move from modernist reductionism to post-modern holism. Christian philosopher and theologian Nancey Murphy draws specifically on Karl Popper, W. V. O. Quine, Imre Lakatos and Alasdair MacIntyre in support of a "historicist-holism." (Nancey Murphy, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism, op. cit., exp. Chs. 3, 4, 7. She develops these arguments further in Angle-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion and Ethics (Westview Press, forthcoming 1997). See also "Supervenience and the Non-Reducibility of Ethics to Biology" in Russell, et. al., Evolution and Molecular Biology, op. cit.. See also "Nonreductive Physicalism and the Soul" (forthcoming). ) Murphy views the sciences as hierarchically ordered, with new, emergent properties and processes at each level.

According to scientists such as Silvan Schweber, Arthur Peacocke and Neil A. Campbell, there is growing recognition within both physics and biology of "top-down," as well as "bottom-up," analysis. Top-down causality can be described philosophically in terms of "supervenience", in which the context at the higher level determines the relation between a higher-level property, such as moral valence, and a lower-level property, such as physical violence. But is a contextual analysis sufficient to guarantee top-down causality? In a recent book, Philip Clayton defends an even tougher form of supervenience, called "strong supervenience". Here the upper level, though emergent out of the lower, includes causal interactions that are not reducible to those of the lower level. (Philip Clayton, In Whom We Have Our Being: Theology of God and Nature in Light of Contemporary Science (Edinburgh University Press and Eerdmans, 1998).

I would add the crucial importance of drawing on quantum physics for a philosophy of indeterminism at the lower levels, without which it is hard for me to see how mental agency is physically enacted in the world. With these arguments in place, we can extend them by analogy to the concept of divine action. If natural processes are emergent and indeterministic, one can begin to think in terms of God’s special action at every level of nature, including the most elementary physical and biological levels, in such a way that God need not intervene and thereby violate these processes.

 Russell Physics Bibliography 
To return to the previous topic, click on your browser's 'Back' button.

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.