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The Science and Religion Dialogue

Past and Future

Michael Welker

This book documents the conference on The Science and Religion Dialogue: Past and Future, held at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, October 25-29, 2012. The conference commemorated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir John Templeton and the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the John Templeton Foundation. It brought together about 60 active participants, all of them prominent scholars from many countries and many academic fields. Most of them have been engaged in the Science and Religion Dialogue for the last two or three decades. This book reports on multi-year international and interdisciplinary research projects at leading institutions. The contributions start with presentations by Hans Joas, Martin Nowak and John Polkinghorne and range from Astronomy, Mathematics, Physics and Biology to Philosophical Theology and Religious Ethics. Special topics of the dialogue between Science and Religion are also dealt with, such as Eschatology and Anthropology; Cosmology, Creation, and Redemption; Evolutionary Biology and the Spirit; and The Role of Thought Experiments in Science and Theology.
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Eschatology, Anthropology, and Concepts of Law

1.  The relevance of specific forms and contents in the organization of research and dialogue


My academic background is in the areas of theology and philosophy. I did post-doctoral work on Alfred North Whitehead1 and thus got involved in the dialogue with natural scientists. Whitehead was a mathematician and amateur scientist and provided stimulating interdisciplinary insights. One of his basic interests was the complexity of cultural evolution. He acknowledged the fact that in modernity cultures center very much on mathematized science, and, to be sure, as a mathematician, he was in favor of this development. However, he observed that it comes with a price. He saw the danger that a culture strongly focused on mathematized sciences lowers or even distorts sensitivities for religious, ethical and aesthetic dynamics. He argued that a vibrant culture has to balance these various dimensions and strive for their mutual strengthening.

I found this perspective quite convincing. With this background in mind today, I should like to speak first about the relevance of creating different specific forms and formats in the organization of interdisciplinary research and dialogue. I will then pick up on three topics already mentioned by John Polkinghorne, topics that were successful in the interdisciplinary science and religion dialogue.

The John Templeton Foundation has in many ways been creative and innovative in supporting the science and religion discourse. It has supported a range of forms and formats of academic cooperation and interaction. I should first like to highlight my appreciation for research formats that Dr. Mary Ann Meyers has cultivated in the framework...

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