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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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Freedom within Religion. Religious Ethics and Social Life

1.  Introduction


I want to thank Jack Templeton and The Templeton Foundation and also Professor Welker and the FIIT for the kind invitation to speak at this important event. I was sorry to hear that Jean Elshtain and Michael Novak have taken ill and cannot be with us. All of us wish them a speedy recovery. This session has now changed from being a dialogue into a monologue. I don’t know if I am to be envied, since I know that I will get the last word, or pitied, because, well, I am shouldering this whole session. I once had a homiletics professor in seminar define “preaching” as “to bore unnecessarily”! I promise that I’ll try to avoid preaching as we explore a topic at the very heart of current social and political debate (consider the US Presidential election): “Religious Ethics in the Public Square. My main point will be that I think amid all of the turmoil of our time there is the emergence of a new form of freedom in relation to religion and that this freedom is the form of the good will in our social life. It is a fragile and difficult freedom, one that is opposed on many sides. This is why it needs articulation and defense. And that is my task in this brief lecture.

Immanuel Kant opens Section I of his famous Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals by stating that the “good will” is the only good thing in this...

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