September 19, 2015

Religion and science dialogue is slowly becoming less western

The belief that scientific worldviews provide sufficient information and motivation to galvanize widespread action on environmental issues is gaining adherents both within and beyond the academy. The turn to science for materials from which to construct a new cosmology is evident in a variety of emerging movements that go by such names as the Epic of Evolution, The Great Story, the Journey of the Universe, The New Story, and Big History. As environmental problems intensify, proponents of these new cosmologies claim that what is called for is an evidence-based global story and a common ethic. Implicit or explicit in these movements is a conviction that existing religious traditions are too parochial (lacking global appeal) and too far removed from scientific realities and contemporary environmental concerns. Proponents of the new cosmology believe that the physical and biological sciences reveal the distinctly storied nature of our cosmos—a story that belongs to all—and that this cosmic story will inspire wonder and deep concern for the planetary biota, because its core narrative is both universal and true. On this view, scientific narratives can satisfy our deep-seated need for meaning, ritual, and ethical guidance, while firmly grounding us in evolutionary and cosmic realities. The new cosmology thus invests science with mythic, revelatory power; far from disenchanting our world, science is celebrated as a primary vehicle for restoring wonder, meaning, and value.

Religion, Science, and the Multiplication of the Multiple in Worlds Without End - Friday, September 4, 2015 — Beatrice Marovich
In his introduction to the recently published Science & Religion: One Planet, Many Possibilities (Routledge 2014), Whitney Bauman—while acknowledging that the religion and science dialogue is slowly becoming less western, and less Christian—argues that there are still a number of critical “lacunae” in the field. These lacunae are related to content. But they’re also related to ethical, epistemological, and ontological issues. 
  • First, Bauman argues that the field has been too limiting in its consideration of reason, looking for it always in either Christianity or modern western science, rather than acknowledging the more multiple situation of rationalities. 
  • Second, the field has failed to acknowledge the ways in which religion and science are “co-constituted”, rather than having formed as isolated islands. 
  • Third, the field seems unable to account for, or address, “hybrid religious identities” or “post-religious identities”. 
  • All of these are related to the fourth lacuna, which is the field’s failure to embrace multi-perspectivalism (1). 
The volume was designed to counteract these latent tendencies of the discipline, and to address these lacunae. Contributors historicize the field of religion and science and pull it in new directions, bringing it into conversation with discourses on the secular, unbelief, animal studies, Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, shamanism, magic, and technological ritualism. There is, it seems to me, a kind of multiplication going on in the field right now: filling up the thin and fragile shell of a disciplinary structure that has historically been rigid and narrow with new content, a different set of thinkers and questions, and live intersections other disciplines in both the sciences and the humanities. Indeed, it seems that the field may be starting to catch up with interdisciplinary research in science and technology studies that has already been shaping other disciplines in the humanities for years. The extent to which the field has also begun to engage decolonial and critical race perspectives is less apparent—perhaps a fifth lacuna. [...]

Defending religion’s claims to reason, and disarticulating its association with the irrational, becomes a primary motive behind the apologetics of the religion-science dialogue. Rubenstein, for her part, is critical of the fixation on reason that she finds—even (perhaps especially) among theologians. Against this fixation, in her concluding chapter, she brings in the voice of Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a thinker, I likely need not note, not often central to conversations on religion and science. Rubenstein works to make space, in the cosmic scene she begins to unfold, for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—rather than the God of the philosophers, alone. Less than invoke his presence, she simply suggests that—in the wake of all this science, this theory—his total disappearance is not necessarily a given.

This is not an apologetic for the bearded patriarch but instead, I think, related to the second to last thought in the front matter of the book. In concluding, Rubenstein muses that, perhaps, if cosmology—whether it be religious or scientific—could account for the sort of plurisingularity that she’s working to bring to life in the text then theology might also begin to ask “more interesting and more pressing questions than whether the universe has been ‘designed’ by an anthropomorphic, exracosmic deity.” (236) The final line, of course, is a provocation: “So let us begin again…” And I don’t think the provocation is merely rhetorical. Rubenstein may not be doing extensive theological labor here, but I do think that she’s working to clear a new set of footpaths—to open new terrain for inquiry. And perhaps, when it comes to the disciplinary site of contestation that’s emerged in conversations about religion and science, this is where she’s doing the most to reconstitute it: provoking us to start again, at the beginning(s). But differently. Provoking us to think about the other possible worlds of discourse that have already been growing and developing, as we’ve long been convinced that only one discourse, or one conversation, has been playing out.

Scientists used to scan the skies for messages from alien civilisations. Now they go looking for their ruins

[Bellah like Latour shows how we have never been modern; that is, the West has never gone without myth and religion.]

[Hindu devotional practices: darshan, pranam. Sri Aurobindo permitted and in some cases encouraged these expressions]

[Mediating this critical choice is the life and work of Sri Aurobindo, throwing a powerful beacon ahead of us into..]

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