3rd International Conference | Abstracts

Keynote Speaker:
Richard Swinburne

Our minds move our bodies. The implausibility of the causal closure of the physical

Much recent neuroscientific work, and in particular the programme initiated by Benjamin Libet, seeks to show “the causal closure of the physical” – that mental events never cause physical events, and in particular that our intentions never cause brain events and thereby our intentional bodily actions. But no one is justified in believing any scientific theory unless they are justified in believing that it successfully predicts certain events. Someone is justified in believing that certain events predicted by some theory did occur, if he apparently remembers having perceived these events or if some other scientist apparently testifies that he has perceived these events. But we believe our apparent memories of our past perceptions of events because we believe that perceiving those events has caused brain events which have caused our present apparent memories of them; and we believe the apparent testimony of others because we believe that their intentions to testify have caused brain events in them which in turn have caused the words of their testimony to come out of their mouths. So someone could only justifiably believe the theory that mental events never cause physical events if they believe that either their past perceptions or the intentions of other scientists to tell them what they perceived, both of which are kinds of mental events, have caused brain events, which are physical events. So that theory is self-defeating; no one could ever be justified in believing it, or more generally be justified in believing the theory of the causal closure of the physical.

 

Maria Bouri, Pediatrician

Medicine, suffering and death: palliation and the ethics of caring for those we cannot cure

The constitutional mission of medicine has been to free man from pain and suffering by fighting disease and conquering death. While in this perspective death may even be denied, during the actual provision of care, untreatable life-limiting conditions are still there and patients, including children, do suffer and die prematurely.
Recent emphasis on palliative and hospice care for incurably ill and dying persons, wherein spiritual care constitutes a defining attribute, points to a “paradigm shift” within contemporary medicine, from mastery and control to being with and accompanying. In this prospect, the definition of human dignity cannot be limited to self-determination and independence, autonomy obtains a relational character, and suffering exhibits its full dimensions, becoming thus irreducible to a remediable medical condition. Concurrently, research data show important gaps of care, patient dissatisfaction and “unnecessary” suffering, while the quest for eu-thanasia, in its literal meaning, remains unaddressed. Furthermore, ethical dilemmas in this context appear insurmountable as the dimension of suffering has been overlooked in bioethical debates. Data also reveal that health professionals experience “compassion fatigue” and other high costs of caring, deprived of sound moral foundations to sustain their efforts to care for terminally ill and dying patients.
Relevant discussions in the fields of philosophy of medicine, bioethics, theology and moral philosophy, seem to have reached a “dead-end”: while major issues have been identified by different thinkers (e.g. Pellegrino, Thomasma, Engelhardt, Hauerwas, MacIntyre, Taylor) and their views appear to converge, a broader narrative or world view to encompass and activate their profound insights is still pending. Orthodox theology with its fundamental beliefs, including the notion of prosopon, the prominence given to spiritual death, and the primacy of active presence over logical explanations of suffering and evil, is called to advance the dialogue and illuminate the pathways of both patients and health professionals, in the face of incurable illness and death.

 

David Bradshaw

Perceiving Nature As It Is: The Divine Logoi and the Divine Energies

Besides the theoretical understanding of natural phenomena sought by science, Christian teaching also recognizes the possibility of a quite different way of understanding nature, through direct spiritual insight. Such an alternative path is already adumbrated in the Psalms, where natural phenomena are described, not as objects of scientific study, but as vehicles of divine glory. Within the Greek patristic tradition this alternative form of understanding was cultivated primarily in two ways, both of which transform the way one perceives the sensible world: ascetic discipline and liturgical worship. Its object was also specified in two distinct (although closely related ways), as the divine logoi and the divine energies. The object of this paper is to present these various concepts and their interrelations so as to clarify precisely what is involved in seeing nature as it is.

 

Andrew Briggs

How the material world calls us to something beyond itself

Think of this material world which we inhabit as a house. We are curious people and so we want to learn about the house and how people live in it. We measure the dimensions of the rooms. We investigate the material of the floor and walls and ceilings. We find out how the house is wired for electricity: and how the plumbing works–especially when it doesn’t work! We may employ the social sciences and study how people interact in different rooms in the house–which rooms are more private and which are more public. One day, we discover that the house has windows, through which we can look to a wider landscape. We can open them, and let in the sunshine and warm breezes. The windows in the house call us to something beyond the house.
Two fast moving fields of technology are synthetic biology and machine learning. For many years we have known how to synthesis DNA with a limited number of base pairs. That number will rapidly become greater, with the prospect of genetic modification of humans. At first this could be used to cure diseases that are attributable to identified genetic defects. But will it stop there? We have long known how to modify crops for enhanced performance. What criteria should we use for deciding what modification of humans is desirable and acceptable? The branch of AI known as machine learning is already widely used by the big internet companies for targeted marketing. AlphaGo is better than humans at playing Go. In my own laboratory, machine learning is better at deciding what to measure next than a second-year graduate student. As machines learn to undertake an increasing range of tasks which previously only humans could do, how shall we choose shared goals?
The relationship between science and Christian theology is becoming relatively mature. The next challenge is to use those resources to understand what it will mean to be human in a world of accelerating technological possibilities. This will need to include the transcendent dimension.

 

Rev. Doru Costache

Anthropology at the Crossroads: The Contribution of Panayiotis Nellas

Contemporary scientific culture, particularly evolutionary anthropology, with its naturalistic appraisal of the human phenomenon, challenges the way Christians represented the human being in previous ages. For the new anthropology, the human being is not the privileged, supernaturally moulded creation of God which transcends biology. Instead, it is the product of random natural occurrences, a fortunate outcome of biological necessity. To many Christians, this new picture of the human being lacks dignity and excludes traditional values. Their perception finds confirmation in the broader framework of cosmology, which postulates an infinite universe deprived of qualitative landmarks. Lost in this infinite universe, the human being does no longer appear as the royal inhabitant of the centre, the first citizen of a meaningful cosmos. Instead, the human being dwells on a common planet situated at the outskirts of a typical galaxy within the local cluster, adrift in the immensity of a boundless universe. Against this backdrop, quantitatively, no significance can be attached to the human being and its values. When they first realised the implications of the new cultural paradigm, the instinctive reaction of many Christians, first west and then east, was to deny everything—nature, evolution, the infinite universe. To this day, being terrified by the prospect of meaninglessness, certain Orthodox Christians seek refuge behind the walls of biblical literalism or rather the schematised, supernaturalistic anthropology of the middle ages. Their take on the human being lends support to the traditional values indeed, but, within the framework of contemporary scientific culture, the values collapse together with the simplistic foundation upon which they are built. A different approach holds the solution for the impasse. Not being prone to reductionist thinking, Panayiotis Nellas (1936-1986) redrafted traditional anthropology, anchored in scriptural, patristic, and liturgical sources, in the parameters of contemporary science. The outcome was a realistic and complex figure of the human being—biological as well as theological, distinct from the cosmic array as well as consubstantial with it—one which lent firmer support to the traditional values. Herein I focus on the aspects of complexity, holistic dynamism, and integration of theology and science pertaining to Nellas’ representation of the human being. I propose that his anthropological thinking illustrates a better way of handling the matter at hand, free of fear, denial, and reductionism, by assimilating the science within a rigorous theological anthropology. I further propose that in so doing it proves to be a most efficient way to promote the traditional values in contemporary world.

 

Rev. François Euvé

The scientific vision of the world and the theology of creation: Is there a difference between East and West?

The scientific knowledge of the world in the precise sense of the word was developed in Greek antiquity. A change is taking place in modern times. With Galileo, physics becomes mathematical. Nature is considered according to an atomic and mechanical model. It has no internal purpose. Modern science is closely associated with a technique, i.e. an action by which man transforms his environment. If we refer in particular to the philosopher Michael Foster, we can think that this change is linked to a certain theology of creation or to a certain reading of the Bible. There would thus be a link between the Christian (Western) tradition and the emergence of modern science as "technoscience". For this, it would be interesting to return to the first elaborations of a Christian theology of the creation of the world in order to see if there is a difference of sensitivity between East and West. As a case study, we can compare the readings of the biblical account of creation by two reference authors, Basil of Caesarea for the Orthodox East and Augustine of Hippo for the Latin West. We will see that the relations between God, man and nature are not the same for these two authors.

 

Bruce V. Foltz

Orthodox Christianity and the Archaic Experience of Nature

Figures as diverse as Lossky, Florensky, and Romanides have argued that Orthodox Christianity is grounded in experience—the experience of the Apostles, of the Fathers, of great Orthodox ascetics. However, this is not ordinary, everyday experience, but what I will term “archaic experience,” primal experience in the sense of being primary, archaic in the sense of being near to the archē, the origin or beginning—“originary” experience. It is the domain of experience toward which the mysteries of the Church lead us, the realm of what Evagrios called theōria physikē, “seeing into nature. It bears a kinship to the experience of traditional peoples, for whom nature is everywhere symbolic in its very being, presenting an interface of visible and invisible worlds. It is the realm of experience to which Christ said we must return through childlike humility (Matthew 18: 3-4), becoming “pure at heart,” that we might see God (Matthew 5:8). It is the poetic experience of nature articulated in the Psalms of David, showing us how creation constitutes God’s first revelation to us.

Such archaic experience of nature is also implied by Aldo Leopold, arguably the founder of environmentalism, in holding that no positive change in our dealings with the environment can take place without an “intense consciousness of land.” Orthodox Christianity has preserved this archaic consciousness of nature in its deepest, most authentic form—for example, seeing nature as infused with divine energies, or seeing the logos of each creature as mirroring the Eternal Logos, its icons training our eyes to seek the heavenly within the earthly. Drawing upon the later work of Florensky, especially his critique of the modern or Enlightenment worldview as closing us off from experiencing God in nature, this paper will argue for the need for a retrieval of this archaic experience of nature, as best embodied in Orthodox theology and ascetic practice, in its iconography and liturgies. It will conclude with brief citations from contemporary ascetics such as Sts Paisios and Porphyrios.

 

Peter Harrison

Comparative Histories and the Emergence of Modern Science

An implication of the commonplace idea of ‘the scientific revolution’ is that the modern science began in the West in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This raises the obvious question of why modern science seems to be a product of the West, and why comparable scientific cultures did not emerge and consolidate elsewhere. Part of the answer is to do with features of Western Christendom that were absent from other cultural traditions. The usual comparative cases are China, India, and medieval Islam. In this paper I consider the alternative comparative case of Orthodox thought, and suggest that focusing on key differences between Eastern and Western theological thinking is highly illuminative for understanding the specific conditions that led to the emergence and legitimation of modern science in the West.

 

Pantelis Kalaitzidis

The Disenchantment of the World in Eastern Orthodox Tradition and its Importance for a Constructive Dialogue Between Orthodoxy and Science, East and West

The paper intends to deal with the crucial question if there is a disenchantment process in the Eastern Christian tradition as the one described and analyzed by Marcel Gauchet in his now classic work The disenchantment of the World. Taking as starting point the contention that Christianity is “the religion of the end of religion,” the paper will examine pertinent resources from the Orthodox tradition and will attempt to highlight their relevance and potential for today’s issues such as the challenge of the secular and post-secular society, the dialogue between Orthodoxy and science, and the divide East-West. To this end, the writings of both patristic authors and contemporary Orthodox theologians, especially those of the French Orthodox historian and theologian Olivier Clément, will be at the center of our discussion.

 

Rev. Panagiotis Kapodistrias

The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the “green Patriarch” as the spearhead of a new ecological ethos and change of mentality concerning the natural environment

Three decades ago, the Ecumanical Patriarchate undertook initiatives to raise public awareness on the problem of ecology. Patriarch Bartholomew is personally the spearhead of an important initiative, through addresses, scientific symposia with the participation of religious leaders and specialized scientists, theological texts, and lectures at official fora throughout the world, aiming at showing that the problem is mainly spiritual-ethical, and that authentic Christians are frugal and self-sufficient, because behind the created world they see and pay respect to the great Creator of all, the Triadic God. This means that humans must act as housekeepers, guardians and ministers of God’s Creation.
This awareness effort has also mobilized the Roman Catholic Church, with Pope Francis also commemorating September 1 as Day of Prayers for the Natural Environment, first established by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1989. The overall ecological-environmental initiatives of the Ecumenical Throne were officially sealed with particular mentions in the acts of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church (Crete, 2016). The effort and actions of Bartholomew, the so-called “green Patriarch”, continue as we speak.

 

Rev. Kiril Kopeikin

Science and theology: the prospects for a fruitful mutually beneficial cooperation

As is known, the EU’s Horizon 2020 program for research and innovation launched a search for technological projects that would offer the greatest future potential, called the Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship. As a result, two principal research orientations were identified, and two mega-projects were initiated :
1) Graphene Flagship is, rather, a technical project, and
2) The Human Brain Project. This, as is well known, has had several serious problems and has had to be redesigned.

A) I think that the difficulties that have arisen are in themselves quite revealing. I am convinced that describing physical reality demands a fundamentally new approach – a view ‘from the inside’ that is typical to theological discourse and that makes the involvement of theology unavoidable. The key to solving this problem, in my opinion, is that the Bible may be seen not only, and primarily not, as relating external events, but rather as a narrative about the internal life and the structure of the human soul. As a result of many centuries of spiritual searching, the Bible's symbolic language is best suited to describe the dynamics of the human interior world. Biblical stories taken for cosmological theories or mythological histories are essentially projections of the psyche's deep archetypal structures. The key to finding universal psychic structures is mathematics, which has truly incredible and seemingly mutually exclusive properties. Mathematics is at once ideal in the sense that there are no mathematical objects in nature, they only exist in the human mind. Yet mathematics is also universal in the sense that it is equally representable for all peoples, irrespective of their ethnic or confessional affiliation. We know of no other ideal universal constructs. In all likelihood, the nature of these (psychic) forces which create mathematical reality, is one for all people. This is the only way to explain that "subjective" mathematics can be demonstrated as universal and general. Finally, mathematics demonstrates, in the expression of Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner, an ‘unreasonable effectiveness’ in the natural sciences. This has always amazed physicists (such as Einstein, Dirac, Wigner, Dyson), and mathematicians who have made significant contributions to physics (such as Klein, Hilbert, Minkowski, Weyl). There is a sense of archetypal parallelism between the creation of the world and the human fashioning of a mathematical universe, established in the image and likeness of the cosmic Creator. Indeed, mathematics creates something out of nothing through the work of the mathematician-creator. He creates in his own internal, psychic reality just as the world, according to the biblical narrative, was created ex nihilo by the word of God, in Whom (ἐν αὐτῷ) 'we live and move and have our being' (Acts 17:28). According to Francis Bacon, one of the founding fathers of modern science, the study of the Book of Nature, which is complementary to the Bible, gives the key to the understanding of Scripture ("On the Dignity and Advancement of Learning"). The main conclusion of natural science, first formulated by Galileo, is the following: The Book of Nature is written in the language of mathematics and, as Galileo emphasised, mathematical cognition of the world “by objective certainty is equal to that of the divine” (Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo). If we turn to an existential reading of the Bible's six days of creation in the 'mathematical' context of the creation of mathematics by the word of the mathematician-creator ex nihilo, we may extend mathematical structure with existentially experienced ('psychically') significant content and establish a new concept of the 'im-material' symbolic 'two-dimensional' language that permits the description of the physical for the objective 'exterior' world as well as the subjective 'interior', psychic world. I would term such a project Mind T(h)e(chn)ology.
3) Now the EU is launching another project; the Quantum Technology Flagship. In an attempt not to fall behind America and China, it intends to start in 2018 an initiative in quantum technologies with a billion euros of financing . This could place Europe on the cusp of a ‘second quantum revolution’ and lead to a radical transformation of the sciences, industry and society. Two years earlier, the Quantum Europe 2016 conference in Amsterdam adopted the Quantum Manifesto. This formulates a general strategy intended to set Europe at the avant garde of the second quantum revolution.

B) I am convinced that the involvement of theology is unavoidable for the achievement of such goals. The fact is that quantum mechanics arose and developed not as a description of reality, but as a description of the results of observations. This recalls Ptolemy's geocentric system: perfectly explaining the observable movement of the plants from earth, but not the physical reality. Achieving a breakthrough in quantum information technologies, establishing an effective means of quantum cryptography and quantum computers knowing only quantum formalism is about the same as launching an artificial satellite from Earth using the Ptolemaic system. I am certain that a 'Copernican revolution' in the world of sub-atomic particles will become possible by resorting to the Biblical tradition that presents its view of the 'interior' of being. The surprisingly deep correspondence of the mathematical (‘psychic’, ‘internal’) model of the universe to the outside world compels us to pose the question not only about the structural, but also about the ontological nature of this correspondence. Remembering the philosophical and theological context in which Modern European scientific investigation arose, it is logical to assume that the correspondence between the internal ‘psychic’ mathematical model and the external physical world is not limited to their structural likeness, but can be extended into the realm of ontology. This allows one to resolve the problem of the interpretation of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics and move from a description of the results of observations to a description of reality itself. This approach allows us to include psychic reality in the scientific picture of the world and to bring the second quantum revolution to bear, for indeed it is the psyche which is the true 'habitat' for (quantum) information. I would call such a project Quantum T(h)e(chn)ology.
It seems to me that both of these research projects I have proposed – Mind Te(chn)ology and Quantum T(h)e(chn)ology – are quite able to fit into the contemporary scientific mainstream and can become a ‘point of growth’ for a renewed, fruitful interaction between theology and science.

 

Alexandre Kostov and Ivaylo Nachev

Ecology and environment from an Orthodox perspective: current encounters in Bulgaria

The Orthodox perspective on ecological problems has been scarcely present in contemporary discussions in Bulgaria. Yet, recently increasing interest among Orthodox Christians suggests that this perspective might contribute to building bridges in society, helping to meet growing ecological challenges. The paper is discussing the main positions of Orthodox Christians and the role of the mainstream Bulgarian Orthodox Church in this respect. It seeks to answer questions such as what are the ecological and environmental aspects which attract most attention and who are the agents which facilitate the discussions. Also, in the focus is the attitude towards the secular environmental movements gaining significant popularity. The paper claims that while there is clear willingness from the Orthodox side to engage in environmental issues, scientific advance and specific achievements are rarely included in the Orthodox discourse (the opposite, the neglect of the Orthodox thought by scientific community applies even stronger). The paper will elaborate on possible options for exchanges between religious and scientific circles on views and ideas in a field of common interest.

 

Rev. Sergey Krivovichev

Information and the hierarchy of nature: theological implications

The idea that nature, like the invisible spiritual world, has a hierarchical structure had long been recognized in the Orthodox theology. For instance, among the relatively recent Saints, St. Theophan the Recluse Vyshensky admitted ‘…the existence of the ladder of immaterial forces with soul-like properties. Mutual attraction, chemical affinity, crystallization, plants, animals – are all produced by corresponding immaterial forces that are going up in a sequential order. The substrate of all the forces is the soul of the world. Creating this immaterial soul, God inserted into it the ideas of all the creatures and, through His decree and excitation, it generates’ the world.
One of the most important borders between different hierarchical levels of nature is that between life and non-life. Russian naturalist V.I. Vernadsky pointed out the validity of the Redi principle ‘life from life’ and, despite the considerable efforts and successes in understanding the molecular machinery of life, there is still a continuing debate about the differences between living and inanimate nature. The origin and even a definition of life are still unresolved issues in contemporary biology. However, ‘…there is general agreement that its informational aspect is one key property, and perhaps the key property’.
Our recent exploration of the role of information in mineralogy and inorganic chemistry allowed to develop numerical information-based measures of complexity of the mineral kingdom, which is a basic constituent of the non-living nature. The quantitative comparison of structural complexity of inorganics and living organisms revealed the difference of at least five orders of magnitude, comparable with differences in species diversity. The same gap can be seen between the structural complexities of a single cell (as a smallest substrate of life) and the brain as a substrate of a human mind.
The reported observations provide a direct support for the idea of non-continuous hierarchical order of nature and its sequential appearance in the passage of cosmological time, on which both Scripture and modern science agree. Despite the differences in terminology, the view that information is the ultimate reality of nature (informational realism) seems to be in general agreement with the teachings of Maximus the Confessor and other Fathers about the underlying structure of the material world.

 

Adrian Lemeni

The iconic structure of reason, testified by the Patristic Tradition: A significant aspect in the ecclesial approach of the relationship between Orthodox theology and science

The symbolic dimension of thought is the reality which significantly influences the relationship between faith and reason, between theology and science. Under the conditions of the alienation of symbolic thinking, we can observe not only a misunderstanding of the connection between reason and faith but also a distortion of the specific identity of reason and belief. Since I believe that the iconic structure of reason can be a significant aspect for the articulation and development of an ecclesial relationship between Orthodox theology and science, in this presentation, I will focus on past and present issues relevant to this topic, in order that I might shape and consolidate a perspective of encouraging the dialogue between theology and science, assuming the specificity of the Orthodox Tradition.
As a significant moment in the past, I will refer to the origin of modern science in an attempt to overcome certain ideological approaches in the history of science which states a discontinuity between modern science and the sciences of the Middle Ages, a superiority of modern science to the sciences of medieval tradition and renaissance, starting from the founding bias of modernists that they invented their own tradition, escaping from the past and ideologically promoting the myth of progress. The alienation of the iconic dimension of reason through modern science is radicalized in the current context by the technological system as an environment for the promotion of technical reasoning. In today's information society there is a risk of believing that information is equivalent to knowledge. Under these circumstances, the highlighting of the limits of computational reason can be an interface in the encounter between the theological and the scientific perspective. At the end of the paper, I intend to emphasize that the iconic structure of reason witnessed consistently by the Patristic Tradition can be a solid ground for developing a dialogue between Orthodox theology and science, assumed in an ecclesial key.

 

Tatiana Litvin

Knowledge of God and the phenomenological foundations of religious experience: modern interpretations

In this paper I consider the methodology in the study of religious experience, in particularly, of the knowledge of God, with the support of modern philosophical approaches. The dialogue of science and religion had various forms in different periods of its existence - conflict, confrontation, cooperation, coexistence, - all these forms are to some extent present in modern theology. The question of the knowledge of God in modern Orthodox theology is usually put on the basis of traditional forms of patristic heritage, that is, relying on the hermeneutic and philosophical experience of medieval thought. However, not always the reconstruction of the tradition leads to theological conclusions. Already in the Middle Ages the question of God-knowledge included the theory of knowledge, the platonic tradition of contemplation or the genre of Aristotelian commentary. And the knowledge of God now is also seen as an experience of thinking and the phenomenon of consciousness, the nature of which is understood through the philosophical forms of reflection.
The special attention will be paid to the phenomenological approach. After the “theological turn” of the French school the theological interpretation of the inner experience of thinking becomes significant for the continental tradition. In particular, the ideas of J. L. Marion and Greek theologian J.P. Manoussakis will be examined, the view of post-metaphysical philosophy on religious experience, in which both science and faith become unite in the special dialectic of knowledge of God.

 

Vasilios Makrides

Religion Matters: Why has a Scientific Revolution not Taken Place in the Orthodox East?

This paper attempts to address an old and highly debated issue, namely that of the potential connection between religion and the advancement of science. More specifically, it is about the potential role of Western Latin Christianity (especially of Protestantism, but also Roman Catholicism in the long run) in enabling the appearance of the so-called “Scientific Revolution” in Western Europe, which is roughly situated between 1543 and 1687. We are speaking here of a breakthrough in science and technology, which changed the profile of the West and had a catalytic influence in the subsequent centuries worldwide. Needless to say, this was not an isolated incident in Western history, but one deeply embedded within the broader canvas of the radical transformations that came to be characterized as “modernity”. The potential connection of Western Christianity and especially of the Reformation with the rise of modern science has been discussed since long, particularly after the contribution of Robert K. Merton in the context of the well-known Weberian paradigm. Nonetheless, it has generated quite some criticism as to the importance that may attributed to the factor “religion” in this frame. This is because the overall social, political, economic, cultural and intellectual contours of Western Europe as a whole were much more instrumental in enabling the rise of modern science. Bearing this mind, does religion matter in our context? This paper will try to look at this issue by taking the other side into consideration, namely the Orthodox East where no Scientific Revolution has ever taken place.

 

Rev. Antoine Melki

The Antiochian Scientific Mindset: its Evolution and Contemporary Challenges

The mindset of a community is the result of a series of experiences. In the case of the Church of Antioch, it is difficult to draw a connection between its tradition and the challenges faced in the present, especially in the issues requesting the interaction between theology and sciences.. The main difficulty is the lack of studies highlighting the evolution of the Antiochian ethos which makes some sort of chronology a necessity to understand the present, highlighting the major stations and spelling the elements that contributed to the development of the present Antiochian mindset. The Orthodox Antiochian community, which is the oldest in the Fertile Crusade, had been under a huge influence of many external factors since the arrival of Islam, including Catholicism, Protestantism and later Greek and Russian Orthodoxy. This influence can be discerned in the politics, psychology, sociology, theology and administration of the present Antiochian community and institutions. Some important aspects will be brought to light throughout this presentation. This study is not historical but one aiming to analyze the existing historical data to perform a projection on the current streams in the life of the Church of Antioch community. The conclusion is an attempt to locate Antioch on a two dimensional grid, whose dimensions are Theology and Sciences. The methodology in this exercise is the positioning of Orthodox Antioch based on contemporary issues where science or its pseudo lie behind the stance like bioethics, emerging technologies, and digitalization.

 

Georgios Meskos

Science at the edge of Eternity

Many physicists and other scientist researchers, in order to overcome the deadlocks of Quantum Theory and General Theory of Relativity, or all that is related to the mind-brain problem and the nature of consciousness, opt for the adoption of an exdended physical reality. A line of thought represented among others by Joulian Barbour, Roger Penrose and Lee Smolin seeks to extend the physical reality only with the tools of physics and mathematics. Wolfram Schommers considers that the basic physical reality goes beyond the image of the reality that our brain forms and on this basis forms its own model. A very large number of researchers, of all specialties, extends and deepens the study of the relationship of mind with physical reality by formulating a variety of scientific views, some of which are indeed impressive. All of these researchers introduce in one way or another an extended physical reality which has as a common denominator the eternity from which the temporality emerges by physical processes. In this sense, many religious experiences are the result of the structure of the physical world. Iain McGilchrist in The Master and His Emission, The Divided Brain and The Making of the Western World, explains and interprets why the human brain, although coming in contact and knowing this eternal reality, had to discover it again through the language of mathematics and physics.

 

Alexey Nesteruk

The Dialogue between Theology and Science, and an Irreducible Ambiguity in Hermeneutics of the Subject: A Phenomenological Analysis

This paper represents a direct continuation and development of my stance on the sense of the dialogue between theology and science as it is seen through the eyes of phenomenological philosophy and its extension towards theology, outlined at the SOW Conference in February 2018. I further interpret the paradoxical position of humanity in the world (being an object in the world and subject for the world) to be the source and manifestation of the split between science and theology. Since, according to modern philosophy of the subject, no reconciliation between two opposites in the hermeneutics of the subject is possible, the whole issue of the facticity of human subjectivity as the sense-bestowing centre of being acquires theologico-anthropological dimensions requiring new developments in theology and philosophy. The intended overcoming of the unknowability of man by himself (encoded in the paradox of subjectivity) attempted implicitly through the “reconciliation” of science and theology (guided by a purpose to find or return “home” for man, to ground man in some kind of metaphysical substance) is not ontologically achievable, but implies teleology as a formal purposefulness, that is teleology without a material purpose (in the sense of Kant). Then the dialogue between theology and science can be also considered as a formally teleological activity, that is activity without a purpose remaining thus an existential infinite task of humanity.

 

Suzana Polic

Dialogue between the technologist and the theologian on electronic personality

Contemporary efforts to protect the rights of robots as electronic personalities point to the existence of a semantic noise in understanding the notion of personality. Starting from the view of robots who have technologists and considering the perception of robot as a personality in the public space, this paper discusses the necessity of dialogue between technologists and theologians in eliminating semantic noises. The thesis is that such a dialogue should start with the question of the contemporary man's goals in terms about category of time, which would make it possible to better understand the question of intersubjectivity on the plan of the electronic personality semantics in dissociative space of modern mediation between the subject and the posthumanism world.

 

Sandy Sakorrafou

Science, Religion and Bioethical Issues in Greek Orthodox Journals (1998 to the present)

The landmark year for the development of the sphere of public bioethics in Greece was 1998, when the Hellenic National Bioethics Commission was established, and the Church of Greece also proceeded to the creation of the Special Synodical Committee for Bioethics. The main objectives of the latter were to form the official position of the Church on the emerging ethical issues from the advances in biology and medicine, as well as to responsibly inform the Greek Christian people of the way in which the latest biotechnological applications affect their lives. It was under these circumstances that the participation of several Greek Orthodox journals in the debate on bioethical issues was considered legitimate. The present paper aims at exploring the perception of various controversial bioethical issues (such as brain death, euthanasia and assisted reproduction) by certain Greek Orthodox circles as this is made manifest in representative Greek Orthodox periodicals from the period 1998 to the present. It will be shown that their views are shaped not only by Orthodox Christian theological education and practice but also by certain perceptions of science and its relationship with Orthodoxy.

 

Petros Vassiliadis

The anthropological dimension of the orthodoxy-science relation

The paper deals with the understanding of the relationship between Science and the Orthodox Church by examining her relationship to modernity, especially on the crucial issue of Christian anthropology. As a presupposition it first deals with the examination of Orthodoxy as an ecclesial category, and especially by focusing on its eschatological dimension, and by extension on the importance of her “Eucharistic,” dimension, The Eucharist is always understood in its authentic perception as a proleptic manifestation of the Kingdom of God, as a symbol and image of an alternative reality, something that makes all human efforts and pursuits, including science, somewhat redundant.
Eschatology, however, being the starting point of the Church’s witness to the world, does not mean detachment from the history. Very crucial is, therefore, the relationship between the Church’s (eschatological) identity and her (historical) witness. The Church exists not for herself, but for the world. The tension between the ecclesial identity and our modern pluralistic society, based primarily on science, especially the social and anthropological ones, is one of the most important chapters in the Orthodox Church’s witness today and her relation to science.
To thoroughly examine the Church-science relation the paper focuses on four areas: (a) The Church’s attitude toward modernity, and science as a “modern” (and post-modern) phenomenon. The Church cannot exercise her mission in today’s world in a meaningful and effective way without a certain encounter with modernity. (b) The new understanding of Christian mission, especially in view of the decisions of the Orthodox Church’s recent Holy and Great Council, which in general endorses science. The old mission paradigm, in straight opposition to the science, in the form of opposition to the evolution theory at the beginning of last century, and on the level of anthropology in our present time, with fundamentalists continuing to fight the “culture war”, needs a re-assessment. (c) The importance of the rediscovery of the Church’s authentic eschatological identity is contrasted to a distorted understanding of it in the form of the humanistic eschatology. With its optimistic understanding of history, it led to a dangerous development in Orthodoxy, opposing the…faithless, corrupted, or even heretic, West, in the case of the recent Russkiy Mir theory, with clear consequences on the issue of the Ukrainian autocephaly. And (d) the anthropological dimension of the Orthodox-science relation, centered on the concept of human identity, the most debated issues of which are those on gender theory and on the nature and role of women in Church and society.

 

Haralampos Ventis

The Enduring Temptation of Scientistic Reductionism as the Secular equivalent to Religious Literalism

In my paper, I shall endeavor to address the issue of scientistic reductionism as a perennial problem parasitic to real science. Reductionism is a richly layered term with several distinct connotations (ontological as well as methodological), which nevertheless share a common denominator: the idea that complex systems can always be understood by being reduced to their individual parts. Reductionism is frequently identified with materialism, as for example in the highly popular eliminativist tendency in the Philosophy of Mind to explain all mental activity (and the entire notion of “mind” as such) in purely physical terms. As denoted here, reductionism (αναγωγισμός, in Greek) is not synonymous with materialism per se, for I firmly hold that in their own different ways, science and Christianity are both thoroughly materialist projects in their respective accounts of reality. In my sense of it, the term refers rather to the sort of mentality that tends to explain away qualitatively complex layers of reality in advance, usually in a rush to offer the simplest possible explanation of how the world is made and runs. The latter goal, while not necessarily erroneous, does I submit become problematic when existence in its unfathomable totality gets “cut down to size,” in Thomas Nagel’s famous phrase, meaning that it is unreflectively reduced to the size of human conceptuality – an arbitrary leap that simply assumes with no supporting evidence but with clandestine arrogance that reality at large is correlative with what is humanly graspable. One major problem with reductionism, particularly of the scientistic sort, is that its metaphysical core goes easily unnoticed thanks to its pronounced materialism and implied, unacknowledged assumptions, whose combined might give it a misleading plausibility. It these assumptions and their detrimental consequences for real science that I wish to pinpoint and bring to the fore in my paper, with a view to suggesting that contrary to its materialist aims, reductionism amounts in truth to a very peculiar, unexpected form of idealism.

 

Gayle Woloschak

Orthodox Perspectives on Gene Editing: Ramifications of CRISPR Technology

Applications of human rights concerns that began in the 20th century have resulted in today’s use of informed consent and Institutional Review Board approvals to safe-guard the patient from therapies that have questionable value and possible unethical “human testing”. Approaches for gene editing became available in the 1980’s world-wide, but their accuracy was such that it caused many off-target effects preventing their use for human therapy. During the past decade, however, new approach for more accurate genome editing became available through the use of the CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology. This approach has higher fidelity and specificity than previous approaches and new ways to improve it are discovered daily. While protection of single human individuals is under the purview of institutional review committees, no equivalent committees exist with the expressed goal of protecting humanity as a whole from genome editing technologies. While one can argue that the somatic cell applications of CRISPR fit well within the standard of current approaches, evaluation of germ-line applications of such technology do not. Because germ line changes have the potential to modify the gene pool of all of humanity decisions about such changes should probably not be evaluated by a single hospital or medical center. Further, even somatic modifications may be of some concern since applications that involve enhancement of human function (rather than treatment of disease) could be questionable. The Orthodox Church has so far had little discussion on this important issue; it is sorely needed.

 

Donald Yerxa

Science and Religion in Historical Perspective: Some Thoughts from the Engaged Periphery

From where I sit on the periphery of the science-and-religion dialogue, there some things that give me pause. But the historical scholarship exploring the interaction between science and religion is not one of them. Using the tools of academic history, a cadre of talented scholars has provided a rich understanding of the past interactions between science and religion in the West. Not the least of their contributions has been the effective demolition of a number of persistent myths. The asymmetry I find present in some sectors of the science-and-religion conversation is absent in this impressive body of historical scholarship. A mature science-and-religion conversation within Orthodoxy needs to be conversant with this literature to better understand the fundamental questions and issues that emerged in the West. This is essential for establishing a comparative framework of what is both common and unique to the Western and Orthodox contexts.

 

DAY 3/WORKSHOP ABSTRACTS

 

 

 
 
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