Focal points and methodological issues in the research of Science - Orthodoxy relations

National Hellenic Research Foundation
Seminar room - ground floor

26 February 2017


Within the framework of the First International Conference, a workshop titled “Focal points and methodological issues in the research of Science - Orthodoxy relations” is organized on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at the National Hellenic Research Foundation, with the participation of science & Orthodoxy researchers, who will offer various insights into methodological issues that arise from the study of the current science-religion dialog in the Orthodox Christian world.

Following is the program of the workshop and abstracts of the participants’ papers.



Chair: Meropi Morfouli*


9:45: Gathering of participants

10:00: Ivaylo Nachev, “Mapping the science and Orthodoxy dialogue in Bulgaria: main topics and methodological challenges”.

10:15: Aleksandra Stevanović, “The Question of Orthodox Experience in Serbia”

10:30: Discussion


10:45: Gianna Katsiampoura, “A debate on the theory of evolution in Greek education system”

11:00: Alexandra Stavinschi, “Science and Orthodoxy in the Romanian literature: recurrent themes and emerging trends”.

11:15: Kostas Tampakis, “Science and Orthodoxy in English: A typology of sources”.

11:30: Discussion


11:45: Coffee Break


12:00: Dmitry Saprykin, “The Orthodox Tradition in the formation of personality and the scientific interests of the 20th-century greatest Russian scientists and engineers”.

12:15: Miriam Asliturk, “The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and its Views on Science”

12:30: Discussion


12:45: Evdoxie Delli, “At the intersection of Modern Psychology and Patristic theology: theoretical pluralism and methodological issues on Soul and Anthropology”

13:00: Vangelis Koutalis, “Forms of validation of knowledge in modern sciences and in Eastern Orthodox tradition”.

13:15: Discussion

*SYRTE, Observatoire de Paris,
PSL Research University, CNRS,
Sorbonne Universités,
UPMC Univ. Paris 06, LNE,
61 avenue de l'Observatoire, 75014 Paris, France
This work is supported by the cluster of excellence FIRST-TF via public grant from the French National Research




Dr Miriam Asliturk

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and its Views on Science

While our research project focuses on how the Orthodox churches in various countries relate to science and scientific development, it is important to put some focus on the views of the large Diaspora formed by exiles from Soviet Russia, largely in the years 1917-1922. Émigré churches, represented by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), came into being soon after the October Revolution as a response against Soviet policy with respect to religion. This church was formally established in Yugoslavia, and moved its headquarters to the United States after the Second World War. ROCOR catered to Russian Orthodox émigrés around the world, playing an important role during the Second World War in supporting Soviet and other Orthodox soldiers, and seeing itself as the preserver of Russian orthodoxy untainted by collaboration with Soviet authorities.

At the same time, a number of Russian and Soviet émigrés were scientists and continued to publish as scientists outside of Russia. Even more importantly, the Soviet Union presented itself as a bastion of scientific and technical progress. ROCOR could not have been indifferent, particularly to the latter.

It will be interesting to delve into this more deeply, to see whether ROCOR had any official or non-official reflections, either in response to Soviet advances in science and technology, or to the scientific work conducted by Russian/Soviet émigré scientists. A preliminary research has led me to the next methodological step: to contact former officials and activists of ROCOR to see what information they may yield on the subject. Conducting these interviews will at the very least provide a unique perspective of how ROCOR perceived itself and its role in history as regards to scientific advancement. Both the presence and lack of documentation will allow us to better understand ROCOR, and to see whether issues that were critical to the Russian Orthodox Church inside the Soviet Union throughout the 20th century were reflected in any way in the Diaspora.


Dr Evdoxie Delli

At the intersection of Modern Psychology and Patristic theology: theoretical pluralism and methodological issues on Soul and Anthropology

On the evidence given by the data selected during our research work for SOW, we become aware of an increasing interest of contemporary Orthodox Christian thinkers (theologians, clerics and intellectuals) in Modern Psychology. This interest is closely related to renewed interpretations of the patristic theology and spirituality.

Within this general framework, we aim to present the keys aspects of this dialogue: the plurality of modern psychological approaches and techniques concerned, the Key Patristic writers and texts, as well as the major thematic areas and methodological issues intertwined. Finally, we focus on the impact of the relationship between modern Psychology and the Orthodox theology on Orthodox anthropology, reshaped in the light of late Modernity.


Dr Gianna Katsiampoura

A debate on the theory of evolution in Greek education system

This presentation examines and analyzes the debate that arose in Greece out of the publication, in 1984, of the school textbook “History of the Humankind” intended for use by the students of the First Grade of the Upper Secondary School (Lyceum). The textbook has been authored by Dr. Lefteris Stavrianos (1913 -2004), a famous leftist historian, and published under the auspices of the National Hellenic Organization of School Textbooks (OEDB).

It has to be noted that OEDB produces each year the school textbooks for primary and secondary education and distributes them freely to the student population.
Stavrianos’ textbook included a chapter on Evolution for the first time in the history of the Greek education system.

This chapter provoked a reaction by the Church.  The debate between the church and the theologians, on one hand, and the supporters of the book, on the other, was intense. At the end, the Ministry of Education was forced to withdraw the book.
In this presentation I will examine this debate, analyze the arguments and the way in which the Greek Orthodox church influenced the modernization of the  curriculum.


Vangelis Koutalis

Forms of validation of knowledge in modern sciences and in Eastern Orthodox tradition

This presentation will focus on the difference between the procedures and the criteria for assessing knowledge claims that are usually employed in the context of modern scientific research and those employed in the context of Eastern Orthodox spirituality. Questions concerning the character and the magnitude of this difference will be raised and briefly discussed.


Dr Ivaylo Nachev

Mapping the science and Orthodoxy dialogue in Bulgaria: main topics and methodological challenges

The aim of the paper is to present some of the most specific features of the materials in the Bulgarian case and to discuss some of the key methodological challenges related with it. An overview of the main sources in Bulgarian language will be given. The paper will also analyze what type of content is provided by the several print periodic publications and the major web sites that cover relevant to the project topics. It will be commented as well on the main issues related with the selection of the appropriate items to be processed. Work on the project that has been carried out in the last couple of months will enable the defining of the topics that are most often discussed in the Bulgarian language sources. It appears that a lot has been published on a number of subjects during the past two decades, which proves the increasing general interest in the subject. At the same time, other topics of significance to the SOW project remain quite marginal or they are mainly covered by translated materials (most often from Russian, Greek or Serbian languages), which can be interpreted as a way of compensating the lack of original local interpretations on questions that are of interest to the public. There are also a number of specific for the Bulgarian case questions, concerning some more general problems of the relation between religious and secular institutions, most notably disputes about connections of clerics with the state security services before the fall of the socialist regime in 1989, which, although not directly corresponding to the SOW’s problematic, impacts it by drawing significant attention.


Dr Dmitry Saprykin

The Orthodox Tradition in the formation of personality and scientific interests of the 20th century greatest Russian scientists and engineers

The Soviet and post-Soviet historical literature and publications claim the works of the most remarkable Russian scientists and engineers of the XXth century to be a result of the Soviet power achievements, a triumph over the political and religious “obscurantism” of the Tsar regime. With no arguments it was supposed that the largest part of the scientists was either antagonistic to religion either had no relation to the Orthodox tradition. Analogical presumption of the “negative” Church attitude to science and the scientists’ attitude to Orthodoxy has migrated from the Soviet sources to the Western (primarily American) “Sovietology” (for instance, in works of Lauren Graham, the American historian of Russian science).

However, a more detailed analysis displays that the USSR Academy of Science Departments of Technical Sciences, Math and Physics were a real bastion of the “old world”: the most part of the academicians traced their origin from the privileged estates and intelligentsia of the Russian Empire. What is more, the sons of the Russian Orthodox Church clergymen and theologians’ families constituted a non-proportionally large percentage of the leading Soviet scientists and engineers. Many of them remained Orthodox even during the severest years of the Soviet persecutions of the Church.

The whole range of the largest XXth century Russian scientists and engineers were engaged in theology, and their religious and philosophical interests lay in direct connection with their scientific activities. The Orthodox educational tradition of their families had played as a rule the key role in their personal building and scientific development.

The article represents four most important examples of this rule: the largest Soviet physician and mathematician, the Academy member Nikolay Nikolaevich Bogolyubov, the theology Professor’s and priest’s son; the leader of the Soviet theoretical engineering and the James Watt Golden Medal winner Ivan Ivanovich Artobolevskiy; another Watt Golden Medal winner Igor Sikorsky, the world heavy aircraft and helicopter construction industry creator; and at last the greatest (along with I.P. Pavlov) Soviet neurophysiologist and academician Alexey Ukhtomskiy. In case with Artobolevskiy and Bogolyubov we will concentrate upon the Orthodox family education as a factor of their personal building. In case with Sikorsky and Ukhtomskiy we will consider their own Orthodox theological conceptions in connection with their scientific activity.


Dr Alexandra Stavinschi

Science and Orthodoxy in the Romanian literature: recurrent themes and emerging trends

This is a first overview of the Romanian literature on the topic.

In contrast to the West, in the Eastern Orthodox Romanian world there does not appear to have been a sharp rift between science and religion: they could peacefully coexist. The Church did not attempt to confiscate and combat unsettling ideas, which were not perceived as threatening; on the other hand, these ideas were not mainstream and could be safely ignored by priests and theologians.
The antagonism between science and religion, and the genuine interest it has sparked in recent years, appears to have entirely different origins. Basically, it was artificially promoted by the communist regime for political reasons: what was at stake, was the ideological support needed to marginalize and persecute the Church, in order to gain full control of the population.

This has important consequences on both the way the antagonism has been addressed in the last few decades, and on the echo that these efforts had on the public. Therefore, a systematic research on Science and orthodoxy in Romania cannot be treated as a mere subcategory of a wider Science and (Christian) religion program, but requires an entirely different approach.

Here, I will give a brief overview of what the most recurrent topics appear to be; who the protagonists of this debate are, i.e., scientists vs theologians etc; where these ideas are promoted, i.e. which are the preferred channels (books, conferences, blogs etc) , how they are communicated, i.e. academic vs non-academic writings, and finally, why: I will attempt to look at the reasons that prompted this debate.
However, if in the early nineties just after the fall of the regime there was clearly a positive public bias that enabled the dialogue, this open attitude is being gradually replaced by increasing skepticism and reservation. The emergence of new technologies and the rapid secularization of the society are also contributing to that.
All this has a strong impact on how the issue is perceived and, of course, on how we ought to address it in our research.


Aleksandra Stevanović

The Question of Orthodox Experience in Serbia

The paper considers the science-religion relationship in the context of three distinct events in post-WWII history of Serbia. Thereby, focal cases include Dictionary of Technology – a script dating from 1981, Žarko Vidović, a prominent philosopher and anthropologist of major works published around 90s, and the case of Orthodoxy inspired school reform attempt by former Minister of Education and Sports Ljiljana Čolić in 2004. The reason for the choice is multifold; the three issues cover the period of three successive decades and they raise the question of religion in the world of modernist frame, challenging the thought that science and technology are the only reliable drivers of social dynamics. All three cases met negative political response: Žarko Vidović was silenced, and other two were severely publicly criticized.
These three events represent some kind of resurrection against techno-ideologies of “progress” with no regard to ethical values. They bring a very important aspect of rethinking processes of historical change based on the Orthodox experience and new sensitivity towards spirit of time. Dictionary represents the revival of Orthodox medieval legacy, Žarko Vidović marks his lifetime as a very notable thinker and intellectual in whose lifetime work Orthodoxy is key point, and Ljiljana Čolić exemplifies an attempt to reintroduce religion in secular life. All of them, each in a specific manner, lean on the thought of Mahatma Gandhi that “those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means”. The examples show that technological modernization as the prevalent social trend is not neutral know-how but it incorporates implicit or explicit deprecation of any trial of Orthodox world view revitalization. What is evident is not only the lack of dialogue, but the open dissent that sometimes gets hard political character.


Dr Kostas Tampakis

Science and Orthodoxy in English: A typology of sources

Project SOW, which aims to map the relations and foster the dialogue between science and Orthodoxy in all the major language of Orthodox discourse, enters its second year. One of its basic aims is to create an archive of all relative primary sources, which is to be accessible to the public at large. In that vein, this presentation aims to describe the first findings of this effort, as they relate to sources appearing in English. While it only described work in progress, a first typology of sources will be presented and some preliminary remarks on tits significance will be offered.

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