Edward Novis

Edward Novis, instructor at the Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, states that Orthodox peculiarity in its relationship with science lies in its holistic philosophical foundation. The Orthodox Church notably sees science and, physics in particular, as an important way to understand the world. Novis also believes that many fields of science can enrich Orthodoxy or any other religious tradition. Psychoanalysis, which represents a progression away from mechanistic behaviourism and uses the method of talk therapy is very close to the Orthodox practice of Confession. Neuroscience, Novis argues, is more controversial as, unlike neuroscience, Orthodoxy insists on a two-way influence of neurons and psyche.  

To the extent that there is a conflict between Orthodoxy and science, it is rooted in attempts to establish a monopoly of the material or mechanical model and to deny the existence of the spiritual realm.  In other words, the conflict is with scientism. Novis believes that many modern scientists are interested in phenomena beyond the material world but their research remains underfunded.   

The Orthodox, unlike Catholics and Protestants, have never historically had a conflict with science, including the theory of evolution. Some ideas that are congruent with the evolution theory were expressed by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, a 4th century Byzantine philosopher and theologian, in his work on the 6th day of Creation. 

Orthodoxy, according to Novis, has a lot to say on ecological issues. Based on holistic philosophy and the idea that the microcosm (human body) and the macrocosm (the world) are interrelated, The Orthodox believe that humans have a responsibility toward the universe they inhabit and the energy they share with plants and animals. Thus industrial farming, the use of GMO or genetic manipulation constitute violence towards plants and animals. The results of such manipulations can also turn out to be harmful to humans themselves. That is why the Orthodox Church has a responsibility to speak up about these science-related problems. Another issue related to ecology and environmental protection is that of limitations on consumption. Novis points out that Orthodox fasting schedule suggests that believers remain vegan for 50 % of the year. Fasting thus becomes  a way of “giving the world a break” by decreasing the burden of production. 

Novis concludes by saying that science and Orthodoxy should stop interacting in a monologue-style way, which both parties are responsible for. 



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