International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

Global Perspectives on Science and Spirituality

edited by Pranab Das

Introductory Essay by Niels Gregersen

This collection of essays is unique in giving voice to Asian and Mid-Eastern European scholars on science and spirituality. 

From the South Asian Indian perspective, Makarand Paranjape points out that the modernist idea of an in-principle separation of science and spirituality is foreign to the “amodern” Indian mind, which rather facilitates a co-presence of strategies of unification, dialectical tension and dialogue. In her essay on the puzzle of consciousness, Sangeetha Menon relates the so-called “hard problem” (c.f. David Chalmers) in the Western philosophy of mind to the Vedic tradition that understands consciousness as being both beyond, and involved in, the triad of the knower, the known, and the act of knowing.

East Asian contributors also discuss the links and tensions between Western epistemic regimes and Eastern thought. The Chinese philosopher Jiang Sheng points to the well-known parallels between Daoism and the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics, but he also identifies parallels between the idea of the all-pervasive Dao and E.O. Wilson’s hope for a “consilience” of all scientific knowledge. A Japanese Pure Land Buddhist, Ryusei Takeda, shows the congeniality between process philosophy and Buddhism. He takes issue with A.N. Whitehead’s critique of Buddhism and argues that the Buddhist notion of compassion is, in fact, closer to the Judeo-Christian idea of tenderness than acknowledged by Whitehead. Paul Swanson presents the Japanese concept of kokoro (a union of emotional and cognitive sensitivity in mind-and-heart) as a bridging concept between modern science and Japanese spirituality. Likewise the Korean theologian Heup Young Kim points to the neo-Confusian concept of gyeong as comprising the attitude of epistemic humility, ecological sensitivity, and respect for development – an attitude needed for an appropriate response to the ethical questions concerning human cloning.

The European scholars devote themselves to the topics like evolution and the status of mathematics. A Czech group of biologists around Anton Markos criticizes the understanding of evolution as a war-game. Instead, in line with biosemiotics, they see communication as the basis of evolution, resulting in an incessantly creative evolution. Grzegorz Bugajak and Jacek Tomczyk from Poland emphasize that divine creation is continuous – taking place with time rather than in time (c.f. St. Augustine); yet there remains a leap-in-continuity from prehumans to homo sapiens in the latter’s capacity for syntactic speech, for art, and for altruism – or persistent hatred. From Russia, the philosopher Ilya Kasavin predicts that the sciences will lose their privileged role in a Lebenswelt shaped by new alliances of science and spirituality. The mathematician and philosopher Alexei Chernyakov argues that there is a hermeneutics even to mathematics, as already exemplified in Patristic concepts of the logoi of creation.

The Hungarian theologian Botond Gaál points to a new emphasis on openness, indeterminacy, and infinity with the mathematics of Cantor and Gödel; he finds similar tendencies in 20th century Christian theology, which gave up earlier programs of axiomatic theology. Finally, the Slovakian philosopher Ladislav Kvasz defines the ability to detach oneself from the immersion in the environment as a function of transcendence. This sense of transcendence constitutes the core of religious awareness but is also at work when sciences are in a state of becoming – breaking through to new paradigms.

While not topically centred, this volume shows the different concerns of Asian and European scholars. Asians gravitate around the relation between consciousness and matter, while Europeans address transcendence, evolution and mathematics in theological perspective.