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Today, most people regard flat-earthism as the ultimate in nonsense and as scientific ‘heresy’. To be called a flat-earther is the ultimate of ‘scientific’ insults. For more than a century, however, this very insult has been hurled at a millennium of Western European history, regarded as the bastion of Christian flat-earthism. Christianity has been accused of the suppression of knowledge in this ‘dark age’. But is there any truth in this accusation?
What did Darwin have to say about religion? What were his religious, or anti-religious, beliefs? Did he believe that his theory of evolution by natural selection was incompatible with belief in a Creator? Was it his revolutionary science that turned him into an agnostic? It is important to answer these questions in a balanced way because Darwin’s authority and example are continually invoked to justify metaphysical and theological claims that go far beyond the details of his evolutionary biology and that of his scientific successors.
In the last 30 years the science and theology dialogue was strongly developed in the Anglo-American world. In his book “Science and Theology: The New Consonance” (1998) Ted Peters brought together 13 voices of this dialogue and characterized the field by identifying four different phases of it: first, the method phase, second, the physics phase, third, the biology phase, and forth, the theology phase. I entered this dialogue in the second, the physics phase, or rather near its end, that is in the transition from the physics to the biology phase.
As an academic discipline, the history of science provides certain insights that are not just significant to history but also to discussions about science and religion. For decades, one of those claims has been the clear conviction that the Catholic Church did not condemn Giordano Bruno for any astronomical beliefs but for religious heresies. He was burned alive in Rome, in February 1600, as a heretic. As someone who debunks myths in the history of science, I too had learned that Bruno did not die because of his beliefs about Earth or the universe. However, after spending much time analyzing primary sources, in Italian and Latin, my impressions began to change.
How are we to think of God’s presence in creation? As of someone atop a tower looking down at insignificant creatures in the flow of history? Some theologians talk about God being “high above” us or transcendent. I think instead of God’s omnipresence and pantemporality. The divine perspective feels all creation rather than looking from above. If one thinks, as I do, that God’s work is always loving and therefore always uncontrolling, one might think the health of God’s ecology of love depends, in part, on how we and other organisms respond to God’s influence.
It was a physicist and catholic priest, father Georges Lemaître, who developed the nowadays widely hold idea that the universe had a beginning, named the “Bing Bang theory” by its critiques. What inspired him to assume this thought? Did science and faith meet in his scientific theories or how did he distinguish the two?
400 years ago, on 25 February 1616, Galileo was enjoined by the Catholic authorities to abandon the Copernican hypothesis. The idea that the earth was in motion around the sun was declared to be scientifically ‘foolish and absurd’ and ‘formally heretical’. As is well known, Galileo was reluctant to renounce this new theory and eventually, in the now infamous trial of 1633, was found guilty of suspicion of heresy and sentenced to imprisonment.The trial of Galileo has become emblematic of a supposedly perennial battle between science and religion.
During the past half century of its inception and flourishing, the question of method lies at the heart of the theology and science community: how are we to relate these two disparate fields? I will take the question as broadly including issues in epistemology, the nature of scientific and religious language, as well as issues in theory construction, choice and defense.
The question of human evolution is really many questions at once. It is, first of all, a scientific question about our past. When did anatomically modern humans first appear? What were the pathways of human migration? Did modern humans interbreed with other closely-related forms of human life, such as Neandertals or the recently-discovered Denisovans?
The discovery of quantum theory in the first quarter of the twentieth century brought about the greatest revolution in understanding of the physical world since the discoveries of Isaac Newton. The Newtonian world of classical physics was clear and determinate; the quantum world is cloudy and fitful.