Ian Ramsey Centre [Resources]

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Sciborg_S_Patel

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Ian Ramsey Centre

The Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion (IRC) conducts research into religious beliefs and theological concepts in relation to the sciences. Research into beliefs focuses on the application of scientific tools to religious phenomena, such as in the Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR). Research into theological concepts focuses principally on those metaphysical principles, such as persons, that are important to theology and are being seen from new perspectives by current developments in science. Members of the Centre also carry out extensive work on the history of science and religion, often challenging simplistic accounts of what has been a complex and varied interaction.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

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Given the value placed on material goods, the view that everything is reducible to matter acting upon matter ('folk materialism'), and more nuanced varieties of 'physicalism' in modern philosophy, it might be thought that we have a clear and distinct idea of what 'matter' actually means. Yet matter turns out to be surprisingly elusive. Attempts to specify matter in terms of things with mass and volume fail to encompass the more exotic scenarios and paradigms of modern physics. More generally, priority has long been given in scientific theory and practice to formal and mathematical relations in the study of the physical world, with philosophy and theology often reflecting this emphasis. Such approaches paradoxically make it unclear what matter does, other than exemplify form imperfectly, rather like the dough that more or less reproduces the shape of the biscuit (or cookie) cutter.

In this seminar, I look at developments in recent decades, especially in the simulation of complex systems, which suggest the need for a principle of continuity under substantial change that cannot be reduced to form. This principle can be understood as 'matter', but only as part of a broader neo-Aristotelian understanding of causation that also includes teleology (not mere teleonomy) and an 'arrow of time'. I review briefly some of the implications of a renaissance of a worldview in which matter genuinely matters, not only in science, but also in philosophy and theology.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#3

Scientific explanation is routinely understood to be governed by the principle of methodological naturalism, which excludes putative supernatural causes. This conception of naturalism is dependent on a distinction between natural and supernatural which in modern discussions is regarded as largely unproblematic. However, the natural-supernatural distinction has an important history that shows how interdependent these notions once were. In the past, ideas about the relative self-sufficiency of the natural realm typically relied upon deeper theological or metaphysical assumptions that could not themselves be established by naturalistic methods. In the Middle Ages, when the natural-supernatural distinction first emerged, divine action was an integral component of natural causation. Subsequently, during the scientific revolution, the introduction of the modern conception of laws of nature, understood as divine dictates, collapsed the natural-supernatural distinction, effectively erasing the notion of natural causes. This early modern effacing of any real distinction between natural and supernatural causation paradoxically laid the foundations for a modern science that would later be understood in purely naturalistic terms. Viewed historically, scientific naturalism is indebted to particular notions of divine action.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#4

Scientific explanation is routinely understood to be governed by the principle of methodological naturalism, which excludes putative supernatural causes. This conception of naturalism is dependent on a distinction between natural and supernatural which in modern discussions is regarded as largely unproblematic. However, the natural-supernatural distinction has an important history that shows how interdependent these notions once were. In the past, ideas about the relative self-sufficiency of the natural realm typically relied upon deeper theological or metaphysical assumptions that could not themselves be established by naturalistic methods. In the Middle Ages, when the natural-supernatural distinction first emerged, divine action was an integral component of natural causation. Subsequently, during the scientific revolution, the introduction of the modern conception of laws of nature, understood as divine dictates, collapsed the natural-supernatural distinction, effectively erasing the notion of natural causes. This early modern effacing of any real distinction between natural and supernatural causation paradoxically laid the foundations for a modern science that would later be understood in purely naturalistic terms. Viewed historically, scientific naturalism is indebted to particular notions of divine action.
 
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