Theology and Science: Loving Science, Discovering the Divine

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 May 2024 | Viewed by 6519

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
School of Religion and School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada
Interests: biomedical and social ethics; spiritual and religious health; aging; human enhancement technologies; sport
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Religious Studies Program, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858, USA
Interests: human enhancement technology; superintelligence; whole brain emulation (mind-uploading)
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue is devoted broadly to the relationship between theology and science/technology. Contributions must be related to the theological implications or other theological analyses of topics, such as physics, cosmology, artificial intelligence, evolution, cognitive and neurosciences, gene editing, psychedelics, human enhancement, and the environment. Assessments of major figures in the field and articles about pedagogy are welcome. Contributions about the theological traditions of all religions and spiritualities are welcome.

With the increasing impact of science and technology, the theological reflection about science and technology is a “growth industry” in the academic study of religion.

This Special Issue aims to further the exploration of science and technology and whatever one understands to be the “Divine.” A starting point is the assumption that science and technology have meaningful intersections with theology. Loving science can have implications for discovery of the Divine. Submissions may understand and explore these intersections and implications in many different ways. Contributors may choose any aspect(s) of science, understood broadly as including technology, and any aspect(s) of theology. In this Special Issue, original research articles only are welcome. We look forward to receiving your contributions before March 30, 2024. There will be no article processing fee for any submissions invited by us, as guest editors, for this Special Issue. If you intend to submit an article, please email the two guest editors with a title and short abstract (100–150 words).

Very sincerely,

Prof. Dr. Tracy J. Trothen
Prof. Dr. Calvin Mercer
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • science
  • artificial intelligence
  • technology
  • ethics
  • spirituality
  • religion
  • theology

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

13 pages, 317 KiB  
Article
AI and East Asian Philosophical and Religious Traditions: Relationality and Fluidity
by Tracy J. Trothen, Pui Lan Kwok and Boyung Lee
Religions 2024, 15(5), 593; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050593 - 11 May 2024
Viewed by 374
Abstract
This article examines aspects of the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and religion, challenging Western Christian perspectives that warn against playing God and ascribing human and God-like characteristics to AI. Instead of a theistic emphasis, East Asian religious perspectives emphasize concern for the [...] Read more.
This article examines aspects of the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and religion, challenging Western Christian perspectives that warn against playing God and ascribing human and God-like characteristics to AI. Instead of a theistic emphasis, East Asian religious perspectives emphasize concern for the potential implications of AI on communities and relationships. This article argues for the inclusion of perspectives from Chinese and Korean traditions in the growing discourse on AI and religion to adequately address the potential social impacts of AI technologies. First, we describe some of the questions and concerns being posed regarding AI and consider how certain normative interpretations of Western Christianity may influence some of these issues. Second, we discuss the contributions of Asian philosophies and religious traditions, which emphasize relationality and fluidity, to provide alternative approaches to AI. Third, we outline the discussion of AI from Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions, which see the cosmos as an interwoven whole and both humans and the cosmos as evolving. Lastly, we introduce the example of digital resurrection (e.g., deadbots) and consider how the philosophical and theological Korean concept of Jeong might refocus our understanding of the potential impacts of this AI technology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theology and Science: Loving Science, Discovering the Divine)
15 pages, 241 KiB  
Article
Psychedelics, the Bible, and the Divine
by Jaime Clark-Soles
Religions 2024, 15(5), 582; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050582 - 7 May 2024
Viewed by 1422
Abstract
The current psychedelic renaissance intersects with Christian practices in two key ways. First, as psychedelic-assisted therapy (PAT) becomes more common, Christians undergoing therapeutic medical treatment may seek outside support for integrating into their religious lives mystical experiences that occur during psychedelic sessions. Second, [...] Read more.
The current psychedelic renaissance intersects with Christian practices in two key ways. First, as psychedelic-assisted therapy (PAT) becomes more common, Christians undergoing therapeutic medical treatment may seek outside support for integrating into their religious lives mystical experiences that occur during psychedelic sessions. Second, with increasing legal access to psychedelics, more Christians may explore their spiritual potential outside of a medical context, either individually with spiritual guides or collectively in organized retreats. Many will have mystical encounters related to the Divine. Whether the experience involves the overwhelming presence or absence of the Divine, these Christians, too, will seek integration support. This essay argues that the Bible can serve as a rich source for such integration, because it contains significant material about mystical experiences marked by altered states of consciousness. First, I summarize the importance of the psychedelic renaissance, especially the scientific studies being conducted, as it relates to Christian practices of spiritual formation. Second, I explore new work being conducted by biblical scholars regarding embodied religious experiences with the Divine (and others), including mystical experiences. Third, I consider the Apostle Paul’s embodied mystical experience, with special attention to 2 Corinthians 12:1–10, as one example of biblical material that might intersect with or inform psychedelic mystical encounters that contemporary Christians might experience (whether in a medical therapeutic or non-medical spiritual formation setting). Finally, I indicate directions for further research and discussion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theology and Science: Loving Science, Discovering the Divine)
14 pages, 298 KiB  
Article
There’s a Basilisk in the Bathwater: AI and the Apocalyptic Imagination
by Avery Isbrücker
Religions 2024, 15(5), 560; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050560 - 30 Apr 2024
Viewed by 461
Abstract
Deciding what to make of secular, religious, and spiritual speculations about AI and digital technologies can be overwhelming, and focusing on the extreme utopic or dystopic outcomes may be obscuring the larger facts. Is this technology a beautiful blessing or a damning curse? [...] Read more.
Deciding what to make of secular, religious, and spiritual speculations about AI and digital technologies can be overwhelming, and focusing on the extreme utopic or dystopic outcomes may be obscuring the larger facts. Is this technology a beautiful blessing or a damning curse? What can paying close attention to these technologies and the discourse surrounding them show? How founded are our anxieties? By following the apocalyptic throughline in this rhetoric across fields in recent years, this essay seeks to consider the effect of apocalyptic thought on recent developments in tech, and consider how this worldview orients our future. The deterministically utopic, dystopic, and apocalyptic rhetoric surrounding these technologies obscures their function and efficacy, giving agency to what is functionally still just a tool, the use for which depends on its designers and users. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theology and Science: Loving Science, Discovering the Divine)
20 pages, 329 KiB  
Article
Challenges of Using Artificial Intelligence in the Process of Shi’i Ijtihad
by Hasan Latifi
Religions 2024, 15(5), 541; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050541 - 28 Apr 2024
Viewed by 442
Abstract
This article aims to explore the potential challenges that may arise when employing generative AI models in the process of Shi’i ijtihad. By drawing upon academic literature and relevant primary sources, the essay surveys the most critical AI-related hurdles in this field, [...] Read more.
This article aims to explore the potential challenges that may arise when employing generative AI models in the process of Shi’i ijtihad. By drawing upon academic literature and relevant primary sources, the essay surveys the most critical AI-related hurdles in this field, including issues of accessibility, privacy concerns, the problem of “AI hallucination” and the generative nature of AI models, biases in AI systems, the lack of transparency and inexplicability, the intricacies of interpreting and understanding sensitive topics, accountability, authority, trust and acceptance among lay believers. Using discourse and content analysis as method, the article concludes that, given these challenges, generative AI models are not yet suitable for utilization in this process. However, the rapid progress in AI may eventually make it an effective tool for this purpose. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theology and Science: Loving Science, Discovering the Divine)
11 pages, 201 KiB  
Article
Psychedelic Mysticism and Christian Spirituality: From Science to Love
by Ron Cole-Turner
Religions 2024, 15(5), 537; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050537 - 26 Apr 2024
Viewed by 967
Abstract
The scientific claim that psychedelic drugs like psilocybin reliably occasion mystical experiences was justified using the Mystical Experiences Questionnaire (the MEQ), a survey first developed in the 1960s by Walter Pahnke using W.T. Stace’s Mysticism and Philosophy. Scholars in Christian mysticism reject [...] Read more.
The scientific claim that psychedelic drugs like psilocybin reliably occasion mystical experiences was justified using the Mystical Experiences Questionnaire (the MEQ), a survey first developed in the 1960s by Walter Pahnke using W.T. Stace’s Mysticism and Philosophy. Scholars in Christian mysticism reject the adequacy of Stace’s work for Western theistic mysticism, especially Christianity. One objection is that Stace follows William James in focusing on intense and unusual moments of mystical experience rather than the somewhat more ordinary mystical life. A greater concern is that Stace more adequately reflects non-Western traditions than Western theistic traditions like Christianity. For Stace, mysticism centers on the concept of union with external reality or with the absolute, a union in which the human creature is absorbed or fused. Christian mysticism, by contrast, involves a sense of presence rather than union, experienced in a most intimate relationship as a felt loving closeness with the divine, but not as fusion or absorption into the divine. While love of God is central to the Christian view, it is ignored in Stace and the MEQ30. Finally for Christianity, mysticism is not found in the momentary experience, but in the lifelong interpretation that leads to transformation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theology and Science: Loving Science, Discovering the Divine)
12 pages, 216 KiB  
Article
Scientific Wonder, Artificial Intelligence, and Awe of the Divine
by Joyce Ann Konigsburg
Religions 2024, 15(4), 442; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040442 - 31 Mar 2024
Viewed by 793
Abstract
Science employs wonder and its associated emotions to explore unknown mysteries in the pursuit of knowledge about the natural world. Discovering scientific truth may inspire awe—a transcendent, indescribable experience of enhanced awareness and astonishment at the extensive interconnectedness of reality. The emotion of [...] Read more.
Science employs wonder and its associated emotions to explore unknown mysteries in the pursuit of knowledge about the natural world. Discovering scientific truth may inspire awe—a transcendent, indescribable experience of enhanced awareness and astonishment at the extensive interconnectedness of reality. The emotion of awe expands human consciousness and also mediates possible spiritual encounters with the Divine. Prompted by wonder and curiosity, scientific studies of the human mind and cognition yield insights that contribute to artificial intelligence research, especially the potential development of conscious artificial general intelligence. Yet, emerging artificial intelligence technologies raise religious and sociological questions about consciousness, personhood, and whether conscious artificial general intelligence is capable of expressing wonder and experiencing awe of the Divine. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theology and Science: Loving Science, Discovering the Divine)
13 pages, 454 KiB  
Article
Wholeness for Life and Life Eternal: A Perspective from Ubuntu, Paul’s Reconciliation Theology, and the New Cosmology
by Augustin Kassa SMA
Religions 2024, 15(2), 202; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15020202 - 6 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1122
Abstract
The idea of cosmos unity is not recent. It has been proposed from various viewpoints throughout human history as the locus of life. To begin with, the African worldview of Ubuntu tells the story of life from the experience of a cosmic perspective [...] Read more.
The idea of cosmos unity is not recent. It has been proposed from various viewpoints throughout human history as the locus of life. To begin with, the African worldview of Ubuntu tells the story of life from the experience of a cosmic perspective that upholds the primacy of the community and asserts that a truly fulfilling and complete life is attainable only by those who belong to the cosmic whole. There is no ‘I’ without ‘we’; “Because we are, I am”. And, unless the “I” belongs to “we”, there is no life, biological or ancestral, after death. On its part, Paul’s cosmology, generally understood as proposing a two/three-tiered cosmos, has a different viewpoint when seen from a closer look. Even if he would have agreed with his religious ancestors that sin had divided reality and that diastema is to blame for the cosmos fragmentation, Paul still recounts the story of a cosmic whole. His theology of reconciliation makes that unity more evident when he suggests that through Christ, the cosmos is reconciled, and life is restored. To belong to the cosmic whole is to be reconciled with God and have eternal life. From a third perspective, today’s new cosmological investigations have uncovered the unfolding story of the grand unity and complexity of the universe, which is the only locus of life known to humanity. In this universe of connectivity and entanglement, one can scientifically appreciate the absence of fragments and observe the complexified unity of all things indispensable for living. These three stories reveal that togetherness and the experience of the cosmic whole are fundamental for life and the taste of eternal life. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theology and Science: Loving Science, Discovering the Divine)
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