Ecospirit: Religions and Philosophies for the Earth

Fordham University Press
Free sample

We hope-even as we doubt-that the environmental crisis can be controlled. Public awareness of our species' self-destructiveness as material beings in a material world is growing-but so is the destructiveness. The practical interventions needed for saving and restoring the earth will require a collective shift of such magnitude as to take on a spiritual and religious intensity.This transformation has in part already begun. Traditions of ecological theology and ecologically aware religious practice have been preparing the way for decades. Yet these traditions still remain marginal to society, academy, and church. With a fresh, transdisciplinary approach, Ecospirit probes the possibility of a green shift radical enough to permeate the ancient roots of our sensibility and the social sources of our practice. From new language for imagining the earth as a living ground to current constructions of nature in theology, science, and philosophy; from environmentalism's questioning of postmodern thought to a garden of green doctrines, rituals, and liturgies for contemporary religion, these original essays explore and expand our sense of how to proceed in the face of an ecological crisis that demands new thinking and acting. In the midst of planetary crisis, they activateimagination, humor, ritual, and hope.
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About the author

LAUREL KEARNS is Associate Professor of Sociology of Religion and Environmental Studies in the Theological School and Graduate Division of Religion of Drew University. CATHERINE KELLER is Professor of Constructive Theology in the Theological School and Graduate Division of Religion at Drew University. She co-edited with Virginia Burrus the first volume of the Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquia, Toward a Theology of Eros: Transfiguring Passion at the Limits of Discipline (Fordham), and co-edited with Laurel Kearns its second volume, Ecospirit: Philosophies and Religions for the Earth (Fordham). Previous books include Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming and On the Mystery: Discerning Divinity in Process.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Fordham University Press
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Published on
Jun 15, 2007
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Pages
544
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ISBN
9780823237593
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In this provocative assessment of the world's current ecological crisis, the author of the critically acclaimed In the Beginning exposes the false assumptions underlying the conflicts between science and religion, and proposes an innovative approach to saving the planet.

Traditionally, science and religion have been thought of as two distinct and irreconcilable ways of looking at the world, and scientists have often chastised the world's religions for keeping their eyes on the heavens and paying scant attention to the destruction of Earth's precious resources and its natural wonders. In The Reenchantment of Nature, Alister McGrath, who holds doctorates in both molecular biology and divinity, challenges this long-held and dangerously misguided dichotomy.

Arguing that Christianity and other great religions have always respected and revered the bounty and beauty of the earth, McGrath calls for a radical shift in perspective. He shows that by defining the world in the narrowest of scientific terms and viewing it as a collection of atoms and molecules governed by unchanging laws and forces, we have lost our ability to appreciate nature's enchantments. In order to address the threats to our environment, he maintains, it is essential to reawaken our sense of awe and look at the world as a glorious creation, an irreplaceable gift of God.

In setting forth a new framework for the debate between science and religion on ecological theory, The Reenchantment of Nature points the way to integrating two different traditions in a sane and productive effort to rescue the natural world from its present environmental decline.
How Nature Speaks illustrates the convergence of complexity theory in the biophysical and social sciences and the implications of the science of complexity for environmental politics and practice. This collection of essays focuses on uncertainty, surprise, and positionality—situated rather than absolute knowledge—in studies of nature by people embedded within the very thing they purport to study from the outside. The contributors address the complicated relationship between scientists and nature as part of a broader reassessment of how we conceive of ourselves, knowledge, and the world that we both inhabit and shape.

Exploring ways of conceiving the complexity and multiplicity of humans’ many interactive relationships with the environment, the contributors provide in-depth case studies of the interweaving of culture and nature in socio-historical processes. The case studies focus on the origin of environmental movements, the politicization of environmental issues in city politics, the development of a local energy production system, and the convergence of forest management practices toward a dominant scheme. They are supported by explorations of big-picture issues: recurring themes in studies of social and environmental dynamics, the difficulties of deliberative democracy, and the potential gains for socio-ecological research offered by developmental systems theory and Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of intentionality.

How Nature Speaks includes a helpful primer, “On Thinking Dynamically about the Human Ecological Condition,” which explains the basic principles of complexity and nonlinear thinking.

Contributors. Chuck Dyke, Yrjö Haila, Ari Jokinen, Ville Lähde, Markus Laine, Iordanis Marcoulatos, John O’Neill, Susan Oyama, Taru Peltola, Lasse Peltonen, John Shotter, Peter Taylor

In view of the critical environmental problems confronting the modern world, reflection on the nature and meaning of the world and on humanity's place in it becomes increasingly important. While Christian theology has done this for centuries, the present situation calls for a serious rethinking of many issues in the light of contemporary physics, biology, and cultural history. The Gift of Beingpresents insights of the sciences in a way that is helpful for Christians today.

Creation theology helps believers come to a stronger sense of their own identity as they come to an awareness of the world. This enables them to gain a deeper insight into how they ought to relate to that world if they wish to find meaning in their lives. This state of being requires a willingness to distinguish between the medium and the message in approaching the Scriptures. It also requires a willingness to take the sciences seriously.

In The Gift of Being, Hayes focuses on traditional questions of creation, but also comments on where science is with creation, anthropology, and destiny. He begins by discussing the relation between faith and reason, and hence between theology and science, from a historical perspective, moving to the most current statements of modern Popes. He follows with a summary statement of the possible retrieval of the biblical religious insights that can be distinguished from the physical worldview that stands behind much of the biblical material. This allows for a discussion of the traditional concept of creation from nothing in the form of a conversation with contemporary physics. He then discusses the Christian idea of God as the primal mystery of creative love from whom all of creation flows. With these foundational ideas in place, Hayes looks at such questions as the origin of humanity and the failure of humanity throughout history. He then focuses on the tradition of cosmic Christology. Finally, the theological issues of the final outcome of God's creation and its history is discussed against the background of the current scientific projections of a future for the cosmos.

Chapters are Science, the Bible, and Christianity," "The Vision of the Hebrew Scriptures," "Creation and the Christian Scriptures," "Creation from Nothing," "The Triune God, the Creator," "Humanity in the Cosmic Context," "Sin and Evil," "Christ and the Cosmos," and "Creation and the Future."

Zachary Hayes, OFM, PhD, is professor of systematic theology at Catholic Theological Union. He has taught and written extensively on matters related to the theological understanding of creation and the relation between theology and science. He is on the staff of the Chicago Center for Religion and Science. He is the author of Visions of a Future: A Study of Christian Eschatologyfrom the New Theology Studiesseries published by The Liturgical Press.

The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our species owes its dominant position. Other animals have stronger muscles or sharper claws, but we have cleverer brains. If machine brains one day come to surpass human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become very powerful. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on us humans than on the gorillas themselves, so the fate of our species then would come to depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence. But we have one advantage: we get to make the first move. Will it be possible to construct a seed AI or otherwise to engineer initial conditions so as to make an intelligence explosion survivable? How could one achieve a controlled detonation? To get closer to an answer to this question, we must make our way through a fascinating landscape of topics and considerations. Read the book and learn about oracles, genies, singletons; about boxing methods, tripwires, and mind crime; about humanity's cosmic endowment and differential technological development; indirect normativity, instrumental convergence, whole brain emulation and technology couplings; Malthusian economics and dystopian evolution; artificial intelligence, and biological cognitive enhancement, and collective intelligence. This profoundly ambitious and original book picks its way carefully through a vast tract of forbiddingly difficult intellectual terrain. Yet the writing is so lucid that it somehow makes it all seem easy. After an utterly engrossing journey that takes us to the frontiers of thinking about the human condition and the future of intelligent life, we find in Nick Bostrom's work nothing less than a reconceptualization of the essential task of our time.
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