P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 113
6th January 2006
I. 'Philosophical relationship of Scientific Naturalism and Religion' by
John J. Eberts
II. 'Lucian's thoughts on lifelong and adult learning' by Fotios Vassileiou
III. 'Philosophy Forum Nepal Celebrates World Philosophy Day' by Avaya Sharma
John Eberts is a college lecturer who gained his Pathways Associate award in
2001. In his knowledgeable article, he describes an alternative view to popular
misconceptions of the relation between science and religion. According to
Eberts, theology is a pre-eminently rational activity which seeks to avoid
supernaturalism and miraculous interventions, thus allowing room for a
naturalistic view of the cosmos, consistent with the discoveries of physics.
Fotios Vassileiou gives a fascinating snapshot of the Greek satirist and
rhetorician Lucian of Samosata, born in 120 AD whose thoughts on the idea of
self-improvement through education seem remarkably relevant to issues in adult
The Philosophy Forum Nepal was formed by a small group of scholars to open
lines of communication between philosophy enthusiasts and promote the study of
philosophy at university level. Coordinator Avaya Sharma describes how the
Forum celebrated World Philosophy Day. Photos of the event can be found on the
PhiloSophos web site at the address given below.
I. 'PHILOSOPHICAL RELATIONSHIP OF SCIENTIFIC NATURALISM AND RELIGION' BY
JOHN J. EBERTS
The relationship between scientific naturalism and religion in much of modern
western philosophy has been one of antagonism and outright hostility. The new
developments in physical and natural sciences present a challenge to religion
according to R.J. Russel, W.R. Stoeger and G.V. Coyne, far greater even than
that presented by the introduction of Aristotelian philosophy to the western
This presents a challenge that must be addressed or fragmentation to the
already delicate balance between religion and science may occur. Christopher
Mooney contends that many theologians are not equipped to deal with the new
findings in science; conversely, scientists have difficulties working and
communicating with mainstream theologians. Science's essential nature is a
nature of inquiry, the ability to discern the truth. In its attempt to fathom
the truth of the universe, science employs a rational and critical method based
upon evidence. The goal of science is to analyze and systematize its subject
matter and develop rigorous logical inferences to support its conclusions. Its
primary focus then is the attainment of knowledge; it seeks truth, a truth not
limited to the area of experience but a truth which encompasses the whole. In
contemporary society the attempt to subdivide the categories of natural science
has resulted in the development of artificial limits that obscure the whole.
Both religion and science embrace the total sphere of individual experience and
both purport to encompass the Whole of knowledge. In one aspect science looks
into and searches for truth of the Whole, on the other hand religion affirms
the sphere of experience and asserts knowledge according to its adherents. In
the end both domains have the same goal, to affirm the knowledge and truth
concerning the Cosmos.
Individual belief and fervor for truth are by necessity grounded in reason or
they become mere folklore. Belief requires some 'reason' for belief. The reason
must be grounded in some form of legitimate thought that can appeal to a
rational foundation. Therefore religious assertion concerning the reality of an
entity becomes rationally based. The theologians then, like the scientists, must
examine areas amenable to reason in their search for the uniformity of the
Theology then maintains a commitment compatible with that of critical
reflection. Critical reason with its innate ability to comprehend that although
it can investigate the pre-critical suppositions of existence, it can never
fully grasp them; although one can identify that no theoretical reason can
reside outside the realm of a resolution of the practical reason, that can
never be wholly grasped.
As an intellectual domain theology is rational whose purpose is to present a
rational explanation of belief. In an attempt to reconcile the perceived
difference between religion and natural science the 'concordance' model brings
together the scientific and theological explanations of nature and therefore
their presupposition would reside within the same plane, one of natural
theology. 'Plainly,' writes C. Raven, 'if analysis degenerates into
disintegration and existence becomes fragmented into a rubbish-heap of "shreds
and patches," coherence, significance and growth become impossible;
compass-bearings are lost; civilization founders; and mankind sinks to a level
lower than that of the brutes.'
The areas of astronomy, astrophysics, and physical cosmology represent the
major branches in physics that have direct bearing on this issue and will be
addressed here. Process Philosophy as developed by Alfred North Whitehead will
also be addressed at a later time. Process Philosophy, which becomes the basis
for Process Theology, can be categorized as natural theology; its main intent
is to demonstrate the constructive relationships between religion and science.
Since there is an interrelationship sought between science and religion, the
first step that needs to be established is the actual basis of that
Naturalism as defined in the 19th century has been viewed as having a negative
connotation according to some analytic philosophers. During the 19th century
the laws of physics encompassed a larger and larger area of space and time
events. This gave the universe a deterministic mechanistic appearance residing
solely on the laws of motion. This in turn devaluated the concept of God and
the concept of immateriality. The appearance of the Darwinian theory and its
evidence of the evolutionary aspect of man seems to be the final blow for
traditional religion. In their opinion, the 19th century philosopherS had
erased objective norms and replaced them with scientific facts.
The metaphysical presuppositions established by Newtonian science influenced
scholars from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. David Ray
Griffin defined this type of naturalism, which he referred to as naturalism
(SAM) as encompassing sensationalism, atheism, materialism, determinism and
reductionism, sometimes referred to as metaphysical naturalism. In addition to
these attributes, Griffin also states that it encompasses what he refers to as
naturalism (NS) which he concludes is only a rejection of supernaturalism and
casual relations interruption. In Griffin's opinion naturalism (NS) is
compatible with theism, whereas naturalism (SAM) is not.
The present problem is that naturalism (SAM) seems to have dominated science
and is synonymous with scientific naturalism. This is primarily represented in
the works of Searle, Dawkins, Weinberg, Uttal and others. Although scientific
naturalism dominates in the academy, particularly in its methodology and
mechanistic varieties, it is increasingly being challenged both inside and
outside the academic circles.
To initiate a dialogue and possible harmony of naturalism and religion, the
first step is to advocate a common world view concerning the use of naturalism
(NS) only and the elimination of the dependence on supernaturalism within
religion. The type of theistic naturalism that is postulated as well as a
dialogue that builds constructive relationships resides in Whitehead's Process
Although Whitehead's philosophy has tremendous bearing on the compatibility of
science and religion, other areas also need to be addressed. These areas
Theological perspective: The intention is to look at the
traditional theological perspective and its cosmological
Metaphysics and Epistemology: Metaphysics asks the
normative question concerning what is reality and its
relation to mere appearance. Epistemology asks normative
questions concerning knowledge and its relationship to
Process Philosophy and religion: a comprehensive
metaphysical philosophy showing God as the principle of
concretion whereby actual processes arise.
Traditional theology's main endeavor was to place faith in a relationship with
science. It must be remembered that throughout this early period, 'Christian
thinkers typically thought of science as a "handmaiden" to theology, which was
the "queen of sciences": science might serve theology by assisting in
understanding biblical references to nature, but it ought never to challenge
the sole authority of theology to define reality.'
Although this changed drastically with the introduction of Greek scientific,
medical and Aristotelian natural philosophy, the groundwork had already been
laid for fundamental problems to develop. St. Thomas Aquinas had created a
synthesis of Aristotelian, Arab Commentaries and Church doctrine to overcome
many of the tenets within Aristotelian natural philosophy that were at odds
The Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides was also able to relate God to nature
as Aquinas had. Both of these scholars were able to modify Aristotle's view
that the order of nature is rationally necessary, and the world was external
to be compatible with Christian and Jewish doctrines:
'Contemporary developments in science challenge theology
far more that did the introduction of Aristotle into
Western Europe in the thirteenth century. Yet these
developments also offer to theology a potentially important
resource. Just as Aristotelian philosophy, through the
ministry of such great scholars as St. Thomas Aquinas,
ultimately came to shape some of the most profound
expressions of theological doctrine, so can we not hope
that the science of today... may invigorate and inform
those parts of theological enterprises that bear on the
relation of nature, humanity, and God?
Given the standard cosmological model that the physical universe is expanding
based on the 'big bang' theory, the laws of physics can't explain the singular
state (singularity) when space and time become infinitely distorted. The
singularity in relation to our general theory of relativity causes a dynamic
space-time expansion with the universe -- rather than being a preexisting
This model has greater significance in the realm of theology than in physics.
It is of greater importance that this finding be grounded in science than
theology. William Stoeger, an astrophysicist and a priest, states that science
needs not, in fact, should not have to accept conclusions from theology.
Science needs to follow its own methodology and not rely on theological
principles. The result of not following one's methodology would be
Scientific discoveries like the big bang theory have major consequences on
theology and are based upon sound scientific principles. William Stoeger
outlines three ways science in general affects theology.
It confronts theology, causing alterations in its own
conclusions, the way they are reached, and terms by which
they are expressed.
It, through philosophy, is modifying the metaphysic
employed in theological reflections and articulation.
It influences theology -- with new images, concepts,
perspectives and symbols, thereby enriching a common
All three of these are present when referring to the big bang theory and
theology. In the first case, physics reflects an accurate theory on the origin
of the universe and reveals questions dealing with physical reality that still
remain unanswered. Theology must also allow the gaps in the standard model
explanation to remain as gaps. Theology must defer to cosmology to answer the
question -- and resist the urge to fill in the gaps with God.
 Pope John Paul II, 'Message of His Holiness Pope John II to Conference
Participants.' Physics, Philosophy, and Theology: A Common Quest for
Understanding, ed. R.J. Russell, W.R. Stoeger, and G.V. Coyne (Vatican City
State, 1988), m12.
 Christopher Mooney, 'Theology and Science: A New Commitment to Dialogue,'
Theological Studies, Vol. 52, No. 2 (June 1991), 290.
 Rahner, K. 'Theology,' Sacramentum Mundi: An Encyclopedia of Theology, ed.
Karl Rahner et al. (New York, 1970), VI,234.
 Experience and Interpretation, Second Series of the Gifford Lectures:
Natural Religion and Christian Theology (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press,
1953), p. 35
 Ferngren, G. (2002) p. 332 Science and religion: a historical introduction.
John Hopkins University press.
 Ferngren, p, 324
 Griffin, D., R. (2000).Religion and scientific naturalism: overcoming the
conflicts. New York: State University Press. p.325
 Pope John Paul II, 'Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Conference
 Stoeger, W. (1988). 'Contemporary Cosmology and its Implications for the
Religion-Science Dialogue,' Physics, Philosophy, and Theology: A Common Quest
for Understanding, ed R.J. Russell, W.R. Stoeger, and G.V. Coyne. Vatican City
State, p. 243.
(c) John Eberts 2006
II. 'LUCIAN'S THOUGHTS ON LIFELONG AND ADULT LEARNING' BY FOTIOS VASSILEIOU
Concerning the modern lifelong learning we have to say that the design of the
curriculum, of course, is always constrained by factors such as the level of
re-sourcing, the, the limits of technology, the definition of further
education, the existing syllabuses, and the university expectations. But, maybe
the most important factor is the expectations of the students themselves. Adult
learners, first of all, wish for more time in their lives. Lucian said:
'What about the duration of your studies?'
'I do not know something about it. I suppose that I need 20
more years of studying.'
'Did your teacher swear to you that you will live for 20
years more? Did he?'
Adult learners are already in work, they have the desire for economic
betterment, to obtain full-time rather part-time employment, to improve career
prospects and sometimes gain promotion or simply to improve performance. In any
case they do not have enough and plenty of time to spend. They are working, many
of them are parents and their time is like gold pieces with high market value.
That's why they do their student work with a lot of enthusiasm.
Now, how one can decide on the better school or university or programme for
her/ him to study? Of course, he can't choose by the name or even by the beauty
of the buildings of this or that university.
'You cannot choose by the presence. This is a way for
selecting sculptures not studies. This is a way to find
better stature, better clothing and such things. But if we
have to choose schools by the general appearance, how
can a blind-man can choose a school to study in?'
After all, to whom do we have to trust the guidance of our studies? There are a
lot of people, a lot of theories, a lot of schools, universities and study
programmes. There are always a vast variety and plethora of them.
'We have plenty of drivers. There are a lot of people ready
and willing to drive you to the "City of Philosophy- The
Politeia". You can see that there is not only one road.
There are many and different roads. One drives to west, the
other to the east, one other road drives us to the north and
one other to the south. But the conclusion is only one:
Every road is the right road. Everyone is the correct
driver. And you know that this is not the truth.'
So, we have to be informed for every academic programme and every school we
can, in order to better select the programme/ school which is more effectively
fits to our personal standards.
'If one demonstrates to us one man by telling that this man
is the most beautiful man in the world, there is only one
case we could believe in him. And this one case is to know
that he had seen all the beautiful people in the world.'
That's why the more programmes we know, the better choice we have. And because
of the importance of lifelong and adult learning we have to be organized and
well informed in order to finally choose the best one we can. When we are
talking about adult learning and teaching, we have to remember that we are
talking about sections of the population with particular needs, long-term
unemployed, and women returnees. It is essential not to only understand the
demographic data in respect of various social categories (as the previous
ones), but also for educationalists to familiarize themselves with the class,
gender, ethnic experiences and the cultural strategies and ethics of particular
'There will be a city called "Arete", where citizens will
be all happy, robust, fair and wise enough. There will be
no greedy people for gain, no thieves and savages. All
citizens will live in peace. This is what nature wants.
There will be no riches to strive for, no fame and no
pleasures to fight against the others for. After that they
will all live a beautiful and happy life under laws and
rules, equity, freedom and other goods.'
Maybe, just maybe this is the best way to end these pure and poor thoughts of
mine. Hope must be the last survivor on our world. And what is adult learning
for adults if it is not just a hope for betterment and development, or even
just a hope to produce another hope to the future. Adult learning is adult's
Lucian Hermotimus: on schools of philosophy Epilogi-Thyrathen Publications
(c) Fotios Vassileiou 2005
III. 'PHILOSOPHY FORUM NEPAL CELEBRATES WORLD PHILOSOPHY DAY' BY AVAYA SHARMA
To mark the world philosophy Day, Philosophy Forum Nepal (PFN) organized an
interaction program on 17th Nov 2005.
Speaking on the occasion, Avaya Sharma, coordinator of PFN, said that the
program was chiefly aimed at heralding a new philosophical environment in the
Sharma highlighted the importance of philosophy in addressing the myriad of
burning issues the world is facing.
'The innovative application of underlying values of philosophy can be
instrumental in addressing the global issues like democracy, human rights,
justice and equality', Sharma stated.
Professor Dr Birendra Kumar Mishra, the chief guest of the program, expressed
the view that unsolved problems and unanswered questions of contemporary
society have always been at the heart of philosophical analysis and thinking.
Presenting the welcome speech, Nucche Bd. Maharjan shed light on the need to
promote a healthy philosophical environment to rescue the nation from
Bed Raj Gyawali pointed out the immense potentiality of philosophy to foster
the conditions in which peaceful co-existence may flourish. Gyawali argued for
the celebration of a National Philosophy Day to nurture the philosophical
environment in the country.
The other speakers of the program urged the government to incorporate
philosophy as a subject in the Masters Degree, conducted by Tribhuvwan
University, to meet the aspiration of interested students.
Puskar Gautam, Ravi Guragain, Parbat Bhattarai and Suren Shakya also shared
their views on the occasion. The program was chaired by Avaya Sharma,
coordinator of philosophy forum Nepal.
Photographs from the program can be viewed on the PhiloSophos web site at:
(c) Avaya Sharma 2006
Coordinator, Philosophy Forum Nepal
Web site: http://www.philosophy.co.nr
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