Conjunctive Explanations in Science and Religion
This research, part of a larger project funded by the John Templeton Foundation, examined explanations of evolutionary change and their relations to religious thought in the period 1870-1930. Staff involved included Dr Diarmid Finnegan (PI), Professor David Livingstone (Co-I), Dr Mikael Leidenhag and Dr David Brown (the project’s postdoctoral research fellows).
Explanatory pluralism in evolutionary biology has a long and contested history and continues to be a lively area of discussion among philosophers of biology. This area of intellectual inquiry has an equally rich and controverted history of entanglement with metaphysical and theological debates. The research investigated part of this history by examining leading evolutionary theorists active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century who offered explanations of evolution produced in close conversation with their interest in theology and metaphysics. In some cases, these theorists were convinced that a scientific explanation in combination with a religious one provided a better understanding of organic evolution. The work of these evolutionary thinkers connects directly to the overall project which investigates the potential of conjunctive explanations – where two or more explanations might be better than one – to re-shape current discussions about the relations between science and religion.
Impact of Research
The project team have produced a number of publications related to the core research questions (see below). The team also ran two events – one public and one academic – to further explore the project’s remit. The first, held in Belfast on 18 January 2020, was a public engagement event and took the form of three staged conversations about current science and religion debates (Darwinism and religion, artificial intelligence and science and religion in the classroom). The second, hosted by Queen’s University Belfast in September 2020, brought together leading international scholars with expertise in science and religion to discuss and debate the nature of conjunctive explanations that cut across scientific and theological domains. Revised papers from this conference will appear in a forthcoming edited collection to be published as part of the Routledge Science and Religion Series.
Major grants and funding
Conjunctive Explanations: How Science and Religion Can Work Together. https://www.conjunctive-explanations.org; https://www.templeton.org/grant/conjunctive-explanations-how-science-and-religion-can-work-together-cesar
Brown, David O. “St George Jackson Mivart: Evo-devo, Thomism and conjunctive explanations,” Theology and Science, under review.
Brown, David O. “Theodosius Dobzhansky: Paul Tillich, Russian Orthodoxy and conjunctive explanations,” under review
Brown, David, O. “A re-evaluation of non-overlapping magisteria,” in Diarmid A. Finnegan, David H. Glass, Mikael Leidenhag and David N. Livingstone (eds) Conjunctive Explanations in Science and Religion (London: Routledge, forthcoming).
Diarmid A. Finnegan, “Of snails and salvation: the theological construction of John Thomas Gulick’s theory of evolution,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 51(5): forthcoming
Mikael Leidenhag, “Purpose for and within creation: a theological appraisal of organismic teleology,” Modern Theology 37(2) (2021), 396-409.
Livingstone, David N. “The telos of Darwin’s troubling metaphor: Darwin’s pigeons, Dennett’s cranes, Fodor’s granny,” in Diarmid A. Finnegan, David H. Glass, Mikael Leidenhag and David N. Livingstone (eds) Conjunctive Explanations in Science and Religion (London: Routledge, forthcoming).