Quantum physics, chaos theory, and the big bang have all been utilized by theologians to elucidate religious and philosophical concepts. In recent years, the evolutionary theory of emergence has become the most recent scientific concept to make the rounds of the spirituality and science conference and publishing circuit and become the next “new paradigm,” reports the Science & Theology News (October).
Emergence refers to the theory that cosmic evolution repeatedly includes unpredictable, irreducible and novel appearances. For instance, computer game simulations have been shown to produce highly complex automata that move, interact and even reproduce as the game progresses.
Philosophers such as Michael Silberstein argue that mental properties, such as thoughts and feelings are emergent properties in natural history which exercise causal influence on the brains that produce them. Phillip Clayton writers that “If [such thinkers] are right, religious thoughts and ideas can actually transform the physical world that produces them.” But the use of emergent theory for religious and spiritual purposes has gone much further.
Clayton writes that such books as Emergence, Linked, andEvolution’s Arrow see signs of emergence in anything from sexual relationships, the Internet, and larger and larger cooperative organizations and the global integration of mankind. More radical are the views of computer science guru Marc Pesce, who argues that the Internet is a “self-organizing system of intelligent parts” that is “driving us to its own ends.”
Ken Wilbur, called the “Hegel of emergent holists,” argues that cosmic evolution is producing new spiritual forces and entities, which includes and yet transcends earlier levels of reality. While Clayton doubts some of these thinkers’ predictions of a synthesis of science and religion under emergence, he adds that this theory might suggest the world is more “upwardly open” than has been previously considered and provides an “important new field for religious reflection or theology.”
(Science & Religion News, P.O. Box 5065, Brentwood, TN 37024-5065;http://www.stnews.org)