From the Director
Welcome to the Center for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing! On this site you will find information about the various projects currently underway, as well as an overview of how we hope to develop in years to come. The Center was inaugurated in March 2015, following official approval by the University of Notre Dame. As a fledgling Center, this site is still under development, so please watch for new announcements in due course.
As a Center, we intend to provide a hub of activity for those interested in the intersection between theology and the natural and social sciences, including fostering more effective communication between them and finding creative ways of moving conversations forward in contested areas of scholarly activity. One such area of focus for the Center is evolutionary anthropology. Should theology remain content to sit on the sidelines of new research in evolutionary biology? Or might it, with the help of philosophy, start to explore how ancient theological questions about God and humanity might be asked in new ways?
Our purpose is not to dispense with theological traditions but to find ways of making them meaningful for the present generation. Theologians have always tried to do just that, but the realm of science, including the social and natural sciences, provides very special opportunities for further discussion and hermeneutical development.
Not only are we interested in pushing the boundaries in theological research, but we are also boldly ambitious for what theology might have to say to the sciences. By this we do not mean that theological methods will replace those of science, since the premises and the metaphysical presuppositions are very different, but that theology can push scientists to think about their own science in new ways, and ask different questions. We believe that this is not fanciful thinking either, for we have evidence that this new way of conceiving of theology and science actually works.
Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si', released the same year as the birth of this new Center, called for much greater attention to the dialogue between theology and science. Like Pope Francis, we are deeply motivated to examine how environmental questions might be tackled through multidisciplinary research and educational projects. So, 'science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both' (§62). And, 'If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it' (§63).
The Catholic Church in particular has a long tradition of being open to the engagement of faith and reason, and this Center intends to continue that tradition in a spirit of ecumenical openness. Indeed, we believe that, like the mustard seed, concerted effort for change by a few will make the world of difference. It is impossible to tackle the huge problems facing humanity alone or as single disciplines.
As time goes on we will place on our web page references to publications from scholars who have been active in the development of the Center and its projects. We will also collaborate with other units on campus whose role has been to reach out to those in undergraduate and public education, so that the insights arising from our research will become more visible. We intend to set up a blog on specific topics, which will be open access for your comments and concerns. We hope that you enjoy reading about what we have done so far.
I am grateful to all those who have been instrumental in the start of this Center, and I hope that you will decide to contribute in some small way to its efforts.
Professor Celia Deane-Drummond