ECF > Meet the Grantees > Christian Faith and Science: A Field Guide for the 21st Century

Meet the Grantees

This project is supported by The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution & Christian Faith program. BioLogos does not necessarily endorse the views expressed by the Project Leader(s) or their institution, nor do the Project Leader(s) or their institution necessarily endorse the views expressed by BioLogos.

Christian Faith and Science: A Field Guide for the 21st Century

Indiana University
Professor Timothy O'Connor

I will write a book on the integration of traditional Christian faith with those sciences that directly impinge upon the fundamental character of the physical world or what it means to be human. I will try to engage reasonably well religious and nonreligious philosophers, scientists, and the broader educated public. The primary value of the book will be one of synthesis: providing a framework for thinking about how to weave together with integrity what we learn from what Francis Bacon called ‘the Book of God’s Works’ and ‘the Book of God’s Word’ and attempting to bring out the intellectual appeal of the resulting synthesis. There are excellent recent books from scientists on the compatibility of modern science and Christian faith, written for general audiences. And there are fine scholarly writings by philosophers on the reasonableness of theism and/or Christian faith, written for fellow philosophers. But there is not so much available that both discusses with some depth the rational justification of religious belief while delving into the distinctive issues raised by the sciences. I will present a particular framework for thinking about the role of reason in Christian faith that I believe is philosophically defensible. I will then apply this framework to issues raised by recent cosmology; the apparently stochastic character of particle physics; general biological evolutionary theory; evolutionary theories specifically of aspects of human psychology, including moral and religious belief; and the diverse sciences of brain and behavior.

Project Activity

Over the past year (2014) of the funding period, I have drafted about half of the manuscript for my book, Thinking About Faith: Integrating Science, Philosophy, and Christian Belief, and have a detailed outline of the remainder.

I have also completed other scholarly work that is directly connected to this project. Two items appeared in summer 2014:

  • Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. A collection of new essays by leading religious and non-religious philosophers that I co-edited with Laura Callahan. This was published by Oxford University Press, the flagship press for academic work in philosophy. Laura and I wrote a lengthy volume introduction providing a roadmap of issues and arguments and contributed an essay titled “Well-Tuned Trust as an Intellectual Virtue.”
  • “Science and Christian Faith: The Pursuit of an Integrated and Complete Understanding of Humanity and the Cosmos,” . This was my contribution to a collection of interview-essays by philosophers, scientists, and theologians entitled Science and Religion: 5 Questions. Steven Pinker described this volume as "provocative thoughts on the most profound question of our time (or any time) by an all-star cast of thinkers."

I have also completed three forthcoming scholarly essays:

  • “Trans-Universe Identity: Incarnation and the Multiverse,” with Philip Woodward, in Klaas Kraay, ed., Theism and the Multiverse. Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Religion.
  • “The Emergence of Personhood: Reflections on The Game of Life,” for Malcolm Jeeves, ed., The Emergence of Personhood: A Quantum Leap?, Eerdmans Press.
  • “Against Theological Determinism,” for Kevin Timpe and Daniel Speak, eds., Libertarianism and Theism: The Interplay of Religious Belief and Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press.

The first two of these edited volumes bring philosophers and scientists into discussion, while the third is a discussion among philosophers.

Over the past year, I have also given some 24 lectures in 7 countries related to my project, some to specialized philosophy or theology department audiences and several to more general university audiences.

  • “Could There Be an Explanation of Everything?” Faraday Institute, University of Cambridge (England)
  • “Free Will and the Scientific Study of the Mind: Oil and Water?” Faraday Institute, Cambridge University (England); Abraham Kuyper Center, Free University Amsterdam (the Netherlands)
  • “The Emergence of Human Persons: Between the Scylla of Dualism and the Charybdis of Reductionism," Faraday Institute, Cambridge University (England)
  • “Two Concepts of Emergence,” University of St. Andrews (Scotland); University of Sussex (England); University of Tubingen (Germany)
  • “Why Are They Trying to Get Rid of Me? Locating Persons in a World of Objects,” St. Hilda’s College, University of Oxford (England)
  • “Religious and Scientific Traditions of Inquiry,” Society for Philosophy of Religion, Marmara University, Istanbul (Turkey)
  • “Why Are They Trying to Get Rid of Me?” St. Anne’s College, University of Oxford (England)
  • “Two Concepts of Emergence,” Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford (England); Calvin College (USA)
  • “Neuroscience and Human Personhood,” University College Roosevelt (the Netherlands)
  • “The Christian Community of Faith: Some Preliminary Epistemological Reflections,” St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews (Scotland); Butler Society, Oriel College, Oxford (England)
  • “Theism and Libertarianism,” Queen’s College, Oxford (England); L’École Normale Supérieure, Paris (France)
  • “Communities of Reasoned Inquiry” and “The Christian Community of Faith” (The Jellema Lectures), Calvin College (USA)
  • “Moral and Scientific Images of the Human Person,” Augustana College, S.D. (USA)
  • “Free Will and Scientific Determinism” and “Evolution and the Emergence of Human Persons,” Faraday Institute, Cambridge University (England)
  • “Complete Explanation, Science, and God,” L’École Normale Supérieure, Paris (France)
  • “Evolution, Emergence, and Personhood: Reflections on The Game of Life,” Oxford Forum, Worcester College, Oxford (England)