Envisioning Nature, Science, and Religion
James D. Proctor (ed.), Templeton Press
This collection of scholarly essays is fruit of a three-year collaboration between 14 contributors from many disciplines, including theoretical ecology, biological anthropology, cultural geography, history of science, and Christian theology.
What they share, says the editor, is a “passionate intellectual and personal concern” that people “think a bit more deeply about nature, science, and religion, because each has been invoked to justify some of the most profound as well as pernicious claims advanced by humanity”.
To offer some guidance for deeper thinking, the editor introduces five different “visions” of nature, and the various contributors then probe their scientific and religious uses.
The five visions are: evolutionary nature, emergent nature, malleable nature, nature as sacred, and nature as culture.
With some variation, the essays are accessible without compromising expertise. I found the volume informative.
The main weakness is some arbitrariness in the typical five visions, which may explain the rather loose unity among the essays. Authors cross-reference one another, but there is little synopsis.
The individual essays will recommend themselves to particular readers; I would not think it imperative for many to read the whole collection.
Andrew Irvine teaches philosophy and religion at Maryville College, Maryville, Tennessee. He attends New Providence Presbyterian Church (USA).