Many scientists today think of the universe as essentially purposeless. Likewise, modern and postmodern philosophers have often been suspicious of any religious claims that the natural world embodies and eternal meaning or teleology. Not all scientific thinkers subscribe to this cosmic pessimism, however, and some would even argue that contemporary knowledge is consistent with a religious sense of cosmic purpose. This stimulating book offers candid reflections on the question of cosmic purpose written both by prominent scientists and by scholars representing the world's religious traditions. Examining the issue from a wide variety of perspectives, this is the only current book to deal with cosmic purpose from an interreligious and interdisciplinary perspective. Here scientists such as physicist Andrei Linde and biologist Francisco Ayala come face to face with Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Hindu philosopher Anindita Niyogi Balslev, and others. They examine such perplexing issues as the possible existence of multiple universes and the implications of seemingly purposive features in life.
The contributions address the question of whether a religiously-based notion of a purposeful cosmos is consistent with the latest scientific understanding of nature, and whether theology can affirm the presence of divine action without contradicting science. These essays will challenge readers to ponder their own place in the cosmos as they seek to interpret the visions of the world's great spiritual traditions in the light of natural science.
John F. Haught is Landegger Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University and director of the Georgetown Center for the Study of Science and Religion. He is the author of numerous books, including God after Darwin: A Theology of Evolution (Westview Press, 1999).
Introduction 1. Inflationary Cosmology and the Question of TeleologyAndrei Lindei2. Darwin and Teleology of NatureFrancisco J. Ayala3. Islamic Cosmology: Basic Tenets and Implications, Yesterday and TodaySeyyed Hossein Nasr4. Cosmos and Consciousness: Indian PerspectivesAnindita Niyogi Balslev5. Cosomology, Science, and Ethics in Japanese Neo-ConfucianismMary Evelyn Tucker6. Cosmic Directionality and the Wisdom of ScienceBrian Swimme7. Information and Cosmic PurposeJohn F. Haught8. Is There Design and Purpose in the Universe?Owen Gingerich