What does it mean to say that God acts in a world when that world is filled with random events that have no apparent purpose? Is traditional monotheism compatible with the world uncovered by contemporary science?
The battle between those who believe in evolution, which relies on random mutations, versus those who embrace creationism, which relies on divine purposes, is old news. But an upcoming conference at Stonehill will bring together leading scientists and scholars of religion to examine the nuanced interplay of chance and providence, as it appears in every imaginable venue from Big Bang cosmology to the suffering of Job in the Old Testament.
The conference, “Abraham’s Dice,” takes place on November 16-19, 2014, and is open to the public. If you would like to join the group for meals, register at https://www.stonehill.edu/events/abrahams-dice/ .
“The troubled conversation about our origins is, unfortunately, more of a culture war than a scientific controversy,” says conference organizer Dr. Karl Giberson, Scholar-in-Residence in Science and Religion at Stonehill. “However, even for scientists who are Christians, random events in nature raise theological questions about divine action.”
Giberson is also founder of Abraham’s Dice, the conference’s namesake: a collaborative effort at Stonehill gathering international scholars to explore the interplay of chance and providence in the monotheistic religious traditions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
During the three-day conference, funded by the Templeton Foundation, Giberson and 17 contributors on the forefront of science and religion will consider how randomness relates to the traditional belief that God is in control of events. How have the monotheistic traditions engaged the world when it seemed without purpose.
“We examine the significance of randomness and its intersection — or lack thereof — with divine action,” explains Giberson. “We want to know how that interplay has been understood over time as our understanding of nature has changed.”
Giberson holds a PhD in Physics from Rice University and has lectured on science and religion at the Vatican, Oxford University, London’s Thomas More Institute, and at many prestigious American venues, including MIT, Brigham Young University and Xavier University.
He has written or co-authored 10 books, and contributed to many edited volumes, including Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, which The Washington Post called “one of the best books of 2008.” His forthcoming book, Saving the Original Sinner, explores the historical controversies that have surrounded Adam and Eve.
Conference discussions will include:
- Does Randomness Challenge Divine Providence?
- The Natural Science of Greek Philosophy and the Social Science of Judaism Become the Super-Providence of Paul
- The Ancient Hebraic Voices of Chance and Choice over Fate and Justice
- Chance in the Early Christian Tradition
- Aquinas on Natural Contingency and Providence
- Chance, Sovereignty and Providence in the Calvinist Tradition
- God as the Author of Evil: Jonathan Edwards and Divine Occasionalism
- Divine Providence in the Clockwork Universe
- Contingency and Providence in the Historical Sciences: Evolution and Earth History
- Randomness as a Part of God’s Nature
- Is the World Simple or Complex? Chance, Uncertainty, and Unknowability in Modern Cosmology
- Chance in the Koran and Islamic Tradition
- The Tragic in Theology: Randomness and the Problem of Evil
Conference presenters include:
- John Barrow, Cambridge University
- Reinhold Bernhardt, University of Basel
- John Hedley Brooke, Oxford University
- Oliver Crisp, Fuller Theological Seminary
- Peter Harrison, University Of Queensland
- Jennifer Hecht, New School
- Richard Miller, Creighton University
- Sarah Ruden, Brown University
- Mustafa Ruzgar, California State University, Northridge
- Ignacio Silva, Oxford University
- Karl Giberson, Stonehill College
Faculty from various departments at Stonehill will provide responses to the presentations.
Stonehill College, a Catholic institution of higher learning founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross, is a community of scholarship and faith, anchored by a belief in the inherent dignity of each person. Through its curriculum of liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs, Stonehill College provides an education of the highest caliber that fosters critical thinking, free inquiry and the interchange of ideas. Stonehill College educates the whole person so that each Stonehill graduate thinks, acts, and leads with courage toward the creation of a more just and compassionate world.
For more information and to register for this conference, visit https://www.stonehill.edu/events/abrahams-dice/.