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A Workshop organized by the Project Sciences and Orthodoxy around the World (SOW) of the Institute of Historical Research of theNational Hellenic Research Foundation in cooperation with the Volos Academy for Theological Studies

Volos, Saturday November 25, 2017

On November 25, 2017 a workshop on the topic “What can theology offer to the exact sciences?”, organized by the Project “Sciences and Orthodoxy around the World” (SOW) of the Institute of Historical Research of the National Hellenic Research Foundation, in cooperation with the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, was successfully held in Volos.

Science, as we understand it today, has its roots in the transformation of ancient Greek natural philosophy during the late European Renaissance period. This transformation took place within a Christian environment, where theology and faith played a key role in the development of the notion of nature by the protagonists of this transformation. Almost five centuries later, this notion has significantly changed, and theology has been eliminated from Science already since the 19th century. It is not only that God is missing from the hypotheses of Laplace, but, predominantly, it is the relationship between humankind and nature (the Christian Creation or ktesis) that has radically been transformed. Nature is approached as a tool, it is measured in energy and material for human production. From Galileo, already, the study of nature is more concerned with its exploitation rather than its interpretation. Followingly, Newton does not make hypotheses, but rather provides mathematical explanations to phenomena. This new understanding of nature appears gradually, mainly through life sciences (evolutionary biology, genetics, medicine), an ambiguous anthropological metamorphosis culminating, during our time, in the field of neurosciences, which springs from its encounter with computer sciences, mechanics, developmental psychology, psychoanalysis and philosophy, announcing a new potential, but raising dilemmas as well. As the exact sciences gain a decisive position in today’s societies, theology has been influenced by them on many levels. New theological views, as, for example, of Teilhard de Chardin, are, to a great extent, based on the exact sciences.

The issues and questions that arise from the above developments both in theology and in the strict sciences, as well as the possibilities of an encounter and conversation between them, were examined in the framework of this workshop.

After the brief welcoming addresses by the Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias, Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis (Director of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies) and Dr. Eyfthimios Nikolaidis (Director of the Project-SOW, Institute of Historical Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation), and the detailed introduction to the Project-SOW by Dr. Nikos Livanos (Institute of Historical Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation), the first session moderated by Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis took place. Dr. Nikos Prantzos (Paris Institute of Astrophysics) developed the topic: “Cosmology and Dialectical Materialism: The Problem of the Relationship between Science and Philosophy,” where he attempted to give a brief overview of the relationship between science and philosophy from antiquity to the present day with a particular reference to the field of cosmological developments in the light of dialectical materialism. Dr. Nikolaos Asproulis (Deputy Director, Volos Academy for Theological Studies, Lecturer at Hellenic Open University) presented the topic: “Being as Communion. Relational Ontology as a common language of theology and modern physics,” where he stressed the importance of relational ontology as a common linguistic code in the encounter between theology and modern physics, while he highlighted the particular contribution (the personal character of the relational ontology) of contemporary Orthodox theology to the discussion.

During the second morning session moderated by Dr. Eyfthimios Nikolaidis (Director of the Project-SOW, Institute of Historical Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation), Dr. Evdoxia Delli (Institute of Historical Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation) presented a paper on the topic “Scientific thought, theological discourse: two incompatible languages?,” where she attempted to detect the possible contribution of theology to scientific thinking and practice today in fields such as epistemology, ethics (bioethics, etc.), the field of scientific creativity, etc. Dr. Haralambos Ventis (Assistant Professor, Department of Social Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Athens) developed the topic: “Does Orthodox theology have a reason to exist in the post-Copernican era?,” where he tried to show that theology could overcome its close attachment to traditional worldviews and enter into a fruitful dialogue with modern scientific developments.

At the first afternoon session moderated by Dr. N. Prantzos (Paris Institute of Astrophysics), Vaggelis Koutalis (Institute of Historical Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation) presented a paper on the topic “Experimental philosophy, modernity and Eastern Christianity: the cases of Meletios Mitros (1661-1714) and Thomas Mandakasis (1709-1796),” where he began to highlight the importance of the two 18th century scholars in the dialogue of Orthodoxy with the scientific challenges of modernity. Dr. Argyris Nikolaidis (former Professor, Polytechnical School, University of Thessaloniki) spoke on “Contemporary Science - Orthodox Christian Tradition: The Unfinished Meeting,” where he tried to show the possibilities for a fruitful dialogue between the two disciplines, based on certain achievements of patristic theology (such as the divine essence-energies distinction in Gregory Palamas, etc.). Finally Rev. Dr. Nikolaos Loudovikos (Professor, Higher Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki, Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge) presented a paper on the topic “Theological evaluation of Scientific Eschatology,” where he attempted to present a typology of scientific eschatologies and their evaluation from the point of view of Orthodox theology.

The workshop concluded with a round table discussion moderated by Dr. Kostas Tambakis (Institute of Historical Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation), where Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis (Volos Academy for Theological Studies, Hellenic Open University, and KU Leuven), Dr. Manolis Mathioudakis (National Center for Scientific Research “Demokritos”) and Dr. Eyfthimios Nikolaidis (Institute of Historical Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation) discussed the mutual challengers and the possibilities of a further fruitful encounter between theology and strict sciences.

During the workshop enough time was given for discussion along the philosophers, theologians, scientists and historians of science.

The Project “Sciences and Orthodoxy around the World” (SOW) is funded by the “Templeton World Charity Foundation.”

To read the welcoming address (in Greek) by Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias click here

 

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