International Society for Philosophers

International Society for Philosophers

Wisdom begins with wonder

PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS                   ISSN 2043-0728


Issue number 113 6th January 2006


I. 'Philosophical relationship of Scientific Naturalism and Religion' by John J. Eberts

II. 'Lucian's thoughts on lifelong and adult learning' by Fotios Vassileiou

III. 'Philosophy Forum Nepal Celebrates World Philosophy Day' by Avaya Sharma



John Eberts is a college lecturer who gained his Pathways Associate award in 2001. In his knowledgeable article, he describes an alternative view to popular misconceptions of the relation between science and religion. According to Eberts, theology is a pre-eminently rational activity which seeks to avoid supernaturalism and miraculous interventions, thus allowing room for a naturalistic view of the cosmos, consistent with the discoveries of physics.

Fotios Vassileiou gives a fascinating snapshot of the Greek satirist and rhetorician Lucian of Samosata, born in 120 AD whose thoughts on the idea of self-improvement through education seem remarkably relevant to issues in adult learning today.

The Philosophy Forum Nepal was formed by a small group of scholars to open lines of communication between philosophy enthusiasts and promote the study of philosophy at university level. Coordinator Avaya Sharma describes how the Forum celebrated World Philosophy Day. Photos of the event can be found on the PhiloSophos web site at the address given below.

Geoffrey Klempner



The relationship between scientific naturalism and religion in much of modern western philosophy has been one of antagonism and outright hostility. The new developments in physical and natural sciences present a challenge to religion according to R.J. Russel, W.R. Stoeger and G.V. Coyne, far greater even than that presented by the introduction of Aristotelian philosophy to the western world.[1]

This presents a challenge that must be addressed or fragmentation to the already delicate balance between religion and science may occur. Christopher Mooney contends that many theologians are not equipped to deal with the new findings in science; conversely, scientists have difficulties working and communicating with mainstream theologians.[2] Science's essential nature is a nature of inquiry, the ability to discern the truth. In its attempt to fathom the truth of the universe, science employs a rational and critical method based upon evidence. The goal of science is to analyze and systematize its subject matter and develop rigorous logical inferences to support its conclusions. Its primary focus then is the attainment of knowledge; it seeks truth, a truth not limited to the area of experience but a truth which encompasses the whole. In contemporary society the attempt to subdivide the categories of natural science has resulted in the development of artificial limits that obscure the whole.

Both religion and science embrace the total sphere of individual experience and both purport to encompass the Whole of knowledge. In one aspect science looks into and searches for truth of the Whole, on the other hand religion affirms the sphere of experience and asserts knowledge according to its adherents. In the end both domains have the same goal, to affirm the knowledge and truth concerning the Cosmos.

Individual belief and fervor for truth are by necessity grounded in reason or they become mere folklore. Belief requires some 'reason' for belief. The reason must be grounded in some form of legitimate thought that can appeal to a rational foundation. Therefore religious assertion concerning the reality of an entity becomes rationally based. The theologians then, like the scientists, must examine areas amenable to reason in their search for the uniformity of the natural order.

Theology then maintains a commitment compatible with that of critical reflection. Critical reason with its innate ability to comprehend that although it can investigate the pre-critical suppositions of existence, it can never fully grasp them; although one can identify that no theoretical reason can reside outside the realm of a resolution of the practical reason, that can never be wholly grasped.[3]

As an intellectual domain theology is rational whose purpose is to present a rational explanation of belief. In an attempt to reconcile the perceived difference between religion and natural science the 'concordance' model brings together the scientific and theological explanations of nature and therefore their presupposition would reside within the same plane, one of natural theology. 'Plainly,' writes C. Raven, 'if analysis degenerates into disintegration and existence becomes fragmented into a rubbish-heap of "shreds and patches," coherence, significance and growth become impossible; compass-bearings are lost; civilization founders; and mankind sinks to a level lower than that of the brutes.'[4]

The areas of astronomy, astrophysics, and physical cosmology represent the major branches in physics that have direct bearing on this issue and will be addressed here. Process Philosophy as developed by Alfred North Whitehead will also be addressed at a later time. Process Philosophy, which becomes the basis for Process Theology, can be categorized as natural theology; its main intent is to demonstrate the constructive relationships between religion and science.

Since there is an interrelationship sought between science and religion, the first step that needs to be established is the actual basis of that relationship.

Naturalism as defined in the 19th century has been viewed as having a negative connotation according to some analytic philosophers. During the 19th century the laws of physics encompassed a larger and larger area of space and time events. This gave the universe a deterministic mechanistic appearance residing solely on the laws of motion. This in turn devaluated the concept of God and the concept of immateriality. The appearance of the Darwinian theory and its evidence of the evolutionary aspect of man seems to be the final blow for traditional religion. In their opinion, the 19th century philosopherS had erased objective norms and replaced them with scientific facts.

The metaphysical presuppositions established by Newtonian science influenced scholars from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. David Ray Griffin defined this type of naturalism, which he referred to as naturalism (SAM) as encompassing sensationalism, atheism, materialism, determinism and reductionism, sometimes referred to as metaphysical naturalism. In addition to these attributes, Griffin also states that it encompasses what he refers to as naturalism (NS) which he concludes is only a rejection of supernaturalism and casual relations interruption. In Griffin's opinion naturalism (NS) is compatible with theism, whereas naturalism (SAM) is not.

The present problem is that naturalism (SAM) seems to have dominated science and is synonymous with scientific naturalism. This is primarily represented in the works of Searle, Dawkins, Weinberg, Uttal and others. Although scientific naturalism dominates in the academy, particularly in its methodology and mechanistic varieties, it is increasingly being challenged both inside and outside the academic circles.[5]

To initiate a dialogue and possible harmony of naturalism and religion, the first step is to advocate a common world view concerning the use of naturalism (NS) only and the elimination of the dependence on supernaturalism within religion. The type of theistic naturalism that is postulated as well as a dialogue that builds constructive relationships resides in Whitehead's Process Philosophy.

Although Whitehead's philosophy has tremendous bearing on the compatibility of science and religion, other areas also need to be addressed. These areas include:

     Theological perspective: The intention is to look at the
     traditional theological perspective and its cosmological
     view point.
     Metaphysics and Epistemology: Metaphysics asks the
     normative question concerning what is reality and its
     relation to mere appearance. Epistemology asks normative
     questions concerning knowledge and its relationship to
     Process Philosophy and religion: a comprehensive
     metaphysical philosophy showing God as the principle of
     concretion whereby actual processes arise.

Traditional theology's main endeavor was to place faith in a relationship with science. It must be remembered that throughout this early period, 'Christian thinkers typically thought of science as a "handmaiden" to theology, which was the "queen of sciences": science might serve theology by assisting in understanding biblical references to nature, but it ought never to challenge the sole authority of theology to define reality.'[6]

Although this changed drastically with the introduction of Greek scientific, medical and Aristotelian natural philosophy, the groundwork had already been laid for fundamental problems to develop. St. Thomas Aquinas had created a synthesis of Aristotelian, Arab Commentaries and Church doctrine to overcome many of the tenets within Aristotelian natural philosophy that were at odds with Christianity.

The Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides was also able to relate God to nature as Aquinas had. Both of these scholars were able to modify Aristotle's view that the order of nature is rationally necessary[7], and the world was external to be compatible with Christian and Jewish doctrines:

     'Contemporary developments in science challenge theology
     far more that did the introduction of Aristotle into
     Western Europe in the thirteenth century. Yet these
     developments also offer to theology a potentially important
     resource. Just as Aristotelian philosophy, through the
     ministry of such great scholars as St. Thomas Aquinas,
     ultimately came to shape some of the most profound
     expressions of theological doctrine, so can we not hope
     that the science of today... may invigorate and inform
     those parts of theological enterprises that bear on the
     relation of nature, humanity, and God?[8]

Given the standard cosmological model that the physical universe is expanding based on the 'big bang' theory, the laws of physics can't explain the singular state (singularity) when space and time become infinitely distorted. The singularity in relation to our general theory of relativity causes a dynamic space-time expansion with the universe -- rather than being a preexisting static space-time.

This model has greater significance in the realm of theology than in physics. It is of greater importance that this finding be grounded in science than theology. William Stoeger, an astrophysicist and a priest, states that science needs not, in fact, should not have to accept conclusions from theology. Science needs to follow its own methodology and not rely on theological principles. The result of not following one's methodology would be pseudo-science.

Scientific discoveries like the big bang theory have major consequences on theology and are based upon sound scientific principles. William Stoeger outlines three ways science in general affects theology.

     It confronts theology, causing alterations in its own
     conclusions, the way they are reached, and terms by which
     they are expressed.
     It, through philosophy, is modifying the metaphysic
     employed in theological reflections and articulation.
     It influences theology -- with new images, concepts,
     perspectives and symbols, thereby enriching a common
     cultural field[9]

All three of these are present when referring to the big bang theory and theology. In the first case, physics reflects an accurate theory on the origin of the universe and reveals questions dealing with physical reality that still remain unanswered. Theology must also allow the gaps in the standard model explanation to remain as gaps. Theology must defer to cosmology to answer the question -- and resist the urge to fill in the gaps with God.


[1] Pope John Paul II, 'Message of His Holiness Pope John II to Conference Participants.' Physics, Philosophy, and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding, ed. R.J. Russell, W.R. Stoeger, and G.V. Coyne (Vatican City State, 1988), m12.

[2] Christopher Mooney, 'Theology and Science: A New Commitment to Dialogue,' Theological Studies, Vol. 52, No. 2 (June 1991), 290.

[3] Rahner, K. 'Theology,' Sacramentum Mundi: An Encyclopedia of Theology, ed. Karl Rahner et al. (New York, 1970), VI,234.

[4] Experience and Interpretation, Second Series of the Gifford Lectures: Natural Religion and Christian Theology (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1953), p. 35

[5] Ferngren, G. (2002) p. 332 Science and religion: a historical introduction. John Hopkins University press.

[6] Ferngren, p, 324

[7] Griffin, D., R. (2000).Religion and scientific naturalism: overcoming the conflicts. New York: State University Press. p.325

[8] Pope John Paul II, 'Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Conference Participants.' m12.

[9] Stoeger, W. (1988). 'Contemporary Cosmology and its Implications for the Religion-Science Dialogue,' Physics, Philosophy, and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding, ed R.J. Russell, W.R. Stoeger, and G.V. Coyne. Vatican City State, p. 243.

(c) John Eberts 2006




Concerning the modern lifelong learning we have to say that the design of the curriculum, of course, is always constrained by factors such as the level of re-sourcing, the, the limits of technology, the definition of further education, the existing syllabuses, and the university expectations. But, maybe the most important factor is the expectations of the students themselves. Adult learners, first of all, wish for more time in their lives. Lucian said:

     'What about the duration of your studies?'
     'I do not know something about it. I suppose that I need 20
     more years of studying.'
     'Did your teacher swear to you that you will live for 20
     years more? Did he?'
Adult learners are already in work, they have the desire for economic betterment, to obtain full-time rather part-time employment, to improve career prospects and sometimes gain promotion or simply to improve performance. In any case they do not have enough and plenty of time to spend. They are working, many of them are parents and their time is like gold pieces with high market value. That's why they do their student work with a lot of enthusiasm.

Now, how one can decide on the better school or university or programme for her/ him to study? Of course, he can't choose by the name or even by the beauty of the buildings of this or that university.

     'You cannot choose by the presence. This is a way for
     selecting sculptures not studies. This is a way to find
     better stature, better clothing and such things. But if we
     have to choose schools by the general appearance, how
     can a blind-man can choose a school to study in?'

After all, to whom do we have to trust the guidance of our studies? There are a lot of people, a lot of theories, a lot of schools, universities and study programmes. There are always a vast variety and plethora of them.

     'We have plenty of drivers. There are a lot of people ready
     and willing to drive you to the "City of Philosophy- The
     Politeia". You can see that there is not only one road.
     There are many and different roads. One drives to west, the
     other to the east, one other road drives us to the north and
     one other to the south. But the conclusion is only one:
     Every road is the right road. Everyone is the correct
     driver. And you know that this is not the truth.'

So, we have to be informed for every academic programme and every school we can, in order to better select the programme/ school which is more effectively fits to our personal standards.

     'If one demonstrates to us one man by telling that this man
     is the most beautiful man in the world, there is only one
     case we could believe in him. And this one case is to know
     that he had seen all the beautiful people in the world.'

That's why the more programmes we know, the better choice we have. And because of the importance of lifelong and adult learning we have to be organized and well informed in order to finally choose the best one we can. When we are talking about adult learning and teaching, we have to remember that we are talking about sections of the population with particular needs, long-term unemployed, and women returnees. It is essential not to only understand the demographic data in respect of various social categories (as the previous ones), but also for educationalists to familiarize themselves with the class, gender, ethnic experiences and the cultural strategies and ethics of particular groups.

     'There will be a city called "Arete", where citizens will
     be all happy, robust, fair and wise enough. There will be
     no greedy people for gain, no thieves and savages. All
     citizens will live in peace. This is what nature wants.
     There will be no riches to strive for, no fame and no
     pleasures to fight against the others for. After that they
     will all live a beautiful and happy life under laws and
     rules, equity, freedom and other goods.'

Maybe, just maybe this is the best way to end these pure and poor thoughts of mine. Hope must be the last survivor on our world. And what is adult learning for adults if it is not just a hope for betterment and development, or even just a hope to produce another hope to the future. Adult learning is adult's hope.


Lucian Hermotimus: on schools of philosophy Epilogi-Thyrathen Publications Greece 1999

(c) Fotios Vassileiou 2005




To mark the world philosophy Day, Philosophy Forum Nepal (PFN) organized an interaction program on 17th Nov 2005.

Speaking on the occasion, Avaya Sharma, coordinator of PFN, said that the program was chiefly aimed at heralding a new philosophical environment in the country.

Sharma highlighted the importance of philosophy in addressing the myriad of burning issues the world is facing.

'The innovative application of underlying values of philosophy can be instrumental in addressing the global issues like democracy, human rights, justice and equality', Sharma stated.

Professor Dr Birendra Kumar Mishra, the chief guest of the program, expressed the view that unsolved problems and unanswered questions of contemporary society have always been at the heart of philosophical analysis and thinking.

Presenting the welcome speech, Nucche Bd. Maharjan shed light on the need to promote a healthy philosophical environment to rescue the nation from prevailing crisis.

Bed Raj Gyawali pointed out the immense potentiality of philosophy to foster the conditions in which peaceful co-existence may flourish. Gyawali argued for the celebration of a National Philosophy Day to nurture the philosophical environment in the country.

The other speakers of the program urged the government to incorporate philosophy as a subject in the Masters Degree, conducted by Tribhuvwan University, to meet the aspiration of interested students.

Puskar Gautam, Ravi Guragain, Parbat Bhattarai and Suren Shakya also shared their views on the occasion. The program was chaired by Avaya Sharma, coordinator of philosophy forum Nepal.

   Photographs from the program can be viewed on the PhiloSophos web site at:

(c) Avaya Sharma 2006

Coordinator, Philosophy Forum Nepal


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© Geoffrey Klempner 2002–2020