UTS student wins Templeton prize
Earlier this year, several students of Dr Dietrich Seidel's class on Religion and Science participated in the Templeton Foundation's international essay competition for graduate students on that topic. In August, it was announced that Claude Perrottet had won the fourth prize for his essay entitled Can Scientific Research Enhance Theology? A Case Study on the Understanding of Mind - Body Uniduality. The following introduction to Claude's essay provides a summary of its content.
The many faces of humility
The injunction to be "humble" should certainly be difficult to challenge for anyone dealing with the complexities of present-day scientific research. And yet, past abuses of related concepts, such as that of mystery, by traditional theologies, do raise some doubts. After all, is it not easy to hide mere ignorance behind a facade of humility before almighty God and his creation?
Our hope, in these lines, is to use the example of neurosciences to show how the "humble approach" advocated by Sir John Templeton makes such reservations superfluous, as long as it is understood as a challenge to the self-content (and self-defeating) attitude of dogmatism that insists it possesses the key to absolute and ultimate revelation.
We are still facing a paradox: as finite, created beings, what claim can we indeed have to ever fully know the infinite something (or somebody) that somehow must be our Origin? And yet, one part of our intuitive self-concept as humans also tells us that we have precisely been created with the ability to resonate with, and relate to, our universe and its Original Being in the most intimate way. This seems to exclude ignorance.
This particular paradox, though, can be elucidated if we compare our growing knowledge with an expanding sphere. While the content of the sphere (assured knowledge) keeps growing, so does the surface of the sphere, i.e. the interface with the unknown, the beyond. In a very realistic way, and without any stretch of the imagination, we can thus affirm that with each new answer a host of new questions appears by necessity (not because the answer is incomplete or inaccurate): the more we know, the more we are faced with renewed ignorance. This ignorance, however, appears as an opportunity for further increase in knowledge, rather than an admission of defeat.
Understood in this way, a theology of humility is closely related to the concept of object-consciousness of Unification Thought. This concept offers a further tool for harmonizing the seemingly contradictory notions of the limits associated to our finitude, and of our potentially unlimited capacity to know, discover, and create. As long as we exist as the visible expression of a Creator, no matter how conceived, the very notion of creation includes both the idea of humility (finitude and submissiveness), and that of inheritance (limitless potential).
At this point, and based upon the assumptions just described, we will proceed with a brief analysis of modern brain research and its implications for a global understanding of the human mind. We will then suggest a possible way of overcoming the dualistic views of mind and brain without resorting to reductionism.