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Mikael Leidenhag

Mikael Leidenhag earned his PhD in Philosophy of Religion from Uppsala University (Sweden) in 2016. His work focuses on Religious Naturalism, Panentheism, Transhumanism and other meeting points between science and religion.

The Many Faces of Naturalism – reflecting on the current status of philosophical naturalism in the dialogue between theology and science

Birmingham 2016

Naturalism has traditionally been construed as the antithesis of a religious conception of reality. It has been argued that naturalism in viewing science as the sole mediator of knowledge invites reductionism, and so excludes morality, values, free-will and any ultimate purpose to nature. Today, however, we see a multitude of ways that scholars are attempting to move naturalism beyond this reductionist story. Non-reductive versions of naturalism have been proposed which emphasize the limits of science, the emergent order of nature, and the layered character of physical reality. Because these new forms of naturalism reject a scientific monopoly on knowledge, they seem to create space for a theological understanding of the workings of nature and enable a more harmonious relationship between theology and science. This presentation will critically evaluate some attempts at bridging naturalism and theology, focusing on Nancey Murphy, Philip Clayton, and Fiona Ellis. It will be seen that all three thinkers seek to naturalize the domain of theology in different ways and in so doing encounter both theological and philosophical problems. In the end, I suggest that the notion of “naturalism” in this discussion is unclear, and I further argue that the intellectual climate might be heading towards a post-naturalistic era. This post-naturalistic framework is highly desirable and provides new possibilities for theological reflection.