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date: 25 March 2017

Biology and Theology: Contemporary Issues

Summary and Keywords

Contemporary issues in biology and Christian theology are still dominated by the legacy of 19th-century biologist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Debates in evolutionary biology in relation to religious belief have been reinforced by historical myths that stress conflict over integration. More conservative branches of Christianity, often allied to particular Protestant traditions, argue for a form of popular theology that attempts to compete with science, namely, creationism. More sophisticated versions of this position may appear under the guise of intelligent design, though creationism and intelligent design are not synonymous. The mirror image of this position has developed among biologists who identify themselves as new atheists, adding further fuel to the fire of an existing controversy. Methodologically speaking, the engagement of biology and theology will depend on different philosophical presuppositions according to basic models of (a) conflict, (b) independence, (c) dialogue, and (d) integration. The biological sciences also have broader relevance to allied subject domains including, for example: (a) ecological, agricultural, animal, and environmental sciences; (b) anthropological, social, and political sciences; (c) medical sciences, including genetic science and embryo development; and (d) new technologies that include bioengineering. Theological engagement with the biological component of each of these domains is particularly intense where there are controversial ethical issues at stake that seem to challenge specific Christian beliefs about human nature or divine purpose. A more positive approach to the biological sciences that draws on research in the constructive systematic theological task, while avoiding historically naïve forms of natural theology, is starting to emerge in the literature. Within Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christian traditions, there is a spectrum of possible positions, such that the field of science and theology as a whole tends to be ecumenical in orientation rather than divided along denominational boundaries. The Catholic and Orthodox churches, however, give greater precedence to official statements by their respective churches that then influence public reception of controversial issues in biology and theology in particular ways.

Keywords: biology, evolution, Darwin, new atheism, creationism, ethics, bioengineering

The Legacy of Charles Darwin (1809–1882)

Few scientists have had such a profound impact on the relationship between science and theology than the brilliant 19th-century naturalist Charles Darwin. His theory of evolution by natural selection still colors discussion among theologians, even while his own theory has been broadly accepted by natural scientists. The basic tenet of his theory is that given the existence of variation in kinds between individuals in a population, those that are most suited to their natural environment will survive and produce the most offspring, thus passing on and increasing in relative proportion their particular favorable characteristics in each subsequent generation. The weeding out of less favorable forms through a process of elimination he termed natural selection. Now, scientists at the time recognized natural selection took place, but they resisted the idea that it could be sufficient to explain the variety and complexity of natural living forms. The alternative was that there was a positive vital force (élan vitale) existing in living things that positively disposed them toward flourishing in a given environment. Other variations were the so-called Lamarckian concept that characteristics acquired during the lifetime of an individual could be passed down to the next generation. Following Darwin, the branch of biological sciences that came to be known as genetics, provided a much more sophisticated explanation of how characteristics were passed from one generation to the next. Genetics was founded on the patient work of a 19th-century monk, Gregor Mendel (1822–1884), who cross-fertilized peas in a way that was remarkably ahead of his time. But even though he died just two years after Darwin, it took more than three decades for his work to be appreciated.

Biologists today presuppose Darwin as a basic foundation for their theories, but it would be a mistake to envisage them as regularly returning to his work for inspiration for their research. It is also important to recognize the difference between the neo-Darwinian synthesis in the early part of the 20th century that drew in important insights from a combination of Mendelian genetics and population genetics and Darwin’s much less certain propositions on inheritance that were far more speculative. Hence, even though his theory of natural selection fitted in with his observations, he had no genetic theory that was worked out subsequently and provided an explanation of how certain phenotypes were passed down from one generation to the next. Since the mid-20th century there have also been increasing challenges to a complete reliance on Mendelian genetics as adequate to explain all evolutionary changes in a population. Genetic drift leads to variation in genetic make up in a population through the simple process of random mixing of alleles. Genetic drift takes place when two or more alleles do not confer any particular advantage and so are not selected in or out over time by natural selection. Epigenetics, on the other hand, is the process whereby changes in the heritable material takes place in a non-Mendelian fashion through genes being switched on or off by other influences. The fundamental importance of cooperation, rather than competition, is also a particular reading of Darwin that has come back in fashion, based on increasing evidence. Darwin’s cultural debt to the idea of progress also needs to be factored into the debates, a paradigm that persists to this day.

In spite of these further complexities, the scientist that contemporary theologians are most likely to turn to in their reflection on evolution is still Charles Darwin. One of the reasons for this is that Darwin’s insights continue to present a challenge for religious believers. The fact that his scientific approach is now outdated, even if the kernel of his evolutionary paradigm remains, does not seem of great concern to theologians who are used to working with historical material. For them, it is important to go back to the start of the paradigm shift when the grip of ecclesial authority faced a severe crisis. The crisis emerged because Darwin presented a challenge to a number of deeply held religious views. The first was that God directly designs specific biological forms by divine fiat. The idea of the natural world as having a developmental history was a challenge for theological sources reliant on the concept of fixity of forms. Evolution by natural selection seemed to deny the necessity for belief in divine design. The second crisis related to theological anthropology, for it became difficult to believe in a biblical account of human origins, a historical Adam, Fall and redemption, when Darwin’s theory pointed to a continuous process of evolution of humans from a common ancestor of other primates. Included in this problem is the traditional Roman Catholic belief that God inserted a soul at the moment of conception, which goes against a naturalistic explanation of human becoming. The third crisis related to God’s providence, human purpose, and meaning. For if the evolutionary view of the development of life was correct, then human purpose seemed illusionary; the human species would be subject to the same fate as all other now extant species. The fourth crisis related to moral and ethical issues attached to Darwin’s theory. Although there is little support that Darwin necessarily held such views, the belief that some people were naturally more inferior compared with others and that survival of the fittest was the paradigm for human societies could be drawn from Darwin’s theory. Of course, his theory could just as easily work in the opposite direction, in that, given that all humans share in a common ancestor, then all humans come from a common stock and so are of equal merit. Some historians have even somewhat controversially suggested that Darwin published his Origin of Species because of anti-slavery motivations.1 But the fact that his theory lent itself to this more racist and exclusionary explanation was deeply troubling for some, and may at least in part explain the extent to which conservative views of the Bible have seemed a more attractive alternative. The fifth crisis relates to the problem associated with the extraordinary degree of suffering in the natural world and the millions of extinctions over evolutionary time. The issue is this: if the creation is good and a product of a loving Creator, why is there such excessive predation, death, and disease?

As well as the above suspicion that the legacy of Darwin fostered racist views, the way that the famous conflict between T. H. Huxley and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce was reported so as to encourage the view that the church failed in the face of scientific rationalism added further fuel to the conflict narrative. It is therefore, perhaps, not really surprising that some more conservative groups in the Protestant tradition found Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution deeply offensive and proposed an alternative creationist science in competition with that of evolutionary biology. Of course, biblical exegetes would be quick to point out that an interpretation of the book of Genesis as if it can be read as literal scientific truth is a naïve confusion in genre. For them, the Bible should not be read in that way because it is about salvation history, rather than a scientific account of origins. But for those who adhere to creationism the crusade is as much a moral one as an occasion for exegetical purity. Further, many of such believers still genuinely believe that God created through divine fiat every instance of the huge variety of created kinds, and that to involve God in such a messy process as evolution that entails so much suffering and death would be a travesty of belief in a good God.

Intelligent design (ID) is a theory that has developed rather more recently compared with creationism, though the general sense that God is ultimately responsible for the design of the world is very ancient. The thesis of intelligent design is that the complexity of forms in the world is such that evolution by natural selection cannot be an adequate explanation in order to account for such complexity. Intelligent design is confusing in that there are some proponents that use the theory as a cover for a creationist view, others insist that they also adhere to micro-evolution by natural selection, but not when it comes to specific instances of novelty or the appearance of complex forms. Intelligent design advocates will often distance themselves from the creationist literature, even if they may or may not personally hold such views, in order to present ID as an alternative science. The possibility that ID could be genuinely discoverable by scientific methods is not really entertained by the majority of serious biologists in the academy, even though its proponents regularly appeal to those scientists who have declared themselves as holding such a position.

The controversies over Darwin’s theory therefore continue to reverberate and are not likely to end soon. Now, over one hundred years since his death, his towering figure continues to fascinate and distract the difficult and complex task of relating theology and contemporary biology. For alongside creationism and perhaps as a counter-movement within science we find a new breed of biologists who, unlike Darwin in his modesty and reticence about disturbing religious sensibilities, are aggressively determined to expunge all traces of religious belief in the name of science. These new atheists, championed by authors such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett, attempt not so much to engage in theological discussion as to dismantle the rational validity of religious belief. Richard Dawkins in particular argues that evolution by natural selection, with selection focused on the genes, explains human origins far more convincingly compared with the mythologies that he believes are represented in monotheistic or other faiths. He is particularly disparaging of Christianity. Although he has achieved a significant popular following among those who are perhaps dissatisfied with their Christian legacy, his arguments are weak, in terms of his relative lack of sophistication, in terms of his knowledge of theology, and in terms of his adherence to a form of biological determinism that is rapidly becoming outmoded among research biologists.

Methodological Paradigms in Biology and Theology

So far the discussion above illustrates the dominant historical legacy between biology and theology, namely, one of conflict and dissent. However, conflict is not the only possible position to take when engaging in areas where it is difficult to reconcile opposing beliefs.

Another possible reaction, and one taken by prominent evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, is that of irrelevance, or independence. This is also arguably one of the most common positions for contemporary practicing scientists to adopt, unless they happen to be religious believers. In many cases it is non-reflective, that is, scientists do not consider it within their purview as scientists to consider such questions, God is simply not a matter that chimes with rigorous scientific method. Gould is more self-conscious in this respect, and makes the case that the fields of biological and evolutionary sciences and that of religious belief are two very different sorts of knowledge. One deals in matters of faith and depends on metaphysical views of the world that include the idea of God as Creator. The other, science, is bent on understanding living processes in all their complexity and variety, and cannot admit of a God or any spiritual agent. Each have their own sources of authority or Magisteria that are respected in their own worlds, and therefore each have very little to say to one another. Gould was not, nonetheless, entirely consistent in maintaining this position. Just before his death he wrote a very large volume on evolutionary theory, The Structure of Evolutionary Biology, that includes in it notes about the human capacity for wonder that paint science in a rather different way in comparison with his earlier illustrations.

Indeed, the wonder that many scientists experience in the course of their work, including that of Darwin, offers another possible reaction that recalls the natural theology of pre-Darwin biology, namely, discovering a sense of mystical wonder through the natural world. In fact, such a sense of mystical wonder was also strong in Darwin’s work.2 However, and compared to physicists, relatively few biologists admit that such mystical wonder could be a reference to the presence of the divine. Biologists will admit to wonder from a range of religious perspectives: from those like Arthur Peacocke who endorse such experiences of wonder as showing us the sacramental presence of God, to those such as E. O. Wilson who attempt to be somewhat more conciliatory but are still firmly convinced that science provides the best explanations of the natural world, to those such as Richard Dawkins who are aggressively atheist. Now, it might seem strange that such very different positions with respect to the relationship of biology with theology can include an admission of more mystical forms of wonder. But what is interesting is that each of these authors uses such experiences to argue the case for his own particular narrative about the relationship between science and truth.

For biologist and theologian Arthur Peacocke, who was a pioneer in charting the relationship between science and religion in terms of dialogue, wonder experienced by scientists connects with the sacramental life of grace and points to belief in God as Creator. But the methodology of science remains that of critical realism, that is, science discovers ontological realities that are then subject to further analysis over time. Many of those engaged in theology and biological science discussions adopt critical realism as a philosophy, including influential figures such as Ernan McMullin. For E. O. Wilson, on the other hand, finding consilience with those in the humanities is important, including those who are religious believers. But its importance relates to the practical task facing humanity, namely that of saving the natural world from human destruction. The massive loss of biodiversity and other environmental and ecological problems are just too serious to exclude those who might care about the natural world for other non-scientific reasons. Indeed, he hopes that by teaming up with those who profess a religious belief, perhaps believers themselves will come to see the significance of scientific knowledge. Richard Dawkins, who represents those who are New Atheists, has a different methodology that is more akin to scientific positivism, that is, the material sciences are sufficient to explain the natural world, so wonder that is rooted in such sciences is more convincing than religious wonder since it rests on a more solid material foundation.

All three scientists are, consciously or not, adopting a grand narrative about the world that includes science. Peacocke’s grand narrative is broadly a Christian one, but in the light of evolutionary science he is prepared to soften those claims of theology that seem difficult to square with that science, such as the Virgin Birth. E. O. Wilson’s grand narrative is socio-biology, that is, he seeks to explain complex human behavior through evolutionary mechanisms, and Neo-Darwinian genetic selection in particular. But as well as his sociobiology he is also passionately invested in environmental ethics, which means he is also prepared to be conciliatory toward religious believers. Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, adopts a grand narrative related to his selfish gene theory, in which he posits that life is reduced to the propagation of genes, so all forms of meaning are illusory. Of course, he does not take the next step and ask if his selfish gene hypothesis is also illusory.

So far the possible relationship between theology and biology has been mapped in terms of (a) conflict, (b) independence, and (c) dialogue. The fourth possibility that sometimes accompanies dialogue is that of integration, where dialogue moves to a new phase and insights from biology are incorporated into theology. The difference between dialogue and integration is that in dialogue the basic metaphysical distinctions between the two broad fields remain intact. In integration the lines are deliberately blurred and an attempt is made to come up with a synthesis of ideas, echoing the Hegelian movement of thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis. Integration of evolutionary biology with theology was pioneered by paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin writing in the early 20th century. His work was mystical as much as theological, and while his writing enjoyed strong popularity immediately after his death, it went out of fashion, perhaps because he seemed to be too strident about the benefits of science, and his view of evolutionary biology was still one that stressed the importance of the human lineage, rather than a richer understanding of the multiple diversity of forms.

Allied Subject Domains That Use Biological Sciences

Ecological, Agricultural, Animal, and Environmental Sciences

Theology and biology considered as a field cannot ignore the vast literature in ecotheology, though the standard science and religion discussion tends to bracket off engagements with the more practical sciences and their relationship to ethics as if they are less important. From the perspective of public discussion, however, the engagement of theology and ecology has been highly significant, and, arguably, has had an even stronger following within ecclesial circles compared with the seemingly more rarified discussions of science and religion dialogue, or even hostile reactions between evolutionary biology and creationism that is characteristic of a significant sector of Christians, but is certainly not mainstream. Within ecotheology as a whole there are a diversity of uses of biological science, though some are more or less informed by current evolutionary theory or ecology. The tendency by theologians engaging in this literature to adopt a normative position on ecology, for example, that presupposes that ecological systems are stable and in equilibrium states, reflects a philosophy of ecology that has long since been superseded.

Part of the difficulty is that once theologians recognize that there has been a paradigm shift in ecology, it becomes difficult to understand what this might mean in relation to the grand narrative of its own position, one that presents the world on a trajectory of creation, fall, and redemption under God’s providence and working in salvation history. Viewing creation as related to ecology of nature that is in a state of equilibrium is rather easier in terms of theological integration compared with viewing creation as in a continual state of flux. The reason being that on an intuitive level many theological categories such as harmony and beauty appear to integrate better with a system that tends toward equilibrium, rather than one in perpetual flux. Part of the difficulty here is also about terminology and their meanings in very different subject domains. Creation is the standard term used by theologians to describe belief in the natural world as created by God. But it is not equivalent to nature, where the term is understood as the world described by science, including human beings. The tendency to collapse creation into nature or view them as equivalent is common, not just at the level of popular writing, but in ecotheology as well. The Christian tradition distinguishes creation from nature, so that belief in God as Creator marks the creation of being as such, rather than equating creation with the details of the working of the natural world.

The ancients, following Aristotelian biology, also had a way of distinguishing the final cause from the material cause, the formal cause and the efficient cause.3 Such categorizations are difficult to appreciate in contemporary biology since all causes are collapsed into efficient cause. Theology, on the other hand, admits to the author of the final cause being God and resists explanatory reduction to efficient causes. Once theologians no longer accept the distinction between creation and nature, then the narrative as portrayed by science becomes open to a new kind of metaphysical interpretation, one that is elevated and absorbed into the final cause. A good example of this trend is that portrayed by the New Creation Story, developed by Thomas Berry. The New Creation Story claims to tell the story of the Universe in terms of the science of that unfolding from its earliest formation in the Big Bang, but it has within it a narrative about the beginning, the collapse of the health of the planet, and an ultimate hope in the future under the auspices of human society rendered more responsible and responsive to threats such as climate change and collapse of biodiversity. The narrative is sufficiently powerful to influence a wide range of theologians working from different perspectives.

Such a grand cosmic narrative leaves far behind the agrarian literature focusing on local communities that has grown up predominantly in North America as a result of the work of writers such as John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Wendell Berry. It also leaves behind engagement between theology and animal studies that have focused variously on the need to recognize sentience in other animals and their rights as “subjects of a life.” These more concrete studies of animal lives and local ecological communities have the potential to take ecological science more seriously since under the New Creation Story ecological science is writ large through cosmic geological accounts, such as that expressed in James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis. This theory speculated that the reason why the planet has not warmed up as much as one might have expected is because of the sum total of life in the biota work to keep conditions within limits. How this could actually work in practice is difficult to judge scientifically, which is why theories such as this remain controversial in terms of scientific credibility.

Political, Social, and Anthropological Sciences

Ecotheology inevitably has to engage with political science in so far as ecological issues spill out from a purely scientific reference point and include political issues. There are particularly heated debates in political science on climate change. Scientists themselves may get caught up in the political processes. Climategate, for example, represented the way those who were politically invested in disrupting evidences for climate change hacked into the computers of well respected scientists and used the results for their particular political purposes.

Social science in its relation to biology is well established in the field of socio-biology, and it is this area of biology that has led to an intensive debate within theological circles. The reason for such a debate is that sociobiology or its newer form of some versions of evolutionary psychology attempt to provide explanations of complex human behavior in terms of natural, evolutionary trends. The breakdown between cultural and biological forms of explanation is becoming increasingly blurred. Controversial questions also remain regarding the use of evolutionary science in providing explanations for particular human behaviors, including religious beliefs. Traditional belief in human beings taking responsibility for their actions are replaced with a form of biological determinism. Anthropological science, on the other hand, opens up a whole host of issues that are significant in considering the relationship between biology and theology, not least because anthropology is concerned with the way human societies live in communities, the earliest origins of humanity and the ways humans find meaning in their societies. More recent anthropological research has also started to trace the significance of inter-species relationships in human communities, that itself poses interesting challenges for theologians who have traditionally considered human beings to be set apart from the rest of the natural order.

Medical Sciences, Including Genetic Science and Embryo Development

In so far as the medical sciences are concerned with healing, theologians are naturally drawn to affirm their activities. However, controversies arise where medical science uses biological techniques that seem to be in conflict with specific aspects of religious belief and practice. The broad consensus among Christian theologians is that genetic modification using localized gene therapy on individual subjects is acceptable, but genetic modification of material that might be inherited is not yet acceptable. More liberal theologians are prepared to accept the use of techniques such as embryo research, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or use of embryonic stem cells in order to develop techniques that alleviate debilitating suffering in others. Underlying these concerns are specific theological beliefs about when a human being becomes subject to protection. More conservative theologians insist that even if it is not clear that a fertilized egg, or zygote, can be thought of as a person, as the possibility is still there that if in the normal conditions in the womb it could go on to become a human person, it should be treated as such. It is therefore unacceptable to destroy one human for the sake of another’s benefit. More liberal theologians, on the other hand, will argue that it makes no scientific sense to label a zygote a person, and therefore the marker of when a human being needs to be protected should be under the guidance of scientific knowledge of human development. A somewhat arbitrary mark of fourteen days after fertilization has been used, but these early embryos are still sufficient to allow significant embryonic research and, in the case of stem cell treatment, to be a source of embryonic stem cells.

The official Roman Catholic position is that of resisting any trends toward using embryos for medical research, so much so that such developments have been labeled “the culture of death.” Protestants and more liberal Catholic theologians are more prepared to accept limited use of embryos in research, including embryonic stem cell research. The arrival of pluripotent stem cell research might seem to solve the problem, since differentiated cells can be induced to form different cell lines and function in much the same way as embryonic stem cells in their regenerative capacity. Normally, in embryonic stem cell treatments, stem cells are taken from inside a blastocyst in a developing embryo. This use of embryos for instrumental purposes, even in the name of remedial treatments, is offensive to those Roman Catholics who attribute human personhood to embryos from the moment of conception. Pluripotent cells do not have the same embryonic source and so without the blastocyst these pluripotent stem cells are not totipotent, that is, they cannot develop into a human being. However, it is possible that in certain circumstances, where the factors that are normally supplied by the blastocyst to embryonic cells are replaced by chemical means, pluripotent cells could potentially become totipotent. Such experiments have not yet been done, perhaps because of the further theological controversy it could lead to in terms of using such pluripotent cells in research.

New Technologies That Include Bioengineering

Many of the controversial technologies used in biology fall under the bracket of medical science. However, there are also significant theological issues arising from other sciences, such as that created when Dolly the sheep was born through reproductive cloning. Few theologians challenged the animal welfare aspects of this practice, and almost all focused on the potential impact on medical practices.

Genetic modification of crops is controversial, particularly because the majority of modifications, such as Roundup Ready crops, seem to be for the benefit of the transnational company who sell hybrid seed along with the herbicide. Others are worried by the trend toward further reduction in genetic diversity by such practices, or concerned with health issues, or impacts on the ecological system as a whole. There is no proven health impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), though long-term studies are difficult to conduct, and most processed food contains GM soybean.

Transhumanism is a philosophical movement committed to enhancing the welfare of humans faced with the limitations of disease, aging, and planetary space. More extreme versions envisage the future of human beings through generation of microchips that will retain brain information and allow for its propagation on other planets. More modest versions envisage greater support for extending life, using a range of biological techniques, such as genetic modification, nanotechnology, chemical manipulation of neuro-psychology, and other forms of enhancement. Theologians engaging with this work will react with more or less resistance depending on their specific beliefs about the human subject and how far it is legitimate to modify or enhance humans. Bioengineering of animal subjects has, nonetheless, already begun in agricultural and research contexts. The regulation of manipulation of animals is not subject to the same strictures of human manipulation and therefore it has progressed further, with animal biotechnology becoming a regular part of agricultural practice.

Synthetic biology covers the most recent attempts at the manipulation of life, though the definition is rather loose. It includes attempts to create life from basic building blocks, either using raw chemicals thought to be in the primeval “soup” or the building blocks of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or ribonucleic acid (RNA). And interesting, in so far as it sounds almost like science fiction, is the growing discussion among serious conservationists about the possibility of bringing back extinct species. Of course, this would only work when the DNA is still viable, so species would need to be relatively recently lost; but the possibility is there if there are good enough specimens preserved. The idea that long extinct species like dinosaurs could be recovered is out of the question. And given bottlenecks that exist in the normal process of evolution, it would take relatively few individuals to regenerate a viable population. So far theological commentary on such aspects has not attracted as much attention as it deserves.

A Constructive Approach to Theology and Biology

More systematic approaches to the dialogue between theology and biology are still not properly worked out. One of the reasons for this is that given the historical context in which this dialogue emerged, there has been a tendency to be defensive in the face of the seeming threat to key theological beliefs. There has also been a clustering of specific activity around given biological themes, such as evolution, emergence, as well as a focus on methodological and theoretical issues in the general dialogue between reason and faith and so on. One of the difficulties relates to the problems that theologians have in engaging in scientific fields outside their particular academic training. A second difficulty relates to hostility within the field itself toward other disciplinary areas, related to the claim of irrelevance above, so that engaging in multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary work is viewed as somehow diluting the purity of the subject matter. A third difficulty related to the sheer complexity of different aspects of biological science in so far as it impinges on important ethical and practical issues. Moral theologians may presuppose a particular theological starting point, but their systematic reflection is less well developed compared with their engagement with philosophical tools needed in arguments for practical ethical decision-making.

There are, nonetheless, important developments in the theology and biology field more recently that have shown that theologians are becoming more confident about engaging in contemporary biological science in areas that go further than incorporation of scientific insights into moral theology. One example is that of ecotheology where there has been a self-conscious attempt to engage different key areas of Christian systematic thought, including not just creation, but also Christology, Trinity, eschatology, and pneumatology with ecological questions and issues in general and climate change in particular. The methodological basis for such investigations take the hermeneutical shape of faith seeking understanding, rather than apologetics in the face of the threat of biological science, or a diminutive deference of theology in the face of biological claims.

Another cluster of activity relates to a consideration of how God interacts with the world, including teaching about the work of the Trinity in the light of what is currently known about evolutionary biology. Making sense of Christ’s incarnation in the world against a backdrop of contemporary scientific understanding, including that of complex life systems, has spawned some active discussion on deep incarnation, straddling the fields of evolutionary biology and ecotheology. Finding an adequate theodicy in the face of the intense suffering of the natural world is another focus, as is theological anthropology in the context of evolutionary biology and eschatology.

Review of the Literature

Scholarship in contemporary issues in biology and theology is rooted in a long tradition of the engagement of faith and reason, but one brought into sharp focus by Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. The literature in this field is enormous, but standard texts on science and religion habitually include a section on evolutionary biology.4 There are also focused studies on the significance of Darwin and his work that continue to be published.5 Those biologists who have written works that have attracted attention from a wider audience include work by evolutionary biologists Stephen Jay Gould, Simon Conway Morris, E. O. Wilson, and David Sloan Wilson.6 Arthur Peacocke was one of the pioneers in this field who engaged with evolutionary science, in particular, and argued for a methodology in science based on critical realism.7 Ernan McMullin was a prominent pioneering Catholic scholar in the emerging field and also argued for critical realism.8 There are, subsequently, particular trends toward a focus on specific aspects of evolutionary science that seem to raise the most salient issues for theological discussion, including, for example, the more philosophically orientated work on emergence that includes particular engagement with process theology and work on theodicy in the light of evolutionary or animal suffering.9 Among evolutionary biologists Jeffrey Schloss is one of the few who has shown a clear competency in engaging in theological discourse.10 One of the more original interpretations of the contemporary significance of Darwin in the light of debates between creationists and the new atheists can be found in the work of Conor Cunningham, Darwin’s Pius Idea.11 Alistair McGrath is perhaps one of the most prolific authors in the field engaging theology and the natural sciences, with a specific focus on a theological defense against new atheism.12 David Hart has also written a substantial riposte the New Atheists in his The Experience of God and Atheist Delusions.13 Sarah Coakley is also a well established theologian who has turned her attention to the work of theoretical evolutionary biologist Martin Nowak, and reflected on the theological significance of evolutionary theories of cooperation that seem to connect with the idea of sacrifice.14 Her particular intention to develop a new form of natural theology is one that has been discussed by contemporary scientists in the field, but has not been taken up or developed in a serious way by theologians.

Alternative approaches include more specific discussion on constructive work in theology, such as God as Trinity in the context of evolutionary biology as developed in the work of Denis Edwards, for example, or a more explicit focus on evolution and Christology.15 Catholic scholars Denis Edwards, Celia Deane-Drummond, and Elizabeth Johnson, all aim to be faithful to the Catholic tradition, drawing on a range of ancient and contemporary sources in order to engage seriously with both evolutionary and ecological issues.16 To some extent the readiness to engage with both evolutionary theory and ecology is unusual; those who are most concerned about evolutionary science have found that the subject domain itself gives more than enough scope for a focused theological discussion.

Other scholars that engage more explicitly with ecological science include North American Catholic authors such as Mary Evelyn Tucker, Anne Marie Dalton, and Heather Eaton.17 All three authors are influenced by feminist thought and the work of Thomas Berry, and so, to a greater or lesser extent, have adopted the New Creation Story. Anne Primavesi is also a writer influenced by Catholic theology, though she engages particularly with James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis.18 Eco-feminism is also subject to a variety of interpretations, with only some prepared to take biological science seriously. Rosemary Radford Ruether, for example, concentrates her attention on social and political science, and the cultural significance of Gaia, ignoring Lovelock’s hypothesis.19 Lovelock’s theory is contested both among scientists and among those who take his view as inspirational for religious reasons.20 Among Protestant writers, South African scholar Ernst Conradie is perhaps one of the most influential in the Reformed tradition, and he argues for a renewed approach to that tradition in the light of ecological issues.21 Lisa Sideris has been critical of ecotheological writing that fails to engage adequately in evolutionary biology or ecological science, and in this sense finds fault with Sallie McFague, whose work in ecotheology was, and still is, one of the most influential in the field.22 She has also critiqued the trend toward an uncritical adoption of the New Creation Story and, unusually, has aligned this with the overarching narrative characteristic of new atheist Richard Dawkins.23 Sideris is correct to identify myths that are often implicit in the work of scientists, though to figure both new atheism and the New Creation Story as having a shared form in their narrative does not take sufficient account of the distinctive ethos in each. There are, alongside this variety of work in the theological field, bodies of social teaching represented by the Catholic Church that bear on ecological matters. The Vatican has become more willing in recent years to be explicit in naming areas such as climate change.24 A movement of ecology into other areas of Catholic thought that have traditionally engaged with political issues, such as liberation theology, is found in the work of scholars such as Leonardo Boff.25 He, somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, seems to absorb the Gaia hypothesis in his theology in a way that shifts it in a direction that is feared by more conservative theologians, represented in the work of Pope Benedict XVI, for example.26 The most recent encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudate Si, is also significant in that it engages with ecological science, climate science, and debates in conservation.

There is also a vast literature emerging from scholars who work in the areas on medicine, genetics, and transhumanism. In the area of genetics, for example, focal points for theological engagement include debates about cloning, new genetic technologies, and transhuman philosophy.27 The status of human beings is at stake here in most cases, and behind such concerns are traditional theological positions on the importance of human dignity and personhood. Broader issues related to questions about technology and how far this is compatible with theological beliefs have been influenced by the work of Philip Hefner and Ted Peters, who have generally been positive about such developments.28

In addition, there is an increasingly significant body of literature that engages with animal studies, including, but not limited to systematic work, such as that by David Clough, that develops a constructive approach to animal theology.29 Deane-Drummond and Clough have also worked together to argue for a renewed approach to creaturely theology that has important ethical implications.30 The extent to which this material engages in the scientific aspects is somewhat variable, but most authors at least attempt to take it into account.31 Prior to this Andrew Linzey dominated the field in theology and animals for many years, but he rarely, if ever, took account of the scientific aspects of animal ethology, perhaps because he understood the project of scientific research on animals to be objectionable ethically, supporting a strong animal rights position in alignment with authors such as Tom Regan.32

Additional research questions remain as to how far and to what extent different sciences need to be analyzed according to frameworks suitable for the paradigms operational in each. Further, theologians thus far have not been very effective in taking sufficient account of the variety within even one area of science. There is a tendency, then, either to assume that evolutionary biology stopped with Charles Darwin, or that historical aspects can be ignored or forgotten. There is still a tremendous amount of constructive work that needs to be done in engaging key features of the different branches of the biological sciences with different areas of theology. Theologians are especially equipped to synthesize information from different sources, and may be more willing to draw on more than one branch of the biological sciences, thus beginning to address the lack of wisdom that prevails in modern sciences due to the fragmentation of knowledge.33

Primary Sources

A student beginning this field necessarily needs to include the work of Charles Darwin, especially his Origin of Species and Descent of Man.34 As this area is in contemporary issues in biology and theology, there is not a body of literature that would function as a key set of primary sources in the manner characteristic of other areas of theological discussion. In the background there are some historical sources that are sources of inspiration for this work. The works of Francis of Assisi and Saint Bonaventure are important in this respect for those concerned with ecological reflection.35 There are also some highly significant modern theologians who have engaged in this area, and they are worth mentioning in this context. Among Catholic scholars the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, is particularly important, as is the work of Karl Rahner, Denis Edwards, and Thomas Berry.36 Among Protestant scholars the work of Wolfhart Pannenberg on theology and nature is important, as is the ecological and evolutionary engagement in the work of Jürgen Moltmann.37 The work of new atheists is sufficiently controversial and prominent to be named as a primary source, in as much as many authors will engage seriously with their work. Authors such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchins, along with Daniel Dennett, attract considerable attention.38 Yet there are also robust attempts to engage in evolutionary biology in a much more positive way, taking account of philosophical issues and the importance of a new postfoundational framework for theology and science, with evolutionary biology featuring in consideration of what it means to be human. The work of Wentzel van Huyssteen is highly significant in this respect.39 The Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate has a website that provides valuable resources on Orthodox perspectives on ecology and faith.40 There are also other useful websites that bring together collections of Catholic social teaching on ecology.41

Further Reading

Allen, Paul. Ernan McMullin and Critical Realism in the Science-Theology Dialogue. Basingstoke, U.K.: Ashgate, 2006.Find this resource:

Coakley, Sarah, and Martin A. Nowak, eds., Evolution, Games, and God: The Principle of Cooperation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Cole-Turner, Ronald, ed., Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Enhancement. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Conway Morris, Simon. Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Cunningham, Conor. Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get it Wrong. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.Find this resource:

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Mariner, 2006.Find this resource:

Deane-Drummond, Celia. Creation Through Wisdom: Theology and the New Biology. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000.Find this resource:

Deane-Drummond, Celia. Genetics and Christian Ethics. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Deane-Drummond, Celia. Christ and Evolution: Wonder and Wisdom. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009.Find this resource:

Deane-Drummond, Celia. The Wisdom of the Liminal: Evolution and Other Animals in Human Becoming. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014.Find this resource:

Deane-Drummond, Celia, Rebecca Artinian Kaiser, and David Clough. Animals as Religious Subjects: Transdisciplinary Perspectives. London: Bloomsbury, T&T Clark, 2013.Find this resource:

Edwards, Denis Ecology at the Heart of Faith. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2006.Find this resource:

Edwards, Denis. How God Acts: Creation, Redemption and Special Divine Action. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010.Find this resource:

Foltz, Bruce V. Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Hart, David Bentley. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Johnson, Elizabeth. Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.Find this resource:

Jones, David A. The Soul of the Embryo: An Enquiry into the Status of the Human Embryo in the Christian Tradition. London: Continuum, 2004.Find this resource:

McGrath, A. Surprised by Meaning: Science, Faith, and How we Make Sense of Things. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011.Find this resource:

Midgley, Mary. Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and Its Meaning. New York: Routledge, 2002.Find this resource:

Peacocke, Arthur. Paths From Science Towards God: The End of All Our Exploring. Oxford: Oneworld, 2001.Find this resource:

Rolston, Holmes, III. Genes, Genesis and God: Values and their Origins in Natural and Human History. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Schloss, Jeffrey, and Michael Murray, eds., The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Reflections on the Origin of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Southgate, Christopher. The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008.Find this resource:

Southgate, Christopher. ed. God, Humanity, and the Cosmos: Textbook in Science and Religion. 3d ed. London: T&T Clark, 2011.Find this resource:

van Huyssteen, Wentzel. Alone in the World: Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006.Find this resource:


(1.) Adrian J. Desmond and James R. Moore, Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009).

(2.) John Hedley Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

(3.) The material cause is the limitation on change as a result of the raw matter out of which something comes. The formal cause, on the other hand, relates to the pattern to which something is subject in the change, such as mathematical principles, but in biology it connects with the idea of why something is the way it is, such as a particular species. The efficient cause relates to change taking place, either internal or external, while the final cause reflects overall purpose or direction in which something is moving.

(4.) Examples of survey literature that help orientate the reader are Christopher Southgate, ed., God, Humanity, and the Cosmos: Textbook in Science and Religion, 3d ed. (London: T&T Clark, 2011); and John Hedley Brooke and Geoffrey N. Cantor, Reconstructing Nature: The Engagement of Science and Religion (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998) for a historical perspective.

(5.) See, for instance, Phillip Sloan, Gerald McKenny, and Kathleen Eggleson, eds., Darwin in the Twenty-First Century: Nature, Humanity, and God (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2015); and Adrian J. Desmond and James R. Moore, Darwin:The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (New York: W. W. Norton, 1994).

(6.) Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2002); Gould, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History (New York: Norton, 1979); Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1977); Gould, The Panda’s Thumb: More Refelctions in Natural History (New York: Norton, 1980); Simon Conway Morris, Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (New York: Knopf, 1998); The Social Conquest of Earth (New York: W. W. Norton, 2012); The Meaning of Human Existence (New York: Liveright, 2014); and David Sloan Wilson, Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).

(7.) Arthur R. Peacocke, Creation and the World of Science (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979); PeacockeTheology for a Scientific Age: Being and Becoming—Natural, Divine, and Human (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993).

(8.) Ernan McMullin, The Church and Galileo (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005); McMullin, Evolution and Creation Galileo (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985); McMullin, The Inference that Makes Science (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1992). See commentary on the philosophical issues that are important in McMullin’s work in Paul Allen, Ernan McMullin and Critical Realism in the Science-Theology Dialogue (Basingstoke, U.K.: Ashgate, 2006).

(9.) For work oriented to emergence, see Niels Henrik Gregersen, ed., From Complexity to Life: On the Emergence of Life and Meaning (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Philip Clayton and Paul Davies, eds., The Re-Emergence of the Emergence: The Emergentist Hypothesis from Science to Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); for process theology: John Haught’s incorporation of process thought into a more traditional Roman Catholic framework is particularly interesting; and he is a significant voice in the reconciliation of Darwinian theories of evolution with theology from this perspective, in J. Haught, Deeper than Darwin: The Prospect for Religion in an Age of Evolution (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2004); see also his earlier God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2001); and his later Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010). He also wrote a forward to a recent work on Teilhard de Chardin, in Kathleen Duffy, Teilhard’s Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2014). For work on theodicy, consult Christopher Southgate, The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008); Michael Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014); Andrew Linzey, Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); and for animal suffering, see Nicola Hoggard Creegan, Animal Suffering and the Problem of Evil (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

(10.) Jeffrey Schloss and Michael Murray, eds., The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Reflections on the Origin of Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Jeffrey Schloss and Philip Clayton, eds., Evolution and Ethics: Human Morality in Biological and Religious Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004).

(11.) Conor Cunningham, Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get it Wrong (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010).

(12.) Alister E. McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (New York: Galilee Doubleday, 2006); McGrath, Science and Religion: An Introduction (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010); McGrath, Surprised by Meaning: Science, Faith, and How We Make Sense of Things (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011); McGrath, Why God Won’t Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010); and Alister E. McGrath and Joanna C. McGrath, The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2007).

(13.) David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being Consciousness, Bliss (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013); and Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010).

(14.) Sarah Coakley and Martin A. Nowak, eds., Evolution, Games, and God: The Principle of Cooperation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013); and Sarah Coakley, Sacrifice Regained: Reconsidering the Rationality of Religious Belief (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

(15.) Denis Edwards, The God of Evolution: A Trinitarian Theology (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1999); Edwards, How God Acts: Creation, Redemption and Special Divine Action (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010); and Edwards, Partaking of God: Trinity, Evolution, and Ecology (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical/Michael Glazier, 2014). For a focus on evolution and Christology, see Celia Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution: Wonder and Wisdom (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009).

(16.) See, for example, Denis Edwards, Ecology at the Heart of Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2006); Celia Deane-Drummond, The Wisdom of the Liminal: Evolution and Other Animals in Human Becoming (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014); and Elizabeth Johnson, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).

(17.) Mary Evelyn Tucker, Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase (Peru, IL: Open Court, 2003); with John Grim, Ecology and Religion (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2014); Anne Marie Dalton, A Theology for the Earth: The Contributions of Thomas Berry and Bernard Lonergan (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1999); Dalton, Ecotheology and the Practice of Hope (Albany, NY: SUNY, 2011); and Heather Eaton, Ecofeminism and Globalization: Exploring Culture, Context, and Religion (Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003); Eaton, Introducing Ecofeminist Theologies (London: T&T Clark, 2005).

(18.) Anne Primavesi, Sacred Gaia (London: Routledge, 2000); and James Lovelock, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

(19.) Rosemary Radford Ruether, Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994); Ruether, Women Healing Earth: Third World Women on Ecology, Feminism, and Religion (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1996); Ruether, Integrating Ecofeminism, Globalization, and World Religions (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005). See also Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993) ; and McFagueA New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008).

(20.) For review of Lovelock, including scientific debates, see Celia Deane-Drummond, The Ethics of Nature (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004).

(21.) Ernst Conradie, Christianity and Ecological Theology: Resources for Further Research (Stellenbosch, South Africa: Sun Press, 2006); Ernst Conradie, Sigurd Bergmann, Celia Deane-Drummond, and Denis Edwards, eds., Christian Faith and the Earth: Current Paths and Emerging Horizons in Ecotheology (London: T&T Clark, 2014).

(22.) Lisa Sideris, Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology and Natural Selection (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).

(23.) Lisa Sideris, “Writing the Poetry of Reality: Science, Religion and Wonder in the Environmental Discource” (Keynote Lecture at the Fourth Biennial Conference of the European Forum for the Study of Religion and Environment, Sigtuna Foundation, Sweden, May 23, 2013).

(24.) Early reluctance by the Vatican may have reflected the view that it was politically charged or that the science was not sufficiently certain. For discussion see C. Deane-Drummond, “Joining in the Dance: Ecology and Catholic Social Teaching,” New Blackfriars 93 (2012): 193–212.

(25.) Leonardo Boff, Ecology and Liberation: A New Paradigm (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1995); and Boff, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1997).

(26.) In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI explicitly critiques the trend toward forms of naturalism and pantheism that he viewed as implicit in the turn to nature.

(27.) For cloning, see Ronald Cole-Turner, Human Cloning: Religious Responses (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997); Cole-Turner, Beyond Cloning: Religion and the Remaking of Humanity (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2001); and Brent Waters and Ronald Cole-Turner, God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2003). For the status of the embryo, see David A. Jones, The Soul of the Embryo: An Enquiry into the Status of the Human Embryo in the Christian Tradition (London: Continuum, 2004). For genetic technologies, see the discussion of ethics in Celia Deane-Drummond, Genetics and Christian Ethics (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006). For transhumanism, see Ronald Cole-Turner, Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Enhancement (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2011); and Calvin R. Mercer, ed., et al., Religion and Transhumanism: The Unknown Future of Human Enhancement (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2015).

(28.) Philip Hefner, The Human Factor: Evolution, Culture and Religion (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000) and Philip Hefner, Technology and Human Becoming (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003) were influential; so is Ted Peters, Playing God: Genetic Determinism and Human Freedom (London: Routledge, 2002).

(29.) David Clough, On Animals. Volume 1: Systematic Theology (London: Bloomsbury/T&T Clark, 2013).

(30.) Celia Deane-Drummond and David Clough, eds., Creaturely Theology: On God, Humans and Other Animals (London: SCM, 2009).

(31.) Celia Deane-Drummond, Rebecca Artinian Kaiser, and David Clough, Animals as Religious Subjects: Transdisciplinary Perspectives (London: Bloomsbury, T&T Clark, 2013).

(32.) Andrew Linzey, Animal Theology (London: SCM, 1994).

(33.) Mary Midgley should be mentioned here, not just for her clear recognition of the philosophical trends in modern biology, but also for her analysis of evolutionary biology and its significance. While she is not a theologian, her work is important for theologians to consider carefully. See Mary Midgley, Wisdom Information and Knowledge, What is Knowledge For? (New York: Routledge, 1989) ; and Midgley, Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and Its Meaning (New York: Routledge, 2002).

(34.) Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection of the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (New York: New American Library, 2003); Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (London: Penguin, 2004).

(35.) Francis of Assisi and Bonaventure on ecology and theology, see Dawn Northwehr, A Franciscan Theology of the Environment (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications, 2003); Ilia Delio, Care for Creation: A Franciscan Spirituality of the Earth (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications, 2008); Roger D. Sorrell, St Francis of Assisi, Tradition and Innovation in Western Christian Attitudes to the Environment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).

(36.) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (New York: Perennial, 2001); Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man (New York: Image Books, 2004); Teilhard de Chardin, The Heart of Matter (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978); Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Thought, 2008); see also the work of Karl Rahner, “Christology Within an Evolutionary View of the World,” Theological Investigations V (London and Baltimore, 1966), 315–336; Rahner, Hominization: The Evolutionary Origin of Man as a Theological Problem, trans. W. T. O’Hara (Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Germany: Herder, 1965; Rahner, “Natural Science and Reasonable Faith: Theological Perspectives for Dialogue with the Natural Sciences,” Theological Investigations XXI, trans. Hugh M. Riley (New York: Crossroad, 1988); and Oliver Putz, “Evolutionary Biology in the Theology of Karl Rahner,” Philosophy & Theology 17.1–2 (2005), 85–105; Denis Edwards, Ecology at the Heart of Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2006); and finally, the work of Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-first Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009); Berry, The Dream of the Earth (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988); Berry, The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future (New York: Bell Tower, 1999).

(37.) For theology and nature, see Wolfhart Pannenberg, The Historicity of Nature: Essays on Science and Theology (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2008); Pannenberg, Toward a Theology of Nature: Essays on Science and Faith (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993); Pannenberg, Theology and the Philosophy of Science (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976); and see, for ecology, Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation (London: SCM, 1982); Moltmann, Ethics of Hope (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012); Moltmann, The Future of Creation: Collected Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979.

(38.) The works of the new atheists include Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Mariner, 2006); Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987); Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005); Harris, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014); Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Hatchette, 2007); Hitchens, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (Philadelphia: Da Capo, 2007); and Daniel C. Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Penguin, 2007); Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (New York: Touchstone, 1996).

(39.) His most substantial work is his Gifford lectures, Wentzel van Huyssteen, Alone in the World: Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006).

(40.) Ecumenical Patriarchate. Also see Patriarch Bartholomew and John Chryssavgis, On Earth as in Heaven: Ecological Vision and Initiatives of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012); John Chryssavgis and Bruce V. Foltz, Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013); Elizabeth Theokritoff, Living in God’s Creation: Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009). Also see helpful collection of essays at the Greek Orthodox Archiodese of America.