Complex systems theory offers a new way to view the unfolding realities of the natural world and a rich set of tools for its exploration. It provides a rigorous and well-formed structure and a set of rules, techniques, and concepts that speak to one of the deepest of questions; how do novel properties and entities emerge out of simple parts connected in complicated ways? This project proposes to apply the techniques and introduce the theories of complex systems research to the science and religion dialogue, bringing a new vision of dynamic emergence to the field. Three central questions will be posed by this project. First, how can we make the mathematical, computational, and graphical insights of complex systems theory available in productive ways to the broadly interdisciplinary field of science and religion? Second, what does the fact of dynamic emergence and the characteristics of its unfolding imply for religious and spiritual understandings of the universe? And, third, what new insights into the existence of religion and the human spiritual experience can be afforded by a deep exploration of dynamic emergence? This project will frame these questions and their many offshoots in a rigorous, careful way while also building a productive set of analytic tools. Taking as a foundation the extensive philosophical literature in emergence, supervenience, and mereology and other disciplines’ cogent explorations, we will then build a specific science-religion framework within which to apply those tools. Importantly, this framework will include perspectives from other scientific specialties and from non-Western religious traditions. In Eastern Europe, we will advance work in biosemiotics. In India, we will explore the close connections between Western/scientific understandings of emergence and those found in the Indic spiritual traditions. And, in Japan, we will look to the complex concept kokoro (“heart-and-mind”) as a case study of dynamic emergence.
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