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For All Worldwide, A Holistic View

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(Last updated April  28,,  2008.)

Volume II - Chapter Sixteen


No survival without a global ethic (planetary responsibility); no peace without religious peace; no religious peace without inter-religious dialog. --Hans Kung

The best and more innovative scholarship in religion emerges from sustained dialogue with wider society. --W. Clark Gilpin  (Should say "sustained negotiation?)

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all different with a lot to learn from each other.              --William Sloane Coffin.

The revolution is happening on the internet. . . There could be a spiritual renaissance which is global. --Peter Russell

 Not only knowledge and skills         (are needed), but also the values and discipline of an educated mind.  --James Duderstadt

Appended at the end of this chapter is a report on an international science-religion dialog conference. Also see: <http://www.onecountry.org/e123/e12301as_CSRD_Story.htm?>. on "a missing element in global development."  Thomas (2005) explores "a global resurgence of religion" that is caused by "a widespread disillusionment with modernity" a seen, for example in the human failure to create "a just and durable peace." On Islam see Marshall (2005). Must there be some spiritual component <http://www.metanexus.net/metanexus_online/show_article.asp?9359> to make possible a world of peace and wisdom?  What if millions of young people of all religion traditions, regardless of geography were online sharing ideas and collaborating on crucial problems like poverty and violence?.

Human society has much local caring but too little global compassion. Could this be an area for THINKING BIG? For global-scale research? Knight (2005) reviewed some history of science to point out that science's greatest discoveries involve imagination and bold dreams as well as empirical observation and study. Imagination and faith are necessary in the finding of the most important new questions. An individual may find a great question but it takes many teams and colleagues to find the answer. It is `practice' that holds people together in both science and religion.

A high percentage of the world's schools and colleges are operated by religious institutions and religious issues--and serious conflicts--are involved, often limiting the provision of "essential learning and skills for everyone in the world." Also the world's religions need to `get their own house in order' so that they can help provide their share of the  vision, the compassion and the sense of responsibility that the public needs...if learning for all is to be accomplished. Rischard (2002) of the World Bank said that religious organizations have become a powerful force and now need to find ways to help humanity cope with crises, now that NGO's (non governmental organizations) and civil society are deftly using the new technologies. However, that raises the question: if all human institutions are going to be transformed by forthcoming technologies, what changes may be expected in religious institutions; or better still which are badly needed? The invention of writing and printing had transformational effects. And Brooks (2004) in New Scientist, of all places, proposes that science and `intelligent religion' need each other, and not just to keep oppressive institutions from dogmatic `bulldozing.'  Perhaps world religions need mrooe than dialog, they need contracted agreements to work together on specific projects, for example, to end misery and poverty.

Thieme (2005) pointed out that in the emerging digital age, multi-player online gaming communities like Everquest--with hundreds of thousands of participants at once--"begin to deal with spiritual issues and quest". These, with avatar monks, appeal more the young digital generation' "than Ignation retreats or Benedictine discipline." These spiritual energies, he proposes, will become a `firestorm' when proclamations about beliefs become fire and smoke." Religious institutions--of all faiths--"will become something else as they are "transformed by these energies." New spiritual modalities, he suggested, and religious structures are emerging in the digital age. Where “information is gathered, integrated and recreated,” no longer locked into static linear printing. Religion is “experienced as a ceaseless flow.” And it is more important in this emerging age “to teach children h ow to think than to teach them stuff.”

In nearly every global crisis--even where what must be done is scientifically founded--government officials, political leaders and the supporting public seem not to have a powerful enough vision, hope and motivation to do what must be done. Is there a scale of research that might discover, develop or empower essential vision, motivation and compassion among the citizenry? Theoretically, in most cultures, that visioning is assigned to religion, or at the least to the `holistic spiritual' seen in the arts. Can larger-scale, transdisciplinary research find ways, for example,  for humanity to do a better job of developing the compassion, sacrifices  and responsibility needed to provide learning for all, especially in the poverty areas of the developing world?

What new kinds of `commitment/values thinking' will be required to develop the needed caring and compassion for the poor? Some theologians have worried that they were not taking serious enough account of findings in various sciences--such as cognitive science and learning , perhaps because many have for generations  been so preoccupied with Darwin and historical biases and conflicts. Huns Kung attempted some published dialog with various sciences, but even scientists themselves find it increasingly hard to keep up with findings in other fields so that they could take a holistic view of human life and the  universe. Some large-scale ecumenical discussions have made progress by bringing people from various religions together to discuss human issues like hunger and health care rather than focusing on theological differences. The Metanexus Institute <http://www.metanexius.net> has been bringing together people from nearly every religion in international conferences and local groups on six continents for `science and religion dialogs.' Religionists are finding it possible to transcend--and not be limited by-- their historic disagreements by focusing on major issues raised by science.

 What scale of research would be required if teams of philosophers, theologians and scientists tried to take account of and debate (2.4.2) all scientific findings that are pertinent to learning more compassionate ways? The problem has been illustrated with one only small bit of scientific discovery, the fruit-fly's intelligence and visual sensors. This is just one illustrations of abilities that animals and insects have that human beings do not have. Scientists in Australia in 2002 were seeing here implications for understanding human consciousness, a topic essentially related to religion, to the "informational aspects of nature" and the `intelligence' found in so much of the universe,  to artificial intelligence research and to education.  <http://www.monash.edu.au/>.  Drawing upon Caltech research, an Australian scientist foresaw the creation of "a system that would exceed human capabilities of perception" and "staggering levels of performance." in order to observe and conduct complex operations far beyond the present capacity of human brains. See (2.5) and: <http://www.eetimes.com/story/OEG19981013S0010>.. This is just one of thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of scientific research projects with possible implications for  studies seeking to enhance compassion.  

Also, following the terrorist events at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001, the public in most countries suddenly awoke to the serious danger of inter-religious fighting, such as Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, Jews and Muslims in the Middle East, Hindus, Muslims and Christians in India and Muslims and Christian `ethnic cleansing' in the former Yugoslavia. Dialog among these religious groups took on new urgency and seriousness--and alas also some renewed violence.. When Christians asked Muslims how they could explain a terrorist network of Muslims, one reply often was: how do you explain Hitler's death and torture camps in Christian Germany?     

A first answer would reject religion--and  religious institutions--altogether. Arthur C. Clarke in 3001: The Final Odyssey looks back on human civilization in our time from the perspective of a thousand years in the future. He is rightly horrified by terrible things that have been done in the name of religion. Is he correct, however, in seeing all religions and religion itself as a form of insanity? To worry that the human brain "may be badly wired?"  Most human beings do seem `wired' for religion, maybe related to the way babies search for patterns and meanings. A thesis quite the opposite of Clarke's: might propose that religions are in some ways still childish and might therefore be helped--through global-scale transdisciplinary research--to grow into maturity. Indeed, it is not just religion but most of the human race that acts like squabbling children, or competitive young adolescent boys who fight to solve their problems.  Communist theorists hoped that religions would wither away as unneeded. Instead there is a global resurgence in major religions. Perhaps the evolving human race moved from its hunting and gathering infancy, into its `childish' agricultural age, to a `adolescent' factory-assembly-line-age. Now perhaps increasingly powerful information age technology is possibly paving the way for humanity to move into a more mature, responsible and compassionate `adult society.' Could much larger-scale research and learning help all religions, ideologies and political philosophies `grow up' to help humanity become more effective in nurturing and empowering the compassion, responsibility and honesty they ought to profess more powerfully?

A second explanation for `religious' terrorism, proposed by many, was that `organized religion  bureaucracies'--with competitive power structures--were at fault for straying from central religious values. Religions claim the loyalty of billions of people and have a tremendous political and social influence. Could ways be found to mobilize "the power of their worldwide networks, institutions and communities" for dialog and cooperation in more effective development of compassion and responsibility worldwide? If Clarke is right that human religious behavior is insane, so also is much human political behavior, as illustrated by aggressive war or by the lack of concern for ignorance and illiteracy in much of Africa. It is not only some politically radical--not necessarily just `fundamentalist Muslim terrorists'--who try to misuse religion for political objectives. How many of the religious wars, past and present, were at root caused by power-hungry dictators who abused one or another's religion for political purposes? If religious and educational institutions must inevitably fail to develop a mature, moral, ethical, compassionate and responsible public, what other alternatives are there?  Can both religious and and learning programs become more enlightened and mature through new kinds of research for caring and compassion?

Many observers, such as Moore (2000), suggest that a radical transformation of religious practice is already underway, as seen in increasing interest in `spirituality' and `religion" without "much of the baggage" of the historical organizations and ancient-style institutions. Helpful religion in the future, he says, will not need "the medieval authoritarianism and hierarchies we will find in place today." Religious organizations and religious schools that survive will offer leadership rather than authoritarianism, example rather than dogma...with an emphasis on wisdom and service. If religious institutions are to cooperate to serve such ends, there must be a welcoming of diversity and a diminishing of defensiveness since much emotion is involved in religion. That will require a global lifelong learning system that teaches mutual respect and appreciation--beyond tolerance--for differences. There must be a shift from seeing religion as an organization... to see it as a chosen way of life,  possible "when religion comes of age." Weislogel (2004) sees this already on the verge of happening in a `new renaissance.' Can new research help move religions from their childish squabbling and adolescent competition into a new maturity in the service of compassion, truth, beauty, responsibility and other values? Kohak (1995) also described human society as adolescent.

One illustration suggests that more effective dialog--even treaty agreements--between major religions could greatly help. The Templeton Foundation's Metanexus project for dialog between all religions and all sciences finds common ground in "the challenges of <http://www.metanexus.net/metanexus_online/contact.asp> in such issues as "environmental degradation...widespread poverty and starvation.....new diseases and the growing resistance to antibiotics...hatred, violence, protracted militarism and terrorism...For many these challenges co-exist with a deep-seated loss of meaning and hope." It's hundreds of dialog groups on five continents. Was it in a story by Denis de Rougemont has the devil tell an underling not to worry about religion,
because we are going to organize it
.." (bureaucracy?)

2.16.1  DIALOG FOR COMPASSION (negotiation for joint action)

"Compassion is an empty word unless there is a clearsighted recognition of what compassion requires," (Farley 2004)

Freeman Dyson (MIT Technology Review, March 2005) reported findings early in the history of the universe evolution was communal before species began to emerge. Now as biological evolution is replaced but `cultural evolution, perhaps human evolution--"that is running a thousand times faster than biological evolution"--is moving towards `community' again, with economic globalization as a first step. Michael O'Callaghan, in a paper on the development of a sustainable civilization, proposed that humanity--having passed over the threshold into a global age--must now put aside the separate journeys of different religions through history. Without having to agree they can be helped to walk together to meet frightening crises faced by humanity. He reports, for example, on the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survival. Its conferences, such as one at Oxford--and the August 2002 and the United Religions Assembly in Brazil--brought together perceptive scholars for dialog on the need to confront hate movements, which sometimes grow out of conflict among religions and affect education. Where is there global-scale research on how to replace hate with compassion?  

The Commission on Sustainable Development has called for the formation of a Global Centre on Religion; its purpose to bring together people from different faiths to define sustainable religious principles and to help develop the honesty, peace, compassion, responsibility and engagement that are so badly needed if food and health care are to be provided for all. This research proposal would involve `world class scholars' in anthropology, religion, cultural history, psychiatry, physics, biology and neuroscience. (No mention of researchers in learning?)

This transdisciplinary approach would move far beyond efforts of the Vatican to conduct conversations with various religions. At the 1993 World Parliament of Religions at Chicago there was a presentation of the Global Vision study that President Carter had authorized to discover the thinking of people around the world on the future of humanity. The editor of that study told the parliament that the faith traditions of the world "must lead the nations and peoples of Earth to act decisively" on such matters as population, peace and the environment. Otherwise "life for most people will become precarious in the 21st century." Human society will be less stable politically, economically and ecologically and therefore will be even more prone to violence and disruption.

Major limitations to the creation of a peaceful, harmonious and a just global community are religious, the editor of the report concluded. A sane future requires cultural and `spiritual' dialog on the common values of all of the world's major religions. Communications technologies offer a possible way for dialog on vision and motivation in service of the world's children and all learners. Information-age technology is causing transformational change in all human institutions, including many religious organizations. Computer conferencing is making it possible to build new bridges of acquaintance and understanding.


Much of significant religion dialog and research has been devoted to ancient religious documents and to research about religious history and the teachings of the Buddha, Jewish prophets, Jesus and Muhammad, among others. Research oriented dialog should do more than seek to understand and compare beliefs and histories. Religion researchers might join with other disciplines to explore such questions as how compassion--caring about all the world's children and the future of their planet--can best be nurtured. What can be--or should be--for example, the role of  that far more than half of the world's population that is Jewish, Hindu, Christian and Muslim--in securing justice for all, food for all, health care for all? In chapter fourteen we asked some of the same questions in a secular ethical context. Now we ask if human-terrorism-crisis-oriented research could help religions become less adolescent so that they would better live up to their advocacy of justice for all and compassion. Masuda (1980), the Japanese social critic, saw computers initiating a spiritual transformation in culture. Powerful new computer art and music can empower the (spiritual) right side of the brain that is the locus of visions and motivation to compassion?

Levy (1997) pointed out that `the virtual worlds constructed in cyberspace' had so far, in games, largely reproduced what already exists in social institutions and systems, often violence. Even highly sophisticated computer games focus on medieval-style combat, just as the use of information technology in classrooms--and religious institutions--has largely been a reproduction of what would have happened without the technology. Now we have technology to create blueprints for structures for religious dialog and religious cooperation in cyberspace. Next there can be visionary designs for a more compassionate and beautiful human society. Levy suggests research for virtual worlds of "shared sensation in which collective intelligence, consciousness and imagination will be able to expand." One does have to agree with Levy's theological reflections on cyberspace--he draws upon Jewish and Islamic thought--to be stimulated by his vision. He has ideas about intelligence and knowledge being at the heart of the universe, making creative thought and imagination possible. He suggests that--as humanity moves into cyberspace, "the cosmos itself thinks in us." He asks us to explore not only that idea but other new realms of possibility. (See <www.singularity.net>.

Research for vision and motivation--now scattered in bits and pieces in many disciplines--can be aided by computer networking and collective intelligence in a quest for better methods, larger ideas and possible joint research projects. Could this be a partial answer to `religions as problem?' What if religion researchers were linked to those of other faiths, with scientists, with experts in cultural, moral and ethical  issues and especially around crucial social problems like learning for all? Could researchers who are secular, with little interest in traditional religions, nevertheless help them--since there are so many people in major religions--find ways to nurture compassion and responsibility of the sort needed for motivation to provide adequate food and health care for all the world's children?  No one knows what the results might be because never before has such a large-scale research project possible. On the positive side, it is likely that religion (and `spirituality' in relation to brain and consciousness research, and many other disciplines) will become a major research area in the 21st century. Steinmetz, `the wizard of General Electric,' is said to have predicted it. Must such research wait until it is forced by a major global catastrophe worse than global terrorism, perhaps  mass starvation, ecological disaster or plague?


Could networking stimulate some creative imagination for compassion by asking what kind of research might be undertaken if foundations donated several billion dollars  for that purpose? Perhaps, in fact. a global-scale research project in religion, morals and ethics is underway and no one has much noticed it or thought about it, especially the leaders of the world's religions. The first stages are automated and digitalized. In time it becomes a `Global brain and collective intelligence' project as described in chapters two and four. For all of history's important religious and human values documents are in digital form, increasingly cross-indexed and cross-referenced in the `emerging world wide electronic encyclopedia and soon a Cosmopedia with music, film and millions of links. ' Religion scholars of the past are thus brought into dialog with each other and with scholars today. This is mega-research not only in spirituality and religion but in all fields, with the potential of bringing all knowledge and research into online collaboration. Even those who are most violently anti-religious see the necessity for finding ways to reduce violence and increase human caring and compassion. This saw an increase of science-theology dialog at the turn of the century. All scholars face the opportunity for new kinds of large scale research, data bases enabling and empowering many kinds of collaboration.

Then--hopefully sometime in the 21st century, this `Global Brain/encyclopedia (or cosmopedia) project (1.3.1) might bring some kind of wholeness into all knowledge again, for the first time since the Middle Ages. Wilson (1998) said that most of the crises that vex humanity "can be solved only by integrating knowledge from natural sciences with that from the social sciences and the humanities." That integration may require new collaboration between science, philosophy and religion. It might possibly achieve something comparable to what Aquinas did within the limited technology and other scientific knowledge available to him. A system to integrate all knowledge, however, would take the collective intelligence of (hundreds of thousands?) of  minds worldwide and the linking of many disciplines, cultures and traditions. Whether or not something like that happens, or whether religions and `spiritual'' institutions play a major role in it, a mega-scale research task of the next century will be the completion of this digitalizing and cross-indexing of the whole corpus of  literature in values and religion, linked with accumulated and current research in other fields of inquiry that bears upon caring and compassion. Can religion and values scholars then enlarge their vision to make use of the emerging possibilities of computer-empowered collective intelligence in the encyclopedic database task?  The project will in any case be collaborative, involving  various scientific and scholarly disciplines, who will be empowered by information age technology to participate; for example in gathering case studies to find what kinds of religious experiences and activities  help develop large vision and motivation for human good.

Several perceptive religious scholars, including the late H. Richard Niebuhr of Yale, have predicted a great century of religion research that will be dialogical. Niebuhr did not anticipate the coming of the global electronic databases that would bring together all knowledge. So he did not know how the dialog he foresaw between religions, between religion and science, between religion and all disciplines, would be electronically empowered. This creation of databases in philosophy and religion may bring the two into courtship--if not marriage again--for the digital cross-indexing project is a `generalist' task. Religion studies, if not theology, may then become a supportive "servant" of science and other research disciplines; its task being to ask probing emotional and compassionate questions in dialog rather than presuming to give dogmatic answers. No one yet knows what may result in religion and religion research as a result of  the revolution in communications and global-scale research possibilities.


How can religious scholars themselves be mobilized to undertake larger-scale research on areas important for global-scale lifelong learning? A partial answer has come from an exploration of the idea of a global (electronic) consortium of theological schools, university departments of religion, denominational libraries and graduate schools of religion. Instead of duplicating research they could reorganize and divide research responsibilities for more teamwork similar to that among those working for global health care. A partnership with secular disciplines can help set a very large and imaginative agenda. A joint study group of the long-range planning committee of the GLOSAS/Global University Project and the World Network of Religious Futurists (WNRF) found that many secular researchers were also intrigued by the idea of a partnership/dialogical consortium for religion research for purposes such as these areas that affect education:

(a) To undertake research on religious extremism and religious terrorist and hate movements that are becoming a potent and often dangerous political force in the world. Religion researchers have an essential role in helping all religious people understand each other  and their common concerns as a first step towards resolving their antagonisms.

(b) To plan and undertake research on how to deepen human motivation, ethics, creative imagination, and the nurturing of values such as caring and compassion. The unnecessary hunger of a hundred million children represents a spiritual and religious failure. The Russian philosopher Berdyaev insisted that religions did not exist just to make people `conventionally good' but to help them be creative in imagining what ought to be done and how to accomplish it.

(c) To research the way religious traditions can better help reverse the ecological perils facing the planet and to enlarge the vision, faith and will to act decisively.

(d) To involve religion decision makers in a global quest for those religious values that various religions already share and that respect and appreciate diversity of cultures.  How could this be encouraged and stimulated? Electronic forms of ancient scriptures are coming into existence, some with graphic art and motion picture illustrations. but wouldn't it be interesting for a global transdisciplinary team to play around with the idea of 21st century `scriptures' that would not add graphics to text, but that would, for example, add text to films that report on real acts of compassion, stories of self-giving in service of human need, and visual metaphors and stories that would illustrate and explain complicated social and personal problems?

(e) Esposito (2002) proposes dealing with emerging religious conflicts through `global engagement and coalition-building to promote cooperation and collaboration to deal with global issues.

(f ) And we add a quest for enlarged vision, perhaps as large as that in Toynbee's `ten thousand year time frame" in historical study. (Mische 1997). He saw a breakdown of the age-long systems of human dominance, seen in war, caste and race systems, slavery, patriarchy and human dominance over the planet's ecology. The root of the word religion in Latin and Sanskrit means to "bind together as one the whole universe." Here, Mische asserted, is the needed vision for movement towards a more human and united global community.

With participants from the Middle East, Europe, North America and from the World Conference of Associations of Theological Institutions, a survey late in the 20th century searched for any significant international collaborative religion research in these areas, using the Internet. The surveyors decided that such collaboration is not likely to happen unless a consortium of university religion departments takes the initiative.

Perhaps a small step towards more significant religious and values research has been seen in the sponsorship by the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities --with Templeton Foundation funding--of Seminars on Science and Christianity which are seeking the most important issues involved in dialog between science and religion. This was part of a much larger Templeton investment in "humility theology", an effort to help both scientists and religionists to be less arrogant about what they are sure that they know. The Templeton Project has, for example, has given $100,000 prizes for excellent research/dialog papers in that area by scientists, philosophers and theologians. Easterbrook (2002) in Wired magazine proposed a next step: the pressure of biotech questions where transdisciplinary work involving biology, theology and other disciplines may be essential.


The emerging worldwide digital library enlarges the resources and globalizes the horizons for studies in religions, values  and theology as the world's research libraries interconnect electronically. Resources of all the world's religions are included. For instance, the Muslim encyclopedia is online, as is the entire corpus of Jewish legal tradition. Nearly al ancient religious manuscripts and scriptures are cross-indexed for instant search. The Religion Index is online with the reviews of books on religion, journal articles, all significant religious encyclopedias, current indexing of all papal writings by date and subject and abstracts of biblical scholarship. but who will use this now for larger-scale research?

Much religious art and music of all cultures are also in digital form, available for research and to enlarge human spiritual imagination and experience. Holistic research can therefore give more attention to the potential of contemporary art forms in nurturing vision, compassion and motivation. Artists could now use the increasingly powerful computers that are to come together with television and satellites to create artistic experiences that span time and space. Teams of artists in different countries can interconnect to blend sight, sound, color and movement into global art forms. These can seek to recapture a unifying vision of life that art and religion have lacked since the middle Ages. One artist has proposed the great cathedrals as a model. Others point to implications of the emotional power seen when millions of people have  used global TV/rock music events to raise funds for famine relief or for AIDS research. Paglia (1990) suggested that pedantic and narrowly ideological and specialized scholars have tended to overlook the increasingly global culture that has been energized by and seen in rock music, for example. The spiritual history and implications of these rude, vital, drug-ridden decades, she says, remain largely unstudied; for example the "power, passion and emotional truth of African-American experience," of popular music, film, TV, the "revolutionized consciousness of image-dominated popular culture" all over the world.

Religion as well as values scholars have shown some research interest in film and drama that might provide vision and energize motivation, --as TV advertisements do. The spiritual power in oral story telling is also being recovered. There seems to be less religion research interest in the emotional power of music. There has been little research. however, into the religious potential of powerful new musical technologies, such as  keyboards that can be used to create the sound of a hundred symphony orchestras. What will be the use of such art and music technologies in the "virtual cathedrals" that can be constructed in cyberspace? Can new combinations of music and art create  experiences which motivate and enlarge visions of what can and should be done to provide food and healthcare for all the world's  children? Religion and values research, using information age technology, could concern itself with much more than  traditions, doctrines and a comparison of religious ideas, theories and practices.

2.16.6  COMPUTER NETWORKING FOR DIALOG and collaboration

Grogert (1999), in the Internet Society's journal, pointed out that "the power of the Internet is in its human connective potential." He said that "the Internet has the potential for creating an education of hope" in a context of "two way and mutually respectful interaction." One example: The Templeton Foundation enabled a June 1997 workshop at the University of California, Berkeley, at which scholars presented their latest research on (a) theology and ethics in relation to the natural and social sciences; (b) on religious questions raised by evolutionary biology, physics, cosmology, neuroscience, genetics, space exploration and ecology. (c) In addition to presentations by scientists, and of Judeo-Christian views on science, perspectives from other world religions were included. (c) Religion scholars visited science laboratories. (d) There was interactive dialog between scientific medicine and religion; for example, "Empirical Research on Religion and Psychotherapeutic Processes and Outcomes: A Ten Year Review and Research Prospectus" was produced by scholars from the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University and the National Institute for Healthcare Research at Bethesda, Maryland. (Templeton 1997). It proposed a decade-long research agenda on mental health practices and religious counseling. Reports of highly-significant dialog among religions and between science, religion and cultures are reported in many issues of the UNESCO Courier. Many more such conferences continue to be held.

The expanding religion-science dialog has been scattered, however, and has not yet been systematic or involving enough disciplines. Nor is there a comprehensive strategic plan involving something larger than research by individuals.. Dialog-oriented research needs also to involve the humanities, arts, law, political science and more. Then it can examine more thoroughly the cultural and other forces which numb moral vision and ethical creativity, those that weaken the social responsibility of religious institutions and that encourage simplistic and dogmatic thinking. Few scholars since Aquinas have considered it possible to bring a new sense of wholeness into religion research, a coherent picture of the total scheme of things and the human being's place in the universe. Such systematic thought is no longer possible for any one scholar. One scholar or dialog team might initiate a `great research design' and strategy.

 Only a very large team--with forthcoming more powerful technology--could pull together the implications of all the sciences and scholarly disciplines for religion or values research. A mega-plan to bring together all relevant research (2.1) would need to find a way to collect, store and link data--such as case studies on developing vision and empowerment--so that future generations can continue to enlarge it and build upon it. As with the Human Genome Project, a great deal of the spade work could then sometime be automated so that religion and other scholars are freed to work together in a quest for greater wholeness of systematic thought.

There may be an analogy here between research on tradition in religions and legal traditions. Law is a living tradition, continually building on past experience and enlarging it by applying it to new cases in each generation's lawsuits. That process in law can become more significant now as all the world's laws, cases, and understanding of legal quotidian are put in computer data bases for use, comparison and management. Tradition and traditioning in values and religion is also a slow process of collective intelligence. Effectiveness in nurturing compassion could be examined in each new cultural or crisis situation, asking if adherents are empowered to live up to what they affirm and if now, how that might better be accomplished. This research process--sorting, indexing, comparing, validating, updating and revision--can now become an electronic--and therefore `living' --religion and values encyclopedia. It is interesting to note that much secular electronic work of this type is now done in monasteries. Where the printed manuscript tended to freeze words and ideas, leading to an `authoritarian' kind of thought to be defended, the digital manuscript can daily continue to grow and enlarge in response to criticism and to include new information. More important is the way that every idea can be linked to every other relevant citation in tradition and to contemporary research in every discipline. What could Aquinas have done with such information age technology?

The texts of Judeo-Christian scriptures have always contained many links back and forth between ideas and events. Now there can be digitally-interlinked editions of all scriptures and religion documents. This linkage can be extended to include all that is being learned about consciousness, the mind, personality, intelligence, the cosmos, creativity and emotions. This linking can enable mega-research on religion at a level of complexity never before possible. A science-fiction type proposal for using powerful newer technologies has initiated at times a surprising dialog between Muslims and Jews in Palestine/Israel.  proposal to solve the deadly `guns and explosives conflict' over the Temple Mount, a virtual reality scientist has proposed that instead of tearing down the holy mosque to rebuild the Jewish temple, the temple could be virtual, hanging in space over the mosque (Davis 2004) so that both political/religious factions could be satisfied.

The minds of a vast company of religion researchers can also be linked. Research has never before had the chance to link thousands of minds, in many different cultures. They can not only be in dialog, but also can move beyond piecemeal, fragmented research and overspecialization. Scholars can enlarge the quality and maturity of spiritual, philosophical and religious thought as many minds test, correct and stimulate each other in developing caring and compassion.. They can focus on their role in helping humanity cope with crises. They can bring together widely scattered expertise to amplify the scope of research and so that they can experiment with new kinds of research. Hypertext and multimedia enlarge the potential of religion scholarship, forcing it out of a linear framework. It will be possible to research an idea, theory or need from all possible perspectives simultaneously and through all hypertext-type knowledge webs.

Every student and faculty researcher can help expand hypertext webs that lead to all related data. They can help create electronic maps of knowledge for an heuristic approach to patterns and relationships. Where print led scholars try to flatten a concept out onto a piece of paper, information-age technology enables ideas to explode in all directions at once, as the brain and human thinking do. Then it need no longer be said of religion research--as computer specialist Minsky of MIT has said of philosophy--that it is not dealing with powerful enough ideas. A research project might ask why many scholars who believe in a God--who created the entire universe--themselves deal with rather small designs, petty research projects that hardly seem worthy of a Creator of 180 billion suns. From a Judeo-Christian perspective, God has through information technology given scholars new powers--if they collaborate--that none can exercise alone. Some Judeo-Christian scholars might suggest that collective intelligence (2.4.1) and the emerging Global Brain (2.2) might be seen as humanity's part of the mind of their God. If God gave human beings the power to be co-creators, and if God--at work in all things--is at work in information age technology and all science, then one might agree with the philosopher Berdyaev who said that in his view God wishes to bring creativity into human lives. He proposed human creativity to make possible more loving and compassionate visions, more collective intelligence to use in solving crises, and more powerful motivation to do what must be done.

Medical researchers have led the way, perhaps, as they show how a global-scale community of scientists can coordinate and share their research. They can experiment boldly with new tools; and now, most surprisingly, some in medical research are willing to experiment with meditation and the use of imaging and techniques of oriental religions in healing. They are raising religious issues in relation to cloning and assisted suicide. Such research suggests the beginning of a new era. No one knows what enlarged religion research capacities may bring.


Suppose that billion-dollar religion research strategy--not on the scale of NASA perhaps, but on the scale of the Human Genome project--came into being, perhaps because of escalating global violence between religions. It might, for one thing, seek to answer the call for larger research on what to do about hate groups, terrorists and human society's sinkholes of injustice and misery that breed them. Research could now transcend geography, limits of time and mental capacity. Hypertext and powerful computers can enable scholars, for example, to follow one idea through a corpus of thousands of centuries of literature, thus accomplishing in minutes what would have taken years before. Automated procedures such as those used in the Human Genome Project's data management could organize a huge volume of case studies of religious experience, collected worldwide, and make it possible to compare successes, for example, in nurturing love and compassion, vision and motivation, as never before.

One contribution of religion and `spiritualilty' to the need for global lifelong learning and other crisis needs in global society may be  the insight that compassion and love are nurtured and empowered within small communities that support families and professionals; which Forrester calls spheres of formation. "The two great institutions of modern society--the state and the marketplace--fail in compassion.. Can researchers design something more supportive of caring and forgiveness in cyberspace?

Religion researchers, as most scholars in the humanities, do not have a tradition of team research such as exists in astronomy. Few seem to have a vision of reintegrating the fragmented research in their own discipline, much less with others. That could change now as individual researchers and teams create their own Web pages with hyperlinks to a vast network of data bases and research. Such landscapes, Levy says, will be mapped in cyberspace with "dynamic diagrams and ideograms, moving architectures of images. . . deplorable and interactive." Such a holistic knowledge (and wisdom?) map can become a `blueprint' for larger research strategies, initiating a process similar to the construction of a Gothic cathedral by builders who would never see the outcome of centuries of work. Similarly, the result of collective teamwork might succeed--will it take a century?--in transforming hate into compassion, violence into caring and empower necessary motivation. Communities of faith should take such a research leap now even though the present generation will not live to see the `cathedral.' One leading religion scholar (Wink 1998) said that the religious task is "a reconstituting of all things," changing all the racist, warlike, dominating powers and evil institutions of human society. Who else will do it?

 A second great religion research project might be the computer modeling of possible new forms--at least in cyberspace--for energizing the motivational institutions of society to show how they could become more responsible, compassionate and just. The deeply religious communities among the poor, especially in the developing world, need to be involved in the use of emerging new technologies to empower lifelong education in their communities.  

A third can be the expansion of online electronic textbooks (3.7) on the Internet to bring education to everyone in the world.. A start was made on CD's.. For example SCM Press in London's THE OLD TESTAMENT STORY: AN INTRODUCTION WITH CD-ROM  was fully-searchable, had note-taking and highlighting that can be stored for reference. It had links to biblical texts and a wide range of other links and maps and illustrations as well as online access to photographs and ancient documents.  Next, graphics and video segments of online electronic (3.7) textbooks-- with web links to videos of real hunger, injustice, sickness, and so forth that, can help to arouse real compassion.

Perhaps most helpful in nurturing compassion and responsibility for all the world's children --as we note in the next chapter--is the possibility of learning for nearly everyone in the world  that is a kind of education that can involve every learner in research and service.  However, it would be most exciting if leaders of all the world's religions could agree on a small curriculum module--in a secular mode for everyone in the world--that would ask the world's learners to explore how love and compassion can best be nurtured and helped to grow in all communities. Most helpful would be the systerm of `forgiveness  that has been so effective in replacing violence and hate with compassion  in South Africa and Rwanda.<http://www.resurgence.org/resurgence/issues/tutu214.htm>. Important in that research will be collaboration between religion and the social sciences. (Browning 2002).


 Two months after the June 5-8 2005 Metanexus science-religion dialog conference at the University of Pennsylvania, I reflect ed here on what I learned at this--for me--a first time experience. This Templeton Foundation project has the goal of “creating and enduring intellectual and social movement” and has an increasing number of science-religion dialog groups on five continents. They deal with some of the most crucial issues facing human society.  Going as an outsider I was reminded of a report article I once wrote for the Christian Century about an international conference of the World Future Society. I had noted, journalistically, that at most religious conferences, when global crises were discussed, there was hand-wringing, even anguish, but little was done—say about poverty—except to pass resolutions. At the World Future Society experts talked about proposed solutions, however again there was little concrete action.

 At the Metanexus dialog conference, on the other hand, I got a new perspective on why human society is failing to take affordable action on crises where it is clear what needs to be done.  I had known little about the Templeton Foundation, except from press announcements of annual awards to outstanding contributors to religion like the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa. An increasing number of academics, however, know about grants for research and local areas conferences, and many have seen books published by the Templeton Press or at least full-page ads about them in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Not as well known, however, are these annual religion-dialog conferences, this was the fifteenth, that bring together scientists and religionist from five continents. For example, one evening at dinner I by chance sat with a Muslim woman scientist from Malaysia, Buddhist scientists from Sri Lanka and Nepal and a Muslim scholar from Pakistan who gave me a paper he had written on the urgency of Muslim dialog with other religions as a step towards stopping terrorism.

Mysteries and Puzzles, a personal response to a dialog.

 The June 2005 conference began with a lecture by Nobel prizewinning physicist, Charles Townes. I by chance was well prepared to hear him because I had just read again, on the plane to the conference, Bill Bryson’s book A Short History of Nearly Everything  the history of the universe. Townes opened my mind to the `mysteries and puzzles’ facing both science and religion, He and other scientists gave me a new perspective on why science and religion need each other to face a cloudy future. I should not have been surprised because—for me-- Michael Ruse,  in The Evolution-Creation Struggle makes a persuasive case for `two ways to truth,’ the scientific search for verifiable facts and the religious search for meaning, love, compassion, responsibility, trust and truths that can be better understood only in signs, symbols, parables, myths and other stories.Bryson and Townes reminded me of mysteries and puzzles like black holes, for example, and in string theory d the possibility now that there may be other universes. It was pointed out that two theories about the universe have definitely been proven t true, yet if one is true, the other cannot be true! I was struck by the fact that just before Einstein was born, a leading physicist decided that everything that could be known through physics was then known! A speaker suggested that science may never unravel the mysteries of human consciousness and the brain/mind. I personally responded to that with what many scholars would perhaps see as a religious observation. I said that maybe the future Einstein who could solve the brain-consciousness puzzles has already been born. However maybe she has been born where girls are not allowed to go to school; or because of her family’s inability to provide adequate nutrition her brain might not be developing properly, or because she has no access to safe drinking water she will be sick much of the time and unable to do well enough in school to achieve her potential in science.That comment, I hoped would focus attention on a common interest that could help bring together for dialog from five continents scholars from so many different sciences and religions, nations and cultures. Such dialog is increasingly important for the future of humanity and our planet itself because of global crises that result from poverty, hunger, lack of health care and others discussed by J. F. Rischard of the World Bank, in his book HIGH NOON; 20 GLOBAL PROBLEMS; 20 YEARS TO SOLVE THEM  The June conference spent one very profitable evening discussing a proposed action document, A CALL TO THOUGHT AND ACTION TOWARDS THE CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT OF RELIGION AND SCIENCE. To discuss the document, delegates were during the evening divided into small groups, sometimes by religion, sometimes by discipline, and by geographic region. The document began by pointing out that “we live in a time of  extraordinary danger and promise…” that desperately needs “the best in the human spirit—scientific rigor, religious wisdom, aesthetic sensitivity, moral discernment and creative problem solving.”

            Reflecting on that, and what Townes said about the history of the universe, and what he and other scientists –and religionists—said about `mysteries and puzzles brought into my mind a metaphor. Are powerful new technologies, predicted to transform all human institutions, going to help global society move into a more mature and `adult’ phase of history? Perhaps after a hundred thousand years or so of infancy, human society was able to enter a childhood era with the invention of writing and printing.  Now we seem to be in an adolescent stage of human history and development.  I think of boys fighting in the schoolyard hen I read President Emeritus John R. Campbell’s book DRY ROT IN THE IVORY TOWER, and when I read in THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION about  petty squabbles among scientists over petty personal issues; and of our appalling lack of response to slaughter and starvation in Africa, for example.  Campbell was recently invited by a country’s president to lecture on tenure to all that country’s college presidents, to explain why tenure should not be awarded through family and outside political connections. Today when many essential research must be transdisciplinary, many scientists for reasons of professional advancement want to work on petty little uncoordinated projects that will be helpful in getting tenure. Also, progress in solving crises like AIDS is often slowed by an unwillingness to collaborate with other scientists, keeping one’s own work a secret in the hope of winning a Nobel prize, or to gain financial profit. Unfortunately also, many scientists have insisted that their `pure research’ should not suffer from so-called moral restraints. The moral issues—in considering consequents of inventions like cloning of humans or nuclear weapons—should be the responsibility of others.

A Role for Religions? I was present when a distinguished biologist approached a leading theologian to say: "I'd like to talk with you about some religious issues I am confronting in my research." The theologian replied: “I’m sorry, I just don’t have the time.”   When the biologist was gone, I asked the theologian: “It looks to me like you missed a great opportunity.” He said:      “You don’t understand.. I would welcome such a conversation with a scientist in an area where I know something, but I would be like a five-year-old talking with a biologist. I’d be too embarrassed to try.”

            Yet, I should have said to him, we are entering a time when the knowledge explosion makes it impossible for any of us to know everything even in our own discipline and when increasingly it takes teams of scholars to make important new discoveries.  Even the solitary genius can do little without the help of those who have gone before him or her. Also, we are entering a time when technology-enabled `collective intelligence’—binging together thousands of minds--is going to make it possible to accomplish things that were never possible before.  I note that the September 2005 issue of the MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW reported on some `mega-science’ projects that may need to be developed on the scale of the space research program or the Human Genome—and now protein—projects. Indeed, many if not all of our global crises—like the future of safe water—may require global-scale mega-research.

            I note also that the Human Genome project, as researchers all over the world collaborated—found it essential to work with ethicists and morality people. It became clear to many of them that a crucial issue is that of priorities. Whether or not it was the intention of the Metanexus conference planners, I personally left with the conviction that ethics, morality and action were going to require some more serious research on how to provide adequate inspiration and motivation!  I also became convinced that (nearly?) all religions are failing to do their part in this crucially important task. A basic area where science needs religion is in the nurturing of caring, compassion, inspiration and motivation to act to solve humanity’s crises. Here are `spiritual’ issues that scientists generally consider to be out of their research capabilities, for they involve, for example, art and music, drama and emotion.

            Perhaps here it is fair to say that religions are failing at a most fundamental task that society has generally left to them. Members of one or another religion are burning each other’s synagogues, mosques, churches and temples and religion is given as the excuse for violence and terrorism. In his Terry lectures at Yale University, a quarter of a century ago, the president of Notre Dame University called for serious and responsible dialog among world religions, emphasizing the dignity and rights of all persons in the world, regardless of differences in faith, culture, gender, religion and race. This he said is essential for world peace and the essential health of human society and of our planet itself. Recently I watched a young Muslim from the Middle East copy down “so I can memorize it” those words of the president of Notre Dame. Then he asked: “But how can it be accomplished?”

            I personally got an answer to that also at the Metanexus conference. Environmental artist Lowry Burgess of Carnegie Mellon University clarified for me in a private conversation what he barely had time to mention in his formal presentation. He pointed out how essential the arts are in inspiration and motivation to act. Religious institutions rarely now commission great works of art and music, as in the past. However new technologies bring the `lively arts’ together, empowering inspiration and motivation as never before. This is seen in new digital instruments that an individual can use to create   TV and film. I recall how the mood of the world was changed.by the TV images of a small naked girl running on fire in Vietnam and I note the financial success of a current movie made by one individual at the cost of $11,000. Art can present desperate human needs in ways that can inspire and motivate ways to solve human crises. New art forms can empower listening to other religions, for example, to understand where religions disagree and where they can agree and collaborate, as in finding ways to provide adequate food and safe water for every child in the world.

            Sir John Templeton, himself, has often spoken personally on the need for humility in the face of human arrogance. Humility is a spiritual quality, as seen in the film shown at the conference about the life and work of Teihard de Chardin. As we confront each other in dialog we begin to see that much of the arrogance of scientists, and squabbling religionists, is a result of an ignorance that results in our failure to listen to others, to their concerns and aspirations. In dialog we can challenge the arrogance of others and welcome them to challenge ours.

Is Ignorance the Problem? Listening to other scientists, to the mysteries and puzzles that arise also in religion research, we must confess our ignorance, the primitiveness of current scientific research. Often a most helpful learning at any conference takes place in the hall and at meal conversation.  Some of the most helpful learning there was stimulated by discussions of new kinds of electronic publishing that the Templeton Press may use to promote the idea of science-religion dialog, and to report on dialog in various countries, that has led to the publishing of local books, the creation of CDs, and even the use of street  drama to promote better dialog. I heard a growing consensus that the world’s education institutions and systems now face an entirely new situation and technology—using the Internet and `electronic-tutoring textbooks’ on line that can bring essential job training and learning to everyone on the planet!

            Online electronic interactive textbooks can include music, movie clips and other newly possible features to provide motivation and inspiration to learn and to act. There will be less excuse and even the possibility of avoiding the poverty, hunger, ignorance and illness of a billion children on our planet. I was not the only one at the conference who had participated in World Bank and United Nations development conferences dealing with poverty, water problems and global education needs and priorities. Unfortunately most delegates there, and too many scholars elsewhere were almost totally ignorant of the exciting networking that is multiplying around the world. Jeremy Rifkin in THE EUROPEAN DREAM reported exciting successful electronic networking.(and negotiation.)

            And  Richard Katz in the July 2005 issue of EDUCAUSE, published a chapter from the research report, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY NETWORKING IN HIGHER EDUCATION. The article pointed out that networking and the Internet are leading human society into an age “where every content will become mobile, virtual and personal,” transforming research, learning and enabling transdisciplinary  fields of study and the ability to collaborate.” I would add: “and powerfully facilitating science-religion dialog…and in time more joint research involving both sciences and religions to deal with crises that have both scientific left brain and spiritual and right brain creative dimensions. 

Return to Chapter 2.15  |  Go to Chapter 2.17

Bibliographical Notes

Berdyaev, N. 1955. The Meaning of the Creative Act. London: Gollanz. 

Browning, Don et al. 1997. From Culture Wars to Common Ground. Philadelphia: Westminster.

Browning, Don et al.  2002. Reweaving the Social Tapestry: Toward a Public Philosophy and  Policy for Families. New York: W. W. Norton.. 

Clodd, E.  C. 1898. The Childhood of Religion. New York: Appleton.

Coleman, W. C. 2001. The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition.  New York: Oxford University Press.  (May contribute to radical change in human culture) 

Davis, J.  2004. "Apocalypse Now." (how a hologram could bring peace to the Holy Land.) Wired, April.

Easterbrook, Gregg. 2002. "The New Convergence:(Science and Theology." Wired, Dec.

Esposito, John. 2002. Unholy War. Oxford University Press.

Forrester, Jay. 1971. World Dynamics. Cambridge MA: Wright-Allen.

Knight, David. 2005. "Dare to Dream." New Scientist, August 13.

Kohak, Erazim. 1995. "The Faces of Democracy. Kettering Review.,fall.

Levy, P. 1994. Collective Intelligence. New York: Plenum.

Marshall, Paul. 2005.  Radial Islam's Rules. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Moore, Thomas. 2000. "Religion." In Williamson, M. (ed.). New York: St. Martins/Rodale.

Paglia, C. 1990. Sexual Personas.  New York: Vintage Books.

Porterfield, Amanda. 2001. The Transformation of American Religion. Oxford University Press. 

Raiser, Konrad. 2002. "For A Culture of Life: Transforming Globalization and Violence." Geneva, Switzerland, WCC Publications.

Swidler, Leonard. 2000. The Study of Religion in an Age of Global Dialogue. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Thieme, R ichard. 2005. "The Face We See in the Digital Mirror: How Technology is Changing Religion." National Catholic Reporter,  Feb. 11. 

Thomas, Scott. 2005.  "The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations. New York: Macmillan.  

Weislogel, Eric. 2004.  "The Emergence of the Global University" at: . <http://www.metanexus.net/conference2005/pdf/weislogel.pdf>. 

Wink, Walter. 1998. The Powers that Be. New York : Doubleday.<

Wilson, W. O. 1998. Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. New York, Knopf.
(See <http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~pluralism/>

Woese, Karl. 2004. "A New Biology for a New Century," Microbioplgy and Molecular Biology Review, June. 

uB uSA

The Future of Higher (Lifelong) Education: For All Worldwide: A Holistic View
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July 12, 2006 -- Copyright © 2002-2005 Parker Rossman