Abstracts and Suggested Readings for Each Session

Lecture 1, February, 16

Is Scientific Knowledge Relevant to Theology? The Influence of Contemporary Scientific World-View on the Work of Theologians

G. Tanzella-Nitti

Summary: 1. Is the Scientific Knowledge of Nature Relevant to Theology? A Short Status Quaestionis- 2. Paths from Science to Theology and from Theology to Science - 3. The Scientific  Image of the World and its Main Implications in Understanding Christian Revelation - 4. The Challenge of the Natural Sciences to the Work of Theologians: Source of Troubles or Origin of Positive Insights? 

Suggested readings:

K. Rahner, Natural Science and Reasonable Faith. “Theological Investigations,” n. 21 (Darton: Longman & Todd, 1988), 16-55 

G. Tanzella-Nitti, Natural Sciences in the Work of Theologians (2008), INTERS, https://inters.org/natural-sciences.

G. Tanzella-Nitti, “Is Scientific Knowledge Relevant to Theology?,” in Idem, Faith, Reason and the Natural Sciences. The Challenge  of the Natural Sciences in the Work of Theologians (Aurora: The Davies Group, 2009), 1-25


Lecture 2, February, 23

Is the notion of God meaningful to Scientific Culture? The Openness of Science to the Quest for Truth and Meaning

G. Tanzella-Nitti

Summary: 1. Some Epistemological Clarifications. - 2. The meaning of a reference to the Absolute beyond the formal language of science. - 3. The ontological incompleteness of physical, contingent reality, and the opening to a metaphysical necessary foundation. - 4. The acknowledgment of a Logos, as an objective rational order in nature (logosut ratio). - 5. The acknowledgment of a Logos, as dialogical “otherness” speaking through nature (logos ut verbum).

Suggested readings:

J.F. Haught, “God in Modern Science,” in The New Catholic Encyclopedia (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1989), vol. 18, 178-183

G. Tanzella-Nitti, GodNotion of (2010), INTERS, https://inters.org/god

G. Tanzella-Nitti, “Religion and Science as Inclinations towards the Search for Global Meaning,” in Theology and Science10 (2012) 167-178.


Lecture 3, March, 2

Physical Cosmology and Christian Theology of Creation

G. Tanzella-Nitti

Summary: 1. Introduction. - 2. Scientific cosmology and theology of creation: separation of fields or fruitful interaction? - 3. Cosmological models and the debate on the possible role of a God Creator. - 4. The notion of creation between philosophy of nature and theology. - 5. Conclusions: cosmology, theology and the human wondering on ultimate questions.

Suggested readings:

G. Tanzella-Nitti, Creation (2002), INTERS, https://inters.org/creation.

G. Tanzella-Nitti, “Nature as Creation. Science and Theology on the Ultimate Questions,” in Idem, Faith, Reason and the Natural Sciences. The Challenge of the Natural Sciences in the Work of Theologians (Aurora: The Davies Group, 2009), 27-54.


Lecture 4, March, 9

The Christological Dimension of the Cosmos

G. Tanzella-Nitti

Summary: 1. Scientific questions and philosophical answers in understanding physical reality. - 2. Philosophical ways of speaking of the Logosand of the originality of Christian Logos. - 3. A world created through the Word-Logos and in the sight of the Incarnate Logos: which consequences for the work of science? - 4. Concluding Remarks

Suggested readings:

M. Heller, “Scientific Rationality and Christian Logos,” in Physics, Philosophy and Theology. A Common Quest for Understanding, ed. by R.J. Russell, W.R. Stoeger  and G.V. Coyne (Vatican City State: LEV and University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), 141-149

G. Tanzella-Nitti, Jesus Christ. Incarnation and Doctrine of Logos (2008), INTERS, https://inters.org/jesus-christ-logos.


Lecture 5, March 16

The Debate on the Laws of Nature: Science, Philosophy and Theology

G. Tanzella-Nitti

Summary: 1. The problematic nature of the Laws of Nature: a short status quaestionis. - 2. The Natural Laws and the metaphysical notion of natureas formal cause. - 3. Some historical-philosophical issues and their revival in contemporary age. - 4. The Holy Scripture and the Natural Laws: is God Creator the “God of the Laws of Nature”? - 5. The Universe (U), the Laws of Nature (L) and God (G): an intriguing cosmic topology. - 6. Concluding Remarks

Suggested readings:

G. Tanzella-Nitti, “The Aristotelian-thomistic Concept of Nature and the Contemporary Scientific Debate on the Meaning of Natural Laws,” in  Acta Philosophica, 6 (1997) 237-264

G. Tanzella-Nitti, Laws of nature (2008), INTERS, https://inters.org/laws-of-nature


Lecture 6, March, 23

Life in the Universe: Scientific and Theological Perspectives

G. Tanzella-Nitti

Summary: 1. The Debate on Extraterrestrial Life, between Scientific Thought and Humanistic Culture. - 2. Christian Theology in the Cosmic Context of Extraterrestrial Life: in Search of a Consistent Epistemology. - 3. Theology and Science on Extraterrestrial Life: A Common Quest for Understanding

Suggested readings:

G. Tanzella-Nitti, Extraterrestrial Life (2008), INTERS, https://inters.org/extraterrestrial-life

S. Dick, “The Societal Impact of Extraterrestrial Life. The Relevance of History and the Social Sciences,” in D. Vakoch (ed.), Astrobiology, History, and Society. Life beyond Earth and the Impact of Discovery (Berlin - Heidelberg: Springer, 2013), 227-257.


Lecture 7, March, 30

The Human Uniqueness: the Cultural Evolution of Homo sapiens

I. Colagè

Human uniqueness – i.e. the idea that the human being has distinctive characters with respect to any other living organism – is a key topic of Christian Revelation (rooted in the idea of the human being created in the image and likeness of God). It is also a debated issue in the scientific and interdisciplinary milieu, with historical roots in the raise and growth of Modern Science and Evolutionary Biology. In this lecture we will deepen aspects of the topic with special relevance to the so-called cultural evolution studies, which can cast light on the contemporary understanding(s) of the issue.

Suggested readings:

I. Colagè, F. d’Errico, “Culture: the driving force of human cognition,” in Topics in Cognitive Science 12 (2020) 654-672

I. Colagè, “Theology looking at culture through the lenses of science,” in M. Fuller et al. (eds.) Issues in Science and Religion: Are We Special?, Springer International Publishing AG, 2017, 137-155.

I. Colagè,“The Human Being Shaping and Transcending Itself: Written Language, Brain, and Culture”, Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science50(2015) 1002-1021


Lecture 8, April, 6

Original Sin and Evolution: Challenges and Recent Proposals

O. Juurikkala

The theory of evolution is one of the major sources of new theological reflection during the last decades. The Lecture will look at some of the key points and insights of this reflection in recent literature. It will begin by providing a big-picture map of the various issues involved. It will then focus on the relationship between original sin and evolution. To address the challenges involved in this reflection, we will try to clarify what different ideas may be contained in the notion of original sin. We will then see how the standard neo-Darwinian synthesis of evolution might challenge traditional notions of original sin and how one might respond to them. 

Suggested readings:

A. Davison, “Review of Daniel W. Houck, Aquinas, Original Sin, and the Challenge of Evolution,” in International Journal of Systematic Theology 23 (2021) 282-285, doi:10.1111/ijst.12465

D.W. Houck, “Toward a New Account of the Fall, Informed by Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas,” in Pro Ecclesia 29, no. 4 (November 2020) 429-448.


Lecture 9 , April, 27

The Role of Myth and Metaphor in Religion and Science

G. Capasso

Suggested readings:

J.-M. Maldamé, Myth (2002), INTERS, https://inters.org/myth

M.B. Hesse, "Physics, Philosophy, and Myth," in R.J. Russell, W.R. Stoeger, G.V. Coyne (eds.), Physics, Philosophy, and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 1988, 185-202

M. Landau, "Human Evolution as Narrative: Have hero myths and folktales influenced our interpretations of the evolutionary past?," American Scientist, 72, No. 3 (May-June 1984), 262-268


Lecture 10 and 11, May, 4 and May 11

The Metaphor of the Book of Nature: Historical and Theological Perspectives (Part I and II)

O. Juurikkala

These lectures provide an overview of the celebrated metaphor of the book of nature. We will begin by exploring the origins of the metaphor and the philosophical and theological background for its birth. In particular, the lectures will show how the idea of nature (visible creation) as a book depended on a set of ideas that combined elements of the biblical understanding of creation and Greek philosophical ideas of rationality (logos) found in the cosmos. We will look at some of the highlights of the history of the metaphor. Finally, the lecture will explore some of the ways in which the metaphor of the book of nature might influence our way of looking at traditional theological questions.

Suggested readings:

O. Juurikkala, The Patristic and Medieval metaphor of the Book of nature: implications for Fundamental theology (Rome; Edusc, 2019)

G. Tanzella-Nitti, Book of Nature, Origin and Development of a Metaphor, in INTERS, https://inters.org/book-of-nature


Lecture 12, May, 18

Humanity and the Environment: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Ecology

I. Colagè

Ecology is a hot-topic nowadays. It has practical and theoretical implications. It is addressed by the life sciences as well as by a number of human sciences (economy, sociology, law, etc.). It has philosophical implications. It is, finally, a central point in the current Magisterium of the Catholic Church. In this lecture we will address the core theme of the humanity-environment relationships from the view point of current life sciences and cultural evolution studies highlighting the philosophical and theological implications stemming from it.

Sugested readings:

G. Buffon, I. Colagè, “Pedagogical Ecology for an Alternative Sustainability: With Insights from Francis of Assisi and Contemporary Life Sciences,” in Sustainability 14 (2022) 1395.

P. Crutzen, E. Stoermer, “The Anthropocene,” Global Science NewsLetter 41 (2000) 16-17


Lecture 13, May, 25

The Role of Christian Revelation in the Birth of Western Culture and the Rise of the Scientific Method

C. Tagliapietra

Suggested readings:

C. Dawson, “The Significance of the Western Development,” in Religion and the Rise of Western Culture (1950), (New York: Doubleday, 1991), 11-25

R.L. Wilken, “The Sick, the Aged, and the Poor: The Birth of Hospitals,” inT he First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity (New York: Yale University Press, 2012), 154-162

P. Hodgson, “The Christian Origin of Science,” in Logos 4 (2001) 138-159.