M17-105 International Society for Science and Religion

Theme: Attending to Symbiosis: Theology and the Connectedness of Nature

Friday - 10:30 AM-1:00 PM

Sheraton Boston-Republic A (Second Level)

Few recent developments in biology are as striking as our new appreciation of mutually beneficial symbiosis: the hair on a sloth is adapted for growing algae, which forms an important source of calories for its host in return; the earliest known fossils of life on Earth are of symbiotic communities; garden centres stock spores of fungus that extends the root system of trees, and is nourished with sugars in return. Mutualism – beneficial relationships between organisms of different – is no longer seen as a marginal curiosity; it is now known to be profoundly widespread.

Evolution now seems to present the story of shifting patterns of benefit, not simply of competition. Some of its most momentous developments have involved the symbiotic engulfing of smaller organisms by larger ones (endosymbiosis), as with chloroplasts and mitochondria. There are important practical consequences. Aspects of human health depend on our relationship with the bacteria, or microbiome, of our gut. Something as fundamental to agriculture as soil is a shaped and preserved by symbiotic relationships.

Beginning with a survey of state of contemporary scientific knowledge, this panel will address the relative lack of theological attention to these developments, and consider their significance for a theological understanding of nature, not least in the form of their consequences for systematic theology and theological ethics.

Registration is not required. For more information, please see http://issr.yolasite.com.


Daniel Castillo, Loyola University, Maryland

Andrew Davison, University of Cambridge

Adam Pryor, Bethany College

Katherine Sonderegger, Virginia Theological Seminary

Wesley J. Wildman, Boston University

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