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Member Spotlight

ESSSAT MEMBER SPOTLIGHT Q&A with Dr Philippe Gagnon, Chaire Sciences, technosciences et foi à l'heure de l'écologie intégrale, Laboratoire ETHICS, Lille Catholic University

1.        How did you come to be interested in science and religion?

It happened because I felt that the answers to deep questions I sought on subjects related to the philosophy of science just weren’t probing all the way into the value-driven ultimate reasons why one adopted positions on subjects such as the ultimacy of a rational order of things. Then (see #3 below) encountering the œuvre of Claude Tresmontant (1925-1997) helped me re-read a lot of the Christian teachings against the backdrop of an evolutionary framework where, as he would have said, we were not so much in front of a “creative evolution” (as in Bergson’s celebrated book’s title), but an “evolutionary creation.” I consider that an account of creation in and through time remains largely undeveloped.


2.        What are your current research interests?

I research the cosmological and anthropological aspects of the thought of A. N. Whitehead, and more broadly, process-related answers to perennial religious questions. I am in charge of an archive center, at Lille Catholic University, devoted to process studies, but with lots of resources for the science and religion dialogue, and even more broadly, the general issues of philosophy of science, as well as Christian philosophical thinking. Researchers, at doctoral, or post-doctoral level, or established scholars, can make arrangements to come. I feel an urge to work at developing a philosophical cosmology, as this which is conspicuous by its absence in turns conditions what I feel as a lack of any suitable anthropology; the consequence of it all, is that when one confesses the creed, an inevitable divide takes place between what one will “assent” to, to use Newman’s term, and what one will consider epistemically justified. I am no exclusive devotee of the answers that the process trends can provide, and as such, I like confronting them to other cosmological quests such as one finds, e.g., in the thought of the French metaphysician Raymond Ruyer (1902-1987), whose metaphysical thought, although invented independently, bears resemblance to that of Whitehead. One next big project for me is to work out a “habilitation” dossier, a feature of the French academic system, which I will devote to seeking an answer to the “substantial bond” issue raised up by Leibniz, about which contemporary analytical and mereological proposals could help in providing a solution. Seeking a theory of unity, beyond the part and whole relationship, could help in clarifying issues around the place and import of relation in metaphysics and ontology, and establish what I call a theory of connections, stronger than relations, which could also be deemed a “power to make things into being.” Finally, the Chair in Sciences, technosciences and faith in the era of integral ecology, where I am research professor, is holding an international conference in Lille in October of 2024, where we will focus in particular on issues created by the interest the Church and Christian thinkers have developed around integral ecology. Its full program is now available: one can find more here

3.        Who are your science and religion “heroes” and why?

I have devoted much attention to the lasting legacy of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I have also analyzed the insights of Claude Tresmontant, a French specialist of both Medieval philosophy and philosophy of science, whose synthesis of the Christian faith and the scientific outlook propelled my reflection for many years. Even when I analyzed it critically, such as in a book I edited in 2022, it is only to open-up pathways toward a greater engagement with what defies criticism in this vision, and is simply fascinating as it speaks to unexploited resources of the Christian tradition.


4.        Why are you a member of ESSSAT?

I found in ESSSAT a place where voices from younger scholars could be heard, of course at the time that I joined early in the years 2000, and that favored a diversity of approaches in seeking answers to the big questions in the field of science and religion.


5.        What are you looking forward to at the next ESSSAT conference in Split, Croatia?

I am excited to combine the epistemology, philosophy of science, and theology of science insights amassed and developed through the years, with a greater attention paid to the subjective aspects of the seeking and reception of truth. One of the great mysteries of our human relation to time, is playing with counter-factuals, simply as Judea Pearls would have it, asking the question “why?,” “world-making” so to speak, and narration as well as story-telling are pertinent as a means of discussion in a time when so much attention is being paid to the possibilities of AI in approaching or not human rationality.







two publications of interest:

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