Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia


edited by G. Tanzella-Nitti and A. Strumia - ISSN 2037-2329
Articlesort descending Start reading... Author Date Affiliation at time of writing
Agnosticism

The word "agnosticism" comes from the Greek agnostos, which means "unknowable", which is also the root of the corresponding terms used in modern languages (fr. agnosticisme, ger. Agnosticismus, it. agnosticismo).

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Gaspare Mura 2005

Faculty of Philosophy, Pontifical Urbanian University, Rome, Italy.

Analogy

The term "analogy" (Gr. analoghia) means a relation of likeness or resemblance existing among some elements which constitute two facts or two objects, so that we can infer a relationship of similarity between the facts or the objects themselves.

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Alberto Strumia 2010

Department of Mathematics, University of Bari, Italy.

Anthropic Principle

One of the most important aspects of the transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age was the progressive withdrawal of the human person from the center of the physical cosmos, losing at the same time the philosophical privileges traditionally linked to that position.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2005

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Astronautics

Astronautics is the science of Space flight. The word was invented in 1927 by the French writer Joseph Henri Rosny, known as Rosny the Elder, and popularised by Robert Esnault Pelterie, one of the pioneers of Space exploration. Although astronautics is a matter for engineers in the same way as astronomy is a matter for scientists, it is still imbued with its own culture and traditions, human doubts and human passion.

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Jacques Arnould 2008

CNES - Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, Paris, France.

Atheism

In the ancient and modern languages, the word "atheism" comes from the Greek a-theotes, which means the negation of theos, that is, the negation of God.

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Gaspare Mura 2005

Faculty of Philosophy, Pontifical Urbanian University, Rome, Italy.

Autonomy

From a philosophical and a theological point of view, the notion of "autonomy" (gr. autos nomos, i.e. to be a rule to itself, or to govern itself) refers to the consistency that the world has with respect to God, to the value of its laws and properties.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Beauty

The notion of "beauty," including its different meanings, crosses the entire history of thought. The concept involves the fields of natural sciences, of ethics, aesthetics and religion.

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Wil Derske 2002

University of Nijmega, Holland.

Bethlehem, Star of

In the traditional artistic representations of the Nativity of Jesus of Nazareth, there is a reference to an astronomical event, commonly known as “the Star of Bethlehem.” The background is the Biblical text of the Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 2:1-11).

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Michele Crudele 2002

Lecturer of Informatics, Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome

Bioethics

All the activity related to the terrain of human health, in every epoch and culture has been endowed with a moral and religious dimension, since the power to cure the illness was considered a kind of gift received from the sphere of the divine.

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Antonio Spagnolo 2002

Institute of Bioethics, Catholic University of the Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy.

Cinema

The world of movies is one of the most important places where cultural and social trends, and contemporary ways of thinking meet together. This world is not extraneous to science nor to religion.

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Claudio Siniscalchi 2002

Lecturer of History and Theory of Cinema, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy

Cosmology

The word "cosmology" has become more and more frequent in scientific literature. It designates the area of physics and astronomy which investigates the observable universe as a single object of study.

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William Stoeger 2009

Vatican Observatory, Tucson, AZ, U.S.A.

Creation

The notion of "creation" is theological in character. It belongs primarily to the language of biblical Revelation. When discussed within the broader contexts of religion, philosophy, or even science, such theological specificity is pointed out specifying that it is creation ex nihilo, i.e. out of nothing.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Culture

Our present concern in this essay is not to undertake a generic discussion about culture, but rather to explain the meaning of “scientific culture” in the context of the relationship between science and religion.

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Gualberto Gismondi 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy.

Death

Besides the traditional perspectives that theology or philosophy have had on the meaning of death, a number of new epistemological problems brought on by the development of science also converge on this theme today.

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Michele Peláez 2002

Department of Anthropology, University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, Italy.

Determinism / Indeterminism

By "determinism" we usually mean that "once we know the laws governing the universe, or a particular system of it, and the associated initial conditions, those laws are such to "determine" in a fixed and absolute way the entire the temporal evolution of the system".

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Alberto Strumia 2002

Department of Mathematics, University of Bari, Italy.

Dialogue, Science and Theology

It is fitting to commence this essay with these words from John Paul II: "The church and the scientific community will inevitably interact; their options do not include isolation. Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish. We need each other to be what we must be, what we are called to be."

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Russell Robert J. 2002

The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Berkeley - CA, U.S.A.

Ecology

The problem of the environment and its preservation arose in the last decades particularly because of the great acceleration of technology in the most developed countries.

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Fiorenzo Facchini 2002

Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Bologna, Italy.

Encyclopedism

Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers was the Titanic enterprise in 28 volumes attempted by some of the most representative exponents of the French Enlightenment, combining some of the best 18th-century cultural products around the idea of a scientific and rational arrangement of the whole of knowledge.

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Claudio Fiorillo 2002

Department of Moral Philosphy, University of Rome, Tor Vergata

Epistemology

The term "epistemology" derives from joining two Greek words, episteme (science) and logos (discourse). From an etymological point of view, it means a “discourse about science”. According to its contemporary meaning, by epistemology we indicate a philosophical discipline which reflects upon the positive knowledge and the scientific theories proper to a given epoch.

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Gualberto Gismondi 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy.

Evolution

Although the term is universally known and used in both scientific culture and everyday speech, when we speak of "evolution" a number of useful clarifications are needed; in fact, precisely because of its widely usage some terminological confusion can easily arise.

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Ludovico Galleni 2002

Department of Zoology, University of Pisa, Italy.

Experience

The concept of "experience" has many different meanings difficult to codify in a complete way. In any case, it shows two clear dimensions. On one side, experience is the starting point of our knowledge, because it offers the “data” that our theories will try to understand and explain; on the other hand, experience is invoked as the “criterium of validity” for our knowledge as such.

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Rafael Martínez 2002

Faculty of Philosophy, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Extraterrestrial life

The sight of the starry sky has always given rise to profound questions. Among these, the question about the possibility that other planets may be inhabited by some form of life has been one of the most common and exciting.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2008

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Fideism

By the notion of "fideism" (Fr. fideisme) we mainly indicate a theological movement of the 19th century according to which the capabilities of our reason to know moral and religious truths are so limited, that we can know them only by faith.

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Paul Poupard 2002

President of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Finalism

Natural finalism answers metaphysical questions such us: why do the natural forms appear as they do? Are there any natural goal-seeking processes? Finalism has been linked to determinism as natural laws often relate causality to the prediction of final states. Modern science, however, added much indeterminism: quantum physics, chaos, random mutations, etc.

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Philippe Dalleur 2009

Faculty of Philosophy, Pontificial University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Geology

Geology is the discipline which studies the composition, the structure and the state of the earth, as well as the various phenomena that occur on its surface, or on its layers to which our experience can have access.

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Francesco Abbona 2002 Department of Earth Sciences, University of Turin, Italy.
God, Natural Knowledge of

Despite of its long-lasting theological tradition and its deep-rooting into the very birth of philosophy, the theme of the natural knowledge of God has always been the subject of critical debate. Starting from the Modern Age, the different theological perspectives on this subject were mainly due to different understandings of the dynamic between faith and reason.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2013

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

God, notion of

During the historical development of culture, human reason has confronted two main questions that demanded an explanation: why does the world exist, and why does the human creature appear so different from the rest of visible nature.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2010

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Gospels

Born within the Hebrew religious tradition, Christianity has its founder in Jesus of Nazareth. His teachings and works were proclaimed by his disciples and constitute what we call the Gospel, or the “Good News”. This message, centered around the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection, contains what his disciples heard and saw, but also the witness of the gradual insight they acquired reflecting upon the living acquaintance and intimacy they experienced with their Master.

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Francesco Lambiasi 2002

Formerly professor of Fundamental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Rome, Italy.

Heart

For millennia the fascinating enigma of the unceasing beating of the heart has been a source of unexhausted stupor, wonder and veneration. Humans have often wondered what the mysterious force of the living principle was that keeps the heart in constant motion and makes it possible for it never to stop beating throughout the duration of an individual’s lifetime.

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Lino Conti 2002

Faculty of Philosophy, University of Perugia

Human embryo

Within the various themes which bioethics is concerned with, the question about the nature of human life before birth has received so much attention that some could judge it even to be excessive.

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Roberto Colombo 2002

Faculty of Medicine, Catholic University of the Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy.

Idealism

By the word "idealism" we indicate that kind of philosophy which, when asked for the source of all human knowledge, answers by making knowledge identical with thought, that is with the ideas themselves.

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Alessandro Salucci 2002

Faculty of Philosophy, Pontifical University St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome, Italy.

Infinity

Since ancient times, the word "infinite" displayed a wide spectrum of meanings. It was used in the language of philosophy and theology, in the language of mathematics and poetry.

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Gianfranco Basti 2002

Pontifical Lateran University, Rome, Italy.

Information

Words such as "form" or "to form", "formula" or "to formulate", "format" or "information" are widely used. They belong not only to the language of classic and modern philosophy, but also to the language of science, especially to the field of computer sciences, which deal with logic and communication.

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Eugenio Sarti 2002

Faculty of Engineering, University of Bologna, Italy.

Intelligence, artificial

The expression Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a kind of paradox that attributes to what is “artificial,” something which is essentially “natural,” that is intelligence, the jealous prerogative of human nature. The expression is provocative indeed. There are those who ask whether a machine might really be “intelligent,” in the same sense that we use such an adjective to refer to the human mind.

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Paola Mello 2002

Faculty of Engineering, University of Bologna, Italy.

Jesus Christ, Incarnation and doctrine of Logos

The mystery of the Word become flesh is the locus for the Christian understanding of the relation between God and nature, the key to understanding the meaning of the created world, the logic of its beginning and final fulfilment.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2008

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Laws of Nature

The notion of "law" is strongly analogical in character. Originating in the socio-juridical field, its usage was then extended to that of scientific rationality. In enters the domain of science first through the notions of harmonic rule and numerical proportion (Pythagoras), and, after the foundation of experimental method, through the mathematical formulation of physical phenomena. At the same time, the notion of law seems to refer to the presence of a ruler, that is one who governs.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2008

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Magisterium of Catholic Church

The events told by the New Testament of the Christian Bible show that the twelve apostles called by Jesus of Nazareth, having Peter of Capharnaum as their head and sign of unity, were entrusted with the special role of preserving and transmitting the teachings received from Jesus himself, particularly what concerned the forgiveness of sins, his death and resurrection.

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Mario Gargantini 2002

Emmeciquadro, Euresis, Milan, Italy.

Man, Origin and Nature

When looking at the reality, the human beings perceive a natural link between themselves and the other animals, with which they share the great majority of their biological functions and processes, but, at the same time, the human beings realize their singularity and uniqueness.

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Fiorenzo Facchini 2002

Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Bologna, Italy.

Materialism

The term “materialism” is relatively recent. We first find it, towards the end of the 17th century, as an entry in Pierre Bayle’s (1647-1706) Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697). However, the philosophical perspective that it embodies is at least two thousand years older and dates back to Greek pre-Socratic thought.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2008

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Matter

In common, everyday language, we usually designate as “matter” everything which falls under the direct perception of our external senses: we call “material” that which one can see, touch, smell, taste and hear.

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Alberto Strumia 2013

Department of Mathematics, University of Bari, Italy.

Mechanics

Mechanics is the field of physics which studies the motion of material bodies. In the Greek ancient world mechanics was endowed with a negative nuance, because "mechanical art" represented a kind of material and hand-made activity, opposed to the nobler activity of thought, capable of elevating up to the world of ideas.

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Alberto Strumia 2002

Department of Mathematics, University of Bari, Italy.

Medicine

Among the various branches of knowledge, medicine has a quite special place, due to the particular nature of its object: human beings and their health. Originally born as a University discipline, medicine joins together the aspects of both a theoretical science and a practical art.

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Michele Peláez 2002

Department of Anthropology, University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, Italy.

Middle Ages, Science in the

Middle Ages are generally perceived as a period of darkness and stagnation between the heights of the Antiquity and the Renaissance. This notion is especially held to be true in the case of the medieval science.

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Bruno Atalic 2014

Historian of Medicine, Physician, General Hospital of Gospić, Croatia

Mind-Body Relationship

The problem of the relationship between the mind and the body has stimulated the intellect of mankind of all epochs and cultures, because of the various implications it had, including those on the religious and existential levels.

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Gianfranco Basti 2002

Pontifical Lateran University, Rome, Italy.

Miracle

The notion of miracle is subject to a variety of understandings and lexical uses, which has inevitably led to a broadening of its meanings. In general, a miracle indicates something out of the ordinary that points to a sphere of possibility and activity going beyond that which human beings are accustomed to knowing and carrying out in their daily lives.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Mystery

In the language of the phenomenology of religion the term "mystery" (Gr. mysterion) is often associated with adjectives such as awesome (lat. tremendum), astonishing or fascinating (lat. fascinans), which try to express the relations of human beings with the divine and the experience they have of it.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Myth

In the development of human history, scientific progress succeeded in relegating what we call "myth" in a very secondary place. The term indicates all those ancient “tales” at the origin of human culture, a kind of intellectual framework that tries to explain the original relationship of the humankind with the whole of reality. Rationalism qualified myth as something “infra-scientific,” and thus incapable of containing or revealing any truth whatsoever.

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Jean-Michel Maldamé 2002

Institute Catholique, Toulose, France.

Natural Sciences, in the Work of Theologians

It is difficult to summarize in a single sketch how theology has made use of the Book of Nature since the birth of scientific method. We have many indicators, some contradictory. Around the 18th century, for example, in Britain the naive attempt to explain the attributes of God by means of a physico- or astro-theology, as occurred in the works of Ray, Derham, or Paley, co-existed alongside the writings of Joseph Butler who, focusing on the more realistic category of analogy, wrote an essay destined to exert a great influence on the works of John Henry Newman.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2008

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Nature

From an etymological point of view, the term "nature" comes from the Latin verb "nasci", which means to be born. Also the Greek "physis" refers both to growth and to production. The gender is feminine and it designates, by analogy, the role of a woman as mother, that is she who generates life.

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Giovanni Monastra 2002

FIDIA Laboratories, Abano - Padua, Italy.

New Age

The expression “New Age” suggests the idea of a renovatio mundi, i.e. a renewing of the world, which should take place thanks to a huge transformation of the general way of thinking, laid out by the common endeavor of a number of movements which cooperate together in achieving the same goal.

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Andrea Porcarelli 2002

Dominican Theological Study, Bologna, Italy.

Pantheism

The word "pantheism" comes from a composition of the Greek words "pan" ("all") and "theos" ("god"), and it is applied to all those doctrines which set forth that God is everything is; they are doctrines which identify, in various ways, God with the world.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Pontifical Academy of Sciences

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has its roots in the “Academy of the Lincei” which was founded in Rome in 1603 as the first exclusively scientific academy in the world. The Academy of the Lincei achieved international recognition, but did not survive the death of its founder, Federico Cesi.

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Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo 2002

Chancelor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Positivism

The term “Positivism” not only defines a philosophical movement, but also, in the wider sense of the word deals with science and culture, in the same way and in many similar aspects as do empiricism and pragmatism.

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Michele Marsonet 2002

Faculty of Philosophy, University of Genova, Italy.

Progress, Scientific and Human

First of all, I would like to mention only certain meanings and uses of the term. The concept of progress will be defined into more details all along the article. The word “progress” has been frequently used in cultural discussions and it is still used in common language.

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Gualberto Gismondi 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy.

Quantum Mechanics

The two great discoveries of 19th century physics were the nature of light as waves of electromagnetic radiation and the use of statistical mechanics to understand the energetic properties of complex systems.

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John Polkinghorne 2002

Queen's College, Cambridge - U.K.

Realism

Contrasting realism with idealism is standard philosophical practice. Contra the idealist, the perceptual epistemological realist contends that sensory perception gives us direct, unmediated cognitive access to external things. Traditionally, a precise characterization of realism and idealism requires an elucidation of two concepts: the material versus the mental. This classical distinction has roots in our common experience.

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Michel Ghins 2009

Centre de philosophie des sciences, Institut Supérieur de Philosophie UCL, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

Reductionism

A reductionist believes that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts. An account of it can be reduced to accounts of individual constituents. An antireductionist believes that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. There are holistic properties that cannot be described in purely constituent terms.

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John Polkinghorne 2002

Queen's College, Cambridge - U.K.

Relativity,Theory of

The theory of relativity is considered to be one of the greatest scientific theories of recent times as it allowed for the development of an entire cosmology, revolutionized the concepts of time, space, and matter, even from the philosophical point of view, and, together with quantum mechanics, it forms the basis of all of physics as we know it today.

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Alberto Strumia 2002

Department of Mathematics, University of Bari, Italy.

Resurrection

The faith in resurrection from death, through the power of God, constitutes one of the pivotal teachings of the Judaeo-Christian religious tradition. According to Tertullian (160-220), "the hope of Christians is the resurrection of the flesh." In addition, it seems something original and particular to Hebrews and Christians alone.

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Paul O’Callaghan 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Sacred Scripture

The relationship between Sacred Scripture and the scientific vision of the world constitutes a particular aspect, and a quite relevant one, of the problem of the relationship between science and faith.

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Claudio Basevi 2008

Faculty of Theology, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain.

Science and Theology, Parallelisms

Science is the search for an understanding of the nature and pattern of the physical world. That may seem a very obvious thing to say, and most scientists would be astonished to learn that there was any other way of thinking about their subject.

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John Polkinghorne 2008

Queen's College, Cambridge - U.K.

Science Teaching

For most people, the first encounter with science takes place at school. Despite the growing importance of scientific communication at large and the increase in training and information channels, the greatest impact is made by science classes at school, through the first textbooks and the impression made by the teachers’ face and broad or strict personalities and approaches.

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Mario Gargantini 2002

Emmeciquadro, Euresis, Milan, Italy.

Self, Narrative Perspective of

Narratives are important from cultural and historical perspectives. They have stayed with humans along the centuries. Today, they are useful for understanding the structure of human lives in varied fields that study the nature of the human being from different perspectives. Contemporarily, different fields of study, such as philosophy, theology, psychology and the neurosciences affirm that narratives are rooted in human nature and that human life has a narrative structure. 

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Omowumi Ogunyemi 2014

Post graduate program, Faculty of philosophy, PUSC, Rome.

 

Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is an old, well-manufactured linen cloth, with herring-bone pattern, 436 cm length and 100 cm large. On the verso of the linen is visible the image of the frontside and the backside of a man.

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Giuseppe Ghiberti 2002

Catholic University of the Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy.

Sky

If it is true that Nature, generally understood, is the common ground on which not only scientific observations and philosophical reflections, but also the religious experience grew and developed, the "sky" represents the “conceptual ambit” in which science, philosophy and religion probably reached their deepest interpenetration.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Soul

According to Plato, the etymology of the Greek word psyché derives from the verb anapneîn, which means "to breath", or also anapsycho "to dry up". Aristotle suggests to see its root in the noun katápsyxis, which means "making cool", just as Origen does, when he describes the archaic “falling down” of the human spirits by means of a “cooling” of a pure spiritual reality.

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Paul O’Callaghan 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Spirit

In the Western tradition the notion of “spirit,” or “mind,” is rich and complex for the various religious, philosophical and theological meanings it comprises. In this polysemantic horizon, the symbol/concept of spirit is inherently one of tension, if not even bipolar: from the theological point of view, it denotes the presence of God in relation to the world and, dialectically, His difference from it in terms of transcendence and sacredness/sanctity.

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Piero Coda 2002

Pontifical Lateran University, Rome, Italy.

Technology

Technique came along with mankind. Along the years, the term has acquired several meanings, indicating rules and practical methods issuing from an art, a profession, a job, an intellectual activity, a sport etc.; practical activities based upon regulations evolving from experience, at different times and areas.

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Gualberto Gismondi 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy.

Time

We experience time as a continuous and unstoppable passage from what has been to what is now and, further, to what will be. This almost imperceptible flow does not mean that time is an absolute entity, for instance the so-called theory of “absolute” or empty time, advanced by Newton, among others; indeed, in reality, time is a characteristic that derives from movement, as thought by the “relational theory” of time, differently formulated by Aristotle and Leibniz.

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Juan José Sanguineti 2002

Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Truth

The central question for science, philosophy, and theology is truth. In each of these three great areas of human knowledge truth is incessantly sought for with diverse methods and along different roads, so representing their infinite duty.

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Vittorio Possenti 2002

University of Venice, Italy.

Unity of knowledge

The study of the relationship between scientific and human culture, between an empirical and a sapiential view of the world —including in the latter the knowledge coming from theology and biblical Revelation— unavoidably leads to the question of the possibility and the conditions that can render meaningful the search for a "unity of knowledge."

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2002

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Universe

The term "universe" is employed to indicate the physically ordered ensemble of all the material entities existing in nature. The Latin etymology suggests that the universe is constituted by many different things, unum in diversis, that is "the one in many different components."

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Juan José Sanguineti 2002

Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

University

The idea that to foster and pass on knowledge one needed people and places precisely devoted to this end goes back to Antiquity: between the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th centuries, this idea was to be implemented in an organized manner through the foundation of Mediaeval universities.

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Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti 2013

Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.