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To further its mission of research, teaching, and public service, CTNS manages a number of programs and research projects.



Major Programs

Project SATURN: Scientific and Theological Understandings of Randomness in Nature

SATURN is an interdisciplinary research program in theology and science.  It starts with the growing scientific evidence for randomness in nature: in dynamic, self-organizing, complex, and autopoietic systems in the everyday world and in quantum processes at the subatomic level, at the macroscopic level through the amplification of quantum entanglement, and at the level of cosmology through quantum cosmology and superstring theory/ the multiverse.  These processes suggest philosophically that ontological indeterminism occurs not only at the atomic level but also in the ordinary world of nature and in the universe as such.  Such indeterminism will strengthen claims for emergence, downward/ top-down, whole-part, and bottom-up causality in nature from atoms to the cosmos.  These claims are vital to a theological understanding of both general and special providence which is consistent with science (i.e., it is non-miraculous / non-interventionist) and which makes a real difference in the development of natural processes and thus to the history of life on earth (i.e., it is objective).  Robert Russell calls this “non-interventionist objective divine action” (i.e., NIODA). The highlight of the program is  an international conference in Berkeley in October 2014 and the publication of the results as a book in 2015.  Participants include Gerald Cleaver, Ed Davis, George Ellis, Niels Gregersen, Alicia Juarrero, Joshua Moritz, Nancey Murphy, Alan Padgett, Ted Peters, and Kirk Wegter-McNelly. A pre-conference event will be open to the public and media.  Post conference plans include the development of doctoral and seminary courses at the Graduate Theological Union.

Project SATURN website.

CTNS & Vatican Observatory Collaborative Research: Problem of Natural Evil

VO logo
CTNS is in a new season of research with the Vatican Observatory on the topic of Scientific Perspectives on the Problem of Natural Evil.

The first volume in this new collaborative series on Problem of Natural Evil is titled, Physics and Cosmology: Scientific Perspectives on the Problem of Natural Evil. This volume is edited by Nancey Murphy, Robert John Russell and William Stoeger, S.J. These essays resulted from the seventh international research conference co-sponsored by the Vatican Observatory and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. Previous conferences focused on the problem of divine action. This is the first in a series on the problem of natural evil—on reconciling suffering caused by natural processes with God's goodness. For more information on this volume, click here.

The CTNS-VO Program is supported by CTNS individaul donors and by the Vatican Observatory.


Previous Grant-Funded Programs

STARS: Science and Transcendence Advanced Research Series
STARS logo

The goal of this program, managed by CTNS, is to sponsor research by small teams of scientists and humanities scholars on the ways science, in light of philosophical and theological reflection, points towards the nature, character and meaning of ultimate reality. STARS research has been undertaken in a highly innovative way: through small teams of scientists and humanities scholars. "The implications for our understanding of human spirituality, ethics, aesthetics and religion are very promising,” says Robert John Russell, Principal Investigator.

All research grants for the STARS program have been awarded, including twenty planning grants of $20,000 each, five research grants of $100,000 each and two research grant renewals of $200,000 each.

STARS is funded through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Science and the Spiritual Quest
Science and the Spiritual Quest II

Until 2003, CTNS managed Science and the Spiritual Quest, a program that promotes dialogue among leading scientists on the connections between their scientific work and their religious or spiritual identities. During its seven years the Science and the Spiritual Quest program involved over 120 distinguished senior scientists in dialogue at the intersections of science and spirituality. In conferences and workshops around the world, SSQ demonstrated that scientists of Nobel caliber can also be people of faith, and that those who are not traditionally religious can offer insights of great value to religion. Three publications from this program have been published.

SSQ wa s funded through grants from the John Templeton Foundation.

The Science and Religion Course Program

The Science and Religion Course Program was an eight-year initiative to encourage the teaching of science and religion in seminaries, colleges, and universities worldwide. The Course Program was initially administered by Gordon College and focused primarily on scholars in North America and England. From 1998-2002, CTNS administered and broadened the program in a variety of ways, which centered principally on three aims: (1) to strengthen the base of scholars currently teaching in this field, (2) to broaden the impact of science and religion on leading research universities and theological seminaries, and (3) to further internationalize dialogue by introducing and cultivating programmatic work in Africa, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, continental Europe, and Latin America.

Nearly seven hundred US $10,000 Course Awards were distributed to institutions and professors across the globe. Though the program is over, the community of scholars and the legacy of pedagogical resources that the Course program created continue to influence ongoing dialogues between science and religion. The SRC program was made possible by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

CTNS-Vatican Observatory Joint Program: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/VO: 1990-2005)
Vatican Observatory logo
Beginning in 1990, CTNS and the Vatican Observatory have co-sponsored a series of international research conferences on “scientific perspectives on divine action.”  The series produced six scholarly volumes with contributions from over fifty distinguished scientists, philosophers and theologians.

The CTNS-Vatican Observatory book series is the fruit of this multi-year collaborative research project between the two institutions. It brings together into creative mutual interaction a diversity of topics in contemporary systematic and philosophical theology and fundamental theories and groundbreaking discoveries in the natural sciences. Special attention is given to the theological concept of divine action in relation to the sciences. The series features an international team of scholars including cosmologists, physicists, biologists, cognitive neuroscientists and neuroscientists, philosophers of science, philosophers of religion, systematic and philosophical theologians, historians of religion and historians of science. Chapter summaries from these volumes are available here. Multi-year grants from a Bay Area foundation supported the Center's collaborative work with the Vatican Observatory.

The Ethical and Theological Implications Raised by the Human Genome Project
Genetics book

CTNS received a grant to run a multi-year project (1991-1994) on the ethical and theological implications of the Human Genome project with Robert Russell and Ted Peters as Co-PIs. For this three-year project, CTNS scholars explored the theological assumptions underlying the ethical debates surrounding the NIH research to map and sequence the human genome. The program included six national and European conference and produced several scholarly publications. This program was funded by the National Institutes of Health.


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