Emergence and Complexity

Niels Henrik Gregersen

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780199543656
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Emergence and Complexity


The first section of this article begins by locating the idea of emergence in a historical context. The second section presents a short philosophical primer consisting of four types of emergence theory, two epistemological and two ontological. Only the ontological versions of emergence theory are committed to speaking of top-down causation. The final section discusses what opportunities the idea of emergence may offer for religious reflection. Certainly, no religious strings are attached to the idea of emergence. Theological reflection, however, may be propelled to rethink religious traditions, and to redescribe the world of creation in new terms, in the light of the sciences of complexity and emergence theory.

Keywords: emergence theory; top-down causation; religious reflection; complexity; theological reflection

Article.  8518 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religion and Science

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