Benjamin J.  Chicka

Benjamin J. Chicka

PhD in Philosophy of Religion and Theology
AREA OF RESEARCH: Intersection Between Science & Plurality of World’s Religious Traditions

What draws you to this area of research?

Science and religion is an important and growing field because in our ever-developing world we need individuals to tackle the questions and challenges that new scientific inquiry and discoveries will inevitably lead us to. In particular, challenging our religious beliefs and possibly changing them to be in better harmony with that world is essential for a society’s future. I want to see a day when the debates between creationists and evolutionary scientists are over because religion and science do not have to be understood as locked in a battle. One can inform the other’s progress. This is an exciting possibility for me because it places my research at the cutting-edge of scientific knowledge as I get to watch the corresponding cutting-edge philosophical and religious ideas develop in response.

Would you like to collaborate?

Yes

Areas for collaboration (research studies, publishing, conference presentations, etc.)

Any ideas about how to study religion through neuroscientific techniques are welcome and can possibly be turned into an experiment here at CGU. I am especially interested in ideas concerning religions other than Christianity as they are still not represented well enough in the field. Prospects for how perspectives from other religions might change the understanding of how religion relates to science are welcome if they have publishing and presentation prospects. I also have an interest in how religious pluralism, the idea that all religions are true even though different, changes the understanding of the field since the goal from such a perspective would no longer be to defend or prove one religion’s specific claims through or against science.

Would you say your research is Transdisciplinary?

Yes.

My research is necessarily transdisciplinary if I am to avoid inadequate glosses over science merely to promote a religious opinion. I currently work as a researcher at the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies run by Paul Zak where I am part of a group studying experiences of self-transcendence in religious rituals. This extends previous lab work I have done in astronomy with the Boston University Blazar Group. There I studied radio galaxy 3C 120 in an attempt to better understand the black hole at its center.

 

Working in actual science labs has helped me to see first-hand how scientific knowledge is actually obtained, which informs my views of how science and religion can come together. In particular, I have learned that scientific paradigm shifts and the process of constant change in knowledge that occurs in science can be applied to modern religious beliefs. They too are malleable.

Publications / Presentations

EDITED VOLUMES:

  • The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations Guide to Nonprofit Courses: Harvard University and Beyond. Academic Year 2008 – 2009. President and the Fellows of Harvard University, 2008.
  • The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations Guide to Nonprofit Courses: Harvard University and Beyond. Academic Year 2007 – 2008. President and the Fellows of Harvard University, 2007.


ARTICLES:

  • “Indeterminacy, Ultimacy, and the World: the Self-Creation of Religious Pluralism through Community and Creation.” Sophia Vol. 49, no. 1 (April 2010), 49-63.
  • Ritaban Chatterjee, Alan P. Marscher, Svetlana G. Jorstad…Benjamin Chicka, et al. "Disk-Jet Connection in the Radio Galaxy 3C 120." The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 704, Issue 2, (2009), 1689-1703.
  • Kevin Marshall, Wesley T. Ryle, H. Richard Miller, Alan P. Marscher, Svetlana G. Jorstad, Benjamin Chicka, and Ian M. McHardy. “Multi-wavelength Variability of the Broad Line Radio Galaxy 3C 120.” The Astrophysical Journal 696 (2009), 601-607.


REVIEWS:

  • Bricklin, Jonathan, ed. Sciousness & Jiang, Tao. Contexts and Dialogue: Yogacara Buddhism and Modern Psychology on the Subliminal Mind. Reviewed in Buddhist Christian Studies, forthcoming 2010.
  • “A Transforming Society Transforms Theology.” A review of the Transforming Theology Conference, part of the larger conference series Rekindling Theological Reflection: Transformative Thought for Progressive Action. Reviewed in Process Perspectives, Vol. 32m no. 1 (Summer 2009).
  • Connolly, William E. Pluralism. Reviewed in The Pluralist Vol. 4, No. 2 (Summer 2009): pp. 125 – 127.   


PRESENTATIONS:

  • “Pragmatic Constructive Realism: Religious Commitment amid Change.” Western Regional American Academy of Religion, Pragmatism, Truth, and Reading Religion in the 21st Century Panel. Arizona State University, March 14th, 2010.
  • Panelist, “Discussion of Buddhist-Christian Dialogue in an Age of Science by Paul O. Ingram" (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008), Society of Buddhist-Christian Studies session at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Montréal, QC. November 7th, 2009.
  • “The Indeterminate Ground of Impermanent Symbols: A Constructive Comparison of Buddhist and Christian Mysticism.” Western Regional American Academy of Religion. Buddhist Studies Mahayana Panel. Santa Clara University, March 23rd, 2009.

Future goals as a scholar

I hope to teach philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, and theology at the graduate level, possibly starting a special program in science, philosophy, and religion in a department that models the one I went through. As part of my ordination in the United Methodist Church I also hope to increase acceptance of science and other religions in Christianity through my work on the philosophical perspective I have named “pragmatic constructive realism.”

Must-read books or articles in your field

  • John H. Brooke, Science And Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
  • Mark Richardson and Wesley Wildman, eds., Religion & Science: History, Method, Dialogue (New York: Routledge, 1996).
  • Ian G. Barbour, Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (SanFrancisco: Harper, 1997).
  • B. Alan Wallace, ed., Buddhism & Science: Breaking New Ground (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).
  • Wesley J. Wildman, ““The Divine Action Project, 1988-2003,” Theology and Science 2/1 (April, 2004): 31-75.
  • Philip Clayton, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science (Oxford ; New York: Oxford university Press, 2006).
  • Paul O. Ingram, Buddhist-Christian Dialogue in an Age of Science (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008).

Helpful resources at CGU

Helpful resources outside of CGU (blogs, websites, social networking sites, etc. that connect with your areas of research)

Additional comments

Beyond my own specific research, the ability to cope with change will be the issue that determines whether philosophical and religious worldviews will survive into the future.