Societies categorize, map, classify, separate, and contain. They create divisions that are rendered along numerous axes—race, class, gender, and more—and which are often made inviolable by the very processes that create them. In other words: although societies make these divisions, through either scientific practice or religious tradition such categories become essential, obvious, and straightforward. They are often taken for granted. Today, the objectivity of science is called upon to adjudicate these groupings, while the authority of religion is invoked to justify other acts of isolation or definition. Cosmologics is—as part of a wider attempt to think through science and religion in complex ways—invested in understanding how human difference is configured by both science and religion. To do this, we need perspectives that move beyond a view of science and religion as knowledge systems and move instead toward a model that sees both as institutions, practices, and authorities that enable us to conceive of and reinforce fractures in our societies.
The pieces in this issue approach the question of science, religion, and human difference from many angles. The history of artificial intelligence suggests more than a societal unease over new technology—it shows that our worries over AI always reflect our fears of strange, foreign others. The act of looting—so present in depictions of modern social unrest—likewise remains bound up in perceptions of difference and oppression, both in the politics of race in contemporary America and in the early Christian church. Further pieces explore the role of video technologies in shaping the practices of—often marginalized—Black Atlantic religions, and discuss the central place of evangelical Christianity in American political rhetoric over the past several decades. Each of these pieces is grounded in the specifics of time, place, politics, and culture; each provides a unique glimpse of the ways in which different societies organize and divide themselves.
These pieces, and our magazine, are committed to thoughtful and historically-specific analyses of science and religion. But the end goal is not simply a more nuanced comprehension of a series of discrete historical instances. The issue of human difference is particularly charged in a vast but also intimately interconnected global society. If we examine how science and religion help to fashion human categories, we often confront the implacability of these differences. And even more concerning is that such differences are, in many cases, not solely imposed from the outside, but are created by distinct visions of what progress toward a just future ought to entail. Our aim is that the perspectives offered here, however, open up, in some small way, the possibility of refashioning, and even setting aside, the differences continue to warp our experience of politics, ethics, and daily life.
Begin reading here.
Image via Wikimedia commons.