Cosmologics has two goals. First, it disassembles: so much of the writing on this site takes apart what appear to be immutable categories that exist outside of time and place. Words like science and religion begin to change; set within their contexts, they lose the eloquence of simplicity to a chaotic, historical clamor. And second, it reconstructs: after tearing down concepts ill-suited to describe reality, other pieces recreate the world in more nuanced terms, ones whose explanatory power does not end at the door of the lab or the walls of the church.
The pieces in this issue belong to the second type of writing. At times, they are an almost bizarre collection. What does medieval medicine have to do with oil prospecting? Or public health with opera? Death with TV game shows? What, exactly, might Henry James have in common with Bono?
Nonetheless, each piece offers a glimpse at a (relatively) unified approach to understanding a complex world. They use a set of tools responsive to a reality of tangled, collapsing categories. They reveal the difficulty of classifying methodologies as either scientific or religious—whether in colonial New England or contemporary Trinidad. And they explore the lived experience of divides between the two, moving from death in nineteenth-century America to spirits in modern academia. These stories have dangerous implications, too: a sacralizing of evolutionary narrative breeds uncertain activism; theological theories of sexuality support questionable politics; and pop savior Bono gives credence to the neocolonial desires of American marketers.
Over the coming year, Cosmologics will present several more focused issues, each structured around specific theoretical, historical, and political intersections. We mention this not to overshadow the current issue, but rather to highlight the value of its topical diversity: as an issue bound together by theoretical concerns, it provides an opportunity to simultaneously branch out and deepen our thinking. It’s a strange but valuable assortment, some summer carnival of science and religion.
Image from Flickr via Jeff Wallace