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From the UMI Dissertation Library:
Phillip Marshall Thompson:

The Searchers: Twentieth Century Catholic Intellectuals and the Transformation of the Church's Engagement with Science and Technology (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Bernard Lonergan, Thomas Merton)


University of Chicago, USA
Degree: Ph.D.
Date: 1999
Advisors: TRACY, DAVID; MARTY, MARTIN; CUNNINGHAM, LAWRENCE; HEFNER, PHILIP


Abstract: The objective of this dissertation is to examine in a single century, the twentieth, and a single religious tradition, Roman Catholicism, the critique of science and technology by three intellectuals who represent very different theological and methodological perspectives. The three Catholic intellectuals to be studied are Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Bernard Lonergan and Thomas Merton. Critique in this context involves an assessment of the value and dangers of science.

An internal analysis will explore the influences, methods, and visions of each individual before assessing their impact on Catholicism. Before and after exploring the contributions of these scholars, the dissertation will explore in bookend chapters the institutional relationship of the Catholic Church, particularly the Vatican, toward science and technology. This historical review in the periods both before and after these intellectuals will provide some sense of the context and impact of the selected intellectuals. In their engagement with science and technology, these three intellectuals operated against the lingering restraints demonstrated so vividly in the modernist crisis.

Nonetheless, they devised strategies for continuing the engagement despite certain explicit or implicit forms of discipline. In this process of testing the boundaries between their faith and science, each thinker developed strategies for expressing their views. The Church has adopted many of the positions advanced by the selected intellectuals since Vatican II. Science has become less feared for its theological implications and technology has been recognized for its positive benefits. Still, dialogue and cooperation have not eliminated the critical function of religions. Lonergan and Merton demonstrated the critical function of religions in their concerns with scientism, materialism, the technological mentality and new ethical issues raised by technological advances. As demonstrated in the final chapter, a brief review of the progeny of Teilhard, Lonergan and Merton suggests that their intellectual contributions continue to inspire additional scholarship.

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