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Expanded from the glossary originally published with Religion Confronting Science

(The definitions given here provide only the special meanings for this context.)

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anthropic principle -- the theory that evolution has been directed toward creating human life and consciousness; the slightest variation in conditions existing at the Big Bang, and thus in the elementary laws of physics, would not have permitted the development of life or consciousness; it is unlikely that consciousness is an "accident". (A point of view more often held by physicists than biologists)

archetype -- in Jungian psychology, a fundamental unit of psychological functioning which is inherited and which collectively governs the processing of symbols and human nature (see instinct.)


boundary -- in systems theory, the defining limit of a system (e.g. cell membrane, skin), which is selectively open to input and output (of energy, information, etc.).


chaos -- a new science which is finding order in systems previously thought to be unordered (random); also referred to as nonlinear dynamics

co-evolution -- the theory of evolution which holds that survival after variation is determined (at least in some degree) by the interactions of various species in their common environment.

complex -- a focus or center which serves a particular function or activity in the interactions of the whole psyche, particularly in the unconscious domain (see self, shadow, anima). The ego is considered a conscious complex (or cluster of complexes). Jungian psychology emphasizes the normal character of complexes and relates them to archetypes, while Freud emphasized them as sources of abnormal behavior.

contingency theory -- the theory of evolution (see Gould) which holds that development of new forms is determined by all of the environmental and internal conditions acting on an individual (and species) throughout its reproductive life. If the "tape of life" were rewound to the conditions at some earlier period, the replay would not likely result in the same selection of species, since conditions would necessarily be different the second time around.

cosmological argument -- an argument for the existence of God based on the existence of the universe.


Darwinism -- the theory of evolution which holds that species change occurs gradually through naturally occurring variations in individuals; the variations determine whether the individuals will adapt and thrive in the existing environment, or die out.

depth psychology -- generic term for psychology of the deep unconscious; psychology which holds that behavior is mainly (or at least, largely) shaped by the work of the unconscious "mind" or psyche.

dimension -- one of the domains (directions?) of action by or on an object (or concept) permitted as a condition of its existence. Time, Up-Down, Sideways, and Forwards-Backwards are the domains (directions) of action permitted to an object in ordinary spacetime. If this definition is unclear, consider Davies' statement (in his Superforce) that a basic problem is the construction of a satisfactory definition of dimensionality. Here, domain is used to mean something like "field of influence" (Random House Unabridged 1973). Under my definition, the unconscious psyche is a dimension of existence "outside" spacetime.

divine (the ) -- the author's "generic" term for God, used to suggest that God is the concept for ultimate reality which cannot adequately be framed in human thought. -- divine milieu -- Teilhard's term for the divine "environment" within which all things exist; cf. nonlocal reality.


ecology -- the biological specialty which studies interrelationships between species, and between species and earth systems.

ego -- in depth psychology (Freud, Jung), the seat of consciousness and of our ordinary self-identity. (Latin for " I ") See complex.

environment -- that which surrounds; the set of conditions surrounding and influencing human life (or some other species of life).

equilibrium -- the state of balance of a system. Thermodynamic equilibrium refers to a state of rest in non-living systems; for example, when two gases of different temperature are mixed, they eventually reach equilibrium at the same temperature. Flux equilibrium refers to the dynamic balance of living or other self-regulating (dynamic) systems.

evolution -- the discovery that the creation of new natural forms occurs through gradual development (sequential change). The discovery of evolution is interpreted by various theories. (See also theory and hypothesis.)

emergence -- a phenomenon exhibited by systems, in which new characteristics develop as complexity increases; for example, at a certain level of brain complexity, human consciousness could emerge.

eternal -- pertaining to that aspect of reality which is not "in" spacetime. Time has no meaning in the eternal realm.

exnihilate -- to bring into existance out of nothing something that could not otherwise exist.


feedback -- in systems theory, the signalling of the results of an action to help control the cause of the action. For example, the thermostat signals the furnace to turn on or off according to room temperature.


Gaia hypothesis -- the proposal that the biosphere itself is a living organism which influences conditions necessary for its survival. (Named for the Greek goddess of Earth; see Lovelock.)

gene -- a sequence of nucleic acids, in the chromosomes of every cell nucleus, which controls a certain chemical reaction. This control by genes determines all of the biological characteristics of an individual. This genetic code is the only material substance transmitted from generation to generation.

genome -- the whole "catalog" of genes possessed by an individual.


habitat -- an environmental zone supporting many interdependent species, each adapted to the presence of the others (e.g. desert, pine forest, pond, marine shoreline, etc.).

homeostasis -- the controlling principle of balance in a living system; also, the state of balance (flux equilibrium) in the system. Adjustment to environmental conditions and healing of injuries are examples of homeostasis at work.

hypothesis -- an assertion or proposition yet to be proved. (See theory.)


immanent God -- God who dwells in, and is active in, material creation.

instinct -- an inherited tendency or pattern of behavior.


level -- in systems theory, a particular degree of complexity observed among systems and their component subsystems; for example, cells, organs, and organisms are "systems within systems", each exhibiting a different level of complexity.

level of description -- the particular concepts or language appropriate for expressing the function of a system or subsystem.

local reality -- the fundamental condition of existence of matter in which forces act within a field and ordinary time and distance relationships apply. (See non-local reality.)


material -- pertaining to that aspect of reality which is "in" spacetime, i.e. the realm of matter.

mind -- (when distinguished from psyche) the conscious domain of "brain work"; in general, the realm of ego; the realm of the I-dentity, perception, cognition, communication, gender orientation, belief set, memory access.

modern synthesis -- the theory of evolution which holds that the species variations observed by Darwin come about through genetic mutations, according to laws of heredity discovered by Mendel.

mutation -- a change occurring in a gene which causes it to transmit a characteristic which would not be transmitted by a gene from a parent's gene.

myth -- a sacred and symbolic story which carries profound psychological meaning. Myth is defined according to sacred truth, and it may or may not be historically true.


natural theology -- philosophical theology, starting with doubt. (See sacred theology.)

niche -- the particular adaptation of a species to its habitat. A species which cannot find its niche will not survive, for no life can exist without interacting in some way with other life.

non-local reality -- the fundamental condition of existence for quantum effects, in which ordinary cause and effect and time and distance relationships do not apply. (See local reality.)


omnipotent -- all-powerful.

omnipresent -- everywhere present.

omniscient -- all-knowing.


panentheism -- theological position which holds that God and creation are completely merged as one.

pantheism -- theological position which holds that God is "Being" which exists in everything. (See theism)

polytheism -- theological position which holds that there are many gods.

Priestly source -- one of several separate sources of writings (distinguished by style, language, names used for God, etc.) considered by modern Biblical scholars to have contributed to the first five books of the Bible.

psyche -- the unconscious domain of human psychological functioning. The "total psyche" designates both conscious and unconscious domains. (cf. mind)

punctuated equilibria -- the theory of evolution which holds that variations are not necessarily gradual; a long period of species stablity may suddenly be "punctuated" by changes, resulting in new species within a relatively short period. (Eldredge & Gould)


radical contingency -- the theological argument that the universe requires a cause to continue its existence.

radical immanence of the transcendent -- the (author's) concept that the existence and nature of God and the existence and nature of the universe are fundamentally and irreducibly indistinguishable, even though the essence of God is greater than that of the universe and the existence of God is not contingent on the existence of the universe.

reality -- the most fundamental condition; the foundation of all that is; the basis of being; the ground of being.

religion -- the personal (symbolic) function or method of relating one's inner ultimate concern with experience in the material world.

revelation -- knowledge of God made known to humankind by the action of God.


sacred theology -- theology from a religious perspective, starting from belief based on revelation. (See natural theology.)

science -- the method of obtaining and affirming knowledge in which hypothesis is confirmed by experiment (observation).

self -- the person, considered as the whole of psychological function; also, specifically in Jungian psychology, the unconscious center (complex) which serves to integrate the whole psyche (whole self).

shadow -- the complex which processes the "dark" repressed energy of the psyche.

soul -- that aspect or function of the human reality which touches the divine reality. [that is, the collective unconscious / note added 2006]

speciation -- the process(es) by which new species are developed; the phenomenon of development of new species.

steady-state -- flux equilibrium; see also: homeostasis

system -- a discrete specialized complex of operations which uses feedback signals to maintain equilibrium.


theism -- the theological position which sees God as "A Being" distinct from our being. (See pantheism)

theory -- a coherent explanation or description, reasoned from known facts. (See hypothesis.

transcendence -- the concept that God is wholly distinguishable from material creation.

transcendent function -- in Jungian psychology, that function by which the ego becomes aware (or is made aware) of the integrating function of the unconscious self.


virtual particles -- short-lived subatomic particles seen in quantum physics which appear unpredictably and without apparent cause from the "vacuum" of space.


worldview -- the whole "package" of ideas about the world of being and world of knowledge which governs how one relates the world.


Yahwist source -- one of several separate sources of writings (distinguished by style, language, names used for God, etc.) considered by modern Biblical scholars to have contributed to the first five books of the Bible.

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