A regenerate science : paradigms for science and theology in recent American fiction.
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Womack, Ryan Lee, 1986-
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In this dissertation, I examine four paradigms for integrating science and theology as seen in literary fiction. First, I offer a theoretical approach to integrating science and theology, show some recent anxieties about science and religion, and provide a short history of literature and science. Second, I study the works of Flannery O'Connor as she incorporates aspects of the evolutionary theology of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and rejects other aspects. Thirdly, I show how Walker Percy envisions the overlap between depression and the spiritual vice of acedia and seeks to guide to the reader towards new resources for recovery of the self. Fourthly, I contend that Cormac McCarthy's fiction and essays develop a meditation on a generative kind of chaos, and this vision opens up helpful and difficult questions about the agency of God and man. Lastly, I illuminate the fiction of Anthony Doerr in an attempt to find invisible underlying patterns in the natural world as well as human systems. In all of these chapters, I look to provide new metaphors and paradigms from fiction to better understand the natural world. Visible and invisible reality corresponds in ways more profound than we may realize, and metaphors such as snow crystals and sea shells further expand our previous understanding about the patterns of order built into the world. But even more profound are discoveries about human systems which display order or disorder, about how these relate to human choices and emotions, as well as our spiritual lives. I find that these four writers offer lucid images of human life which take seriously the spiritual, unseen, and complex nature of the human person. My dissertation shows how literary fiction can provide new inroads towards bridging major intellectual paradigms in theology and the natural sciences.