Summer 2022 Feature-Expanded Reason Awards
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A Dialogue Between Science, Philosophy, and Theology

Interviews with recipients of the Expanded Reason Awards

By Quentin Wodon


Catholic universities in the United States and abroad value science as well as philosophy and theology. The Expanded Reason Awards were created a half dozen years ago by the Vatican Foundation Joseph Ratzinger and the University Francisco de Vitoria in Madrid to promote a dialogue between the humanities and science. As described on the website for the Awards, expanded reason aims to “explore those aspects of reality that go beyond the purely empirical and to achieve a harmonious synthesis of knowledge that integrates theology and philosophy.” The rationale for expanded reason is the belief that “the fundamental questions of man, how to live and how to die, cannot be excluded from the scope of rationality”.

The first competition for the awards took place in 2016-17. Typically, four Awards are given each year: two for research and two for teaching. The Expanded Reason Institute also organizes an annual Congress.Expanded Reason Awards

A recent compilation of interviews with award recipients is available from the Global Catholic Education project. The first interview with Max Bonilla is about the history of the Awards, how to apply for them, and what their aims are. The other interviews provide an opportunity for award recipients to briefly explain their work, while also giving some advice to graduate students interested in these questions. These interviews are based on a core set of questions: 1) Would you describe where you work, and some of the particularities of your university?; 2) What is your main field of research, and why did you choose that field?; 3) You are a recipient of the Expanded Reason Awards. What was your contribution for receiving the award?; 4) How easy or difficult is it for you to share your values with students when teaching?; 5) How do your values affect your research? And what are some challenges you face?; 6) What is your advice for students who may be Catholic are contemplating doing graduate work or a PhD?; 7) Could you share how you ended up in your current position, what was your personal journey?; and 8) Finally, could you share a personal anecdote about yourself, what you are passionate about?

Below are quotes from the interview listed by alphabetical order after the interview with Max Bonilla. Perhaps this collection of interviews will spike your interest! It is available online for free download here.

Max Bonilla, Universidad Francisco de Victoria

Max Bonilla, International Director of the Expanded Reason Institute Universidad Francisco de Victoria

"The Expanded Reason Awards seek to humanize the sciences by returning to a deeper understanding of the purpose of science, technology and professional work through a dialogue with philosophy and/or theology; to understand the sciences as human efforts at the service of society and the common good.”

“It is important to create a network where younger and beginning scholars can interact with experienced academics so that together they can develop new avenues to solve human problems and contribute more effective solutions to a society that badly needs them.”

James Arthur

James Arthur, Professor
University of Birmingham


“I like the quotation: “We must acknowledge … that the most important, indeed the only, thing we have to offer our students is ourselves. Everything else they can read in a book”... Role modelling is a powerful teaching tool for passing on knowledge, skills, and values and I have always believed that you must make explicit what is implicit in your teaching.”

“A recent story was when I met the Queen who awarded me the title Officer of the British Empire – she asked me “How does one measure character” – I responded, “Your Majesty, one does not measure character, one recognizes it.” She was amused!”

Marta Bertolaso

Marta Bertolaso, Professor
University of Rome

“Philosophy is important for science and technological innovation, for example for clarification of scientific concepts, critical assessment of scientific assumptions or methods, formulation of new concepts and theories, fostering of dialogue between disciplines and between science and society…”

“Critical thinking and contextual judgment are crucial in science as in normal. It is unreasonable, on the contrary and just to give an example, to expect that a mere larger and larger amount of gene expression patterns or cellular mechanisms will explain complex diseases.”

Father Javier Sánchez Cañizares,

Father Javier Sánchez Cañizares, Professor
University of Navarra

“If science and religion wish to address each other, both need the common ground provided by philosophy. Even though philosophy itself is hardly a well-defined discipline, it behooves her an attitude of criticism and clarification that helps purify both poles of the science and religion dialogue.”

“We share with our fellow men and women a pilgrimage: not only the pilgrimage of faith but the pilgrimage of truth. Thus, ethical and intellectual humbleness is a prerequisite should one make progress in the adventure of research.”

John C. Cavadini

John C. Cavadini, Professor
University of Notre Dame

“I am always interested in recovering and re-proposing the riches of the Catholic theological tradition. The challenges are to make these riches intelligible to modern people, without reducing them to rationalism and without making it simply an exercise in nostalgia.”

“There is nothing especially interesting about me that I can think of. I am very devoted to St. Joseph, because he too, seemed to be of no particular interest to anyone. But he didn't mind.”

Robert Enright

Robert Enright, Professor
University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Academia prides itself on being cutting-edge with freedom of thought. I challenge that view. Many academics are most comfortable being in the mainstream, asking the questions for the moment that are safe to ask. Yet, mainstream ideas come and go and [may] not improve the human condition.”

“I began to ask myself: What in the area of moral development might make a major impact on the lives of adults and children, families, and communities? The idea of forgiveness kept coming up for me. Forgiveness occurs when people are treated unfairly by others. Might forgiveness be a way of people working their way out of resentment and hatred to reclaim their psychological well-being?”

Juan F. Franck

Juan F. Franck, Professor
Universidad Austral

“Our limited knowledge will never allow us to decide whether the universe behaves deterministically or not. And even if it did, determinism and indeterminism would still be philosophical theses, not scientific ones. My personal conclusion is that they appear as a threat to freedom only if one concedes that physics is the ultimate level of analysis of reality.”

“The conviction that our life is more than just an episode in the long history of the universe and that man has a higher destiny, prompts you to the additional effort of seeking for signs and hints of that in nature and in our human experience, when that is possible.”

Gonzalo Génova      María del Rosario González

Gonzalo Génova & María del Rosario González, Professors
Universities in Madrid

“Ethics is often presented as a brake, a barrier, a series of annoying limits and prohibitions. But we are convinced that ethics is not the brake, but the real engine of technological progress. So, our values, unsurprisingly, drive us to keep searching for the truth, a truth that none of us have ‘in our pocket.’”

“We share the view that the teaching of professional ethics has to be completely founded on ethical rationality, with our feet grounded in concrete practice and in the mental and vocational form of each profession. Otherwise, they will be overlapping schemes and not committed professional lives.”

Therese Lysaught

Therese Lysaught, Professor
Loyola University Chicago

“I am passionate about […] the fact that reality is greater than ideas—and how we can develop the practices and virtues that help us to allow reality, via encounter, to constantly convert our intellectual paradigms, our lives, and the church, in service of the truth and healing and grace.”

“Full-time, secure faculty positions in colleges and universities, especially in theology, are evaporating... And unfortunately, the church has still not fully embraced the role of lay pastoral associates in parishes.”

Jay Martin

Jay Martin, Assistant Teaching Professor
University of Notre Dame

“Perhaps a majority of researchers in mine and related fields tend not to share my particular values and commitments, especially with respect to Catholicism, but I have generally enjoyed the opportunities to engage with and learn from them.”

“My advice to Catholic students who are considering pursuing advanced degrees in Theology is simply to allow themselves the chance for genuine discernment. Everyone knows that the job market is tough, graduate school is arduous, and that the academy can be an unwelcoming place, but I would encourage them to refuse the pull of cost-benefit analysis.”

Darcia Narvaez

Darcia Narvaez, Professor Emerita 
University of Notre Dame

“Humans are so immature at birth that to develop in a healthy manner, reaching their full potential, they need to experience humanity’s evolved nest. This helps structure well-functioning brain and body, preparing the individual for cooperative behavior and compassionate morality.”

“The western education system emphasizes a detached orientation to relationships and the natural world, using cognitive models that are limited and underperform but are taken as images of reality. You have to have some outside experience to realize this.”

William Simpson

William Simpson, Junior Research Fellow
University of Cambridge

“The lack of a humane philosophy – a logos, or general account of how everything ‘hangs together’ – has fragmented the academy and divided our society. We must reclaim what Gilson called ‘the unity of philosophical experience’.”

“These are exciting times to be a Catholic intellectual engaged in analytic philosophy. We are beginning to witness a tectonic shift in Western philosophy of a kind that has not been seen for several centuries. There is a turn back toward Aristotle which is gathering momentum, and new opportunities for drawing upon the Catholic philosophical tradition to address contemporary philosophical problems.”

John Slattery

John Slattery, Senior Program Assistant
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

“The idea for the project was simple: how can we help religious leaders better understand modern science, and how can we do it in a way that affirms a healthy dialogue between and among scientific and religious communities? Because there were so many examples of unhealthy science engagement with faith communities, a proper engagement … was imperative.”

“The world will always need people who can articulate a clear sense of Catholic thought… No one knows what scholarly work will look like in 50 years, but we will always need interpreters of tradition, and we will always need scholars!”

Claudia Vanney

Claudia Vanney, Director of the Philosophy Institute
Universidad Austral

“To reverse the excess of specialization and make room for the cross-enrichment of disciplines, it seems necessary to migrate from the current epistemic plurality towards a collaborative project of social cognition that demands specific intellectual virtues.”

“Good values are attractive by their own. The role of the professor is to make easier for students to discover values by themselves. Values are not imposed from the outside; on the contrary, they should be freely assumed.”

Quentin Wodon is a Lead Economist at the World Bank. As part of his volunteer work, he manages the Global Catholic Education Project.

Photos courtesy of Global Catholic Education



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