Lisa H. Sideris

Lisa H. Sideris

Professor, Religious Studies

Affiliate Faculty, Integrated Program in the Environment

Affiliate Faculty, Human Biology Program

Associate Director, Center for Religion and the Human

Education

  • Ph.D., Indiana University, 2000

About Lisa H. Sideris

I received my Ph.D. from Indiana University in 2000. Before coming (back) to IU in 2005, I taught at Pace University in New York City and at McGill University in Montreal. I returned to Indiana’s Religious Studies Department both because of the strong interdisciplinary profile of the program, and the natural beauty of IU and Bloomington.

In the broadest sense, I am interested in the value and ethical significance of natural processes, as these values are captured or occluded by religious and scientific perspectives. My primary areas of research include environmental ethics and the environmental humanities, and the science-religion interface. Much of my early research focused on conflict and compatibility between scientific (particularly Darwinian) and religious interpretations of nature and natural processes. My first book, Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection (Columbia University Press, 2003), critiques the tendency of Christian environmental ethics, or “ecological theology,” to misconstrue or ignore Darwinian theory, and examines the problems this creates for developing a realistic ethic toward nature and animals.

I am also interested in the legacy and ongoing relevance of environmental pioneer Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring (1962) arguably marks the beginning of the environmental movement in America and abroad. I edited (with philosopher and nature writer Kathleen Dean Moore) a volume of interdisciplinary essays on Carson's life and work, titled Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge (SUNY Press 2008).

My recent research has focused on the role of wonder in contemporary scientific discourse and its impact on how we conceive of and relate to nature. My 2017 book, Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (University of California Press, July 2017), examines how scientific rhetoric and narratives about wonder actually pit science against religion, and encourage a devaluation of the natural world. Stories of the origin and evolution of our universe and our planet (the “Universe Story, or “Epic of Evolution”) are emblematic of modes of “consecrated science” that, I argue, elevate science and expert knowledge above nature and its wonders. Related to this, I am also interested in the mythic, religious, and ethical dimensions of the so-called Anthropocene and “Age of Human” technologies such as geoengineering. I recently led a three-year research project, “Being Human in the Age of Humans,” with scholars from other Midwestern universities that investigates religious and ethical perspectives on being human in the Anthropocene. I am currently co-PI of a $1M grant from the Luce Foundation for a project titled “Being Human: Public Scholarship as Theological Anthropology” and serve as the Associate Director of a new IU Center for Religion and the Human. I am working on a book about the intersection of technology, religion, and environmentalism, tentatively titled Religion and World-making, which focuses on emerging technologies in such areas as de-extinction and astrobiology.

Journal articles & other publications

Forthcoming (2019): “Techno-Science, Integral Thought, and the Reality of Limits in Laudato Si.’” The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy.

Forthcoming (2019): “Wonder Sustained: A Reply to Critics.” Author-Critics forum on Consecrating Science. Zygon: Journal of Science and Religion.

Forthcoming (2019): “Working With Evolutionary Biologists.” In T&T Clark Companion to Christian Theology and Climate Change. Edited by Ernst Conradie and Hilda Koster, eds.

Forthcoming (2019): “Science as Lived Religion.” In The Bloomsbury Companion to Studying Christians. Edited by George D. Chryssides and Stephen E. Gregg. Bloomsbury Companion Series.

Forthcoming (2019): “Techno-Exceptionalism, Environmentalism, and Excess.” In Theologies of American Exceptionalism. Edited by Elizabeth Shakman Hurd and Winnifred Sullivan. Indiana University Press.

“Remembering the Air: Aesthetic, Ethical, and Spiritual Dimensions of Wind Energy. In The Elements of Religion and Nature. Edited by Whitney Bauman and Laura Hobgood. Bloomsbury. 2018.

“Biosphere, Noosphere, and the Anthropocene: Earth’s Perilous Prospects in a Cosmic Context.” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture. 11.4. 2018.

“Anthropocene Convergences: A Report from the Field,” in “Whose Anthropocene? Revisiting Dipesh Chakrabarty’s ‘Four Theses.’” Ed. by Robert Emmett and Thomas Lekan, RCC Perspectives: Transformations in Environment and Society, 2016: 2, 89-96.

“Science as Sacred Myth? Ecospirituality in the Anthropocene Age,” and "The Confines of Consecration: A Reply to Critics.” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, “Contesting Consecrated Scientific Narratives” (author-critics forum on my work). JSRNC 9.2, 2015.

Recent blog posts, podcasts, + online publications

"Genesis 2.0.”, Cosmologics: A Magazine of Science, Religion, and Culture. Summer 2016.

“Surviving the Anthropocene Part I: Big Brains and Big Money at the Smithsonian," Inhabiting the Anthropocene. July 5, 2016.

“Surviving the Anthropocene, Part II: Of Omega Points and Oil.” Inhabiting the Anthropocene. July 8, 2016.

“Rethinking Wonder: Lisa Sideris.” Things Not Seen Podcast.

Cultures of Energy Podcast: Lisa Sideris.”

Recent courses

  • The God Species: Ethics in the Anthropocene
  • Darwin and Religion
  • Religion, Ethics, and Public Life
  • Religion and Animals
  • Religion and Bioethics
  • Religion, Ethics and the Environment
  • Evolution and Ethics

Awards & Honors

  • Fellow, International Society for Science and Religion
  • Gifford Lecturer, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. February 2021
  • Co-PI Being Human: Public Scholarship as Theological Anthropology, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. $1M (2019-2023)
  • College Arts and Humanities Research Fellowship, Indiana University (semester course release). “Religion and World-Making.” Fall 2019
  • PI, “Being Human in the Age of Humans: Perspectives from Religion and Ethics,” funded by the Humanities Without Walls Consortium, $141,215 (2017-2019)
  • Course Development Sustainability Fellowship, IU Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs/IU Office of Sustainability (Course: “The God Species: Ethics in the Anthropocene”). 2015
  • Beth Wood Distinguished Service-Learning Faculty Award (IU Office of Service Learning), 2012, 2013
  • Fellow, Rachel Carson Center for Environmental Studies, Munich, Germany. July-Dec., 2010
  • Fellow, Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University (Darwin and Religion Project), 2000-2001