Holmes Rolston III

Holmes Rolston III (born November 19, 1932) is a philosopher who is University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Colorado State University. He is best known for his contributions to environmental ethics and the relationship between science and religion. Among other honors, Rolston won the 2003 Templeton Prize, awarded by Prince Philip in Buckingham Palace. He gave the Gifford Lectures, University of Edinburgh, 1997–1998. He also serves on the Advisory Council of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

Holmes Rolston III

The Darwinian model is used to define the main thematic concepts in Rolston's philosophy and, in greater depth, the general trend of his thinking.[1]


We can be thrilled by a hawk in the wind-swept sky, by the rings of Saturn, the falls of Yosemite. We can admire the internal symmetry of a garnet crystal or appreciate the complexity of the forest humus. All these experiences come mediated by our cultural education; some are made possible by science. An Iroquois would have variant experiences, or none at all. But these experiences have high elements of givenness, of finding something thrown at us, of successful observation. The 'work' of observation is in order to understand the better.

— 'Are Values in Nature Subjective or Objective?', Environmental Ethics (1982)[2]

We rationalize that the place we inhabit has no normative structures, and that we can do what we please.

— 'Are Values in Nature Subjective or Objective?', Environmental Ethics (1982)[3]

The interface between science and religion is, in a certain sense, a no-man's land. No specialized science is competent here, nor does classical theology or academic philosophy really own this territory. This is an interdisciplinary zone where inquirers come from many fields. But this is a land where we increasingly must live. ... The religion that is married to science today will be a widow tomorrow. ... But the religion that is divorced from science today will leave no offspring tomorrow.

— Science and Religion: A Critical Survey (1987, 2006)[4]

... On larger planetary scales it is better to build our cultures in intelligent harmony with the way the world is already built, rather than take control and rebuild this promising planet by ourselves and for ourselves. ... We do not want a de-natured life on a de-natured planet.

— A New Environmental Ethics: The Next Millennium for Life on Earth (2012)[5]

We walk too hurriedly if ever we pass the season's first Pasqueflower by, too busy to let its meeting stay us for a quiet moment before this token of the covenant of life to continue in perpetual beauty despite the storm. ... Let winters come; life will flower on as long as Earth shall last.

— Rolston Viewing a Pasqueflower (2014)[6]


His grandfather and father Holmes Rolston, and Holmes Rolston Jr (who did not use the Jr) were Presbyterian ministers. Rolston III was married on June 1, 1956 to Jane Irving Wilson, with whom he has a daughter and son. He holds a B.S. in physics and mathematics from Presbyterian-affiliated Davidson College (1953) and a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Presbyterian Seminary (1956).[7] He was ordained to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA) also in 1956. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh in 1958; his advisor was Thomas F. Torrance. He earned an M.A. in the philosophy of science from the University of Pittsburgh in 1968, beginning his career later that year as an assistant professor of philosophy at Colorado State University and becoming a full professor in 1976. He became a University Distinguished Professor in 1992. He gave the Gifford Lectures, University of Edinburgh, 1998-1999. He was named Templeton Prize laureate in 2003. He has lectured by invitation on all seven continents.[8] [1] Colorado State University inaugurated the Holmes Rolston Endowed Chair in Environmental Ethics in October 2016; for the inaugural lecture by Kenneth Shockley, click here..

Holmes Rolston 1900-1977Edit

Holmes Rolston (1900-1977), father of Holmes Rolston III, was the Editor-in-Chief of the Presbyterian Church Board of Christian Education, in the United States, Richmond, Virginia between 1949 and 1969, and a widely published author of curriculum materials in Christian education. See Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch Archive. 1977, November, p. 16. Richmond Times Dispatch Link: Richmond Times Dispatch archive

He gave the Sprunt Lectures, Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Series XXXI 1941-1942, published as The Social Message of the Apostle Paul (John Knox Press, 1942). He also wrote a number of books on personalities in the Bible, for example: Faces about the Christ (John Knox Press, 1959) and Personalities Around David (John Knox Press, 1968). See Who's Who in America, 39th ed., 1976-1977.


Holmes Rolston III is author of eight books that have won acclaim in both academic journals and the mainstream press. They are:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Afeissa, H. S. (2008) "Darwinian Storied Residence. An introduction to the Work of Holmes Rolston III". S.A.P.I.EN.S. 1 (2)
  2. ^ Environmental Ethics 1982 (vol. 4, number 2), pp. 133-4.
  3. ^ Environmental Ethics 1982 (vol. 4, number 2), p. 150.
  4. ^ Science and Religion: A Critical Survey, Holmes Rolston III, (1987), page vi, page ix (preface), Temple University Press, 1st ed., 358 pages, ISBN 0-87722-437-4
  5. ^ A New Environmental Ethics: The Next Millennium for Life on Earth , (2012), pages 26, 46, 48 Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-88484-6
  6. ^ https://hdl.handle.net/10217/192784
  7. ^ Gifford Lecture Profile Archived 2009-01-25 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Philip Cafaro, "Holmes Rolston, III, — 1932–" in Callicott, J. Baird and Robert Frodeman, eds. Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, 2:211-212. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2009.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit