Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

Ian Barbour in Zygon: An Editorial

by
Willem B. Drees

Ian Graeme Barbour (1923) has been one of the key figures in the modern American and global ‘science and religion’ discussion. His Issues in Science and Religion from 1966 was one of its founding texts. It was highly appreciated for its four historical chapters (17th-20th century), its four chapters on ‘religion and the methods of science’, and its four chapters on ‘religion and the theories of science’. This shows a love of a clear didactic rhythm that marks also his later writings. The book set an example as a survey that gave very careful and respectful attention to the specifics of scientific methods and theories.

1966 was also the year Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science appeared. Barbour contributed to the journal’s first issue with a response to a paper on theological resources from the physical sciences. He was a member of the editorial advisory board right from the beginning, and has remained so to the present day. Though there was also some difference in agenda between the theologically interested Barbour and the more anthropological bio-cultural emphasis of Ralph Burhoe, the founder and first editor of Zygon, these two winners of Templeton prizes (Burhoe 1980; Barbour 1999) have recognized the other’s importance to the material and intellectual development of the field. Barbour wrote in the first volume of his Gifford Lectures, Religion in an Age of Science (1990, 199), and in the expanded edition Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (1997, 263):

No one has contributed more to the discussion of religion and science during the last twenty-five years than Ralph Burhoe as founder and for many years editor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.

Ian Barbour has contributed 14 articles to Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, plus some book reviews. As is to be expected for a key figure in the field, Ian Barbour’s writings have attracted some fire from other contributors to Zygon, triggering in turn responses by Barbour (Cantor and Kenny 2001; Barbour 2002; Smedes 2008; Barbour 2008b). In March 1996, a whole issue was dedicated to a symposium on Ian Barbour’s Gifford Lectures.

His work has been subject of much discussion. In Zygon one finds his name among the keywords of twenty articles, but references to him appear much more regularly. A dissertation in German was written by Christian Berg (2002). Almost ten years ago, a Festschrift appeared titled Fifty Years in Science and Religion: Ian G. Barbour and His Legacy (2004), edited by Robert J. Russell, a close collaborator who went on to develop the field through his own writings and initiatives, including the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and its journal Theology and Science. It is, also intellectually, very appropriate that the endowed chair on religion and science that was created at the Graduate Theological Union, thanks to the work of Russell and currently filled by him, is named after Ian Barbour. Fifty Years included an autobiographical essay, “A Personal Odyssey” (Barbour 2004), as well as a bibliography of Barbour’s published works (Berg 2004). While chronologically the first of these three, many have come to see him as one of three ‘scientist-theologians’ (Polkinghorne 1996), with Arthur Peacocke and John Polkinghorne, also winners of Templeton prizes (2001, 2002). In a symposium in Zygon to honor and commemorate Peacocke, Barbour wrote his personal appreciation, while reflecting on similarities and differences (2008a).

As we approach the 90th birthday of this key figure in ‘religion and science’, Zygon makes Barbour’s contributions as they have appeared in Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, beginning with its first issue almost fifty years ago, freely available in this virtual issue.

References (Those references in bold type were brought together for the virtual issue on Ian Barbour in Zygon and may be found here.)

Barbour, Ian G. 1966. Issues in Science and Religion. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

———. 1966b. “Commentary on Theological Resources from the Physical Sciences.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 1: 27-30.

———. 1975. “Science, Religion, and the Counterculture.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 10: 380-397.

———. 1985. “Editorial, with Robert J. Russell.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 20: 107-110.

———. 1988. “On Two issues in Science and Religion: A Response to David R. Griffin.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 23: 83-88.

———. 1990. Religion in an Age of Science. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

———. 1994. “Experiencing and Interpreting Nature in Science and Religion.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 29: 457-487.

———. 1996a. “Response to Critiques of Religion in an Age of Science.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 31: 51-65.

———. 1996b. “Response to Critiques of Ethics in an Age of Technology.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 31: 101-110.

———. 1997. Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues. New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

———. 1999. “Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence, and Human Nature: Theological and Philosophical Reflections.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 34: 361-398.

———. 2001. “Science and Scientism in Huston Smith’s Why Religion Matters.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 36: 207-214.

———. 2002. “On Typologies for Relating Science and Religion.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37: 345-359.

———. 2004. “A Personal Odyssey.” In Fifty Years in Science and Religion: Ian G. Barbour and His Legacy, ed. Robert J. Russell. Aldershot: Ashgate, 17-28.

———. 2004b. “Future Directions for the Zygon Center.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 39: 389-391.

———. 2005. “Theology and Physics Forty Years Later.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40: 507-511.

———. 2008a. “Remembering Arthur Peacocke: A Personal Reflection.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 43: 89-102.

———. 2008b. “Taking Science Seriously without Scientism: A Response to Taede Smedes.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 43: 259-269.

———. 2012. “Religion and Science through the Ages: Response to Marangudakis.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47: 520-523.

Berg, Christian. 2002. Theologie im technologischen Zeitalter: Das Werk Ian Barbours als Beitrag zu Verhältnisbestimmung von Theologie zu Naturwissenschaft und Technik. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

———. 2004. “Published Works of Ian Graeme Barbour.” In Fifty Years in Science and Religion: Ian G. Barbour and His Legacy, ed. Robert J. Russell. Aldershot: Ashgate, 341-345.

Cantor, Geoffrey, and Chris Kenny. 2001. “Barbour’s Fourfold Way: Problems with his Taxonomy of Science-Religion Relationships.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 36: 765-781.

Polkinghorne, John. 1996. Scientists as Theologians: A Comparison of the Writings of Ian Barbour, Arthur Peacocke, and John Polkinghorne. London: SPCK.

Russell, Robert John (ed.). 2004. Fifty Years in Science and Religion: Ian G. Barbour and His Legacy. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

Smedes, Taede A. 2008. “Beyond Barbour or Back to Basics? The Future of Science-and-Religion and the Quest for Unity.“ Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 43: 235-258.


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initially prepared July 2013

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