Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

December 2002 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 37, no. 4 (December 2002).]
© 2002 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2002.00456.x

open PDF version

“Theology Coming to Terms with Evolution”—the lead section in this issue—counts in an important way as contrarian. These five articles go against the widely held view that theologians do not struggle to come to terms with evolutionary thought in constructive ways, or even that they dismiss evolution altogether. Many articles in the media represent what must be a common opinion even in intellectual circles, that evolutionary thinking is bete noire or absent partner in theological discussion. This stereotyped opinion has never reflected the actual breadth of theological thinking, and the articles in this issue render some of the detail in theological grappling with evolution.

The first two articles, by educator Joseph Poulshock and philosopher John Lemos, are methodological and more polemical in tone—the former taking up the evolution of memes, the latter focusing on the issue of philosophical realism in dialogue with Michael Ruse. Their critique is not aimed at evolutionary thought per se but rather at what they perceive to be questionable interpretations of Darwin by those who import their personal metaphysical preferences into their scientific writings. Poulshock and Lemos argue that Darwinian perspectives on religion and religious belief take on a different cast if alternative metaphysical assumptions are taken into account. Because they target several thinkers whose articles appear in Zygon with some frequency, we may expect rejoinders in a future issue.

The next three articles aim at reconstructing traditional theological themes by incorporating insights from evolutionary theory. Christopher Southgate, theologian, takes on the formidable issue of evil and the reality of God, with particular attention to the challenges on this theme set forth by philosopher David Hull. Ingrid Shafer (philosophy) and coauthors James Salmon (chemistry) and Nicole Schmitz-Moormann (Teilhard scholar) build on the thought of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard surely ranks near the top of the list of religious thinkers who took evolutionary theory with great seriousness in the attempt to elaborate theological understandings. Shafer takes Teilhard in the direction of cyberscience and cosmic love, while Salmon and Schmitz-Moormann move from reflections on thermodynamics to the inner nature of God, as set forth in the traditional theology of the Trinity.

These articles are testimony to the seriousness with which evolution is taken by philosophers of religion and theologians. They also remind us of how difficult it is to bridge the gap in both knowledge and dialogue between the complexities of scientific discussion of evolution, on the one hand, and the equally complex discussions by philosophers and theologians, on the other. They live today as separate cultures (to recall C. P. Snow’s discussion of “two cultures” in his 1959 book, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution). Dialogue between them takes place in the minds of the individual authors and also of the individual readers. Unfortunately, the dialogue between these intellectual cultures as cultures seldom happens.

The second section of this issue offers six articles that throw light on a variety of the facets of the dialogue between religion and science. Donna Teevan (theology) unfolds Albert Einstein’s reflection on method and the efforts of philosopher-theologian Bernard Lonergan to render Einstein’s thought useful in his theological work. This is the third article dealing with Lonergan to appear in these pages in the past year—a signal that he deserves consideration on the interface of science and religion. Robert Geraci brings the work of Bruno Latour and others to bear in considering scientific work as a form of ritual. Physicist Robert Brecha adds to our ongoing discussion of quantum uncertainty as a context for thinking about God. Kevin Sharpe and Jonathan Walgate revisit the anthropic principle and suggest what they consider to be more adequate ways of approaching it. Judith Kovach presents a major proposal for the importance of embodiment for our thinking, particularly in conversation with the cognitive sciences. Her article incorporates a discussion of the Islamic myth of Adam and Iblis and a proposal for human evolutionary theory. Kerry Gordon (psychology) probes Jewish Kabbalah thinking and scientific ways of understanding the world.

This issue closes with David Pailin’s major review of David Griffin’s recent book on overcoming conflict between the two cultures we have referred to above. In the past two years, both Pailin and Griffin have published in Zygon their own substantial proposals for the cross-cultural dialogue to which we are committed.

Philip Hefner

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts