Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

December 2019 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 54, no. 4 (December 2019).]
© 2019 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12570

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Teilhard’s Silencing, Mutual Enhancement, and Historical Europe

Teilhard and the Holy Office Revisited

In the June 2018 issue of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, an article was published on the French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Grumett and Bentley 2018), which provided new information on and insights into the theological and political dynamics of the 1920s. Specifically, it laid down the context for the six propositions on human origins and original sin that Teilhard had to sign on July 1, 1925. This article became by far the most downloaded (>3,000 times by April 2019) article of the 2018 volume of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. And it has triggered follow-up archival research in Rome, which is reported and reflected on in the present issue. In his article, Kenneth Kemp questions whether the six propositions did indeed originate from the Holy Office, as has been reported elsewhere and was also assumed by Grumett and Bentley. Kemp concludes that where Grumett and Bentley’s account may have been wrong about the specific involvement of the Holy Office in this specific case, they were not wrong about the Holy Office’s concerns about questions of human origins. In his response, David Grumett addresses the reasons why we should still maintain that the Holy Office did have a role in the silencing of Teilhard. Together, despite the unresolved question concerning the role of the Holy Office, the articles add more flesh to the bones of the recently discovered six propositions.

Mutual Enhancement between Science and Religion

This issue’s thematic section on how science and religion can mutually enhance each other contains five contributions that arose from the latest meeting of the Epiphany Philosophers, held in January 2019. This reconvened group originated in Cambridge, England, starting with an inaugural conference in 1951. For fifteen years, commencing in 1966 (a crucial year in the science-and-religion discussion), they ran the journal Theoria to Theory. As Fraser Watts explains in his introductory contribution, the Epiphany Philosophers were not interested in imposing religious constraints on science; to the contrary, their aim was to emancipate science and make it more open-minded, free from any scientistic assumptions. The Epiphany Philosophers were also interested in influencing religion, by paying more empirical and spiritual attention to contemplation. Watts provides an overview of some key features of the Epiphany Philosophers’ distinctive approach to issues in science and religion. In the second contribution, on transformation and the waking body, William Beharrell considers the kind of knowledge that is constituted through embodied sensory perception and makes the case for a form of knowledge that is embodied, relational, and potentially transformational. By being more interoceptively aware, through a practice of contemplation, he argues that one opens oneself to an encounter with Divine presence that is immanent in the world around us. The third contribution, by Marius Dorobantu and Yorick Wilks, offers a new approach to human and machine ethics; they contend that while current machine learning algorithms are ethically inscrutable, they are so in a way not very different from human behavior. They stress the need for some explainability of actions and propose the notion of artificial moral orthoses (analogous to orthoses as they are used in medicine, that is, externally applied devices designed and fitted to the body to aid functioning, in contrast with prostheses that replace missing parts), which could provide ethical explanations for both artificial and human agents. In the fourth contribution, by Galen Watts, the shift from religion to spirituality in late modernity is analyzed in relation to a cultural structure that he calls the religion of the heart. He illuminates how the social conditions of late modernity undermine or challenge what we conventionally think of as scientific and religious authorities, while at the same time creating existential needs that the religion of the heart is well adapted to meet. The fifth, and final, contribution is by Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, who was present at the January 2019 Epiphany Philosophers meeting and who provided a response to the various presentations. He emphasizes that being a theist makes a difference, but not so much to what propositions we assent to, nor to an expanded ontology of spiritual entities; rather, it is concerned with what commitments we enter into, and involves a participatory engagement with a broader reality then we might have supposed was possible.

The Historiography of Science and Religion in Europe

The subsequent thematic section provides non-Anglo-American, more specifically European, perspectives on science-and-religion discussions in the nineteenth century. Instead of focusing on Protestant voices, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Islamic voices are studied. The contributions situate themselves in Turkey, Greece, Spain, and Italy, at a time of nation building. After a brief introduction to the section by Jaume Navarro and Kostas Tampakis, five articles detail the various histories of science and religion in different European (peripheral) regions. Mehmet Alper Yalçinkaya shows how intellectuals defined a pure Islam, which was but a set of basic principles that could be found in the Qur’an. Rather than an embedded way of life, Islam in these texts was an objectified, delimitable entity that could be imagined as having relations with other entities, such as science. Kostas Tampakis addresses the question of the meaning of science for the Orthodox Greek theologian of the nineteenth century. A picture emerges that is far more complicated that one of antagonism, indifference, conflict, or coexistence: Greek theologians saw themselves as scientists and treated theology as a positive, rational science. Agustín Ceba Herrero and Joan March Noguera address the topics of philology and the construction of national identities using the life and work of the Mallorcan Catholic priest Antoni Maria Alcover (1862-1932), who was the main driving force behind the Catalan Dictionary, a collective enterprise that set out to inventory the complete oral and literary lexicon of this language. Jaume Navarro sets the reception of John W. Draper’s famous History of the Conflict between Religion and Science in the context of Spanish nationalism in the last third of the nineteenth century. At a time of severe controversies between liberals and traditionalists stemming from their desire to shape the political landscape in Spain, Draper’s book came in handy for the political purposes of the many camps in this dispute. Finally, Neil Tarrant shows that the narrative that from the mid-sixteenth century onward Italian science began to decline is the invention of a nineteenth-century Italian liberal historiographical tradition, which linked the history of Italian philosophy to the development of the modern Italian state.

Other Articles

And there is much else in this issue! The issue opens with a science, religion, and public policy piece by Pankaj Jain on Climate Engineering from Hindu-Jain Perspectives. This is followed by an empirical study by Glen Moran into Harun Yahya’s influence in Muslim minority contexts. Michael Frishkopf, a professor of Music, contributes an article on three modes of consciousness, entitled Aesthetics, Creativity, and Mysticism. Amy Lee reviews how science and religion can be seen as languages, where she focuses on metaphors, analogies, and models. Finally, Mikael Leidenhag assesses the blurred line between theistic evolution and Intelligent Design. My book review of Navigating Post-Truth and Alternative Facts: Religion and Science as Political Theology, edited by Jennifer Baldwin, concludes the issue.

Arthur C. Petersen


Grumett, David, and Paul Bentley. 2018. Teilhard de Chardin, Original Sin, and the Six Propositions. Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 53: 303-30.

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts