Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

December 1968 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 3, no. 4 (December 1968).]
© 1968 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1968.tb00882.x

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Zygon’s cause to integrate man’s religious notions of what is meaningful and sacred about his destiny with his scientific notions of his self and the world does not stand or fall on the success or failure of the efforts of any single man, such as Teilhard de Chardin, to make a synthesis. But an evaluation of Teilhard is bound to be both a useful guide and a caution. In this and in the previous issue of Zygon, we have brought together some careful, competent, and varied analyses of what has been accomplished by this lonely tower of success in this task. From these analyses we get, in addition to a mixture of encouragement and caution, a wealth of detail concerning the subtleties of the problems involved. We shall undoubtedly return to meditate on Teilhard in the future, for he has been seminal in his historical impact on the field.

One scientific criticism of Teilhard was that his “theology” was not really scientific enough to make it credible. In this issue, in the symposium on “Do Life Processes Transcend Physics and Chemistry?” we raise a reverse criticism of Zygon’s enterprise. It is suggested that science may be inherently inadequate for handling theological questions. Curiously, the suggestion here comes not from theologians but from scientists. If, as is suggested by members of the panel, physics cannot explain chemistry, nor chemistry explain biology, do we have an insurmountable barrier to the belief of some of us that the sciences could help explain or inform even more distant disciplines such as ethics or theology? In this symposium, some of our best scientists and philosophers of science romp in lively, highly sophisticated, and novel ways around basic questions of knowing and explanation that have long perplexed philosophers and theologians—questions that cannot be avoided by those who would try to relate religion and science. In addition to lifting our vision of these epistemological questions above the planes of ordinary common sense and philosophy—albeit their informal rompings may give the impression of a greater looseness in scientific epistemology than is operationally the case—they touch on some very important and novel understandings of life, a topic rather central for religion. The symposium is a concentrated and powerful dose in a few pages for those who can take it. To what extent does it raise or lower your belief that ethics or theology may be helped by the sciences?

R. W. B.

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