Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

September 2014 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 49, no. 3 (September 2014).]
© 2014 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12122

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Zygon @ 49: A Child of the Sixties?

With this issue, we continue our 49th year of publication. Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science is a child of the sixties, as we started in 1966. Thus, it may be quite appropriate that in this issue we have a set of articles on “entheogens,” drugs that bring one “into the divine,” or at least seem to induce religious experiences. Ron Cole-Turner introduces the section; William A. Richards informs us on empirical work he and others at Johns Hopkins University do; William Barnard writes on the way the use of such substances is embedded in the Santo Daime tradition, while Leonard Hummel reflects on the practical bearings, drawing on his involvement with research on spiritual transformations, work with cancer patients, and experience in Christian communities. Tolle lege, Augustine heard according to his conversion narrative—“take and read,” if not the substances, perhaps these articles.

Though Zygon started in the 1960s, the journal’s history goes back to the 1950s, the time IRAS was founded. In 1952, Ralph Burhoe, our founding editor, discussed the possibility of setting up such a journal with Henry Nelson Wieman, a prominent professor of theology at the University of Chicago. In his contribution to the thematic series Zygon @ 49, Karl Peters gives us quotes from letters, embedded in a broader view of the changing context of IRAS, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (founded in 1954), and of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. In the same section, Philip Hefner, the third editor after Ralph Burhoe and Karl Peters, offers us a deeper understanding of “conundrums” in the life of Ralph Burhoe. His vision was driven not by a quest for a metaphysical and epistemologically justified integration, but rather a quest for partnership of knowledge and values, of science and our religious traditions—a vision that is much larger than customary academic frameworks allow. The Zygon @ 49 series opened this year in March with a contribution by the late Ian Barbour (2014), who represented a different vision of the agenda for “religion and science,” one that better fitted the customary academic frameworks, just as Barbour himself did. Ralph Burhoe was more an autodidact and public intellectual, as Hefner explains in this issue. By the time this issue appears, we will also have begun a series of three “virtual issues” making contributions from the three previous editors, Ralph Burhoe, Philip Hefner, and Karl Peters, available for free in the Wiley Online Library.

Robert McCauley has written a book with the challenging title Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not (2011). Religion comes easily to us humans, while science demands an alert attitude, as we fall into traps such as looking for confirmation rather than testing critically. Religious concepts may be moderately counter intuitive, but scientific ones are often worse. Quantum physics might be an example, but even Newtonian physics—an object keeps its movement as long as nobody acts upon it—contradicts my experience that I need to keep pedaling if I want my bicycle to keep moving, to use a Dutch example. And the Copernican view of the relative motion of Earth and Sun is accepted, but we still “see the Sun rise every day,” even though it is the Earth rotating at a speed of about 1,000 km/hour at moderate degrees latitude, while we don’t even notice the movement! Apologies for these digressions of mine. McCauley’s more subtle analysis of religion and of science is discussed here in detail by three colleagues, James Van Slyke, Andrew Ali Aghapour, and Gregory Peterson, with a clear response by Robert McCauley.

One of the natural features of religion may be anthropocentrism. We are especially interested in human existence. A recent book in systematic theology, On Animals by David Clough (2012), seeks to redress that by giving nonhuman animals a bigger place in theology, without thereby giving up too many specifics of the Christian tradition. How he manages “to eat his cake and have it too” is discussed by four colleagues, David Fergusson, Margaret B. Adam, Christopher Carter, and Stephen H. Webb, with a response by David Clough. Worthy reading for us human animals. Recently, Zygon had other reflections on humans as beings “in the image of God” (De Cruz and De Maeseneer 2014, and others in the March 2014 issue; Deane-Drummond and Paul Wason 2012 and others in the December 2012 issue, including Deane-Drummond 2012; further papers from the same issue in the June 2013 issue).

In creationist literature, blood has an important symbolic value. Blood stands for relatedness, but also for redemption; it mixes biology and theology. Eugene Rogers offers a very original analysis of the mindset of some creationists in the article with which this issue opens. In an informative study of an American Buddhist center, Daniel Capper shows us how understandings of self and the natural world come into play. While this is situated in contemporary Western Buddhism, the article by Francis van den Noortgaete and Johan de Tavernier reflect on hermeneutical and affective issues in environmental ethics. And speaking of ethics, Gary Slater offers a response to the evolutionary debunking of morality by drawing on the conceptuality of Charles S. Peirce. The issue comes to a close with book reviews—there is always more to be read out there, but this issue of Zygon offers again a rich plate of studies and reflections.

Willem B. Drees


Barbour, Ian G. 2014. “Zygon’s Dual Mission.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 49: 81-94.

Clough, David. 2012. On Animals: Volume 1, Systematic Theology. London: T&T Clark.

Deane-Drummond, Celia. 2012. “God’s Image and Likeness in Human and Other Animals: Performative Soul-Making and Graced Nature.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47:934-48.

Deane-Drummond, Celia, and Paul Wason. 2012. “Becoming Human in Theistic Perspective.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47:934-48.

De Cruz, Helen, and Yves De Maeseneer. 2014. “The Imago Dei: Evolutionary and Theological Perspectives.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 49:95-100.

McCauley, Robert N. 2011. Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts