Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

September 1981 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 16, no. 3 (September 1981).]
© 1981 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1981.tb00416.x

open PDF version

In recent editorials I have discussed the picture Zygon is trying to develop: an understanding of human nature in relation to the rest of nature that is both scientifically credible and religiously meaningful. This portrayal is very complex, containing many elements from diverse fields of human inquiry and living. This Zygon issue provides some additional features for the overall picture from the study of moral and religious development, the history of science and religion, and the thought of Confucianism.

The lead article by Lawrence Kohlberg and Clark Power reminds us that, in order to develop an adequate understanding of human nature, we must recognize that each human being has a history. Not only can we speak of humans as composed of two systems of information, one from the genes and the other from the culture, as some Zygon authors have done, but we also must consider that these primary systems of information manifest themselves differently in various stages of cognitive, moral, and even religious development. Phenotypically, the nature of a human being varies through different stages of child- and adulthood. Unless we are able to achieve and use some scientifically grounded developmental perspective—such as that provided by Kohlberg and Power, and by others who are doing research in the fields of cognitive, moral, and religious development—we will continue to do philosophy and theology and to provide moral and religious education under the false assumption of a static view of individual human nature. Many have recognized the diversity among individuals in both societies and species; now we also must incorporate into our thinking and practice the temporal diversity within individuals.

Just as we must understand that individual human natures have a history, so in the larger Zygon picture we must also recognize that the dialogue between religion and science has undergone considerable historical development. Science, religion, and their interactions are culturally evolving phenomena. Hans Schwarz’s essay reminds us that Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection met with a mixed reception in both the scientific and religious communities. Schwarz shows that Protestant theologians’ reactions were much more positive than many usually think. In a careful examination of late nineteenth-century journal literature, as well as major works, Schwarz concludes that, while many religious thinkers were not convinced that Darwin’s theory of natural selection was well-grounded scientifically at the time, they saw no reason for concluding that the theory was incompatible with a theistic understanding of ultimate reality or God.

Moving from the temporal dimension of individual development and recent social-intellectual movements to the distant past in a non-western culture, the article by Joseph Adler reminds us that, as a journal of religion and science, Zygon is concerned not only with a single religious tradition but with all religions that have provided guidance throughout the centuries for human beings in various parts of the world. Insofar as traditions other than Judaism and Christianity are interacting or can interact with contemporary science and technology, our hope is to bring the fruits of such dialogue into the Zygon picture. This hope has been realized to some extent by a few articles in earlier Zygon volumes. It is fulfilled further in this issue by Adler’s paper on the “is/ought” question in Confucian thought and by Kathleen Johnson Wu’s essay “On Lao Tzu’s Idea of the Self” in the June 1981 issue.

The articles by Adler and Wu present the two primary facets, the Yang and Yin of ancient Chinese thought. Confucian thinking represents a humanistic attempt to structure intentionally individual human behavior and the relationships within society, so that individual and social life may be in accord with the Way of Heaven and Earth. Lao Tzu’s Taoism, on the other hand, represents a more receptive attitude, in which the best course of action is to allow the nature inherent in all of us to manifest itself with as little intentional shaping as possible. However, in terms of Yang and Yin these two traditions should be conceived not as competing polar opposites but rather as presenting a pattern of alteration in a rhythmic universe.

The constant interplay between Yang and Yin is displayed on every issue of Zygon. While the word “zygon” means to yoke together as a team, the “Z” within the circle of our cover symbol is an intentional modification of the ancient Chinese symbol of the Tao that is manifested in the constant interplay of Yang and Yin. Just as the ancient symbol portrays the changing rhythms of the world with its flowing curve (and with its representation of a little bit of Yang in Yin and a little bit of Yin in Yang), so the Zygon symbol expresses the dynamic nature of our own enterprise as one facet of an evolving natural-cultural universe. It portrays this idea by the fact that the colored and white “Z’s” do not touch the circle at their points; instead white and color flow around one another. Thus, from inside the total unity of all things Zygon is attempting to explore ever more fully the dynamic relationship between the sciences and religions as these together seek to understand better our place as humans in the overall scheme of things.

K. E. P.

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts