The papers in this issue of Zygon divide themselves into three areas: (1) the first two papers continue our effort to analyze the nature of religion; (2) the second four continue our effort to show how scientific knowledge may be revelatory of human values and hence a ground for religious understanding; and (3) the last paper represents an effort to synthesize a relation between Christian theology and Freudian psychology.
1. Erwin Goodenough and Charles Price presented their complementary papers on the topic What is Religion? at a recent summer conference of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS). Goodenoughs paper, given a few months before his death, represents a concluding and conclusive statement on the nature of religion by one of Americas great scholars of religion. For a decade he had been a leading light and enthusiastic promoter of IRAS, and his lively spirit, his great learning, wisdom, and integrity, as well as his courage-to-be in the face of the cancer that took him a few months later, shine through this paper as evidence of his spirit still with us. Two concluding sentences state his position on the value of beliefs (even if illusory) for facing the source of terror, the tremendum: Religion at its highest has given men security as they have sought the best they could find and ascribed that best to the tremendum. If our ancestors did this as dogma, we must do the same as working hypothesis, but with no less devotion.
A paper on love, loyalty, or justice would gain little but pedantry by starting out with a concise definition of the term. Only as we describe the various conflicting elements associated with such words could we finally arrive at a resultant meaning within their complexities. In important matters we understand not as we simplify but as we can tolerate and include. Each important aspect of our lives overlaps every other. Even an apparently distinct feature like childhood runs into our maturity, so that no adult can be understood apart from the child still living in him. A colleague of mine told me he had once tried to define poetry in such a way that his formula would include all the kinds of literature to which the word had been applied. When he had finished, he said, his definition had become so broad that no one had any use for it. I strongly suspect, however, that in making so universal a definition he had come to an understanding of poetry much richer and deeper, even if less clear and specific, than that of those with more limited statements. For clarity is often won at the expense of depth of understanding. …
The late Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough presented this paper at the opening of the 1964 Star Island Conference of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science asking: What is Religion? He was professor of religion at Yale University from 1923 to 1962 and is noted for his twelve-volume work Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period. He died March 20, 1965. We publish this paper in accordance with his prior wish and with the consent of Mrs. Goodenough.
Revealed Religion in an Age of Science by Charles P. Price
The topic of this discussion is one of great scope and complexity. I have been invited to contribute to it because I represent a somewhat conservative and traditional point of view. I shall advance it, perhaps more energetically than I usually do, for the sake of establishing one pole of the discussion. Within the limits assigned to me, the best I can do is to point out certain lines along which I think further inquiry would be fruitful. …
Charles P. Price is the Preacher to the University and chairman of the Board of Preachers at Harvard.
Whatever they may be said to be, good and evil have their home in living organisms. More definitely, their home is almost limited to fellow creatures of our own species—to individuals, each of whom Shafer has called a fearful compound of grandeur and misery. And, paradox or not, these moral twins have no existence apart from their self-building home. Too, this home—the marvelous body of man—is the most evolved and intricate of living units in the known universe. But the bodies of animals were forefathers of those of man, and a series of simpler animals sprouted roots for morality long before the blossom—good and evil—could arise. It thus becomes clear that a biologist may examine these twins in the cradle where they were born. This task would seem easier if that cradle were a thing firmly fixed in space and time. Actually, however, we deal with a cradle that is slowly self-building, fluid, repetitive, conditional—all for the good reason that it is living organism.
An organism—any organism—can be neither swiftly dissected nor easily grasped in thought. A century of astonishingly successful biological experience has provided us with several concepts relating to organism which are not yet a part of popular thought. The thing that we call an organism must be regarded as a self-building, self-united whole. It is not a machine. It definitely is an integrated unity whose integrity, at every instant, is dependent upon pervasive showers of regulated release and transfer of energy, and on free-flowing adjustments, all made at both molecular and bodily levels. The continuing total or sum of such transfers and adjustments provides the phenomenon we call life; an organism itself does not exist apart from this living process.
Since it will later be found that good and evil do not exist apart from choice, one here notes that they are narrowly limited to a part of the animal world—and wholly absent from the entire gamut of plant evolution. Choice is tightly associated with fully expanded nervous systems and quotas of special hormones. The organism called man is a relatively new item—the species now floating at the flowering end of a long line of natural processes which have attended all moments of the epoch of life on earth. …
Oscar Riddle is a physiological biologist who was on the research staff of the Carnegie Station for Experimental Evolution for more than three decades.
Ethology and Ethics—the Biology of Right and Wrong by Hudson Hoagland
The question, how can man know right from wrong, can be interpreted in many ways. For example, how can he make the right turn at the crossroads to go to Portsmouth instead of the wrong turn that would land him in Podunk? How can he hold his tennis racket in the right way so as to stroke the ball properly instead of the wrong way that causes him to flub his shots? How can he perform correctly and avoid error in acts of skill or in finding his way through life? However, what I presume is meant by the question, is how does man know how to act ethically instead of unethically in relation to his fellows? This, of course, is a special case of knowing right from wrong. It is a special case of the general problem of how animals, including man, adjust effectively, that is, rightly or correctly rather than wrongly, to what they encounter in their environments; and this brings in the role of adaptation in directing both biological and psychosocial evolution. Thus it brings us to a consideration of our innate potentialities and of our plasticity in using these potentialities appropriately in relation to changing situations so that our conduct may be right and not wrong. …
Hudson Hoagland is executive director of the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Shrewsbury. Massachusetts.
Right and Wrong in Human Evolution by Ward H. Goodenough
Anthropology, a Natural History of Right and Wrong
What can I, as an anthropologist, have to say about human knowledge of right and wrong? For I am speaking as an anthropologist.
To a large extent the subject matter of cultural anthropology is the human definition of right and wrong. This is what culture, in the anthropological sense of the term, is all about. A societys culture is what one has to know or believe in order to conduct oneself in a manner acceptable to its members in the various roles and activities in which they engage. This means that it consists largely of standards. There are standards for categorizing phenomena, for deciding what they are. (Look at .the tree! Youre wrong! Thats not a tree; its a bush. Oh yes, youre right. So it is,) There are standards for drawing inferences about what can or might be. Everywhere men infer and reason; and everywhere they judge inferences and reasonings as right or wrong. There are standards for deciding how we feel about the things we perceive and infer, for judging them as good or bad, attractive or unattractive, pleasant or unpleasant, and so on. There are standards for deciding what to do about things in the light of our feelings and inferences—standards, that is, for determining strategic goals. And there are standards for deciding how to achieve our goals, for deciding on tactics. The words right and wrong go with all of them. If a societys culture is largely a system of standards—a system of right and wrong—then it appears that cultural anthropology is a discipline that has such systems as its principal subject matter.
The anthropological approach to this subject matter is that of scientific inquiry. This means that we who are anthropologists view systems of right and wrong as belonging to ,the natural order of things human, as things to be examined and interpreted like other features of the natural order. For us, systems of right and wrong are to be understood for what they are, rather than to be judged with reference to what, at the moment of judgment, we would personally like them to be.
From our endeavors as natural historians, we observe that all men are alike in having standards of right and wrong. From this we conclude that it is a part of their natural condition to know right and wrong. We do not ask, How can man know right from wrong? as if right and wrong had a material or ethereal existence independent of human psychic and social processes and could be tuned in on by some extrasensory antenna. We want to know how it comes about that men do know right and wrong. And we want to know what role this knowledge plays in their lives.
In what follows, I shall outline some of the things that I think anthropology currently is in a position to say about these matters, especially as they relate to right and wrong in their moral sense. …
Ward H. Goodenough is professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Five Steps in the Evolution of Mans Knowledge of Good and Evil by Ralph Wendell Burhoe
At our Star Island conferences of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, for more than a decade we have been wrestling off and on with a scientific approach to understanding right and wrong or good and evil. For the most part we have been asking scientists of various kinds to say what they think their understanding of the scientific pictures of things may imply for human values and religion. At the close of this years conference, on how man can know right from wrong, I shall try to draw together elements from a number of our papers this year and from past years, as well as from other sources in the sciences, to make what seems to me a coherent picture of mans long history of learning to distinguish good from evil.
First, I wish to assert that the pictures of man and the world, on which we are basing our analysis, are the pictures currently widespread among leaders in various fields of science. These conferences on religion in an age of science have not been based on esoteric fringes of the scientific community but have involved scientists near what might be described as the top center of recent scientific development in several fields. I cite a sampling of publications to designate what I mean by top center of recent scientific mappings of man and his world relevant to our problem of the relation of science to values, a sample which, perhaps, exaggerates a little the frequency of IRAS conference participants.¹
Also, I should note that scientists here have used the terms good and evil and right and wrong loosely. We have not always reflected the special meaning of these terms in religion and theology, nor have we even been consistent among ourselves. I dont think this makes too much difference in our initial essays to apply the sciences to the problems of religion, a task that is so unconventional and difficult that I think we shall be forgiven for some present inconsistencies. …
¹ (a) Sol Tax (ed.), Evolution after Darwin (3 vols.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960). These volumes contain papers ranging in topic from cosmic and chemical evolution through biological to cultural evolution. (b) Anne Roe and George Gaylord Simpson (eds.), Behavior and Evolution (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1958). (c) John R. Platt (ed.), New Views of the Nature of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965). (d) Harlow Shapley (ed.), Science Ponders Religion (New York: Appleton.Century-Crofts, 1960). (e) Hudson Hoagland and Ralph W. Burhoe (eds.), Evolution and Mans Progress (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962). (f) Theodosius Dobzhansky, Mankind Evolving (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1962). (g) Bentley Glass, Science and Ethical Values (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1965). (h) D. O. Hebb, Organization of Behavior (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1949). (i) M. F. Ashley Montagu, The Direction of Human Development (New York: Harper & Row, 1955). (j) C. H. Waddington, The Ethical Animal (New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1961).
Ralph Wendell Burhoe is professor of theology and the sciences at Meadville Theological School of Lombard College at Chicago. This paper was given at the 1965 conference on How Can Man Know Right from Wrong? under the auspices of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science.
Theology and Psychology
Toward a Psychology of Religion: By Way of Freud and Tillich by Peter Homans
Within theological studies today perhaps no question or problem has so successfully earned the indifference of the theological thinker as the psychology of religion, and nostalgia for it understandably evokes a desire for at least some theological attention, be it constructive or even apologetic in nature. Yet many theologians—when in fact they do attend at all the psychology of religion—are more likely to see in it an apt and ready-made instance of precisely that from which they wish to dissociate themselves in defining the truly distinctive features of their professional theological work.
If pressed further, the theologian might reply that, after all, the psychology of religion is psychology and not theology and that for that matter religion is not theology either, so such an enterprise should best be pursued, if at all, by those within the discipline of psychology itself. And yet it is equally commonplace to note that psychological thought is, on the whole, easily as indifferent to the psychological study of religion. In fact, amid the many conflicts between theology and psychology, one finds this interesting point of agreement: theologian and psychologist join hands to say that there can be no psychology of religion, at least as far as they are concerned, short of contaminating principles basic to their respective disciplines.
Such a state of affairs might best be left alone. Yet I am reluctant to adopt this sense of certainty which pervades so much theological and psychological thought. First, the two terms in question, psychology and religion, continue to be used in relation to each other. More important, they remain unavoidable terms for any theological thinker desirous of addressing himself in systematic fashion to the personality sciences. Whether he wishes to employ these sciences in some sort of constructive fashion or whether he wishes methodologically to stand over against them, he will make, implicitly or explicitly, a series of conceptual decisions with regard to the meanings he and others assign to psychology and religion. The methodological question in theology, focused as it is on the sciences of man and, in our case, on psychology, remains formidable, and since the psychologist is likely to think of religion before he thinks of theology (if he ever thinks of theology), the theologian will be drawn into consideration of both.
This essay explores some of the theological hazards that present themselves when the problem of a psychology of religion is investigated. In doing so it argues for the possibility of a reinterpretation of approach, one that renders it useful for the theological thinker. It is, in brief, an attempt to develop an understanding of what precisely is theologically real in the life-history of the person and to explore the manner in which an interpretation of the theological can at every moment be responsible to psychological understanding. It is in this context that the word religion can be given a psychological meaning.
Freud has taught—and much theology too—that we must approach the present by way of the past. Let us therefore begin with a cursory inspection of available solutions to the problem of relating religion and psychology as these can be found in the immediate heritage of theological thought.
Peter Homans is assistant professor of religion and personality in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago.
On Aggression by Konrad Lorenz, reviewed by Hudson Hoagland