Zygon thus far has primarily published papers from conferences in which the Editor has had a hand, or papers he has solicited from authors long known to him. It is encouraging that in its second year Zygon has begun to attract a number of significant volunteered papers from a wider range of perspectives. This issue presents some of these.
1. Paul Weiss in his Toward Unity of Culture reflects a wide range of Zygons aims, which he deduced from a completely independent analysis of the worlds cultural crisis, before he was aware of Zygon. Such independently arrived at conclusions of the same general form from the contemplation of similar phenomena are the source of the objectivity and universality that lend credibility and conviction to scientific and rational analyses.
The barriers that have kept human groups of diverse ecologies and histories in a state of relative seclusion are rapidly breaking down in the wake of spreading trade, enlightenment, and communication—vertical sectorial barriers of geographic, national, and political groupings as well as horizontal sectarian interfaces dividing layers of philosophical, occupational, and educational distinctions within each group. Free flux and interchange across those leaky boundaries are bringing about a growing awareness that mankind has, after all, far more in common than divides it, the recognition of valid distinctions within notwithstanding. As a result, there have sprung up, in many countries—polyphyletically, as it were-moves to articulate, give expression to, and translate into reality that mounting realization of a basic unitary core of human culture.
Some of those moves are motivated by fears about mankinds future, others more positively by the ethical postulate or sober extrapolation from scientific and historical fact that the trend of progress of the human race is, or at least ought to be, toward harmonization—the brotherhood of man glorified in Beethovens Ninth. Some of the movements circle about lofty professions of ideals, sometimes rather utopian; others are more down-to-earth, sometimes overly pragmatic in orientation. And there are all kinds of shades in between. Yet, all of them tend to converge upon a common focus. One wonders whether they might not have a better prospect of getting there faster, with less meandering, if their community of purpose were matched by a concert of realistic programming and action. If so, claims or pretensions of primacy, priority, or sheer self-assertion would have to yield to an overriding call for co-operation; for no one can rightly claim to have all the answers—we hardly have as yet spelled out the questions, let alone weighed them. …
Paul Weiss is member and professor emeritus, Rockefeller University, New York; and University Professor (on leave), University of Texas in Austin.
Science and Traditional Values in Islamic Society by Ismaīl R. al Fārūqī
People facing a national catastrophe or in a state of decay are usually conservative. They cling to what they have inherited from the fathers, and regard their preservation of it intact as equivalent to their own survival. In Islamic history, this predilection for survival created for itself an ideological instrument with two edges. On the one hand, it is the positive value of taqlīd or doing what the fathers have done, and, on the other, it is the negative value of bidah or innovation. The first is praiseworthy and guarantees salvation; the second is blameworthy and brings damnation. Every Muslim is taught that the road to felicity is the path which the ummah, or universal community of Islam, has followed in the past and is following: that outside the ijmā or consensus of the community there is error, peril, misguidance, and certain death; and every Muslim child is exhorted to honor not only the faith of the fathers but their definitions as well—to avoid every deviation from their practice. The conservatives justify their thesis with abundant quotations from the Qurān, the Ḥadith, and other Islamic literature.¹ Normative or scriptural Islam certainly demands of the Muslim loyalty to the faith of the fathers; and it counsels against innovations. But to say merely this is to oversimplify—in fact, to misunderstand. For Islam stresses loyalty to the faith in contrast to riddah or apostasy, that is, exit from the faith altogether and the rejoining of ones older faith.² The contrast then is not with heresy, which is deviation not so much from the faith as from the definitions of the faith without separation from the faith or its community.³ Islam has hardly known any heresies precisely because the religious and legal requirements of Islamicity have always been kept at a minimum.⁴ To use this as a plea for loyalty to the definitions of the theologians is to twist the original meaning of the Qurānic injunction. …
¹ In support of taqlīd, conservatives usually press into service such Qurānic verses as exhort to patience and resolution. The verses, O you who believe, strengthen yourselves with patience and prayer; for God is with the patient. We shall try you with some fear, hunger, poverty, loss of life and wealth; but joy to the patient! Who, in the face of disaster, resolutely say, We are Gods and to Him we shall return! (Qurān 2:153-57); and Those who violate the covenant of God after they have entered therein, denying what God had enjoined and spreading evil—Those are certainly the losers! (Qurān 2:27); and Be not like her who ravels her knitting after she has made it fit and fast. … Let not your foot slip down once it is firmly established and thus expose yourself to the suffering incumbent upon those who turn away from the path of God … (Qurān 16:92, 94), are popular in conservative apologies. Against innovation, the conservatives cite the following: Some people acknowledge God but understand Him in a peculiar way. Their faith is strong as long as their fortune is good; but once they are put on trial they give up their faith for something else, thereby losing both this world and the next (Qurān 22:11); It is He Who revealed to you the Book some verses of which are precise and their meaning is unmistakable and others are equivocal. Those whose faith is faulty follow the latter with a view to innovate and to interpret as they wish (Qurān 3:7); Abū Saīd al Khudarī reported that the Prophet said: The time is near when the most fortunate Muslim will be the one who, by following his goats far above the mountainheads would avoid getting himself involved in innovations in religion (The Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs [ed.], Al Muntakhab min al Sunnah [Cairo: Dār al Kitāb al Arabī, 1961], I, 297); Jābir reported that the Prophet said: The best words are the words of God and the best guidance is that which Muḥammad brought. The worst of all things are the new; every innovation is an error and a misguidance (ibid., II, 169). For an early analysis and refutation of taqlīd by a Muslim thinker, see Taqiyuddīn Aḥmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328), Minhāj al Sunnah al Nabawiyyah (Cairo: Musṭafā al Bābī al Ḥalabī, 1938); Shāh Waliyyullah (1703-81), Iqd al Jīd fī Aḥkām al Ijtihād wa al Taqlīd (Cairo: Al Azhar Press, 1939).
² They [your enemies] will continue to fight you until they turn you away from your religion. Whoever of you turns away from his religion and dies an unbeliever will lose his works in this world and suffer eternally in hell (Qurān 2:218).
³ To my knowledge, there is no statement in the Qurān enjoining loyalty to the faith that is not directed against apostasy or shirk (i.e., association of other beings with God). Nor is there any statement enjoining loyalty to the theo-Iegomena of the faith, because these came after the Qurān.
⁴ Basing itself on the verse God will not forgive any associating of aught with Him; but He will forgive, to such as He wishes to forgive, the lesser sins (Qurān 4:47, 115), Islamic law has prescribed that whoever solemnly testifies that there is no God but God, and that Muḥammad is the Prophet of God, is a Muslim (see Asaf A. A. Fyzee, Outlines of Muhammadan Law [2d ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 46-51; Muḥammad Abd al Karīm Shahrastānī, Al Milal wa al Niḥal, ed. Muḥammad Fatḥallah Badrān [Cairo: Al Azhar Press, 1947), p. 53).
Ismaīl R. al Fārūqī is professor of Islamics in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University.
Mans Ability To Co-operate: A Contribution of Anthropology to the Christian Religion by William G. Mather
There is a fundamental inconsistency in the Christian religion, one which even Christians do not care to talk much about. In very brief it is this: it takes its name from a man who gave his life for others, and it has as its symbol a cross, the instrument of torture upon which he gave his life, and yet the principles of non-violence, mutual understanding, co-operation, and self-sacrifice which he taught and exemplified are not only not practiced or taught but not even believed by the majority of his followers.
They stoutly believe and strongly teach that he turned water into wine, controlled the wind, healed the sick, exorcized demons, was born of a virgin mother, raised the dead, and was raised from the dead—but hardly one of the major creeds of Christendom mentions turning the other cheek, blessing those that curse one, walking the second mile, feeding the hungry, loving ones enemies, bearing one anothers burdens, forgiving men their trespasses, or taking up ones own cross in imitation of him. Yet these are among the most primary of his teachings regarding the way of life of his true disciples and, indeed, of those who, in his phrase, would inherit the kingdom.
The feeling among his followers seems to be that such actions are extreme, dangerous to mans survival, subversive to national welfare, impossible of accomplishment, and a sign of unmanly weakness when attempted. The real man, they seem to say, looks out for himself, takes no insults, gives as good as he gets, and wins his highest and most publicly approved honors in battle—witness the memorial stones raised in public places. This, we are told, is human nature. It is the real nature of man, and a miracle must indeed take place before a human being can even attempt to come close to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount—one must be born again, out of the physical life and into what is called the spiritual life. The common phrase is that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.
This doctrine cleaves a deep gulf into the nature of every man. It assumes that his body is evil, in whole and in all its parts. Within this mass of evil has been introduced from outside, rootless, strange, alien, and weak, that which is called spirit and is good. These two struggle for the mastery of men. The outcome is always uncertain, always chancy, temporary, with evil playing on its home field and good disadvantaged by a strange stadium.
We have been learning lately that the situation is not so simple and the odds are not so great as this. There is no gulf between the good and the evil in man—or, better, between the flesh and the spirit, in the broadest meaning of the words. To the contrary, understanding, mutual aid, self-sacrifice, are all as firmly rooted in the biological nature of man as are selfishness, conflict, and vengeance. To put it another way, it is as much the nature of man to do good as to do evil. In fact, if there is an edge of advantage either way, it is on the side of the angels. …
William G. Mather is research professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University.
The major question to which attention is directed here is one which is an increasingly serious source of misunderstanding and confusion in part as a result of the two culture discussion popularized by C; P. Snow.¹ It is the question of the distinction between science and ethics.
The question is at least as old as attempts to formulate clear conceptions of what we mean by science in its contemporary usages. Bertrand Russell focused on the question explicitly twenty years ago in the concluding pages of his popular History of Western Philosophy,² asserting that there is indeed a fundamental dichotomy between science and ethics. And the late Edgar Zilsel, in a noteworthy study³ which traced use of the word law in science to its use in social law, nevertheless acknowledges only a metaphorical connection between physical law and social or positive law. Many contemporary scientists, legal theorists, and some philosophers echo such views, as do many theologians who may otherwise feel they have little in common with Bertrand Russell or Edgar Zilsel.
Though not new, the question has special relevance and poignancy today. Citizens of the scientifically advanced countries, because of their singular wealth, and their power to exercise control over their neighbors and their physical environment, confront a bewilderment of decisions about how to use that wealth and exercise that power under rapidly varying social and political conditions. But their know-how and surefootedness in promoting science and in using it to create material wealth and military power seem to be in such contrast to the stumbling and perplexity with which they deal with decision-making problems in domestic and international affairs that many are persuaded that science and ethics or politics differ in their essential character. The question has been given a special edge also by the Nazi experience, which demonstrated that a state in the front rank of technological and scientific advance could yet relapse into moral barbarism with little effective resistance from its intellectual community. On the personal level also one observes that scientific or other intellectual activity may coexist with moral apathy or insensitivity. …
¹ C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures and a Second Look (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1964).
² B. Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1945), pp.834-35.
³ E. Zilsel, The Genesis of the Concept of Physical Law, Philosophical Review, LI (1942), 245.
Lawrence Cranberg is professor of physics at the University of Virginia.
Has Science Dated the Biblical Flood? by Walter S. Olson
Everyone knows the story of Noah who built an ark to save his family and animals from the great Flood. This story, which comes to us from the Hebrew scriptures, has counterparts in the legends of other ancient people. Although sometimes classed as a childrens story, it describes a catastrophe of incredible proportions which, in a brief space of time, wiped out most of the human race and animal kingdom.
Those who attempt to explain some of the apparent or inherent improbabilities in the story have a choice of two approaches. One is to consider it as an allegory conveying profound religious truths. Those who prefer this treatment may even say that it is irreverent to seek a physical explanation. The other, which is here given preference, is to treat it as a legend, based on actual events, preserved by oral tradition in prehistoric times until the invention of writing. Any defects would be due to the limited knowledge of the sources and imperfection in transmission. Because the ancient Hebrews had only limited knowledge of ships and navigation, their description of the ark makes it more crude than the ship described by the Sumerians. When the people in the ark saw the Flood stretching beyond the horizon in all directions without a hint of land, they might well have concluded that the entire world was submerged because neither they nor their near descendants had any remote idea of the extent of our planet. Even though their story be considered the testimony of eyewitnesses, it must be weighted against other evidence which can be related to the events considered.
Sir J. G. Frazer, noted anthropologist, is one who has studied this evidence. He concluded that the traditions of the Flood are based on catastrophes which actually occurred and not on solar myths, as some would have it. Edward Suess, a noted geologist, whose treatise, The Face of the Earth, published 1904-9, is a great classic, devotes several pages to the subject. Analyzing the similar traditions of many peoples, he notes the lack of an Egyptian story of the Flood, indicating to him that it never reached the Mediterranean. Chinese and various other stories he considers to be descriptions of local flooding by rivers. Only the Hebrew, Greek, Babylonian, and Sanskrit accounts refer to a Universal Flood and have a similarity of detail which indicates, in his view, a common source. He would certainly have added the Sumerian account to the foregoing, but this was not published until 1914. He concludes that the Flood took place in the lower Euphrates Valley and that no tradition can sustain the proposition that it extended beyond the Tigris-Euphrates basin. He suggests a violent earthquake and tidal wave as the cause, aided by a violent cyclonic storm. …
Walter S. Olson, a petroleum geologist who has conducted exploration for oil in various parts of the world, is staff geologist for Texaco in New York, specializing in Latin America and Asia.
Issues in Science and Religion by Ian G. Barbour, reviewed by Kirtley F. Mather