A scientific theology remains for many an impossible concept. Theologians and scientists agree, from the standpoints of their separate disciplines, that the relationship of these two fields, science and theology, has been, and must remain, inherently so sharply distinguished that one ought not to hope for a scientific theology. The term has recently come into some increased use, but, some thinkers would assert, it can be at most a linguistic symbol for an inherently unrealizable aspiration. …
John C. Godbey is associate professor of church history. Meadville/Lombard Theological School, Chicago.
Elements in a Theology of Environment by David E. Engel
In recent days we have seen an increasing awareness and concern for a range of problems which have to do with environment. All of us have experienced some form of environmental damage, such as pollution of air and water, congestion and erosion of our landscape, and the diminishing of wilderness regions. On the personal level, we may have been the victims of smarting eyes, smog-induced coughing, and a lack of elbowroom. A growing body of literature. including the presidents State of the Union address this year, suggests that we may be troubled enough about our surroundings to talk about them, if not to do something about them.
The contribution of religion to this growing concern remains to be seen. The past contributions of the Judeo-Christian tradition to natural ecology are not auspicious. If religious institutions and religiously inspired individuals are to make any contribution to the shape of natural environment, they will have to act decisively in the years immediately ahead. Time is limited. But action is possible. …
David E. Engel is associate professor of education, University of Pittsburgh.
Biocybernetics and Survival by Van Rensselaer Potter
Biocybernetics is a term that can be used to cover the whole range of biological interactions that occur between man and his environment. The term includes the various parts of the environment in the absence or the presence of man. It derives from the broader term cybernetics, which was coined by Norbert Wiener from a Greek word meaning steersman—in ancient usage, the pilot of a ship.¹ The term today is used to cover the feedback relationships by which parts of a complex system affect the behavior of the overall system and, more specifically, the way the output from any part of the system ultimately affects the input to the same part.²
In a society that has tampered with the natural environment on a colossal scale with inadequate knowledge of the ramifications of biocybernetics, there are mixed feelings of guilt, frustration, and defensiveness in various segments of the population when there should be a unified attempt to achieve a societal wisdom that will permit mankind to survive and improve the quality of life. The year 1969 may go down in history as the year in which a rising tide of individuals rather suddenly reached a conclusion that the world had changed. Prior to 1969, most college students, in the United States at least, had assumed that a college or university education constituted some kind of an escalator that would enable them individually to achieve the good life, or at least to lift them above the problems that beset the average or below-average family in terms of their control over their own destiny. To the extent that they had altruistic motives, they assumed that, by working at the level of their elevated competence in some suitable specialization, society would benefit and reward them adequately. …
¹ Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics, in Science, Conflict and Society (Readings from Scientific American), ed. Garrett Hardin (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman & Co., 1969), pp. 119-25.
² Arnold Tustin, Feedback, in Hardin (n. 1 above), pp. 126-33.
Van Rensselaer Potter is professor of oncology and assistant director, McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin.
Theological Implications of Modern Biogenetics by Hans Schwarz
When Aldous Huxley wrote his Brave New World in 1931, he dated the predicted events in the book to the sixth or seventh century A.F. (after Ford). Meanwhile our knowledge has increased in the field of human genetics so incredibly—it doubles every seven to ten years¹—that in less than fifteen years Huxley had to admit in his book Brave New World Revisited that his visionary prophecies would become true much sooner than he had anticipated in 1931.² The picture which Huxley painted for us in Brave New World is an almost shocking vision of our immediate future: computerized breeding of mankind, chemically induced happiness, and methodological conditioning. In this essay I want to deal with biogenetics in a less visionary way. I will outline the possibilities and limits of modern biogenetics as far as they are applicable to man and question whether they bear any theological significance. Of course, it is almost impossible to treat these complex and much debated topics and at the same time present the immense amount of biological and genetic findings and manipulations,³ especially in the confines of a short paper. But even at the risk of having some call this treatment superficial, such a treatment has to be ventured. If we hesitate any longer to interpret theologically the facts and possibilities of our surrounding world, a world which is largely dominated by applied sciences, then we need not Wonder why this world does not care about us and goes its own way. …
¹ Leroy Augenstein, Come, Let Us Play God (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), p.3.
² Aldous Huxley, Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited (New York: Harper & Row, Colophon Books, 1965), 2: 1.
³ Unfortunately, Paul Overhage, S.J., in his excellent book Experiment Menschheit: Die Steuerung der menschljchen Evolution ([Frankfurt am Main: Josef Knecht,. 1967], p. 6), deliberately excludes such a theological understanding. A theological understanding, however, is more urgent than ever if Christian faith is to remain relevant to modern thought.
Hans Schwarz is assistant professor of systematic theology, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Columbus, Ohio.