Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
6 (3), September 1976

Table of Contents


Genetic Bases of Individuality and of Social Problems by Dwight J. Ingle

Know, all the good that individuals find,
Or God and Nature means to mere Mankind,
Reason’s whole pleasure, all the joys of Sense,
Lie in three words, Health, Peace and Competence.

[Alexander Pope]

It is my opinion that both genetic and environmental factors cause some of our great social problems that relate to health and competence. I believe that the prevention of these problems will require biological as well as environmental interventions. The general biological intervention that I discuss in this paper is selective population control.

Overpopulation is a grave threat to the future of man and some forms of control are needed if we are to avoid famine, disease, and war as checks on population growth. I believe that, since man must limit his numbers, efforts to control births should be focused on those who for cultural, genetic, or medical reasons are unable to endow children with a reasonable chance to achieve health, happiness, and self-sufficiency. Note that I have included poor cultural heritage as a reason to remain childless.

There are two general aims among those who would try to control the biology of man. The first is to guide human evolution to supermen. I oppose this aim. The second is to reduce the causes of misery and incompetence without otherwise reducing biological diversity. I favor this. It should be free from government control, it should retain freedom of choice, and would be guided by the counseling of physicians trained in human genetics, social engineering, and ethics. Such efforts should accompany, not replace, efforts to improve the environment and to insure equal rights and opportunities. …
Dwight J. Ingle is professor of physiology at the University of Chicago.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1971.tb00716.x

Biology and Social Problems by R. C. Lewontin

My remarks on the issue of selective breeding and population control are almost entirely reactive and will center primarily on Professor Ingle’s paper.¹ That is not entirely unfortunate, since many of the points made by Professor Ingle are representative of a general attitude on these questions that is Widespread. I hope I will not be offensive when I say that Professor Ingle’s essay contains two closely related fallacies that permeate most of the thinking in this field.

Professor Ingle begins with the fact, which no one will deny, that there is an immense variation in human performance in the whole variety of behavioral and physiological tasks that constitute human social life. Second, he quite correctly points out that people vary in the degree to which the psychic and material rewards of society accrue to them. Finally he states, again correctly, although some may deny it, that biological differences exist among individuals in their ability to perform certain tasks in certain environments, and at least some of this biological difference is a difference in genetic constitution.

But from these undoubted facts, he draws incorrect conclusions, based, as I said, on two related fallacies. The first is that of biological determinism. This doctrine states that if a biological difference is found between two organisms or groups of organisms with respect to some trait, that biological difference represents the irreducible minimum difference that will exist in the trait in question. For example, men and women are biologically different, and, ultimately, that biological difference is traceable to a genetic difference. Moreover, that biological difference necessarily includes some difference in average behavior pattern between men and women, even if they had identical environments from birth. But it does not follow that therefore there must be a difference in social roles between men and women. It is entirely within the behavioral flexibility of individuals and within the structural flexibility of social organization that men and women play the same social roles or even reverse them, if that becomes a social imperative. Because men and women are genetically different, it would require a change in social structure, upbringing, and family orientation to make sex roles interchangeable, but it would be neither impossible nor probably very difficult, given an appropriate cultural revolution. …
¹ Dwight J. Ingle, “Genetic Bases of Individuality and of Social Problems,” Zygon 6 (1971): 182-91.

R. C. Lewontin is professor of biological sciences at the University of Chicago.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1971.tb00717.x

Rebuttal to Professor Lewontin by Dwight J. Ingle

A professor has been described as a person who thinks otherwise. Professor Lewontin and I profess different views on several important social problems but share a deep concern for peace and social welfare.

Professor Lewontin says that I commit the fallacy of biological determinism. His apparent meaning differs from the usual connotation of these words, and I say that his choice of them represents the fallacy of emphiboly. He implies that I believe genetic differences cannot be modified. I suggest that he reread the opening statement of my paper: “It is my opinion that both genetic and environmental factors cause some of our great social problems that relate to health and competence. I believe that the prevention of these problems will require biological as well as environmental interventions.”

I do believe that heredity lays down certain capacities for development—the neurological basis of intelligence is an example—which environment can modify but cannot nullify. I do not know of any contrary evidence that will withstand critical inspection. If Professor Lewontin believes that an individual who inherits genes for low intelligence can be made average or above average by any set of environmental factors, we should focus our debate on evidence for and against such claims. …
Dwight J. Ingle is professor of physiology at the University of Chicago.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1971.tb00718.x

Types of Motives for Ecological Concern by James A. Keller

In the past few years we have heard much about the ecological crisis. We have been told that the growth of human population and the development of technology have brought about kinds of pollution that threaten the quality of human life and the survival of numerous species, including, perhaps, our own. A number of proposals aimed at resolving this or that aspect of the ecological crisis have been made by scientists and governmental leaders. But not nearly as much has been said explicitly about why we should be concerned about this crisis. More often the reason for concern has been more implicit than explicit in the literature; that is, we have been told what would happen if we did not do something, and it was assumed that we would not want that “something” to happen. For instance, we might be told that the pollution of the air in our cities is causing lung diseases and death; therefore, it is said, we ought to stop this pollution by taking certain steps.

I do not wish to imply that this kind of focus is unimportant or misguided; indeed, it is indispensable. Yet it seems to me that it might also be instructive to reflect on the kinds of motives which are offered, often in this rather implicit manner, for ecological concern. This will be my purpose in the present paper. More specifically, I wish to suggest that three quite different kinds of motives for ecological concern can be discerned in the literature and in contemporary discussions; then I wish to discuss some relations between these kinds of motives on the one hand, and the Christian tradition and Western philosophical thought since the Renaissance, on the other. …
James A. Keller is assistant professor of philosophy at McMurray College, Jacksonville, Illinois.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1971.tb00719.x

Man Plus by John McHale

The theme of our present discussion begs two critical questions. The first is how far we may indeed characterize our present world as being in a “runaway” state; and the second, whether man has been, is, or can be in control of his world.

Edmund Leach, in the opening paragraph of his 1967 Reith Lectures, states these questions in a slightly different form: “Men have become like gods. Isn’t it about time that we understood our divinity? Science offers us total mastery over our environment and our destiny, yet instead of rejoicing we feel deeply afraid. Why should this be? How might these fears be resolved?”¹

Apart from the tendency to enjoy the thrill of impending doom, of being on a collision course with destiny, the major problem here seems to be the fear and unease in itself. What are its origins in human development and how might we gain some perspective on those changes in the human environmental condition which we now characterize as being in a runaway state? …
¹ Edmund Leach, A Runaway World (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 1.

John McHale is director of the Center for Integrative Studies, School of Advanced Technology, State University of New York at Binghamton.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1971.tb00720.x

What Specifies the Values of the Man-made Man? by Ralph Wendell Burhoe

Several factors in twentieth-century thought have tended to break up the established patterns of human values, and it seems that neither tradition, nor theology, nor philosophy, nor all the king’s men can put human psyche and society back together again. In the explosive growth and revolutions of the twentieth century it would seem that all the traditional foundations and structures of human life were being broken up. …
Ralph Wendell Burhoe is professor of theology and the sciences and director of the Center for Advanced Study in Theology and the Sciences, Meadville/Lombard Theological School, Chicago.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1971.tb00721.x


Science and Human Values in the 21st Century edited by Ralph Wendell Burhoe, reviewed by Donald Szantho Harrington

Donald Szantho Harrington; Community Church, New York
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1971.tb00722.x

Bioethics: Bridge to the Future by Van Rensselaer Potter, reviewed by Hudson Hoagland

Hudson Hoagland; Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1971.tb00722.x

Biology and Ethics edited by F. J. Ebling, reviewed by Kenneth Vaux

Kenneth Vaux; Institute of Religion, Texas Medical Center
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1971.tb00722.x

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