Zygons editor has many times been challenged by people who have read in the first issue the editorial stating our goals and who find the journal not to have fully lived up to what was there promised or at least hoped for. This is admittedly true. But there is raised the further question as to whether our goals are impossible. As we enter our ninth year, I have received, from two distinguished scholars who would like to be friendly, letters which I think reflect characteristic misgivings or complaints concerning Zygon on the part of scientists and religious scholars.
By evolutionary time standards, the fate of life on our planet has suddenly, and quite abruptly, come to rest on an entirely new form of security and control, based on the machinery of the human brain. The older, noncognitive controls of nature that have regulated events in our biosphere for hundreds of millions of years, the forces of nature that lifted life from the amoeboid to the human level and created man, are no longer in command. Modern man has intervened and now superimposes on nature his own cognitive brand of global domination. The outstanding feature of our times is the occurrence of this radical shift in biospheric controls away from the vast interwoven matrix of pluralistic, time-tested checks and balances of nature, to the much more arbitrary, monistic, and relatively untested mental capacities and impulses of the human brain.
Along with its weaknesses our newly imposed human system of global regulation also contains tremendous new powers, including the potential to effect changes within a decade that formerly required thousands and millions of years. Almost the entire fabric of the earths surface, from the atomic to the scenic level, is rapidly becoming subject to disassembly and resynthesis along new patterns of human design. In all this human-directed supervision the potential for utopian advancement throughout the globe seems endless. It is important that these utopian potentialities be recognized and remembered as we turn now to consider the other side of the coin. …
R. W. Sperry is Hixon Professor of Psychobiology, Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology. The work has been variously supported by the F. P. Hixon Fund of the California Institute of Technology, the David Stone Foundation, and grant MH03372 from the National Institutes of Health.
Jacques Monod and the Cure of Souls by John A. Miles, Jr.
Jacques Monod, French biologist, professor at the Collège de France, founder of the Institut Pasteur, Nobel laureate in physiology and medicine, published in the summer of 1970 a philosophical essay, Le hasard et la nécessité: essai sur la philosophie naturelle de la biologie moderne. The essay was the publishing success of the year, running right behind the French translation of Erich Segals Love Story. In 1971 it appeared in English translation as Chance and Necessity and was widely reviewed in the United States. The reflections which follow are suggested as much by the popular success of Chance and Necessity as by the work itself. They are a comment on what might be called the Chance and Necessityphenomenon. …
John A. Miles, Jr., is assistant professor of theology, Loyola University, Chicago.
Michael Polanyi on the Problem of Science and Religion by Bruno V. Manno
A paramount problem that has plagued any attempt to formulate a viable perspective on the relation between science and religion has been the subjective-objective epistemological dichotomy that has dominated Western philosophy, certainly since Descartes and even before in different ways. This dichotomy has become the starting point for discussing what the epistemological foundations of modern science claim to be. True knowledge is viewed as objective and detached from all stain of human involvement and participation. On this presupposition, science is seen as a convenient summary of given facts or as a strict mathematical relation between observed data.¹
While there have been some protestations to this view, most of modern epistemological thought has gone on to accept this doctrine of nonparticipation in the act of acquiring knowledge which is set at the center of modern positivistic perspectives on science and articulated by its dispensers of virtue, the philosophers of science, as the paradigm case for all knowing.² This positivistic view of science and the world has resulted in the production of a mechanical, denatured conception of man, history, and the universe, and has denied any grounds for allowing freedom of thought. Implicitly, it has also laid the groundwork for the morally destructive tendencies that continue to menace contemporary culture.³
It seems to me that any attempt to construct a viable perspective on science and religion must first squarely confront this subjective-objective epistemological dichotomy and attempt to refute it on its own grounds—that is, by offering an alternative philosophy of science that challenges the claim of the positivists concerning the strict objectivity of knowledge.
I believe the writings of Michael Polanyi set forth an alternative philosophy of science that provides this challenge. His perspective releases the human person from a destructive slavery to a false ideal of human knowing and offers a framework within which a humanistic analysis of culture and, more specifically, the scientific and theological tasks can be pursued. …
¹ Michael Polanyi, Science and Reality, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 18 (1967): 187, 191.
² Michael Polanyi, Knowing and Being (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), p. ix (ef. Daedalus [Spring 1973]). The title of the Daedalus issue is The Search for Knowledge. Many of the articles discuss the destructive effects the natural science model has had in different disciplines.
³ Michael Polanyi, Why Did We Destroy Europe? Studium Generale 23 (1970): 909-16; cf. Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modem World (New York: Free Press, 1967).
Bruno V. Manno, S.M., is a student in the interdisciplinary doctoral program of Boston College.
The Great Living System: The World as the Body of God by John Ruskin Clark
We experience the universe from a limited perspective and therefore piecemeal. If we are to make sense out of our fragmentary experiences, we have to ask what the universe is like as a whole. What is reality like taken altogether? What supports and what limiting conditions does the comprehensive environment provide for human life and aspirations? Is the reality we experience itself fragmentary, or is it part of a unified system? Does the environment when perceived as a whole have any implications for how we should live, or are we engaged in just a meaningless dance, hopping around to avoid being crushed in an avalanche of impinging events? Is there anything going for us, or are we on our own in an indifferent world? And if there is anything going for us, does it make any demands upon us, or does it place any limitations on our activity?
In our Western culture, informed by the Judeo-Christian tradition, such questions have been answered by referring to the existence and will of a supernatural living god. In the beginning when the earth was without form and void, he created the world originally, according to the myths in the first two chapters of Genesis. The laws of creation were laid down by divine fiat, and they had to be obeyed by man at the peril of everlasting damnation. Suffering and death and unrequited evil were justified by the assurance that history moved inevitably toward a grand climax when perfect justice would be established in the complete reign of Gods will upon earth. This scheme had the value of making the struggle and ambiguities of life meaningful, and it gave each believer a sense of participating in a significant drama. …
John Ruskin Clark is minister of the First Unitarian Church, San Diego, California. The first draft of this paper was made when he was a research associate at the Center for Advanced Study in Theology and the Sciences at Meadville/Lombard Theological School, Chicago, in 1967.