Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science was established ten years ago, not on the conviction that we need to wage the old war between religion and science but on the basis of a new hypothesis (1) that scientific information about man, his world, and even his religion had grown to the point where the sciences could be very fruitfully applied to advancing religion as they already have to advancing medicine, agriculture, and other technologies, and (2) that the evils befalling man because of the weakening of his morals, morale, and sense of meaning—at a time when he was needing them more than ever to guide his handling of his alarmingly vast, new technological capacities—made it imperative that his religious enculturation be revitalized.
During this past decade we have sought to publish new information supportive of this hypothesis: that the time was at hand for the generation of a theology or rational interpretation of and help for religion in the light of the sciences. The Zygon fare has been primarily at an intellectual level necessary for understanding the application of science to resolve mans religious problems. The problems of the religious arts—which involve mans morals, morale, meaning, and hence his understanding of his long-term destiny in relation to the superior powers that be—are perhaps more complex than those of any of the other arts or technologies by which mans behavior is shaped or guided.
We live in a time of rapid change the rate of which is unprecedented in human history. Our times are characterized by astronomical growth in world population and the rising need for vast new resources for humanity. Accompanying this growth is a rapidly changing technology which has provided not only much of the basis for modern survival but also much of the basis for continued worldwide growth of human population and the continued use of dwindling resources. Yet, in the midst of these literally exponential technological changes, there sits the human species, whose evolution prepared it for a much simpler life, uncomplicated by the vast complexities now surrounding it. In the most elementary terms, it is obvious that the human species is being stretched to the limits of its ability to adjust to these rates of change. This picture is further complicated by our not knowing which elements of our current technology are helping us to survive and which are helping to destroy us. This is largely because we do not know enough about the impact of more technology upon ourselves and our environment. Example after example of problems of pollution, politics, and population brings us closer toward a realization that a balanced human ecosystem must be attained within a very short period of time, and yet the paradox is that more technology is probably the only avenue open to attain this goal. …
Solomon H. Katz is associate professor of physical anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, and medical scientist at the Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, Philadelphia.
The Biopsychological Determinants of Religious Ritual Behavior by Eugene G. dAquili and Charles Laughlin, Jr.
The persistence of religious or cultic ritual in the twentieth century has presented a problem for many thinkers. Until recently, the eighteenth-century Enlightenment view was still prevalent, namely, that, with enough education, ritual, magic, and associated phenomena would simply disappear. It has become increasingly obvious recently that this simply is not the case. Far from diminishing in frequency, various forms of religious and quasi-religious ritual have burgeoned within the last ten years. The phenomenon is clearly with us, and some attempt must be made by scientists of various disciplines to understand the causes, functions, and persistence of religious ritual among human societies. It is generally recognized that some form of religious ritual is a universal phenomenon. Furthermore, Lex cites Bourguinons data in which she identifies trance states or other forms of dissociative phenomena associated with rituals in 437 out of 488 societies for which there was relevant ethnographic information.¹ This means that, in almost 90 percent of societies around the world for which there are available data on the subject, some sort of altered states of consciousness manifest themselves in one way or another as a part of ritual behavior. This indicates not only that ritual behavior is universal among human societies but that some form of dissociative state is associated with cultic rituals in nearly all societies. Therefore, in attempting to analyze religious ritual, it becomes obvious from the outset that we are dealing with a true cultural universal similar to marriage, warfare, or even language. …
¹ B. Lex, Ritual Trance States in Man: A Biological Interpretat.ion, in The Spectrum of Ritual: A Biogenetic Structural Approach, ed. E. G. dAquili et. al. (forthcoming); E. Bourguinon, Dreams and Altered States of Consciousness in Anthropological Research, in Psychological Anthropology, ed. F. L. K. Hsu, 2d ed. (Homewood, Ill.: Dorsey Press, 1972).
Eugene C. dAquili, M.D., is assistant professor of psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, and Charles Laughlin, Jr. is associate professor of anthropology and linguistics, State University of New York at Oswego.
Technology and the Supernatural by Max L. Stackhouse
On the general problem of the relation of science to religion in the understanding of humanity in a technological society, Solomon H. Katz and Eugene G. dAquili and Charles Laughlin in their papers¹ have broken new ground in presenting rather convincing evidence that there is a biopsychological or biophysical basis for ritual behavior. Further, they suggest that recognition of this basis is necessary if we are to make any significant strides in understanding human wholeness from a scientific perspective. This breakthrough, if sustained by further research, will, I expect, force crude scientific perspectives to reexamine their hostility to certain religious phenomena which previous scientific models could not explain or understand. From a theological perspective, it would have been highly surprising and even incredible had they found that there was no biophysical base. Indeed, contemporary theology would expect a similar basis for myth and symbol formation, as these, too, are crucial ingredients of religion. …
¹ Solomon H. Katz, Toward a New Science of Humanity, this issue; Eugene G. dAquili and Charles Laughlin, Jr., The Biopsychological Determinants of Religious Ritual Behavior, this issue.
Max L. Stackhouse is professor of Christian social ethics, Andover Newton Theological School.
Human Purpose, the Limbic System, and the Sense of Satisfaction by Chauncey D. Leake
For several years I have been offering a no-credit course in philosophy for the benefit of candidates for the degree of doctor of philosophy. I am naive enough to believe that holders of this degree should know something about the subject. The results of my effort have been satisfying, at least to me.
In an attempt to be practical, I ask at the beginning of the course some basic questions that we all have to face up to sometime or other. What are we living for? What motivates us? What are our purposes or goals, in general or in particular? What governs our interpersonal relations? What guides our conduct? What determines our mood and our behavior?
The answers to these questions have been formulated in various ways from the beginning of mans conscious existence. It is interesting here that the dictum of Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) applies to concepts as well as to embryology: Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. This means that as individuals we go through the evolution of our species. As embryos we are like fish with gill slits. But we evolve rapidly in our mothers wombs until birth. From birth on we mature, often with our brains lagging behind. Yet our individual intellectual maturation follows approximately the long and rough intellectual pathway of our species.
The answers to the basic questions of our existence comprise the various ethics. Some three dozen or more well-formulated theories of ethics have been developed since antiquity. They deal chiefly with general purposes, and ways to achieve them: ends and means in life. We learn them, mostly subconsciously as we grow up and mature. …
Chauncey D. Leake is senior lecturer in the history and philosophy of the health professions and in pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco. This essay is dedicated to William Bennett Bean, until recently Sir William Osler Professor of Medicine, University of Iowa, and now director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas, Galveston.
The Dilemma of Science and Morals by Gunther S. Stent
Ever since the sixteenth century, when Francis Bacon put forward the then novel creed that science provides a hope for a better world, there have arisen conflicts between science and morals. But right from the very start of modern science and with the case of its founder, Galileo, these conflicts were always resolved in favor of science in the long run. By the end of the nineteenth century the triumph of science over traditional, and particularly religious, morals seemed so complete that God was found to be dying. Faith in God came to be replaced by scientism, or the belief that ethical insights, formerly based on metaphysical concepts, could now be derived from objective scientific knowledge. One brand of scientism in particular, namely, dialectical materialism, was to find wide acceptance as a twentieth-century ersatz religion. But despite the seeming hegemony of scientism in the everyday life of contemporary secular societies, there not only still arise some troublesome conflicts between science and morals but the credibility of the Baconian creed of salvation through science is itself fast losing ground in its Western heartland. This latter-day growth of antiscientific attitudes is as serious as it is surprising because, far from its reflecting the views of ignorant rabble-rousers or religious zealots, it is occurring among the young intellectuals of the New Left. That is to say, it has infested the minds of the very group that would ordinarily furnish the recruits for the next generation of scientists. Alarmed by this development, the Old Guard has been defending the Baconian creed by means of righteous sermons. But these sermons have little effect; their language of indignant reason does not reach the ears of the young infidels and does no more than preserve the courage of the true believers. …
Gunther S. Stent is professor of molecular biology, University of California, Berkeley.
Note on the Institutional and Financial Support of Zygon by Ralph Wendell Burhoe
Journals and institutions with a religious or educational mission must be supported with energy, just as must any parts of a living system. Like central nervous systems in animals, institutions which function to enculturate values and ideas (religions and schools) do not directly supply the necessary energy and materials for the life of the individual or the society. However, in order to provide their cybernetic goal-guiding informational functions for the system, they require a fraction of its energy and materials. While brains do no obvious work to feed the body, nevertheless, natural selection has arranged it so that such genetically shaped mechanisms as blood canals do supply brains as well as hands and mouths with the energy and other materials they need to operate. The necessity for this is clear in that the rest of the organism could not survive for long without the brain. Nor can a society long survive without the cultural institutions that provide the necessary attitudes and information that engender the complex cooperative functions necessary for its life.
In a human society the proper distribution of energy and other supplies to religions and schools to keep them functioning is not directly programmed by genetic information but indirectly through the culturally elaborated patterns of conscious awareness and through the concern of individuals in the rest of society to contribute to these social agencies. Of course, for the most part, societies have had an almost automatic readiness to support a shaman or priest or teacher because traditions have prerational ways of meriting support.
But innovating agencies such as Zygon that seek to meet new, unrecognized needs have little tradition to support them. Moreover, neither of the two traditions that Zygon seeks to unite, religion and science, is concerned to part with its own resources to support Zygon. …
Ralph Wendell Burhoe is editor of Zygon.