Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
12 (2), June 1977

Table of Contents

Papers from the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science Conference on The Ecosystem, Energy, and Human Values

The Need for a Systems Approach: An Introduction to the Conference on “The Ecosystem, Energy, and Human Values” by Karl E. Peters

For the past decade there has been emerging in the consciousness of many people a set of problems—indeed some would say a “storm of crises”—that involve the relationship between man and nature. This set includes the problems of hunger, pollution, population growth, land and water use, and energy. As the United States moves into its third hundredth year and as humanity approaches the third millennium of the Christian era, these major practical problems, which increasingly are affecting the daily existence of all human beings, are causing many to become concerned about our future as individuals, as a society, and as a species. Also coming to consciousness is the realization that, as down to earth as these problems are, they will not be resolved by straightforward, practical solutions. In fact, many of the solutions to past problems by modern technology, supported by the insights of modern science, have contributed to the nest of problems concerning the relationship between man and nature. It is only by stepping up to a more theoretical and abstract level—which is interdisciplinary in scope—that we can obtain the guiding insights that will initiate an effective resolution of our problems. …
Karl E. Peters, associate professor of religion, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, was conference chairman.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1977.tb00301.x

The Ecosystem, Energy, and Human Values by Howard T. Odum

If flows of energy generate the ecosystems of the biosphere—including the phenomenon of humanity with its human values—an examination of the laws and systems of energy interaction should show how human values are related to the ecosystem’s energy flows. Evaluation of energy flows may provide quantitative measures of value to help understand the role of human spiritual work in its stewardship of the earth. To help visualize energy systems, overview diagrams are presented, using a language of symbols that are at the same time mathematical formulations for computer simulations. The language is introduced and used in recent books.¹ Some of the symbols are given in figure 1. Energy diagrams may be useful for careful communication concerning comparative religion. …
¹ Howard T. Odum, Environment, Power, and Society (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1971); Howard T. Odum and E. C. Odum, Energy Basis for Man and Nature (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1976).

Howard T. Odum is Graduate Research Professor, Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1977.tb00302.x

Mine or Garden? Values and the Environment—Probable Sources of Change in the Next Hundred Years by Thomas Devaney Harblin

Recent realizations about the impact of humans upon their environment and the inevitability of the laws of thermodynamics have sparked widespread debate about possible, probable, and alternative futures open to the human species, American culture, and individuals now living.¹ As part of this debate this analysis will focus around the following questions: (1) Why change values that have contributed to the development of such a high American standard of living? (2) What is the role of culture in generating human futures? (3) What are some consequences for the environment of values that are prominent features of American sociocultural patterns? (4) In a period of rapid change, are there ascending values which appear to be more compatible with long-range environmental quality and human adaptation under desirable conditions than currently prominent American values? (5) What are the sources of these ascending values, and where are they most manifest? (6) Should humans redirect the “ecovolutionary” process toward goals more likely to yield a long-term continuity of life?² (7) What can participants in the environmental movement do to enhance chances of attaining their goal of long-range environmental quality? (8) For the human species, American culture, and individuals now living, can humans generate images of desirable futures which are strong enough to motivate a critical mass of Americans to adjust life-styles so as to cooperate with ascending values more compatible with environmental quality? (9) How important are such images of desirable futures to long-term successful human adaptation to environmental change? (10) Concretely, what can be done to promote ascendency of an “ethic of preeminent environmental consciousness”?

The purpose of seeking answers to these questions is to stimulate and shape debate within the context of this conference on the ecosystem, energy, and values rather than to foreclose it with premature conclusions. Underlying the following discussion of these issues is the imagery of conflict between American culture organized as a “mining company” to extract maximum short-term gain from the environment (or “mine”) and a reorganized culture which would function as a “gardener,” whose principal obligation is to tend and nurture the environment (or “garden”) upon which he and all subsequent generations inevitably depend. …
¹ For a helpful discussion of some of the implications of the laws of thermodynamics, see R. B. Lindsay, “The Larger Cybernetics,” Zygon 6 (1971): 126-34. The futures of the species, the culture, and individuals now living can be analyzed separately even though they are mutually interdependent at any specific moment of time. This is so because the human species probably will survive beyond the point where remnants of a disintegrated American culture as we presently know it are no longer readily recognizable to surviving humans. It is also possible because both the human species and American culture can endure beyond the life span of any given individual. Moreover, some Americans will survive as individuals beyond that time when American culture has been reorganized drastically. Such was the case for the survivors of the collapse of the Roman Empire and, more recently, the fall of the German Third Reich.
² The term “ecovolution” combines the concerns of evolutionists and ecologists and is defined as the simultaneous and mutually interdependent evolution of the human species (in both biological and cultural contexts), nonhuman species, and the physical environment—with a focus on the evolution of the relationships among them.

Thomas Devaney Harblin is associate professor of sociology and formerly coordinator of the Environmental Studies Program, Rollins College. The author thanks Karl E. Peters for a thorough critical review of a draft of this paper and for helpful suggestions regarding tables 1 and 2. Helpful suggestions were also received from Ralph Wendell Burhoe, John Weiss, George Ritzer, and William Partington.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1977.tb00303.x

Religious Models and Ecological Decision Making by Don E. Marietta, Jr.

In 1967 Lynn White, Jr., published “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis” and started an intense discussion.¹ The paper was reprinted in several periodicals and in books on the environmental crisis, and the reaction was quite divided. Some ecologists, Ian McHarg for example, agreed completely with White’s thesis that Judeo-Christian theology was largely responsible for the extreme anthropocentrism and disregard for the natural environment which made possible the heedless technological development now threatening the biosphere.² The biblical story of creation, in which man is set above nature, with plants and animals existing only for man’s sake, supports an attitude toward the environment as something to be used however man desires. Aldo Leopold saw this as the main reason why ethics, which has gradually evolved to become more inclusive of human rights, has failed to develop an adequate land-use ethic.³ Allan Shields, Thomas Merton, and others have described the expression of the traditional Christian view as it was manifested in the attitude of the Puritans in America toward the wilderness and in the practices which followed the Puritan attitude.⁴ A recent paper by John Passmore traces the effect of the biblical attitude toward animals in indifference to animal suffering or in condemnation of animal abuse only because such conduct has a bad effect on people.⁵ …
¹ Lynn White, Jr., “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” Science 155 (1967): 1203-7.
² Ian McHarg, “Values, Process, and Form,” in The Ecological Conscience, ed. Robert Disch (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970), pp. 21-36 (from McHarg’s The Fitness of Man’s Environment [1968]).
³ Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic,” in The Subversive Science, ed. Paul Shephard and Daniel McKinley (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1969), pp. 402-15 (from Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac [New York: Oxford University Press, 1949]).
⁴ Allan Shields, “Wilderness, Its Meaning and Value,” Southern Journal of Philosophy 11 (1973): 240-53; also, Thomas Merton, “The Wild Places,” Center Magazine (July 1968), pp. 40-44; reprinted in Disch.
⁵ John Passmore, “The Treatment of Animals,” Journal of the History of Ideas 36 (1975): 195-218.

Don E. Marietta, Jr. is professor and chairman, Department of Philosophy, Florida Atlantic University.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1977.tb00304.x

Realities and Ideals in the World System by Karl E. Peters

Much of modern thought presupposes a fundamental distinction between the kind of thinking that attempts to describe, explain, and understand the way things are and the kind of thinking that tries to formulate in terms of right and wrong, good and bad, the way things ought to be. While this division between “facts” and “values” has been useful in helping to delineate different types of reasoning, it has also been a symptom of one of the basic problems of modern civilization—the separation of the sciences from philosophy and religion to the point that the insights from one realm of inquiry are often regarded as irrelevant for the other. Furthermore, in spite of its usefulness in a schema of types of thinking, the distinction between facts and values is sometimes, though not necessarily, grounded in the erroneous idea that reality or nature is limited only to physical, chemical, and biological processes and hence does not include man and his aspirations, dreams, goals, and values—that is, does not include “human nature.”

A general systems framework does not share this erroneous notion about reality; systems thinking includes within its view of the universe not only facts but also values. Further, it seeks to discover the interrelationship between the way things are and the way things ought to be, to see how the realities of the world help to determine what man’s goals are and in turn to explore not only how the goals and hopes of man condition the way he sees the world but also how they lead to alterations in the way things are. In seeking to explore the interrelationships between “realities” and “ideals” the general systems approach not only is an expansion of the scientific enterprise, what Solomon H. Katz has called “a new science of man” that melds “our scientific and humanistic traditions together in a highly effective manner in order to adapt to the world we have evolved,” but also is a possible type of religious inquiry.¹ If one follows John Dewey’s suggestion that “God” or “the divine” can be defined as the “active relation between ideal and actual,” then the exploration of how such ideals or possible goals emerge out of present realities and how such ideals in turn feed back to recondition the way things are is theological inquiry about the nature of God.² …
¹ Solomon H. Katz, “The Dehumanization and Rehumanization of Science and Society,” Zygon 9 (1974): 135.
² John Dewey, A Common Faith (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1964), p. 51. See also Dewey’s discussion of “the reality of ideal ends as … vouched for by their undeniable power in action” (p. 43).

Karl E. Peters is associate professor of religion, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1977.tb00305.x

Institutions Relating Religion and Science

The Faith-Man-Nature Group and a Religious Environmental Ethic by Philip N. Joranson

By the middle sixties some American Christians and Jews had begun to communicate their sense of religious impoverishment in the face of runaway circumstances of environmental abuse and resource use because of the intellectual weakness of their theologies and the paralyzed state of their religious ethics. One of the first initiatives to provide channels for basic scholarship and creative thought for building an explicit, sensitive Judea-Christian approach to the environment came with the formation of the Faith-Man-Nature Group (FMN). Starting as an outgrowth of the Research Group on Theology and Conservation of the Faculty Christian Fellowship, FMN was formed in the fall of 1965.¹

During the nine years of its activity the group carried on a program that broke much new ground. Having at length, however, reached the operational limits imposed by its largely volunteer basis of functioning in a field now greatly expanded in acceptance and activity, the group’s executive committee recently decided (1) to terminate its own pioneering program, with gratitude that it had borne significant fruit in a critical time, and (2) to encourage new organizational initiative, adequate to the changed circumstances, that would provide continuity of attack and communication, nurture interdisciplinary interchange, and furnish the needed financial support, including the paid services of a facilitator-director. We believe that there is great need for such a solidly established successor enterprise and that it might flourish best in a setting that would furnish a strong seminary, university, and environmental studies setting. …
¹ My Conservation—Theological Foundations, Faith-Learning Study, no. 6 (New York: National Council of Churches, 1964), was prepared in anticipation of the August 1964 meeting of this research group, out of which FMN was later formed.

Philip N. Joranson, lecturer at Manchester Community College, Manchester, Connecticut, was chairman of the Faith-Man-Nature Group. Editor’s Note:
This story on the Faith-Man-Nature Group is another in the Zygon series on institutions that have been operating to relate religion and science.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1977.tb00306.x

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