A central question in various religions is: What is the nature of the largely invisible system of reality in which we live and move and have our being, and what does that nature imply for our destiny—meaning, hopes, and duties in the scheme of things? Central to the mission of Zygon is to show that the sciences essentially confirm that the traditional religions were valid in discerning that this system of reality is not ourselves, does not necessarily countenance whatever we may happen to want, and yet is on the whole a gracious determiner of the destiny of what is most sacred or of ultimate concern to us. To clarify the thesis that science is the most able friend rather than the most devastating foe of traditional theology and religion is the aim of this issue of Zygon. It is the response I promised in my editorial on page 3 of this volume, where I introduced our publication of five essays representing reasons for widespread disbelief on the part of both scientists and theologians in our claim that today to be relevant we must have scientific theology and indeed we can.
First in this issue is a reprinting of a classic paper by F. S. C. Northrop of our editorial advisory board, who more than thirty years ago expressed more cogently than most of us can today our basic theses that the first requirement for the restoration of the integrity of Western religion is the revival of confidence in religions alleged but unseen realities and that for this no department of Western knowledge is more effective than natural science.
The instruments for the control of technology for good ends are morality and religion. Consequently never before was the need for an effective moral and religious knowledge more pressing than it is today. Unless we can find a social morality and a religion with the power to win men to its ways everywhere throughout the world mankind may be doomed.
The unique character of World War II points to the same conclusion. Strictly speaking, this war was the first world war. The previous war was a purely European conflict. World War II, on the other hand, started in the Orient when the Japanese invaded Manchuria. It then spread and encircled the world.
These facts mean that the issues confronting us now in peace as well as in war are worldwide issues, affecting the Orient as much as they affect the Occident. It becomes evident also that the problem confronting our world now becomes that not merely of reconciling conflicting Western nationalistic and humanistic ideologies but also of peacefully merging the radically different political, moral, and religious values of the East with those of the West. For such an undertaking a truly global, as opposed to a provincially Eastern or a provincially Western, morality and religion are essential. …
F. S. C. Northrop is Sterling Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Law, Yale University.
A Thermodynamic Theory of the Origin and Hierarchical Evolution of Living Systems by H. J. Hamilton
Growing interest in the origin of life, the physical foundations of biological theory, and the evolution of animal social systems has led to increasing efforts to understand the processes by which elements or living systems at one level of organizational complexity combine to form stable systems of higher order. J. Bronowski saw the need to extend or reformulate evolutionary theory to deal with the hierarchy problem and to account for the evolution of systems of stratified stability. The hierarchy problem has become a matter of great interest also in nonequilibrium thermodynamic theory.
An effort is made here to develop an abstract, phenomenological model, based on the laws of thermodynamics, to account for the origin and hierarchical evolution of living systems. It is argued that the principle of minimum entropy production, developed by 1. Prigogine, applies generally to all thermodynamic systems and processes and is implicit in an extended and more complete formulation of the second law of thermodynamics. From this are derived a thermodynamic criterion and a principle of thermodynamic selection governing the formation of stable systems of elements of various levels of organization. Thermodynamic selection gives rise to the creation of elements having increasingly open characteristic structures which may combine spontaneously to form social or crystalline systems capable of growing and reproducing themselves through processes of fissioning or budding. Such simple, self-reproducing systems are capable of evolving by natural selection, which is seen to be a special case of the more general process of thermodynamic selection. The principle of natural selection, thus formulated, has the character of a fundamental physical law. Self-reproducing systems with suitably open hereditary programs may combine to form stable social systems, which may grow and reproduce as a unit. In this way self-reproducing systems of increasing hierarchical order, size, and organizational complexity may evolve through processes of thermodynamic (natural) selection. Some implications of this open-ended model and opportunities for testing its empirical and theoretical utility are explored.
H. J. Hamilton is a fellow of the Center for World Studies, Inc., Granada Hills, California.
What Does Determine Human Destiny?—Science Applied to Interpret Religion by Ralph Wendell Burhoe
What does determine human destiny? The operations of an omnipotent, sovereign God proclaimed by traditional religions as the Lord of History that predestines all, or the operations of sciences nature, which, with its invariant laws and arbitrarily given circumstances, may be a mechanism within which the successive stages of its patterns (including those of man) are determined?
In my paper entitled >The Human Prospect and the Lord of History (to which I shall hereafter refer as my Lord of History) I sought to bring together considerable evidence that the two answers are equivalent at the intellectual level.¹ But from my scientific analysis of religion I understand religion to be more fundamental for human life than science, just as a scientific perspective tells. me that my food is more fundamental than my science. I also understand that religion has become increasingly impotent to appeal to a scientifically informed mind and civilization. Therefore I suggested how an awareness of the intellectual equivalence might make possible a scientific theology that could revitalize religions capacity to motivate mans morale and morals so as to enable him to be viable in a culture dominated by science and its technologies. But my claims for a scientific theology have been challenged as to both its scientific authenticity and its capacity to revitalize religion. I believe the challenges stem largely from a lack of understanding of the scientific grounds on the basis of which I seek to interpret religion and a failure to appreciate how beautifully this confirms the basic wisdom of traditional religion. The challenges therefore stem from my failure to communicate, and this paper will be an essay to remedy this communication. …
¹ Ralph Wendell Burhoe, >The Human Prospect and the Lord of History, Zygon 10 (1975): 299-375.
Ralph Wendell Burhoe is Zygon editor and director of the Center for Advanced Study in Religion and Science, affiliated with the Chicago Cluster of Theological Schools.
Science and Religion and The New Consciousness in Science and Religion by Harold Schilling, reviewed by W. Richard Comstock