Out of the dreaming past, with its legends of steaming seas and gleaming glaciers, mountains that moved and suns that glared, emerges this creature, man—the latest phase in a continuing process that stretches back to the beginning of life. He is the heritage of all that has lived; he still carries the vestiges of snout and fangs and claws of species long since vanished; he is the ancestor of all that is to come.
Do not regard him lightly—he is you.¹
Who and what exactly are we—we human beings, the products of over ten billion years of evolutionary history? What has created us and brought us to this moment of reflection? And where do we go from here? What guiding values can we find to illuminate our way into the darkness of a largely unknown future that we ourselves are helping to create?
Under its founding editor, Ralph Wendell Burhoe, Zygon has attempted continuously to respond to such questions of ultimate concern by using the knowledge of the contemporary sciences. In its pages scientists and religious thinkers have attempted to draw out the implications of recent, well-tested scientific research to further refine and reshape the long-evolved cultural wisdom embodied in the worlds religious and philosophical traditions. They have done this not simply to build bridges between the traditions of humanity and the discoveries of modern science but to provide better answers to fundamental questions of human existence.
¹ Don Fabun, as quoted by James L. Christian, Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering, 2d ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1977), p. 458.
Ever since René Descartes enunciated his dictum, Cogito ergo sum, philosophers have debated the relationship of mental phenomena to the material universe. Those of us in the laboratory trying to understand the relationship of brain anatomy and physiology to behavior and to subjective experience continually come up against this issue. The very words we use to describe our work—brain and experience—embody the problem. I believe the time has come to look at this problem once more but with the wisdom that ought to come from recent discoveries in the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences. The time does seem ripe. There has been a surge of publications on the topic.¹ However, there appears to be little in the way of wisdom or often even acquaintance with those scientific discoveries that bear directly on the issue. …
¹ See, e.g., R. W. Sperry, Neurology and the Mind-Brain Problem, American Scientist 40 (1952): 291-312; Gordon G. Globus, Mind, Structure and Contradiction, in Consciousness and the Brain: A Scientific and Philosophical Inquiry, ed. Gordon G. Globus, Grover Maxwell, and Irwin Savodnik (New York: Plenum Press, 1976), pp. 273-92; Karl R. Popper and John C. Eccles, The Self and Its Brain (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1977).
Karl H. Pribram is professor of neuroscience in the departments of psychology and of psychiatry and behavioral science, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305.
Eriksons Identity: An Essay on the Psychological Foundations of Religious Ethics by Walter E. Conn
The significance for religious ethics of Erik H. Eriksons study of psychosocial development has not gone unnoticed, though much work remains to be done to realize the rich possibilities that have been detected.¹ The concept of identity is in many respects the keystone of Eriksons work and at the same time one of its most popular but least understood aspects. Thus if Eriksons thought is ever to make its full contribution to ethics this central concept of identity must be clarified both in its own terms and in its relation to the conscious personal subject which stands at the heart of a religious ethics grounded in the radical drive of the human spirit for self-transcendence, the summons calling us to venture into a future of loving mutuality sustained by trust in the ultimate goodness of reality. This essay in conceptual analysis is a modest attempt then toward that fuller clarity (in many ways philosophys most important product). …
¹ See, e.g., William W. Meissner, Eriksons Truth: The Search for Ethical Identity, Theological Studies 31 (June 1970): 310-19, and Nicholas Piediscalzi, Erik H. Eriksons Contribution to Ethics (paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Atlanta, Georgia, October 28-31, 1971). Both papers deal only with Eriksons explicitly ethical thought. While recognizing the critical limitations of any psychoanalytic approach, I explicate some of the central elements of Eriksons contribution to ethics in my Erik Erikson: The Ethical Orientation, Conscience, and the Golden Rule, Journal of Religious Ethics 5 (Fall 1977): 249-66.
Walter E. Conn is associate professor of religious ethics, Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania 19085.
Religions Role in Human Evolution: The Missing Link between Ape-Mans Selfish Genes and Civilized Altruism by Ralph Wendell Burhoe
Drawing on an elaboration of recent scientific and scholarly evidence concerning the evolution of human nature, I seek to explain how it is that humans may manifest a kind of altruism not evident elsewhere in the biological world and to account for the unique role religion plays in the human segment of sociobiology. I am concerned also with the development of a more adequate scientific theory of religion, which perchance might revitalize a scientifically sound religious belief, reverse a decline in altruism, and prevent a new Dark Ages.
My general theory is that of a presently developing, general-systems evolutionary theory that seems to give new coherence to the description and explanation of the dynamic mechanisms that operate continually to extend the hierarchy of more or less stable states in cosmic evolution, states which include the persisting entities of biological and cultural evolution on earth and include even the microdynamics of psychosocial development in individual persons. …
Ralph Wendell Burhoe is research professor emeritus in theology and the sciences, Meadville/Lombard Theological School, and Zygons founding editor.
Quantum Physics and the Divine Postulate by Richard Schlegel
In a Zygon paper, The Image of God as a Model for Humanization, Karl E. Peters suggests that God be taken as the process of creation, that he be identified with the coming into being of new entities at all levels of existence—physical, biological, and cultural. God then is the creative process of random variation and natural selection, and, … if we speak of God as the process of creation, then God, at least in part, is a process that is becoming.¹ Further, Peters brings his naturalistically defined God within the scope of traditional theology by stating that, formally speaking, the word God signifies that which is comprehensive, related in some way to everything else in the universe, and that which is also most important or of highest value for man.² He argues that the creative process is related to all existence and is the most important thing of all because without it nothing else would exist. It therefore fulfills-the requirements set for the concept of God and yet is not of the kind of supreme supernatural being concept that many people see as a barrier to the use of the term God.
There is substantial merit, I believe, in Peterss proposal, but also it has, I would say, at least one obvious defect, which I will discuss later. In any event it is unlikely that any single proposed definition of God is going to carry the day in the way, say, that a scientists proposed definition of a new physical unit might be found useful and in a few years be virtually universally adopted. …
¹ Karl E. Peters, The Image of God as A Model for Humanization, Zygon 9 (June 1974): 112.
² Ibid., pp. 112-13.
Richard Schlegel is professor of physics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824.
The Daughter of Is by Michael Davidson, reviewed by Sanborn C. Brown