Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
15 (1), March 1980

Table of Contents


March 1980 Editorial by Karl E. Peters

A primary objective of Zygon is to explore seriously and sympathetically various ways in which the “culture” of the sciences can be yoked with the “culture” of religion, philosophy, and the other humanities. Many Zygon articles have conducted these explorations from an evolutionary perspective. From this point of view it is possible to formulate, on the basis of contemporary scientific knowledge, a picture of our human nature in which the basic emotions, drives, principles, and values that guide our behavior are shaped by ongoing, complex genetic and cultural interactions. The same genetic and cultural processes also have produced our brain/minds, which are capable of recognizing conceptually that the genetic and cultural programs guiding human behavior are not always in harmony within themselves or with each other. Furthermore, our brain/minds are capable of resolving conflicts between the various things that guide behavior, and thus each of us has opportunities to participate in the further creation of values.

This picture of humanity suggests two ways of relating constructively the sciences and inquiry about values. The first is to explore more precisely with the help of various sciences how human beings are created as, in George Edgin Pugh’s phrase, “value-driven decision systems.” Upcoming issues on “scientific fact and value affirmation” and on “sociobiology and religion” will present essays that carry this approach often used in Zygon still further. The second way is to explore to what degree the human thinking that attempts to resolve conflicts between values might be scientific.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1980.tb00371.x

Is Ethics a Science?

Ethics—a Modest Science by Abraham Edel

Traditional views place science and ethics at opposite poles among human disciplines. Science is objective, theoretical, concerned with describing and explaining the facts or what is, dealing with means; ethics is subjective, practical, prescriptive, concerned with values and what ought to be, focused on choice and decision, and dealing with ends (particularly ultimate ends). Science thus is value free, and so scientists make ethical decisions as citizens, not as scientists. And ethics, not leaning on science, must rest either on faith or on individual taste and intuition or else on group preference and tradition. …
Abraham Edel is research professor of philosophy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1980.tb00372.x

Is Ethics a Science? by R. B. Brandt

An obvious prerequisite for intelligent discussion of the question “Is ethics a science?” is some agreement on what the word “science” is used to mean. I shall simply state briefly what I take the term “science” to mean, with the hope that my suggestion will command rather general assent. I suggest that we use “a science” to refer to any organized body of objective knowledge. It is intended by this definition to exclude commonsense knowledge of particular truths, such as the location of my apartment or the condition of my bicycle or the raw data of the census taker, on the ground that such truths do not comprise an organized body of knowledge. It is intended to exclude fiction (e.g., science fiction, expressions of appreciation of artistic work, exhortations to patriotic sacrifice, expressions of aspirations or ideals, and so on) as not constituting knowledge. I have spoken of objective knowledge, but the term “objective” is not really doing any work. All I mean by objective knowledge is a set of beliefs about some subject matter which are warranted in an appropriate way, through support either by observations or by whatever kind of reflection in the areas of logic and mathematics is taken to be sufficient to support a conclusion. This definition allows, say, engineering to be a science even though the principles it applies are borrowed from physics or chemistry. The definition would allow also that a piece of historical writing is a part of science, just as much as the cosmological part of astronomy; imaginative reconstruction may be only fiction, but when a hypothesis is shown to fit the evidence best I see no reason why it should not be regarded as part of science. One can define “a science” more narrowly, if one likes, say, as the laws and theories which we must believe because they are the only relatively simple laws and theories which explain the data of observation. …
R. B. Brandt is professor of philosophy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48104.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1980.tb00373.x

Is Ethics a Science? Ought it to be? by Marcus G. Singer

In pondering the question that has been put to us (“Is ethics a science?”) I more than once found myself of two minds, or even more, with regard to it. I came to think that I could write a paper arguing that it is and that I also could write a paper arguing that it is not. And it further occurred to me that the really important question is not whether ethics as it is and has been is already at present a science but whether it can be and, even more important, whether it ought to be, whether it would be a good thing if it were. Clearly a distinction is called for among different senses of ethics, among different things and activities that go by or can go by that name. It turns out as well that a distinct, relevant, and usable sense must be attached to the term “science,” which would be true to science as it is and can be and also capable of rewarding speculation, for it becomes apparent early on that here the appeal to ordinary use is of no use. It is another fact worth noting that our question is not just a philosophical question, as it is, but itself a question of ethics. It becomes clear enough then that ethics, at this level of abstraction, is not a science, for our question, though a question of ethics, is not a question of science. …
Marcus G. Singer is professor of philosophy, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706. This paper is dedicated to the memory of Richard Rudner, my good friend for over thirty years, who died, too young, July 27, 1979. For many years a member of the AAAS and for seventeen years editor-in-chief of Philosophy of Science, he was long concerned with this topic and made his own valuable contributions to it. Though I am sure he would not agree with all that I have to say, and though we now are deprived of the opportunity of finding out what his response would be, on this, one of his special topics, it is my hope that this paper will be not altogether unworthy of his memory.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1980.tb00374.x

The Rationality of Values by Bruce B. Wavell

While most people today take scientific statements to be rational, objective, impartial, and based on empirical evidence, they view values and value judgments very differently. These, they assume, are expressions of individual feeling, religious belief, or social convention, which are necessarily nonrational, subjective, partial, and by their very nature incapable of being justified.

My aim in this paper is to show that this view involves a gross misrepresentation of both science and values. In the first section I argue that science, both pure and applied, is based on value judgments. In pure science the acceptance and rejection of hypotheses are based on evaluations, while major policy decisions are based on deliberation. In applied science decisions on whether to accept and use hypotheses for practical purposes are based likewise on deliberation. Some scientists are horrified at the suggestion that scientific method involves the making of value judgments. The material in this section allows me to draw a very different conclusion, namely, that because science is rational, its unavoidable dependence on values and value judgments implies that these too are rational.

In the second section I argue that there is no essential difference between the uses of values and value judgments in the humanities and their uses in science. Hence if their uses in science are rational then so also are their uses in the humanities; differences in precision and liability to bias, prejudice, and perversion do not alter this fact. I conclude with a brief discussion of some of the practical implications of the view I am advocating, namely, that values and value judgments are rational. …
Bruce B. WaveII is William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Philosophy, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida 32789.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1980.tb00375.x

Ecology and the Death of Providence by Garrett Hardin

Why are ecologists and environmentalists so feared and hated? This is because in part what they have to say is new to the general public, and the new is always alarming. Moreover, the practical recommendations deduced from ecological principles threaten the vested interests of commerce; it is hardly surprising that the financial and political power created by these investments should be used sometimes to suppress environmental impact studies. However, I think the major opposition to ecology has deeper roots than mere economics; ecology threatens widely held values so fundamental that they must be called religious. An attack on values is inevitably seen as an act of subversion. …
Garrett Hardin, professor emeritus of human ecology, University of California, Santa Barbara, is chief executive officer, Environmental Fund, 1302 Eighteenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1980.tb00376.x

Persons in the Universe by Ernan McMullin

The astronomical discoveries of recent decades have given fresh impetus to the speculation that there may well be persons like us in many other parts of the galactic universe. What would the implications of such a state of affairs be for traditional religious beliefs? Could one still take the Christian doctrines of incarnation and redemption seriously if there were millions of developed civilizations dotted throughout the universe?

This is the stuff of science fiction, one of whose central themes always has been the effect on the human perspective of scientific advances. Arthur C. Clarke comes back to it again and again, most notably in Childhood’s End, in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and in his most often anthologized short story, “Star.” Frank Herbert’s Dune trilogy describes the coming of a messiah on a distant, different planet. James Blish and Walter Miller found one of their most effective themes in the impact on religious faith of the discovery of thriving civilizations elsewhere in the galaxy. …
Ernan McMullin is professor of philosophy and director of the program in history and philosophy of science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1980.tb00377.x


Oughtopia by Young Seek Choue, reviewed by Ervin Laszlo

Ervin Laszlo; Special Fellow; U.N. Institute for Training and Research
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1980.tb00378.x

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