The papers that appear in this issue comprise another contribution to what has been an ongoing topic of concern for Zygon and its readers, the topic popularly referred to as the is/ought question. This concern is consistent with the attention that this journal has been giving to the discussion of values. Regular readers know well that the editors have expressed the view that the malaise of our time is due in large part to a confusion about values, just as we have suggested that both science and religion play a critical role in discerning the values that can sustain human life and the environing world and in reinforcing and implementing those values. The is/ought question has been on the horizon also in our effort to throw light on the interaction between the pictures of reality that emerge from the sciences and the understanding of reality that the religions set forth. If the scientific pictures can be said to represent the is, the religious understandings set forth the ought, and in the effort to relate the two considerable light is thrown on the general problem.
If the authors who appear in Zygon were not themselves sensitive to the fact their probings touch on the problem of is/ought, their critics would surely remind them. Two of the most substantial comments published in recent years have lifted up an alleged carelessness or unclarity on the is/ought question as a major criticism of our work: James Gustafsons Theology Confronts Technology and the Life Sciences, Commonweal (June 16, 1978) and Langdon Gilkeys Religion and the Scientific Future (New York: Harper & Row, 1974). The articles in this issue may serve as another chapter in the response to such critics.
Until a few years ago the prevailing view has been that the is/ought paradox might never be really resolved. But within the last few years, at least from a decision-science perspective, the issue has almost disappeared because (in the light of our new understanding of both biological and computerized decision systems) the resolution of the paradox seems obvious. Of course within the framework of formal philosophy there are probably many unresolved issues, but from an objective scientific perspective the issue now appears to be resolved.
The new scientific perspective corresponds closely to an old philosophical insight, which is sometimes expressed as follows. We may be free to do as we like, but are we free to choose what we will like? The answer of course is that we cannot really choose what we like (or what we enjoy) because the sensations of liking or disliking seem to be built into us. They are such an essential part of our personality that if they were to change it would be as if we had become someone else. …
George Edgin Pugh is president, Decision-Science Applications, Inc., 1500 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 810, Arlington, Virginia 22209.
The Social and the Biological: A Necessary Unity by Daniel G. Freedman
It is undoubtedly true, writes the sociobiologist David P. Barash, that genetic factors are less influential in the behavior of Homo sapiens than they are for any other species.¹ The image I get from remarks like this, inasmuch as man has no fewer genes than other mammals, is that of DNA molecules sitting around and twiddling their base pairs. If Barash is talking about learning, we will get none without the active, appropriate genes. If the reference is to free will, try not using your free will. It is clearly not possible, for human free will is as basic as the heart beat, and logically each must be accounted for in the DNA blueprint for the species. …
¹ David P. Barash, Evolution as a Paradigm of Behavior, in Sociobiology and Human Nature, ed. M. S. Gregory, A. Silvers, and D. Sutch (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1978), p. 28.
Daniel G. Freedman is professor of behavioral sciences, University of Chicago, 5730 South Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60637. This paper is dedicated to Gregory Bateson, who passed away in July 1980. The title is a paraphrase of his Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1979).
An Evolutionary Hypothesis about Teaching and Proselytizing Behaviors by Robert B. Glassman
Although it is tautologically obvious that an organisms hereditary material will survive only if its bearer behaves in such a way as to allow it to survive, there has been much argument related to this and other corollaries of the principle of natural selection that concern the affairs of human beings. My purpose is to try to resolve some of this debate about hereditary versus cultural sources of knowledge by offering a supplemental theory of human motivation. Psychological theories have dealt most clearly with human motivations such as feeding, temperature regulation, sexuality, and sleep, whose rituals must be played through relatively brief cyclic intervals. Other motivations such as those for friendship or creative expression have less obvious significances for survival and often have seemed more amenable to romanticism than to scientific theorizing. I will attempt to show the logical possibility that certain human motives, though associated neither with creature comforts nor with immediate life-and-death contingencies, are nevertheless part of our biological heritage, selected for their long-range survival value. While the arguments can be generalized to pertain to many behaviors of individuals in their relations with groups, the emphasis here is on the motives for and adaptive consequences of two similar sorts of behavior that are of the most central importance m the theory, that is, teaching and proselytizing. …
Robert B. Glassman is associate professor of psychology, Lake Forest College, Sheridan and College Roads, Lake Forest, Illinois 60045. The author thanks Ralph Wendell Burhoe for his comments and encouragement through several drafts of this paper, Karl E. Peters for his very detailed criticisms of two drafts, and an anonymous reviewer for suggesting several historically important references.
Biocultural Evolution and the Is/Ought Relationship by Solomon H. Katz
Science has one generally agreed upon value—it is truth seeking. Yet we are increasingly aware that the truth sought is highly relative to the society in which the problem, questions, and hypotheses are formulated. From the perspective of looking backward on history, each society appears to seek small and potentially culturally biased strips of truth which are difficult to separate from the context in which the particular truth was generated. The truth science seeks is probably not independent of other cultural values, and, whether science institutionally accepts it, its truths are intimately connected to the societys value structure. Broadly speaking, scientific truth on the basis that we now know it may be seen ultimately as no holier or ultimately less dogmatic than the holiness and dogmatism of religion. For example, one only has to witness physiology and medicine in recent years to understand the overwhelming human passion involved in the search for scientific truths. If science seeks truth, then we had better recognize that its questions are not nearly as dispassionate as its practitioners would like us to believe.¹ …
¹ J. D. Watsons double helix is an unusually good example of this phenomenon.
Solomon H. Katz is professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, 33rd and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104.
The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible.
No Thank you. I dont think Nature intended us to drink while flying.
New Yorker Cartoon
One truth is clear: whatever is, is right.
Lhomme nest que ce quil devient: vérité profonde. Lhomme ne devient que ce quil est: vérité plus profonde encore?
Some Preliminary Botany
Its good because its natural. This argument, which apparently entitles health food stores to charge more for organic vegetables, is also found in Aristotle: What is by nature proper to each thing will be at once the best and the most pleasant for it.¹ I will call it the positive naturalist argument.
The negative naturalist argument is the one offered by the Catholic Church (and others) against buggery or contraception: Its bad because its unnatural.
The two arguments are independent. You could believe that what is natural is to be commended while being quite indifferent about the unnatural, or conversely. But both are naturalist in preferring the natural to the unnatural. In this they contrast with corresponding variants of antinaturalism. …
¹ Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics 1178a. 6-7.
Ronald de Sousa is associate professor of philosophy, University of Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A1, Canada.
Are Religious Beliefs Enabling Mechanisms for Survival? by William H. Austin
Near the beginning of On Human Nature Edward O. Wilson declares that traditional religious beliefs have been eroded, not so much by humiliating disproofs of their mythologies as by the growing awareness that beliefs are really enabling mechanisms for survival.¹ Theologians, if they are to any substantial extent traditionalists, presumably will reply that religious beliefs primarily indicate means of salvation or even, in some traditions, that they are means of salvation.
As a historical thesis Wilsons claim is open to serious question. The humiliating disproofs probably have been more important than he suggests, and the general awareness that other cultures have other, competing mythologies surely has been a major factor in the overall decline of religious belief in the West since the eighteenth century. But his further claim that a sociobiological explanation of religious beliefs will destroy (rightly) their hold on people still could be correct.² It is that claim that I want to examine in this paper. I shall pursue two questions. First, assuming that Wilsons explanatory efforts are successful, is there any reason to think that explaining religious beliefs and their underlying motivations should discredit them? Second, will sociobiological explanations of religion work, or are there major features of religious belief and practice that defy explanation by any theory of the kind Wilson proposes? (I am using the term sociobiology to refer to the unified science of evolutionary biology and the social sciences that Wilson envisages, without prejudice to the question how important genetics will turn out to be when we come to explain things like religion.) …
¹ Edward O. Wilson, On Human Nature (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977), p. 3.
² Ibid., p. 192 and chap. 8 passim.
William H. Austin is professor of philosophy, University of Houston, Houston, Texas 77004.
Survival is a concept that links religion and science in that it figures prominently in the concerns of both enterprises. Consequently survival is a concept which forms a place of meeting and dialogue between science and religion. As such we can expect that survival not only opens up avenues for observing the interaction of the two but also illumines the way in which tensions arise between them and even why that tension is at times accentuated. In what follows I present eight basic theses that have arisen in my own theological reflection upon the meaning of survival. The theses obviously do not present the resolution of important problems so much as they clarify the questions themselves. …
Philip Hefner is professor of systematic theology at the Lutheran School of Theology, 1100 East 55th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60615.
Evolutionary Naturalism: Survival as a Value by Karl E. Peters
Evolutionary naturalism is a dominant viewpoint in the contemporary scientific community; it is the main paradigm for most if not all biological scientists and for some physical scientists and social scientists. For the purpose of this paper evolutionary naturalism may be described as follows: First, the realm of nature is all there is; there is no supernatural in the sense of a realm of knowable reality totally other than that which is open to some possible interpretation of everyday experience by some possible scientific theories. Second, nature is dynamic; it evolves. Change is not merely an appearance or an indication of a second-class reality but is essential to the way things are. Third, at least at the level of life, the evolution of nature is best understood by updated Darwinian mechanisms: a continuing inheritance by the replication of major bodies of information; continual, essentially random, small variations of these information systems; and environmental selection pressures favoring the reproduction of some variations over others and thus modifying in small steps the information heritage.
This viewpoint of evolutionary naturalism can be adopted with varying degrees of ease by liberal theists who stress the immanence of God, by pantheists who equate the universe with God, by religious humanists, and by agnostic and atheistic humanists. However, those who try to do their theological and philosophical reflection within the framework of evolutionary naturalism are often called upon to respond to questions regarding the significance of survival. Is reproductive success an important enough value on which to base a human beings life? Of course we all want to survive and pass on our heritage in some form or other to future generations, but is there not more to life than surviving or having offspring? If mere survival is all there is to living, do we not have a pretty paltry picture of ourselves?¹ The thrust of this kind of questioning is to imply that the survival spoken of by evolutionary naturalism is rather simplistic and trivial as far as values are concerned.
I would like to suggest that the idea of survival can be regarded as denoting a very complex process of the preservation and creation of knowledge. As such survival indeed may be an important value to affirm. Indeed it may be a central value of a religious outlook, worthy of, in Paul Tillichs words, ultimate concern. I shall support this claim, first, by discussing what it is exactly that survives; second, by discussing how surviving is related to creating; and, third, by suggesting that the significance of an individuals life must be based more on the past and present than the future. …
¹ The question of survival as a religious value is posed effectively by Philip Hefner, Survival as a Human Value, in this issue.
Karl E. Peters, Zygon editor, is associate professor of philosophy and religion, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida 32789.
Edward O. Wilson in a chapter entitled From Sociobiology to Sociology of his monumental Sociobiology: The New Synthesis suggests that scientists and humanists should consider together the possibility that the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands of philosophers and be biologicized.¹ Although most scientists have joined humanists in disdaining this suggestion, this is exactly what has happened. I can think of no better example of the biologicization of ethics than the theologian-scientist Ralph Wendell Burhoes paper, Religions Role in Human Evolution: The Missing Link between Ape-Mans Selfish Genes and Civilized Altruism, which is written with a sophistication and command of genetic and evolutionary theory until very recently expected only of a handful of specialists or their graduate students at the most prestigious universities.² …
¹ Edward O. Wilson, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975.)
² Ralph Wendell Burhoe, Religions Role in Human Evolution: The Missing Link between Ape-Mans Selfish Genes and Civilized Altruism. Zygon 14 (June 1979): 135-62.
Max Hamburgh is professor and program director in anatomical sciences. Sophie Davis School of Medicine, City College of New York, Convent Avenue at 138th Street, New York, New York 10031.
The Study of Religion and Its Meaning by J. E. Barnhart, reviewed by Robert A. Segal