The mythopoeic drive can be harnessed to learning and the rational search for human progress if we finally concede that scientific materialism is itself a mythology defined in the noble sense. …
The core of scientific materialism is the evolutionary epic. Let me repeat its minimum claims: that the laws of the physical sciences are consistent with those of the biological and social sciences and can be linked in chains of causal explanation; that life and mind have a physical basis; that the world as we know it has evolved from earlier worlds obedient to the same laws; and that the visible universe today is everywhere subject to these materialist explanations. The epic can be indefinitely strengthened up and down the line, but its most sweeping assertions cannot be proved with finality.
What I am suggesting, in the end, is that the evolutionary epic is probably the best myth we will ever have.
Edward O. Wilson
There are at least three general ways in which the contemporary sciences present challenges to religious thinking. The first comes from specific scientific discoveries and technologies such as genetic engineering, new developments in neurobiology, and the use of artificial intelligence in complex decision making. Any religious thinking that considers human nature and purpose should take such findings into account. A second challenge comes from the establishment in science of fundamental principles or theories that have such general application they function as constraints even on philosophers and theologians who consider the course of human existence or the history of the natural world. The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution and the second law of thermodynamics are examples.
Arguing that the revolution in postmodern physics is concerned essentially not with a change in paradigm but with a change in interpretive standpoint, this paper explores a parallel between the aetiology of disease in Buddhism and the interpretive standpoint introduced by twentieth-century quantum physics. The paper suggests a need to revise central interpretive assumptions of the natural and human sciences, including the traditional projection of an atomistic self.
Dawne C. McCance is assistant professor of religion, St. Johns College, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada R3T 2N2.
Taoism and Biological Science by Raymond J. Barnett
The seemingly disparate systems of philosophical Taoism and modern biological science are compared. A surprising degree of similarity is found in their views on death, reversion (cyclicity of phenomena), complementary interactions of dichotomous systems, and the place of humans in the universe. The thesis is advanced that these similarities arise quite naturally, since both systems base their knowledge upon objective observation of natural phenomena. Substantial differences between the two systems are recognized and examined regarding verbal argument, machinery, and experimentation. The Taoists relationship to Chinese alchemy and the biologists to technology are claimed to mitigate their attitudes toward experimentation.
Raymond J. Barnett is professor of biological sciences at California State University, Chico, California 95929. He received his B.A. in Chinese history at Yale University, his Ph.D. in zoology at Duke University, and has recently completed an historical novel set in China.
Pascals Syndrome: Positivism as a Symptom of Depression and Mania by Hiram Caton
The present study applies results and methods of psychobiology to intellectual history. Pascals syndrome is a depressive neurosis associated with morbid effects of scientific certainty. The syndrome is characterized by self-mortification and conversion experience that represses distressing certainties. The dynamics of the syndrome are assessed from Blaise Pascals psychosis. The ideation of the syndrome is evaluated by reference to the neurology of altered states of consciousness and the biogenic amine hypothesis of depression and mania. The evaluation yields a description of the relation between psychogenic and biogenic factors in the syndromes etiology.
Hiram Caton is professor of intellectual history, Griffith University, Brisbane, 4111, Australia. The author wishes to add: My thanks to the National Humanities Center and to the Australian Research Grants Committee for support. Dr. Larry Evans advised on diagnostic particulars. For comments on the manuscript I wish to thank John Cawte, University of New South Wales School of Medicine; Bernard Davis, Harvard Medical School; Robert Eden, Dalhousie University; Derek Freeman, Australian National University; Paul D. MacLean, National Institute of Mental Health; Maurice Mandelbaum, Dartmouth College; Robert S. Wallerstein, Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute; and E. O. Wilson, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.
The shift from a pre-Copernican to a Copernican world view has caused an ever increasing sense of homelessness for the idea of a theistically conceived God. This paper first traces the historical development of this problem and its implications for the Christian faith. Next it presents some historically evolved rescue attempts and examines them critically. Then follows an inquiry concerning the biblical understanding of Gods relation to space and a critical presentation of some contemporary proposals to make Gods presence intelligible. In conclusion we propose a dimensional model of relating God and the world, a model which allows for a reasonable discourse of Gods immanence and transcendence.
Hans Schwarz is professor of systematic theology and contemporary theological issues and presently also dean of the philosophy division, Regensburg University, 8400 Regensburg, West Germany.
The Natural God: A God Even an Atheist Can Believe In by Joel I. Friedman
In this paper, I attempt to dissolve the theism/atheism boundary. In the first part, I consider last things, according to mainstream science. In the second part, I define the Natural God as the Force of Nature—evolving, unifying, maximizing—and consider Its relation to last things. Finally, I discuss our knowledge of the Natural God and Its relevance to our personal lives. I argue that we can know the Natural God through scientific reason combined with global intuition, and that this knowledge, from the perspective of last things, may help us achieve universal love, ethical action, and personal salvation.
Joel Friedman is professor of philosophy at the University of California, Davis, California 95616.
The Great Living System by John Ruskin Clark, reviewed by Donald Szantho Harrington