Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
25 (3), September 1990

Table of Contents


September 1990 Editorial by Philip Hefner

Multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives are of the essence of this journal’s enterprise. Our very name, Zygon, bespeaks the multidisciplinary dimension, since. it means “to yoke” two or more approaches to truth, the approach of religion and those of the sciences. That yoking is not possible at all unless the interdisciplinary comes into play as mutually enriching conversation and learning across the boundaries of these approaches.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1990.tb00790.x

The Relationships between the Disciplines

Biology and the Social Sciences by Edward O. Wilson

The sciences may be conceptualized as a hierarchy ranked by level of organization (e. g., many-body physics ranks above particle physics). Each science serves as an antidiscipline for the science above it; that is, between each pair, tense but creative interplay is inevitable. Biology has advanced through such tension between its subdisciplines and now can serve as an antidiscipline for the social sciences—for anthropology, for example, by examining the connection between cultural and biological evolution; for psychology, by addressing the nature of learning and the structure of the unconscious; for economics, by examining economically irrational behavior and by comparing economic activity in humans and other species. Sociology, concerned mainly with advanced literate societies, is relatively remote from the genetic basis of human social behavior. However, moving between biological and social levels of organization generates richness and points to new and unexpected principles.
antidiscipline • biological evolution • cultural evolution • economic theory • genetic determinism • learning theory • psychoanalytic theory • relationships between scientific disciplines
Edward O. Wilson is Baird Professor of Science and Curator in Entomology at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1990.tb00791.x

Misconceptions of the Social Sciences by Robert A. Segal

Scholars in religious studies, or “religionists,” often mischaracterize the social-scientific study of religion. They assume that a social-scientific analysis of the origin, function, meaning, or truth of religion either opposes or disregards the believer’s analysis, which religionists profess to present and defend. I do not argue that the social sciences analyze religion from the believer’s point of view. I argue instead that a social-scientific analysis is more akin and germane to the believer’s point of view than religionists assume. I single out seven mischaracterizations of the social sciences typically held by religionists.
believer’s point of view • Berger • Eliade • Freud • function • irreducibly religious • meaning • origin • social-scientific
Robert A. Segal is professor of religious studies at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1990.tb00792.x

Scientism, Interpretation, and Criticism by Philip S. Gorski

What is the relationship between natural science, social science, and religion? The dominant paradigm in contemporary social science is scientism, the attempt to apply the methods of natural science to the study of society. However, scientism is problematic: it rests on a conception of natural science that cannot be sustained. Natural scientific understanding emerges from an instrumental and objectifying relation to the world; it is oriented toward control and manipulation of the physical world. Social-scientific understanding, by contrast, must begin with a practical and meaningful relation to the world: it is oriented toward the mediation of values and objective possibilities in the social world. Social science is therefore a form of practical reason based on objective claims. But while social-scientific understanding starts with interpretation, its possibilities by no means end there. In particular, by developing abstract and objectified models of society as a system, social science opens existing social organization to critical reflection. Religion, by contrast, is a form of speculative reason about ultimate values, based on subjective claims of religious experience. Social science nevertheless shares with religion an orientation toward values and concern with the “good life.”
critical reason • hermeneutics • instrumental reason • meaning • model • practical reason • pragmatic criterion • praxis • scientism
Philip S. Gorski is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology, Barrows Hall, the University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720. The author is indebted to Professor Robert N. Bellah, whose seminar onJürgen Habermas and lectures on the sociology of religion—as well as many conversations—inspired and clarified this work.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1990.tb00793.x

Theology and the Social Sciences—Discipline and Antidiscipline by Nancey Murphy

In this review of papers by E. O. Wilson, Philip Gorski, and Robert Segal, I apply Wilson’s description of the relations between a discipline and its antidiscipline (the science just below it in the hierarchy of sciences) to the relations between theology and the social sciences. I claim (contra Gorski) that a common methodology is applicable to natural science, social science, and theology. However, despite the fact that a discipline cannot ordinarily be reduced to its antidiscipline, I claim (with Segal) that it remains to be shown that a theistic interpretation of religious phenomena is superior to a social-scientific explanation. I see this as work to be done rather than an impossibility. Insofar as it is shown that theology cannot be reduced to social-scientific explanations, support is provided for the hypothesis of the existence of God.
antidiscipline • Philip Gorski • Robert Segal • social sciences • relation to theology • E. O. Wilson
Nancey Murphy is Assistant Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Seminary, Pasadena, California 91182. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and doctorates in both theology and philosophy (specializing in the philosophy of the natural and the social sciences).
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1990.tb00794.x

Theology as the Queen (Bee) of the Disciplines? by Kenneth Vaux

Once Queen of the Medieval court of sciences, dethroned theology may be able in our time to play a strategic servant role in rightly humiliating, elevating, and ordering the disciplines, in gadflying like a mutant honeybee, generating surprise and serendipity through the intermediacy of social science, and in offering ethical homing direction to the disciplines in their applied endeavors.
biology • ethics • medicine • social science • theology
Kenneth Vaux is Professor of Ethics in Medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago, 808 S. Wood Street, Chicago, Illinois 60680. He is a member of the Program in Medical Humanities and the Department of Medical Education and Medicine.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1990.tb00795.x


Ralph Wendell Burhoe: His Life and His Thought: I. Perceiving the Problem and Envisioning the Solution by David R. Breed

This is the first of four installments by the author, presenting an intellectual biography of Ralph Wendell Burhoe. This first segment follows Burhoe from his college years at Harvard through the founding of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science in 1954. In this period, after his college and seminary study, Burhoe worked at Harvard’s Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory and as executive officer of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Throughout his early life he had been concerned with how religion could maintain its credibility as a bearer of truth vis-à-vis the sciences, which were displacing religion not only among leading intellectuals, but also in other segments of society. The founding of lRAS provided an important instrument for dealing with this concern.
American Academy of Arts and Sciences • Ralph Wendell Burhoe • Coming Great Church • Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) • religion • science
David R. Breed is an independent scholar and systems consultant living at 5218 S. Dorchester Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60615.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1990.tb00796.x


The Second Medical Revolution: From Biomedicine to Infomedicine by Laurence Foss and Kenneth Rothenburg and A Process Theory of Medicine: Interdisciplinary Essays edited by Marcus P. Ford, reviewed by Robert Lyman Potter

Robert Lyman Potter; Private Practice of Internal Medicine; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Kansas University School of Medicine; Adjunct Professor of Religion and Medicine, Central Baptist Theological Seminary; Kansas City, Kansas; Ph.D. Candidate, University of Chicago Divinity School
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1990.tb00797.x


Earthstruck: A reflection on The Home Planet, edited by Kelvin W. Kelly, and “The Conquest of Space and the Stature of Man” by Hannah Arendt by James E. Huchingson

In 1968 in an essay responding to exhilaration over American successes in space, Hannah Arendt wrote cautiously about the potential of spaceflight for good (“The Conquest of Space and the Stature of Man,” in Between Past and Present; New York: Viking). She expressed reservations about the benefits of looking down upon Earth from orbit and the changes in attitude this vantage point would bring. Specifically, Arendt feared that the sheer remoteness of the astronaut’s orbital gyre from the surface of the planet would numb his (or her) empathetic connections with the world below. The distance and detachment brought about by the achievement of Einstein’s ideal of the scientist (the “observer freely poised in space”) would encourage us to see ourselves as a form of collective biological behavior, capable of systematic manipulation by “the same methods we use to study the behavior of rats.” …
James E. Huchingson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Florida International University, Miami.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1990.tb00798.x

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