What is the primary challenge that the sciences pose to religion and theology? For many persons in our Western society (presumably not those who read this journal), the issue is whether science proves religion to be true or false. As simplistic as this view appears, it may indeed be more widespread in the public mind than we want to admit. In an alternative view science challenges religious thinking to take account of scientific understandings and interpret them in a useful manner. When the challenge is put in these terms, our attention focuses on how science addresses theology rather than religion. Theology is the theoretical component of religion; its ideas and concepts seek to interpret the richness of religions concrete elements in a coherent fashion.
My account of the recent turnabout in the treatment of mental states in science and its basis in a modified concept of causal determinism and my claim that this opens the way for beliefs and values consistent with science are here reaffirmed in response to perceived weaknesses and inherent incompleteness. Contested issues are reviewed to better clarify the main thesis. An inherent weakness in respect to deep spiritual needs is recognized and tentative remedial measures explored.
emergent causation • metatheory • mind-brain relation • paradigm levels • religion and science
Roger w. Sperry is Board of Trustees Professor Emeritus of Psychobiology at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125. He wishes to thank Patricia Anderson for help in compiling the references and processing the manuscript. The work was funded by a grant to the California Institute of Technology for research on the mind-brain problem.
Exploring the Concept of Spirit as a Model for the God-World Relationship in the Age of Genetics by Lindon Eaves and Lora Gross
The cultural impact of genetics focuses the intellectual and moral challenge of science to theology. Many traditional images of God and the God-world relation are inadequate to represent religious ideas in a world whose self-understanding has been transformed by genetics. Such images also lack the power to help in approaching the ethical challenges of this new era. The way conceptions of the God-world relation can be modified in the light of genetic knowledge is explored by examining how far a new conception of Spirit can function alongside contemporary genetic views of human life in nature. The relationship between genetic theories of human behavior and evolution is related to the revised conception of Spirit.
behavior • DNA • evil • evolution • genetics • grace • immanence • natural selection • ontology • Spirit
Lindon Eaves is Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, P.O. Box 3 MCV Station, Richmond, VA 23298-0003. Lora Gross is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA 98447. Work on this paper was supported by the Pacific Lutheran University Interim Studies Program and by NIH grant #HG00487, Theological Questions Raised by the Human Genome Initiative. We thank Sue Eaves, Philip Hefner, and Ronald Cole-Turner for comments on earlier drafts.
Belief, Practice, and Religion by Ward H. Goodenough
How to reconcile belief in God with the worldview generated by modern science is a concern for those who see such belief as the essence of religion. Some religious traditions emphasize correct behavior, including observance of ritual, more than belief. Others stress individual pursuit of inner tranquility without prescribing particular beliefs or rituals by which that is to be achieved. Theological issues relating to the God question in an age of science are relevant to Christians, whose religious emphasis is on right belief as necessary to personal salvation; but science does not raise such issues for religion generally.
belief • observance • practice • religion • science
Ward H. Goodenough is University Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6398.
Empirical Theology in the Light of Science by Karl E. Peters
Empirical theology stands in contrast to science insofar as it seeks to understand the nature and source of human fulfillment and insofar as science seeks to understand the world and human beings regardless of the implications of that knowledge for human welfare. However, empirical theology is like science insofar as it affirms a dynamic, relational naturalism; accepts limitations of the human knower, thereby making all knowledge including religious knowledge tentative; seeks causal explanations as well as religious meaning; and argues that a key criterion for justifying ideas is their ability to explain experience already had and to predict new experiences in Lakatosian-type progressive research programs.
empirical theology • experience • facts and values • Lakatos • naturalism • scientific method
Karl E. Peters is professor of philosophy and religion at Rollins College, Winter Park, FL 32789-4496. He is also co-editor of Zygon.
Scientific understandings suggest very strongly that humans are related to the rest of nature in ways that are expressed both by metaphors of genetic kinship and by ecological interrelatedness. The image of genetic kinship is the more intense image, and also the most likely to cause discomfort for Western traditions. Both secular critical reason and Western religious traditions favor images that portray the relation of humans to nature in terms of separation, domination, and stewardship. At best they are ambivalent toward portrayals of a more intense relatedness. In order to best serve our self-understandings, we must recognize (1) our intrinsic kinship with the rest of nature; (2) that our purpose as humans is to serve nature; (3) that we are preparers for natures future; (4) that our highest calling as humans is to discern the dimensions of ultimacy in nature and to conceptualize them. In this, we follow Gods own pattern of investing in nature as the greatest project.
domination over nature • ecological model • humans and nature • kinship model • nature and ultimacy • nucleotide sequencing
Philip Hefner, 1100 East Fifty-fifth Street, Chicago, IL 60615-5199, is Professor of Systematic Theology, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He originally presented this paper at the Templeton Symposium, Human Viability and a World Theology, organized by Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science and the Chicago Center for Religion and Science, 15-16 November 1991. This symposium and its publication were made possible through the generosity of the John M. Templeton Religion Trust.
In this poem I try to capture through analogy concepts that resist reduction to empirically verifiable terminology. I experiment with the limit-language of ambiguity, allusion, multivalence, and layered metaphors to communicate a sense of meaning that hovers somehow at the edge of ones field of vision. …
Ingrid H. Shafer is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Chickasha, OK 73018.