Our previous issue of Zygon, devoted largely to the thought of philosopher Michael Ruse, centered on questions of whether it makes sense at all for intelligent, scientifically sophisticated, and philosophically critical persons to entertain the Christian faith (and by implication, any traditional religious outlook) as a viable option for personal understanding and commitment. When the votes were counted among the authors of that issue, it would have required a symbolic chairperson to cast the deciding ballot.
Interpreting the universe as a medium-message process has explanatory value in both scientific and philosophical/spiritual contexts. From this perspective, reality is seen to comprise an enduring medium modulated by transient information. Physically, the medium is energy. Mentally, the medium is awareness. Algorithmically, the medium is an information generator, a programmatic entity that generates temporary informational patterns which modulate the mediums energy aspect in space and time to produce matter and physical phenomena and modulate the mediums awareness aspect to produce subjective experience, mind. In philosophical terms, the medium is Being; the medium modulated by the message is existence.
awareness • Being • energy • existence • information • reality
Copthorne Macdonald is a writer, independent scholar, and communication-systems engineer. His address is P.O. Box 2941, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada C1A 8C5.
Beyond Relativism and Foundationalism: A Prolegomenon to Future Research in Ethics by J. W. Traphagan
This article examines the similarities between notions about the nature of reality held by some Christian mystics (Thomas Merton and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing) and those proposed by physicists David Bohm and Henry Margenau. My aim is to consider how the implications of certain metaphysical interpretations of modern physics may: (1) hold similarities with Christian mystical notions about reality, and (2) be important for guiding future research in ethics. I further look into the traditional approaches to ethical theory that come out of the foundationalist, relativist, and skeptical realist camps and argue that while skeptical realists such as Timothy Jackson are moving in the right direction, further consideration of what is meant by reality is necessary if we are to traverse the gap between foundationalists and relativists. It is here that Christian ethicists in particular have the opportunity to pick up the metaphysical batons carried by physicists like Margenau and Bohm and mystics like Merton and the author of The Cloud and begin investigating the possibility that ethical theory can be approached from a nondualistic perspective.
Christian mysticism • ethics • foundationalism and relativism • metaphysics • modern physics
J. W. Traphagan is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
Visiting Dead Ancestors: Shamans as Interpreters of Religious Traditions by Lyle B. Steadman and Craig T. Palmer
Religious traditions enable ancestors to encourage proper social behavior in their distant descendants. Although traditional myths and rituals can provide basic values, these values must be interpreted in light of the specific circumstances encountered by later generations. In tribal societies the task of interpreting religious traditions falls upon religious leaders known as shamans. Shamans, perhaps universally, are claimed to obtain instructions from dead ancestors on how to deal with social disruptions. This paper argues that a focus on the more exotic aspects of shamanism has kept previous studies from realizing the crucial role of shamans as interpreters of religious traditions.
cooperation • evolution • religious traditions • shamans
Lyle B. Steadman is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281. Craig T. Palmer is Instructor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, CO 80903.
The Precursors of the Eureka Moment as a Common Ground between Science and Theology by Michael Cavanaugh
Eureka moments can be said to be based on intuition, but their deeper foundations are phylogenetic evolution and subconscious gestalt processes, as analyzed by the late Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz. By incorporating Lorenzs findings, modern epistemology could avoid three common errors which have crept into the discussion. Those errors are: (1) that epistemology is language-dependent; (2) that epistemology is primarily subjective; and (3) that epistemology is creative and not methodological.
creativity • discovery • epistemology • Eureka moment • Konrad Lorenz • objectivity
Michael Cavanaugh is a lawyer. His home address is 744 Dubois, Baton Rouge, LA 70808.
Does Nature Need to Be Redeemed? by Holmes Rolston, III
In the light of evolutionary biology, the biblical idea that nature fell with the coming of human sin is incredible. Biblical writers, classical theologians, and contemporary biologists are ambivalent about nature, finding in natural history both a remarkable genesis of life and also much travail and suffering. Earth is a land of promise, and there is the conservation, or redemption, of life in the midst of its perpetual perishing. Life is perennially a struggling through to something higher. In that sense even natural history is cruciform, though human sinfulness introduces novel tragedy. Humans now threaten creation; nature is at more peril than ever before.
conservation of nature • creation • ecological crisis • evolution • natural evils • nature • redemption • sin • suffering • wildness
Holmes Rolston, III, is University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Colorado State University, Department of Philosophy, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.
The New Universalism: Foundations for a Global Theology by David J. Krieger, reviewed by Robert J. Schreiter