Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
30 (2), June 1995

Table of Contents


June 1995 Editorial by Philip Hefner

This issue is sent forth as a typical example of the range and diversity of thinking on the religion/science interface that Zygon aims to survey. Though it requires little commentary, there are some items that deserve special attention. James Gustafson joins our galaxy of “profilees”: Arthur Peacocke (biochemist and theologian, in December 1991), Eugene d’Aquili (neuropsychiatrist, in June 1993), and Michael Ruse (historian and philosopher of biology, in June 1994). The profile of Gustafson, a theological ethicist, may profitably be compared with that of Ruse last year. Both thinkers put ethics at the center of their work, and each takes scientific thought as the context for his interpretations of ethics. Beyond this, the reader is challenged to find further agreement. They may serve as instructive examples of how gifted thinkers who start from different points and hold to contrasting assumptions find their way through a common intellectual and social framework. Taken together, however, these two thinkers help us understand how the religion-science relationship plays out in the realm of ethics, and why that relationship is important.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00060.x

Profile: James M. Gustafson

Explaining and Valuing: An Exchange between Theology and the Human Sciences by James M. Gustafson

A comparison of E. O. Wilson’s On Human Nature and Abraham Heschel’s Who Is Man? introduces a discussion of how descriptions and explanations of the human are related to valuations of the human. More intense comparative analysis focuses on Melvin Konner, The Tangled Wing, and Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man. Similarities of outlook toward life in the world are noted, although the supporting information, concepts, and arguments are radically different. The article illustrates how a subject matter, here the human, that is addressed by different disciplines and methods can yield fruitful interdisciplinary analysis.
experience • human • human nature • naturalism • nature • spirit
James M. Gustafson is Henry R. Luce Professor of Humanities and Comparative Studies at Emory University, where his address is Administration Building, Box 73, Atlanta, GA 30322.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00061.x

Tracing a Trajectory by James M. Gustafson

Theology and ethics intersect with sciences at different points depending upon whether the scholars involved are interested in, for example, general epistemological issues or practical moral judgments. The intersection affects theology and ethics in different ways, depending upon various commitments or resistances on the part of theologians. The author surveys his own writings to show how openness to the sciences has had an impact on various phases of his work and what issues remain somewhat unresolved.
empiricism • ethics • experience • theology
James M. Gustafson is Henry R. Luce Professor of Humanities and Comparative Studies at Emory University, where his address is Administration Building, Box 73, Atlanta, GA 30322.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00062.x

Following a Trajectory: On “Tracing a Trajectory” and “Explaining and Valuing” by James M. Gustafson by Melvin Konner

The roots of religious faith—and the provenance of ethical thought—may be sought in the human sciences, the physical sciences, literature, religious traditions, and deep human intuitions. Gustafson’s religious stance and the author’s, while different on their face, in common reflect a mingling—and tangling—of skepticism, understanding, and transcendence. Let all of us hope and believe what we can.
epistemology • ethics • James M. Gustafson • sensus divinitatus • transcendence
Melvin Konner is Professor of Anthropology at Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00063.x

A Raft That Floats: Experience, Tradition, and Sciences in Gustafson’s Theocentric Ethics by Harlan Beckley

Although James Gustafson’s use of the Christian Bible and tradition is not fully displayed in the essays published here, Bible and tradition are a crucial part of a composite rationale, which includes experience and the sciences, for his theocentric ethics. Gustafson’s theocentric ethics employs the sciences to back, inform, and correct the Christian tradition and offers grounds for respecting the natural piety and morality of “nonreligious” persons while explaining and justifying why Christians draw on major themes and metaphors from their tradition that should penetrate their piety and morality. His proposal should reorient the thinking of theological ethics more than it has thus far.
experience • James M. Gustafson • sciences • theocentric ethics • tradition
Harlan Beckley is Professor of Christian Ethics and Theology at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00064.x

Gustafson’s Theocentrism and Scientific Naturalistic Philosophy: A Marriage Made in Heaven? by William A. Rottschaefer

Examining James M. Gustafson’s views on the relationships between the sciences, theology, and ethics from a scientifically based naturalistic philosophical perspective, I concur with his rejection of separatist and antagonistic interactionist positions and his adherence to a mutually supportive interactionist position with both descriptive and normative features. I next explore three aspects of this interactionism: religious empiricism, the connections between facts and values, and the centering of objective values in the divine. Here I find much accord between Gustafson’s theocentrism and a scientifically based naturalistic philosophical account of the relationships between the sciences, theology, and ethics.
empiricism • fact/value gap • is/ought gap • naturalized epistemology • naturalized ethics • religion • science • science and religion • theocentric ethics
William A. Rottschaefer is Professor of Philosophy at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR 97219.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00065.x

Response to Rottschaefer, Beckley, and Konner by James M. Gustafson

All three articles properly locate my work as interactive between the sciences on the one hand and theology and ethics on the other. They disagree on whether tradition, science, or experience “trumps” the others when they conflict; Beckley shows the importance of tradition, which is slighted by the other two. Comments on each article indicate where further discussion is needed and where I have learned from the authors or agree with them.
ethics; experience; sciences; theology; tradition
James M. Gustafson is Henry R. Luce Professor of Humanities and Comparative Studies at Emory University, where his address is Administration Building, Box 73, Atlanta, GA 30322.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00066.x


Evolution in Thermodynamic Perspective: A Historical and Philosophical Angle by Iris Fry

The recently suggested reformulation of Darwinian evolutionary theory, based on the thermodynamics of self-organizing processes, has strong philosophical implications. My claim is that the main philosophical merit of the thermodynamic approach, made especially clear in J. S. Wicken’s work, is its insistence on the law-governed, continuous nature of evolution. I attempt to substantiate this claim following a historical analysis of beginning-of-the-century ideas on evolution and matter-life relationship, in particular, the fitness-of-the-environment-for-life theory of the Harvard physiologist L. J. Henderson. In addition, I point to an epistemological common ground underlying the studies of the “thermodynamics school” and other currently active research groups focusing on the emergence and evolution of biological organization.
biological organization • Darwinian tradition • emergence of life • environmental fitness • evolution • natural selection • nonequilibrium thermodynamics • teleology
Iris Fry teaches at the Cohn Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00067.x

Beyond the Material and the Mechanical: Occam’s Razor Is a Double-Edged Blade by Robert E. Ulanowicz

To confine scientific narrative to only material and mechanical causes is to ensure incomplete and at times contrived descriptions of phenomena. In the life sciences, and particularly in the field of ecology, causality takes on qualitatively distinct forms at different hierarchical levels. The notion of formal cause provides for entirely natural and quantitative explanations of ecosystem behavior.
Aristotelean causality • ecosystem development • formal cause • hierarchy theory • Newtonianism
Robert E. Ulanowicz is Professor of Theoretical Ecology, the University of Maryland System, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Solomons, MD 20688.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00068.x

Divine Action: Is It Credible? by James S. Nelson

The concept of God’s acting in the world has been seen to be problematic in light of the claims of scientific knowledge that the regularity of a lawlike universe rules out divine action. There are resources in both scientific knowledge and religion that can render meaningful and credible divine action. The new physics, chaos theory, cognitive psychology, and the concept of top-down causation are used to understand how God acts in the world. God’s action is not an intervention, but is understood on the model of how the mind influences the brain in a downward causative manner. Suggestions for imagining God’s actions are discussed.
chaos theory • divine action • mind/brain interaction • modeling • new physics • top-down causation
James S. Nelson is Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy, North Park College, 3225 West Foster Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00069.x

The Naturalness of Creation and Redemptive Interests in Theology, Science, and Technology by Kurt Anders Richardson

This paper advances ways in which the understandings of “nature” and “creation” can be seen to overlap through specialized relations between humans and their environment. The hope of redemption of nature, united with evidences of grace in the advancements of science, can become helpful guides toward a theological interpretation of technology and the emerging character of human relations with nature.
altruism • anthropocentrism • cocreator • fallenness • Imago Dei • problem solving • redemption • technology
Kurt Anders Richardson is Assistant Professor of Christian Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 1889, Wake Forest, NC 27588.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00070.x

Evolution, Culture, and Sin: Responding to Philip Hefner’s Proposal by Langdon Gilkey

In his recent book, The Human Factor, Philip Hefner proposes to deepen theological understanding of the natural world and the place of humans within it. He describes humans as products of converging streams of genes and culture, and as possessors of freedom that requires them to be “created cocreators.” In accordance with the requirements of “the way things really are” (God), humans are to become divine agents in enlarging the realm of freedom in the world through self-sacrificing altruism. While Hefner’s insights are admirable, his work could be viewed, in part, as a covert expression of nineteenth century liberal beliefs in progress. In fact, human culture and freedom are more ambiguous products of both good and evil, and hence we must take more cognizance of the pervasiveness of what theology has termed sin.
altruism • created cocreator • culture • dualism • freedom • genetics • myth • ritual • sin
Langdon Gilkey is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Theology at Georgetown University and Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. His mailing address is 123 Cameron Lane, Charlottesville, VA 22903.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00071.x

Book Symposium: The Physics of Immortality by Frank Tipler

Breaking a Taboo: Frank Tipler’s Physics of Immortality by Wolfhart Pannenberg

In his book The Physics of Immortality, Frank Tipler has broken a longstanding intellectual taboo by dealing as a physicist with the theological themes of God and immortality, as well by arguing that theology can provide material for concept formation in the field of physics. His work on the anthropic principle convinced Tipler that, since the emergence of intelligent life is of the essence of the universe as a whole, the future of life is of fundamental significance. His Omega Point theory takes theological theories of the future’s significance seriously from a scientific point of view. Theories of computers play a central role in Tipler’s theory of immortality, and even though many critics have misunderstood his thrust in these theories, they are worthy of further exploration. Perhaps Tipler’s most important contribution is his insistence that the world as described by physics is more open to interaction with biblical and theological perspectives than is often believed.
anthropic theory • computers • immortality • information • Omega Point • physics • resurrection • theology
Wolfhart Pannenberg is Professor of Theology Emeritus, University of Munich. His address is: Department of Protestant Theology, University of Munich, Schellingstrasse 3/III Vgb., 80799 Munich, Germany.

This article reviews The Physics of Immortality by Frank Tipler.
DOI: DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00072.x

Contributions of Tipler’s Omega Point Theory by Frank T. Birtel

An attempt to discover what can be learned from the recent work of Frank Tipler on the Omega Point theory requires an analysis of his framework of understanding from scientific, philosophical, and theological perspectives. A critique of his crucial ideas, and of the salient points raised by some of his critics, can then be undertaken within the compass of his strengths. A critique of the critiques of Tipler’s work allows one to evaluate the extent and limitations of his contributions.
being • cosmology • determinism • eschatology • eternity • existence • God • Many Worlds • Omega Point • physics • quantum theory • reductionism • resurrection • science-religion integration • teleology • theology
Frank T. Birtel, a mathematician, is Professor of the University and Director of the Chair of Judeo-Christian Studies at Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118.

This article reviews The Physics of Immortality by Frank Tipler.
DOI: DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00073.x


The Origins of Order: Self Organization and Selection in Evolution by Stuart A. Kauffman, reviewed by Richard C. Strohman

Richard C. Strohman; Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology; University of California; Berkeley, CA 94720
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00074.x

Global 2000 Revisited: What Shall We Do? by Gerald O. Barney, reviewed by Loyal D. Rue

Loyal D. Rue; Professor of Religion and Philosophy; Luther College; Decorah, IA 52101
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00074.x

Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and Its Meaning by Mary Midgley, reviewed by Eduardo Rodrigues da Cruz

Eduardo Rodrigues da Cruz; Assistant Professor of Theology; Departamento Teologia; Pontificia Universidade Catolica de S. Paulo; Sao Paulo, SP-05014; Brazil
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00074.x

Metaphor and Religious Language by Janet Soskice, reviewed by Michael Bradie

Michael Bradie; Professor of Philosophy; Department of Philosophy; Bowling Green State University; Bowling Green, OH 43403
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00074.x

Toward a Theology of Nature: Essays on Science and Faith by Wolfhard Pannenberg, edited by Ted Peters, reviewed by Keith Ward

Keith Ward; Regius Professor of Divinity; University of Oxford; Christ Church, Oxford, OX1 1DP;United Kingdom
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00074.x

Alexander Response to Cole-Turner by Denis R. Alexander

Denis R. Alexander; T Cell Laboratory; Department of Immunology; AFRC Babraham Institute; Cambridge, CB2 4AT; United Kingdom
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1995.tb00074.x

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