In this issue we present the first comprehensive analysis and commentary on the thought of Ian Barbour. Barbour has long been considered a monumental, path-breaking figure in the endeavor to demonstrate that religion and science can and do interact in fruitful ways. He has stood as a major voice against the often-prevailing opinion that science and religion are enemies engaged in warfare. Countless men and women—scholars of religion, scientists, and laypersons across the spectrum—count Ian Barbour as a role model for putting together the pieces—religion, science, technology, and ethics—in a way that sustains viable thinking in a situation often marked by a bewildering intellectual confusion. We are grateful to guest editor Ernest Simmons for making this issue possible.
Over the last twenty-five to thirty years, an awareness of the limits of Enlightenment rationalism and the Cartesian/Newtonian paradigm for thought has been developing, not only among deconstructionists, but among philosophers of science and philosophically minded scientists. The belief that one could construct or derive a purely objective, neutral, bias-free, and rational perspective on any subject of discourse is now coming to be seen as a dream forged in the myth that there exists an ahistorical reality. In fact, all thought is contextual, and therefore all facts are value laden. Facts are contextual truths that arise precisely through a framework of interpretation that allows raw data to be connected for the construction of meaning. This assertion does not mean that there is no truth, but only that the true, like the real, is always encountered from and defined by a particular perspective. The task now is, not to deny perspective and context in thought, but to become more inclusively aware of what actually informs ones thought. This critique allows for a constructive engagement between science and religion that has not existed since the time of Descartes.
Ian Barbour has been a pioneer in the reclamation of this connection as well as the connecting of fact and value through his work in relating science and religion. He is indeed the epitome of a modern rarity: a scholar with both breadth and depth of comprehension and insight. His communicative clarity has enabled generations of students and scholars to benefit from this understanding. He writes about complex issues in a manner accessible to the nonspecialist—and in a way that illuminates the importance of the science-religion dialogue for matters of faith and understanding. …
Ian Barbour on Religion and the Methods of Science: An Assessment by Nancey Murphy
Two aspects of Ian Barbours position on the relation between religion and science are considered. First is his preference for comparing religions as a whole to scientific paradigms. It is suggested that the concept of a tradition as defined by Alasdair MacIntyre is more useful than Thomas Kuhns paradigm. Thus, the Christian tradition could be compared to the Aristotelian or Newtonian scientific traditions. Within traditions, both religious and scientific, we find schools with enough agreement on fundamentals to be designated research programs, as defined by Imre Lakatos; here fruitful comparisons between theology and science are possible.
Barbours critical realism is intended as a compromise between highly rationalistic and sociological accounts of science. However, rationalism and sociology of science are answers to two different sets of questions rather than extremes on a spectrum of answers to the same question. Thus, there is no middle position between them, and no compromise need be found.
Ian Barbour • critical realism • paradigm • research program • the strong program • theology
Nancey Murphy is Associate Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA 91182.
Ian Barbour: Theologians Friend, Scientists Interpreter by Sallie McFague
Ian Barbours work, especially Religion in an Age of Science, is a comprehensive, balanced, and theologian-friendly guide to relations between science and religion. As a physicist and a theologian, Barbour is one of a handful of people who know both areas in depth and hence provide a bridge for others who are not dually educated. This is a very substantial accomplishment. His own position, however, is presented tentatively and, in the opinion of this author, is less radical than that demanded by his overt commitments vis-à-vis the contemporary scientific worldview. At two points, especially, his position appears modernist when it should be postmodern, in light of his own stated theological and scientific convictions: (1) his critique of the feminist and two-thirds-world position on the social construction of science, (2) his preference for a unified worldview at the cost of slighting issues of diversity and particularity. Nonetheless, he has made an immense contribution by providing the best and deepest survey of the sciences of astronomy, physics, and biology and their implications for Christian theology; it makes him one of the premier thinkers in the twentieth-century discussions of science and religion.
critical realism • critique of modernist paradigm • embodiment • feminist critiques of Western science • identity and difference • metaphors and models • theology of nature • unified worldview • wholeness versus diversity
Sallie McFague is the Carpenter Professor of Theology at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203.
Religion and the Theories of Science: A Response to Barbour by Robert John Russell
This paper offers a detailed response to Religion and the Theories of Science in Barbours Gifford Lectures I. Topics include: complementarity, indeterminacy, parts and wholes, and Bells theorem in quantum theory; metaphysical issues raised by relativity theory and thermodynamics, principally the problem of temporality and top-down versus bottom-up causality; design arguments and the origins of the universe in astronomy and creation; and Gods action in the context of evolution and continuing creation. Areas of agreement and disagreement between Barbour and myself over philosophical and theological implications are presented, and endnotes indicate further areas of conversation.
astronomy • Bells theorem • bottom-up causality • complementarity • contingency • creation theology • design argument • evolution • genetic mutations • Gods action • holism • indeterminism • origins • quantum theory • realism • relativity theory • temporality • thermodynamics • top-down causality
Robert John Russell is Professor of Theology and Science in Residence at the Graduate Theological Union, and Founder and Director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709.
My primary relation to Barbours work is that of indebtedness and appreciation. He has reassured me that despite the vast changes in physics, the Whiteheadian perspective that has been so important to me as a Christian believer provides a valid way of understanding the physical world. If there is a difference between us, it is my greater emphasis on perspective and on the challenge of the Whiteheadian perspective to the ones that now dominate the sciences.
faith • God • intelligibility • perspective • science • Whiteheadian • worldview
John B. Cobb. Jr., is Professor Emeritus of the School of Theology at Claremont. His address is 777 North Cambridge Way, Claremont, CA 91711.
Response to Critiques of Religion in an Age of Science by Ian G. Barbour
In replying to the four thoughtful critiques of my first Gifford volume I try to clarify the differences among us. I defend my use of Kuhns concept of paradigms against Nancey Murphys use of Lakatoss concept of research programs and then compare both of us with advocates of the strong program in the social construction of science. Sallie McFague identifies me with the empiricist, objectivist, modernist tradition and contrasts it to her own "postmodernist" acceptance of cultural relativism and the social construction of science, but I argue that I am seeking an intermediate position that redefines objectivity rather than rejecting it. Some themes common to feminist and process theology are also examined. In dialogue with Bob Russell I discuss the metaphysical and theological implications of the unity of space and time in relativity, the beginning of time in recent cosmology, and the thesis that God acts by determining events in indeterminate quantum systems. Finally I compare John Cobbs indebtedness to Whitehead with my own and suggest that I am more willing to adapt or modify process thought in the interpretation of scientific theories and religious experience.
cosmology • methodology • process philosophy • quantum physics • relativity
Ian Barbour is Winifred and Atherton Bean Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and Society at Carleton College, Northfield, MN 55057.
Ian Barbour is wisely aware of two kinds of ethical problems that constantly interact: first, those where we know the good but lack the will to do it; second, those where, in uncertainties and conflicts of values, we have to discover the best course of action. Both have long histories; but new technologies, which mean new powers, accentuate both. Three issues in Barbours work deserve comment here: (1) the ways in which technology requires new ethical thinking, but cannot of itself make ethical prescriptions; (2) the perplexing relation of technology to political processes; (3) the relation between need and greed, a valid distinction that may be more puzzling than Barbour allows because a technological culture multiplies needs. I applaud Barbours achievement. I find it ironic that I occasionally think him a shade too optimistic, whereas he has occasionally said the same of me.
age of information • eschatology • faith and works • freedom and determinism • freedom and ethics • need and greed • political processes • social constructions • social limits to growth • technology and power • technology, moral ambivalence of • traditional ethics and new technologies • values, conflicts of
Roger L. Shinn is the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. His mailing address is 101 Birchwood, Southbury, CT 06488.
Ian Barbour in the second volume of his Gifford Lectures makes a significant contribution to environmental ethics. Worthy of scrutiny are his views on the relation of technology to the environment, on the distinction between nature and culture, on the problem of hierarchical thinking, and on the notion of sustainability. His integrated approach is a model for how we must relate to nature.
environmental ethics • hierarchy • integration • nature and culture • sustainability • technology • worldviews and interests
Robert L. Stivers is Professor of Religion at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA, 98447.
Ian Barbours Ethics in an Age of Technology provides an indispensable overview of the field of ethics and technology—an overview that gives balanced views informed by science, philosophy, and religion and that provides encyclopedic coverage of a variety of issues and methods typical to them. Barbour makes communication possible between two fields often at odds in our culture. Part 2 of the book relates the values introduced in Part 1 to three specific areas of technology: agriculture, energy, and computers. The book pays superficial attention to gender issues. Its focus is on planet Earth; the universe and models of the future are only implicit.
ethics • future • technology • universe
Mary Gerhart is Professor of Religious Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY 14456.
Technology and the Future: On Dreaming the Impossible by Frederick Ferré
My comment on Ethics in an Age of Technology, volume 2 of Ian G. Barbours Gifford Lectures, acknowledges the excellence of Barbours depictions of the social-cum-technological problems facing humanity in the coming millennium. Barbours proposed solutions, too, are reasonable—but usually presuppose fundamental reforms in social values, especially within the powerful industrialized societies. Without further analysis of technology and values, this seems to make such solutions impossible dreams. My thesis is that clear analysis of the ideal aspects of technology (as itself the embodiment of knowledge and values), plus clues from Alfred North Whitehead on the dynamics of social change, can reinforce hope even in impossible dreams. First, technology, though embodied in solid material machinery and powerful social institutions, is no more solid than constant reaffirmation of the values behind it (as was the case with the Berlin Wall). Second, great ideals, over time, have the power to help create the conditions of their own possibility. Social change is both pushed by coercive forces (e.g., climate changes) and pulled by great values (e.g., human dignity). Therefore there are practical benefits to be gained from attending to, and celebrating, even currently impossible dreams as they work to make themselves possible.
anarchic mentality • artifact; instrument • obscurantism • practical intelligence • praxis • speculative intelligence • technology • vertical integration
Frederick Ferré is Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.
Response to Critiques of Ethics in an Age of Technology by Ian G. Barbour
Both Roger Shinn and Robert Stivers ask whether technology has a momentum of its own that is difficult if not impossible to control (autonomous technology or technological inevitability). I reply that the difficulty in controlling technology is a product of economic and political institutions (such as corporate lobbying and campaign contributions) rather than of any inherent characteristics of technology. Against Stiverss assertion that the ecosystem should be the center of value in environmental ethics, I defend the process view that all beings are valuable, but they are not equally valuable in their richness of experience or their contribution to the experience of others. I also consider his caveats about ambiguities in the concept of sustainability. Two questions raised by Mary Gerhart are taken up: the difficulties of interdisciplinary writing and the role of theological ethics in discussions of public policy. In dialogue with Frederick Ferré I explore the role of alternative visions of the good life as a source of social change. In the face of diminished concern about social justice and environmental sustainability among citizens and in Congress since the book was written, I express long-range hope, but not optimism about the short-term prospects for change.
environmental ethics • politics • process philosophy • sustainability • technology
Ian Barbour is Winifred and Atherton Bean Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and Society at Carleton College, Northfield, MN 55057.
The design argument for Gods existence was critically assessed when in the growth of modern science the cognitive value of teleological categories was called into question. In recent discussions dealing with anthropic principles there has appeared a new version of the design argument, in which cosmic design is described without the use of teleological terms. The weak anthropic principle (WAP), a most critical version of all these principles, describes the fine-tuning of physical parameters necessary to the genesis of carbon-based life. It defines no physical mechanisms of the observed coordination between physical parameters. If in a future unified physical theory such mechanisms are discovered, the weak anthropic principle should be replaced by the strong anthropic principle, which asserts the physical necessity of fine-tuning. Neither of the versions can be regarded as physically trivial unless one accepts strong assumptions of the existence of parallel universes. Consequently, a new version of the philosophical design argument can be developed on the basis of the weak anthropic principle.
anthropic principle • chance • cosmic isotropy • cosmology • design argument • logos • necessity • physical laws • teleology • unified theory
Joseph M. Życiński is Professor of Philosophy of Science, Faculty of Philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology, Craców, Poland. He is also Bishop of Tarnów, Moscickiego 9, 33 100 Tarnów, Poland.
A Nineteenth-Century IRASian: Sarah Alden Bradford Ripley by Joan W. Goodwin
Almost entirely self-educated, Sarah Alden Bradford Ripley (1793-1867) combined wide-ranging personal studies with the daily responsibilities of a New England ministers wife, mother, and teacher in her husbands boarding school. As she struggled to reconcile the conventional Unitarian Christian beliefs of her time with her own life experience and with the discoveries of advancing science, her childhood faith gave way to skepticism. Gradually she was able to integrate her understanding of nature, science, philosophy, and religion into a mature faith. She would have welcomed the companionship and support of IRAS if it had existed in her day.
afterlife • deism • self-cultivation • skepticism • supernatural rationalism • transcendentalism • Unitarian
Joan W. Goodwin is an independent scholar whose address is 56 Hawes Street, Brookline, MA 02146.
Darwinism Applied: Evolutionary Paths to Social Goals by John H. Beckstrom and Beyond Relativism: Science and Human Values by Roger D. Masters, reviewed by Stephen J. Pope