Is the evolutionary narrative that emerges from contemporary scientific research capable of serving as a creation myth for our times? This is a question that is receiving a great deal of attention. Carl Sagan got it started in the early 1980s with his exciting Public Broadcasting television series Cosmos. Drawing from the evolutionary study of the universe, the planet, the origins and development of life, and human culture, scientists and others have constructed a story that tells us where we came from and how we got to where we are today. Since this narrative is by definition consistent with our best knowledge, is it also suited to serve a mythic function?
From antiquity to the present, humans have debated whether intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe. This presentation will survey this debate, examining the roles played in it by science, religion, philosophy, and other areas of human learning. One thesis that will be developed is that whether or not extraterrestrials exist, ideas about them have strongly influenced Western thought.
exobiology • extraterrestrial life ideas • plurality of worlds • religion • theology
Michael J. Crowe is Professor in the Program of Liberal Studies and the Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Notre Dame. His address is Program of Liberal Studies, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556.
Global Population Equilibrium: A Model for the Twenty-First Century by Michael Cavanaugh
In his prophetic book Amythia, Loyal Rue calls for the construction of bold new myths. Responding to his call in light of scientific arguments for global population equilibrium, this article proposes a model that may function as a surrogate form of myth, one that can motivate our age and future ages. Fortunately, the model is not only powerful but achievable, because policy makers have finally begun to realize how thoroughly the human population impacts on other world dynamics. The problem is reviewed, the relevance of scientific and theological studies bearing on it is shown, and the new model is described. Above all, an effort is made to show how global equilibrium can support Rues twin requirements for the myth he commissions: namely, a foundation in plausible descriptions of reality, and a compelling normative status.
amythia • carrying capacity • global equilibrium • global modeling • models • myth • policy • population • Loyal Rue • worldview
Michael Cavanaugh is a lawyer. His address is 744 Dubois, Baton Rouge, LA 70808; e-mail: MichaelCav @ aol.com.
The Epic of Evolution as a Framework for Human Orientation in Life by Gordon D. Kaufman
This article sketches what is required of a world picture (religious or nonreligious) that is intended to provide orientation in the world for ongoing human life today. How do we move from conceptions and theories prominent in the modern sciences—such as cosmic and biological evolution—to an overall picture or cosmology which can orient us for the effective address of todays deepest human problems? A biohistorical conception of the human is proposed in answer to this question.
biohistorical • creativity (serendipitous) • culture • epic of evolution • faith • historicity • history • mystery • orientation (in life) • religion • trajectories (cosmic and historical) • world picture
Gordon Kaufman is Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr., Professor of Divinity Emeritus at Harvard Divinity School.
Minds and Bodies: Human and Divine by Gregory R. Peterson
Does God have a mind? Western theism has traditionally construed God as an intentional agent who acts on creation and in relation to humankind. God loves, punishes, and redeems. Gods intentionality has traditionally been construed in analogy to human intentionality, which in turn has often presumed a supernatural dualism. Developments in cognitive science, however, render supernatural dualism suspect for explaining the human mind. How, then, can we speak of the mind of God? Borrowing from Daniel Dennetts intentional stance, I suggest that analogical reasoning regarding the mind of God be abandoned in favor of an ontologically agnostic approach that treats God as an intentional system. In this approach, Gods purposive action is an explanatory feature of the believers universe, a real pattern that informs our values and beliefs about the world and our place in it.
analogy • cognitive science • Daniel Dennett • dualism • intentional stance • mind • mind of God • Wolfhart Pannenberg • Arthur Peacocke • philosophy of mind
Gregory R. Peterson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. His address is 455 97th Lane Northeast, Blaine, MN 55434.
Gödel Meets Carnap: A Prototypical Discourse on Science and Religion by Alfred Gierer
Modern science, based on the laws of physics, claims validity for all events in space and time. However, it also reveals its own limitations, such as the indeterminacy of quantum physics, the limits of decidability, and, presumably, limits of decodability of the mind-brain relationship. At the philosophical level, these intrinsic limitations allow for different interpretations of the relation between human cognition and the natural order. In particular, modern science may be logically consistent with religious as well as agnostic views of humans and the universe. These points are exemplified through the transcript of a discussion between Kurt Gödel and Rudolf Carnap that took place in 1940. Gödel, discoverer of mathematical undecidability, took a proreligious view; Carnap, one of the founders of analytical philosophy, an antireligious view. By the time of the discussion, Carnap had liberalized his ideas on theoretical concepts of science: he believed that observational terms do not suffice for an exhaustive definition of theoretical concepts. Then, responded Gödel, one should formulate a theory or metatheory that is consistent with scientific rationality, yet also encompasses theology. Carnap considered such theories unproductive. The controversy remained unresolved, but its emphasis shifted from rationality to wisdom, not only in the Gödel-Carnap discussion but also in our time.
Rudolf Carnap • decision theory • Kurt Gödel • mind-brain relationship • philosophy of science • quantum indeterminacy
Alfred Gierer is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Spemannstr. 35, 72076 Tübingen, Germany, and Professor of Biophysics at Tübingen University.
Neither Enemy Nor Friend: Nature as Creation in the Theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas by Stephen J. Pope
This paper traces three paradigmatic responses to the presence of evil in nature. Thomas Henry Huxley depicts nature as the enemy of humanity that morality combats at every step. Henry Drummond views nature as benevolent, a friend of humanity, and the ultimate basis for morality. The paper argues that a third view, that of Thomas Aquinas, regards nature as creation, capable of being neither enemy nor friend of humanity but rather the context within which relations of enmity or friendship develop between human beings and God.
Thomas Aquinas • creation • Henry Drummond • enemy • evil • friend • T. H. Huxley
Stephen J. Pope is Associate Professor of Theology at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02167.
The Teachers File
Ecofeminism: What One Needs to Know by Nancy R. Howell
Abstract: Ecofeminism refers to feminist theory and activism informed by ecology. Ecofeminism is concerned with connections between the domination of women and the domination of nature. Although ecofeminism is a diverse movement, ecofeminist theorists share the presuppositions that social transformation is necessary for ecological survival, that intellectual transformation of dominant modes of thought must accompany social transformation, that nature teaches nondualistic and nonhierarchial systems of relation that are models for social transformation of values, and that human and cultural diversity are values in social transformation. Ecofeminist theology, ethics, and religious perspectives are particularly concerned with the integration of science and religion. Examples of religious or spiritual ecofeminisms are North American Christian ecofeminism, North American womanist Christian theology, neopagan Wiccan ecofeminism, Native American ecofeminism, and Third World ecofeminism.
animal rights • common creation story • diversity • dualism • ecofeminism • ecology • epistemology • feminism • hierarchy • patriarchy • religious pluralism • womanism
Nancy R. Howell is Associate Professor of Religion at Pacific Lutheran University. Her address is Department of Religion, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA 98447. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article for class use, with this note: Reprinted from Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.
Psychological and Religious Perspectives on Emotion by Fraser N. Watts
This article is devoted to examining theoretical issues on the interface of the psychology of religion and the psychology of emotion, something which recently has been surprisingly neglected. The broad range of psychological components involved in emotion, and the importance of emotional processes in religion, make it a particularly relevant area of general psychology as far as religion is concerned. The first issue to be examined is the centrality of emotion (or feeling) in religion and the extent to which religion can be conceptualized as a kind of emotional state—an idea that can be found in different forms in Schleiermacher and James. Though both psychology and emotion are now seen as less private than previously supposed, the analogy remains potentially fruitful. The second issue arises from the notable tendency in the psychology of emotion to see emotion as functional, even rational, rather than disruptive. The view of Averill is endorsed that emotions can be psychologically creative when used appropriately. This leads to a review of attitudes toward emotional aspects of religion and religious attitudes to everyday emotions, where a positive but discriminating approach to emotions seems appropriate.
attitudes • emotion • William James • psychology
Fraser N. Watts is Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Science in the University of Cambridge, where his address is The Divinity School, St. Johns Street, Cambridge CB2 1TW, United Kingdom.
Vital Dust: Life as a Cosmic Imperative by Christian de Duve, reviewed by Gregory R. Peterson
By tracing the trajectory of his own personal and professional life, the author provides a perspective on how intellectual and religious or spiritual growth, while often seemingly at odds with each other, can nonetheless advance in a mutually enhancing manner. The historical conflict between literature and science is briefly outlined as a parallel to that between religion and science, and the importance of metaphor as a common element in all three fields is explored. Emphasis is placed on metaphor as a means of challenging absolutism, encouraging humility, and promoting a sense of wonder about the universe.
IRAS • literature • metaphor • religious skepticism • science • traditional Christianity • wonder • Zygon
Robert Schaible is an Associate Professor of Arts and Humanities at Lewiston-Auburn College of the University of Southern Maine, 51-55 Westminster Street, Lewiston, ME 14240.