Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
35 (3), September 2000

Table of Contents


September 2000 Editorial by Philip Hefner

Quite by coincidence, two scientists—biologist Ursula Goodenough and geophysicist Alfred Kracher—pose the same challenge to our readers in this issue of Zygon: to engage our creative imaginations with the task of fashioning new visions, new stories that interpret the world through the resources of sciences and the religions. In her new preface to her 1999 book, The Sacred Depths of Nature, Goodenough speaks directly to scientists, encouraging them to give free rein to their religious instincts. Kracher addresses theologians with some urgency on the same theme, in his Thinkpiece for this issue; if the riches of their traditions are to be helpful today, theologians must imagine new stories that can carry those traditions into vital concourse with scientific knowledge. Both of these calls aim to awaken and encourage imaginative powers that have slumbered too long.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2000.00290.x

Think Pieces

God, Genes, and Cognizing Agents by Gregory R. Peterson

Much ink has been spilled on the claim that morality and religion have evolutionary roots. While some attempt to reduce morality and religion to biological considerations, others reject any link whatsoever. Any full account, however, must acknowledge the biological roots of human behavior while at the same time recognizing that our relatively unique capacity as cognitive agents requires orienting concepts of cosmic and human nature. While other organisms display quasi-moral and proto-moral behavior that is indeed relevant, fully moral behavior is only possible for organisms that attain a higher level of cognitive ability. This, in turn, implies a significant role for religion, which has traditionally provided an orientation within which moral conduct is understood.
altruism • cognition • evolution • morality • proto-moral • quasi-moral
Gregory R. Peterson is Assistant Professor of Religion at Thiel College, Greenville, PA 16125; e-mail: gpeterso @ thiel.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00291

Stories and Theories: A Scientific Challenge to Theology by Alfred Kracher

Stories about the divine are meant to help our imagination cope with what is ultimately not fully imaginable. In the process we make use of metaphors that rely on quantitative relationships to express the qualitative difference between the reality accessible to us and the transcendent reality of God. For example, because we have no notion of what it would mean to “be outside of time,” eternity tends to be explained in terms of infinite temporality. With the increasingly bizarre and unimaginable worldview of contemporary physics, it is perhaps no longer clear what the difference is between the unknown and the unknowable, or even whether it is possible to articulate a meaningful difference. Science appears to have outrun theology in creating stories that engage our imagination. How to overcome the difficulties this raises, particularly with respect to a widening gulf between academic analysis and popular belief, is at present not clear. A “flight from metaphor” into formalized theory, although apparently valid in science, leads to a dead end in theology. A rethinking of many traditional concepts, such as immanence and transcendence, seems to be indicated.
eternity • imagination • immanence • metaphor • storytelling • superstring theory • transcendence • unknowability
Alfred Kracher is Assistant Scientist and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, 253 Science I, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011-3212; e-mail: akracher @ iastate.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00292

Quantum Physics and Understanding God

Measurement and Indeterminacy in the Quantum Mechanics of Dirac by Carl S. Helrich

The quantum-measurement problem and the Heisenberg indeterminacy principle are presented in the language of the Dirac formulation of the quantum theory. Particularly the relationship between quantum state prior to measurement and the result of the measurement are discussed. The relation between the indeterminacy principle and the analog between quantum and classical systems is presented, showing that this principle may be discussed independently of the wave-particle duality. The importance of statistics in the treatment of many body systems is outlined and the approach to investigating God’s interaction with human beings is discussed in this context. The treatment is nonmathematical.
God’s action • indeterminacy principle • measurement • operator • quantum statistics • quantum theory • state vector
Carl S. Helrich is Professor of Physics and Chair of the Department of Physics, Goshen College, 1700 South Main Street, Goshen, IN 46526; e-mail: carlsh @ goshen.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00293

God’s Action in the World: The Relevance of Quantum Mechanics by Peter E. Hodgson

It has been suggested that God can act on the world by operating within the limits set by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (HUP) without violating the laws of nature. This requires nature to be intrinsically indeterministic. However, according to the statistical interpretation the quantum mechanical wavefunction represents the average behavior of an ensemble of similar systems and not that of a single system. The HUP thus refers to a relation between the spreads of possible values of position and momentum and so is consistent with a fully deterministic world. This statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics is supported by reference to actual measurements, resolves the quantum paradoxes, and stimulates further research. If this interpretation is accepted, quantum mechanics is irrelevant to the question of God’s action in the world.
God’s action • Heisenberg uncertainty principle • statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics
Peter E. Hodgson is Head of the Nuclear Physics Theoretical Group of the Nuclear Physics Laboratory, University of Oxford, and Emeritus Fellow of Corpus Christi College. He edited Science and Religion Forum Reviews from 1982 to 1998.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00294

Does God Cheat at Dice? Divine Action and Quantum Possibilities by Nicholas T. Saunders

The recent debates concerning divine action in the context of quantum mechanics are examined with particular reference to the work of William Pollard, Robert J. Russell, Thomas Tracy, Nancey Murphy, and Keith Ward. The concept of a quantum mechanical “event” is elucidated and shown to be at the center of this debate. An attempt is made to clarify the claims made by the protagonists of quantum mechanical divine action by considering the measurement process of quantum mechanics in detail. Four possibilities for divine influence on quantum mechanics are identified and the theological and scientific implications of each discussed. The conclusion reached is that quantum mechanics is not easily reconciled with the doctrine of divine action.
determinism • divine action • hidden variable • indeterminism • measurement process • physics • projection postulate • providence • quantum event • quantum mechanics • Schrödinger’s Cat • wavefunction collapse
Nicholas T. Saunders has recently completed a doctorate on the relationship between divine action and science at the University of Cambridge, England. His address is Magdalene College, Cambridge, CB3 0AG, England; e-mail: nick.saunders @ bigfoot.com. Work on this article was supported by grants from the Humanities Research Board of the British Academy and the Epiphany Philosophers’ Trust.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00295

God, Chaos, and the Quantum Dice by Jeffrey Koperski

A recent noninterventionist account of divine agency has been proposed that marries the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics to the instability of chaos theory. On this account, God is able to bring about observable effects in the macroscopic world by determining the outcome of quantum events. When this determination occurs in the presence of chaos, the ability to influence large systems is multiplied. This paper argues that, although the proposal is highly intuitive, current research in dynamics shows that it is far less plausible than previously thought. Chaos coupled to quantum mechanics proves to be a shaky foundation for models of divine agency.
chaos • divine agency • noninterventionist • quantum mechanics
Jeffrey Koperski is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Saginaw Valley State University, 7400 Bay Road, University Center, MI 48710; e-mail: koperski @ svsu.edu. Work on this paper was supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts through the Summer Seminars in Christian Scholarship at Calvin College 1998.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00296

Exploring Resources of Naturalism

Religiopoiesis by Ursula Goodenough

Religiopoiesis describes the crafting of religion, a core activity of humankind. Each religion is grounded in its myth, and each myth includes a cosmology of origins and destiny. The scientific worldview coheres as such a myth and calls for a religiopoietic response. The difficulties, opportunities, and imperatives inherent in this call are explored, particularly as they impact the working scientist.
belief • metaphor • myth • religion • religiopoiesis • reward • science • theological reconstruction
Ursula Goodenough is Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, past president of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. Her address is Department of Biology, Box 1129, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130; e-mail: ursula @ biosgi.wustl.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00297

The Sacred Depths of Nature: Excerpts by Ursula Goodenough

This article is composed of excerpts from the author’s 1998 book, The Sacred Depths of Nature. The aim of the book is to present an accessible account of our scientific understanding of nature and then suggest ways that this account can call forth appealing and abiding religious responses—an approach that can be called religious naturalism. If religious emotions can be elicited by natural reality, then the story of nature has the potential to serve as the cosmos for the global ethos that we need to articulate. The author recalls the religious journey that has enabled her to enter into the authentic religious faith that lives in the context of the ancient premises and symbols, and has led her to ask whether religion can emerge in the context of a fully modern, up-to-the-minute understanding of nature. The book demonstrates how this can happen. The discussion in these excerpts focuses on sex and sexuality, in biological description of mechanisms and function and how these are related to multicellularity, death, and immortality. Beyond the biological descriptions, the author includes reflections that point to the religious significance of the biological phenomena.
cosmology • death • immortality • multicellularity • planetary ethic • religion • religious naturalism • sex • sexuality
Ursula Goodenough is Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, past president of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. Her address is Department of Biology, Box 1129, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130; e-mail: ursula @ biosgi.wustl.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00298

Religion Generalized and Naturalized by Loyal Rue

Much of contemporary scholarly opinion rejects the attempt to construct a general theory of religion (that is, its origin, structure, and functions). This view says that particular religious traditions are unique, sui generis, incommensurable, and cannot therefore be generalized. Much of contemporary opinion also rejects the attempt to explain religious phenomena using the categories and concepts of the natural and social sciences. This view says that the phenomena of religion cannot be understood apart from a recognition of “the sacred,” or some element of transcendence, implying that religion cannot be naturalized. This article begins to show how the phenomena of religion can be both generalized and naturalized.
antireductionism • consilience • generalists • levels of meaning • naturalism • particularists • scientific materialism
Loyal Rue is Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Luther College, 700 College Drive, Decorah, IA 52101; e-mail: rueloyal @ luther.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00299

Higher Pantheism by David Knight

Romantic sensibility and political necessity led Humphry Davy, Britain’s most prominent scientist in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, to pantheism: nature worship, involving for him a fervent belief in the immortality of the soul. Rapt with a vision of sublimity, from mountain tops or balloons, men of science in succeeding generations also found in pantheism a reason for their vocation and a way of making sense of their world. It should be seen as an alternative both to active participation in church life (like Faraday’s) and to a gritty agnosticism (like Huxley’s), indicating again how subtle and complex relationships were between science and religion in the nineteenth century.
agnostic • Britain • Humphry Davy • Michael Faraday • Victor Frankenstein • James Glaisher • Thomas Henry Huxley • mountains • Nature • pantheism • Romanticism • science • sublime • Alfred Tennyson • John Tyndall • Victorians • worship
David Knight is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science in the Department of Philosophy, University of Durham, 50, Old Elvet, Durham DH1 3HN, England; e-mail: d.m.knight @ durham.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00300


Neuroscience, the Person, and God: An Emergentist Account by Philip Clayton

Strong forms of dualism and eliminative materialism block any significant dialogue between the neurosciences and theology. The present article thus challenges the Sufficiency Thesis, according to which neuroscientific explanations will finally be sufficient to fully explain human behavior. It then explores the various ways in which neuroscientific results and theological interpretations contribute to an overall theory of the person. Supervenience theories, which hold that mental events are dependent on their physical substrata but not reducible to them, are explained. Challenging the determinism of “strong” supervenience, I defend a version of “soft” supervenience that allows for genuine mental causation. This view gives rise in turn to an emergentist theory of the person. Still, I remain a monist: there are many types of properties encountered in the world, although it is only the one nature that bears all these properties. The resulting position, emergentist monism, allows for diversity within the context of the one world. This view is open at the top for theological applications and interpretations while retaining the close link to neuroscientific study and its results. Theology offers an interpretation of the whole world based on a yet higher order of emergence, although the notion of God moves beyond the natural order as a whole. It therefore supplements the natural scientific study of the world without negating it.
anti-reductionism • Arbib Credo • cognitive psychology • emergentist monism • information biology • mind/body problem • neurosciences • panentheism • physicalism • supervenience and emergence • theories of personhood
Philip Clayton is Professor and Chair of Philosophy, California State University (Sonoma), Rohnert Park, CA 94928; e-mail: claytonp @ sonoma.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00301

God, Freedom, and Evil: Perspectives from Religion and Science by Joseph M. Życiński

This paper develops analogies concerning the evolution of dissipative structures in nonequilibrium thermodynamics to interpret irrational human behavior in which one finds a lack of correspondence between the invested means and the consequences observed. In an attempt to positively explain the process of cooperation between the free human person and interacting God, I use philosophical categories of Whitehead’s process philosophy in an aesthetic model that opposes composition and performance in a musical symphony. Certainly, the essence of human freedom can be expressed in neither thermodynamical nor aesthetic terms. The models proposed can, however, facilitate our understanding of the mutual relations between God’s action in the world and the drama of human free choice of moral evil.
freedom • God’s action • grace • irrationality • moral evil • nonequilibrium thermodynamics • process theology • Whitehead’s philosophy
Joseph M. Życiński is professor of philosophy of science at the Catholic University of Lublin and archbishop of Lublin. He holds the Chair for Relationships between Faith and Science, 2 Wyszynskiego, 20 950 Lublin, Poland.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00302

Cosmological Singularity and the Creation of the Universe by Michael Heller

One of the most important and most frequently discussed theological problems related to cosmology is the creation problem. Unfortunately, it is usually considered in a context of a rather simplistic understanding of the initial singularity (often referred to as the Big Bang). This review of the initial singularity problem considers its evolution in twentieth-century cosmology and develops methodological rules of its theological (and philosophical) interpretations. The recent work on the “noncommutative structure of singularities” suggests that on the fundamental level (below the Planck’s scale) the concepts of space, time, and localization are meaningless and that there is no distinction between singular and nonsingular states of the universe. In spite of the fact that at this level there is no time, one can meaningfully speak about dynamics, albeit in a generalized sense. Space, time, and singularities appear only in the transition process to the macroscopic physics. This idea, explored here in more detail, clearly favors an atemporal understanding of creation.
atemporality • Big Bang • creation of the universe • singularities • temporality
Michael Heller is a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, ul. Franciszkanvska 3, Cracow, Poland; e-mail: mheller @ wsd.tarnow.pl.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00303

Ralph Burhoe and Teilhard de Chardin: An Affinity in Mysticism? by James S. Nelson

Religious experience is conditioned and influenced by our understanding of reality, and scientific knowledge contributes to that understanding. Spirituality will be related to knowledge of nature in that experience of God will be mediated in and through a relation to the universe and out of the fulfillment of the creation. Thus a mystical knowledge of God is experienced in and out of a developing evolution of nature, society, and culture. Ralph Burhoe and Teilhard de Chardin share a vision of mystical unity with God as arising out of an integration involving the systems of nature and society.
culture • evolution • mediation • mysticism • nature • spirituality
James S. Nelson is Professor of Theology at North Park University, 3225 West Foster Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00304


On the Value of the Panentheistic Analogy: A Response to Willem Drees by Philip Clayton

The author expresses appreciation to Professor Drees for his careful and mostly accurate reading of God and Contemporary Science. The exchange provides the opportunity to step back from the specifics of the debate and clarify what it is that gives rise to the increasing talk of panentheism within religion-science discussions today. What is the central challenge that the natural sciences raise for theistic belief? How far does panentheism go toward answering this challenge, and what work still needs to be done? Locating the book in this way clarifies questions of where the burden of proof lies, especially with regard to the relation of physical, mental, and spiritual qualities.
Willem Drees • God and Contemporary Science • the mind/body problem • naturalism • panentheism • theological models
Philip Clayton is Professor and Chair of Philosophy, California State University (Sonoma), Rohnert Park, CA 94928; e-mail: claytonp @ sonoma.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00305


Unsnarling the World-Knot: Consciousness, Freedom, and the Mind-Body Problem by David Ray Griffin, reviewed by Michael L. Spezio

Michael L. Spezio, Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97401
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00306

Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam by Talal Asad, reviewed by Russell T. McCutcheon

Russell T. McCutcheon, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield, MO 65804
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00306

This Is Biology: The Science of the Living World by Ernst Mayr, reviewed by C. David Grant

C. David Grant, Associate Professor of Religion, TCU Box 298100, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas 76129
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00306

River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life by Richard Dawkins, reviewed by Matthew D. Drever

Matthew D. Drever, Vanderbilt Divinity School, 663 Weller Ct., Simi Valley, CA 93065
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00306

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