Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
35 (4), December 2000

Table of Contents

Editorial

December 2000 Editorial by Philip Hefner

With this issue, Zygon marks the end of its thousand-page millennial year volume. We have kept faith with our readers in providing, as we promised, a large world of reading material. We hope readers will agree that we offered a high-quality year, as well. Ralph Burhoe, our founder, spoke of his efforts in maintaining an “invisible college,” embracing people around the world who engage in reflecting on and discussing the issues of religion and science. This final issue of Year 2000 presents a substantial portion of that college’s discussions.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2000.00309.x

Think Pieces

Causality and Subjectivity in the Religious Quest by Ursula Goodenough

Abstract:
The dynamics of seeking causation and the dynamics of subjectivity are presented and then brought together in a consideration of the three core components of the religious quest: the search for and experience of ultimate explanations, the interiority of religious experience (“spirituality”), and the empathic experience of religious fellowship.
Keywords:
causation • empathy • fellowship • materialism • spirituality • subjectivity • theism versus non-theism
Ursula Goodenough is Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis and past president of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. Her address is Department of Biology, Box 1229, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130; e-mail: ursula @ biosgi.wustl.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00310

The “God Module” and the Complexifying Brain by Carol Rausch Albright

Abstract:
Recent reports of the discovery of a “God module” in the human brain derive from the fact that epileptic seizures in the left temporal lobe are associated with ecstatic feelings sometimes described as an experience of the presence of God. The brain area involved has been described as either (a) the seat of an innate human faculty for experiencing the divine or (b) the seat of religious delusions.

In fact, religious experience is extremely various and involves many parts of the brain, including some that are prehuman in their evolutionary history and some that are characteristically human. In the continuing integration of such experiences, spiritual formation takes place. Thus the entire human brain might be described as a “God module.”

Such a process is only possible because of the brain’s complexity. The human brain is the most complex entity for its size that we know of. As used here, complexity is a specialized term denoting the presence of a web of interlinked and significant connections—the more intricate the web, the more complex the entity. Complex systems develop only in a milieu that provides both lawfulness and freedom, and they tend to be self-organizing, becoming more complex and more effective as a result of both inward and outward experience. The evidence suggests that both personal growth and spiritual growth are processes of complexification of character, and of the brain itself. This thesis is tested in light of the work of William James and James W. Fowler.
Keywords:
brain • complexity • emergence • James W. Fowler • God module • William James • religious experience • spiritual formation • teleology • teleonomy
Carol Rausch Albright is Co-Director of the CTNS Science and Religion Course Program, Midwest Region. Her mailing address is 5415 S. Hyde Park Blvd., Chicago, IL 60615; e-mail: albright1 @ aol.com.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00311

Sociobiology: The Conversation Continues

Christian Love and Biological Altruism by Hubert Meisinger, translated by Alfred Kracher

Abstract:
The first part of my investigation of the Christian love command and biological research on altruism is organized around three key themes whose different forms both in the theological and in the sociobiological context are investigated: The awareness of expanding inclusiveness concerns the issue of extending love or altruistic behavior beyond the most immediate neighbor, even to enemies. The awareness of excessive demand concerns the question of the ability of the human being, to fulfill an excessive demand placed by the command of love or by altruistic admonitions. Threshold awareness finally concerns the question whether love or altruism constitutes a step on the way to a “new human” and a “new world.”

In the second part I introduce two models for the relationship between Christian religion or theology and sociobiology. The model by Ralph Wendell Burhoe is characterized by a functional approach toward religion, which is the crucial factor within culture for motivating human beings to act altruistically toward nonrelated individuals. This functional analysis of religion is a constructive contribution to a scientific description of the world. The other model, by Philip Hefner, is theologically oriented and emphasizes the intrinsic character of altruistic love, which has its origin in God and whose anthropological preconditions are elucidated in sociobiological research.

The goal of this investigation is to show that a better mutual understanding is preferable to a total incorporation of the investigated domains into each other.
Keywords:
altruism • Ralph W. Burhoe • Christian love • created co-creator • creatio continua Dr. Hubert Meisinger is pastor of the Protestant Student Congregation at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, and a member of the executive council of the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology. His address is ESG, Erbacher Strasse 17, D-64287, Darmstadt, Germany; e-mail: h.meisinger @ hrzpub.tudarmstadt.de. This article is the concluding chapter of the author’s Liebesgebot und Altruismusforschung (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht; Freiburg, Switzerland: Universitätsverlag Freiburg, 1996), which was awarded the 1996 research prize by the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology. The translator is Dr. Alfred Kracher, Assistant Scientist and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00312

Sociobiology and Original Sin by Patricia A. Williams

Abstract:
This paper argues that the creation narrative of the Fall in Genesis 2:4b-3:24 is not history and does not contain a doctrine of original sin. The doctrine of original sin as a theory of human nature needs a new foundation. The contemporary science of sociobiology has a theory of human nature that is remarkably similar to major versions of the Christian doctrines of original sin. To incorporate sociobiology’s theory of human nature into Christianity is to lay the foundation for a new, ecumenical understanding of original sin.
Keywords:
altruism • Christianity • evolution • human nature • original sin • sociobiology
Patricia A. Williams is a philosopher. Her address is P. O. Box 69, Covesville, VA 22931.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00313

A Retrospective on Sociobiology by Michael Cavanaugh

Abstract:
Zygon has been discussing the implications of sociobiology for twenty-five years, ever since E. O. Wilson’s book by that name first burst upon the stage. In the course of that discussion there have been many heated exchanges, but in this journal, at least, the heat has also generated light. Thus it is now timely and useful to review and consolidate Zygon’s approach to the sociobiology construct, not only as it was originally presented but as it has changed over time. The goal of this article is to recapitulate and summarize the dialogue that has taken place here. But my aim is not merely to rehash the discussion; it is more precisely to extend and continue it. Specific proposals are offered that are designed to ground future conversations on the solid foundation that has been established over the last quarter century.
Keywords:
behavioral ecology • emergence • evolutionary epistemology • psychobiology • reductionism • sociobiology • theological anthropology • E. O. Wilson • Zygon
Michael Cavanaugh is a lawyer. His address is 744 Dubois, Baton Rouge, LA 70808; e-mail: MichaelCav @ aol.com.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00314

The Study of Religion: Conversation Point for Theology and Science

Phenomenology and Theology—Reflections on the Study of Religion by Alfred Kracher

Abstract:
The academic study of religious belief and practice is frequently taken to debunk the content of religion. This attitude impedes the science-theology dialogue and causes believers to react defensively toward studies of religion. I argue that a large, although not unrestricted, domain exists in which phenomenology of religion is neutral with respect to content, that is, compatible with either belief or unbelief. Theology can constructively interact with secular studies of religion, in some cases even explicitly hostile ones. Three themes emerge that elaborate on this interaction: (1) the claim that a scientific study of religion is capable of refuting belief is a logical mistake; (2) religious practice, and to some extent belief, can benefit from secular scrutiny; (3) the entirety of religious expressions is richer than the content that can be captured by analytical study of the phenomenon.
Keywords:
anthropomorphism • asceticism • atheism • belief • credibility • debunking • functional analysis • metaphor • objectivity • phenomenology of religion • ritual • theology • virus theory
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: 10.1111/1467-9744.00315

Zygon Conversations: Responses to Year 2000 Articles

Thick Naturalism: Comments on Zygon Zygon by Willem B. Drees

Abstract:
The term naturalism arouses strong emotions; religious naturalism even more. In this essay, naturalism is explored in a variety of contexts, in contrast to supernaturalism (in metaphysics), normativism (in ethics and epistemology), and rationalism (in the philosophy of mind). It is argued that religious naturalism becomes a “thick” naturalism, a way of life rather than just a philosophical position. We can discern a subculture with a historical identity, a variety of dialects, stories that evoke attitudes and feelings, as well as more systematic theological elaborations. In this context, religious naturalists are called to thicken further the ways of life that embody their religious and naturalist sensitivities. In order to speak of a naturalist theology in this context, one has to define theology in a way that avoids assumptions regarding the supernatural; this can be achieved by presenting theologies as particular combinations of cosmologies (informed by the sciences) and axiologies (values).
Keywords:
naturalism • religion and science • religious naturalism • thick naturalism
Willem B. Drees holds the Nicolette Bruining Chair in Philosophy of Nature and of Technology from a Liberal-Protestant Perspective at the University of Twente. He also works at the Bezinningscentrum of the Vrije Universiteit. His mailing address is Hertog Hendriklaan 11, 3743 DL Baarn, The Netherlands; e-mail: willemb @ drees.nl.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00316

The Possibility of Meaning in Human Evolution by Barbara Forrest

Abstract:
Science undermines the certitude of non-naturalistic answers to the question of whether human life has meaning. I explore whether evolution can provide a naturalistic basis for existential meaning. Using the work of philosopher Daniel Dennett and scientist Ursula Goodenough, I argue that evolution is the locus of the possibility of meaning because it has produced intentionality, the matrix of consciousness. I conclude that the question of the meaning of human life is an existentialist one: existential meaning is a product of the individual and collective tasks human beings undertake.
Keywords:
biology • consciousness • emergence • emergent functions • evolution • existence • existentialism • intentionality • language • life • life forms • meaning • naturalism • organisms • philosophy • purpose • reductionism • religion • science • self-consciousness • significance • species • symbol • value • worldview
Barbara Forrest is Associate Professor of Philosophy in the Department of History and Political Science at Southeastern Louisiana University. Her address is SLU 10484, University Station, Hammond, LA 70402; e-mail: bForrest@selu.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00317

God, Determinism, and Action: Perspectives from Physics by Gregory R. Peterson

Abstract:
Recent articles by Michael Heller, Carl Helrich, Peter Hodgson, Jeffrey Koperski, and Nicholas Saunders present a challenge to much current thinking on God, divine action, and cosmology. In the process, they also reveal underlying assumptions and current problems, especially in the debate over physics and divine action. In particular, three issues come up that need to be addressed further. First, what is the status of determinism, and what can physics contribute? Second, what kind of divine action are we talking about? Third, what is the relationship between God and time, and how does this affect claims about the personhood of God? While these essays present necessary critiques and interesting, positive proposals, they also reveal unresolved tensions that need to be addressed.
Keywords:
chaos • cosmology • determinism • divine action • quantum mechanics • time
Gregory R. Peterson is Assistant Professor of Religion at Thiel College, Greenville, PA 16125; e-mail: gpeterso @ thiel.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00318

Divine Action and Quantum Theory by Thomas F. Tracy

Abstract:
Recent articles by Nicholas Saunders, Carl Helrich, and Jeffrey Koperski raise important questions about attempts to make use of quantum mechanics in giving an account of particular divine action in the world. In response, I make two principal points. First, some of the most pointed theological criticisms lose their force if we attend with sufficient care to the limited aims of proposals about divine action at points of quantum indetermination. Second, given the current state of knowledge, it remains an open option to make theological use of an indeterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics. Any such proposal, however, will be an exploratory hypothesis offered in the face of deep uncertainties regarding the measurement problem and the presence in natural systems of amplifiers for quantum effects.
Keywords:
amplification of quantum effects • creation • determinism versus indeterminism • divine action • interpretations of quantum theory • measurement problem • providence
Thomas F. Tracy is Phillips Professor of Religion at Bates College, Department of Philosophy and Religion, 75 Campus Avenue, Lewiston, ME 04240; e-mail: ttracy @ bates.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00319

Divine Action in the World of Physics: Response to Nicholas Saunders by Keith Ward

Abstract:
Nicholas Saunders claims that, in my view, divine action requires and is confined to indeterminacies at the quantum level. I try to make clear that, in speaking of “gaps” in physical causality, I mean that the existence of intentions entails that determining law explanations alone cannot give a complete account of the natural world. By “indeterminacy” I mean a general (not quantum) lack of determining causality in the physical order. Construing physical causality in terms of dispositional properties variously realized in more or less creative ways in different contexts may be most helpful in developing an account of divine action.
Keywords:
divine action • God of the gaps • indeterminacy • personal explanation • reductionism • A. N. Whitehead
Keith Ward is Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, and a Canon of Christ Church, Oxford 0X1 1DP, United Kingdom. He was formerly Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion in the University of London; e-mail: keith.ward @ christ-church.oxford.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00320

Theology, Science, and Postmodernism: Responding to Stanley Grenz by Edwin C. Laurenson

Abstract:
This article responds to Stanley J. Grenz’s Templeton Lecture, “Why Do Theologians Need to Be Scientists?” published in the June 2000 issue of Zygon (Grenz 2000). In the first part I outline my reasons for finding the kind of theological reflections in which Grenz engages worthy of attention by noting my disagreement with the view that a sufficient response to theological issues can be formulated on the basis of an examination of our biological nature. I assert, in that connection, the autonomy of reason as a way of investigating and understanding the world. In the second part I respond directly to Grenz by explaining my disagreement with the postmodern critique of science upon which he relies and his adherence to Christian eschatology as an answer to the conundrums into which, he posits, we are drawn as a result of that critique. I note that I agree with Grenz, however, that the activity of valuing is necessarily a forward-looking Godlike endeavor that is not derivable from science. In the third part I suggest that we must be open to the investigation of the possible existence of an objective realm of value and that, in any case, rejection of the postmodern critique of science in many cases provides a sound basis for the disciplined resolution of factual questions that frequently lie at the base of disagreements about values.
Keywords:
absolute unitary being • aesthetic-religious continuum • anthropic principle • autonomy of reason • Michael Cavanaugh • Christian eschatology • creation of a new being • Eugene d’Aquili • foundational • Godlike powers • Stanley Grenz • Thomas Hobbes • Thomas Kuhn • liberal individualism • mechanism and value • mind • Thomas Nagel • naturalistic fallacy • Andrew Newberg • objective realm of value • philosophical realism • postmodernism • science • solipsism • theology
Edwin C. Laurenson is a corporate and securities lawyer. His mailing address is Baker and McKenzie, 805 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022; e-mail: edwin.c.laurenson @ bakernet.com.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00321

The Enlightenment That Won’t Go Away: Modernity’s Crux by Robert W. Bertram

Abstract:
The Critical Process unleashed by the Enlightenment and endlessly resharpening itself to this day has mortally wounded the God of Deism, maybe also of theism, even of Christianity. A temptation of Christian theology is to retreat in denial into an updated version of Deism, seemingly granting full license to modern science but only so long as it does not impugn God’s love. The alternative here proposed is to ride out The Critical Process, in fact to encourage it, all the way into modernity’s crux: How can a design that is not benign still be divine? The Christian reply is: through a real death of God and of ourselves as well, and through resurrections beginning now, thus freeing The Critical Process from the illusion of insuring our survival and, instead, for the honest Enlightenment task of merely telling the truth.
Keywords:
Christian theology • The Critical Process • critical reason • crux • Charles Darwin • Deism • Enlightenment • evil • David Hume • postmodernism • rationalism • science • survival • yoke
Robert Bertram is Seminex Professor (Emeritus) of Historical and Systematic Theology, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. His mailing address is 611 Eckrich Place, Webster Groves, MO 63119; e-mail: TBrtrm @ aol.com.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00322

Profile: Conversations with John Polkinghorne

The Nature of Physical Reality by John Polkinghorne

Abstract:
This account of the dynamical theory of chaos leads to a metaphysical picture of a world with an open future, in which the laws of physics are emergent-downward approximations to a more subtle and supple reality and in which there is downward causation through information input as well as upward causation through energy input. Such a metaphysical picture can accommodate both human and divine agency.
Keywords:
antireductionism • chaos • Bernard d’Espagnat • determinism • downward causation • emergence • Austin Farrer • Mitchell Feigenbaum • fractals • God of the gaps • Mandelbrot set • Donald MacKay • mechanism • mind and matter • Jürgen Moltmann • A. R. Peacocke • process thought • quantum theory • reductionism • A. N. Whitehead
John Polkinghorne is a former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and an Anglican priest. His mailing address is 74 Hurst Park Avenue, Cambridge, CB4 2AF, England.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00323

Science and Theology in the Twenty-First Century by John Polkinghorne

Abstract:
The current interaction of science and theology is surveyed. Modern physics describes a world of intrinsic unpredictability and deep relationality. Theology provides answers to the metaquestions of why that world is rationally transparent and rationally beautiful and why it is so finely tuned for carbon-based life. Biology’s fundamental insight of evolutionary process is to be understood theologically as creation “making itself.” In the twenty-first century, biology may be expected to move beyond the merely mechanical. Neuroscience will not have much useful interaction with theology until it attains theories of wide explanatory scope. Computer models of the brain do not meet this requirement. A theological style of bottom-up thinking comes closest to scientific habits of thought. Complexity theory suggests that information will prove to be an increasingly important scientific concept, encouraging theology to revive the Thomistic notion of the soul as the form of the body. Another gift of science to theology will lie in providing a meeting point for the encounter of the world faith traditions.
Keywords:
bottom-up thinking • chaos theory • creation • dualism • EPR effect • evolution • Stuart Kauffman • metaquestions • natural theology • quantum theory • relativity • John Searle • soul • world faiths
John Polkinghorne is a former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and an Anglican priest. His mailing address is 74 Hurst Park Avenue, Cambridge, CB4 2AF, England.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00324

The Life and Works of a Bottom-Up Thinker by John Polkinghorne

Abstract:
A brief account is given of the author’s life as a physicist and then a priest. The twin foundations of the author’s theological endeavors have been a respect for traditional Christian thinking, though not exempting it from revision where this is needed, and a style of argument termed bottom-up thinking, which seeks to proceed from experience to understanding. The diversity of the world faith traditions is perceived as a major source of perplexity. A revised and modest natural theology and the issue of divine action have been at the top of a science and theology agenda. A defense is sketched in realist terms of the metaphysical strategy of using an ontological interpretation of the unpredictabilities of chaos theory to support a notion of top-down causality through active information. The success of Christian theology as a resource of total explanation depends on a credible account of eschatological hope. Reference is made to practical experience of ethics in the public square.
Keywords:
bottom-up thinking • chaos theory • divine action • eschatology • natural theology • Nicene Christianity • John Polkinghorne • realism • science and religion • world faiths
John Polkinghorne is a former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and an Anglican priest. His mailing address is 74 Hurst Park Avenue, Cambridge, CB4 2AF, England.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00325

John Polkinghorne: Crossing the Divide between Physics and Metaphysics by Carl S. Helrich

Abstract:
John Polkinghorne is a significant contributor to the religion and science dialogue, bringing the expertise of a scientist coupled with serious theological study, ordination, and service as a parish priest. He takes both theology and science with utmost seriousness and describes himself as a bottom-up thinker, confronting the scriptural record as a scientist does data. But he refrains from giving scientific explanations of scripture. Polkinghorne’s concern is with hope, and specifically with eschatological hope. The framework for his theological thinking is the Nicene Creed, in which is found the counterintuitive openness common to theoretical physics. He acknowledges the need for thinking beyond the confines of present scientific understanding in proposing active information as a concept for considering the mind.
Keywords:
active information • bottom-up thinking • eschatology • hope • Nicene Creed • quantum theory
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: 10.1111/1467-9744.00326

Appreciating a Scientist-Theologian: Some Remarks on the Work of John Polkinghorne by Edward B. Davis

Abstract:
Perhaps the greatest irony about the contemporary religion-science dialogue is the fact that, despite their own strongly articulated denials, many thinkers implicitly accept the “warfare” thesis of A. D. White—that is, they agree with White that traditional theology has proved unable to engage science in fruitful conversation. More than most others, John Polkinghorne understands just how badly White misread the history of Christianity and science, and how much theology has been impoverished by its failure to challenge this core assumption of modernity.
Keywords:
divine action • resurrection • theodicy • transcendence • warfare thesis
Edward B. Davis is Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College, Grantham, PA 17027; e-mail: tdavis @ messiah.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00327

John Polkinghorne and the Task of Addressing a “Messy” World by Ann Pederson and Lou Ann Trost

Abstract:
As a physicist-theologian, John Polkinghorne has done a great service for the community of scholars engaged in the theology-and-science dialogue as well as for a broader audience of interested persons. We examine Polkinghorne’s theological method to see what it suggests about his understanding of the function of systematic theology and his philosophy of science. His strong emphasis on rationality in theology corresponds to his epistemological discussions. Polkinghorne links his methodology to “thinking,” so “experience” seems relegated to the minds, and not the lives, of the believers. Consequently, his theology does not easily engage ethical, political, and cultural landscapes where the concrete contexts of particular people’s lives engage their faith. The challenge for those of us in religion-and-science is to come to grips with this messy, complicated world.
Keywords:
doctrine of God • epistemology • experience • faith • interdisciplinary work • natural theology • Wolfhart Pannenberg • rationality • theological method
Ann Pederson is an Associate Professor of Religion at Augustana College, 29th and South Summit, Sioux Falls, SD 57197. Lou Ann Trost is the Program Director and Assistant Professor of Theology and Science in Residence at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00328

Twenty Years in the Science and Theology Alpine Climbing Club by John Polkinghorne

Abstract:
The important role of hope in the author’s thinking is acknowledged. While natural theology is important in its proper place, Christian theology centers on the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Its discourse will need to avail itself of the power of symbol.
Keywords:
hope • natural theology • symbol
John Polkinghorne is a former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and an Anglican priest. His mailing address is 74 Hurst Park Avenue, Cambridge, CB4 2AF, England.
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.00329

Reviews

Explaining Consciousness—The “Hard Problem” edited by Jonathan Shear, reviewed by Michael L. Spezio

Michael L. Spezio, Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97401
DOI: 0.1111/1467-9744.00330

Science and Theology: The New Consonance edited by Ted Peters, reviewed by James E. Huchingson

James E. Huchingson, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199
DOI: 0.1111/1467-9744.00330

Super, Natural Christians: How We Should Love Nature by Sallie McFague, reviewed by Vaughan McTernan

Vaughan McTernan, 717 Chapin, Beloit, WI 53511
DOI: 0.1111/1467-9744.00330



Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts