Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
36 (1), March 2001

Table of Contents


March 2001 Editorial by Philip Hefner

It seems appropriate, as Zygon enters this first full year of the third millennium, that we present a full slate of articles that “push the envelope,” that attempt, before our very eyes, to reach forward beyond existing boundaries of thought into new ways of thinking. These attempts may indeed go in directions that their authors have not envisioned; they may even prove in the long run to be abortive. In any case, however, they serve to stretch our minds and engage us in the authors’ search for new ways of thinking and new ways of imagining the agenda for this new millennium.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2001.00335.x

Think Pieces

Religion as Orienting Worldview by Gregory R. Peterson

Religions are complex, and any attempt at defining religion necessarily falls short. Nevertheless, any scholarly inquiry into the nature of religion must use some criteria in order to evaluate and study the character of religious traditions across contexts. To this end, I propose understanding religion in terms of an orienting worldview. Religions are worldviews that are expressed not only in beliefs but also in narratives and symbols. More than this, religions orient action, and any genuine religious tradition necessarily is concerned with normative behavior, whether ethical or religious in character. Such an understanding of religion has several advantages, one of which is its natural relation to current forms of the science-religion dialogue. Not only can the findings of cognitive science and related areas inform us about the nature of religion; scientific discoveries also prove to be important for any religious synthesis that attempts to construct a worldview for the twenty-first century.
cognitive science • definition of religion • orienting worldview • science-religion dialogue
Gregory R. Peterson is Assistant Professor of Religion at Thiel College, Greenville, PA 16125; e-mail: gpeterso @ thiel.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00336

Vertical and Horizontal Transcendence by Ursula Goodenough

Transcendence is explored from two perspectives: the traditional concept wherein the origination of the sacred is “out there,” and the alternate concept wherein the sacred originates “here.” Each is evaluated from the perspectives of aesthetics and hierarchy. Both forms of transcendence are viewed as essential to the full religious life.
aesthetics • green spirituality • hierarchy • sacredness • transcendence
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: 10.1111/0591-2385.00337


Is Biosphere Doing Theology? by Ludovico Galleni

Three theories about evolution are presently under discussion: the genocentric theory, the organismocentric theory, and the biospherocentric theory. A brief discussion of the three theories is presented. These theories have different implications for theology. The genocentric theory is related to the Darwinian interpretation and, for theology, means the end of an apologetic vision of natural science and for this reason the end of natural theology. The organismocentric theory is mainly related to events of autoorganization and follows the path of the geometrical harmony of nature. But it is far different from the apologetic interpretation of natural theology which cannot be restored. The biospherocentric theory, on the contrary, contains many fruitful perspectives. This theory, which counts Teilhard de Chardin among its founders, allows the development of a new approach to the theology of nature. In this approach, it is actually the biosphere herself that is doing theology thanks to her thinking sphere: the noosphere.
evolutionary biology • Galileo • natural theology • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin • theology of nature
Ludovico Galleni is professor of general zoology, faculty of agricultural science, University of Pisa, Via San Michele degli Scalzi 2 I 56124 Pisa, Italy; e-mail: LGalleni @ agr.unipi.it.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00338

The Cyborg as an Interpretation of Culture-Nature by Anne Kull

The idea of “nature” performs an important cultural work. The cyborg-nature is an attempt to free ourselves from the features of the culturally authorized concepts of nature. The cyborg offers new metaphors to both academic and popular theorizing for comprehending the different ways that sciences and technologies affect our lives, subjectivities, and concepts. The cyborg is a lived reality and a metaphor. Paul Tillich deemed it necessary to have a mythos of technology to explain our technologies and ourselves. He offered “The Technical City” as a symbol for his age. Donna Haraway’s cyborg-figure could function as a symbol to interpret our time and technologies and ourselves.
cyborg • Donna Haraway • the ideas of nature • symbol • technonature • Paul Tillich
Anne Kull is a lector of the New Testament at Tartu State University, Department of Theology, Ülikooli 18, Tartu Estonia 50002.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00339

Artificial Intelligence, Religion, and Community Concern by Matt J. Rossano

Future developments in artificial intelligence (AI) will likely allow for a greater degree of human-machine convergence, with machines becoming more humanlike and intelligent machinery becoming more integrated into human brain function. This will pose many ethical challenges, and the necessity for a moral framework for evaluating these challenges will grow. This paper argues that community concern constitutes a central factor in both the evolution of religion and the human brain, and as such it should be used as the organizing principle for moral evaluations of AI technologies.
artificial intelligence • community concern • evolution • morality
Matt J. Rossano is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Southeastern Louisiana University, SLU 10831, Hammond, LA 70402; e-mail: mrossano @ selu.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00340

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of Darwinism by Larry Arnhart

As a young proponent of “creation science,” I rejected Darwinian biology as false, bad, and ugly. Now I defend Darwinism as true, good, and beautiful. Moreover, I now see Darwinism as compatible with the natural piety that arises as one moves from nature to nature’s God.
creationism • Darwinism • intelligent design • morality • natural law • natural religion
Larry Arnhart is Professor of Political Science at Northern Illinois University, 1425 West Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, IL 60115; e-mail: larnhart @ niu.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00341

Neuroscience and Spirit

The Genesis of Mind and Spirit by John A. Teske

Spiritual life is made possible by the evolution of a human neuropsychology that requires social interdependence for its development. Extensive neuroplasticity requires experiential shaping throughout life. The evolution of frontal cortex hypertrophy suggests that much of this shaping is produced by a socially constructed virtual reality, extending beyond immediate experience. Prefrontal colonization makes possible the social scaffolding of neuroregulation, including the emotional attachments necessary for moral life. Cognitive independence from immediate environments enables symbioses with external memory systems, producing novel forms of socially constituted experience and making possible the transformative effect of religious systems upon individual biologies and psychologies.
brain development • cognitive evolution • emotion • internalization • neuropsychology • social construction • spirituality • virtual reality
John A. Teske is Professor of Psychology, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA 17022; e-mail: teskeja @ etown.edu. Support for the paper was provided by a faculty summer stipend from Elizabethtown College.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00342

The Limbic System and the Soul: Evolution and the Neuroanatomy of Religious Experience by R. Joseph

The evolutionary neurological foundations of religious experience are detailed. Human beings have been burying and preparing their dead for the Hereafter for more than 100,000 years. These behaviors and beliefs are related to activation of the amygdala, hippocampus, and temporal lobe, which are responsible for religious, spiritual, and mystical trancelike states, dreaming, astral projection, near-death and out-of-body experiences, and the hallucination of ghosts, demons, angels, and gods. Abraham, Moses, Muhammad, and Jesus Christ, and others who have communed with angels or gods display limbic system hyperactivity, whereas patients report religious hallucinations or out-of-body experiences when limbic structures are stimulated or excessively activated. It is postulated that limbic and temporal lobe structures account for the sexual and violent aspects of religious behavior and also serve as a “transmitter to God,” and that the evolution of these structures made spiritual experience possible.
amygdala • angels • Cro-Magnon • dreams • evolution • frontal lobe • ghosts • God • hippocampus • limbic system • Neanderthals • near death • sex • spirituality • temporal lobe
R. Joseph is director of the Brain Research Laboratory, Brain-Mind.com, San Jose, CA 95126; e-mail: joseph @ brain-mind.com.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00343

Supervenience: Two Proposals

Supervenience and Basic Christian Beliefs by Joseph A. Bracken, S. J.

A field-oriented interpretation of Whiteheadian societies of actual occasions, when used to explain the notion of “strong supervenience” as applied to the mind-brain problem, allows one to claim that not only higher-level properties such as consciousness but even higher-level entities such as the mind or soul are emergent from lower-level systems of neuronal interaction. Moreover, it also explains the preexistence of God to the world and Christian belief in eternal life with the triune God in a way that is impossible within the limits of a theory of strong supervenience.
actual occasion • God-world relationship • mind-body problem • structured field of activity • supervenience • transempirical hypothesis
Joseph A. Bracken, S.J., is Professor of Theology at Xavier University, 3844 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45207.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00344

Can Western Monotheism Avoid Substance Dualism? by Dennis Bielfeldt

The problem of divine agency and action is analogous to the problem of human agency and action: How is such agency possible in the absence of a dualistic causal interaction between disparate orders of being? This paper explores nondualistic accounts of divine agency that assert the following: (1) physical monism, (2) antireductionism, (3) physical realization, and (4) divine causal realism. I conclude that a robustly causal deity is incompatible with nondualism’s affirmation of physical monism. Specifically, I argue the incoherence of nondualistic strategies that advocate divine information transfer without energy transfer or the divine downward causation of physical events. Furthermore, I claim that the principle of explanatory exclusion makes any nondualistic, noninterventionist account of divine agency highly dubious. Finally, I suggest that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam can avoid a causally inert deity only if they are willing to deny the current presumption of the causal closure of the physical.
divine agency • downward causation • nondualism • principle of explanatory exclusion • reductionism • supervenience • top-down causality
Dennis Bielfeldt is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007; e-mail: Dennis_Bielfeldt @ sdstate.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00345


Theorizing About Myth by Robert A. Segal, reviewed by Andrew Von Hendy

Andrew Von Hendy, Associate Professor of English, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00346

God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion edited by Christopher Southgate, Celia Deane-Drummond, Paul D. Murray, Michael Robert Negus, Lawrence Osborn, Michael Poole, Jacqui Stewart, and Fraser Watts, reviewed by Peter E. Hodgson

Peter E. Hodgson, Corpus Christi College, Oxford OX1 4JF, United Kingdom
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00346

Reconstructing Eliade: Making Sense of Religion by Bryan S. Rennie, reviewed by Douglas Allen

Douglas Allen, Department of Philosophy, 5776 The Maples, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5776
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00346

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