In the last issue (June 2002), I commented on the constant movement in our religion-science discussions between the old and the new. We are continually revisiting older, familiar ideas and texts, just as we are dealing with new challenges, often in places that we have scarcely noticed before. This observation could be probed at some depth, both historically and philosophically. There is more than a little truth in Umberto Ecos suggestion that we interpret even the new from the resources we have inherited from the past—he said that all books are actually responses to previously written books. Religious traditions know this well: new experience is interpreted by writing glosses on interpretations of older experience, Midrash. Religions more often reinterpret the old in order to deal with the new; less often do they repudiate the old.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin challenged theology to reach for an understanding of God that would take into account the reality of evolution. Paul Tillichs notion of New Being goes a long way toward meeting this challenge, and a theology of evolution can gain a great deal from Tillichs religious thought. But Teilhard would still wonder whether the philosophical notion of being, even when qualified by the adjective new, is itself adequate to contextualize evolution theologically. To Teilhard a theology attuned to a post-Darwinian world requires nothing less than a revolution in our understanding of what is ultimately real. It is doubtful that Tillichs rather classical theological system is radical enough to accommodate this requirement. For Teilhard, on the other hand, a metaphysics grounded in the biblical vision, wherein God is understood as the future on which the world rests as its sole support, can provide a more suitable setting for evolutionary theology.
complexity-consciousness • eschatology • metaphysics of the future • New Being • promise
John F. Haught is Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057.
Clocks, God, and Scientific Realism by Edward L. Schoen
Scientists, both modern and contemporary, commonly try to discern patterns in nature. They also frequently use arguments by analogy to construct an understanding of the natural mechanisms responsible for producing such patterns. For Robert Boyle, the famous clock at Strasbourg provided a perfect paradigm for understanding the connection between these two scientific activities. Unfortunately, it also posed a serious threat to his realistic pretensions. All sorts of internal mechanisms could produce precisely the same movements across the face of a clock. Given Gods immense creative capacities, Boyle realized that standard epistemological constraints could never ensure, not even to the least degree of probability, that scientific theories about the unobservable mechanisms of nature were descriptively accurate. Like most moderns, he fortified his epistemology theologically in order to retain his realistic stance. John Locke, however, took counsel from Ecclesiastes to repudiate Boyles realism, while Samuel Clarke mobilized biblical images to dismiss the clockwork paradigm altogether.
A contemporary review of this modern controversy reveals that there is still much to learn from the clock at Strasbourg. Among other things, the realism/antirealism issue is of central importance to understanding todays science, Nancey Murphys protests notwithstanding. Moreover, the kind of realistic stance that is essential, not only to the truth but to the very intelligibility of certain types of scientific explanation, demands more than the critical realism of Ian Barbour. To be taken seriously, the models used in such contexts must be taken literally.
antirealism • Ian Barbour • Robert Boyle • Samuel Clarke • clocks • entity realism • John Locke • models • Nancey Murphy • Isaac Newton • scientific realism • structural realism • John Toland
Edward L. Schoen is Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Western Kentucky University, 1 Big Red Way, Bowling Green, KY 42101.
Robert Boyle and the Machine Metaphor by Michael Ruse
The seventeenth-century chemist and philosopher Robert Boyle argued that the world is like a clockwork machine. This led to the problems of the place of a Creator and of how one can explain the directed, final-cause nature of organisms. Boyle thought that he could wrap everything up in one neat package, with a clear place for a designing God, but of course the coming of Darwinism casts doubt on this. Nevertheless, Boyles thinking does have some very interesting implications for the way in which we today should consider the science/religion relationship.
Aristotle • Robert Boyle • final cause • machine metaphor • natural theology
Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University, 151 Dodd Hall, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1500; e-mail: mruse @ mailer.fsu.edu.
Human Meaning in a Technological Culture
Religion in an Age of Technology by Willem B. Drees
Technology raises important religious issues and not only moral ones. Given that technology is about transforming reality, these issues are different from the issues that arise in dialogues on religion and science that are primarily after understanding reality (e.g., cosmology, physics, and evolutionary biology). Technology is a multifaceted reality—not just hardware but also skills and organization, attitudes and culture. Technology has been appreciated as well as considered a threat but is best understood contextually and constructively.
culture • IRAS conference • technology
Willem B. Drees is Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics, Department of Theology, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands. He was co-chair of the forty-eighth annual conference of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, Human Meaning in a Technological Culture, held on Star Island, New Hampshire, 28 July-4 August 2001.
Visual Technologies, Cosmographies, and Our Sense of Place in the Universe by Thomas Rockwell
The first part of this paper surveys the visual technologies that have transformed the modern visual environment and argues for the relevance of their study to an understanding of modernity in general and to the field of religion and science in particular. The term cosmography is adopted for the visual and spatial manifestation of a worldview, and the importance of analyzing and advancing modern cosmography is asserted. In the second part, the focus shifts to one particular challenge presented by modern cosmography: how to represent and find visual meaning in the new range of size scales that have been offered up by the modern scientific worldview. Six strategies for representing and finding meaning in this new expanded picture of the universe are explored.
cosmography • iconography • representation of size scales • visual culture • visual technologies
Thomas Rockwell is an artist, exhibit designer, and illustrator. He is president of Painted Universe Inc., a firm dedicated to artistic representation of scientific information. His mailing address is Painted Universe Inc., 20 Eastlake Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850.
From Agape to Organs: Religious Difference between Japan and America in Judging the Ethics of the Transplant by William R. LaFleur
This essay argues that Japans resistance to the practice of transplanting organs from persons deemed brain dead may not be the result, as some claim, of that societys religions being not yet sufficiently expressive of love and altruism. The violence to the body necessary for the excision of transplantable organs seems to have been made acceptable to American Christians at a unique historical window of opportunity for acceptance of that new form of medical technology. Traditional reserve about corpse mutilation had weakened and, especially as presented by the theologian Joseph Fletcher, organ donation was touted as both expressive of agape and a way of updating Christianity via the ethics of Utilitarianism. Many Japanese, largely Buddhist and Confucian in their orientation, view these changed valorizations as neither necessary nor patently more ethical than those of their own traditions.
Keywords: agape • altruism • autopsies • Jeremy Bentham • bioethics • brain death • Buddhism • cadavers • Cartesianism • Confucianism • determination of death • Joseph Fletcher • Harvard Medical School • Ogiwara Makoto • medical miracles • organ transplantation • religious difference • Utilitarianism • waste • window of opportunity
William R. LaFleur is the E. Dale Saunders Professor in Japanese Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and has a joint appointment in the Department of Religious Studies. His mailing address is 847 Williams Hall, The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305; e-mail: lafleur @ sas.upenn.edu.
Playing God? Yes! Religion in the Light of Technology by Willem B. Drees
If we appeal to God when our technology (including medicine) fails, we assume a God of the gaps. It is religiously preferable to appreciate technological competence. Our successes challenge, however, religious convictions. Modifying words and images is not enough, as technology affects theology more deeply. This is illustrated by the history of chemistry. Chemistry has been perceived as wanting to transform and purify reality rather than to understand the created order. Thus, unlike biology and physics, chemistry did not provide a fertile basis for natural theologies. It is argued that an active, transformative role of humans is appropriate in biblically inspired religions and called for in the light of imperfections and evil in the world. When the expression playing God is used dismissively, as if we trespass upon God-given territory, a theologically problematical association of God and the given order is assumed. A different view of the human calling can be articulated by drawing upon the Christian heritage and by developing an antinatural religious naturalism.
chemistry and religion • co-creation • evil • God of the gaps • playing God • religious naturalism • stewardship • technology
Willem B. Drees is Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics, Department of Theology, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands; e-mail: w.b.drees @ let.leidenuniv.nl.
Technology is a mirror that reflects human nature and intentions: (1) we want certain things done and we want tools to do those things; (2) we are finite, frail, and mortal; (3) we create technology in order to bring alternative worlds into being; (4) we do not know why we create or what values should guide us. Imagination is central to technology. Human nature and human freedom are brought into focus when we reflect on the central role of imagination in technology.
Keywords: A.I. • Bladerunner • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi • death • denial • finitude • freedom • Gattaca • Donna Haraway • imagination • Stanley Kubrick • Steven Spielberg • technology • Alan Turing
Philip Hefner is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1100 East 55th Street, Chicago IL 60615-5199; e-mail: p-n-hef @ worldnet.att.net.
Religion/Technology, Not Theology/Science, as the Defining Dichotomy by Rustum Roy
Science and religion are incommensurable: one cannot use centimeters to measure volume. Sciences proper cognate is theology. Science and theology are human activities that are basically conceptual (partly fallible) frameworks for explaining experience. Religion and technology, by contrast, involve and control or limit human practice and experience: they involve sensate reality—people and things. The study of the interaction of these four terms (or any two) must use the terms more precisely.
Science as practiced today has become scientism, another theology. Technology is, without any doubt, the worlds most powerful and fastest growing religion.
Minor squabbles among theologies, including science, must continue, but it is the tensions between technology and the established religions that will define this century. Battles on three fronts are already clear: the environment, globalization, and economic gaps. But whole-person healing, the replacement for high-tech reductionist modern medicine, is the most significant, because it will undermine science, which has hitched its wagon to this falling star.
The end of fundamental science is upon us, because it has been so successful. Science will be increasingly applications-driven, and it will be judged by results. Here, it has met its nemesis in whole-person healing that incorporates integrative medicine. Scientists must now reconsider their role in society. It will not be easy to accept a humbler position. Moreover, the vague allusions to spirituality by scientists need a more authentic commitment to praxis in lifestyle.
medicine • reality test • science-theology relation • spiritual fuzziness • technology-religion relation
Rustum Roy is Evan Pugh Professor of the Solid State Emeritus, Professor of Geochemistry, and Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Pennsylvania State University. He is also a Visiting Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona and a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Materials at Arizona State University. His mailing address is 102 Materials Research Laboratory, University Park, PA 16802; e-mail: rroy @ psu.edu.
Cyberpsychology, Human Relationships, and Our Virtual Interiors by John A. Teske
Recent research suggests an Internet paradox—that a communications technology might reduce social involvement and psychological well-being. In this article I examine some of the limitations of current Internet communication, including those of access, medium, presentation, and choice, that bear on the formation and maintenance of social relationships. I also explore issues central to human meaning in a technological culture—those of the history of the self, of individuality, and of human relationships—and suggest that social forces, technological and otherwise, have increasingly eroded our social interconnectedness and even produced psychological fragmentation. Finally, by considering the psychology of privacy, subjectivity, and intimacy, I look at the historical and developmental processes of internalization by which we construct the virtual interior of mind. Understanding this link between human meaning and technological culture, in the form and pattern of our virtual interiors, may help us to see opportunities as well as dangers for the growth of our humanity, our ethics, and our spirituality.
close relationships • individuality • internalization • Internet • nonverbal communication • privacy • social fragmentation • social history • technology • virtual reality
John A. Teske is Professor of Psychology, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA 17022; e-mail: teskeja @ etown.edu.
Christian theology has traditionally understood miracles as signs of Gods action in the world. This is emphasized in Johns Gospel: Now Jesus did many other signs … but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God … (John 20:30-31 RSV). Jesus himself appeals to his miracles as justifying his divine authority (John 5:36, 10:25; Mark 2:11-12). Thus, miracles are part of Gods revelation to humanity: Jesus not only teaches, he performs miracles as signs of Gods power and eschatological kingdom (roughly one-third of Marks Gospel concerns miracle stories). The greatest of these is Jesus own resurrection.
Yet miracles have long been suspect in the sciences. Several of the following papers, particularly those by natural scientists (R. J. Berry, John Polkinghorne), address this suspicion and argue that there is no inconsistency between natural science and miracles. …
Terence L. Nichols is Associate Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN 55105; e-mail: tlnichols @ stthomas.edu.
Miracles in Science and Theology by Terence L. Nichols
Miracles are not violations of nature. Contemporary miraculous healings seem to follow natural healing processes but to be enormously accelerated. Like grace, miracles elevate but do not contradict nature. Scriptural miracles, but also contemporary miracle accounts, have something to tell us about how God acts in the world.
Augustine • Alexis Carrell • divine action • grace • David Hume • miracle • special providence
Terence L. Nichols is Associate Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN 55105; e-mail: tlnichols @ stthomas.edu.
Divine Action: Expected and Unexpected by R. J. Berry
Miracles are signs of Gods power. Confusion about them comes from misunderstanding or doubting the relationship between God and creation rather than from science properly understood.
complementarity • God of the gaps • David Hume • miracles • providence
R. J. (Sam) Berry is Professor Emeritus of Genetics at University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK. He is a former President of Christians in Science.
Miracles are real or imagined events that contradict our intuitive expectations of how entities normally behave. Miracles in the weak sense are unexplained counterintuitive events. Miracles in the strong sense are counterintuitive events we explain by referring to the counterintuitive agents and forces of various religious traditions. Such explanations result from the fact that our minds treat half-understood information by carrying out searches in the memory, trying to connect new information with something already known. This is cognitively the most economical way of dealing with new information: we obtain the maximum of relevance at minimal processing cost.
cognitive science • counterintuitiveness • domain specificity • evolutionary psychology • intuitive ontology • miracles
Ilkka Pyysiäinen is Researcher at the University of Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and Associate Professor of Comparative Religion at the Universities of Helsinki and of Turku, Finland. His mailing address is Department of Comparative Religion, P.O. Box 59 (Unioninkatu 38 E), FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland; e-mail: ilkka.pyysiainen @ pp.inet.fi. The writing of this article was funded by the Academy of Finland, project 42719.
Classical Christian definitions of miracle speak of events transcending the natural powers of objects. A personal creator, I argue, might well cause such events in order to achieve a supernatural purpose—bringing creatures to eternal life. Miracles—events transcending natural powers, disclosing and realizing the divine purpose—would then be integral to the rational order of nature. David Humes arguments against believing reports of miracles are shown to be very weak. Laws of nature, I suggest, are best seen not as exceptionless rules but as context-dependent realizations of natural powers. In that context miracles transcend the natural order not as violations but as intelligible realizations of a divine supernatural purpose. Miracles are not parts of scientific theory but can be parts of a web of rational belief fully consistent with science.
Thomas Aquinas • Benedict XIV • causal powers • Carl Hempel • David Hume • law of nature • miracle
Keith Ward is Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, a Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, OX1 1DP, and a Fellow of the British Academy; e-mail: keith.ward @ christ-church.oxford.ac.uk.
The Credibility of the Miraculous by John C. Polkinghorne
Abstract: Miracle in a strict sense is to be discriminated from acts of special providence by its being radically unnatural in terms of prior expectation. The key issue in relation to credibility is theological in character, inasmuch as divine consistency must imply that miracles are capable of being understood as signs, affording deeper insight into the divine care for creation. These issues are explored by reference to scriptural miracles, particularly the virginal conception and the resurrection of Christ.
divine consistency • David Hume • miracle • providence • resurrection • virginal conception
John C. 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.
The concept of miracle has often been regarded as irreconcilable with the concept of natural law. But this contradiction applies only to an understanding of a miracle as a break of natural law. Such a violation would destroy the assertion of natural law, because its universal claim does not permit exceptions. However, the idea of miracle need not be conceived in this way, though it has often been done since medieval times. Augustine thought of miracles simply as unusual events that contradict our accustomed views of the course of nature but not nature itself. According to that definition of miracle, no contradiction of natural laws need be assumed. It is sufficient to regard unusual occurrences as signs of Gods special activity in creation.
Augustine • contingency • contra naturam • David Hume • natural law • regularities • Friedrich Schleiermacher • sign • Baruch Spinoza • unusual event • violation of natural law
Wolfhart Pannenberg is Professor of Systematic Theology Emeritus at the Protestant Theological Faculty of the University of Munich. His mailing address is Sudetenstr. 8, 82166 Gräfelfing, Germany.
The Human Phenomenon by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a new edition and translation of Le phénomène humain by Sarah Appleton-Weber), reviewed by James F. Salmon, S.J. and Nicole Schmitz-Moormann
James F. Salmon, S.J., Chemistry Department, Loyola College in Maryland, 4501 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21210; Nicole Schmitz-Moormann, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057-1137