Why so much attention to nature and naturalist modes of thought? This issue adds its heft to what is already a mountain of articles and symposia devoted to examining concepts of nature, the interpretation of nature, and the possibilities of naturalist modes of thought for religion, value-formation, and morality. Why do we continue to add to this immense amount of reflection on nature?
R. G. Collingwood, a British philosopher of the mid-twentieth century, observed in his 1945 book The Idea of Nature that all of our ideas and concepts are conditioned by our idea of nature, an idea that is generally formed during our elementary-school years, though we hope not ossified at that early age. Our ideas of beauty, of our own possibilities, of God, and of the environment around us—all of these and more bear the mark of what we think about nature. That Collingwoods insight is far from banal becomes clear when we remember that the enormous impact of the sciences in the last century and the sea change that they have effected in our worldviews make their impact primarily on our ideas of nature. If it is true that our ideas of nature condition all of our thinking and feeling, then it is clear that the very ground on which we stand has been undergoing radical reshaping for as long as any of us can remember.
For many theologians and philosophers, scientism is among the greatest of intellectual sins. In its most commonly cited form, scientism consists in claiming that science is the only source of real knowledge and, therefore, that what science does not discover does not exist. Because the charge of scientism is frequently levied, it is important to be clear about what exactly is being claimed in its name. I argue that scientism can best be understood as a fallacy, specifically as a kind of category mistake. Being clear about this requires an examination of the relationship of scientism to the question of demarcation between science and nonscience, a question that has potential implications for theology.
demarcation • reductionism • scientism • scientistic fallacy • Mikael Stenmark
Gregory R. Peterson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University, Box 504, Scobey 336, Brookings, SD 57007; e-mail: greg_peterson @ sdstate.edu.
Symposium: Is Nature Enough? The Thirst for Transcendence
Is Nature Enough? Introduction by Michael Cavanaugh
The forty-ninth annual IRAS conference on Star Island pursued the science-religion dialogue primarily in terms of two concepts: nature and transcendence. Robust Yes responses and likewise robust No responses were presented by both scientists and theologians to the theme question, Is Nature Enough? The Thirst for Transcendence. After this introductory survey of the definitional landscape, representative papers from the conference are presented.
nature • thirst • transcendence
Michael Cavanaugh is a lawyer and the president of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS). He co-chaired the forty-ninth annual conference of IRAS, Is Nature Enough? The Thirst for Transcendence, Star Island, New Hampshire, 27 July-3 August 2002. His address is 744 Dubois, Baton Rouge, LA 70808; e-mail: MichaeICav @ aol.com.
This essay is based on a lecture delivered at the 2002 lRAS Star Island conference, the theme of which was Is Nature Enough? The Thirst for Transcendence. I had been asked to represent the position of those who would answer No to the question. I thought it would stimulate discussion if I presented my side of the debate in a somewhat provocative manner rather than use a more ponderous approach that would argue each point in a meticulous and protracted fashion. Here I layout a theological position that finds naturalism wanting in three ways: in terms of human spiritual needs, in terms of the minds need for deep explanation, and in terms of the perennial human search for truth. Again, the style of presentation, like that of the original lecture, prohibits the kind of philosophical development that an adequate answer to each of the issues requires. The purpose is that of evoking discussion on a most important question.
evolutionary naturalism • explanatory pluralism • intelligent subjectivity • layered explanation • metaphysical naturalism • methodological naturalism • religious naturalism
John F. Haught is Healey Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, Washington. DC 20057.
Religious naturalism encompasses thinkers from Baruch Spinoza, George Santayana, John Dewey, Henry Nelson Wieman, and Ralph Burhoe to recent writers. I offer a generic definition of religious naturalism and then outline my own version, the minimalist vision of transcendence. Many standard issues in the science-and-religion dialogue are seen to fade in significance for religious naturalism. I make suggestions for our understanding of science, including the importance of transcognitive abilities, the need for a revised notion of rationality as an alternative to extreme versions of postmodernism, the value of rational dissensus, and the education of appreciation. Finally, I suggest ways to interpret the religious traditions of the world by religious naturalism.
Ursula Goodenough • Bernard Meland • minimalist vision of transcendence • religious naturalism • Calvin Schrag • George Santayana • Baruch Spinoza • Yi Toegye • J. Wentzel van Huyssteen • Henry Nelson Wieman
Jerome A. Stone is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at William Rainey Harper College, Palatine, IL 60067, and on the adjunct faculty of Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, Illinois; e-mail: Jersustone @ aol.com.
From Biology to Consciousness to Morality by Ursula Goodenough and Terrence W. Deacon
Social animals are provisioned with prosocial orientations that operate to transcend self-interest. Morality, as used here, describes human versions of such orientations. We explore the evolutionary antecedents of morality in the context of emergentism, giving considerable attention to the biological traits that undergird awareness and our emergent human forms of mind. We suggest that our moral frames of mind emerge from our primate prosocial capacities, transfigured and valenced by our symbolic languages, cultures, and religions.
biology • brains • consciousness • culture • emergence • moral ideals • moral motivation • morality • symbolic language • virtue
Ursula Goodenough is Professor of Biology at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and past president of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS). Her address is Department of Biology, Box 1129, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130; e-mail: ursula @ biosgi.wustl.edu. Terrence W. Deacon is a professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Wills Neuroscience Institute, 329 Kroeber Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3710.
Hindu Perspectives on the Thirst for Transcendence by Varadaraja V. Raman
Definitions of nature and transcendence are given, and the framework of Hindu thought is presented. The levels of reality as discovered by physics are then discussed, which leads us to revise our notions of reality and objectivity. Transcendence is defined as something beyond matter-energy in space-time and is explored in several contexts of modern science, as in pre-Big-Bang state, negative entropy, information, complexity, and others. Finally, a philosophical reflection on consciousness is presented.
Keywords: akshara • avyakta • brahman • complexity • consciousness • information • kshara • matter-energy • natural • nature • pre-Big-Bang entropy • space-time • subnatural • supernatural • transcendence • virtual particles
Varadaraja V. Raman is Emeritus Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY 14623; e-mail: vvrsps @ rit.edu.
God, the sacred, is radically indwelling and immanent; therefore, nature is enough to satisfy our thirst for transcendence. The transcendent is the radically indwelling capacity of love to bring new life and a sense of being at home in the universe to us and to the people of the world. The epic of evolution, the scientific story of evolution understood as cosmogenesis, is the foundation of this position. However, my primary focus is on one particular practice of internalizing the transforming power of the scientific story of evolution-that of story. Here the practice of story is understood as framing moments of our encounters with matters of faith and love, creating narratives out of these moments, embracing these narratives as a kind of personal scripture, and telling these narratives as a source of inspiration and of guidance about how we are to be of use in the world.
enough • immanence • narrative • personal stories of faith and love as scripture
Barbara Whittaker-Johns is Senior Minister of First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, 630 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02476.
The Biology of Morality by Nancy K. Morrison and Sally K. Severino
The morality of human beings, defined here as our ability to determine whether our actions are right or wrong, depends not just on following rules but also on understanding the impact of our actions on another person. How we understand the impact of our actions on another person depends on our state of consciousness, which is mediated by our brain and nervous system. We describe how we understand our morality to flow naturally from the biological state we are living in and how we see our biology and our morality as mutually interactive. A change in one changes the other. Another way of saying this is that changing either our morality or our biology changes both-changes who we are and what we do.
attuned consciousness • biological state • first nature • morality • personhood • second nature
Nancy K. Morrison is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Residency Training in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, 2400 Tucker NE, Albuquerque, NM 87131; e-mail: nmorrison @ salud.unm.edu. Sally K. Severino is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and past president of the American College of Psychoanalysts. Her mailing address is 83 Bosque Road, Algodones, NM 87001; e-mail: skseverino @ earthlink.net.
On the Relationship between Science and Ethics by Massimo Pigliucci
The relationship between ethics and science has been discussed within the framework of continuity versus discontinuity theories, each of which can take several forms. Continuity theorists claim that ethics is a science or at least that it has deep similarities with the modus operandi of science. Discontinuity theorists reject such equivalency, while at the same time many of them claim that ethics does deal with objective truths and universalizable statements, just not in the same sense as science does. I propose here a third view of quasi-continuity (or, equivalently, quasi-discontinuity) that integrates ethics and science as equal partners toward the uncovering of new knowledge. In this third way, a program envisioned by William James but made practicable only by contemporary scientific advancement, science can and must inform ethics at a deep level, and ethical theory-while going beyond science-cannot do without it. In particular, I identify four areas of ethics-science collaboration: neurobiological research into the basis of moral judgment, comparative anthropology, comparative evolutionary biology of primates, and game-theoretical modeling. I provide examples within each of these fields to show how they link to ethical theories (including prescriptive work) and questions. The essay concludes with a brief discussion of the light that a scientifically informed ethics can shed on some classical problems in moral theory, such as the relationships between rationality and selfishness, egoism and altruism, as well as the concept of social contract. A joint research program involving both philosophers and scientists is called for if we wish to move ethical theory into the twenty-first century.
continuity theory • ethics • evolutionary biology • game theory • neuroscience
Massimo Pigliucci is Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-1100; e-mail: pigliucci @ utk.edu. He is associated with the Graduate Program in Philosophy at the same university. This work was funded in part by National Science Foundation grant IBN 9707552.
Environmental Decline and the Rise of Religion by Matthew Orr
Historically, crises have spawned deliberate, widespread efforts to change a cultures worldviews. Anthropologists have characterized such efforts as revitalization movements and speculated that many of the worlds religions, including Christianity, arose through revitalization. Some responses to the planets environmental crisis share the characteristics of both a revitalization movement and an incipient religion. They call for a science-based cosmology and an encompassing reverence for nature, and thus differ from responses to environmental decline offered by traditional religions. As environmental problems deepen, historical precedent suggests that religious shifts in affected cultures may follow.
cosmology • environment • religiopoiesis • revitalization movement • superhuman • supernatural
Matthew Orr is an instructor in biology at the University of Oregons branch program in Bend, 1027 NW Trenton, Bend. OR 97701; e-mail: matorr @ darkwing.uoregon.edu.
Minding Animals, Minding Earth: Old Brains, New Bottlenecks by Marc Bekoff
I emphasize the importance of broadening behavioral, ecological, and conservation science into a more integrative, interdisciplinary, socially responsible, compassionate, spiritual, and holistic endeavor. I stress the significance of studies of animal behavior, especially ethological research concerned with animal emotions in which individuals are named and recognized for their own personalities, for helping us to learn not only about the nonhuman animal beings with whom we share Earth but also about who we are and our place in nature. We are best understood in relationship with others. To this end I develop the notions of minding animals and deep ethology. Animals are sources of wisdom, a way of knowing. We are all citizens of Earth, members of a global community in which intimate reciprocal and beneficent peaceful relationships are mandatory. A world without cruelty and with boundless compassion, respect, grace, humility, spirituality, and love would be a better world in which to live. We have compelling responsibilities for making Earth a better and more peaceful habitat for all beings. It is essential that we do better than our ancestors. We must reflect and step lightly as we redecorate nature. Time is not on our side. I plead for the development of heartfelt and holistic science that allows for joy and play. Science need not be suspicious of things it cannot fully understand. We must not avert our eyes or other senses from the eyes and voices of other beings who urgently need our uncompromising and unconditional aid and love. We can do much more than we have done for animals and the Earth.
animal cognition • animal emotions • animal play • cooperation • deep ethology • fairness • forgiveness • minding animals • natures wisdom • social morality
Marc Bekoff (http.//literati.net/Bekoff; www.ethologicalethics.org) is Professor of Biology in the Department of Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His mailing address is 296 Canyonside Drive, Boulder, CO 80302; e-mail: marc.bekoff @ colorado.edu.
Religion, Science, and Evolution: Paul Tillichs Fourth Way by Richard Grigg
In his book God After Darwin John Haught provides a useful categorization of theological approaches to evolution: some theologians actively oppose Darwinian evolution, another group maintains that science and religion have nothing to say to one another, and a third seeks to engage evolution. Haught wishes to pursue the third way. But many theological attempts to talk about divine action in the world, including divine involvement in the process of evolution, run afoul of the scientific principle of the conservation of matter-energy. Haughts reliance on the now-familiar notion that information can have causal efficacy does not in fact escape this difficulty. I suggest a fourth approach, represented by a constructive reading of Paul Tillichs theology. The central argument is that Tillich offers a way of taking Darwinian evolution up into ones ultimate concern without claiming that God has any causal relation to evolution. God provides no historical telos for evolution, but rather a depth teleology that springs from the manner in which God, as the depth of the structure of finite being, is the object of Christian faith.
conservation of energy • depth teleology • John Haught • theology and evolution • Paul Tillich
Richard Grigg is Professor of Religious Studies, Sacred Heart University, 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield CT 06432.
Is Our Universe Deterministic? Some Philosophical and Theological Reflections on an Elusive Topic by Taede A. Smedes
The question of whether or not our universe is deterministic remains of interest to both scientists and theologians. In this essay I argue that this question can be solved only by metaphysical decision and that no scientific evidence for either determinism or indeterminism will ever be conclusive. No finite being, no matter how powerful its cognitive abilities, will ever be able to establish the deterministic nature of the universe. The only being that would be capable of doing so would be one that is at once transcendent and immanent. Such a being is compatible with the God of the Christian tradition, which yields that a deterministic worldview is compatible with (yet does not necessarily lead to) a deterministic worldview. A more important point is that because science is never able to establish the determinism of our universe, it can never definitely rule out divine action except on metaphysical grounds.
chaos theory • determinism • divine action • John Dupré • immanence • indeterminism • logical possibility • metaphysics • physical possibility • Wesley Salmon • transcendence
Taede A. Smedes is a part-time assistant professor at Leiden University. His mailing address is Roelofsstraat 31, 9744 JP Groningen, The Netherlands; e-mail: tsmedes @ keyaccess.nl.
Religion in Mind: Cognitive Perspectives on Religious Belief, Ritual, and Experience edited by Jensine Andresen, reviewed by Fraser Watts