Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
39 (3), September 2004

Table of Contents


Struggling over Nature by Philip Hefner

Nature stands at the very center of an intense struggle today. We witness it in passionate controversy over basic questions. How urgent is it that we care for the natural environment? How should we care for it? Should embryos, even those that are surplus products of fertility therapy, be treated as if they were human beings? How many nonhuman animals, rhesus monkeys, for example, can be destroyed in testing that aims at benefits for humans? Where do we draw the line between therapy and enhancement in our genetic engineering? What limits, of any, should be set for stem-cell research? How do we set priorities for balancing medical research and care that aims at curing diseases and that which aims at improving ourselves and our daily lives? And how does one define improvement? Does sexual dysfunction rate the same priority for medical attention as HIV/AIDS or cancer? How should we govern the production of genetically modified foods?
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00598.x


Why I Believe in Science and Believe in God: A Credo by Ervin Laszlo

The conflict between science and religion is not irremediable: the world concept of science is changing, and the change brings about a rapprochement with religious beliefs in some fundamental areas. One such area is the question of original creation. Recent findings regarding the nature of the universe show the improbability of its having arisen in the course of a random process. The perennial religious intuition of a transcendental act of creation is a logical entailment of the randomly entirely improbable fine tuning of the natural laws and processes that the observed universe manifests.
creation • science-religion conflict • scientific worldview • universe
Ervin Laszlo is President of The Club of Budapest, Founder of the General Evolution Research Group, and, at the time of writing, Visiting Professor at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. His mailing address is Villa Frantoni, 56040 Montescudaio (Pisa), Italy.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00599.x

Symposium: Gregory Peterson’s Minding God

What Does Silicon Valley Have to Do with Jerusalem? by Gregory R. Peterson

Adapted from the introductory chapter of Minding God: Theology and the Cognitive Sciences (Peterson 2003), I here lay out a general approach for a dialogue between theology and cognitive science. Key to this task is an understanding of theology as the science or study of meaning and purpose. I give reasons why theology should be thought of in this sense and the potential fruitfulness of this approach.
cognitive science • theological method • theology
Gregory R. Peterson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University, Box 504 Scobey 33, Brookings, SD 57007; e-mail: greg.peterson @ sdstate.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00600.x

Do Split Brains Listen to Prozac? by Gregory R. Peterson

Cognitive science challenges our understandings of self and freedom. In this article, adapted from a chapter in Minding God: Theology and the Cognitive Sciences (Peterson 2003), I review some of the scientific literature with regard to issues of self and freedom. I argue that our sense of self is a construct and heavily dependent on the kind of brain that we have. Furthermore, understanding the issue of freedom requires an understanding of the findings of cognitive science. Human beings are constrained to be free; our biology in no small way determines the kinds of freedom that we are able to have.
Antonio Damasio • emotion • freedom • Martin Luther • V. S. Ramachandran • self • split brains
Gregory R. Peterson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University, Box 504 Scobey 33, Brookings, SD 57007; e-mail: greg.peterson @ sdstate.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00601.x

Freedom in the Body: The Physical, the Causal, and the Possibility of Choice by Michael L. Spezio

In Minding God Gregory Peterson takes a careful look at the kind of freedom that human persons have. He concludes that humans are constrained to be free and unpacks this into a version of compatibilism. That is, humans are not metaphysically free under current existence because of the causal determination inherent in their physical nature, but they can take credit for the origination of self-forming decisions because the causes occur inside of us. Peterson does advocate an eschatological hope looking forward to the breaking of causal determination by God’s own action. Thus, Minding God presents an eschatologically limited compatibilism. Compatibilism of any kind, however, presents serious challenges to most Christian theologies and to many religious traditions broadly considered. After I interpret Peterson’s position I make the argument that compatibilism is neither desirable nor required for a theological anthropology intent on serious engagement of cognitive science.
Karl Barth • cognitive science • incompatibilism • William James • neuroscience • relational • subjective
Michael L. Spezio is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00602.x

Three Questions about Minding God by Dennis Bielfeldt

Gregory Peterson’s Minding God does an excellent job of introducing the cognitive sciences to the general reader and drawing preliminary connections between these disciplines and some of the loci of theology. The book less successfully articulates how the cognitive sciences should impact the future of theology. In this article I pose three questions: (1) What semantics is presupposed in relating the languages of theology and the cognitive sciences? How do the truth conditions of these disparate disciplines relate? (2) What precisely does theology gain from what is central to cognitive science: the emphasis on information processing, inner representation, and the computer model of the mind? What exactly does cognitive science offer to theology beyond the now-standard rejection of Cartesian dualism, the affirmation of an embodied mind, and the repudiation of reduction? (3) What can the cognitive sciences offer in tackling crucial questions in the theology-science discussion such as divine agency and divine causation? Finally, I point to a possible begging of the question in the claim that cognitive science relates to theology because theology deals with meaning and purpose, and a particular interpretation of cognitive science grants more meaning and purpose to human beings than antecedent post-Cartesian positions in the philosophy of mind.
cognitive science • divine causation • emergence • reduction • theology and science
Dennis Bielfeldt is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00603.x

Minding Minding God: A Response to Spezio and Bielfeldt by Gregory R. Peterson

Michael Spezio and Dennis Bielfeldt have each raised important issues with regard to my positions in Minding God: Theology and the Cognitive Sciences. In this article I respond to several of their criticisms, including issues of the nature of theology, my stance on epistemology and realism, and issues of physicalism, freedom, and determinism.
coherence • freedom of the will • physicalism • realism • theological method
Gregory R. Peterson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University, Box 504 Scobey 33, Brookings, SD 57007; e-mail: greg.peterson @ sdstate.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00604.x


Natural Law and Divine Action: The Search for an Expanded Theory of Causation by Philip Clayton

Talk of divine action faces its greatest obstacle when it confronts natural law and efficient causation. If all valid explanations involve deterministic laws, and only microphysical causes actively trigger change, claims for divine action can serve no explanatory role. But science does not in fact require the limitation to downwardly deterministic laws and efficient causes. Evidence supports the existence of emergent systems of phenomena, which, though dependent on physical law, also display emergent causal powers not reducible to their subvenient systems. Careful study of top-down causation in biology and of mental causation in psychology offers analogies that are helpful for making sense of the notion of divine action. Theists’ ascription of a causal role to God cannot be proven from science or identified with scientific forms of causality. Nevertheless, if the emergence hypothesis is correct, theistic explanations do not need to conflict with science, and a plausible model of divine influence may even be derived from emergent causation. In this article I offer an expanded theory of causation that reduces the distance between two types of causal forces that are often held to be incommensurable.
determinism • divine action • emergence theory • evolution • mental causes • miracles • natural law • presumption of naturalism • quantum physics • theory of causation • top-down causes
Philip Clayton is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Claremont Graduate University and Ingraham Professor at the Claremont School of Theology, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00605.x

Resolving Multiple Visions of Nature, Science, and Religion by James D. Proctor

I argue for the centrality of the concepts of biophysical and human nature in science-and-religion studies, consider five different metaphors, or “visions,” of nature, and explore possibilities and challenges in reconciling them. These visions include (a) evolutionary nature, built on the powerful explanatory framework of evolutionary theory; (b) emergent nature, arising from recent research in complex systems and self-organization; (c) malleable nature, indicating both the recombinant potential of biotechnology and the postmodern challenge to a fixed ontology; (d) nature as sacred, a diffuse popular concept fundamental to cultural analysis; and (e) nature as culture, an admission of epistemological constructivism. These multiple visions suggest the famous story of the blind men and the elephant, in which each man made the classic mistake of part-whole substitution in believing that what he grasped (the tail, for example) represented the elephant as a whole. Indeed, given the inescapability of metaphor, we may have to admit that the ultimate truth about the “elephant” (nature, or the reality toward which science and religion point) is a mystery, and the best we can hope for is to confess the limitations of any particular vision.
biotechnology • culture • emergence • evolution • metaphor • nature • religion • sacredness • science
James D. Proctor is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of California, 3611 Ellison Hall, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-4060; e-mail: jproctor @ geog.ucsb.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00606.x

Was Thomas Aquinas a Sociobiologist? Thomistic Natural Law, Rational Goods, and Sociobiology by Craig A. Boyd

Traditional Darwinian theory presents two difficulties for Thomistic natural-law morality: relativism and essentialism. The sociobiology of E. O. Wilson seems to refute the idea of evolutionary relativism. Larry Arnhart has argued that Wilson’s views on sociobiology can provide a scientific framework for Thomistic natural-law theory. However, in his attempt to reconcile Aquinas’s views with Wilson’s sociobiology, Arnhart fails to address a critical feature of Aquinas’s ethics: the role of rational goods in natural law. Arnhart limits Aquinas’s understanding of rationality to the Humean notion of economic rationality—that “reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions.” On Aquinas’s view, rationality discovers goods that transcend the merely biological, viz., the pursuit of truth, virtue, and God. I believe that Aquinas’s natural-law morality is consistent with some accounts of sociobiology but not the more ontologically reductionist versions like the one presented by Wilson and defended by Arnhart. Moreover, Aquinas’s normative account of rationality is successful in refuting the challenges of evolutionary relativism as well as the reductionism found in most sociobiological approaches to ethics.
evolutionary ethics • natural law • sociobiology
Craig A. Boyd is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy and Religion Department at Greenville College, 315 E. College Ave., Greenville, IL 62246.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00607.x

Altruistic Celibacy, Kin-Cue Manipulation, and the Development of Religious Institutions by Hector Qirko

Building on a model first proposed by Gary Johnson, it is hypothesized that religious institutions demanding celibacy and other forms of altruism from members take advantage of human predispositions to favor genetic relatives in order to maintain and reinforce these desired behaviors in non-kin settings. This is accomplished through the institutionalization of practices to manipulate cues through which such relatives are regularly identified. These cues are association, phenotypic similarity, and the use of kin terms. In addition, the age of recruits and their contact with actual kin are factors that relate to kinship recognition and that are similarly manipulated by institutions in order to reinforce altruistic behavior directed toward non-kin. Support for this set of predictions is presented from historical and ethnographic sources on monastic life in Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism, as well as Islamic dervish groups, the Essenes, Shakers, and others. Potential implications of the model for understanding the development of religious institutions are preliminarily explored by reviewing Joachim Wach’s model of religious developmental stages as well as some of the literature on the relationship between individualism and communalism in incipient religious organizations, in light of the kin-cue manipulation model.
altruism • celibacy • Darwinian evolutionary theory • kinship recognition cues • manipulated psychology • religious institutions
Hector Qirko is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, 250 South Stadium Hall, Knoxville, TN 37996-0720; e-mail: hqirko @ utk.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00608.x

The Scientific Study of Religion: Its Contribution to the Study of the Bhagavadgītā by Arvind Sharma

The Bhagavadgītā is a popular Hindu text containing eighteen chapters. It begins with the hero, Arjuna, showing a marked unwillingness to engage in combat on the eve of battle. He is finally persuaded to do so by Krishna, who is an incarnation of God. Krishna actually reveals himself as such to an amazed Arjuna in the eleventh chapter. The fact that Arjuna does not immediately heed Krishna’s advice to engage in battle after Krishna’s sensational self-disclosure has long puzzled students of the text. It is only at the end of the eighteenth chapter that Arjuna finally shows his readiness to fight. In this essay I argue that the discussion of the nine primary sensory states by Eugene d’Aquili may help resolve this issue and thus provide an instance of a case in which modern scientific study of religion enhances our understanding of a religious phenomenon, as a corrective to the usual charge that it must invariably diminish it.
Arjuna • Bhagavadgītā • Krishna • negative affect • neutral affect • positive affect • primary sensory state • Weltschmerz
Arvind Sharma is Birks Professor of Comparative Religion in the Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University, 3520 University Street, Montreal, QC H3A 2A7, Canada.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00609.x


Unprecedented Choices: Religious Ethics at the Frontiers of Genetic Science by Audrey R. Chapman, reviewed by Robin Gill

Robin Gill, Michael Ramsey Chair of Modern Theology, The University of Kent at Canterbury, Canterbury CT2 7NF, United Kingdom
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00610.x

The Mind of the Universe: Understanding Science and Religion by Mariano Artigas, reviewed by John Carvalho IV

John Carvalho IV, Molecular Genetics Program, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63108
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00610.x

The Philosophy of Nature of St. Thomas Aquinas: Nature, the Universe, Man by Leo Elders, reviewed by Stephen J. Pope

Stephen J. Pope, Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02167-3806
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00610.x

The Far-Future Universe: Eschatology from a Cosmic Perspective edited by George F. R. Ellis, reviewed by Peter E. Hodgson

Peter E. Hodgson, Corpus Christi College, Oxford, United Kingdom
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00610.x

Rethinking Theology and Science: Six Models for the Current Dialogue edited by Niels Henrik Gregersen and J. Wentzel van Huyssteen, reviewed by Granville C. Henry

Granville C. Henry, Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy, Emeritus, Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA 91711
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00610.x

The Human Person in Science and Theology edited by Niels Henrik Gregersen, Willem B. Drees, and Ulf Gorman, reviewed by James E. Huchingson

James E. Huchingson, Professor of Religious Studies, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33173
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2004.t01-1-00610.x

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