Science and religion reveal to each other things that are immensely important and at the same time not always welcomed-things that are seldom vivid in the self-awareness of practitioners, whether they be scientific or religious. Science reveals to religion that if it intends to interpret the ways of God in the world it must recognize that the traditional worldviews that bear religions vision are not viable today. This is good news, because it invites religion to frame its vision in fresh ways so that it can truly challenge contemporary minds. The message is not always received as good news, however, because it awakens the discomfiting awareness that religious thinkers and communities must extend themselves to the breaking point if they are to rearrange their worldviews and even rethink how divinity presents itself in the new context of experience.
The publication of my article Athens, Jerusalem, and the Arrival of Techno-secularism (2005) in Zygon was followed by twenty-one responses, most of them critical. In this essay I reply by clarifying the earlier one, separating out its two major theses: the Athens/Jerusalem template and the techno-secularism thesis. The Athens/Jerusalem template is a typology that provides a historical basis for understanding why religion/science conflicts persist by showing that the contrasts between intellectual knowledge and revealed knowledge are permanent features of Western cultural history. Postmodern criticisms often have a negative edge, rejecting canonical accounts but not presenting alternative explanations. Historical context is helpful in understanding religion/science conflicts, which continue to exist. The present cultural situation is that technology is replacing religion-and science-as the dominant condition and theory of our culture. Evidence for the techno-secularism thesis can be seen in the nature of electronic entertainment, which invades the silence required for religious contemplation and obscures the scientific laws that are the basis for the new technology.
Athens and Jerusalem • history • postmodern • religion • science • science and religion • secularism • technology • techno-secularism
John C. Caiazza (http://www.scienceandcivilization.com) is adjunct professor of philosophy at Rivier College, Nashua, NH 03060; e-mail: jcaiazza @ Rivier.edu.
Conscious Objections: God and the Consciousness Debate by Kirsten Birkett
Consciousness studies are dogged with religious overtones, and many researchers fight hard against Christian ideas of soul or anything supernatural. This gives many studies on consciousness a particular relevance to religious belief. Many writers assume that, if consciousness can be explained physically, religious belief in a soul-and perhaps religious belief itself-must be false. Theorists of consciousness grapple with questions of materialism and reduction in trying to understand how the physical brain can produce the bizarre sensations that we call ourselves. In this essay I discuss the problems in trying to separate religion from science in such a fuzzy area as consciousness. I look at the question of what precisely theories of consciousness are trying to explain. I consider theories from David Chalmers, Daniel Dennett, and Roger Penrose as examples of different approaches. Although all of these are materialistically based, I argue that they do not necessarily demonstrate the nonexistence of a soul and also that religious belief does not necessarily require belief in a nonmaterial soul. I conclude with a discussion of why a physical/ materialist explanation of consciousness is desired and how religious bias is still a problem in this scientific/philosophical field.
David Chalmers • cognitive science • consciousness • Francis Crick • Daniel Dennett • materialism • mind • Stephen Mithen • Roger Penrose • reductionism • soul • zombies
Kirsten Birkett is a member of the faculty of Oak Hill Theological College, London, N14 4PS, England; e-mail: KirstenB @ oakhill.ac.uk.
Perspectives on Techno-science and Human Nature
A Better Life through Information Technology? The Techno-theological Eschatology of Posthuman Speculative Science by Michael W. DeLashmutt
The depiction of human identity in the pop-science futurology of engineer/inventor Ray Kurzweil, the speculative robotics of Carnegie Mellon roboticist Hans Moravec, and the physics of Tulane University mathematics professor Frank Tipler elevate technology, especially information technology, to a point of ultimate significance. For these three figures, information technology offers the potential means by which the problem of human and cosmic finitude can be rectified. Although Moravecs vision of intelligent robots, Kurzweils hope for immanent human immorality, and Tiplers description of humanlike von Neumann machines colonizing the very material fabric of the universe all may appear to be nothing more than science fictional musings, they raise genuine questions as to the relationship between science, technology, and religion as regards issues of personal and cosmic eschatology. In an attempt to correct what I see as the cybernetic totalism inherent in these techno-theologies, I argue for a theology of technology that seeks to interpret technology hermeneutically and grounds human creativity in the broader context of divine creative activity.
artificial intelligence • cybernetics • cybernetic totalism • cyborgs • futurology • imagination • information technology • Ray Kurzweil • life extension • Hans Moravec • myth • posthumanism • robotics • science fiction • speculative science • symbols • technology • techno-theology • Frank Tipler • Norbert Wiener
Michael W. DeLashmutt is a teaching fellow in practical theology/theology and culture in the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, Kings College, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UB, United Kingdom; e-mail: mwdelashmutt @ yahoo.co.uk.
The idea of cyborg often is taken as a token for the distinction between human and machine having become irrelevant. In this essay I argue against that view. I critically analyze empirical arguments, theoretical reflections, and ultimate convictions that are supposed to support the idea. I show that empirical arguments at this time rather point in a different direction and that theoretical views behind it are at least questionable. I also show that the ultimate convictions presupposed deny basic tenets of traditional Christianity, while their claim to be based on science confuses scientific results with their interpretation on the basis of a naturalistic world-view.
consciousness • cyborg • Donna Haraway • human-machine • influence of ultimate beliefs • information • methodological naturalism • ontology • origin • philosophy of mind • physicalism • technology
Henk G. Geertsema is professor emeritus of Reformational Philosophy at the universities of Utrecht and Groningen and of the Dooyeweerd-chair at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, where he still teaches for the English master programme Christian Studies of Science and Society at the Philosophy Department, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam; e-mail: H.G.Geertsema @ ph.vu.nl or hgg @ bos.nl.
Meta-Humans and Metanoia: The Moral Dimension of Extraterrestrials by Alfred Kracher
Although we do not know whether intelligent extraterrestrials exist, they are a permanent fixture of literature and philosophical argument. Part of their appeal is that they watch us from above and thus serve as a metaphor for human self-reflexivity. This makes fictional aliens especially useful when moral issues are at stake. In order to evaluate stories about aliens with respect to moral conclusions two conditions must be fulfilled. First, the stories have to be detailed enough that we can understand the circumstances of the aliens moral choices. Therefore science fiction often is more useful than arguments involving aliens in short technical papers. Second, their fictional lives need to be possible in our own universe, or very nearly so, in order to be relevant for our own moral conduct. Taking as an example the unfallen aliens in C. S. Lewiss novels Out of the Silent Planet (1938) and Perelandra (1943), we can acknowledge the theological interest and literary subtlety. Nonetheless, the stories fail as moral parables in one important respect: The aliens depicted could not be a product of evolution in our universe, at least as we currently understand its scientific laws. This realization has important consequences for our self-understanding and thus underlines how fictional aliens can be useful in making sense of the complexities involved in moral argumentation.
extraterrestrial aliens • C. S. Lewis • morality • original sin • science fiction
Alfred Kracher is a staff scientist at the Ames Laboratory (United States Department of Energy), Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011-3020, and affiliate scientist at the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701; e-mail: akracher @ iastate.edu.
Natural, Supernatural, and Transcendence
Naturalizing Transcendence in the New Cosmologies of Emergence by Donald M. Braxton
Recent discourse on emergence within the natural sciences offers a superior alternative to traditional notions of transcendence. Emergence is a term of common parlance in the natural sciences. It designates moments when various systems develop an internal dynamic that generates an entirely new level of complexity, a qualitatively different mode of existence that cannot simply be reduced to its constituent parts. To the natural scientist, emergence is an expression of transcendence without reference to final causality or central organizing principle. Autopoietic emergence is more congruent with contemporary understandings of the universe than the traditional anthropomorphizing concept of teleological design. In this article I offer both an interpretation of emergence as a new category for the interpretation of divinity and an explanation for traditional anthropomorphism rooted in contemporary cognitive sciences.
cognitive science • design • emergence • feedback loop • stigmergy • teleology • theology • transcendence
Donald M. Braxton is J. Omar Good Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Juniata College, 1700 Moore Street, Huntingdon, PA 16652; e-mail: braxton @ juniata.edu.
The Supernatural as Language Game by Terrance W. Klein
For many in the Anglo-American tradition of language analysis, Ludwig Wittgenstein, the great progenitor of twentieth-century philosophy of language, showed conclusively that theological terms lack any referent in reality and therefore represent a discourse that can do no more than manifest the existential attitudes that speakers take toward reality as a whole. To think that such terms represent more is to be bewitched by the use of language. Is it possible, however, that theological language references a fundamental human drive? In this article I reexamine the dyad of nature and supernature from the perspective of Wittgensteins philosophy. Perhaps surprisingly, Wittgensteins thought on the subject offers much more than his famous, terse aphorism at the conclusion of his first masterwork, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus ( 1961, 74, §7): What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence. Furthermore, the basic Tractarian drive to determine the relationship between language and reality, which is redirected but not extinguished in Wittgensteins second, divergent, opus, the Philosophical Investigations ( 1967), may be the place for a renewed examination of what the supernatural means in human discourse. Does talk of God give expression to the fundamental transcendence of human knowledge? Is it a language game we can eschew?
Thomas Aquinas • Aristotle • correspondence theory of truth • Critique of Pure Reason • empirical science • empirical verification • God • grammar • heuristic synthesis • Immanuel Kant • language analysis • language game • logic • logos • metaphysics • mysticism • nature • noumena • ontology • ontos • ostensive definition • phenomena • Philosophical Investigations • philosophy of science • picture theory • Bertrand Russell • self • solipsism • supernature • symbolic logic • theory of language • Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus • Vienna Circle • Ludwig Wittgenstein
Terrance W. Klein is assistant professor of theology/religious studies at St. Johns University, 300 Howard Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10301.
Spiritual Transformation as the Awakening of Global Consciousness: A Dimensional Shift in the Technology of Mind by Ashok K. Gangadean
Great spiritual and philosophical traditions through the ages have sought to tap and articulate the grammar or logic of the fundamental unified field that is the common generative ground of our diverse worldviews, religions, cultures, ideologies, and disciplinary languages. I suggest that we are in the midst of a profound dimensional shift in our rational capacity to process reality, and I seek to articulate the implications of this evolutionary shift to global reason and awakened consciousness for all aspects of our human and rational enterprise. It is clear that we are in the midst of an unprecedented shift in the human condition-a global renaissance that affects every aspect of our cultural lives, self-understanding, experience, and world making. This evolutionary transformation, when seen through the dilated global lens, has been emerging through the ages on a global scale. I suggest that this advance in our technology of mind is of an order of magnitude that is so radical and comprehensive that the very concept of a person, of what it means to be human, of our encounter with Reality, and of all our hermeneutical arts including the sciences are likewise taken to a higher, global, dimension. I explore this emergent grammar of spiritual transformation to global, dialogic, integral, and holistic consciousness, the global awakening of reason, scientific knowing, and the holistic worldview.
dimensional shift • enchanted universe • First Philosophy • global integral science • global mind • infinite primal Source • Logos • minding • ontology • Reality • Reason • technology of mind • unified worldview
Ashok K. Gangadean (http://www.awakeningmind.org) is Professor of Philosophy and a founder and director of the Global Dialogue Institute at Haverford College, Haverford, PA 19041; e-mail: agangade @ haverford.edu.
Near-Death Experiences and Spirituality by Bruce Greyson
Some individuals when they come close to death report having experiences that they interpret as spiritual or religious. These so-called near-death experiences (NDEs) often include a sense of separation from the physical body and encounters with religious figures and a mystical or divine presence. They share with mystical experiences a sense of cosmic unity or oneness, transcendence of time and space, deeply felt positive mood, sense of sacredness, noetic quality or intuitive illumination, paradoxicality, ineffability, transiency, and persistent positive aftereffects. Although there is no relationship between NDEs and religious belief prior to the experience, there are strong associations between depth of NDE and religious change after the experience. NDEs often change experiencers values, decreasing their fear of death and giving their lives new meaning. NDEs lead to a shift from ego-centered to other-centered consciousness, disposition to love unconditionally, heightened empathy, decreased interest in status symbols and material possessions, reduced fear of death, and deepened spiritual consciousness. Many experiencers become more empathic and spiritually oriented and express the beliefs that death is not fearsome, that life continues beyond, that love is more important than material possessions, and that everything happens for a reason. These changes meet the definition of spiritual transformation as a dramatic change in religious belief, attitude, and behavior that occurs over a relatively short period of time. NDEs do not necessarily promote any one particular religious or spiritual tradition over others, but they do foster general spiritual growth both in the experiencers themselves and in human society at large.
near-death experience • religiosity • spirituality • transformation
Bruce Greyson is the Chester F. Carlson Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia Health System, P.O. Box 800152, Charlottesville, VA 22908-0152; e-mail: cbg4d @ virginia.edu. He serves as Editor of the Journal of Near-Death Studies.
How Science Works: Foundations, Method, and Teleology
Putting Presuppositions on the Table: Why the Foundations Matter by Paul R. Boehlke, Laurie M. Knapp, and Rachel L. Kolander
Over time scientists have developed an effective investigative process that includes the acceptance of particular basic presuppositions, methods, content, and theories. The deeply held presuppositions are the philosophical foundation of scientific thought and do much to define the fields worldview. These fundamental assumptions can be esoteric for many and can become a source of conflict when they are not commonly shared with other points of view. Such presuppositions affect the observations, the conclusions drawn, and the positions taken. Furthermore, in some cases presuppositions in science have undergone important shifts in meaning, causing an increasing dissonance. We argue that disputes in religion and science often are due to these very basic differences in philosophy that are held by members in the different communities. To better understand the nature of science and its differences with religious views, presuppositions rather than conclusions should be articulated and examined for validity and scope of application.
assumptions • history of science • materialism • naturalism • nature of science • presuppositions • scientific worldview
Paul R. Boehlke is Professor of Biology and Gary J. Greenfield Endowed Chair of Christian Leadership Studies at Wisconsin Lutheran College, 8800 W. Bluemound Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53226; e-mail: paul.boehlke @ wlc.edu. Laurie M. Knapp, S4 W31174 Hidden Hollow, Delafield, WI 53018, is a pre-med biology major, and Rachel L. Kolander, P.O. Box 190, Montello, WI 53949, is a double major in English and political science at the college.
Teleology in Biology: Who Could Ask for Anything More? by Lyman A. Page
Teleological thinking permeates biology and is useful in pondering unanswered biological questions. Such thinking differs from the usual sense of teleology in that purpose in biology carries no imputation of causation. A few examples are given. The teleological system of biology is every bit as elegant a construct of the human mind as any other teleological system and in no way precludes spirituality. I argue that it provides a firmer foundation for moral guidance than supernatural systems.
biology • brain • causation • ethics • evolution • human constructs • religion • teleology • transcendentalism
Lyman A. Page is Clinical Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at Brown University School of Medicine and a retired physician. His mailing address is 16 Oak Street, Kennebunkport, ME 04046; e-mail: lymanpage @ adelphia.net.
What Is a Scientific Worldview, and How Does It Bear on the Interplay of Science and Religion? by Matthew Orr
What is a scientific worldview, and why should we care? One worldview can knit together various notions, and therefore understanding a worldview requires analysis of its component parts. Stripped to its minimum, a scientific worldview consists strictly of falsifiable components. Such a worldview, based solely on ideas that can be tested with empirical observation, conforms to the highest levels of objectivity but is severely limited in utility. The limits arise for two reasons: first, many falsifiable ideas cannot be tested adequately until their repercussions already have been felt; second, the reach of science is limited, and ethics, which compose an inevitable part of any useful worldview, are largely unfalsifiable. Thus, a worldview that acts only on scientific components is crippled by a lack of moral relevance. Organized religion traditionally has played a central role in defining moral values, but it lost much of its influence after the discovery that key principles (such as the personal Creator of Genesis) contradict empirical reality. The apparent conundrum is that strictly scientific worldviews are amoral, while many long-held religious worldviews have proven unscientific. The way out of this conundrum is to recognize that nonscientific ideas, as distinct from unscientific ideas, are acceptable components of a scientific worldview, because they do not contradict science. Nonscientific components of a worldview should draw upon scientific findings to explore traditional religious themes, such as faith and taboo. In contrast, unscientific ideas have been falsified and survive only via ignorance, denial, wishful thinking, blind faith, and institutional inertia. A worldview composed of both scientific components and scientifically informed nonscientific components can be both objective and ethically persuasive.
environment • faith • nonscientific • scientific • taboo • unscientific • worldview
Matthew Orr is an instructor in biology at the University of Oregons General Science program in Bend, Oregon. His mailing address is 1027 NW Trenton Ave., Bend, OR 97701; e-mail: matorr @ uoregon.edu.
Current teleology in Western biology, philosophy, and theology draws on resources from four main Western philosophers. (1) Platos Timaeus shows how to interpret the universe as the handiwork of a purposive Creator who subordinates secondary, necessary, causes to primary, intelligent, causes. (2) Aristotles Physics sets forth purpose as implicit in the nature of things. Purposes of different sorts inhere in different types of being, and everything has a natural function. Living things grow to actualize the potentials of the goal whose principle they bear within themselves. (3) Kants Critique of Judgment denies that purpose is anything that human beings can know, strictly speaking. Nevertheless, purpose is a concept we must use to make sense of biological systems. (4) Hegels Philosophy of Nature articulates organic systems as dialectically including and transcending mechanical and chemical systems. Teleological themes persist, in different ways, in contemporary discussions; I consider two lines of criticism of traditional teleology-by Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould-and one line that continues traditional teleology in an updated way-by Holmes Rolston, III.
Aristotle • design • G. W. F. Hegel • Immanuel Kant • Plato • purpose • Holmes Rolston, III • teleology
Jeffrey Wattles (http://www.personal.kent.edu/~jwattles) is Associate Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242; e-mail: jwattles @ kent.edu.
How Acts of Discovery Transform Our Tacit Knowing Powers in Both Scientific and Religious Inquiry by Aaron Milavec
In this essay I take Michael Polanyis analysis of scientific discovery and extend it to encompass fresh encounters with the living God. Given the embodied character of all human knowing, Polanyi challenged objectivism and positivism as untenable. In its place, Polanyi noted that the tacit skills established when a physicist learns to detect radio waves has its counterpart in a Christians being trained to find God. Once trained, stubborn organismic habits constrain both physicist and believer within a socially approved heuristic circle that can be broken only by the act of discovery. The puzzlement that erupts at the onset of an inquiry ultimately finds relief only in an expanded encounter with the realities that one has been trained to serve. Thus, the act of discovery not only serves to disrupt the tradition as it has been received but also reveals that the realities being served make themselves known in novel ways. The lifelong pursuit of God and the lifelong pursuit of novel manifestations of radio waves thus share a common epistemological and phenomenological underpinning.
Augustine • Copernicus • development of dogma • discovery • embodied knowing • empiricism • epistemology • history of science • ontology • philosophy of science • Michael Polanyi • revelation • science and religion • tacit knowing • tacit knowledge • theory • verification
Aaron Milavec (http://www.didache.info) is adjunct professor at Union Theological Seminary, 4501 Denlinger Road, Trotwood, OH 45426; e-mail: Milavec @ cinci.rr.com.
Mind in a Physical World: An Essay on the Mind-Body Problem and Mental Causation by Jaegwon Kim, reviewed by Dennis Bielfeldt