Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
42 (1), March 2007

Table of Contents


Broad Experience? Great Audience? by Philip Hefner

John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation, recently wrote that poetry is in need of reassessment (Barr 2006). He calls for fresh approaches that reflect today’s experience and sensibilities. I believe that Barr’s analysis fits the religion-and-science field as well as poetry. The editorials in the four issues of 2006 hinted at this reassessment: that in their actual practice science and technology express a sense of the sacred and thereby reveal our culture’s operative spirituality (December 2006); that a focus on concepts overlooks the dimensions of practical-moral behavior and spiritual insight that are fundamental to religion (September 2006); that myth is an underlying ingredient for both religion and science (June 2006); and that the research agenda of the sciences is frequently generated by the common human insistence that there is more to nature than meets the eye (March 2006).
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00800.x


First Person Plural: Self-Unity and Self-Multiplicity in Theology’s Dialogue with Psychology by Léon P. Turner

In contradistinction to the contemporary human sciences, recent theological accounts of the individual-in-relation continue to defend the concept of the singular continuous self. Consequently, theological anthropology and the human sciences seem to offer widely divergent accounts of the sense of self-fragmentation that many believe pervades the modern world. There has been little constructive interdisciplinary conversation in this area. In this essay I address the damaging implications of this oversight and establish the necessary conditions for future dialogue. I have three primary objectives. First, I show how the notion of personal continuity acquires philosophical theological significance through its close association with the concept of personal particularity. Second, through a discussion of contemporary accounts of self-multiplicity, I clarify the extent of theological anthropology’s disagreement with the human sciences. Third, I draw upon narrative accounts of identity to suggest an alternative means of understanding the experiential continuity of personhood that maintains the tension between self-plurality, unity, and particularity and thereby reconnects philosophical theological concerns with human-scientific analyses of the human condition. Narrative approaches to personhood are ideally suited to this purpose, and, I suggest, offer an intriguing solution to understanding and resolving the problem of self-fragmentation that has caused recent theological anthropology so much consternation.
dialogue • human sciences • identity • individual • narrative psychology • particularity • personal-continuity • personhood • relationality • self • self-fragmentation • self-multiplicity • self-unity • singularity • theological anthropology
Léon P. Turner is Templeton Research Fellow, Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB39ET, U.K.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00801.x

Altruism: Toward a Psychobiospiritual Conceptualization by Nancy K. Morrison, Sally K. Severino

Altruism, defined here as a regard for or devotion to the interest of others with whom we are interrelated, is pitted against two other dispositions in human beings: nepotism and egoism. We propose that to become fully human is to become more altruistic. We describe how altruism is mediated by our physiology, is expressed in our psychological development, is evolving in our social institutions, and becomes the moral communities that enforce our sense of right and wrong. A change in any one of these influences changes our disposition—changes who we are and what we do—potentially making altruism more possible in the world.
altruism • attuning • egalitarianism • interrelatedness • separation-attachment dialectic • spirituality
Nancy K. Morrison is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Psychotherapy Training, Department of Psychiatry, University of New Mexico School of Medicine; 2400 Tucker NE, Albuquerque, NM 87131; e-mail: nmorrison @ salud.unm.edu. Sally K. Severino is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and past president of the American College of Psychoanalysts; 1050 Joshua Drive SE, Rio Rancho, NM 87124; e-mail: skseverino @ earthlink.net.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00802.x

Space and Time from a Neo-Whiteheadian Perspective by Joseph A. Bracken

Russell Stannard distinguishes between objective time as measured in theoretical physics and subjective time, or time as experienced by human beings in normal consciousness. Because objective time, or four-dimensional space-time for the physicist, does not change but exists all at once, Stannard argues that this is presumably how God views time from eternity which is beyond time. We human beings are limited to experiencing the moments of time successively and thus cannot know the future as already existing in the same way that God does. I argue that Stannard is basically correct in his theological assumptions about God’s understanding of time but that his explanation would be more persuasive within the context of a neo-Whiteheadian metaphysics. The key points in that metaphysics are (1) that creation is contained within the structured field of activity proper to the three divine persons of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and (2) that the spontaneous decisions of creatures are continually ordered and reordered into an ever-expanding totality already known in its fullness by the divine persons.
actual occasions • creation • divine initial aims • efficient causality • eternity • final causality • God-world relationship • space-time • structured field of activity • time (A-series versus B-series) • togetherness of past • present • and future • Trinity • Whiteheadian societies
Joseph A. Bracken, S.J., is Professor Emeritus of Theology at Xavier University, 3800 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45207-1049; e-mail: bracken @ xavier.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00803.x

Toward an Evolutionary Christian Theology by Karl E. Peters

In order to develop a single narrative of God’s continuing creation that includes salvation, this essay in theological construction focuses on the idea of transformation. Using the metaphor of conceptual maps in science and religion, it weaves together ideas about evolution, God working in the world, and how humans can be brought to wholeness in community in relation to God.
creation • evolution • God • maps • natural selection • salvation • Spirit • transformation • variation • Word
Karl E. Peters is professor emeritus of philosophy and religion, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, co-editor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, and president of the Center for Advanced Study in Religion and Science. His mailing address is 30 Barn Door Hills Road, Granby, CT 06035; e-mail: kpeters396 @ cox.net.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00804.x

The “Death of the Ego” in East-Meets-West Spirituality: Diverse Views from Prominent Authors by Jennifer Rindfleish

Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, have traditionally held to the view that in order for an individual to fully benefit from their practice it was important to lessen or eliminate one’s individual desires. Such practice was sometimes referred to as the “death of the ego” in order to emphasize its importance. However, the relatively recent popularity of East-meets-West spirituality in Western consumer cultures tends to emphasize the acceptance and transformation of one’s ego rather than its death. This essay discusses sociological changes that have shaped and contributed to the popularity of East-meets-West spirituality in Western culture that in turn have brought about a modification of the principle of ego death. The views of six Western authors and practitioners of East-meets-West spirituality on the importance of the principle of ego death are compared and contrasted. Theories related to the management of self-identity in consumer society can partly explain the modification of traditional Eastern religious practices, such as ego death, in order that they become relevant and appealing to a society that increasingly reifies the concept of the self. The implication is that the excision of the concept of ego death from the practice of East-meets-West spirituality may affect its efficacy.
consumer society • East-meets-West spirituality • ego death • self-identity
Jennifer Rindfleish is Senior Lecturer at the New England Business School at the University of New England, Armidale 2350, NSW, Australia; e-mail: jrindfle @ metz.une.edu.au.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00805.x

Theological Ethics and Technological Culture: A Biocultural Approach by Michael S. Hogue

This article examines an orientation for thinking theologically and ethically about the cultural pattern of technology and a vision for living responsibly within it. Building upon and joining select insights of philosophers Hans Jonas and Albert Borgmann, I recommend the analytic and evaluative leverage to be gained through development of an integrative biocultural theological anthropology.
Albert Borgmann • ethics • Hans Jonas • technology • theology
Michael S. Hogue is Assistant Professor of Theology at Meadville Lombard Theological School, 5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637; e-mail: mhogue @ meadville.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00806.x

More Reflections on Physics

Is There a Basis for Teleology in Physics? by Carl S. Helrich

The basic laws of physics for particles and fields can be formulated in terms of variational principles. The initial development of a variational principle had distinct teleological implications. The formulation of physical laws in terms of variational principles is outlined with specific reference to classical and quantum mechanics and field theory. Because of time irreversibility no variational principle exists for thermodynamics. In order to obtain time irreversibility molecular trajectories must be abandoned in the lowest-level description of complex multicomponent systems. A more open set of possibilities results. I suggest that this may be more consistent with a modern teleology.
classical • distributions • quantum • teleology • thermodynamics • variational principles
Carl S. Helrich is Professor of Physics at Goshen College, 1700 South Main Street, Goshen, IN 46526; e-mail: carlsh @ goshen.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00807.x

The False Promise of Quantum Mechanics by Timothy Sansbury

The causal indeterminacy suggested by quantum mechanics has led to its being the centerpiece of several proposals for divine action that does not contradict natural laws. However, even if the theoretical concerns about the reality of causal indeterminacy are ignored, quantum-level divine action fails to resolve the problem of ongoing, responsive divine activity. This is because most quantum-level actions require a significant period of time in order to reach macroscopic levels whether via chaotic amplification or complete divine control of quantum events. Therefore, quantum-level divine action either requires divine foreknowledge of purportedly free or random events or imposes such limitations on divine actions that they become late, potentially impotent, and confused. I argue that the theological problem of divine action remains; even at its most promising, quantum mechanics offers insufficient resolution. This failure suggests a reexamination of the assumptions that God is temporal and lacks foreknowledge of future contingencies.
chaos theory • divine action • divine temporality • indeterminism • quantum mechanics
Timothy Sansbury is head of school at Westminster Christian Academy, 670 E. Medical Center Blvd., Houston, TX 77598; e-mail: timothy.sansbury @ ptsem.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00808.x

Issues in Biomedicine and Ethics

South Dakota and Abortion: A Local Story about How Religion, Medical Science, and Culture Meet by Ann Milliken Pederson

Telling the tale about South Dakota’s recent legislative ban on nearly all abortions gets messy, complicated, and dirty. There are no innocent subjects and no simple plot lines. The story reveals other stories underneath and over the top of the others. Stories counter stories, revealing who is in the know and who does the telling. To “tell the old, old story,” as the song goes, is not as simple as it may seem. Religion and medical science are caught in the politics and cultural wars about abortion.
abortion • Donna Haraway • medicine • religion • story
Ann Milliken Pederson is Professor of Religion at Augustana College, 2001 S. Summit, Sioux Falls, SD 57197, and an adjunct associate professor in the Section of Ethics and Humanities at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00809.x

Golems in the Biotech Century by Byron L. Sherwin

The legend of the golem, the creation of life through mystical and magical means, is the most famous postbiblical Jewish legend. After noting recent references to the golem legend in fiction, film, art, and scientific literature, I outline three stages of the development of the legend, including its relationship to the story of Frankenstein. I apply teachings about the golem in classical Jewish religious literature to implications of the legend for ethical issues relating to bioengineering, reproductive biotechnology, robotics, artificial intelligence, artificial life, and corporate ethics. The golem legend emerges as a source of prudent guidance through the minefield of ethical and spiritual problems emerging from current and expected developments in biotechnology.
artificial life • biotechnology • cloning • corporations • DNA • Frankenstein • genetically modified food • golem • in vitro • robotics • stem cells
Byron L. Sherwin is Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Mysticism at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, Chicago, IL 60605; e-mail: BSherwin @ spertus.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00810.x

Islamic Philosophy and the Challenge of Cloning by Mohammad Motahari Farimani

Scientific achievements, especially in contemporary biology, have led and continue to lead to uncertainties for some believers with regard to their understanding of the role of God as the creator. This essay, avoiding philosophical jargon, expounds the stance of Islamic philosophy on this matter and argues that such anxiety and doubt are unfounded. Drawing upon the thousand-year-old distinction between two types of cause, real and preparatory, as formulated by Muslim philosophers, the argument demonstrates that seeing biological advances as rivaling God’s creation, as traditionally understood in the Abrahamic religions, is a premature judgment based on a faulty conflation. This comes to light most clearly through Mulla Sadra’s analysis of causality, the far-reaching implications of which are briefly mentioned.
biology • causality • cloning • creation • effect • God • Islamic philosophy • Mulla Sadra • preparatory cause • real cause • relation • religion and science • technology
Mohammad Motahari Farimani teaches at the University of Tehran in the Faculties of Theology and Philosophy as well as the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Qum, Iran; e-mail: mo.motaharifarimani @ utoronto.ca.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00811.x

Biomedical Ethics: Muslim Perspectives on Genetic Modification by Fatima Agha Al-Hayani

Technology pertaining to genetically modified foods has created an abundance of food and various methods to protect new products and enhance productivity. However, many scientists, economists, and humanitarians have been critical of the application of these discoveries. They are apprehensive about a profit-driven mentality that, to them, seems to propel the innovators rather than a poverty-elimination mentality that should be behind such innovations. The objectives should be to afford the most benefit to those in need and to prevent hunger around the world. Another major concern is the safety of genetically modified food. Muslims, as well as those in other religious communities, have been reactive rather than proactive. Muslims must connect scientific knowledge and ethical behavior based on faith. In Islam, there is no divide between the two. God has commanded us to seek knowledge and make discoveries to better our lives and our environment. We are trustees of this world and everything in it. The poor, the sick, and the wayfarers have a right to be fed and cared for. God reminds Muslims continuously that the earth and all the heavens belong to God; therefore, no one should feel hunger, no one should suffer or be prevented from sharing this bounty.
insan (person human) • insaniyyah (humanism, humanity humaneness) • genetic modification (GM) • genetically modified foods (GMF) • genetically modified organisms (GMO)
Fatima Agha Al-Hayani is a lecturer and court expert on Islamic Jurisprudence, particularly Islamic Family Law, and a presenter of workshops on Islam, Islamic Law, Women in Islam and in the Arab World, the Middle Eastern History, Society, and Culture. Her mailing address is 2323 E. Grecourt Dr., Toledo, OH 43615; e-mail: alhayanis @ buckeyeaccess.com.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00812.x

Genetic and Reproductive Technologies in the Light of Religious Dialogue by Stephen M. Modell

Since the gene splicing debates of the 1980s, the public has been exposed to an ongoing sequence of genetic and reproductive technologies. Many issue areas have outcomes that lose track of people’s inner values or engender opposing religious viewpoints defying final resolution. This essay relocates the discussion of what is an acceptable application from the individual to the societal level, examining technologies that stand to address large numbers of people and thus call for policy resolution, rather than individual fiat, in their application. A major source of guidance is the “Genetic Frontiers” series of professional dialogues and conferences held by the National Conference for Community and Justice from 2002 to 2004. Genetic testing, human gene therapy, genetic engineering of plants and animals, and stem cell technology are examined. While differences in perspective on the beginning of life persist, a stepwise approach to the examination of genetic testing reveals areas of general agreement. Stewardship of life, human co-creativity with the divine, and social justice help define the bounds of application of genetic engineering and therapy; compassionate care plays a major role in establishing stem cell policy. Active, sustained dialogue is a useful resource for enabling sharing of religious values and crystallization of policies.
dialogue • ethics • gene therapy • genetic engineering • genetic testing • genetics • morals • policy • preimplantation diagnosis • prenatal diagnosis • religion • religion and medicine • reproduction • stem cells
Stephen M. Modell is a genomics research area specialist and Dissemination Activities Director in the Michigan Center for Genomics and Public Health, University of Michigan, 2675 CBPH, SPH-I Tower, 109 S. Observatory, Ann Arbor, MI 48109; e-mail: mod @ umich.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00813.x

Genetic Frontiers: Challenges for Humanity and Our Religious Traditions by Philip Hefner

Genetic research and its applications pose a significant challenge today, in particular to religious communities. The most critical challenge is to our understanding of human nature and values. This article surveys the challenges and the resources that the monotheistic religions can bring to bear in response. It is important for those religious communities to communicate to the larger society both their common beliefs and values and the diversity among them.
genetics • healing • human nature • image of God • monotheistic religions • shared beliefs
Philip Hefner is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1100 East 55th Street, Chicago, IL 60615-5199; e-mail: pnhefner @ sbcglobal.net.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00814.x

C. S. Peirce and Stuart Kauffman

Evolution and Subjectivity by William P. Kiblinger

Evolutionary theory is becoming an all-encompassing form of explanation in many branches of philosophy. However, emergence theory uses the concept of self-organization to support yet alter traditional evolutionary explanation. Biologist Stuart Kauffman suggests that the new science will need to tell stories, not simply as a heuristic device but as part of its fundamental task. This claim is reminiscent of C. S. Peirce’s criticism of the doctrine of necessity. Peirce’s suggestions reference Hegel, and this essay draws out this Hegelian background, addressing the question of subjectivity and issuing some Hegelian reminders so that such evolutionary and emergent theories will consider the implication of this research program on philosophy of mind. The primary focus is on two post-Kantian, neo-Hegelian thinkers in contemporary philosophy who deal with this problem: John McDowell and Robert Brandom.
adjacent possible • Robert B. Brandom • complexity • consciousness • emergence • evolution • habit • G. W. F. Hegel • Stuart Kauffman • John McDowell • Charles Sanders Peirce • purpose • purposiveness • second nature • self-organization • subjectivity • supervenience
William P. Kiblinger is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC 29733; e-mail: kiblingerw @ winthrop.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00815.x

The Consequences of Metaphysics: Or, Can Charles Peirce’s Continuity Theory Model Stuart Kauffman’s Biology? by John Bugbee

At the heart of the most radical proposals in Stuart Kauffman’s Investigations is his attempt to show that we find in evolutionary biology some configuration spaces—the sets of possible developments for any given system—that (unlike those in traditional physics of Newtonian, relativistic, and quantum stripes) cannot be completely described in advance. We bring Charles Peirce’s work on the philosophy of continuity to bear on the problem and discover, first, that Kauffman’s arguments do not succeed; second, that Peirce’s metaphysics provide new and sounder arguments for the same propositions; third, that Peirce’s rigorous but nonstandard treatment of mathematical continuity shows great promise for modeling the unpredictability and growth we find in evolutionary biology; fourth, that it also strengthens a development only hinted at by biologists thus far—the inevitable involvement of the observer’s mind in constituting the objects of science. We close with a logical argument for the surprising relevance of metaphysical hypotheses in the natural sciences and with suggestions for future work that will connect these questions to what Kauffman terms the “narrative stance” in biology.
abnumerable • Georg Cantor • category • complexity • configuration space • continuum • emergence • evolutionary biology • exaptation • Firstness • growth • hypothesis • Investigations • Stuart Kauffman • mind-dependence • non-prestatable • Charles Sanders Peirce • possibility • potential • preadaptation • prediction • prestatable • purpose • reduction • unpredictability
John Bugbee is a Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fellow at the University of Virginia, Bryan Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22904; e-mail: bugbee @ virginia.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00816.x

Collective Self-Organization in General Biology: Gilles Deleuze, Charles S. Peirce, and Stuart Kauffman by Rocco Gangle

Stuart Kauffman’s proposal in Investigations to ground a “general biology” in the laws of self-organization governing systems of autonomous agents runs up against the methodological problem of how to integrate formal mathematical with semantic and semiotic approaches to the study of evolutionary development. Gilles Deleuze’s concept of the virtual and C. S. Peirce’s system of existential graphs provide a theoretical framework and practical art for answering this problem of method by modeling the creative event of collective self-organization as both represented and practiced in the scientific community.
Gilles Deleuze • evolution • existential graphs • general biology • Stuart Kauffman • Charles S. Peirce • scientific method • self-organization • semiotics • virtual
Rocco Gangle is Research Associate in the Department of Religion at Oberlin College and Lecturer in the Writing Program at the University of California, P.O. Box 2039, Merced, CA 95344; e-mail: rgangle @ ucmerced.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00817.x

Peircean Approaches to Emergent Systems in Cognitive Science and Religion by Mark Graves

Cognitive science and religion provides perspectives on human cognition and spirituality. Emergent systems theory captures the subatomic, physical, biological, psychological, cultural, and transcendent relationships that constitute the human person. C. S. Peirce’s metaphysical categories and existential graphs enrich traditional cognitive science modeling tools to capture emergent phenomena. From this richer perspective, one can reinterpret the traditional doctrine of soul as form of the body in terms of information as the constellation of constitutive relationships that enables real possibility.
Aristotelian form • cognitive science • cognitive science and religion • constitutive relationship • emergence • emergent systems theory • existential graphs • information theory • informative soul • C. S. Peirce • pragmatism • soul • systems theory • theological anthropology
Mark Graves is visiting faculty at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Graduate Theological Union, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709; e-mail: mgraves @ ctns.org.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00818.x

C. S. Peirce, G. W. F. Hegel, and Stuart Kauffman’s Complexity Theory: A Response by Joyce M. Cuff

Stuart Kauffman’s work on complexity and self-organization echoes ideas found in writings of C. S. Peirce and G. W. F. Hegel. Included in these common threads are the understanding of science as historical narrative, the recognition of emergence as a phenomenon associated with complex systems, and the appreciation of agency as an emergent property that serves as both a creative and determining force in evolution.
adjacent possible • agency • complexity theory • contingency • emergence • Stuart Kauffman • self-organizing systems
Joyce M. Cuff is Paul M. Rike Professor of Life Science, Thiel College, Greenville, PA 16125; e-mail: jcuff @ thiel.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00819.x


Crick, Watson, and the Double Helix by Christopher Southgate

Christopher Southgate is Research Fellow in Theology at the University of Exeter, Amory Building, Exeter EX4 4RJ, U.K.; e-mail: c.c.b.southgate @ ex.ac.uk. This poem appears in Easing the Gravity Field: Poems of Science and Love (Nottingham: Shoestring, 2006).
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2006.00820.x

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