In the conversation between religion and science, the assumption seems to be that religion and science are alone in a room together, whether intent on courting one another, arguing, or simply ill at ease and looking for the nearest exit. To the contrary, in actuality, religion and science are never alone together; there are always others—cultural partners—in the room, and their presence makes a difference for the conversation that they carry on together.
This essay is William Grassies valedictory remarks at the Metanexus Institutes 2007 Annual Conference. Grassie asks what is wrong with religion, what is wrong with science, and why the constructive engagement of the two holds the key to setting things right. He cites Sir John Templeton and others to make his case and proposes a new curriculum for general science education that uses the history of nature as a mnemonic and context for promoting better science literacy and the incorporation of science into our cultural traditions.
general science education • humble approach • meta-nexus • science and religion • John Templeton • transdisciplinarity
William Grassie is the founder and emeritus director of the Metanexus Institute for Religion and Science, 28 Garrett Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010; e-mail: grassie @ metanexus.net.
Quantum Physics and Beyond
Consciousness and Quantum Mechanics: Opting from Alternatives by David E. Klemm and William H. Klink
We present a model of a fundamental property of consciousness as the capacity of a system to opt among presented alternatives. Any system possessing this capacity is conscious in some degree, whether or not it has the higher capacity of reflecting on its opting. We argue that quantum systems, composed of microphysical particles, as studied by quantum mechanics, possess this quality in a protomental form. That is, such particles display the capacity to opt among alternatives, even though they lack the ability to experience or communicate their experiences. Human consciousness stands at the opposite end of the hierarchy of conscious life forms as the most sophisticated system of which we have direct acquaintance. We contend that it shares the common characteristic of a system capable of opting among alternatives. Because the fundamental property of consciousness is shared by human beings and the constituents of elementary matter in the universe, our model of consciousness can be considered as a modified form of panpsychism.
freedom • hierarchy of matter • models of consciousness • opting from alternatives • panpsychism • quantum mechanics • Sartre and spontaneity • subjectivity
David E. Klemm (http://www.uiowa.edu/~religion/) is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Iowa, 314 Gilmore Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242; e-mail: david-klemm @ uiowa.edu. William H. Klink is Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iowa, 203 Van Allen Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242; e-mail: william-klink @ uiowa.edu.
Nonempirical Reality: Transcending the Physical and Spiritual in the Order of the One by Lothar Schäfer
I describe characteristic phenomena of quantum physics that suggest that reality appears to us in two domains: the open and well-known domain of empirical, material things—the realm of actuality—and a hidden and invisible domain of nonempirical, non-material forms—the realm of potentiality. The nonempirical forms are part of physical reality because they contain the empirical possibilities of the universe and can manifest themselves in the empirical world. Two classes of nonempirical states are discussed: the superposition states of microphysical entities, which are nonempirical because observation destroys them, and the virtual states of material systems, which are nonempirical because they are empty. The non-empirical part to physical reality represents a predetermined and hidden order that exists before it is empirical, and the visible world is an emanation out of it. I discuss consequences for our understanding of human nature, the origin of life, and human values. Reality is an indivisible wholeness that is aware of its processes, like a Cosmic Spirit, and it reveals its awareness in the mindlike properties of elementary processes as well as in the human consciousness. Thus, one is led to G. W. F. Hegels thesis that the Cosmic Spirit is thinking in us.
Cosmic Consciousness • emanation • emergence of complexity • forms as metaphysical principle of being • German Idealism • Leibniz monads • nonempirical reality • nonmaterial entities • pre-Darwinian concepts of evolution • quantum coherence • quantum perspective of evolution • quantum reality • superposition states • transcendent order • virtual state actualization • virtual states
Lothar Schäfer is Edgar Wertheim Distinguished Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701; e-mail: schafer @ uark.edu.
Simone Weils Spiritual Critique of Modern Science: An Historical-Critical Assessment by Joseph K. Cosgrove
Simone Weil is widely recognized today as one of the profound religious thinkers of the twentieth century. Yet while her interpretation of natural science is critical to Weils overall understanding of religious faith, her writings on science have received little attention compared with her more overtly theological writings. The present essay, which builds on Vance Morgans Weaving the World: Simone Weil on Science, Necessity, and Love (2005), critically examines Weils interpretation of the history of science. Weil believed that mathematical science, for the ancient Pythagoreans a mystical expression of the love of God, had in the modern period degenerated into a kind of reification of method that confuses the means of representing nature with nature itself. Beginning with classical (Newtonian) sciences representation of nature as a machine, and even more so with the subsequent assimilation of symbolic algebra as the principal language of mathematical physics, modern science according to Weil trades genuine insight into the order of the world for symbolic manipulation yielding mere predictive success and technological domination of nature. I show that Weils expressed desire to revive a Pythagorean scientific approach, inspired by the mysterious complicity in nature between brute necessity and love, must be recast in view of the intrinsically symbolic character of modern mathematical science. I argue further that a genuinely mystical attitude toward nature is nascent within symbolic mathematical science itself.
algebra • Albert Einstein • Jacob Klein • mysticism • physics • Pythagoreanism • science • spacetime • symbolic mathematics • technology • theory of relativity • Simone Weil • work
Joseph K. Cosgrove is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Providence College, Providence, RI 02918; e-mail: jcosgrov @ providence.edu.
Internists of the Mind or Physicians of the Soul: Does Psychiatry Need a Public Philosophy? by Don Browning
Although psychiatry is interested in what both body and mind contribute to behavior, it sometimes emphasizes one more than the other. Since the early 1980s, American psychiatry has shifted its interest from mind and psyche to body and brain. Neuroscience and psychopharmacology are increasingly at the core of psychiatry. Some experts claim that psychiatry is no longer interested in problems in living and positive goals such as mental health, happiness, and morality but rather has narrowed its focus to mental disorders addressed with psychotropic drugs. In view of this trend, psychiatry needs to confront two questions in social philosophy. If it is no longer directly concerned with health and happiness, how does it relate to these positive goals? And how does it relate as a medical institution to religious institutions, schools, and other organizations that directly promote health, happiness, morality, and the purposes of life? It is not enough for psychiatry to renounce its moral role; its practices still shape cultural values. Psychiatry should take more responsibility for developing a public philosophy that addresses these issues.
culture • immediate luminousness • William James • Immanuel Kant • mental health • moral fruitfulness • morality • narrative identity • neuroscience • philosophical reasonableness • pragmatism • psychiatry • psychotherapy • public philosophy • religion
Don Browning is Alexander Campbell Professor of Religious Ethics and the Social Sciences Emeritus, Divinity School, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637; e-mail: dsbrowni @ midway.uchicago.edu.
Steps toward a Cognitive Science of Religion by Lluís Oviedo
The article chronicles the different panels devoted to the cognitive science of religion at the meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) in Tampa, Florida, in November 2007. The aim is to verify the state of this subdiscipline and to check how much this work-in-progress affects the present state of the dialogue between science and religion. Several signs point to a positive development in this scientific branch and favor a sound reception in theology, which should not ignore the new research.
cognitive science • religious mind • religious studies • theology and science
Lluís Oviedo is Professor of Theological Anthropology, The Pontifical University, Antonianum, Via Merulana 124, 00185 Rome, Italy, and invited Professor of Theology and Culture, The Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome; e-mail: loviedo @ antonianum.eu.
The Divine Conjectures: A Contemporary Account of Human Origins and Destiny by Allan Melvin Russell and Mary Gerhart
Six divine conjectures frame the place of Theóne (The One to Whom we pray) in the creation of our universe and for its continuing development in five subsequent stages into a loving universe. The first stage, the cosmological universe, establishes the laws of nature, understood by scientists as the standard model. The second stage introduces life and death into the universe by a process we are only now beginning to understand. Stage 3 requires certain life forms to become conscious with a subset of those life-forms acquiring language that results in that subset becoming self-conscious. The next stage, Conjecture 4, identifies certain persons who become addicted to learning in their unrelenting effort to learn as much of what can be known as possible. The fifth conjecture requires individual persons to act as agents of Theóne in achieving Conjecture 6—a universe that is both loving and lawful. During the course of the exposition subsidiary discussions of the concepts of conjecture and hypothesis explicate the function of each in the advancement of knowledge and understanding. There are brief discussions of prayer and purpose in relation to the Divine.
agents • conjecture • consciousness • death • divine • hypothesis • laws of nature • life • loving universe • prayer • self-consciousness • students • Theóne (The One to Whom we pray)
Allan Melvin Russell is Professor of Physics Emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. His address is 5669 Rte 89, Romulus, NY 14541; e-mail: russell @ hws.edu. Mary Gerhart is Professor of Religious Studies Emerita at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Her address is 4028 Scandling Ctr, Geneva, NY 14456; e-mail: gerhart @ hws.edu.
The Quran, Science, and the (Related) Contemporary Muslim Discourse by Nidhal Guessoum
We discuss the special place of the Quran in the Muslim discourse in general and on science in particular. The Quran has an unparalleled influence on the Muslim mind, and understanding the Islamic treatise on science and religion must start from this realization. We explore the concept of science in the Islamic culture and to what extent it can be related to the Quran. Reviewing various Islamic discourses on science, we show how a simplistic understanding of the plan to adopt modern science within an Islamic revival program has been corrupted in the form of the theory of scientific miraculousness of the Quran. We assess and dismiss this theory but use it to show how a serious misunderstanding of the nature of modern science and a narrow view of the Quran has led to that embarrassingly popular yet misguided theory. We conclude by promoting a multiplicity of readings of the Quran and show that this allows for an enlightenment of ones interpretation of Quranic verses, using various tools at ones disposal, including scientific knowledge. We uphold Averroess principle of no possible conflict, which can be used to persuade the Muslim public of a given idea not by proving that it can be found in the Quran but rather by showing that at least some readings of it are fully consistent with the given scientific theory.
Islam and science • Quran and science • the Quran in the Islamic worldview • scientific exegesis
Nidhal Guessoum is Associate Professor of Physics, American University of Sharjah, PO Box 2666, United Arab Emirates; e-mail: nguessoum @ aus.edu.
Two Bad Ways to Attack Intelligent Design and Two Good Ones by Jeffrey Koperski
Four arguments are examined in order to assess the state of the Intelligent Design debate. First, critics continually cite the fact that ID proponents have religious motivations. When used as criticism of ID arguments, this is an obvious ad hominem. Nonetheless, philosophers and scientists alike continue to wield such arguments for their rhetorical value. Second, in his expert testimony in the Dover trial, philosopher Robert Pennock used repudiated claims in order to brand ID as a kind of pseudoscience. His arguments hinge on the nature of methodological naturalism as a metatheoretic shaping principle. We examine the use of such principles in science and the history of science. Special attention is given to the demarcation problem. Third, the scientific merits of ID are examined. Critics rightly demand more than promissory notes for ID to move beyond the fringe. Fourth, although methodological naturalism gets a lot of attention, there is another shaping principle to contend with, namely, conservatism. Science, like most disciplines, tends to change in an incremental rather than revolutionary manner. When ID is compared to other non- or quasi-Darwinian proposals, it appears to be a more radical solution than is needed in the face of the anomalies.
conservatism • Dover trial • Intelligent Design • methodological naturalism • theory change
Jeffrey Koperski is Professor of Philosophy, Saginaw Valley State University, 7400 Bay Road, University Center, MI 48710; e-mail: koperski @ svsu.edu.
Reflections on Wentzel van Huyssteens Alone in the World?
Primates and Religion: A Biological Anthropologists Response to J. Wentzel van Huyssteens Alone in the World? by Barbara J. King
For a biological anthropologist interested in the prehistory of religion, J. Wentzel van Huyssteens book is welcome and resonant. Van Huyssteens central thesis is that humans capacity for spirituality emerges from a transformation of cognition and emotions that takes place in the symbolic realm, within Homo sapiens and apart from biology. To his thesis I bring to bear three areas of response: the abundant cognitive and emotional capacities of living apes and extinct hominids; the role of symbolic ritual in the evolutionary history of Homo sapiens; and the closely intertwined nature of biology and culture in the workings of evolutionary change.
apes • emotion • evolution • hominids • primates • religion • ritual
Barbara J. King is Professor of Anthropology at the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23187; e-mail: bjking @ wm.edu.
Uniqueness, the Image of God, and the Problem of Method: Engaging van Huyssteen by Gregory R. Peterson
Wentzel van Huyssteens book Alone in the World? provides a thoughtful and nuanced account of human evolution from a theological perspective. Not only does his work provide what is perhaps the only sustained theological reflection specifically on human evolution, but his working through of many of the issues, particularly on the image of God literature in theology, has few parallels. Despite this, I focus on what I consider to be several weaknesses of the text, including areas of theological method, theological interpretation, and the central topic of human uniqueness. Addressing these weaknesses will, I propose, improve van Huyssteens argument and lead in new and fruitful directions.
foundationalism • human uniqueness • image of God • Wentzel van Huyssteen
Gregory R. Peterson is Associate Professor and Program Director of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University; e-mail: greg.peterson @ sdstate.edu.
Hand in Glove: Evaluating the Fit Between Method and Theology in van Huyssteens Interpretation of Human Uniqueness by Wesley J. Wildman
Wentzel van Huyssteens Alone in the World? (2006) presents an interpretation of human uniqueness in the form of a dialogue between classical Christian theological affirmations and cutting-edge scientific understandings of the human and animal worlds. The sheer amount of information from different thinkers and fields that van Huyssteen absorbs and integrates makes this book extraordinary and, indeed, very rich as a work of interdisciplinary theology. The book commands respect and deserves close attention. In this essay I evaluate van Huyssteens proposal as well as the method he uses to produce it. Special attention is given to the concept of embodiment. Van Huyssteens concept of embodiment is substantially correct in most respects and largely consistent with the scientific and theological pictures of human nature. In a few respects, however, his interpretation of the bodily character of human life appears to be insufficiently thoroughgoing relative to our best contemporary knowledge of human nature from the natural sciences.
Alone in the World? • embodiment • human uniqueness • Wentzel van Huyssteen
Wesley J. Wildman is Associate Professor in the Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics Department in Boston Universitys School of Theology, 745 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, and convener of the Graduate Schools Ph.D. program in Science, Philosophy, and Religion.
Wentzel van Huyssteens Gifford Lectures, published as Alone in the World? Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology, accomplish critical and constructive thinking about interdisciplinary reflection on science and religion and about the meaning of human uniqueness. One approach to discussion of van Huyssteens text entails consideration of three issues: the contextual character of research on humans and animals, the difficult problem of defining uniqueness, and the important consequences of exploring human uniqueness. Evolutionary biology and primatology contribute specific scientific insights.
epistemology • primatology • transversality • uniqueness (animal and human)
Nancy R. Howell is Professor of Theology and Philosophy of Religion, Saint Paul School of Theology, 5123 E. Truman Road, Kansas City, MO 64127; e-mail: howellnr @ spst.edu.
Primates, Hominids, and Humans—From Species Specificity to Human Uniqueness? A Response to Barbara J. King, Gregory R. Peterson, Wesley J. Wildman, and Nancy R. Howell by J. Wentzel van Huyssteen
In this response to essays by Barbara J. King, Gregory R. Peterson, Wesley J. Wildman, and Nancy R. Howell, I present arguments to counter some of the exciting and challenging questions from my colleagues. I take the opportunity to restate my argument for an interdisciplinary public theology, and by further developing the notion of transversality I argue for the specificity of the emerging theological dialogue with paleoanthropology and primatology. By arguing for a hermeneutics of the body, I respond to criticism of my notion of human uniqueness and argue for strong evolutionary continuities, as well as significant discontinuities, between primates, humans, and other hominids. In addition, I answer critical questions about theological methodology and argue how the notion of human uniqueness, theologically restated as the image of God, is enriched by transversally appropriating scientific notions of species specificity and embodied personhood.
bipedalism • doctrinal abstractions • embodiment • evolution of sexuality • hermeneutics of the body • imago Dei • interdisciplinarity • paleoanthropology • primatology • proto-morality • relationality • religious propensities • spirituality • transversality
J. Wentzel van Huyssteen is the James I. McCord Professor of Theology and Science at Princeton Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 821, Princeton, NJ 08542-0803.