Thirty years ago, in his book On Human Nature, Edward Wilson wrote that the evolutionary epic is probably the best myth we will ever have (1978, 201). In the years since, an enormous amount of attention has been given to constructing this myth. Such efforts commonly go under the names evolutionary epic, epic of evolution, or epic of creation. A Google search of epic of evolution finds this brief definition: The epic of evolution is the scientific story of the universe told in a meaningful and empowering way (Wiserearth 2007).
There is a kinship between Owen Flanagans The Really Hard Problem and William Jamess The Varieties of Religious Experience that not only can help us to understand Flanagans book but also can help scholars, particularly scholars of religion, to be attentive to an important development in the realm of the spiritual but not religious. Specifically, Flanagans book continues a tradition in philosophy, exemplified by James, that addresses questions of religious or spiritual meaning in terms accessible to a broad audience outside the context of organized religions. Both James and Flanagan are concerned to refute the popular perception that the sciences of the mind pose a threat to meaning and particularly to meaningful processes of human growth and transformation. Where James used the subconscious to bridge between science and religion and persuade his readers of the reality of the More, Flanagan uses a scientifically grounded understanding of transcendence to enchant his readers into believing in Less. Although I think that Flanagans attempt to link the psychological and sociocultural levels of analysis via the concept of transcendence is scientifically premature, his attempt at a naturalistic spirituality raises questions of definition that scholars of religion need to take seriously.
William James • natural spirituality • science and religion • transcendence
Ann Taves is Professor of Religious Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3130; e-mail: taves @ religion.ucsb.edu.
Owen Flanagans The Really Hard Problem provides a rich source of reflection on the question of meaning and ethics within the context of philosophical naturalism. I affirm the titles claim that the quest to find meaning in a purely physical universe is indeed a hard problem by addressing three issues: Flanagans claim that there can be a scientific/empirical theory of ethics (eudaimonics), that ethics requires moral glue, and whether, in the end, Flanagan solves the hard problem. I suggest that he does not, although he provides much that is of importance and useful for further reflection along the way.
ethics • Owen Flanagan • naturalism
Gregory R. Peterson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University and Program Coordinator of the Philosophy and Religion Department, Box 504 Scobey 336, SDSU, Brookings, SD 57007; e-mail: greg.peterson @ sdstate.edu.
A Scientific Account of Meaning: Deflationary but Not Disenchanting by Donald Wiebe
In The Really Hard Problem, Owen Flanagan maintains that accounting for meaning requires going beyond the resources of the physical, biological, social, and mind sciences. He notes that the religious myths and fantastical stories that once funded flourishing lives and made life meaningful have been epistemically discredited by science but nevertheless insists that meaning does exist and can be fully accounted for only in a form of systematic philosophical theorizing that is continuous with science and does not need to invoke myth. He sees such a mode of thought as a new, empirical-normative science, which he labels eudaimonistic scientia, that evades the disenchantment produced by natural scientific accounts of meaning. I argue that such an empirical-normative science does not provide us with a scientific account of meaning but is itself simply another way of making sense of ones life that is open to scientific explanation. Such an explanation will be deflationary in the sense that it presumes no greater scheme of things for meaning beyond the span of human existence (collective and possibly individual) but not disenchanting in that it does not explain away the flourishing lives human persons and communities create for themselves.
disenchantment • eudaimonia • flourishing lives • meaning • myth/religion • naturalism • science
Donald Wiebe is Professor of Philosophy of Religion, Trinity College in the University of Toronto, 6 Hoskin Avenue, Toronto, Canada; e-mail: donald.wiebe @ utoronto.ca.
One Enchanted Being: Neuroexistentialism and Meaning by Owen Flanagan
Abstract: The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World is my attempt to explain whether and how existential meaning is possible in a material world, and how such meaning is best conceived naturalistically. Neuroexistentialism conceives of our predicament in accordance with Darwin plus neuroscience. The prospects for our kind of being-in-the-world are limited by our natures as smart but fully embodied short-lived animals. Many find this picture disenchanting, even depressing. I respond to four criticisms of my relentless upbeat naturalism: that naturalism can make no room for norms, for values; that I overvalue truth at the expense of happiness; that I underestimate the extent to which supernaturalism has made peace with naturalism; and that I can give no account for why humans as finite animals should want to overcome our given natures and seek impersonal, self-transcendent value.
Keywords: eudaimonia • eudaimonics • naturalism • neuroexistentialism • supernaturalism
Owen Flanagan is James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, and Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University, Durham NC 27701.
Voices from Medicine
Our Common Enemy: Combatting the Worlds Deadliest Viruses to Ensure Equity Health Care in Developing Nations by John J. Carvalho IV
In a previous issue of Zygon (Carvalho 2007), I explored the role of scientists—especially those engaging the science-religion dialogue—within the arena of global equity health, world poverty, and human rights. I contended that experimental biologists, who might have reduced agency because of their professional workload or lack of individual resources, can still unite into collective forces with other scientists as well as human rights organizations, medical doctors, and political and civic leaders to foster progressive change in our world. In this article, I present some recent findings from research on three emerging viruses—HIV, dengue, and rotavirus—to explore the factors that lead to the geographical expansion of these viruses and the increase in frequency of the infectious diseases they cause. I show how these viruses are generating problems for geopolitical stability, human rights, and equity health care for developing nations that are already experiencing a growing poverty crisis. I suggest some avenues of future research for the scientific community for the movement toward resolution of these problems and indicate where the science-religion field can be of additional aid.
dengue virus • equity health care • geopolitical stability • global warming • HIV/AIDS • human rights • infectious diseases • rotavirus • science-religion • world health • world poverty
John J. Carvalho IV is Assistant Professor of Biology and winner of the United States National Research Service Award in the Biology Department at California State University Dominguez Hills. His mailing address is Biology Department NSM A-135, California State University Dominguez Hills, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson, CA 90747; e-mail: jcarvalho @ csudh.edu.
An Ontology of Health: A Characterization of Human Health and Existence by Ryan J. Fante
The pursuit of health is one of the most basic and prevalent concerns of humanity. In order to better attain and preserve health, a fundamental and unified description of the concept is required. Using Paul Tillichs ontological framework, I introduce a complete characterization of health and disease is that is useful to the philosophy of medicine and for health-care workers. Health cannot be understood merely as proper functioning of the physical body or of the separated levels of body, mind, and soul. Rather, the multidimensional unity that is the essence of human life requires a new understanding of health as balanced self-integration within the multiple human dimensions. The ontological description of health and disease has concrete implications for how health-care workers should approach healing. It calls for a multidimensional approach to healing in which particular healing is needed and helpful if it considers the other realms of the human. It reveals the importance of accepting limited health as well as the value of faith understood as an ultimate concern because of its ability to wholly integrate the person.
being • disease • existentialism • faith • healing • health • medicine • multidimensional unity • ontology • Paul Tillich
Ryan J. Fante is a medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, 7504 East 4th Ave. #403, Denver, CO 80230; e-mail: ryanjfante @ gmail.com.
God, Disease, and Spiritual Dilemmas: Reading the Lives of Women with Breast Cancer by Megan Eide and Ann Milliken Pederson
To write about the disease of breast cancer from both scientific and spiritual perspectives is to reflect upon our genetic and spiritual ancestry. We examine the issues involved in breast cancer at the intersections of spirituality, technology, and science, using the fundamental thing we know about being human: our bodies. Our goal in this essay is to offer close readings of womens spiritual and bodily journeys through the disease of breast cancer. We have discovered that both illness and health come within the stories of particular people and particular disciplines. And to learn more about breast cancer, both scientific and spiritual aspects, one must be attentive to such particularities. Medicine and religion are bodily experiences, and being a body-self is what it means to be human.
ancestry • biotechnology • body-self • breast cancer • genes • medical science • religion
Megan Eide is a Master of Divinity student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1100 E. 55th St., Chicago, IL 60615. Ann Milliken Pederson is Professor of Religion at Augustana College, 2001 S. Summit, Sioux Falls, SD 57197 and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Section of Ethics and Humanities at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine.
Dietrich and Karl-Friedrich Bonhoeffer
The Brothers Bonhoeffer on Science, Morality, and Theology by Larry Rasmussen
On one level this is a case study in science, religion, and morality, with special attention to the consequences for morality of sciences embeddedness in society. On another level this is the science-and-theology dialogue between the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his brother Karl-Friedrich, a physicist. The influence of Karl-Friedrich and the brothers exchanges on Dietrichs prison theology receives special attention. Because this study is set in Germany in the 1930s and 40s, and Karl-Friedrichs work intersected Germanys efforts to develop a nuclear weapon, the discussion leads to Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project. The attention there is to the interplay of science, religion, and morality at the time the bomb was detonated at the Trinity site.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer • Karl-Friedrich Bonhoeffer • deus ex machina • Fritz Haber • individual and communal moral responsibility • Manhattan Project • Robert Oppenheimer • science, morality, and religion • scientific knowledge • Leo Szilard • theology
Larry Rasmussen is Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, New York City. His mailing address is 605 Calle de Marcos, Santa Fe, NM 87505; e-mail: lrryrasmussen @ yahoo.com.
Science and Religion in the Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Rodney D. Holder
The German theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer is not widely known for engaging with scientific thought, having been heavily influenced by Karl Barths celebrated stance against natural theology. However, during the period of his maturing theology in prison Bonhoeffer read a significant scientific work, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäckers The World Read of Physics. From this he gained two major insights for his theological outlook. First, he realized that the notion of a God of the gaps is futile, not just in science but in other areas of human inquiry. Second, he felt that an infinite universe, as considered by science, would be self-subsistent and could exist as if there were no God. Bonhoeffer replaced Barths radical critique of religion with the even more extreme Read that it is a mere passing phase in history that grown-up humanity can dispense with. At the same time Bonhoeffer began an important critique of Barths reaction, namely, the latters retreat to a positivism of revelation. While Bonhoeffer did not go quite as far as one might like, his approach opened up hopeful avenues for an answer to the liberal question and even a revived place for some kind of natural theology.
Karl Barth • Dietrich Bonhoeffer • Charles Coulson • God of the gaps • infinite universe • natural theology • positivism of revelation • Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker • world come of age
Rodney D. Holder is Course Director at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St. Edmunds College, Cambridge CB3 0BN, U.K.; e-mail: rdh39 @ cam.ac.uk.
This paper introduces a symposium discussing Michael Oakeshotts understanding of the relationship of religion, science and politics. Essays by Elizabeth Corey, Timothy Fuller, Byron Kaldis, and Corey Abel are followed by a review of Coreys recent book by Efraim Podoksik.
category error • creationist science • Stephen Jay Gould • ignoratio elenchi • modality • non-overlapping magisteria • Michael Oakeshott • politics • religion • science
Leslie Marsh is a researcher at the Centre for Research in Cognitive Science, Department of Informatics, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, United Kingdom; e-mail: l.marsh @ sussex.ac.uk.
Religion and the Mode of Practice in Michael Oakeshott by Elizabeth Corey
Michael Oakeshotts religious Read of the world stands behind much of his political and philosophical writing. In this essay I first discuss Oakeshotts Read of religion and the mode of practice in his own terms. I attempt next to illuminate his idea of religion by describing it in less technical language, drawing upon other thinkers such as Georg Simmel and George Santayana, who share similar Reads. I then evaluate Oakeshotts Read as a whole, considering whether his ideas about religion can stand up to careful scrutiny and whether they have value for present-day reflection on religion.
British Idealism • modality • Michael Oakeshott • practical mode • practice • religion • George Santayana • Georg Simmel • Eric Voegelin
Elizabeth Corey is Assistant Professor of Political Science in the Honors College, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97122, Waco, TX 76798-7122; e-mail: Elizabeth_Corey @ baylor.edu.
Oakeshott on the Character of Religious Experience: Need There Be a Conflict Between Science and Religion? by Timothy Fuller
Michael Oakeshott reflected on the character of religious experience in various writings throughout his life. In Experience and Its Modes (1933) he analyzed science as a distinctive mode, or account of experience as a whole, identifying those assumptions necessary for science to achieve its coherent account of experience in contrast to other modes of experience whose quests for coherence depend on different assumptions. Religious experience, he thought, was integral to the practical mode. The latter experiences the world as interminable tension between what is and what ought to be. The question, Is there a conflict between science and religion? is, in Oakeshotts approach, the question, Is there a conflict between the scientific mode of experience and the practical mode? Insofar as we tend to treat every question as a practical one, these questions seem to make sense. But Oakeshotts analysis leads to the Read that scientific experience and religious experience are categorically different accounts of experience abstracted from the whole of experience. They are voices of experience that may speak to each other, but they are not ordered hierarchically. Nor can either absorb the other without insoluble contradictions.
Christianity • experience unmodified • historical experience • modes of experience • practical experience • religious life • scientific experience • worldliness
Timothy Fuller is Lloyd E. Worner Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Political Science, Colorado College, 14 E. Cache La Poudre, Colorado Springs, CO 80903; e-mail: tfuller @ coloradocollege.edu.
Oakeshott on Science as a Mode of Experience by Byron Kaldis
I offer a critical exposition and reconstruction of Michael Oakeshotts Reads on natural science. The principal aim is to enrich Oakeshotts modal schema by throwing light on it in terms of its internal consistency and by bringing to bear on it recent developments in philosophy in general and the philosophy of science in particular. The discussion brings out the special place reserved for philosophy, the crucial tenet of the separateness of these modes seen as Leibnizian monads as well as the special status allowed to science. It considers the possibility of combining one moment of philosophical thinking, namely ethics, with science in the midst of such modal separateness. I first offer a general introduction of how to approach Oakeshotts Reads on science. The next section stresses philosophy and its relation to science. This is followed by an elaboration of what the modes of experience are meant to be and how science is placed among them. An examination of Oakeshotts more particular Reads on science concludes the essay.
definition • designation • ethics • holism • mode of experience • naturalism • naturalized epistemology • Michael Oakeshott • philosophy of science • religion • science
Byron Kaldis is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion, School of Humanities, The Hellenic Open University, Speusippou 27, Athens 106 76, Greece; e-mail: bkald @ eap.gr.
Oakeshottian Modes at the Crossroads of the Evolution Debates by Corey Abel
I examine Michael Oakeshotts theory of modes of experience in light of todays evolution debates and argue that in much of our current debate science and religion irrelevantly attack each other or, less commonly but still irrelevantly, seek out support from the other. An analysis of Oakeshotts idea of religion finds links between his early holistic theory of the state, his individualistic account of religious sensibility, and his theory of political, moral, and religious authority. Such analysis shows that a modern individualistic theory of the state need not be barrenly secular and suggests that a religious sensibility need not be translated into an overmastering desire to use state power to pursue moral or spiritual ends in politics. Finally, Oakeshotts vision of a civil conversation, as both a metaphor for Western civilization and as a quasi-ethical ideal, shows us how we might balance the recognition of diverse modal truths, the pursuit of singular religious or philosophic truth, and a free political order.
apology • Augustine • authority • Christianity • civil association • Francis Collins • conversation • Richard Dawkins • evolution • Stephen Jay Gould • history • mode • nonoverlapping magisteria • Michael Oakeshott • practical experience • religion • science • theism
Corey Abel is an independent scholar who has taught at The University of Colorado, The Colorado College, and The United States Air Force Academy. His mailing address is 2530 Eudora Street, Denver, CO, 80207; e-mail: csabel123 @ msn.com.
Commentary on Elizabeth Coreys Interpretation of Michael Oakeshott by Efraim Podoksik
Elizabeth Corey suggests that in order to understand Michael Oakeshotts worldview one should pay special attention to two subjects, religion and aesthetics, and analyze the connection between these two realms and the idea of practical life in general and of politics in particular. Her book provides a sympathetic but also critical conversation with Oakeshotts ideas, ultimately offering us a coherent picture of the place of the religious, poetical, and political in the totality of his thought. Corey persuasively shows that the major ideas of the mature Oakeshott originated in his earlier religious convictions and that his philosophy of aesthetics, contrary to what his critics claimed, fit nicely in the general framework of his thought. [Michael Oakeshott on Religion, Aesthetics, and Politics. By Elizabeth Corey. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006). xiv + 253 pages. $39.95.]
aesthetics • Elizabeth Corey • Michael Oakeshott • politics • practice • present • religion • world
Efraim Podoksik is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem, 91905, Israel; e-mail: E.Podoksik.99 @ cantab.net.