Social facts are facts. Those primarily reflecting on the natural sciences may focus on facts that seem to be independent of humans. Thus, they can pass by the simple truism about social facts, until the time comes when they want to have salaries in real money. The issue is of importance to any reflection on religion in an age of science, as the scientific mindset might refer to religious myths and narratives as nothing but stories, often also dismissed as myths. However, as stories, whether right or wrong, they have real-life consequences.
Bruce Lincoln suggests that myth is that small class of stories that possess both credibility and authority (1992, 24). When studying the history of mythology we find that myths often are understood as something other people have—as if the group in question possesses the truth while others live by falsehoods. In examining contemporary North American society, we can see how Judeo-Christian narratives structure popular and medical discourses regarding sex and gender. The idea that humans are born into male and female, and male and female only, is a deeply held belief—so much so that it appears as fact rather than belief. Anthropologists such as Serena Nanda and Will Roscoe have documented the cross-cultural and historical gender variants who exist in societies where three or more genders are the norm. The origin of the belief in two sexes could well be the opening verses of Genesis where the origin of the human species is described in bipolar, dimorphic forms: … in the image of God He created them; male and female created He them (Genesis 1:27 nrsv). In the article I explore the mythology that underlies the clinical management of transgender children.
gender variant • Jacques Lacan • psychoanalysis • religion and gender • religion and sex • religious ideology • religious mythology • transgenderism
Melissa Conroy is Assistant Professor of Religion at Muskingum University, 19 Brown Chapel, New Concord, OH 43762; e-mail: mconroy @ muskingum.edu.
The Importance of Magic to Social Relationships by Craig T. Palmer, Lyle B. Steadman, Chris Cassidy, and Kathryn Coe
Many anthropological explanations of magical practices are based on the assumption that the immediate cause of performing an act of magic is the belief that the magic will work as claimed. Such explanations typically attempt to show why people come to believe that magical acts work as claimed when such acts do not identifiably have such effects. We suggest an alternative approach to the explanation of magic that views magic as a form of religious behavior, a form of communication that promotes or protects cooperative social relationships. We suggest that all forms of religious behavior involve persons communicating acceptance of a supernatural claim and that this act communicates a willingness to accept nonskeptically the influence of the person making such a claim. Thus, religious behavior communicates a willingness to cooperate with the claim maker and others who accept his or her influence. We suggest that magic, which can be distinguished by the communicated acceptance of the claim that certain techniques have supernatural effects, also promotes cooperation. Different types of magic, including sorcery, love magic, and curing magic, can be shown to communicate different types of messages, such as a threat to use violence to punish unsocial behavior, sexual desire, or concern for a persons well-being. Ethnographic examples are used to support this hypothesis. This approach requires no assumptions about whether the practitioners of magic do or do not believe that the magical acts work as claimed. It attempts only to account for the identifiable talk and behavior that constitute magical acts by examining the identifiable, and often important, effects of these acts on the behavior of others.
belief • communication • cooperation • magic
Craig T. Palmer is Associate Professor of Anthropology at University of Missouri-Columbia, 107 Swallow Hall, Columbia, MO 65211-1440; e-mail: PalmerCT @ missouri.edu. Lyle B. Steadman is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Arizona State University, 539 W. 15th St., Tempe, AZ 85281; e-mail: lyle.steadman @ asu.edu. Chris Cassidy is a free-lance writer studying in the Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1529 Spring Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018; e-mail: c.l.cassidy @ gmail.com. Kathryn Coe is Associate Professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at University of Arizona, P.O. Box 245209, Room A250, Tucson, AZ 85724-5209; e-mail: kcoe @ email.arizona.edu.
God and the World of Signs: Semiotics and the Emergence of Life
Introduction: Toward a Metaphysic of Meaning by Andrew Robinson and Christopher Southgate
We introduce a two-part collection of articles (Part 2 to appear in the September 2010 issue) exploring a possible new research program in the field of science and religion. At the center of the program lies an attempt to develop a new theology of nature drawing on the philosophy of C. S. Peirce. Our overall idea is that the fundamental structure of the world is exactly that required for the emergence of meaning and truth-bearing representation. We understand the emergence of a capacity to interpret an environment to be important to the emergence of life, and we see the subsequent history of biological evolution as a story of increasing capacities for meaning making and meaning seeking. Theologically, we understand God to be the ground of all such meaning making and the ultimate goal of the universes emerging capacity for interpreting signs. Here we explain our reasons for seeking a new metaphysical framework in which science and theology may each find a home. We survey the contributions to the two-part collection, and we suggest that the interdisciplinary collaboration from which these have arisen may serve as a methodological model for the field of science and religion.
interpretation • meaning • metaphysics • C. S. Peirce • research program • science and religion • semiotics
Andrew Robinson and Christopher Southgate are Honorary University Fellows in the Department of Theology, University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ, U.K.; e-mail: c.c.b.southgate @ ex.ac.uk.
Interpretation and the Origin of Life by Christopher Southgate and Andrew Robinson
We offer a general definition of interpretation based on a naturalized teleology. The definition tests and extends the biosemiotic paradigm by seeking to provide a philosophically robust resource for investigating the possible role of semiosis (processes of representation and interpretation) in biological systems. We show that our definition provides a way of understanding various possible kinds of misinterpretation, illustrate the definition using examples at the cellular and subcellular level, and test the definition by applying it to a potential counterexample. We explain how we propose to use the definition as a way of asking new questions about what distinguishes life from non-life and of formulating testable hypotheses within the field of origin-of-life research. If the definition leads to fruitful new empirical approaches to the scientific problem of the origin of life, it will help to establish biosemiotics as a legitimate philosophical approach in theoretical biology and will thereby support a theological appropriation of the biosemiotic perspective as the basis of a new theology of nature.
autocell • biosemiotics • function • information • interpretation • life • natural selection • origin of life • purpose • ribozyme • semiotics • teleology
Christopher Southgate and Andrew Robinson are Honorary University Fellows in the Department of Theology, University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ, U.K.; e-mail: c.c.b.southgate @ ex.ac.uk.
Selection, Interpretation, and the Emergence of Living Systems by Bruce H. Weber
The autocell proposal for the emergence of life and natural selection through the interaction of two reciprocally coupled self-organizing processes specifically provides a protein-first model for the origin of life that can be explored by computer simulations and experiment. Beyond the specific proposal it can be considered more generally as a thought experiment in which the principles deduced for the autocell could apply to other possible detailed chemical scenarios of catalytic polymers and protometabolism, including living systems emerging within membranelike barriers. The autocell model allows for the analysis of the emergence of not only agency and purpose but also of interpretation and semiosis as true living systems arise.
autocell • biogenesis • chemiosmotic • emergence • information • interpretation • membrane • natural selection • origin of life • semiosis
Bruce H. Weber is Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at California State University Fullerton, and Robert H. Woodworth Chair in Science and Natural Philosophy Emeritus, Bennington College. His address is Evolution and Complexity, 2872 Treeview Place, Fullerton, CA 92835-3142: e-mail: bhweber @ fullerton.edu.
A Biosemiotic Approach to the Question of Meaning by Jesper Hoffmeyer
A sign is something that refers to something else. Signs, whether of natural or cultural origin, act by provoking a receptive system, human or nonhuman, to form an interpretant (a movement or a brain activity) that somehow relates the system to this something else. Semiotics sees meaning as connected to the formation of interpretants. In a biosemiotic understanding living systems are basically engaged in semiotic interactions, that is, interpretative processes, and organic evolution exhibits an inherent tendency toward an increase in semiotic freedom. Mammals generally are equipped with more semiotic freedom than are their reptilian ancestor species, and fishes are more semiotically sophisticated than are invertebrates. The evolutionary trend toward the production of life forms with an increasing interpretative capacity or semiotic freedom implies that the production of meaning has become an essential survival parameter in later stages of evolution.
anticipation • biosemiotics • emergence • evolutionary interpretation • ontological relation • relative being • semiotic freedom • sign • theory of meaning
Jesper Hoffmeyer is Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Copenhagen, Ole Maaløsvej 5, DK 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark; e-mail: jhoffmeyer @ me.com.
Process Ecology: Stepping Stones to Biosemiosis by Robert E. Ulanowicz
Many in science are disposed not to take biosemiotics seriously, dismissing it as too anthropomorphic. Furthermore, biosemiotic apologetics are cast in top-down fashion, thereby adding to widespread skepticism. An effective response might be to approach biosemiotics from the bottom up, but the foundational assumptions that support Enlightenment science make that avenue impossible. Considerations from ecosystem studies reveal, however, that those conventional assumptions, although once possessing great utilitarian value, have come to impede deeper understanding of living systems because they implicitly depict the evolution of the universe backward. Ecological dynamics suggests instead a smaller set of countervailing postulates that allows evolution to play forward and sets the stage for tripartite causalities, signs, and interpreters—the key elements of biosemiosis—to emerge naturally out of the interaction of chance with configurations of autocatalytic processes. Biosemiosis thereby appears as a fully legitimate outgrowth of the new metaphysic and shows promise for becoming the supervenient focus of a deeper perspective on the phenomenon of life.
biosemiosis • causality • coherence domain • ecology • emergence • metaphysics • natural selection • process ecology • process thought • supervenience
Robert E. Ulanowicz is Professor Emeritus at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Solomons, MD 20688-0038, and currently Courtesy Professor with the Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8525; e-mail: ulan @ umces.edu.
Discussion of the Conceptual Basis of Biosemiotics by Andrew Robinson and Christopher Southgate in conversation with Terrence Deacon
Kalevi Kull and colleagues recently proposed eight theses as a conceptual basis for the field of biosemiotics. We use these theses as a framework for discussing important current areas of debate in biosemiotics with particular reference to the articles collected in this issue of Zygon.
biosemiotics • emergence • function • life • origin of life • Saka theses • semiotics • teleology
Andrew Robinson and Christopher Southgate are Honorary University Fellows in the Department of Theology, University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ, U.K.; e-mail: c.c.b.southgate @ ex.ac.uk. Terrence Deacon is Professor of Biological Anthropology and Neuroscience at the University of California at Berkeley.
Symposium: Zygon and the Future of Religion-and-Science
Discerning the Voice of Zygon: Identity and Issues by Philip Hefner
The challenge to the journal Zygon as suggested here is to respond to three different reference groups: public intellectuals, academia, and religious communities. An extended discussion follows of what I term the situation of irony in which religion-and-science finds itself. I argue that this situation of irony actually constitutes the domain in which our greatest contributions can be offered.
academic discipline • incommensurate • irony • Immanuel Kant • Solomon Katz • Gotthold Lessing • Karl Peters • public intellectual • religious community • yoking
Philip Hefner is Professor of Systematic Theology Emeritus at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1100 E. 55th Street, Chicago, IL 60615; e-mail: pnhefner @ sbcglobal.net.
Why Zygon? The Journals Original Visions and the Future of Religion-and-Science by Karl E. Peters
This essay briefly examines the original visions of Zygon, how they helped explain the publication of a new journal, and what they imply for where we might be going today.
Ralph Wendell Burhoe • cultural evolution • Philip Hefner • hope • knowledge • meaning • morality • motivation • reformation • reformulating • science and religion • values • worldview • Zygon
Karl E. Peters is Professor Emeritus of Religion and Philosophy at Rollins College. He was the editor of Zygon (1979-1989) and coeditor (1989-2009). He is president of the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science (CASIRAS) and vice president for conferences of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS). His mailing address is 30 Barn Door Hills Road, Granby, CT 06035; e-mail kpeters396 @ cox.net.
A more complete understanding of the biocultural evolutionary origins of the concept of ought as developed by David Hume and G. E. Moore may lower the philosophical barrier between is and ought and provide new insights about the separations between the domains of religion and science. If this conjecture is correct, the resulting wisdom will help transcend a major source of irony that Philip Hefner has so aptly identified in his essay.
biocultural evolution • ethics • is • naturalistic fallacy • ought
Solomon H. Katz is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Krogman Growth Center. His mailing address is 762 E. Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19147; e-mail: skatz2001 @ aol.com.
On the Road with Religion-and-Science and the Romance of the Past by Lea F. Schweitz
This essay responds to the question Where Are We Going? Zygon and the Future of Religion-and-Science and was first presented on 9 May 2009 at a symposium honoring Philip Hefners editorship of Zygon. It offers four suggestions for the future of religion-and-science: Ask big questions; encourage cultural literacy in the public sphere; bring a critical voice to other academic disciplines; and include the history of philosophy.
academic discipline • academic field • cultural literacy • Nathaniel Hawthorne • history • history of philosophy • G. W. Leibniz • public intellectual • questions • Romance
Lea F. Schweitz is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology/Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science, 1100 E. 55th St., Chicago, IL 60615; e-mail: lschweitz @ lstc.edu.
History and the Future of Science and Religion by Hava Tirosh-Samuelson
Philip Hefner identifies three settings in which to assess the future of science and religion: the academy, the public sphere, and the faith community. This essay argues that the discourse of science and religion could improve its standing within the secular academy in America by shifting the focus from theology to history. In the public sphere, the science-and-religion discourse could play an important role of promoting tolerance and respect toward the religious Other. For a given faith community (for example, Judaism) the discourse of science and religion can ensure future intellectual depth by virtue of study and ongoing interpretation. The essay challenges the suggestion to adopt irony as a desirable posture for science-and-religion discourse.
anti-Semitism • Aristotle • conflict model • Darwinism • early modern science and technology • Philip Hefner • irony • Judaism (Reform, Modern Orthodox, Ultra-Orthodox) • natural philosophy • religion • science • secularism • Hayden White
Hava Tirosh-Samuelson is Professor of History and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Arizona State University, P.O. Box 874302, Tempe, AZ 85287-4302; e-mail: hava.samuelson @ asu.edu.
The Genetic Recombination of Science and Religion by Stephen M. Modell
The estrangement between genetic scientists and theologians originating in the 1960s is reflected in novel combinations of human thought (subject) and genes (investigational object), paralleling each other through the universal process known in chaos theory as self-similarity. The clash and recombination of genes and knowledge captures what Philip Hefner refers to as irony, one of four voices he suggests transmit the knowledge and arguments of the religion-and-science debate. When viewed along a tangent connecting irony to leadership, journal dissemination, and the activities of the public intellectual and the public at large, the sequence of voices is shown to resemble the passage of genetic information from DNA to mRNA, tRNA, and protein, and from cell nucleus to surrounding environment. In this light, Hefners inquiry into the voices of Zygon is bound up with the very subject matter Zygon covers.
cell • chaos • DNA • genetics • irony • journal • leadership • meiosis • mitosis • policy making • protein • public • recombination • religion • RNA • science • self-similarity • systems theory
Stephen M. Modell is Genomics Research Area Specialist and Dissemination Activities Director in the Center for Public Health and Community Genomics, University of Michigan, 4605 SPH Tower, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109; e-mail: mod @ umich.edu.
A Literary Trinity for Cognitive Science and Religion by John A. Teske
The cognitive sciences may be understood to contribute to religion-and-science as a metadisciplinary discussion in ways that can be organized according to the three persons of narrative, encoding the themes of consciousness, relationality, and healing. First-person accounts are likely to be important to the understanding of consciousness, the hard problem of subjective experience, and contribute to a neurophenomenology of mind, even though we must be aware of their role in human suffering, their epistemic limits, and their indirect causal role in human behavior and subsequent experience. Second-person discussions are important for understanding the empathic and embodied relationality upon which an externalist account of mind is likely to depend, increasingly uncovered and supported by social neuroscience. Third-person accounts can be better understood in uncovering the us/them distinctions that they encode and healing the dangerous tribalisms that put an interdependent and communal world increasingly at risk.
causality • consciousness • embodiment • empathy • externalism • phenomenology • relationality • social neuroscience • subjectivity • tribalism
John A. Teske is Professor of Psychology at Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA 17022; e-mail: teskeja @ etown.edu.
James B. Ashbrook and Holistic World: Toward a Unified Field Theory of Mind, Brain, Self, World, and God by Carol Rausch Albright
James B. Ashbrooks new natural theology in an empirical mode pursued an integrated understanding of the spiritual, psychological, and neurological dimensions of spiritual life. Knowledge of neuroscience and personality theory was central to his quest, and his understandings were necessarily revised and amplified as scientific findings emerged. As a result, Ashbrooks legacy may serve as a case example of how to do religion-and-science in a milieu of scientific change. The constant in the quest was Ashbrooks core belief in the basic holism of brain, mind, personality, the nature of reality, and the underlying reality of God.
James B. Ashbrook • brain • Philip Hefner • holism • natural theology • neuroscience • neurotheology • panentheism • D. W. Winnicott
Carol Rausch Albright is Visiting Professor of Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1100 East 55th St., Chicago, IL 60615; e-mail: albright1 @ aol.com.
Blazing a New Trail for Science-and-Religion by James W. Haag
Science-and-religion must be cognizant of the future on several fronts. A challenge that remains central to our endeavor is the issue of diversity—not topical diversity, but participant diversity. As a way of initially addressing this problematic, I suggest a threefold tactic. First, there needs to be a refocus of primary attention toward the realm of public/ethical issues. Second, with this shift comes the need to avoid extreme positions by finding a middle ground. Third, a highly promising path worth pursuing toward this end is paved by the once-again burgeoning theory of emergence.
Terrence Deacon • dissonance • diversity • emergence • ethics • Philip Hefner
James W. Haag is Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at Suffolk University, 400 Marlborough St. #2, Boston, MA 02115; e-mail: jameshaag @ hotmail.com.
Concerning Diversity and Practicality by Joan D. Koss-Chioino
I raise issues about the scope and content of the religion-and-science field of study and suggest that cultural diversity has not been considered relevant or important. Adding it to the present foci of discussion yields different ideas and constructs about the nature and experience of religion than currently found in most of the religion-and-science literature. Consideration of cultural diversity not only broadens the ideas and constructs but also leads to practical (applied) considerations that have not been prominent in this field.
applications of religion-and-science • communitarian religion • culture diversity • popular religion
Joan D. Koss-Chioino is Professor Emerita of Anthropology, Arizona State University, and Research Professor of Psychology, George Washington University. Her mailing address is 2753 Bon Haven Lane, Annapolis, MD 21401; e-mail: joan.koss @ asu.edu.
New Directions, New Collaborations by Ann Pederson
In a world where all of life is on the edge of extinction and destruction by humankind, those who practice religion-and-science within a mutual dialogue bear the responsibility of doing so with this edge of life in mind. To speak of religion-and-science as a field of inquiry is to acknowledge the ethical responsibilities it entails. If one task of Zygon is to reformulate religion in light of the future dialogue of religion-and-science, we need to think about what kind of hope for the future is needed. Clearly, we are not simply called to repeat the past or comment on what has already been done by other academics. To help accomplish these goals and to reflect on the mission and future of Zygon, I appeal to the metaphor of improvisation, particularly as it is embodied in the visual and performing arts.
future • hope • improvisation • mediocrity • responsibility
Ann Pederson is Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Augustana College, 2001 S. Summit Ave., Sioux Falls, SD 57197; e-mail: Pederson @ augie.edu.
Stage-Two Secularity and the Future of Theology-and-Science by Gregory R. Peterson
Charles Taylor has recently provided an in-depth exploration of secularity, with a central characteristic being the understanding that religious commitment is optional. This essay extends this analysis, considering the possibility that American society may be entering a second stage of secularity, one in which the possibility of religious commitment ceases to be an option at all for many. The possible implications of such a development are considered for the theology-and-science dialogue.
new atheism • religious naturalism • secularism • stage-one secularity • stage-two secularity • Charles Taylor
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.
The new editor of Zygon considers the task of yoking religion and science not as the combination of two similar entities. Rather, their categorical difference makes reflection on their interplay worthwhile. One thereby confronts the understanding of religion, the multiple facets of religion, the diversity of religious traditions, and disagreements within religious communities. Although concern about secularization might stimulate an apologetic attitude, the author favors a critical and more skeptical attitude, countering superstition and the abuse of people. By being academic rather than apologetic we engage in the best apology for meaningful religion, if any.
Clifford Geertz • religion • secularization • superstition • yoking • Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
Willem B. Drees is Editor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University, the Netherlands; e-mail: w.b.drees @ hum.leidenuniv.nl.
Religion-and-Science as Spiritual Quest for Meaning. Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Goshen Conference on Religion and Science by Philip Hefner, reviewed by Barbara Ann Strassberg