Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
45 (3), September 2010

Table of Contents


Understanding, Empathy, and Explanation by Willem B. Drees

One of the aims of religion-and-science is to understand and appreciate human nature, our cultural and social life, our self-understandings and self-expressions. Some people fear that the sciences dismantle and deny the richness of human life, with its art, culture, religion, and relationships, by presenting a self-image of us as “nothing but….” Thus, they assume that a humanist and religious perspective must be opposed to the sciences. A controversy regarding science and human nature often comes with a simplistic view of religion, as if religion is about a theory that competes with scientific explanations of human nature.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01111.x


Are Evolutionary/Cognitive Theories of Religion Relevant for Philosophy of Religion? by Gregory R. Peterson

Biological theories of religious belief are sometimes understood to undermine the very beliefs they are describing, proposing an alternative explanation for the causes of belief different from that given by religious believers themselves. This article surveys three categories of biological theorizing derived from evolutionary biology, cognitive science of religion, and neuroscience. Although each field raises important issues and in some cases potential challenges to the legitimacy of religious belief, in most cases the significance of these theories for the holding of religious beliefs is not very great.
Pascal Boyer • cognitive science of religion • evolution of religion • moral cognition • theory of religion
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.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01112.x

Looking to Charles Taylor and Joseph Rouse for Best Practices in Science and Religion by Matthew Walhout

People discussing science and religion usually frame their conversations in terms of essentialist assumptions about science, assumptions requiring the existence (but not the specification) of criteria according to which science can be distinguished from other forms of inquiry. However, criteria functioning at a level of generality appropriate to such discussions may not exist at all. Essentialist assumptions may be avoided if science is understood within a broader context of human practices. In a philosophy of practices, to label a practice as “scientific” is to make a practically motivated provision for a way of speaking. Charles Taylor and Joseph Rouse have produced complementary philosophies of practice that promote this kind of understanding. In this essay I review the work of Taylor and Rouse, identify apparent residues of essentialism that each seems to harbor, and offer a resolution to some of their disagreements. I also criticize a form of essentialism commonly employed in Christian circles and outline an anti-essentialist view of science that may be helpful in science-and-religion discussions.
aims of science • Christian philosophy • critical realism • essentialism • hermeneutics • objectivity • philosophy of practice • philosophy of science • Joseph Rouse • science and religion • scientific practices • Charles Taylor
Matthew Walhout is Professor of Physics at Calvin College, 3201 Burton S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49506; e-mail: mwalhout @ calvin.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01113.x

Falsifiability and Traction in Theories of Divine Action by Kile Jones

One of the most focused research programs in the science-religion dialogue that has taken place up to the present is the series of volumes published jointly by the Vatican Observatory and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. Originating with the encouragement of Pope John Paul II, this series has produced seven volumes focusing on how divine action can be understood in light of contemporary science. A retrospective volume published in 2008, Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action: Twenty Years of Challenge and Progress, contains articles reviewing the series as a whole. In this article I analyze the series as a whole as well as some of the pivotal problems discussed throughout the series, such as the zero-sum game, scientific “traction,” falsifiability in theories of divine action, and locating special divine action in the physical world.
counterfactual principle • critical realism • evolution • general divine action • laws of nature • noninterventionist objective divine action (NIODA) • special divine action • traction • underdetermination
Kile Jones (www.kilejones.com) holds a Masters of Theological Studies and a Masters of Sacred Theology degree from Boston University, 45 Colborne Road Apt. B2, Brighton, MA 02135; email: kbj @ bu.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01114.x

Imag(in)ing the Buddhist Brain

Imag(in)ing the Buddhist Brain: Editorial Introduction by Lorenza S. Colzato and Jonathan A. Silk

Buddhism has captured the imagination of many in the modern (Western) world. Recently, scientists have seemed eager to discover whether claims about Buddhist meditation can be verified experimentally. Brain research is beginning to produce concrete evidence that mental discipline and meditative practice can change the workings of the brain and allow practitioners to achieve different levels of awareness, as measurable for instance in reaction times to stimuli. The goal of this section of articles in Zygon is to address recent developments in this area. The contributions address a wide array of questions, although they certainly do not cover the whole ground of what one may consider “problems” of meditation. Yet, we believe that the issues addressed here have widespread implications and that they constitute a strong argument for the richness of the meditation domain.
brain research • Buddhism • meditation
Lorenza S. Colzato is a psychotherapist and an assistant professor at the Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Department of Psychology, Cognitive Psychology Unit, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, the Netherlands; e-mail: colzato @ fsw.leidenuniv.nl. Jonathan A. Silk is full professor, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leiden Institute for Area Studies, SAS India en Tibet, P. J. Vethgebouw Nonnensteeg 1~3, 2311 VJ Leiden; e-mail: j.a.silk @ hum.leidenuniv.nl.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01115.x

Religion as a Control Guide: On the Impact of Religion on Cognition by Bernhard Hommel and Lorenza S. Colzato

Religions commonly are taken to provide general orientation in leading one’s life. We develop here the idea that religions also may have a much more concrete guidance function in providing systematic decision biases in the face of cognitive-control dilemmas. In particular, we assume that the selective reward that religious belief systems provide for rule-conforming behavior induces systematic biases in cognitive-control parameters that are functional in producing the wanted behavior. These biases serve as default values under uncertainty and affect performance in any task that shares cognitive-control operations with the religiously motivated rule-conforming behavior the biases were originally developed for. Such biases therefore can be unraveled and objectified by means of rather simple tasks that are relatively well understood with regard to the cognitive mechanisms they draw on.
attention • cognitive control • religious belief
Bernhard Hommel and Lorenza S. Colzato are full professor and assistant professor, respectively, at the Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Department of Psychology, Cognitive Psychology Unit, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, the Netherlands; e-mail: hommel @ fsw.leidenuniv.nl.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01116.x

Agnostic Meditations on Buddhist Meditation by Florin Deleanu

I first attempt a taxonomy of meditation in traditional Indian Buddhism. Based on the main psychological or somatic function at which the meditative effort is directed, the following classes can be distinguished: (1) emotion-centered meditation (coinciding with the traditional samatha approach); (2) consciousness-centered meditation (with two subclasses: consciousness reduction/elimination and ideation obliteration); (3) reflection-centered meditation (with two subtypes: morality-directed reflection and reality-directed observation, the latter corresponding to the vipassanā method); (4) visualization-centered meditation; and (5) physiology-centered meditation. In the second part of the essay I tackle the problem of the epistemic validity and happiness-engendering value of Buddhist meditation. In my highly conjectural view, the claim that meditation represents an infallible tool for realizing the (Supreme) Truth as well as a universally valid method for attaining the highest forms of happiness is largely based on the crēdō effect, that is, a placebolike process. I do not deny that meditation may have some positive effects on mental and physical health or that its practice may bring changes to the mind. Meditation may be a valuable alternative approach in life and clinical treatment, but it is far from being a must or a panacea.
Buddhist meditation • consciousness-centered meditation • crēdō effect • Early Buddhism • emotion-centered meditation • epistemology of meditation • insight (vipassanā) • Mahāyāna • meditation and happiness • physiology-centered meditation • placebo effect • reflection-centered meditation • subject/object duality • Tantric Buddhism • Theravāda • tranquility (samatha) • visualization-centered meditation
Florin Deleanu is Professor of Buddhist Studies at the International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies, 2-8-9 Kasuga, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 112-0003, Japan; e-mail: florindeleanu @ yahoo.co.jp.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01117.x

Mindfulness and the Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention and Awareness by Antonino Raffone, Angela Tagini and Narayanan Srinivasan

Mindfulness can be understood as the mental ability to focus on the direct and immediate perception or monitoring of the present moment with a state of open and nonjudgmental awareness. Descriptions of mindfulness and methods for cultivating it originated in eastern spiritual traditions. These suggest that mindfulness can be developed through meditation practice to increase positive qualities such as awareness, insight, wisdom, and compassion. In this article we focus on the relationships between mindfulness, with associated meditation practices, and the cognitive neuroscience of attention and awareness. Mindful awareness is related to distributed attention, phenomenal consciousness, and momentary self-awareness, as characterized by recent findings in cognitive psychology and neuroscience as well as in influential consciousness models. Finally, we outline an integrated neurocognitive model of mindfulness, attention, and awareness, with a key role of prefrontal cortex.
attention • consciousness • meditation • metacognition • mindfulness • neuroimaging • prefrontal cortex • self-awareness
Antonino Raffone is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, Via dei Marsi, 78, 00185 Rome, Italy, and Perceptual Dynamics Laboratory, Brain Science Institute RIKEN, Japan; e-mail: antonino.raffone @ uniroma1.it. Angela Tagini is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan, Italy; e-mail: angela.tagini @ unimib.it. Narayanan Srinivasan is Professor and Head, Centre of Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences, University of Allahabad, India; e-mail: nsrini @ cbcs.ac.in.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01118.x

The Design Metaphor

How to Confuse Organisms with Mousetraps: Machine Metaphors and Intelligent Design by Doren Recker

Why do design arguments—particularly those emphasizing machine metaphors such as “Organisms and/or their parts are machines”—continue to be so convincing to so many people after they have been repeatedly refuted? In this essay I review various interpretations and refutations of design arguments and make a distinction between rationally refuting such arguments (RefutingR) and rendering them psychologically unconvincing (RefutingP). Expanding on this distinction, I provide support from recent work on the cognitive power of metaphors and developmental psychological work indicating a basic human propensity toward attributing agency to natural events, to show that design arguments “make sense” unless one is cued to look more closely. As with visual illusions, such as the Müller-Lyer arrow illusion, there is nothing wrong with a believer’s cognitive apparatus any more than with their visual apparatus when they judge the lines in the illusion to be of unequal length. It takes training or a dissonance between design beliefs and other beliefs or experiences to play the role that a ruler does in the visual case. Unless people are cued to “look again” at what initially makes perfect sense, they are not inclined to apply more sophisticated evaluative procedures.
agency and teleological bias • cognitive psychology • cognitive status of metaphors • design arguments • developmental psychology • dual process reasoning • intelligent design • machine metaphors
Doren Recker is Associate Professor and Head of the Philosophy Department at Oklahoma State University, 308 Hanner Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078-5064; e-mail: doren.recker @ okstate.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01119.x

Paley’s iPod: The Cognitive Basis of the Design Argument within Natural Theology by Helen De Cruz and Johan De Smedt

The argument from design stands as one of the most intuitively compelling arguments for the existence of a divine Creator. Yet, for many scientists and philosophers, Hume’s critique and Darwin’s theory of natural selection have definitely undermined the idea that we can draw any analogy from design in artifacts to design in nature. Here, we examine empirical studies from developmental and experimental psychology to investigate the cognitive basis of the design argument. From this it becomes clear that humans spontaneously discern purpose in nature. When constructed theologically and philosophically correctly, the design argument is not presented as conclusive evidence for God’s existence but rather as an abductive, probabilistic argument. We examine the cognitive basis of probabilistic judgments in relationship to natural theology. Placing emphasis on how people assess improbable events, we clarify the intuitive appeal of Paley’s watch analogy. We conclude that the reason why some scientists find the design argument compelling and others do not lies not in any intrinsic differences in assessing design in nature but rather in the prior probability they place on complexity being produced by chance events or by a Creator. This difference provides atheists and theists with a rational basis for disagreement.
argument from design • cognitive biases • design stance • inference to the best explanation • intelligent design • natural theology • probabilistic inference • teleological reasoning
Helen De Cruz is postdoctoral fellow at the Centre of Analytical Philosophy, Catholic University of Leuven, Kardinaal Mercierplein 2, 3000 Leuven, Belgium; e-mail: Helen.DeCruz @ hiw.kuleuven.be. Johan De Smedt is research assistant at the Department of Philosophy and Ethics, Ghent University, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent, Belgium; e-mail: johan.desmedt @ ugent.be.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01120.x

God and the World of Signs: Semiotics and Theology

God and the World of Signs: Introduction to Part 2 by Andrew Robinson and Christopher Southgate

We introduce the second part of a two-part collection of articles 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 -seeking. Theologically, we understand God to be the ground of all such meaning-making and the ultimate goal of the universe’s emerging capacity for interpreting signs. Here we summarize the articles in Part 1, which focused on scientific and philosophical aspects of the research program, and introduce Part 2, which turns to the theological outworking of the project.
incarnational theology • metaphysics • C. S. Peirce • research program • science and religion • semiotics • Trinity
Andrew Robinson and Christopher Southgate are Honorary University Fellows in the Department of Theology, University of Exeter. Address correspondence to Dr. A. J. N. Robinson, 11 Forde Park, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 1DB, UK.; e-mail: a.j.robinson @ exeter.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01121.x

Semiotics as a Metaphysical Framework for Christian Theology by Andrew Robinson and Christopher Southgate

We provide an overview of a proposal for a new metaphysical framework within which theology and science might both find a home. Our proposal draws on the triadic semiotics and threefold system of metaphysical categories of C. S. Peirce. We summarize the key features of a semiotic model of the Trinity, based on observed parallels between Peirce’s categories of Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness and Christian thinking about, respectively, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We test and extend the semiotic model by exploring how Peirce’s taxonomy of signs offers a new approach to theological reflection on the Incarnation. This leads to a novel way of framing scientific questions about human evolution in semiotic terms and to a new approach to theological anthropology. Finally, we use the semiotic model of the Trinity as the basis of a trinitarian approach to the theology of creation according to which the semiotic processes that are fundamental to life and to human behavior and cognition may be understood as “vestiges of the Trinity in creation.”
anthropology • evolution • incarnation • C. S. Peirce • semiotics • Trinity • vestiges of the Trinity
Andrew Robinson and Christopher Southgate are Honorary University Fellows in the Department of Theology, University of Exeter. Address correspondence to Dr. A. J. N. Robinson, 11 Forde Park, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 1DB, UK.; e-mail: a.j.robinson @ exeter.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01122.x

Transforming Theological Symbols by F. LeRon Shults

In this essay I explore the need for transforming the Christian theological symbols of the Trinity, Incarnation, and Redemption, which arose in the context of neo-Platonic metaphysics, in light of late modern, especially Peircean, metaphysics and categories. I engage and attempt to complement the proposal by Andrew Robinson and Christopher Southgate (in this issue of Zygon) with insights from the Peircean-inspired philosophical theology of Robert Neville. I argue that their proposal can be strengthened by acknowledging the way in which theological symbols themselves have a transformative (pragmatic) effect as they are “taken” in context and “break” on the Infinite.
emergence • Incarnation • metaphysics • C. S. Peirce • Redemption • symbols • Trinity
F. LeRon Shults is professor of theology and philosophy at the University of Agder, Institute of Religion, Philosophy and History, Serviceboks 422, Lundsiden, Building 13, 4604 Kristiansand, Norway, and scientific director of the interdisciplinary and interreligious “Transforming Compassion” project at Stiftlesen Arkivet, a peacebuilding institute in Norway; e-mail: leron.shults @ uia.no.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01123.x

Broken Symbols? Response to F. LeRon Shults by Andrew Robinson and Christopher Southgate

In the preceding article in this section, F. LeRon Shults responds to our article preceding his, “Semiotics as a Metaphysical Framework for Christian Theology.” We respond here to his criticisms of our proposal. We discuss his concerns about the concept of “vestiges of the Trinity in creation” and argue that this does not undermine the absolute ontological difference between God and creation. We offer a clarification of our idea that the Incarnation may be understood, in terms of Peirce’s taxonomy of signs, as a qualisign of God’s being. Finally, we discuss the idea that all symbols “break on the infinite.”
creation • Incarnation • C. S. Peirce • qualisign • semiotics • symbol • Trinity • vestiges of the Trinity
Andrew Robinson and Christopher Southgate are Honorary University Fellows in the Department of Theology, University of Exeter. Address correspondence to Dr. A. J. N. Robinson, 11 Forde Park, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 1DB, UK.; e-mail: a.j.robinson @ exeter.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01124.x

Toward a Theology of Boundary by Jeremy T. Law

Awareness of boundary, both physical and mental, is seen as the beginning of perception. In any account of the world, therefore, boundary must be a ubiquitous component. In sharp contrast, accounts of God within the Christian tradition commonly have proceeded by the affirmation that God is above and beyond boundary as infinite, timeless, and simple. To overcome this “problem of transcendence,” of how such a God can relate to such a world, an eight-term grammar of boundary is developed to demonstrate how God as Trinity can properly be held to be without boundary yet constitute the ground of a bounded world. This leads to a way of granting theological significance to the origin and development of life. Life is seen to exist in dynamic, intentional relationships between context (“outside”) and intext (“inside”) across permeable boundaries through which an exchange of resources and information takes place for the sake of self-continuation. Comprehending life’s distinctive utilization of boundary in terms of the grammar developed here enables life to be seen not only as a vestige of the Trinity but also, precisely because of this, as a sign and parable of redemption.
autocell • boundary • Cappadocian Fathers • evolution • interpretation • origin of life • perichoresis • problem of transcendence • redemption • semiotics • telos • Trinity
Jeremy T. Law is Dean of Chapel, Canterbury Christ Church University, North Holmes Road, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 1QU, U.K.; e-mail: jeremy.law @ canterbury.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01125.x

Critical Afterword by Philip Clayton

This Afterword looks back over both parts of the discussion of “God and the World of Signs”—“Semiotics and the Emergence of Life” in the previous issue of Zygon and “Semiotics and Theology” in this issue. Three central questions in this extended debate are identified: What is the nature of biological organisms and biological evolution? What is the relationship between the natural world and the Triune God of the Christian theological tradition? What should be the goals of Science/Religion Studies? I summarize the answers that Christopher Southgate and Andrew Robinson have given in their program and the challenges raised by their critics. Their strengths and weaknesses are assessed. In the conclusion I ask readers to imagine that this particular research program were to be taken as a model program in science-and-religion research (with some tweaking) and then consider the features of the program that could function as standards for scholars working in other areas of the dialogue.
biosemiotics • emergence of life • evolutionary theory • incarnation • Charles Sanders Peirce • philosophy of language • Andrew Robinson • science/religion research programs • semiotics • Christopher Southgate • symbols of ultimacy • trinitarian theologies
Philip Clayton is Ingraham Professor at Claremont School of Theology and Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the Claremont Graduate University, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01126.x


Global Perspectives on Science and Spirituality edited by Pranab Das, reviewed by Christoffer H. Grundmann

Christoffer H. Grundmann, John R. Eckrich University Chair in Religion and the Healing Arts, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01127.x

Science and Religion: New Historical Perspectives edited by Thomas Dixon, Geoffrey Cantor, and Stephen Pumfrey, reviewed by Willem B. Drees

Willem B. Drees, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics, Vice-dean, Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University, PO Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands; e-mail: w.b.drees @ hum.leidenuniv.nl
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01128.x

Religion and Science in Context: A Guide to the Debates by Willem B. Drees, reviewed by Karl E. Peters

Karl E. Peters, Professor Emeritus, Rollins College, 30 Barn Door Hills Road, Granby CT 06035; e-mail: Kpeters396 @ cox.net
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01129.x

Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life by John F. Haught, reviewed by Robert J. Deltete

Robert J. Deltete, Professor of Philosophy, Seattle University, 901 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122-1090; e-mail: RDELTETE @ seattleu.edu
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01130.x

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