Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
46 (3), September 2011

Table of Contents


History, Hinduism, and Christian Humanism by Willem B. Drees

As the historian of science John Brooke once wrote, “it is almost always assumed that there are lessons to be learned from history. The object of this book is not to deny that assumption but to show that the lessons are far from simple” (Brooke 1991, 4f). Maybe his thesis does not just apply to lessons from history, but also from the study of the world’s religions—in this issue Hinduism—and the study of human relationships and experiences.

Our own history is involved in the opening article on Kirtley Mather, by historian of science Ted Davis. Mather was a geologist involved in the early years of IRAS, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, which is one of the organizations behind Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. So many of his themes are still relevant today—on the acceptance of evolution, the rise of creative personality, the emphasis on values in the universe. A Baptist modernist, Mather’s position illustrates the argument of the second article in this issue, by Matthew Stanley, that in the nineteenth century belief in the uniformity of nature, operating according to natural laws, could be part of a theistic view of reality as well as of a naturalistic view. Distinctions between theists and naturalists may seem simple, but when one looks at the details, the categories may turn out to be complex.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01215.x


Altruism and the Administration of the Universe: Kirtley Fletcher Mather on Science and Values by Edward B. Davis

Few American scientists have devoted as much attention to religion and science as Harvard geologist Kirtley Fletcher Mather (1888-1978). Responding to antievolutionism during the 1920s, he taught Sunday School classes, assisted in defending John Scopes, and wrote Science in Search of God (1928). Over the next 40 years, Mather explored the place of humanity in the universe and the presence of values in light of what he often called “the administration of the universe,” a term and concept he borrowed from his former teacher, geologist Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin. Human values, including cooperation and altruism, had emerged in such a context: “the administrative directive toward orderly organization of increasingly complex systems transcends the urge for survival.” He was also active in the early years of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, an organization created by his good friends Ralph Wendell Burhoe and Harlow Shapley.
administration of the universe • altruism • creative evolution • God • Kirtley Fletcher Mather • modernism • paleontology • theodicy
Edward B. Davis is Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College, Grantham, PA 17027, USA; e-mail: tdavis @ messiah.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01197.x

The Uniformity of Natural Laws in Victorian Britain: Naturalism, Theism, and Scientific Practice by Matthew Stanley

A historical perspective allows for a different view on the compatibility of theistic views with a crucial foundation of modern scientific practice: the uniformity of nature, which states that the laws of nature are unbroken through time and space. Uniformity is generally understood to be part of a worldview called “scientific naturalism,” in which there is no room for divine forces or a spiritual realm. This association comes from the Victorian era, but a historical examination of scientists from that period shows that uniformity was an important part of both theistic and naturalistic worldviews. Victorian efforts to maintain the viability of miracles and divine action within a universe ruled by natural laws receives special attention. The methodological practices of theistic and naturalistic scientists in the nineteenth century were effectively indistinguishable despite each group’s argument that uniformity was closely dependent on their worldview. This similarity is used to reexamine both the reasons for the decline of the role of religion within the scientific community and claims made by the intelligent design movement about the relationship of science and religion.
history • intelligent design • laws of nature • methodological naturalism • miracles • naturalism • theism • worldview
Matthew Stanley is an associate professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, 1 Washington Place, New York, NY 10003, USA; e-mail: matt.stanley @ nyu.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01198.x

Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil: An Evolutionary Model with Application to an Ancient Debate by Robert K. Fleck

Since Darwin, scholars have contemplated what our growing understanding of natural selection, combined with the fact that great suffering occurs, allows us to infer about the possibility that a benevolent God created the universe. Building on this long line of thought, I develop a model that illustrates how undesirable characteristics of the world (stylized “evils”) can influence long-run outcomes. More specifically, the model considers an evolutionary process in which each generation faces a risk from a “natural evil” (e.g., predation, disease, or a natural disaster) subsequent to a basic resource allocation game. This allows both resource allocation and the natural evil to influence the number of surviving offspring. As the model shows, when the risk from the natural evil can be mitigated through the benevolent behavior of neighbors, the population may have increasing benevolence as a result of (1) greater risk from the natural evil and (2) a greater degree to which selfish individuals transfer resources to themselves in the resource allocation game. The main implication is that a world with evolutionary processes (in contrast to a world of static design) can allow two factors that have traditionally been considered “evils”—namely, the indiscriminate cruelty of the natural world and the capacity for humans to harm each other—to promote desirable long-run outcomes.
argument from evil • evolution • natural selection • problem of evil
Robert K. Fleck is a professor of Economics in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA; e-mail: rfleck @ montana.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01199.x

What Is “Mythic Reality”? by Robert A. Segal

The topic of the March 2011 symposium in Zygon is “The Mythic Reality of the Autonomous Individual.” Yet few of the contributors even discuss “mythic reality.” Of the ones who do, most cavalierly use “myth” dismissively, as simply a false belief. Rather than reconciling myth with reality, they oppose myth to reality. Their view of myth is by no means unfamiliar or unwarranted, but they need to recognize other views of myth and to defend their own. Above all, they need to appreciate the grip that any belief aptly labeled myth has—a grip that holds at least as much for a false belief as for a true one.
autonomous individual • belief • myth • reality
Robert A. Segal is Sixth Century Chair in Religious Studies at the School of Divinity, University of Aberdeen, King’s Quadrangle, Aberdeen AB24 3UB, UK, where he is also Director of the Centre for the Study of Myth; e-mail: r.segal @ abdn.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01200.x

Science and Hinduism

Hinduism and Science: The State of the South Asian Science and Religion Discourse by Eric R. Dorman

The science and religion discourse in the Western academy, though expansive, has not paid significant enough attention to South Asian views, particularly those from Hindu thought. This essay seeks to address this issue in three parts. First, I present the South Asian standpoint as it currently relates to the science and religion discourse. Second, I survey and evaluate some available literature on South Asian approaches to the science and religion discourse. Finally, I promote three possible steps forward: (1) the literature must shift from high Hindu philosophical religion to the more prevalent bhakti traditions, (2) the Indian context must be understood in its own right without metaphysical assumptions attached to the concepts of science and religion, and (3) most importantly, concepts unique to the Indian worldview, such as dharma, maya, and cit, must receive better treatment in translation in order to facilitate a more accurate exchange of ideas across cultural boundaries.
Aurobindo • consciousness • Hinduism • Indian philosophy • quantum physics • Varadaraja V. Raman • Ravi Ravindra • religion and science • South Asia • Tagore • Vedanta • Vivekananda • worldviews • yoga
Eric R. Dorman is a PhD student at Boston University, 145 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215, USA; e-mail: edorman @ bu.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01201.x

“Quantum Physics and Vedanta”: A Perspective from Bernard d’Espagnat’s Scientific Realism by Jonathan Duquette

In the last decades, several rapprochements have been made between quantum physics and the Advaita Vedānta (AV) school of Hinduism. Theoretical issues such as the role of the observer in measurement and physical interconnectedness have been associated with tenets of AV, generating various critical responses. In this study, I propose to address this encounter in the light of recent works on philosophical implications of quantum physics by the physicist and philosopher of science Bernard d’Espagnat.
Advaita Vedānta • Bernard d’Espagnat • philosophy of physics • quantum physics • scientific realism
Jonathan Duquette is a postdoctoral fellow in Concordia University’s Department of Religion, 1455 de Maisonneuve Boulevard West, Montreal, QC H3G 1M8, Canada; e-mail: jonathan.duquette @ umontreal.ca.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01202.x

Michael Ruse’s View of Faith and Science

Michael Ruse on Science and Faith: Seeking Mutual Understanding by David Wisdo

In Science and Spirituality, Michael Ruse attempts to reconcile traditional Christianity and modern science by arguing that Christianity addresses questions that lie beyond the domain of science. I argue that Ruse’s solution raises a number of problems that render it unsatisfactory for both the scientist and believer. First, despite his objections to “God of the gaps” arguments, his own strategy for identifying those questions that are beyond the limits of science seems to raise the problem in a new form. Second, what Ruse offers as evidence for the limits of science is better construed as evidence for deep disagreements among scientists and as such does not support his claims about the limits of science. Third, in aiming to establish their independence, Ruse subordinates religion to science. Finally, his support of traditional theology as a mode of religious understanding might cause concern for those who believe that certain kinds of theological reflection are at odds with scientific thinking.
God of the gaps • independence • limiting questions • mind • morality • origins • purpose • Michael Ruse • science and spirituality • theology
David Wisdo is Associate Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Mathematics and Philosophy, Columbus State University, 4225 University Ave., Columbus, GA 31907, USA; e-mail: wisdo_david @ ColumbusState.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01203.x

Making Room for Faith in an Age of Science: A Response to David Wisdo by Michael Ruse

I respond to the criticisms of David Wisdo of my position on the relationship between science and religion. I argue that although he gives a full and fair account of my position, he fails to grasp fully my use of the metaphorical basis of modern science in my argument that, because of its mechanistic commitment, there are some questions that science not only does not answer but that science does not even attempt to answer. Hence, my position stands and plays a crucial role in our understanding of the science-religion relationship.
mechanism • metaphor • unanswered questions
Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science at Department of Philosophy, Florida State University, 151 Dodd Hall, MC 1500, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA; e-mail: mruse @ fsu.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01204.x

Don Browning’s Christian Humanism

Reviving Christian Humanism: Science and Religion by Don S. Browning

A possible consequence of the dialogue between science and religion is a revived religious humanism—a firmer grasp of the historical and phenomenological meanings of the great world religions correlated with the more accurate explanations of the rhythms of nature that natural science can provide. The first great expressions of religious humanism in the West emerged when Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scholars sat in the same libraries in Spain and Sicily, studying and translating the lost manuscripts of Aristotle in the ninth and tenth centuries to understand his ethics, epistemology, and psychobiology. In our day, the science-religion dialogue—exemplified by interaction among psychology, spirituality, and psychotherapy—will best support such a revival if guided by the philosophical resources of critical hermeneutics (sometimes called hermeneutical realism) supplemented by William James’s brand of phenomenology and pragmatism. Here, I develop primarily the contributions of Paul Ricoeur to hermeneutic realism and his unique ability to find a place for the natural sciences within hermeneutic phenomenology in his formula of understanding-explanation-understanding.
Christian humanism • explanation • hermeneutics • humanism • Paul Ricoeur • psychology • spirituality • understanding
Don S. Browning (1934-2010) was the Alexander Campbell Professor of Ethics and the Social Sciences, Divinity School, University of Chicago.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01205.x

Psychology, Religion, and Critical Hermeneutics: Don Browning as “Horizon Analyst” by Terry D. Cooper

Don Browning’s career involved a deep exploration into the frequently hidden philosophical assumptions buried in various forms of psychotherapeutic healing. These healing methodologies were based on metaphors and metaphysical assumptions about both the meaning of human fulfillment and the ultimate context of our lives. All too easily, psychological theories put forward philosophical anthropologies while claiming to be operating within a modest, empirical approach. Browning does not fault or criticize these psychotherapeutic enterprises for making such claims because he thinks these claims are implicit in all discussions of psychological health. But he does fault these methodologies for not being more forthcoming about their shift from a narrow empirical investigation to a broad-ranging philosophical and even quasireligious orientation. Browning can be described as a “horizon analyst” who constantly pulled back the curtains and helped us see the deeper symbols, images, and metaphysical assumptions behind our psychological investigations.
critical hermeneutics • distanciation • Erik Erikson • ethical assumptions of psychologists • evolutionary psychology • Sigmund Freud • Hans Georg Gadamer • horizon • instincts • motivation • Reinhold Niebuhr • ontological assumptions • philosophical anthropology • psychoanalysis • Paul Ricoeur • Carl Rogers • David Tracy
Terry D. Cooper is Professor of Psychology at the St. Louis Community College at Meramec, 11333 Big Bend Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63112, USA; e-mail: TCooper @ stlcc.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01206.x

The Artful Humanism of Don Browning by Wesley J. Wildman

Don Browning’s intellectual artfulness is particularly evident in three areas: as analyst of basic assumptions in intellectual systems, as fundamental ethicist, and as mediating theologian. His work in each area has been extraordinarily fruitful, both theoretically and practically. In each area, however, his skillful handling of complex issues also has subtle limitations. This paper identifies those limitations, analyzes them as facets of an articulate but preemptive defense of a preferred theological outlook, and thus as a limited failure of Browning’s otherwise broadly successful implementation of a critical hermeneutical method.
Don Browning (1934-2010) • critical hermeneutics • foundational ethics • humanism • mediating theology
Wesley J. Wildman is Associate Professor of Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics, Boston University, School of Theology, 745 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA, and director of the Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion; e-mail: wwildman @ bu.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01207.x

Christianity’s Mixed Contributions to Children’s Rights by Don S. Browning and John Witte, Jr.

In this paper, which was among Don Browning’s last writings before he died, we review and evaluate the main arguments against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the “CRC”) that conservative American Christians in particular have opposed. While we take their objections seriously, we think that, on balance, the CRC is worthy of ratification, especially if it is read in light of the profamily ethic that informs the CRC and many earlier human rights instruments. More fundamentally, we think that the CRC captures some of the very best traditional Western legal and theological teachings on marriage, family, and children, which we retrieve and reconstruct for our day.
Thomas Aquinas • William Blackstone • children’s rights • family • human rights • David Hume • John Locke • Charles Malik • marriage • parents
Don S. Browning (1934-2010) was the Alexander Campbell Professor of Ethics and the Social Sciences, Divinity School, University of Chicago. John Witte, Jr. is Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory Law School, 1301 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30322-2770, USA; e-mail: john.witte @ emory.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01208.x

A Natural Law Theory of Marriage by Don S. Browning

For the past two decades, I have been developing an integrative Christian marriage theory, based in part on a grounding concept of natural law and an overarching theory of covenant. The natural law part of this theory starts with an account of the natural facts, conditions, interests, needs, and qualities of human life, interaction, and generation—what I call the “premoral” goods or realities of life. It then identifies the natural inclinations of humans to form enduring and exclusive monogamous marriages and to preserve these units as the central site for intimacy, procreation, and nurture of children. In this paper, I first summarize this natural law theory of marriage and then compare it to the formulations of other modern Christian thinkers. I also defend this theory against various modern critics of natural law—in part by reinterpreting some traditional natural law teachings that in my view have been misunderstood, in part by looking at the interesting convergences between the insights into sex, marriage, and family life offered by contemporary Christian theological ethicists and by evolutionary biologists and biological anthropologists.
Larry Arnhart; Karl Barth; Emil Brunner; children; family; marriage; natural inclination; natural law; premoral goods; Paul Ricoeur
Don S. Browning (1934-2010) was the Alexander Campbell Professor of Ethics and the Social Sciences, Divinity School, University of Chicago, Illinois, USA.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01209.x


Biology and Ideology: From Descartes to Dawkins edited by Denis R. Alexander and Ronald L. Numbers, reviewed by Matthew Becker

Matthew Becker; Associate Professor of Theology; Valparaiso University; Valparaiso, IN 46383; matthew.becker @ valpo.edu
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01210.x

Principles of Neurotheology by Andrew B. Newberg, reviewed by Tiffany Demke

Tiffany Demke; Lutheran School of Theology; Chicago, IL 60615; neurotheology @ yahoo.com
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01211.x

Philosophy, Science and Divine Action edited by F. LeRon Shults, Nancey Murphy, and Robert John Russell, reviewed by Christopher H. Grundmann

Christopher H. Grundmann; John R. Eckrich; University Chair in Religion and the Healing Arts; Valparaiso University; Valparaiso, IN 46383; Christoffer.Grundmann @ valpo.edu
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01212.x

Paleontology: A Brief History of Life by Ian Tattersall, reviewed by Paul G. Heltne

Paul G. Heltne; Director, The Ethopoiesis Project; President Emeritus of the Chicago Academy of Sciences; 4001 N. Ravenswood, #401; Chicago, IL 60613; heltne @ chias.org
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01213.x

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts