Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
47 (1), March 2012

Table of Contents


Mystery? by Willem B. Drees

In In Face of Mystery: A Constructive Theology, the Harvard theologian Gordon D. Kaufman (1925-2011) has sought to rearticulate religious symbols in a way that is relevant to contemporary problems and consistent with modern knowledge. Kaufman acknowledged the human, constructive nature of any theology but still argued that there is a meaningful way of speaking of faith in God, when God is not conceived as “a quasi-person” but rather “as the serendipitous movement which we discern in the cosmic evolutionary and historical processes that have created human existence” (Kaufman 1993, 342; see for a discussion in Zygon, Wiles 1994; Ferré 1994). Kaufman has contributed several articles to Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science (1992; 2001; 2003a, b; 2005).
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01236.x


The Star of Christ in the Light of Astronomy by Aaron Adair

Centuries of both theologians and astronomers have wondered what the Star of Bethlehem (Matt 2:2, 9) actually was, from miracle to planetary conjunction. Here a history of this search is presented, along with the difficulties the various proposals have had. The natural theories of the Star are found to be a recent innovation, and now almost exclusively maintained by scientists rather than theologians. Current problems with various theories are recognized, as well as general problems with the approach. The interactions between the sciences and religion are categorized and explored.
astronomy • history • laws of nature • miracles • Nativity • science • Star of Bethlehem
Aaron Adair is a graduate student studying physics education in the Department of Physics, College of Arts and Sciences, Ohio State University, Physics Research Building, 191 West Woodruff Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA; e-mail: adairaar @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01237.x

Could God Create Darwinian Accidents? by John S. Wilkins

Charles Darwin, in his discussions with Asa Gray and in his published works, doubted whether God could so arrange it that exactly the desired contingent events would occur to cause particular outcomes by natural selection. In this paper, I argue that even a limited or neo-Leibnizian deity could have chosen a world that satisfied some arbitrary set of goals or functions in its outcomes and thus answer Darwin’s conundrum. In more general terms, this supports the consistency of natural selection with providentialism, and makes “theistic evolutionism” a coherent position to hold.
Thomas Aquinas • causality • Darwinism • evolution • intelligent design • metaphysics • theology and science
John S. Wilkins is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Sydney, 2006, Australia; e-mail john @ wilkins.id.au.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01238.x

Possibilities and Limits of Medical Science: Debates over Double-Blind Clinical Trials of Intercessory Prayer by Wendy Cadge

This article traces the intellectual history of scientific studies of intercessory prayer published in English between 1965 and the present by focusing on the conflict and discussion they prompted in the medical literature. I analyze these debates with attention to how researchers articulate the possibilities and limits medical science has for studying intercessory prayer over time. I delineate three groups of researchers and commentators: those who think intercessory prayer can and should be studied scientifically, those who are more skeptical and articulate the limits of science around this topic, and those who focus primarily on the pragmatic applications of this knowledge. I analyze these contests as examples of what Thomas Gieryn calls “epistemic authority” as medical researchers engage in what he describes as “boundary-work” or “the discursive attribution of selected qualities to scientists, scientific methods, and scientific claims for the purposes of drawing a rhetorical boundary between science and some less authoritative residual non-science.” (Gieryn 1999, 4).
healing • medicine • prayer • religion • spirituality
Wendy Cadge is Associate Professor of Sociology at Brandeis University, 415 South Street, MS 071, Waltham, MA 02454, USA; e-mail: wcadge @ brandeis.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01239.x

Human Uniqueness, the Other Hominids, and “Anthropocentrism of the Gaps” in the Religion and Science Dialogue by Joshua M. Moritz

The concept of human uniqueness has long played a central role within key interpretations of the hominid fossil record and within numerous theological understandings of the imago Dei. More recently, the status of humans as evolutionarily unique has come under strong criticism owing to the discovery of certain nonhuman hominids who, as language and culture-bearing beings, lived as contemporaries with early anatomically modern humans. Nevertheless, many scholars, including those in the field of religion and science, continue to interpret the remains of these other hominids in light of empirically ungrounded implicit assumptions about human uniqueness, which the author calls “anthropocentrism of the gaps.” This paper argues that “anthropocentrism of the gaps” is philosophically unwarranted and thus should not be assumed by scholars in religion and science when evaluating contemporary findings in paleoanthropology.
anthropocentrism of the gaps • evolution • hominids • human uniqueness • imago Dei • monogenism • multiregionalism • paleoanthropology • polygenism • racism • Upper Paleolithic Revolution
Joshua M. Moritz is managing editor of the journal Theology and Science and Research Associate at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley, CA, 504 Curtis Street #3, Albany, CA 94706, USA; e-mail: Jmoritz @ ctns.org.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01240.x

Eutopia: The Promise of Biotechnology and the Realignment of Western Axiality by Manussos Marangudakis

This essay discusses the deep perceptual and social changes that the advanced applications of biotechnology could bring in the West. It examines the probable collapse of a fundamental perceptual bipolarity on which the Western mind and social mobilization have been based since its inception in the West: Athens—Jerusalem. This collapse will quite possibly radically reshape Western perceptions of self and nature and will remodel established constellations and modes of social mobilization and social organization. The radical collapse of the preceding established feature of Western modernity is due to take place in the field of biotechnology, since the latter promises to produce a deliverable perfection of flesh and an equally corporeal personal bliss. I call this promise “eutopia,” an actual and tangible utopia— “a laboratory on the hill.”
biotechnology • eutopia • GRIN • Athens vs. Jerusalem • axial civilizations • technosecularism • utopia
Manussos Marangudakis is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Aegean. He can be reached at University of the Aegean, University Hill, Mytilene, Greece; e-mail m.marangudakis @ soc.aegean.gr.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01241.x

Science and Transcendence: Westphal, Derrida, and Responsibility by Nathan Kowalsky

On the naive reading, “radical social constructivism” would be the result of “deconstructing” science. Science would simply be a contingent construction in accordance with social determinants. However, postmodernism does not necessarily abandon fidelity to the objects of thought. Merold Westphal’s Derridean philosophy of religion emphasizes that even theology need not eliminate the transcendence of the divine other. By drawing an analogy between natural and supernatural transcendence, I argue that science is similarly called to responsibility in the encounter with that which lies outside its horizon of expectation. Science’s rational autonomy is overcome by the heteronomy of realities that precede it. Understanding species as homeostatic property clusters is an example of nonessentialist, postmodern, and scientific realism. Science is still a vehicle for encountering natural alterity, thus decentering the relativism thought to characterize postmodernism. However, natural science must not attempt to place the whole of being at human disposal if it is to fulfill the potential of Westphal’s philosophy of religion.
deconstruction • Jacques Derrida • hermeneutics • heteronomy • homeostatic property clusters • metaphysics • philosophy of science • social construction • transcendence • Merold Westphal
Nathan Kowalsky, is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta, and in the Science, Technology and Society Program, Office of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2J5, Canada; e-mail: nek @ ualberta.ca.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01242.x

Affirmations after God: Friedrich Nietzsche and Richard Dawkins on Atheism by J. Thomas Howe

In this essay, I compare the atheism of Friedrich Nietzsche with that of Richard Dawkins. My purpose is to describe certain differences in their respective atheisms with the intent of showing that Nietzsche’s atheism contains a richer and fuller affirmation of human life. In Dawkins’s presentation of the value of life without God, there is a na´ve optimism that purports that human beings, educated in science and purged of religion, will find lives of easy peace and comfortable wonder. Part of my argument is that this optimism regarding the power of objective science is subject to Nietzsche’s criticism of Socrates and what he calls the “theoretical man.” As such, it fails in terms of providing a true affirmation of life in the godless world.
aesthetics • argument from design • atheism • beauty • Darwinism • Richard Dawkins • materialism • naturalism • Nietzsche • science
J. Thomas Howe is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Regis University, 3333 Regis Boulevard, Denver, CO 80221, USA; e-mail: jhowe @ regis.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01243.x

Free Will According to John Duns Scotus and Neuroscience by Sally K. Severino

This paper examines two views of free will. It looks first at the fourteenth-century religious insights of John Duns Scotus, one of history’s seminal thinkers about free will. It then examines what current neuroscience tells us about free will. Finally, it summarizes the past and present views and concludes by answering two questions: Does free will refer to an absence of external constraint, or does it refer to a human ability to decide in an acausal manner?
embodied simulation • empathy • free will • intellect/cognition • intersubjectivity • theory of mind
Sally Severino is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a Felician Associate of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Convent in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. She may be reached at 1050 Joshua Drive SE, Rio Rancho, NM 87124-1258, USA; e-mail: skseverino @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01244.x

Islam, Paternity, and the Beginning of Life

The Beginning of Human Life: Islamic Bioethical Perspectives by Mohammed Ghaly

In January 1985, about 80 Muslim religious scholars and biomedical scientists gathered in a symposium held in Kuwait to discuss the broad question “When does human life begin?” This article argues that this symposium is one of the milestones in the field of contemporary Islamic bioethics and independent legal reasoning (Ijtihād). The proceedings of the symposium, however, escaped the attention of academic researchers. This article is meant to fill in this research lacuna by analyzing the proceedings of this symposium, the relevant subsequent developments, and finally the interplay of Islam and the West as a significant dimension in these discussions.
bioethics • biotechnology • ijtihad (study of Islamic principles to derive legal opinions from the law) • Islam • origin of life • personhood • Qur’an • science • stem cells • theology and science
Mohammed Ghaly is an assistant professor of Islamic Studies at Leiden University, Faculty of Humanities, Leiden Institute for Religious Studies, Matthias de Vrieshoff 1, Postbox 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands; e-mail: m.ghaly @ hum.leidenuniv.nl.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01245.x

Paternity between Law and Biology: The Reconstruction of the Islamic Law of Paternity in the Wake of DNA Testing by Ayman Shabana

The discovery of DNA paternity tests has stirred a debate concerning the definition of paternity and whether the grounds for such a definition are legal or biological. According to the classical rules of Islamic law, paternity is established and negated on the basis of a valid marriage. Modern biomedical technology raises the question of whether paternity tests can be the sole basis for paternity, even independently of marriage. Although on the surface this technology seems to challenge the authority of Islamic law in this area, the paper argues that classical Islamic rulings pertaining to paternity issues continue to hold higher authority even in cases of conflict with modern technology-based alternatives. Through closer analysis, the paper traces the emergence of a differentiation in the function of DNA tests between identity and paternity verification. While the former is accepted without reservation, the latter is approved only when it does not violate the rulings of Islamic law.
biomedical technology • DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) • DNA fingerprinting • ijtihad (independent legal reasoning) • Islam • Islamic bioethics • Islamic law • paternity tests
Ayman Shabana is a member of the Islamic Medical and Scientific Ethics Project research team at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar. He can be reached at 3300 Whitehaven Street NW, #2100, Washington, D.C. 20007, USA; e-mail: as2432 @ georgetown.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01246.x


Göttliche Weltökonomie, Perspektiven der Wissenschaftlichen Revolution vom 15. bis zum 17. Jahrhundert (Divine World Economy: Perspectives of the Scientific Revolution from the 15th to the 17th Century) by Dieter Groh, reviewed by Carolin Früh

Carolin Früh; University of Bern; Sidlerstrasse 5, Bern 3012, Switzerland; carolin.frueh @ gmail.com
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01247.x

Rethinking Human Nature: A Multidisciplinary Approach by Malcolm Jeeves, reviewed by Gregory R. Peterson

Gregory R. Peterson; Professor of Philosophy and Religion; Box 504, Scobey 336, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007; greg.peterson @ sdstate.edu
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01248.x

Commonsense Darwinism: Evolution, Morality, and the Human Condition by John Lemos, reviewed by Paul G. Heltne

Paul G. Heltne; Director, The Ethopoiesis Project; President Emeritus of the Chicago Academy of the Sciences; 4001 N. Ravenswood, #401; Chicago, IL 60613; heltne @ chias.org
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01249.x

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