Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
47 (4), December 2012

Table of Contents


Humans in the Center? by Willem B. Drees

As humans we tend to place humans in the center. However, by now, we understand our place to be fairly modest: we live on one of the planets with a midsize star, somewhere in one of the spiral arms of a galaxy that is also just one among billions. Many more planets have been discovered in recent years. Science offers fascinating discoveries. The fact that we humans can make such discoveries is equally fascinating. With the development of science, we have opened new windows on reality, seeing farther and seeing differently.

Is science just opening windows? Can we treat science as knowledge without a knower, a human with values, interests, and biases that shape the particular perspective and results? To some extent we can: successful science seems to be accepted by people with quite different social, cultural, and religious orientations. In a presidential address to the Philosophy of Science Association, the late Ernan McMullin has analyzed the role of values in science. He argued that over time, epistemic values drive nonepistemic values out. This address has inspired Michael Ruse in his research in the history and philosophy of biology, where the notion “progress” has carried much nonepistemic baggage, including the evolutionary trend toward the “higher” primates and, finally, “us.” The coexistence of a scientific discourse that seeks to exclude such evaluations and a cultural and religious discourse that reflects on the meaning of human existence in the light of science is in tension with McMullin's thesis, though on the scientific side, his expectation that epistemic values push others out seems by and large confirmed. In this issue we republish Ernan McMullin’s presidential address with the reflection by Michael Ruse on the way this issue has shaped his career. In coming issues, we will republish more articles by Ernan McMullin with reflections by others in the field. For a brief introduction to McMullin (Drees 2011), see some of his contributions in Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science (McMullin 1980, 1993, 2011).
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01312.x


Motives Still Don’t Matter: Reply to Pynes by Andrés Ruiz and Jeffrey Koperski

This paper continues a dialogue that began with an article by Jeffrey Koperski entitled “Two Bad Ways to Attack Intelligent Design and Two Good Ones,” published in the June 2008 issue of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. In a response article, Christopher Pynes argues that ad hominem arguments are sometimes legitimate, especially when critiquing Intelligent Design (2012). We show that Pynes’s examples only apply to matters of testimony, not the kinds of arguments found in the best defenses of ID.
ad hominem • Darwinism • evolution • intelligent design
Andrés Ruiz is a Teaching Associate at Ohio University, 205C West Washington, Athens, OH 45701, USA; e-mail: ar318307 @ ohio.edu. Jeffrey Koperski is Professor of Philosophy, Saginaw Valley State University, 7400 Bay Road, University Center, MI 48710, USA; e-mail: koperski @ svsu.edu.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01290.x

Ernan McMullin On Science and Values—A Second View

Science and Values: My Debt to Ernan McMullin by Michael Ruse

Ernan McMullin’s 1982 presidential address to the Philosophy of Science Association dealt with the issue of science and values, arguing that although scientists are rightfully wary of the infiltration of cultural and social values, their work is guided by “epistemic values,” such as the drive for consistency and predictive fertility. McMullin argued that it is the pursuit of these epistemic values that drives nonepistemic values (like religious yearnings) from science. Using the case study of the fate of the nonepistemic value of progress in the history of evolutionary theorizing, I show that, vital though McMullin’s thinking was for my own scholarship, in fact the study shows that the connections between epistemic and nonepistemic values in science are more complex than either of us supposed.
epistemic values • evolutionary theory • logical empiricism • Ernan McMullin • metaphor • nonepistemic values • progress • realism • social constructivism
Michael Ruse is the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science at Florida State University, 151 Dodd Hall, MC 1500, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA; e-mail: mruse @ fsu.edu.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01287.x

Values In Science by Ernan McMullin

In this essay, which was his presidential address to the Philosophy of Science Association, Ernan McMullin argued that the watershed between “classic” philosophy of science (by this meaning, not just logical positivism but the logicist tradition in theory of science stretching back through Kant and Descartes to Aristotle) and the “new” philosophy of science can best be understood by analyzing the change in our perception of the role played by values in science. He begins with some general remarks about the nature of value, goes on to explore some of the historical sources for the claim that judgement in science is value-laden, and concludes by reflecting on the implications of this claim for traditional views of the objectivity of scientific knowledge-claims.
epistemic values • fertility • Thomas Kuhn • Karl Popper • science • value
Ernan McMullin (1924-2011) was a historian and philosopher of science from Ireland, but he worked for the larger part of his academic career at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN 46617, USA.
This essay is his presidential address to the Philosophy of Science Association, reprinted with permission from that society. Originally the address appeared in PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Vol. 1982, Volume Two: Symposia and Invited Papers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983). Copyright 1983 by the Philosophy of Science Association; reprinted with permission.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01298.x


Transhumanism as a Secularist Faith by Hava Tirosh-Samuelson

In the second half of the twentieth century, humanism—namely, the worldview that underpinned Western thought for several centuries—has been severely critiqued by philosophers who highlighted its theoretical and ethical limitations. Inspired by the emergence of cybernetics and new technologies such as robotics, prosthetics, communications, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology, there has been a desire to articulate a new worldview that will fit the posthuman condition. Posthumanism is a description of a new form of human existence in which the boundaries between humans and nature and humans and machines are blurred, as well as a prescription for an ideal situation in which the limitations of human biology are transcended, replaced by machines. The transition from the human condition to the posthuman condition will be facilitated by transhumanism, the project of human enhancement that will ultimately yield the transformation of the human species from the human to the posthuman. As an intellectual movement, transhumanism is still very small, but transhumanist ideas exert deep and broad influence on contemporary culture and society. This essay highlights the religious dimension of transhumanism and argues that it should be seen as a secularist faith: transhumanism secularizes traditional religious themes, concerns, and goals, while endowing technology with religious significance. Science-Religion Studies is the most appropriate context to explore the cultural significance of transhumanism.
apocalyptic AI • cybernetics • Enlightenment Project • eschatology • new religious movements • philosophical/cultural posthumanism • posthumanism • postsecular moment • technological posthumanism • transhumanism
Hava Tirosh-Samuelson is an Irving and Miriam Lowe Professor of Modern Judaism, Director of Center for Jewish Studies, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 874302, Tempe, AZ 85287-4302, USA; e-mail: Hava.Samuelson @ asu.edu.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01288.x

Video Games and the Transhuman Inclination by Robert M. Geraci

Video games and virtual worlds play substantial roles in contemporary transhumanism. Many transhumanists appreciate the freedom and power that accompany these digital landscapes and recognize that they can promote transhumanist ways of thinking beyond the borders of explicitly transhumanist groups. Video games and virtual worlds enable transcendence through their design and contribute to transhumanism through the options they enable and the influence they have. Because of their significant place in transhumanism, video games and virtual worlds are thus important to the study of religion and science in the twenty-first century.
Deus ExGears of WarMass Effect • religion • science • Second Life • technology • transhumanism • video game • virtual world
Robert M. Geraci is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College, Bronx, NY 10471, USA; e-mail: robert.geraci @ manhattan.edu.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01292.x

The Politics of Transhumanism and the Techno-Millennial Imagination, 1626-2030 by James J. Hughes

Transhumanism is a modern expression of ancient and transcultural aspirations to radically transform human existence, socially and bodily. Before the Enlightenment these aspirations were only expressed in religious millennialism, magical medicine, and spiritual practices. The Enlightenment channeled these desires into projects to use science and technology to improve health, longevity, and human abilities, and to use reason to revolutionize society. Since the Enlightenment, techno-utopian movements have dynamically interacted with supernaturalist millennialism, sometimes syncretically, and often in violent opposition. Today the transhumanist movement, a modern form of Enlightenment techno-utopianism, has evolved a number of subsects, from the libertarian utopians funded by billionaire Peter Thiel, to religious syncretists like the Mormon Transhumanist Association, to the left-wing technoprogressives and their bioliberal intellectual allies. In reaction to accelerating technological innovation and transhumanist ideas, apocalyptic Christians, and even secular catastrophists, have begun to incorporate human enhancement into their End Times scenarios. With all sides believing that the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, there is a growing likelihood of violent confrontation.
apocalypticism • body • cyberculture • End Times • Enlightenment • eugenics • extropians • libertarianism • millennialism • Singularity • technoprogressive • transhumanism
James J. Hughes is Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (ieet.org), and Director of the Office of Institutional Research and Planning, Chair of Institutional Review Board, and Lecturer of Public Policy Studies at Trinity College 300 Summit St., Hartford, CT 06106, USA; e-mail: James.Hughes @ trincoll.edu.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01289.x

The Singularity and the Rapture: Transhumanist and Popular Christian Views of the Future by Ronald Cole-Turner

Religious views of the future often include detailed expectations of profound changes to nature and humanity. Popular American evangelical Christianity, especially writers like Hal Lindsey, Rick Warren, or Rob Bell, offer extended accounts that provide insight into the views of the future held by many people. In the case of Lindsey, detailed descriptions of future events are provided, along with the claim that forecasted events will occur within a generation. These views are summarized and compared to the secular idea of a coming “intelligence explosion” or technological singularity as advanced by Ray Kurzweil, which is described in terms of its history as an idea and in terms of its specific proposals for the coming transformation of the cosmos, which is also predicted to occur within a generation. While profoundly different in important ways, these two perspectives share many features with each other—for example, in their respective predictions of distinct stages in the unfolding of the future of the cosmos.
apocalyptic • intelligence explosion • Ray Kurzweil • Hal Lindsey • popular Christianity • singularity
Ronald Cole-Turner holds the H. Parker Sharp Chair in Theology and Ethics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 616 North Highland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206, USA; e-mail: coleturn @ pts.edu.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01293.x

Doing Good, Doing Bad, Doing Nothing

Scientific and Religious Perspectives on Human Behavior: An Introduction by Karl E. Peters and Barbara Whittaker-Johns

In June 2011, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) considered the topic “Doing Good, Doing Bad, Doing Nothing: Scientific and Religious Perspectives on Human Behavior.” Plenary speakers discussed evolutionary, biological, and neurological roots of bad and good behavior (Melvin Konner); unconscious prejudice (Mahzarin Banaji); cultural production of evil and how hope arises in suffering (Cheryl Kirk-Duggan); causes and consequences—neurological and social—of developmental trauma (Laurie Pearlman); social conditions for genocide and mass violence and responses that enable healing and prevent further violence (Ervin Staub); practices for conflict transformation, reconciliation, and peace building (Robert and Alice Evans); and from Eastern religions diagnoses of and prescriptions for overcoming central obstacles to fullness of life (Barbara Jamestone). The papers published here by William Shoemaker, Ervin Staub, and Karl Peters carry forward these evolutionary, neurological, social, and religious analyses and offer ways to become more active in diminishing harmful and nonresponsive behaviors and in enhancing human good.
bystander • conflict transformation • developmental trauma • domination systems • evolution • hope • posttraumatic stress syndrome • project implicit • violence
Karl E. Peters is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religion, Rollins College, and a former editor and coeditor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. He can be reached at 30 Barn Door Hills Road, Granby, CT 06035, USA; e-mail: kpeters396 @ cox.net. Barbara Whittaker-Johns has served in Unitarian Universalist Parish Ministry and Leadership Roles in the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) since 1985. She can be reached at PO Box 888, South Orleans, MA 02662, USA; e-mail: revdrbwj @ comcast.net.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01294.x

The Social Brain Network and Human Moral Behavior by William J. Shoemaker

The moral nature of humanity has been debated and discussed by philosophers, theologians, and others for centuries. Only recently have neuroscientists and neuropsychologists joined the conversation by publishing a number of studies using newer brain scanning techniques directed at regions of the brain related to social behavior. Is it possible to relate particular brain structures and functions to the behavior of people, deemed evil, who violate all the tenets of proper behavior laid down by ancient and holy texts, prohibiting lying, cheating, stealing, and murder? Is it possible that the recently discovered “mirror neurons” in the brain are the basis for empathy and that deficits in these brain cells lead to severe difficulty in relating socially to other people, including parents and siblings? What do we make of reports that the fusiform face area in the temporal lobe of the brain is specialized for the perception of faces and that defects in this region are seen regularly in individuals who are psychopathic.
autism • limbic system • mirror neurons • moral behavior • morality • prefrontal cortex • prosopagnosia • psychopathology • social brain
William J. Shoemaker is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine. He can be contacted at MC 1410, University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06030-1410, USA; e-mail: Wshoemaker17 @ comcast.net.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01295.x

The Roots and Prevention of Genocide and Related Mass Violence by Ervin Staub

Genocide and mass violence originate in difficult life conditions, conflict between groups, and cultural characteristics such as a history of devaluation of a group, victimization, and overly strong respect for authority. These can join in creating uncertainty and fear, frustrating the fulfillment of basic psychological needs, and shaping destructive psychological reactions and social processes such as scapegoating and destructive ideologies. The evolution of increasing hostility and violence can follow, allowed by the passivity of internal and external bystanders. Halting genocide and mass violence is very difficult. It is more effective to focus on early prevention: responding to difficult life conditions, developing positive attitudes and constructive ideologies that humanize the “other”; dialogue; healing wounds and memories of past victimization; training about the roots, psychological impact, and prevention of violence in workshops and the media; and supporting development practices and democratization. Early prevention requires leadership in the United Nations, the work of NGOs, cooperating national governments, and citizen groups of active bystanders.
bystanders • constructive ideologies • destructive ideologies • genocide • Holocaust • mass killing • prevention of violence • Rwanda • “us-them” • violence
Ervin Staub is Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003, USA; e-mail: estaub @ psych.umass.edu.
This article is a version of “The Roots and Prevention of Genocide and Mass Violence” by Ervin Staub, Chapter 2, in Slippery Slope to Genocide: Reducing Identity Conflicts and Preventing Mass Murder, edited by William Zartman, Mark Anstey, and Paul Meerts (2012), with the addition of Table 4.1. The Origins and Prevention of Violence Between Groups, in “Instigating Conditions: Starting Points of Mass Violence” from Overcoming Evil: Genocide, Violent Conflict, and Terrorism, by Ervin Staub (2011). Reprinted with permission from Oxford University Press.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01302.x

Human Salvation in an Evolutionary World: An Exploration in Christian Naturalism by Karl E. Peters

In an evolutionary world, humans need “salvation” understood as restoring and maintaining well-being or functioning well. Humans are embedded in, embodiments of, and emergent creative-creatures of the universe. We have evolved also as ambivalent creatures—doing good, harm, and being bystanders while harm is being done. Multiple factors—for example, genetic, neurological, child developmental, and societal—contribute to malfunctioning and harmful behavior, and multiple religious and secular approaches help restore well-being. I develop a view of Jesus as a “religious genius” who, grounded in a direct experience of God, taught undiscriminating love and engaged in nonviolent political activism against the unjust domination system of the Roman Empire. Christians and others can follow Jesus by engaging in meditative practices that facilitate well-being out of which compassion for others and a passion for justice flows. Universal love rooted in Jesus is compatible with an evolutionary perspective that all humans are part of a natural family.
Marcus Borg • Christianity • evolution • human evil • internal family systems • Jesus • Melvin Konner • naturalism • salvation • Walter Wink
Karl E. Peters is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religion, Rollins College, and a former editor and coeditor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. He can be reached at 30 Barn Door Hills Road, Granby, CT 06035, USA; e-mail: kpeters396 @ cox.net.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01296.x

Human Nature in Theistic Perspective

Becoming Human in Theistic Perspective by Celia Deane-Drummond and Paul Wason

This short paper provides the context for the six theological papers published in this issue that were part of a wider discussion with other scientists and theologians on becoming human. It raises the questions that the papers sought to address and shows how the different aspects of what it means to be human from a theological perspective are challenged by, but also serve to engage and in some cases confront, scientific debates on this matter. The particular sciences involved included neuroscience, genetics, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and paleontology. Selected scientific and other theological papers will appear in subsequent issues of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. The particular theological positions taken in this collection are distinctive and form the basis for a theological debate on what it means to be human in theistic perspective.
science and theology • theistic evolution • theological anthropology
Celia Deane-Drummond is Professor of Theology in the Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame, 130 Malloy Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA, and her post is concurrent between the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Science; e-mail: Celia.Deane-Drummond.1 @ nd.edu. Paul Wason is director of Life Sciences at the John Templeton Foundation, 300 Conshohocken State Rd, W. Conshohocken, PA 19428, USA; e-mail: pwason @ templeton.org.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01304.x

Human Origins and the Bible by John H. Walton

The ongoing debate surrounding human origins and the Bible is based on interpretations of various sections of the Bible, particularly Genesis 1-3, which are believed by some to contradict some of the tenets of the modern scientific consensus (e.g., common descent of diversification of species through change over time from a common ancestor, polygenism). This paper suggests that an interpretation of Genesis 2-3 in light of a close reading of the Hebrew text and the recognition of its ancient Near Eastern context demonstrates that the scientific consensus need not be in conflict with sound biblical interpretation.
Adam • common descent • cosmic temple • Eden • Eve • evolution • Genesis • origins
John H. Walton is Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL 60187, USA; e-mail: john.walton @ wheaton.edu.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01301.x

Is There a Human Nature? by Mikael Stenmark

Both evolutionary theory and Christian faith have a number of things to say about human beings. Evolutionists claim that humans are animals with a bipedal walk, an erect posture, and a large brain, while Christians maintain that, like everything else, human beings are created by God, but that, in contrast to other things on earth, we humans are also created in the image of God. This much is clear, but do either evolutionists or Christians also claim that there is such a thing as a human nature? Or, even if evolutionary theory and Christian faith do not say so explicitly, should we nevertheless assume that they embrace such a view implicitly? In this essay, I argue that we should give an affirmative answer to these questions. I also try to clarify more precisely what it means to say that something has a nature (i.e., what conditions need to be satisfied for something to be regarded as having a nature).
accidentalism • antiessentialism • Christianity • evolution • evolutionary anthropology • essentialism • imago Dei • human nature • philosophical anthropology • relational beings • theological anthropology
Mikael Stenmark is Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Uppsala University, Box 511, 75120 Uppsala, Sweden; e-mail: Mikael.Stenmark @ teol.uu.se.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01300.x

Is There a Distinctive Human Nature? Approaching the Question from a Christian Epistemic Base by Alan J. Torrance

Interpretations of human nature driven by scientific analyses of the origin and development of the human species often assume metaphysical naturalism. This generates restrictive and distortive accounts of key facets of human life and ethics. It fails to make sense of human altruism, and it operates within a wider philosophical framework that lacks explanatory power. The accounts of theistic evolution that seek to redress this, however, too easily fail to take sufficient account of the unique contribution of interpretations from a specifically Christian epistemic base. The latter involve a Christological and, hence, eschatological approach which is intrinsic to the interpretation of human nature in light of the purpose and intentionality of the Creator. Phenomenological approaches to the nature of humanity lack the categories to distinguish between human nature as the object of divine intentionality and its present dysfunctional and, ultimately, subhuman state.
altruism • Christology • eschatology • evolutionary biology • evolutionary theism • human nature • human uniqueness • metaphysical naturalism • religious pluralism
Alan J. Torrance is Professor of Systematic Theology at St. Mary’s College, The School of Divinity, University of St. Andrews, South Street, St. Andrews, Fife KY16 9JU, Scotland, United Kingdom; e-mail: torrance @ st-andrews.ac.uk.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01303.x

Imaging God: A Theological Answer to the Anthropological Question? by Alistair McFadyen

Traditionally the central trope in Christian theological anthropology, “the image of God” tends to function more as a noun than a verb. While that has grounded significant interplay between specific Christian formulations and the concepts of nontheological disciplines and cultural constructs, it facilitates the withdrawal of the image and of theological anthropology more broadly from the context of active relation with God. Rather than a static rendering of the image a more interactionist, dynamic, and relational view of “imaging God” is commended as a key anthropological term. Engaging with Psalm 8 suggests that, biblically, asking the anthropological question “What is humanity?” is tied to the answer to the theological question: who is God? This locates theological anthropology securely within the interactive context of being related to by God and suggests that theological anthropology might be a matter of performance rather than definition: actively imaging God.
human nature • human uniqueness • imago Dei • praise • Psalm 8 • theological anthropology
Alistair McFadyen is Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology in the School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, United Kingdom; e-mail: A.I.McFadyen @ leeds.ac.uk.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01291.x

God’s Image and Likeness in Humans and other Animals: Performative Soul-Making and Graced Nature by Celia Deane-Drummond

Although official Roman Catholic teaching affirms the concept of evolution as a convincing theory in order to explain the biological origin of different life forms, there is still a strong insistence on an “ontological gap” between human beings and all other creatures. This paper investigates how best to interpret that gap while still affirming human evolution. Drawing on medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, I seek to uncover the influence of Aristotelian ideas on the rational soul. I will argue for the crucial importance of divine grace in consideration of divine image-bearing bearing so that while other animals share in the likeness of God, only humans, like angels, bear God’s image. Such an approach does not provide any justification for the denigration of other creatures. Rather, the possibility of a further transformation of human nature, deification, and thus into the likeness of God depends on Christ as the one who bears the image of God perfectly, and the Spirit, who enables such a transformation in human subjects.
angels • animals • evolution • graced nature • human distinctiveness • image-bearing • rational soul
Celia Deane-Drummond is a Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 46556, USA; her post is concurrent between the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Science; e-mail: Celia.Deane-Drummond.1 @ nd.edu.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01308.x

The Fall of “Augustinian Adam”: Original Fragility and Supralapsarian Purpose by John Schneider

This essay is framed by conflict between Christianity and Darwinian science over the history of the world and the nature of original human personhood. Evolutionary science narrates a long prehuman geological and biological history filled with vast amounts, kinds, and distributions of apparently random brutal and pointless suffering. It has also unveiled an original human person with animal psychosomatic heredity. This narrative seems to discredit Christianity’s (Augustinian) metanarrative of the Fall—Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. The author contends that the Augustinian story and its character of Adam are implausible, anyway, for reasons of theology and apologetics. He proposes that Christians adopt instead a Supralapsarian metaphysics of original human personhood and existence that grows from the intuitions of Irenaeus. The outcome will be improved Christian theology, more persuasive theodicy, and, above all, peace with Darwinian science
aesthetics • the Fall • Irenaeus • Supralapsarianism • theodicy
John Schneider is Professor Emeritus of religion at Calvin College, where he taught systematic theology. He can be reached at 4483 Chicory Court, Wayland, MI 49348, USA; e-mail: schn @ calvin.edu.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01307.x

Eschatology, Science, and Hermeneutics

Eschatology and Entropy: An Alternative to Robert John Russell#146;s Proposal by Klaus Nürnberger

Traditional eschatology clashes with the theory of entropy. Trying to bridge the gap, Robert John Russell assumes that theology and science are based on contradictory, yet equally valid, metaphysical assumptions, each one capable of questioning and impacting the other. The author doubts that Russell’s proposal will convince empirically oriented scientists and attempts to provide a viable alternative. Historical-critical analysis suggests that biblical future expectations were redemptive responses to changing human needs. Apocalyptic visions were occasioned by heavy suffering in postexilic times. Interpreted in realistic terms, they have since proved to be untenable. The expectation (rather than the vision) of a new creation without evil, suffering, and death is not constitutive for the substantive content of the biblical message as such. Biblical future expectations must be reconceptualized in terms of best contemporary insight and in line with a dynamic reading of the biblical witness as God’s vision of comprehensive optimal well-being that operates like a shifting horizon and opens up ever new vistas, challenges, and opportunities.
apocalyptic • biblical future expectations • biblical interpretation • empiricism • entropy • eschatology • historical-critical method • resurrection for judgment • resurrection of Christ • Robert J. Russell
Klaus Nürnberger is Professor Emeritus, Fellow, and Senior Research Associate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He can be reached at 21 Farmers Folly, Lynnwood/Pretoria, 0081, South Africa; e-mail: nurnberger @ telekomsa.net.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01297.x

Eschatology and Scientific Cosmology: From Deadlock to Interaction by Robert John Russell

Among the many scholarly surveys of historical and contemporary approaches to Christian eschatology, few treat the relation between eschatology and scientific cosmology. It is the purpose of this essay to do so. I begin with a brief summary of the importance of eschatology to contemporary Christian theology. Next, an overview is given of scientific cosmology, its earlier scenarios for the cosmic far future of “freeze or fry,” and, more recently the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. These predictions severely challenge those versions of Christian eschatology that are based on the bodily resurrection of Jesus and, by analogy, the transformation of the universe into the new creation. Several recent approaches to this challenge are outlined, including those of Denis Edwards, Jürgen Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Ted Peters, John Polkinghorne, and my own. I conclude with some suggestions for future research in both theology and science.
bodily resurrection of Jesus • creation ex vetere • eschatology as transformation of the universe • method of creative mutual interaction • Klaus Nürnberger • Wolfhart Pannenberg • Ted Peters • John Polkinghorne • scientific cosmology and the predicted end of all life in the universe • time in eternity
Robert John Russell is the Ian G. Barbour Professor of Theology and Science in Residence, the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), Berkeley, California, and the Founder and Director of The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS). He can be contacted at 21 Windward Hill, Oakland, CA 94618, USA; e-mail: rrussell @ ctns.org.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01299.x


The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World by Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel R. Primack, reviewed by Christoffer H. Grundmann

Christoffer H. Grundmann; John R. Eckrich University Professor in Religion and the Healing Arts; Valparaiso University; Valparaiso, IN 46383, USA; Christopher.Grundmann @ valpo.edu
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01309.x

Wind, Sun, Soil, Spirit: Biblical Ethics and Climate Change by Carol S. Robb, 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 60613-2576; heltne @ chias.org
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01311.x

Spiritual Healing: Scientific and Religious Perspectives edited by Fraser Watts, reviewed by Christoffer H. Grundmann

Christoffer H. Grundmann; John R. Eckrich University Professor in Religion and the Healing Arts; Valparaiso University; Valparaiso, IN 46383, USA; Christopher.Grundmann @ valpo.edu
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01310.x

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