Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
49 (2), June 2014

Table of Contents


Zygon: 49 Years Young by Willem B. Drees

The second issue of our 49th year of publication continues with reflections on the past and future of “religion and science.” The previous issue had a contribution by the late Ian Barbour, emphasizing the original interest of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science in technology, ethics, and society alongside the interest in science and theology (Barbour 2014). This time the section “Zygon @ 49” opens with a contribution by Jennifer Wiseman and Paul Arveson of the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion programme (DoSER) of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS). They report on their efforts to engage evangelical Christian communities, and their involvement in a current survey on perceptions of science, religion, and spirituality in the United States with Elaine Howard Ecklund, who previously published on similar surveys, for example, in her Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think (2010). The Danish theologian Niels Henrik Gregersen envisions the plurality of tasks and disciplines in “religion and science” by comparing the field to an octopus with multiple arms. Though the octopus may be somewhat alien to us as mammals, it is still a recognizable unity, and so is the multidisciplinary field of “religion and science,” according to Gregersen. Philip Clayton claims that advocates of science and advocates of religion have reached an impasse today, with a plurality of methodological and substantial proposals on the table, each one contested by others. But perhaps the plurality can be appreciated positively, as participants in the conversation bring with them particular commitments and concerns, while participating in a pluralist conversation, rather than seeking the single scheme that trumps all others. Ted Peters widens the horizon even further, by offering his reflections on astrotheology as a critical theological engagement with the possibility of extraterrestrial life, sentience, and intelligence elsewhere in our vast universe. There is excitement in this field, as more and more planets circling other stars have been discovered in recent years. For the Christian theologian, this provides a context to rethink ideas about the scope of creation and about Christology, but Peters also challenges the space sciences when they engage in speculation while assuming too easily that new insights are at odds with what believers think. Peters anticipates the need for “astroethics,” including the ethical issues surrounding space exploration and the need to prepare for the eventuality of extraterrestrial contact. There are more immediate ethical issues, such as the risks of debris circling Earth, the scientific and public character of space exploration so far, the rise of for-profit private companies, and the potential weaponization of space. More than enough for those interested in religion and in science to chew on; at 49 Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science can be part of an ongoing, multifaceted, and pluriform human engagement with knowledge and values.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12096


Einstein and Mysticism by Gary Bowman

Albert Einstein deliberately and repeatedly expressed his general religious views. But what were his views of mysticism? His statements on the subject were few, relatively obscure, and often misunderstood. A coherent answer requires setting those statements in historical, cultural, and theological context, as well as examining Einstein’s philosophical and religious views. Though the Einstein that emerges clearly rejected supernatural mysticism, his views of “essential” mysticism were—though largely implicit—more nuanced, more subtle, and ultimately more sympathetic than “mere appearance” suggests.
cosmic religion • cosmic religious feeling • Albert Einstein • mysticism
Gary E. Bowman is an Associate Professor of Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Northern Arizona University, P.O. Box 6010, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA; email: gary.bowman @ nau.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12084

Metaphysics Matters: Metaphysics and Soteriology in Jerome Stone and Donald Crosby’s Varieties of Religious Naturalism by Stefani Ruper

Religious naturalism is distinct from supernatural religion largely because of metaphysical minimalism. Certain varieties of religious naturalism are more minimalist than others, however, and some even eschew metaphysics altogether. But is anything lost in that process? To determine metaphysics’ degree of relevance to religious function, I compare the soteriology of the “ontologically reticent” Minimalist Vision of Jerome Stone to that of the ontologically rich Religion of Nature of Donald Crosby. I demonstrate that for these varieties of religious naturalism: (1) metaphysics influences soteriology; (2) metaphysical minimalism limits soteriological potential; and (3) metaphysics enhances soteriological potential. These conclusions lead me to assert the relevance of metaphysics to religious function, specifically for these varieties of religious naturalism, as well as to urge investigation into religious experience and quality as they may relate to metaphysics.
Donald Crosby • Clifford Geertz • metaphysics • religious naturalism • soteriology • Jerome Stone • ultimacy
Stefani Ruper is a graduate student in Philosophy of Religion at Boston University, 745 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston MA 02215, USA; e-mail stefaniruper @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12095

Miracles and Two Accounts of Scientific Laws by Steven Horst

Since early modernity, it has often been assumed that miracles are incompatible with the existence of the natural laws utilized in the sciences. This paper argues that this assumption is largely an artifact of empiricist accounts of laws that should be rejected for reasons internal to philosophy of science, and that no such incompatibility arises on the most important alternative interpretations, which treat laws as expressions of forces, dispositions, or causal powers.
causality • determinism • divine action • empiricism • free will • David Hume • miracles • philosophy of science • quantum mechanics • science
Steven Horst is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Wesleyan University. He may be contacted at Department of Philosophy, Wesleyan University, Russell House, 350 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459, USA; e-mail shorst @ wesleyan.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12088

Animal Suffering, Evolution, and the Origins of Evil: Toward a “Free Creatures” Defense by Joshua Moritz

Does an affirmation of theistic evolution make the task of theodicy impossible? In this article, I will review a number of ancient and contemporary responses to the problem of evil as it concerns animal suffering and suggest a possible way forward which employs the ancient Jewish insight that evil—as resistance to God’s will that results in suffering and alienation from God’s purposes—precedes the arrival of human beings and already has a firm foothold in the nonhuman animal world long before humans are ever tempted to go astray. This theological intuition is conferred renewed relevance in light of the empirical reality of evolutionary gradualism and continuity and in view of the recent findings of cognitive ethology. Consequently, I suggest that taking biological evolution seriously entails understanding “moral evil” as a prehuman phenomenon that emerges gradually through the actions and intentions of “free creatures” which—as evolutionary history unfolded—increasingly possessed greater levels of freedom and degrees of moral culpability.
animal morality • animal suffering • cognitive ethology • evil • evolution • the Fall • free will • theodicy
Joshua M. Moritz is a Lecturer in Philosophical Theology and the Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco, and Managing Editor of the journal Theology and Science. He may be contacted at GTU Annex Building, 2452 Virginia St., Suite 100, Berkeley, CA 94709, USA; e-mail: jmoritz @ ctns.org.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12085

Altruism and the Golden Rule by Jonathan Goodman

This essay addresses recent claims about the compatibility of the sociobiological theory of reciprocal altruism with standard Western formulations of the Golden Rule. Derek Parfit claims that the theory of reciprocal altruism teaches us to be “reciprocal altruists,” who benefit only those people from whom we can reasonably expect benefits in the future. The Golden Rule, on the other hand, teaches us to benefit anyone regardless of their intention or ability to return the favor, or as Parfit puts it, the Golden Rule teaches us to be “suckers.” I argue that this distinction is founded on a misconception of the nature of the theory of reciprocal altruism, which is sociobiological as opposed to moral, and that this distinction accordingly confuses is with ought. Sociobiological theories may explain underlying psychological motivations in individuals (and perhaps even in populations), but these theories do not prescribe any sort of moral behavior. Furthermore, the theory of reciprocal altruism does not imply mental states of which agents are aware. The unconscious motivations assumed by this theory are in fact compatible with certain formulations of the Golden Rule; I will accordingly argue for the view that certain words with moral content related to the Golden Rule—such as “altruism” and “selfishness”—exist only insofar as they are social tools, which can further the self-interests of an individual in any group.
evolutionary biology • Golden Rule • group selection • morality • reciprocal altruism • social Darwinism • Ludwig Wittgenstein
Jonathan Goodman is a postgraduate student in philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He may be contacted at Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, UK; e-mail: uctyjrg @ live.ucl.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12089

Reproductive Technology: A Critical Analysis of Theological Responses in Christianity and Islam by Mohammed Shuhaimi Ishak and Sayed Sikandar Shah Haneef

Reproductive medical technology has revolutionized the natural order of human procreation. Accordingly, some have celebrated its advent as a new and liberating determinant of kinship at the global level and advocate it as a right to reproductive health while others have frowned upon it as a vehicle for “guiltless exchange of sexual fluid” and commodification of human gametes. Religious voices from both Christianity and Islam range from unthinking adoption to restrictive use. While utilizing this technology to enable the married couple to have children through the use of their own sexual material is welcome, the use of third party, surrogacy, and reproductive cloning are not in keeping with the sacrosanct principles of kinship, procreation through licit sexual intercourse, and social cohesiveness for building a cohesive family as uphold by both Christianity and Islam. To examine such larger issues emanating from these new ways of human procreation, beyond the question of legality, is a point which legal scholars in both Christianity and Islam, when issuing religious decrees, have not anticipated sufficiently. The article proposes to be an attempt to that end through a qualitative critical content analysis of selected literature written on the subject.
Christian paradigm; critical analysis; kinship; Muslim family law; reproductive technology
Mohd. Shuhaimi BinHaji Ishak is an Assistant Professor at the International Islamic University Malaysia - Department of General Studies, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences Jalan Gombak, 53100Kuala Lumpur,Kuala Lumpur, Selangor 53100, Malaysia; e-mail: mshuhaimi @ iium.edu.my. Sayed Sikandar Shah Haneef is a Professor at the International Islamic University Malaysia - Department of Fiqh and Usul Fiqh, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Malaysia; e-mail: sayedsikandar @ iium.edu.my.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12097

Zygon @ 49

Scientists and Religious Communities: Investigating Perceptions, Building Understanding by Jennifer Wiseman and Paul Arveson

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER) program has embarked on an exciting project, “Scientists and Religious Communities: Investigating Perceptions to Build Understanding.” The project will provide the first quantitative data on the underlying assumptions and concerns that shape national attitudes on science. A nationally representative survey conducted in collaboration with sociologists at Rice University has reached 10,000 people, including evangelical Christians, mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. The survey probed how a broad range of religious people, particularly evangelical Christians, understands and thinks about science, and what they perceive about scientists. Scientists, broadly defined, were likewise surveyed to gauge their perceptions of how religious people regard science. The goal for AAAS is to increase understanding between the scientific and evangelical Christian communities and redefine this critical relationship. DoSER will bring together leaders from scientific and evangelical communities to discuss the implications of survey results and to use them for building better understanding and communication strategies. Building relationships between scientists and religious communities has the potential to create a new paradigm of understanding. Finding out what each group actually thinks, through a survey, is only the beginning.
Elaine Howard Ecklund; evangelical; perception; relationship; science and religion; survey; Jennifer Wiseman
Jennifer Wiseman is the Director of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER Program), American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA; e-mail: jwiseman @ aaas.org. Paul Arveson is a DoSER senior program associate; e-mail: parveson @ aaas.org.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12093

Prospects for the Field of Science and Religion: An Octopus View by Niels Henrik Gregersen

The organic unity between the head and the vital arms of the octopus is proposed as a metaphor for science and religion as an academic field. While the specific object of the field is to pursue second-order reflections on existing and possible relations between sciences and religions, it is argued that several aspects of realism and normativity are constitutive to the field. The vital arms of the field are related to engagements with distinctive scientific theories, specialized philosophy of science, representative theological proposals, and the input from the study of world religions.
contextualism; empirical naturalism; metaphysical realism; Charles Sanders Peirce; pragmatism; scientific naturalism; semantic realism; theoretical realism
Niels Henrik Gregersen is Professor of Systematic Theology at the Faculty of Theology, Copenhagen University, Koebmagergade 44-46, 1150 Copenhagen K, Denmark; e-mail: nhg @ teol.ku.dk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12091

The Fruits of Pluralism: A Vision for the Next Seven Years in Religion/Science by Philip Clayton

This article offers a vision for work at the intersection of science and religion over the coming seven years. Because predictions are inherently risky and are more often than not false, the text first offers an assessment of the current state of the science-religion discussion and a quick survey of the last 50 years of work in this field. The implications of the six features of this vision for the future of the field are then presented in some detail. Rather than bemoaning the current diversity of approaches and conclusions as a negative result, I endorse it as a healthy sign—if acknowledged honestly and managed well.
Ian Barbour; comparative religious studies; history of science and religion; intelligent design ;New Atheism; Alvin Plantinga; religious pluralism; Robert John Russell; “Science and the Spiritual Quest”; theology
Philip Clayton is Ingraham Professor at the Claremont School of Theology, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711, USA; e-mail: pclayton @ cst.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12092

Astrotheology: A Constructive Proposal by Ted Peters

As we envision constructive undertakings in the field of religion and science for the next decade, the emerging agenda of astrotheology is opening up a new theater for enquiry. Astrotheology provides a critical theological response to the field of astrobiology while critically assessing exciting new research on life in our solar system and the discovery of exoplanets. This article proposes four tasks for the astrotheologian: deliberate on (1) the scope of creation: is God’s creation Earth-centric or does it include the entire cosmos? (2) the question whether a single divine incarnation on Earth suffices for the cosmos or whether multiple incarnations—one for each inhabited planet—is required; (3) whether astrobiologists and other space scientists are sticking to their science or smuggling in ideology; and (4) readying terrestrial life for contact with extraterrestrial life by enumerating issues to be taken up by astroethics.
astrobiology; astroethics; astrotheology; evolution; extraterrestrial life; incarnation
Ted Peters (tedstimelytake.com) is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics at the Graduate Theological Union and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, 2770 Marin Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94708, USA; e-mail: tpeters2ct @ aol.com. He coedits the journal, Theology and Science, at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12094

Self, Spirituality and Mysticism

The Mystical Stance: The Experience of Self-loss and Daniel Dennett’s “Center of Narrative Gravity” by William Simpson

For centuries, mystically inclined practitioners from various religious traditions have articulated anomalous and mystical experiences. One common aspect of these experiences is the feeling of the loss of the sense of self, referred to as “self-loss.” The occurrence of “self-loss” can be understood as the feeling of losing the subject/object distinction in one’s phenomenal experience. In this article, the author attempts to incorporate these anomalous experiences into modern understandings of the mind and “self” from philosophy and psychology. Accounts of self-loss from religious literature along with similar accounts from recent nonreligious writers, suggest that self-loss accounts are potentially legitimate descriptions and not simply the result of religious apologetics. Specifically, I examine self-loss through the lens of philosopher Daniel Dennett’s theory of “self as the center of narrative gravity.” I argue that Dennett’s understanding of the self, if correct, allows for the relegitimation of self-loss experiences rooted in current views from the psychological literature, rather than rooted in metaphysical religious claims.
Daniel Dennett; mysticism; psychology of religion; personhood; self; subjectivity
William Simpson is a freelance religious studies writer. He may be contacted at 2413 Ralph Ave. Louisville, KY 40216, USA; e-mail: william.simpson222 @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12090

A Systems Model of Spirituality by David Rousseau

Within the scientific study of spirituality there are substantial ambiguities and uncertainties about relevant concepts, terms, evidences, methods, and relationships. Different disciplinary approaches reveal or emphasize different aspects of spirituality, such as outcomes, behaviors, skills, ambitions, and beliefs. I argue that these aspects interdepend in a way that constitutes a “systems model of spirituality.” This model enables a more holistic understanding of the nature of spirituality, and suggests a new definition that disambiguates spirituality from related concepts such as religion, cultural sophistication, and prosocial behavior in animals. It also exposes important open questions about the nature of spirituality. To support the emerging scientific approach to the study of spirituality, I propose the development of a “philosophy of spirituality” that can clarify the conceptual terrain, identify important research directions, and facilitate a comprehensive and interdisciplinary investigation into the nature, validity, and implications of spirituality’s conceptual and practical entailments.
ontology of spirituality; philosophy of spirituality; spirituality; spiritual intelligence; systems model of spirituality; systems philosophy; value realism; worldview
David Rousseau is the Director of the Centre for Systems Philosophy based in Surrey, UK, an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Theology, Religious Studies and Islamic Studies in the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, a member of the Centre for Spirituality Studies in the University of Hull, UK, and a Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Systems Studies in the Hull University Business School, Hull, UK. He can be contacted at 30 Leigh Close, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 1EL, United Kingdom; e-mail: david.rousseau @ systemsphilosophy.org.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12087

The Emergence of Consciousness in Genesis 1-3: Jung’s Depth Psychology and Theological Anthropology by David Stewart

The development of a robust, holistic theological anthropology will require that theology and biblical studies alike enter into genuine interdisciplinary conversations. Depth psychology in particular has the capacity to be an exceedingly fruitful conversation partner for theology because of its commitment to the totality of the human experience (both the conscious and unconscious aspects) as well as its unique ability to interpret archetypal symbols and mythological thinking. By arguing for a psycho-theological hermeneutic that accounts for depth psychology’s conviction that myths about the origin of the world are always simultaneously myths about the origin and emergence of human consciousness, I demonstrate that the presence of numerous Jungian archetypes in Genesis 1-3 suggests that the narrative can be read from a psychological perspective without diminishing or marginalizing the dominant theological themes of exile and return. Furthermore, such a reading fundamentally suggests that the narrative is not about how sin entered into creation, but rather how consciousness emerged in human community.
archetypes; Christianity; consciousness; hermeneutics; interdisciplinarity; Carl Gustav Jung; myth; psychology; theological anthropology; theology and science
David James Stewart is a doctoral fellow at Luther Theological Seminary, 2481 Como Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108, USA; e-mail: dstewart002 @ luthersem.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12086

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts