Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
50 (3), September 2015

Table of Contents


Publishing in a Changing World by Willem B. Drees

Our world is changing, so too has the landscape for “religion and science,” IRAS and Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science (see Hefner 2014; Peters 2014, 2015). Science develops and religion is transformed under the influence of social changes (e.g., Drees 2015, Fredericks and Schweitz 2015), while globalization works in many different ways (glocalization), but affects everything (e.g., Eaton 2014; Bagir 2015; Bauman 2015). Publishing a journal on religion and science thus has changed as well. This is a consequence of new technologies, either directly or indirectly, via social changes facilitated by technology. In this editorial, I will inform you as readers of Zygon about our review process, distribution, and subscription. In the second section, I will offer a preview of the contributions in this issue, with three new review articles (on language, quantum physics, and theories of myth), and seven articles on various facets of our understanding of the world we live in and of ourselves.
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12199


Big Data: New Science, New Challenges, New Dialogical Opportunities by Michael Fuller

The advent of extremely large data sets, known as “big data,” has been heralded as the instantiation of a new science, requiring a new kind of practitioner: the “data scientist.” This article explores the concept of big data, drawing attention to a number of new issues—not least ethical concerns, and questions surrounding interpretation—which big data sets present. It is observed that the skills required for data scientists are in some respects closer to those traditionally associated with the arts and humanities than to those associated with the natural sciences; and it is urged that big data presents new opportunities for dialogue, especially concerning hermeneutical issues, for theologians and data scientists.
analysis • big data • data scientist • ethics • hermeneutics • interpretation
Michael Fuller is a teaching fellow at New College, University of Edinburgh, Mound Place, Edinburgh EH1 2LX, UK; e-mail: Michael.Fuller @ ed.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12187

Touching the Mind of God: Patristic Christian Thought on the Nature of Matter by Joshua Schooping

This paper seeks to examine the nature of matter from an Orthodox Christian patristic perspective, specifically that of St. Gregory of Nyssa, and compare this with David Bohm’s concept of wholeness and the implicate order. By examining the ramifications of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, the basic nature of matter as being rooted in the mind of God reveals itself, and furthermore shows that certain conceptions of quantum physics can provide language with which to give voice to this ancient view.
David Bohm • Christianity • cosmology • consciousness • God • Gregory of Nyssa • logos • metaphysics • mind • Orthodox Christianity • philosophic theology • quantum reality • theology and science
Joshua Schooping is a theologian and independent scholar. He may be contacted at 575 Scarsdale Road, Tuckahoe, NY 10707, USA; email: JoshuaSchooping @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12188

The Secularization of Chance: Toward Understanding the Impact of the Probability Revolution on Christian Belief in Divine Providence by Josh Reeves

This article gives a brief history of chance in the Christian tradition, from casting lots in the Hebrew Bible to the discovery of laws of chance in the modern period. I first discuss the deep-seated skepticism towards chance in Christian thought, as shown in the work of Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin. The article then describes the revolution in our understanding of chance—when contemporary concepts such as probability and risk emerged—that occurred a century after Calvin. The modern ability to quantify chance has transformed ideas about the universe and human nature, separating Christians today from their predecessors, but has received little attention by Christian historians and theologians.
Thomas Aquinas • Augustine • John Calvin • chance • providence • randomness
Josh Reeves is project administrator in the Samford University Center for Science and Religion. He may be contacted at Samford University, Center for Science and Religion, 800 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, AL 35229, USA; e-mail: jareeves @ samford.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12191

The Dualistic, Discarnate Picture that Haunts the Cognitive Science of Religion by David H. Nikkel

A dualistic, discarnate picture haunts contemporary cognitive science of religion (CSR). Cognitive scientists of religion generally assert or assume a reductive physicalism, primarily through unconscious mental mechanisms that detect supernatural agency where none exists and a larger purpose to life when none exists. Accompanying this focus is a downplaying of conscious reflection in religious belief and practice. Yet the mind side of dualism enters into CSR in interesting ways. Some cognitive scientists turn practitioners of religion into dualists who allegedly believe in disembodied spirits. By emphasizing supernatural agency, CSR neglects nonpersonal powers and meanings in religion, both in terms of magical thinking and practice and of nonpersonal conceptions of divinity. Additionally, some cognitive scientists of religion declare that all humans are innate dualists. They use this alleged dualism to explain beliefs about both an afterlife and transfers of consciousness. Finally, some call on this dualism to serve a salvific function, trying to salvage some meaning to human life.
agency • Justin Barrett • Jesse Bering • Paul Bloom • cognitive science • dualism • embodiment • reductive physicalism • Edward Slingerland • teleology
David H. Nikkel is a Professor of Religion and the Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion, University of North Carolina-Pembroke, Pembroke, NC 28372-1510, USA; email: david.nikkel @ uncp.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12194

Evolutionary Theodicy, Redemption, and Time by Mark Ian Thomas Robson

Of the many problems which evolutionary theodicy tries to address, the ones of animal suffering and extinction seem especially intractable. In this essay, I show how C. D. Broad’s growing block conception of time does much to ameliorate the problems. Additionally, I suggest it leads to another way of understanding the soul. Instead of it being understood as a substance, it is seen as a history—a history which is resurrected in the end times. Correspondingly, redemption, I argue, should not be seen as an event which redeems some future portion of time. God’s triumph is over all of history, not just some future temporal portion.
growing block view of time • Jürgen Moltmann • Wolfhart Pannenberg • redemption • Robert John Russell • Christopher Southgate
Mark Ian Thomas Robson is Head of Philosophy at St. Robert of Newminster RC School, Biddick Lane, Washington, Tyne and Wear, NE38 8AF, UK; e-mail: robson.m1 @ strobertofnewminster.co.uk
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12189

The Significance of Evitability in Nature by Gary Keogh

Assessing the current situation of the religion-science dialogue, it seems that a consensus of nonconsensus has been reached. This nonconsensus provides a pluralistic context for the religion and science dialogue, and one area where this plurality is clear is the discourse on relational models of God and creation. A number of interesting models have gained attention in contemporary theological dialogue with science, yet there is an overriding theme: an emphasis on God’s involvement with the world. In this article, I argue that theology has been preoccupied with this emphasis. It is suggested that the theme of the freedom of nature has been underrepresented. This theme of the freedom of nature I argue carries important theological implications. It is suggested that acts or events gain their significance largely by way of being contextualized by the fact that such acts or events could have been otherwise, a realization that might provide the various relational models of God and the world food for thought.
causality • creation • determinism • freedom • nature
Gary Keogh is the Samuel Ferguson Research Associate at the University of Manchester, WG20B Samuel Alexander Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK; e-mail: gary.keogh @ manchester.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12190

What Can Piaget Offer Lonergan’s Philosophy of Biology? by Chris Friel

In Insight, Bernard Lonergan provides, albeit schematically, a unique philosophy of biology which he takes as having “profound differences” with the world view presented by Darwin. These turn on Lonergan’s idea of “schemes of recurrence” and of organisms as “solutions to the problem of living in an environment.” His lapidary prose requires some deciphering. I present the broad lines of his philosophy of biology and argue that Jean Piaget’s structuralism can shed light on Lonergan’s intentions in virtue of his use of cybernetics and the isomorphism between biology and knowledge. In turn, Piaget draws on Waddington’s restatement of epigenesis and I suggest that the result, “process structuralism,” is a viable alternative to the modern Darwinian synthesis.
Darwinism • emergence • epigenesis • Jean Baptiste Lamarck • Bernard J. F. Lonergan • philosophy of biology • Jean Piaget • process structuralism • Conrad Waddington
Chris Friel has recently completed a Lonergan fellowship at Boston College and will soon defend his doctoral thesis on Credibility and Value in Lonergan. He may be contacted at 12, Hawthorn Rd., Hawthorn near Pontypridd CF37 5AT, UK; e-mail: christopherseanfriel @ hotmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12195

Reviews on Key Issues in Religion and Science

Language as a Values-Realizing Activity: Caring, Acting, and Perceiving by Bert H. Hodges

A problem for natural scientific accounts, psychology in particular, is the existence of value. An ecological account of values is reviewed and illustrated in three domains of research: carrying differing loads; negotiating social dilemmas involving agreement and disagreement; and timing the exposure of various visual presentations. Then it is applied in greater depth to the nature of language. As described and illustrated, values are ontological relationships that are neither subjective nor objective, but which constrain and obligate all significant animate activity physically, socially, and morally. As an embodied social activity, conversational dialogue is characterized in terms of values, pragmatics, and presence rather than in terms of syntactic and semantic rules. In particular the nature of dialogical arrays is explored, and the hypothesis that language is an action system, a perceptual system, and a caring system is explored. Language expands horizons and makes it possible for humans to realize their calling as culture makers and caretakers.
cognitive science • dialogue • language • naturalistic fallacy • ontology • perception • psychology • semiotics • time • values
Bert H. Hodges is Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, U1020, Storrs, CT 06269, and Professor of Psychology at Gordon College, Wenham, MA 01984, USA; e-mail bert.hodges @ uconn.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12196

Is Quantum Indeterminism Real? Theological Implications by Claudia E. Vanney

Quantum mechanics (QM) studies physical phenomena on a microscopic scale. These phenomena are far beyond the reach of our observation, and the connection between QM’s mathematical formalism and the experimental results is very indirect. Furthermore, quantum indeterminism defies common sense. Microphysical experiments have shown that, according to the empirical context, electrons and quanta of light behave as waves and other times as particles, even though it is impossible to design an experiment that manifests both behaviors at the same time. Unlike Newtonian physics, the properties of quantum systems (position, velocity, energy, time, etc.) are not all well-defined simultaneously. Moreover, quantum systems are not characterized by their properties, but by a wave function. Although one of the principles of the theory is the uncertainty principle, the trajectory of the wave function is controlled by the deterministic Schrödinger equations. But what is the wave function? Like other theories of the physical sciences, quantum theory assigns states to systems. The wave function is a particular mathematical representation of the quantum state of a physical system, which contains information about the possible states of the system and the respective probabilities of each state.
critical realism • determinism • divine action • epistemology • interdisciplinarity • interpretation • philosophy of science • quantum mechanics • quantum reality • theology and science
Claudia E. Vanney is Director of the Institute of Philosophy, Universidad Austral, Mariano Acosta s/n y Ruta Provincial 8 (B1629WWA), Pilar, Buenos Aires, Argentina; e-mail: cvanney @ austral.edu.ar.
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12186

The Modern Study of Myth and Its Relation to Science by Robert A. Segal

The history of the modern study of myth can be divided into two main categories: that which sees myth as the primitive counterpart to natural science, itself considered overwhelmingly modern, and that which sees myth as almost anything but the primitive counterpart to natural science. The first category constitutes the nineteenth-century approach to myth. The second category constitutes the twentieth-century approach. Tylor and Frazer epitomize the nineteenth-century view. Malinowski, Eliade, Bultmann, Jonas, Camus, Freud, and Jung epitomize the twentieth-century approach. The question for the twenty-first century is whether myth can be brought back to the physical world, but in a way compatible with science. The case of the myth of Gaia will be considered as a possible way of doing so.
explanation • function • myth • origin • science
Robert A. Segal is the Sixth Century Chair in Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, 50/52 College Bounds, Aberdeen AB24 3DS, Scotland, UK; e-mail: r.segal @ abdn.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12198


Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World by Amir Alexander, reviewed by John Joseph Schommer

John Schommer is a Professor of Mathematics in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Tennessee at Martin, Martin, TN 38238, USA; jschomme @ utm.edu
DOI: 10.1111/Zygo.12192

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