Reflections on religion and science can be found at various places. Literature is one such place. In this issue, we will learn about the medical doctor and Catholic existential novelist Walker Percy, born in 1916, a century ago. Not widely known, it seems to me, but he is a remarkable voice, well represented in a section of this issue edited and introduced by Leslie Marsh. Abstraction and alienation seem to be key words, with authenticity as a contrast. Elizabeth Corey treats his understanding of the human condition with the image of an individual journey or pilgrimage. Stacey E. Ake goes in greater detail into his understanding of science, which can analyze our environment (Umwelt), but not the symbolic universe of humans (Welt). John D. Sykes, Jr., further develops the symbolic understanding of language, and the reflection on animal studies, from which Percy collected essays in The Message in the Bottle (1975). Benjamin B. Alexander focuses on the understanding and critique of science, or rather its social and cultural impact, for instance in the novel The Moviegoer. Alexander traces some of the influence of Percy on Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Stunned by the implications of Colagè’s analysis of the cultural activation of the brain’s Visual Word Form Area and the potential role of cultural neural reuse in the evolution of biology and culture, the authors build on his work in proposing a context for the first rudimentary hominin moral systems. They cross-reference six domains: neuroscience on sleep, creativity, plasticity, and the Left Hemisphere Interpreter; palaeobiology; cognitive science; philosophy; traditional archaeology; and cognitive archaeology’s theories on sleep changes in Homo erectus and consequences for later humans. The authors hypothesize that the human genome, when analyzed with findings from neuroscience and cognitive science, will confirm the evolutionary timing of an internal running monologue and other neural components that constitute moral decision making. The authors rely on practical modern philosophers to identify continuities with earlier primates, and one major discontinuity—some bright white moral line that may have been crossed more than once during the long and successful tenure of Homo erectus on Earth.
Ivan Colagè • cognitive science • cultural neural reuse • evolution • hominin • Homo erectus • morality • natural selection • neuroscience • suprasocial • Wallace’s Conundrum
Margaret Boone Rappaport is Co-Founder, The Human Sentience Project, Tucson, AZ, USA; e-mail: msbrappaport @ aol.com. Christopher Corbally, SJ is Astronomer, Vatican Observatory and Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA and Co-Founder, The Human Sentience Project; e-mail: Corbally @ as.arizona.edu.
A Critique of Emergent Theologies by Joanna Leidenhag
This article is an analysis and critique of emergent theologies, focusing on areas of Christology and pneumatology. An increasing number of Christian theologians are integrating (strong) emergence theory into their work. I argue that, despite the range of theological commitments and methodological approaches represented by these scholars, each faces similar problematic tendencies when their Christian doctrines are combined with (strong) emergence theory. It is concluded that the basic logic of emergence theory, whereby matter is seen to precede mind, makes it difficult for emergent theologies to offer an account of salvation, avoid significant issues regarding God’s involvement with evil, and maintain divine transcendence. It is concluded, therefore, that Christian theology should look elsewhere for a complementary metaphysical framework with which to bridge scientific and theological discourse.
Christology • emergence • emergent theology • pneumatology • theistic evolution
Joanna Leidenhag is a PhD Candidate in Systematic Theology, New College (Department of Divinity) at the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland; e-mail: s0815196 @ sms.ed.ac.uk.
Technology and Muslims: A Field Study of Iranian Scholars by Mahdi Nasiri, Mostafa Azkia and Seyyed Mohammad Sadegh Mahdavi
Muslim scholars have had different approaches toward modern technologies. Defining the situation in various Islamic countries is dependent on knowing the approaches adopted by their scholars. These approaches create norms which can shed light on the reasons for the success and failure of access to technology and its transference. The present article sets out to analyze the views of the Qom seminary scholars in Iran about the development of modern technologies within the framework of the development sociology using the qualitative methodology of grounded theory. To this end, such techniques as conducting interviews and investigating documents have been used to gather the data. The authors find four paradigm models regarding modern technologies among the Qom seminary scholars. These models are classified into two general categories: optimistic and pessimistic. In the end, an “appropriate technology” approach is introduced as an approach singled out by the researchers.
grounded theory • Iran • Muslim scholars • Qom • sociology of development • technology
Mahdi Nasiri is a PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran; e-mail: mahdinasiri1 @ yahoo.com. Mostafa Azkia is a Full Professor, Department of Sociology, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran; e-mail: mostafa_azkia @ yahoo.com. Seyyed Mohammad Sadegh Mahdavi is Full Professor, Department of Sociology, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran; e-mail: sms_mahdavi @ yahoo.de.
Science, Religion, and the Meaning of Life and the Universe: “Amalgam” Narratives of Polish Natural Scientists by Maria Rogińska
This article deals with phenomena occurring at the interface of the existential, the religious, and scientific inquiry. On the basis of in-depth interviews with Polish physicists and biologists, I examine the role that science and religion play in their narrative of the meaning of the Universe and human life. I show that the narratives about meaning have a system-related (“amalgam”) character that is associated with responses to adjacent metaphysical questions, including those based on scientific knowledge. I reconstruct the typical amalgam questions of Polish scientists and come to a conclusion about the stability of religious and nonreligious amalgams in this group. Critically referring to the thesis concerning the secularizing impact of science, I conclude that science by itself does not have a destructive effect on Polish scientists’ confidence that life and the Universe are meaningful, but is rather an exacerbating factor of the existing worldview system.
amalgam thesis • in-depth interviews • meaning • Polish natural scientists • religion • science
Maria Rogińska is Associate Professor, Department of Sociology of Religion, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Pedagogical University of Cracow, Kraków, Poland; e-mail: mariaroginska @ gmail.com.
The Scientific Allegory of John Augustine Zahm: Zahm’s Theological Method with Insight from Marie-Joseph Lagrange by Hans Moscicke
Catholic modernist John Augustine Zahm is best known for his attempt to reconcile the theory of evolution with the Christian scriptures. However, Zahm’s theological method—the underlying principles and procedures in his effort to reconcile faith and science—remains largely unexamined. In this article, I analyze Zahm’s theological method and submit that it is an attempt to harmonize scientific knowledge and Christian scripture through a “scientific allegory” of the bible, which takes into account the human and divine meanings of scripture, the exegesis of the church fathers, and the dogmatic constitutions of the Catholic church. I compare Zahm’s method with that of pioneering Catholic bible critic Marie-Joseph Lagrange, and his conception of biblical inspiration and the supra-literal sense of scripture. Through this historical investigation, I hope to contribute to the question of the relationship between modern science and Christian hermeneutics.
Catholic modernism • hermeneutics • Marie-Joseph Lagrange • science • scientific allegory • scripture and science • John Augustine Zahm
Hans Moscicke is a PhD candidate in Religious Studies and Theology at the University of Marquette, Milwaukee, WI 53233, USA; e-mail: hans.moscicke @ marquette.edu.
Cognitive Science of Religion: Explaining Religion Away?
Cognitive Science of Religion and Folk Theistic Belief by Daniel Lim
Cognitive scientists of religion promise to lay bare the cognitive mechanisms that generate religious beliefs in human beings. Defenders of the debunking argument believe that the cognitive mechanisms studied in this field pose a threat to folk theism. A number of influential responses to the debunking argument rely on making two sets of distinctions: (1) proximate/ultimate explanations and (2) specific/general religious beliefs. I argue, however, that such responses have drawbacks and do not make room for folk theism. I suggest that a detour through the literature in the philosophy of mind regarding the problem of mental causation regarding nonreductive physicalism can provide a way for preserving folk theism without doing violence to the way cognitive science of religion is being practiced today. More specifically, I believe there is a way of responding to the debunking argument that does not require a rejection of the causal premise.
causal exclusion • cognitive science of religion • debunking • folk theism
Daniel Lim is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Renmin University of China, 59 Zhongguancun Street Beijing 100872, People’s Republic of China; e-mail: daniel.f.lim @ gmail.com.
Two Types of “Explaining Away” Arguments in the Cognitive Science of Religion by Hans van Eyghen
This article discusses “explaining away” arguments in the cognitive science of religion (CSR). I distinguish two rather different ways of explaining away religion, one where religion is shown to be incompatible with scientific findings (EA1) and one where supernatural entities are rendered superfluous by scientific explanations (EA2). After discussing possible objections to both varieties, I argue that the latter way offers better prospects for successfully explaining away religion but that some caveats must be made. In a second step, I spell out how CSR can be used to spell out an argument of the second kind. One argument (“Bias Explaining Away”) renders religion superfluous by claiming that it results from a cognitive bias and one (“Adaptationist Explaining Away”) does the same by claiming religion was (is) a useful evolutionary adaptation. I discuss some strengths and weaknesses of both arguments.
atheism • cognitive science of religion • explaining away • naturalism
Hans van Eyghen is a PhD Candidate in Philosophy at Free University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; e-mail: h.m.r.a.van.eyghen @ vu.nl.
Walker Percy: Pathologist, Philosopher, and Novelist
Philosopher of Precision and Soul: Introducing Walker Percy by Leslie Marsh
This article introduces the work of philosopher-novelist Walker Percy to the Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science readership. After some biographical and contextual preliminaries, I suggest that the conceptual collecting feature to Percy’s work is his critique of abstractionism manifest in a tripartite congruence of Cartesianism, derivatively misapplied science, and social atomism.
abstraction • consumerism • existentialism • identity • ideology • Walker Percy • philosophical literature • progressivism • rationalism • religion • science • scientism • self • semiotics
Leslie Marsh is the Senior Advisor to the International Academy of Pathology, Office of the Dean, Faculty of Medicine, The University of British Columbia Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada; e-mail: leslie.marsh @ ubc.ca.
Walker Percy was both a medical doctor and a serious Catholic—a scientist and a religious believer. He thought, however, that science had become hegemonic in the twentieth century and that it was incapable of answering the most fundamental needs of human beings. He thus leveled a critique of the scientific method and its shortcomings in failing to address the individual person over against the group. In response to these shortcomings Percy postulates a religious understanding of human life, one in which man’s life is understood as a pilgrimage or a search. The person who searches may not find the “object” of his search during his earthly life, but it is likely that he will come to a better understanding of himself by means of it.
alienation • anxiety • apostle • boredom • Christianity • dissatisfaction • individualism • island • knowledge • news • Blaise Pascal • Walker Percy • religion • science • search • sovereignty
Elizabeth Corey is Director of the Baylor Honors Program and Associate Professor of Political Science, Honors College, Baylor University, Waco, TX, USA; e-mail: Elizabeth_Corey @ baylor.edu.
Scientists in the Cosmos: An Existential Approach to the Debate between Science and Religion by Stacey E. Ake
Walker Percy’s use of the terms Umwelt (environment) and Welt (symbol world) as well as his separation of events into dyadic and triadic ones, where the latter involve human beings, is brought to bear on the relationship between science and religion with the upshot being that science (a dyadic enterprise) is not equipped to really understand or explain triadic entities (namely, human beings).
dyad • euglena • Helen Keller • sign • symbol • triad • triadicity • Umwelt • Welt
Stacey E. Ake is Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of English and Philosophy at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA; e-mail: sea29 @ drexel.edu.
Walker Percy, Language, and Homo Singularis by John D. Sykes Jr.
The novelist Walker Percy argued that modern science has a tremendous blind spot in its view of human nature. Unlike purely physical phenomena, which can be explained by the interaction of dyadic relationships, human beings must also be understood in terms of triadic relationships brought into being by symbolic language. The self brought into being by symbolic language is nonmaterial but real, and operates by different “laws” than those that govern dyadic relations. In making this case, Percy drew a sharp line between human and nonhuman language, a line that more recent developments in science has challenged. However, Percy’s central point, that the agent of symbolic language cannot be understood within a materialist framework, remains valid.
behaviorism • existentialism • human uniqueness • linguistics • materialism • mind/body dualism • nonhuman language • Walker Percy • selfhood • semiotics
John D. Sykes is the Mary and Harry Brown Professor of English and Religion at Wingate University, 220 N. Camden Rd., Wingate, NC 28174, USA; e-mail: jsykes @ wingate.edu.
Confessions of a Late-blooming, “Miseducated” Philosopher of Science by Benjamin B. Alexander
This article provides a survey of Walker Percy’s criticism of what Pope Benedict XVI calls “scientificity,” which entails a constriction of the dynamic interaction of faith and reason. The process can result in the diminishment of ethical considerations raised by science’s impact on public policy. Beginning in the 1950s, Percy begins speculating about the negative influence of scientificity. The threat of a political regime using weapons of mass destruction is only one of several menacing developments. The desacrilization of human life from cradle to grave leads Percy to assert that modern science’s impact is often radically incoherent. In TheMoviegoer, Percy finds his existential and theistic voice that would enable him to advance his critique of science.
catastrophic wars • Cuban missile crisis • existentialism • William Faulkner’s question • Jewish exile • moviegoing • public policy • Regensburg address • religious science • scientificity • theological insight
Benjamin B. Alexander is Professor of English and Humanities at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Steubenville, OH, USA; e-mail: balexander @ franciscan.edu.
Review and Response: Kocku von Stuckrad’s Study on the Scientification of Religion
(Pseudo)science, Religious Beliefs, and Historiography: Assessing the Scientification of Religion’s Method and Theory by Leonardo Ambasciano
In the recent past, attempts to revitalize historico-religious studies have challenged the charismatic appeal of some of the most celebrated scholars of the twentieth century. At the same time, the old and ideological frameworks that characterized the field have been critically analyzed and deconstructed. The disciplinary status quo, taken for granted for quite a long time, has been shaken to its foundation, paving the way for new approaches. However, the postmodern tenet of problematizing any authority has also become a convenient shortcut to blur the distinction between scientific signal (i.e., knowledge systematically obtained via rational inquiry) and nonepistemic noise (i.e., pseudoscience). Despite this troublesome feature, some scholars have deployed postmodern and poststructuralist tools to study the genealogy, reception, implementation, and diffusion of cultural representations within the aforementioned academic discipline. The present article briefly reviews one of the most recent and remarkable examples of such scholarship, that is, The Scientification of Religion: An Historical Study of Discursive Change, 1800-2000 (von Stuckrad 2014).
historical discourse analysis • historiography • history of religions • postmodernism • poststructuralism • pseudoscience • religious studies • science
Leonardo Ambasciano is a Lecturer at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic; e-mail: leonardo.ambasciano @ mail.muni.cz.
The Hybridity of Scientific Knowledge: A Response to Leonardo Ambasciano by Kocku von Stuckrad
This article responds to Leonardo Ambasciano’s review of The Scientification of Religion: An Historical Study of Discursive Change, 1800-2000 by Kocku von Stuckrad. It criticizes a narrative that presents naturalism and science as the ultimate system of knowledge. Contesting this rhetoric, the article underscores the plurality and hybridity of knowledge systems, which is the main topic of the book under review.
discourse research • knowledge • naturalism • religion and science
Kocku von Stuckrad is Professor of Religious Studies and Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands; e-mail: c.k.m.von.stuckrad @ rug.nl.
Religion and the Sciences of Origins: Historical and Contemporary Discussions by Kelly James Clark reviewed by Christoffer H. Grundmann