Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
53 (2), June 2018

Table of Contents


Mental Well-Being, Climate Change, and New Archival Material on Teilhard de Chardin by Willem B. Drees

This issue of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science has much to offer. Although one cannot deny the urgency of the topics addressed in the thematic sections on mental well-being and on climate change, as editor I am especially fascinated by the opening article, on the French paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The story of the official response of the Roman Catholic Church to his theological engagement with science has been fascinating, but so far incomplete. The article in this issue provides new information, with original archival evidence.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12408


Teilhard de Chardin, Original Sin, and the Six Propositions by David Grumett and Paul Bentley

In 1925, the French Jesuit geologist, paleontologist, and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was removed from his teaching position at the Institut Catholique in Paris. He spent most of the next twenty years in China and his major theological writings were not published during his lifetime. We have uncovered major new archival sources on the investigation of Teilhard by the Jesuit curia and the Holy Office of the Roman Catholic Church. These include the Six Propositions to which he was required to subscribe, which are here published and analyzed for the first time, along with his subscription. Associated correspondence, including a letter written by Teilhard to the Jesuit superior general Wlodimir Ledóchowski, enables a fuller understanding of Teilhard’s response to the investigation of him. Moreover, comparison with similar investigations into other theologians in the first half of the 1920s allows an assessment of how the complex power dynamics between the Jesuit curia, the Holy Office, and Pope Pius XI shaped the outcome.
Christianity • creation • evolution • natural evil • original sin • origin of life • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
David Grumett is Senior Lecturer in Theology and Ethics, University of Edinburgh, School of Divinity, New College, Mound Place, Edinburgh, EH1 2LX, UK; e-mail: david.grumett @ ed.ac.uk. Paul Bentley is a British writer and actor. Among his many publications is Inquisition, a play dramatizing Teilhard de Chardin’s dilemma when ordered to sign the Six Propositions. He edits the British Teilhard Network website (www.teilhard.org.uk). He resides in London; e-mail: paul.r.bentley @ btinternet.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12398

Mental Well-Being, Neuroscience, and Religion: Contributions from the Science and Religion Forum

Mental Well-Being, Neuroscience, and Religion: Contributions from the Science and Religion Forum by Gilliam K. Straine and Mark Harris

The Science and Religion Forum (SRF) seeks to be the premier organization promoting the discussion between science and religion in the United Kingdom. Each year, the SRF holds a conference tackling a topical issue, and in 2017 focused on mental well-being, neuroscience, and religion. This article introduces the thematic section which is made up of five papers from that conference. As a new field within the science and religion academy, these articles are both wide-ranging and detailed. This introductory article locates this section within the academy and argues that its place is not only valid but vital, given the increase of mental health problems and the need for medicine, church, and society to answer this problem and present ways to help.
mental well-being • neuroscience • Science and Religion Forum • theology
Gillian K. Straine is Director of the Guild of Health and St. Raphael, London, UK; e-mail: director @ gohealth.org.uk Mark Harris is Senior Lecturer in Science and Religion at the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK; e-mail: Mark.Harris @ ed.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12414

Theology and Science of Mental Health and Well-Being by Fraser Watts

The approach to mental health and well-being taken here illustrates the complementary perspectives approach and assumes that there are useful and intersecting contributions from science (including medicine) and from religion and spirituality. What counts as poor mental well-being depends on the interaction of relatively objective criteria with culturally contingent value judgments. I then discuss theological perspectives on depression, including a consideration of sources of hope and tolerance of dysphoria, and argue that depression can be part of a spiritual journey. I then look at the relationship between psychosis and religion, including the work of Isabel Clarke, arguing that a spiritual approach to psychosis can complement a medical approach. Finally, I present a pastoral case study illustrating the interface between neurological and spiritual aspects of the sense of presence. A religious perspective can challenge and complement current assumptions about mental health in a potentially fruitful way.
depression • mental health • psychiatry • psychosis • sense of presence • spirituality • well-being
Fraser Watts, formerly Reader in Theology and Science at the University of Cambridge, is now Visiting Professor of Psychology of Religion in the School of Psychology, University of Lincoln, UK, and also Executive Secretary of the International Society for Science and Religion; e-mail: fraser.watts @ cantab.net.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12412

The Physicalized Mind and the Gut-Brain Axis: Taking Mental Health Out of Our Heads by Lindsay Bruce and Sarah Lane Ritchie

As it becomes increasingly plausible that the mind-brain is explicable in naturalistic terms, science-and-religion scholars have the opportunity to engage creatively and proactively with facets of brain-related research that better inform our understanding of human well-being. That is, once mental health is recognized as being a whole-body phenomenon, exciting theological conversations can take place. One fascinating area of research involves the “gut-brain axis,” or the interactive relationship between the microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract (i.e., gut bacteria), the central nervous system, and mental health. A growing body of literature explores the immensely significant interactions between the gut microbiome and mental health issues involving depression, anxiety, gene expression, and stress responses. One’s mental health does not occur in a disembodied state, but in a complex physical environment that is strongly influenced by environmental factors, many of which we can control. This article argues that science-and-religion can welcome scientific research in this area, creatively incorporating such insights into a theology of mental health and physical well-being.
consciousness • gut microbiome • mental health • philosophy of mind
Lindsay Bruce recently received a PhD in integrative biology from Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, USA; e-mail: Lindsay.e.bruce @ gmail.com. Sarah Lane Ritchie is Research Fellow in Theology and Science, University of St Andrews-St Mary’s College, St Andrews, UK; e-mail: slr21 @ st-andrews.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12404

In the Beginning: The Role of Myth in Relating Religion, Brain Science, and Mental Well-Being by Jaime Wright

Building upon the insights of scholars attuned to story, narrative, and myth, this article explores the relationship between myth, science, and religion. After clarifying the interplay of the three terms—story, narrative, and myth—and the preference for the term myth, this article will argue that myth can serve as a medium through which religion, neuroscience, and mental well-being interact. Such an exploration will cover the role of myths in religion, the neurological basis of myth, and the practices of narrative psychology and biblio-therapy. The article will conclude with suggestions for understanding and utilizing the relationship between myth and the scholarly study of the relationship between science and religion. This article ultimately suggests that myth can operate as a methodological aid to the science-and-religion field.
cognitive science • healing • human nature • myth • narrative • neuroscience • psychology • religion • spirituality • story
Jaime Wright is a doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh’s Divinity School, Edinburgh, UK; e-mail: wrightjaimem @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12415

Empirical Mindfulness: Traditional Chinese Medicine and Mental Health in the Science and Religion Dialogue by William L. Atkins

As science and religion researchers begin to engage questions of mental health, mindfulness may prove to be a fruitful area of investigation. However, quantifying the physical effects of mindfulness on the brain is difficult because mindfulness deals with the problem of mental and physical interaction or, the mind/body problem. One system of understanding which may aid science and religion scholars in the pursuit of mindfulness is traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Within TCM, heart Qi manages the body’s present connection to time and space. If the “being in the moment” is disrupted, then the heart Qi is blocked and mental illness or various neurological disorders occur. Succinctly, within TCM, mindfulness is understood as a nonphysical phenomenon (Qi) which directly affects physical systems, resulting in empirical data. This is tracked and treated through the TCM understanding of Qi. The TCM view of Qi in mental health may therefore provide a helpful new paradigm to investigations concerning mindfulness and the human brain.
Chinese medicine • mindfulness • neuroscience • science and religion • traditional Chinese medicine
William L. Atkins is a PhD candidate, Department of Science and Religion, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK; e-mail: s1444462 @ sms.ed.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12416

The Church and Mental Health: Theological and Practical Responses by Ben Ryan

Over the past few years, the number of Christian projects and charities working in the mental health sector in the United Kingdom has increased dramatically. At the same time, scientific and medical understandings of mental health have been advancing rapidly. These parallel trends beg a serious question: is the Christian Church’s response to mental health authentically engaging with a changing scientific picture? Are theological questions like responsibility, sin, redemption, and reconciliation taking account of a changing landscape? This is not a theoretical question, but has major practical consequences for developing practical pastoral responses.
Christianity • mental health • psychiatry • social action • well-being
Ben Ryan is a researcher for Theos Think Tank, London, UK; e-mail: Ben.ryan @ theosthinktank.co.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12417

The Wicked Problem of Climate Change

Living with the Wicked Problem of Climate Change by Karl E. Peters

Outlining the characteristics of “wicked” and “superwicked” problems, climate change is considered as a global superwicked problem that is primarily about the future. Being global- and future-oriented makes climate change something we have to learn to live with but cannot expect to solve. Because the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) is a multidisciplinary society that yokes the natural and social sciences with values, it is in a position to explore strategies for living with climate change—exemplified by the articles in this section. Finally, asking “who/what is in charge,” it is suggested that in a dynamically interrelated and evolving world no one is. It is important to distinguish between good that is already created and the creative interactions that give rise to new good. In order to live with climate change, our primary orientation should be to live with the creativity that has created and continues to create our life on Planet Earth—since we are not able to know what the future holds.
climate change • creativity • evolution • future • hope • wicked problem • Henry Nelson Wieman
Karl E. Peters, a past Editor and Co-Editor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religion, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL, USA; e-mail: kpeters396 @ cox.net.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12400

What Is Climate Change Doing to Us and for Us? by Paul H. Carr

What are we doing to our climate? Emissions from fossil fuel burning have raised carbon dioxide concentrations 35 percent higher than in the past millions of years. This increase is warming our planet via the greenhouse effect. What is climate change doing to and for us? Dry regions are drier and wet ones wetter. Wildfires have increased threefold, hurricanes more violent, floods setting record heights, glaciers melting, and seas rising. Parts of Earth are increasingly uninhabitable. Climate change requires us to act as a global community. Climate justice enjoins emitters to pay the social-environmental costs of fossil fuel burning. This would expedite green solar, wind, and next-generation nuclear energy sources. Individuals should conserve resources, waste less food, and eat a plant-rich diet.
carbon dioxide • climate change • environment • fossil fuel burning • globalization • global warming • green energy • greenhouse effect • rising seas • weather extremes
Paul H. Carr is a life fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The IRAS Council designated him as Champion of the 2017 IRAS Conference. E-mail is paulcarr @ alum.mit.edu and his web page is www.MirrorOfNature.org.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12410

Climate Change in Context: Stress, Shock, and the Crucible of Livingkind by James Clement van Pelt

An increasing number of environmentally knowledgeable observers and activists comprehend the situation faced by the emerging global civilization and its unsustainable systems, characterized by planet-altering positive feedback loops arising from human activity. They perceive contemporary natural and cultural developments as the prelude to the imminent collapse of technological civilization and the cataclysmic end of the Anthropocene epoch via a forced passage through the population bottleneck of the impending extinction-level event which only a remnant of the present biosphere is likely to survive. Should this understanding be accurate, our own time could become the occasion for the greatest choice ever made on Earth: whether to continue things as they are until humanity becomes the chief cause and the chief victim of the now-unfolding mass extinction; or to make the necessary transition to the awakening of Planet Earth.
apocalypse • climate • crucible • culmination • eschatology • livingkind • mass extinction • megathreat • transition
James Clement van Pelt cofounded and led Yale&146;s Initiative in Religion, Science and Technology from 2003 to 2012. He is an independent scholar based in New Haven, Connecticut, who specializes in philosophical theology, consciousness studies, and theologies of technology; email: james.vanpelt @ aya.yale.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12418

Climate Change at High Latitudes: An Illuminating Example by Robert S. Pickart

A striking example is presented of a newly observed phenomenon in the ice-covered Arctic Ocean that appears to be a consequence of changes in the physical forcing. In summer 2011, a massive phytoplankton bloom was observed north of the Bering Strait, between Russia and the United States, underneath pack ice that was a meter thick—in conditions previously thought to be inconducive for harboring such blooms. It is demonstrated that the changing ice cover, in concert with the resulting heat exchange between the atmosphere and ocean, likely led to this paradigm shift at the base of the food chain by altering the supply of nutrients and sunlight. Such early-season under-ice blooms have the potential to profoundly alter the Arctic food web.
Arctic ice cover • Arctic Ocean • Chukchi Sea • climate change • under-ice blooms
Robert S. Pickart is a Senior Scientist in the Department of Physical Oceanography at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Woods Hole, MA, USA; email rpickart @ whoi.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12406

Soil Carbon Transformations by Emily E. Austin

Climate change is a wicked problem with causes and consequences overlapping with other wicked problems and no single solution (Hulme 2015). For example, the frequent droughts associated with climate change exacerbate another major problem facing humanity as we enter the Anthropocene: how to produce adequate food to feed a growing population without increasing pollution or “more food with low pollution (MoFoLoPo)” (Davidson et al. 2015). Soils represent an intersection of these two wicked problems, because they are integral to food production through agriculture and also are an important component of global climate models. Recent focus in the field of soil carbon cycling has facilitated a transformation in our understanding of the processes that control this important resource. This understanding is critical to responding to both wicked problems.
agriculture • carbon • climate change • ecology • environment • food • soil • soil organic matter • warming
Emily E. Austin is Research Scientist, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, USA; email: austin.emily @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12401

Climate Change and Conflicting Future Visions by David A. Larrabee

Dealing with the effects of climate change requires the consideration of multiple conflicting moral claims. The prioritization of these claims depends on the vision of a desired future, eschatology broadly defined. These visions, sometimes implicit rather than explicit, shape our decision making by influencing our sense of how things “ought to be. ” The role of future visions in economics, technology, and preservation of nature are explored as secular eschatologies. Four aspects of such visions are especially relevant to climate change decisions: distributive justice, land use, the relationship among humans, and our relationship to the rest of nature. Effectively dealing with such wicked problems requires that we scrutinize our visions of how the future ought to be, both technically and morally. Finally, we must foster a dialogue between competing visions so that we can forge a path that strives for consent.
climate change • distributive justice • economics • energy • environment • eschatology • ethics • land use ethics • lifestyles • technology
David A. Larrabee is Professor Emeritus of Physics at East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA, USA; e-mail: dalarrabee @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12399

Eco-Anxiety, Tragedy, and Hope: Psychological and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change by Panu Pihkala

This article addresses the problem of “eco-anxiety” by integrating results from numerous fields of inquiry. Although climate change may cause direct psychological and existential impacts, vast numbers of people already experience indirect impacts in the form of depression, socio-ethical paralysis, and loss of well-being. This is not always evident, because people have developed psychological and social defenses in response, including “socially constructed silence.” I argue that this situation causes the need to frame climate change narratives as emphasizing hope in the midst of tragedy. Framing the situation simply as a threat or a possibility does not work. Religious communities and the use of methods which include spirituality have an important role in enabling people to process their deep emotions and existential questions. I draw also from my experiences from Finland in enabling cooperation between natural scientists and theologians in order to address climate issues.
climate change • eco-anxiety • eco-psychology • emotions • environment • mortality • philosophy of hope • religion and ecology • religion and nature • theology
Panu Pihkala is Postdoctoral Researcher at the Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; e-mail: panu.pihkala @ helsinki.fi.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12407

Re-Envisioning Hope: Anthropogenic Climate Change, Learned Ignorance, and Religious Naturalism by Carol Wayne White

In this essay, I introduce religious naturalism as one contemporary religious response to anthropogenic climate change; in so doing, I offer a concept of hope associated with the beauty of ignorance, of not knowing ourselves in the usual manner. Reframing humans as natural processes in relationship with other forms of nature, religious naturalism encourages humans’ processes of transformative engagement with each other and with the more-than-human worlds that constitute our existence. Hope in this context is anticipating what possibilities may occur when human organisms enact our evolutionary capacities as relational organisms who can love, engaging in multilayered processes of changing behaviors, values, and relationships that promote the betterment of myriad nature.
beauty • climate change • ecological world view • hope • humanism • ignorance • naturalized human • religious naturalism
Carol Wayne White is Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA, USA; e-mail: cwhite @ bucknell.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12405

Climate Change, Laudato Si’, Creation Spirituality, and the Nobility of the Scientist’s Vocation by Matthew Fox

This exploration into spirituality and climate change employs the “four paths” of the creation spirituality tradition. The author recognizes those paths in the rich teachings of Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’ and applies them in considering the nobility of the scientist’s vocation. Premodern thinkers often resisted any split between science and religion. The author then lays out the basic archetypes for recognizing the sacredness of creation, namely, the Cosmic Christ (Christianity); the Buddha Nature (Buddhism); the Image of God (Judaism); the “Primordial Man” (Hinduism), as well as the premodern universal teaching of “God as Beauty.” He addresses the subject of evil which deserves serious attention in the face of the realities posed by climate change and the resistance to addressing them. In the concluding section, the author speaks of a new Order of the Sacred Earth that was launched in fall 2017 to gather persons of whatever spiritual tradition or none to devote themselves to preserving Mother Earth.
Buddha Nature • climate change • Cosmic Christ • creation spirituality • Image of God • Laudato Si’ • Order of the Sacred Earth • Pope Francis • scientist’s vocation • spirituality
Matthew Fox is visiting scholar at the Academy for the Love of Learning in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and professor at the newly launched Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality in Boulder, CO, USA (www.matthewfox.org); e-mail: 33dennis @ sbcglobal.net.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12411

Art and Climate Change: Contemporary Artists Respond to Global Crisis by Christopher Volpe

This essay examines various contemporary artistic responses to climate change. These responses encompass multiple media and diverse philosophical and emotional forms, from grief and resignation to resistance, hope, and poignant celebration of spiritual value and natural beauty. Rejecting much of the terminology of current theory, the author considers the artworks in relation to interrelated and arguably unjustly discredited aesthetic and theological categories, namely, the sublime and the beautiful as well as the via negative, the latter adapted from Thomas Aquinas by theologian Matthew Fox. Art’s power is seen largely as the ability to “humanize” the science by rendering it emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually relatable to individuals. The broken relationship between humanity and nature seems related to the need for a renewed religious sense of integration with, and belonging to, the cosmos. Art might play a pivotal role in bringing this about.
Anthropocene • art • beauty • climate change • nature • oceanic feeling • religion • science • spirituality • the sublime • technology • truth
Christopher Volpe is a New Hampshire-based artist, teacher, and independent scholar who has published scholarly articles, catalogue essays, poetry, and reviews in regional and national publications. He can be reached at chris@christophervolpe.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12413

The Wicked Problem of Our Failing Social Compact by Jim Rubens

The United States is an outlier among nations in its failure to adopt robust climate policy. The underlying cause is not unique to the climate issue. Climate, like growing national debt, embodies a trade-off between individual consumption now versus investment yielding long-term societal gain. Over human history, social norms favoring one over the other wax and wane with the pervasiveness of transcendental values as embodied in personal virtue, social connectedness, spirituality, and religious faith. Over the past few decades, many indicators show that American social norms and extended cooperation have weakened. Given entrenched political corruption and continuing institutional failure to address multiple long-term societal challenges, individuals are called upon personally to practice and to enforce pro-social norms and to advance high-leverage systemic changes, some identified in this article, which will allow extended cooperation to once again flourish.
climate • debt • ethics • evolution • extended cooperation • group selection • political corruption • social compact • social norms • transcendental values
Jim Rubens is a former Republican state senator in the New Hampshire legislature who spent nearly ten years consulting with the Union of Concerned Scientists, building support among Republicans for state and national climate solutions. He resides in Etna, New Hampshire; e-mail: jimrubens @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12402

Crossing the Divide: Lessons from Developing Wind Energy in Post-Fact America by Peter L. Kelley

The income and careers that come with building wind turbines have become a lifeline for many factory towns and farming communities. Generating electricity from the wind puts increasingly cheap power on the grid, saving consumers billions a year. And it is one of the biggest, fastest, cheapest ways to reduce carbon pollution, reducing the threat of climate change. Yet as wind farms have rapidly spread to forty-one states, their developers must make their case anew with each community that hosts them. Facts matter, but so do empathy, honoring deep connections to neighbors and landscape, and developing mutual respect. Successful wind farm developers listen first for shared values and speak with inclusive language, to communicate with potential opponents across divides of misunderstanding and motivate local residents to adapt to and benefit from change.
acceptance • climate solutions • community engagement • energy • environment • opposition • public participation • technology
Peter L. Kelley recently reopened his public relations firm RenewComm LLC after eight years of service as the Vice-President for Public Affairs for the American Wind Energy Association. He lives in Washington, DC, USA; e-mail: peter @ renewcomm.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12403


A Natural History of Human Morality by Michael Tomasello reviewed by Lluis Oviedo

Lluis Oviedo; Full Professor of Theology, Antonianum University, Rome, Italy; e-mail: loviedo @ antonianum.eu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12409

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