Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
53 (4), December 2018

Table of Contents


Science, Religion, and Public Policy by Arthur C. Petersen and Willem B. Drees

This editorial is a joint one, by the incoming and outgoing editors of Zygon. The editorial transition announced in the June 2018 issue is now complete: the incoming editor (Arthur Petersen) took responsibility for the evaluation of new submissions in June, and the coordination of the entire editorial process (including planning for future issues and overseeing the production process) came into his hands in September. During the transition period, the outgoing editor (Willem Drees) gently handed over and advised on all aspects of editing the journal. In this editorial, Petersen first outlines a direction in which he plans to take the journal; subsequently, Drees introduces his final issue.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12471


Two Perspectives on Animal Morality by Adam M. Willows and Marcus Baynes-Rock

Are animals moral agents? In this article, a theologian and an anthropologist unite to bring the resources of each field to bear on this question. Alas, not all interdisciplinary conversations end harmoniously, and after much discussion the two authors find themselves in substantial disagreement over the answer. The article is therefore presented in two halves, one for each side of the argument. As well as presenting two different positions, our hope is that this article clarifies the different understandings of morality in our respective fields and will help to offset confusion in interdisciplinary dialogue. In what follows, we each present our case. In the first section, Adam Willows argues that moral activity necessarily involves the use of reason, symbolic thought, and language and is on that basis an exclusively human affair. In the second, Marcus Baynes-Rock discusses his experience of relationality with other creatures; a relationality which, he argues, creates a shared understanding of obligations which are characteristically moral.
animal • human • judgment • morality • rationality • relationality • sociality
Adam M. Willows is a Research Fellow with the St. Andrews Theology and Science project, School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK; e-mail: a.m.willows @ leeds.ac.uk; a.m @ willowsmail.co.uk. Marcus Baynes-Rock is a Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, USA; e-mail: Marcus.R.Baynes-Rock.1 @ nd.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12464

Emersonian Virtues of the Anthropocene: Faith, Hope, and Love by Emily Dumler-Winckler

The natural sciences and religion are two of the primary modern social practices that, for better and worse, shape our relationship to nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson helps us to think about their relation to one another and the virtues needed for the perfection of each. His insights about virtue and the “religious sentiment” shed light on how we moderns might make a home of a world indelibly marked by science, technology, and anthropogenic change. In addition to the quintessentially Emersonian virtue of self-trust, the virtues of faith, hope, and love are vital for this home-making endeavor. Emerson, thus, prefigures what prominent environmental ethicists have described as a “turn to virtue in climate ethics,” as well as what some see as a return to religious communities, values, and ideals, as the way forward. By guiding readers through Emerson’s early work Nature and his late essay “Worship,” this article provides an account of these three traditionally theological Emersonian virtues of the Anthropocene.
Ralph Waldo Emerson • ethics • faith • grace • nature • religion • spirituality • theology and science • theology of nature • virtue
Emily Dumler-Winckler is Assistant Professor of Constructive Theology and Christian Ethics in the Department of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, USA; email: emily.dumlerwinckler @ slu.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12469

Limitations of the Neuroscientific Study of Mystical Experiences by Richard H. Jones

Neuroscientific scanning of meditators is taken as providing data on mystical experiences. However, problems concerning how the brain and consciousness are related cast doubts on whether any understanding of the content of meditative experiences is gained through the study of the brain. Whether neuroscience can study the subjective aspects of meditative experiences in general is also discussed. So too, whether current neuroscience can establish that there are “pure consciousness events” in mysticism is open to question. The discussion points to limitations on neuroscience’s capability to add to our understanding of the phenomenological content of mystical experiences.
constructivism • meditation • mindfulness • multiple realization • mystical experiences • neuroscience • pure consciousness event • science of consciousness
Richard H. Jones is an independent scholar, a philosopher of religion who publishes books and articles on mysticism. He lives in New York City; e-mail: rhjones2488 @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12468

Remembrance and Resilience: How the Bodyself Responds to Trauma by Ann Pederson, Erin Nuetzman, Jennifer Gubbels, and Leonard Hummel

How do the experiences of people who undergo extreme suffering and trauma in one generation get passed on to the next generation? And how do these experiences affect religious-spiritual beliefs and practices? Can we help to create resilience in these later generations through these religious-spiritual beliefs? In order to answer these questions, one must remember and understand not only how trauma is embodied and inherited, but also the role that religious beliefs and practices play in facing and overcoming the trauma. People who have experienced trauma can pass on the effects to subsequent generations biologically through epigenetic changes to their DNA, but also through their religious and spiritual beliefs and practices. The ways people remember and recover from trauma involve complex biological, psychosocial, and spiritual processes. We use the sciences of embodied cognition and epigenetics to analyze the heritability of trauma and its spiritual-religious manifestations in the next generations. Having done so, our hope is that we can understand how spiritual and religious practices can be developed to help people who undergo trauma so that they can become resilient and thrive.
embodied and extended cognition • epigenetics • historical trauma • religious and spiritual practices • stress
Ann Milliken Pederson is Professor of Religion at Augustana University and Adjunct Professor in the Section for Ethics and Humanities at the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, SD, USA; email: Pederson @ augie.edu. Erin Nuetzman is a senior biology and religion major at Augustana University, Sioux Falls, SD, USA; email: enuetzman14 @ ole.augie.edu. Jennifer Gubbels is Associate Professor of Biology at AugustanaUniversity, Sioux Falls, SD, USA; email: jgubbels @ augie.edu. Leonard Hummel is Visiting Professor of Religion at Augustana University, Sioux Falls, SD, USA; email: lhummel @ lstg.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12474

Modern Science and Biblical Miracles: The Boyle Lecture 2018

Apocalypses Now: Modern Science and Biblical Miracles: The Boyle Lecture 2018 by Mark Harris

I explore an intriguing area that has crept under the radar of today’s science-and-theology conversation, namely, scientific studies of the big miracle and catastrophe stories of the Bible (e.g., Noah’s flood, or the plagues of Egypt). These studies have proposed naturalistic explanations for some of the most spectacular and unlikely of the biblical miracles. While the scientists believe their naturalistic interpretations represent a major advance in understanding the stories, professional biblical scholars show little interest, or are openly disdainful. I will point out the striking parallels with the foundational “catastrophism-uniformitarianism” controversy in nineteenth-century geology, and will suggest that the debate also takes us toward a novel kind of natural theology when we consider the biblical miracle and catastrophe texts. Here, the spectacular scientific explanations do not deny the miraculous character of the biblical stories so much as provide a uniquely modern purchase on their transcendent quality.
apocalypse • biblical studies • catastrophe • catastrophism • Exodus • hermeneutics • miracles • naturalistic explanation • uniformitarianism
Mark Harris is Senior Lecturer in Science and Religion at the University of Edinburgh, School of Divinity, Edinburgh, UK; email: Mark.Harris @ ed.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12462

The Ambivalence of Scientific Naturalism: A Response to Mark Harris by John Hedley Brooke

Responding to Mark Harris, I reflect on his tantalizing question whether the provision of naturalistic explanations for biblical miracles renders the narratives more, or less, credible. I address his “reversal,” in which professional scientists now feature among defenders of a literalistic reading, while professional biblical scholars are often skeptical. I suggest this underlines the ambivalence of scientific naturalism from the standpoint of Christian theology. Historical examples are adduced to show that, until the mid-nineteenth century, naturalistic and theistic explanations were commonly regarded as complementary. Accordingly, the primacy often accorded to scientific progress in accounts of secularization is questionable. Two concluding questions are raised. If a methodological naturalism inheres in biblical scholarship, as in the sciences, how do biblical scholars decide whether the historical trajectories they construct for the composition of biblical texts are destructive or affirmative of faith? Second, when the miracle is the Resurrection of the dead Christ, does not the scientific impossibility of this foundational event remain sacrosanct?
biblical studies • catastrophism • geology • miracles • natural theology • naturalism • Resurrection • secularism
From 1999 to 2006 John Hedley Brooke was the first Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University. He is Emeritus Fellow, Harris Manchester College, Oxford, UK; email: john.brooke @ hmc.ox.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12463

On “The Natural Nature of Naturalism”: Answers to John Hedley Brooke’s Questions by Mark Harris

In John Hedley Brooke’s response to my 2018 Boyle Lecture he provided some helpful prompts to sharpen my position on naturalism, and posed two further questions to me. This article takes up his prompts, and offers some answers to his questions, especially concerning the Resurrection of Jesus.
divine action • Gospels • hermeneutics • miracles • natural sciences • naturalism • naturalistic explanation • New Testament • Paul • Resurrection
Mark Harris is Senior Lecturer in Science and Religion at the University of Edinburgh, School of Divinity, Edinburgh, UK; email: Mark.Harris @ ed.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12466

Methodological Naturalism?

Magnets, Magic, and Other Anomalies: In Defense of Methodological Naturalism by John Perry and Sarah Lane Ritchie

Recent critiques of methodological naturalism (MN) claim that it fails by conflicting with Christian belief and being insufficiently humble. We defend MN by tracing the real history of the debate, contending that the story as it is usually told is mythic. We show how MN works in practice, including among real scientists. The debate is a red herring. It only appears problematic because of confusion among its opponents about how scientists respond to experimental anomalies. We conclude by introducing our preferred approach, Science-Engaged Theology.
anomaly • Thomas Aquinas • Edgar Brightman • Thomas S. Kuhn • methodological naturalism • miracles • Isaac Newton • Alvin Plantinga • scientific method • Andrew B. Torrance
John Perry is Senior Lecturer, St. Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland; e-mail jmp24 @ st-andrews.ac.uk. Sarah Lane Ritchie is Lecturer in Theology and Science, New College, University of Edinburgh, Scotland; e-mail sarah.laneritchie @ ed.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12473

The Possibility of a Theology-Engaged Science: A Response to Perry and Ritchie by Andrew Torrance

This article provides a response to John Perry and Sarah Lane Ritchie’s article, “Magnets Magic, and Other Anomalies: In Defense of Methodological Naturalism.” In so doing, it provides a defense of some of the arguments I made in my article, “Should a Christian Adopt Methodological Naturalism?” I begin by addressing some of the confusion about my position. However, it is not simply my intention to address confusions. There remain some fundamental differences between my position and Perry and Ritchie’s. It is on these differences that I wish to focus—differences that enable me to maintain my critique of methodological naturalism without falling prey to the problems they raise. Constructively, I advance the argument that the Christian scientist should be open to the possibility of theology engaged science, as well as the science-engaged theology that Perry and Ritchie advocate.
Christianity • creation • empiricism • incarnation • Jesus Christ • methodological naturalism • miracles • resurrection • theological method • theology and science
Andrew B. Torrance is Lecturer in Theology at The School of Divinity, St. Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, UK.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12475

Reconsidering “The Conflict Thesis”

Relocating the Conflict between Science and Religion at the Foundations of the History of Science by James C. Ungureanu

Historians of science and religion usually trace the origins of the “conflict thesis,” the notion that science and religion have been in perennial “conflict” or “warfare,” to the late nineteenth century, particularly to the narratives of New York chemist John William Draper and historian Andrew Dickson White. In this essay, I argue against that convention. Their narratives should not be read as stories to debunk, but rather as primary sources reflecting themes and changes in religious thought during the late nineteenth century. I contend that Draper and White were part of a long liberal Protestant heritage that emphasized history, reason, and religious emancipation against ecclesiastical authority. As an alternative source of origins, however, I suggest that the real “conflict thesis” is to be found in the fledgling discipline of the history of science as it emerged during the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. The real origin of the “conflict thesis” is found in the very discipline that now seeks to condemn it.
Auguste Comte • “conflict thesis” • John William Draper • history of science • logical positivism • new atheists • Protestantism • George Sarton • science and religion • Andrew Dickson White
James C. Ungureanu is Honorary Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA; e-mail: j.ungureanu @ wisc.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12470

The “Conflict Thesis” and Positivist History of Science: A View from the Periphery by Miguel de Asúa

The historiographic tradition of the history of science that originated with Auguste Comte bears all the marks of narratives with roots in the Enlightenment, such as a view of religion as an underdeveloped stage in the ascending road in humanity’s quest for a more mature understanding. This article explores the development of the peripheral branch of a tradition that developed in Argentina by the mid-twentieth century with authors such as the Italians Aldo Mieli, José Babini, and the Hungarian Desiderius Papp. It is argued that, contrary to the historiographic program of the conflict thesis developed in English-speaking countries, those scholars who cultivated the kind of “positivist” history of science that thrived in continental Europe were inclined to see science as a social and epistemological replacement of a fossilized religious outlook. In the final section, I suggest a way to relate the more or less strong versions of the conflict thesis to different patterns of secularization.
conflict thesis • historiography of science • science and religion • secularization
Miguel de Asúa is Professor of History of Science, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, and Senior Research Member in Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (Conicet), Buenos Aires, Argentina; email: mdeasua @ yahoo.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12467


The Young Muslim’s Guide to Modern Science by Nidhal Guessoum reviewed by Stefano Bigliardi

Stefano Bigliardi; Assistant Professor of Philosophy; Al Akhwayn University in Ifrane; Ifrane, Morocco; e-mail: S.Bigliardi @ aui.ma.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12465

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