Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
54 (3), September 2019

Table of Contents


Ethics, Collectives, and Drugs by Arthur C. Petersen

Science and Ethics Both the book symposium on John Evans’s Morals Not Knowledge: Recasting the Contemporary U.S. Conflict between Religion and Science (2018) and The Boyle Lecture 2019 deal with the relationship between science and ethics.1 Evans’s goal in his book is to show that the real conflict between science and religion over the past half century in the United States is about ethics and not about epistemology. Michael Reiss, in his Boyle Lecture, focuses on how science can help us understand the genesis of ethics in evolution and how religion is needed to shape our ethics.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12540


Creators and Creatures: The Creation Account in Genesis and the Idea of the Artificial Humanoid by Gábor Ambrus

Science fiction, this article argues, provides an imaginative domain which can offer a unique understanding of the interaction between science and religion. Such an interaction is particularly present in the idea of the artificial humanoid as brought to life in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the recent television series Westworld. Both revolve around the theme of a moral relation between scientist creator and humanoid creature in accord with a norm that first took shape in the biblical account of God’s creation of the first human beings. At the same time, these works of fiction cast light on the contrast between the biblical account and the Mesopotamian myths of creation. In the manner of Frankenstein and Westworld, science fiction can integrate the perspective of science with that of the biblical tradition.
artificial humanoid • Book of Genesis • Frankenstein • responsibility • robot • science fiction • Westworld
Gábor Ambrus holds a postdoctoral research position in the Theology and Contemporary Culture Research Group at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic; e-mail: Illequi @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12534

A New Methodology for Christian Systematic Theology by Joseph A. Bracken

Science and religion are the two strongest influences on the conduct of human life, yet their respective truth claims frequently clash. To facilitate better communication between scientists and theologians on these rival truth claims, the author recommends that Christian theologians use the language and current methodology of science as far as possible so as to present the content of Church teaching in an idiom that would be intelligible not only to scientists but to the educated public as well. In this way, the rival truth claims might complement rather than compete with one another. That is, clothed in the language of science, the truth claims of religion would gain in rational coherence and intelligibility. Natural scientists in turn would have conversation partners better able to deal with philosophical and ethical issues arising out of new scientific discoveries.
Thomas Aquinas • Terrence Deacon • Granville Henry • Alister McGrath • neo-Thomism • systems theory • truth claims of religion and science • Alfred North Whitehead
Joseph A. Bracken, SJ, is Professor Emeritus of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH, USA; e-mail: bracken @ xavier.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12535

The Final (Missions) Frontier: Extraterrestrials, Evangelism, and the Wide Circle of Human Empathy by Eugene A. Curry

The possible existence of extraterrestrials has provoked more than five centuries of theological speculation on how these beings, if they exist, relate to God. A certain stream of thought present in these debates argues that the eventual discovery of aliens would obligate human Christians to evangelize them for the salvation of their souls. Current research into humanity’s prehistory suggests that, if this ever actually happens, it will have been partially facilitated by humanity’s remarkable capacity for interspecies empathy—an ability that seems to be genetic in nature and which stems from our species’ ancient experience with dogs. In light of the above, recommendations are made concerning future potential exomissionary screening criteria and a concluding section touches on the role of animals in God’s work.
aliens • animals • astrotheology • compassion • dogs • empathy • evangelism • exomissiology • extraterrestrials • missions
Eugene A. Curry is an evangelical pastor active in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. He lives in Longview, WA, USA; e-mail: eugeneacurry @ yahoo.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12536

John Evans’s Morals Not Knowledge

“The People of This Country Have Had Enough of Experts”: In Defense of the “Elites” of the Science-and-Religion Debate by Mark Harris

This article takes a critical stance on John H. Evans’s 2018 book, Morals Not Knowledge: Recasting the Contemporary U.S. Conflict between Religion and Science. Highlighting the significance of the book for the science-and-religion debate, particularly the book’s emphasis on moral questions over knowledge claims revealed in social-scientific studies of the American public, I also suggest that the distinction between the “elites” of the academic science-and-religion field and the religious “public” is insufficiently drawn. I argue that various nuances should be taken into account concerning the portrayal of “elites,” nuances which potentially change the way that “conflict” between science and religion is envisaged, as well as the function of the field. Similarly, I examine the ways in which the book construes science and religion as distinct knowledge systems, and I suggest that, from a theological perspective—relevant for much academic activity in science and religion—there is value in seeing science and religion in terms of a single knowledge system. This perspective may not address the public’s interest in moral questions directly—important as they are—but nevertheless it fulfils the academic function of advancing the frontiers of human knowledge and self-understanding.
Christian theology • conflict • ethics • natural theology • science and religion • sociology of religion
Mark Harris is Professor of Natural Science and Theology at the University of Edinburgh, School of Divinity, Edinburgh, UK; e-mail: Mark.Harris @ ed.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12537

In Defense of Publics: Projection, Bias and Cultural Naratives in Science-and-Religion Debates by Fern Elsdon-Baker

John H. Evans’s recent book Morals Not Knowledge is a timely argument to recognize broader social and cultural factors that might impact what U.S. religious publics think about the relationship between science and religion and their attitudes toward science and/or religion. While Evans’s focus is primarily on what can be classed as moral issues, this response argues that there are other factors that sit within neither the older epistemic conflict model approach nor a moral conflict model approach that also merit further investigation. There is a significant need for further research that examines the social, psychological, (geo)political, and broader cultural factors shaping people’s social identities in relation to science and religion debates. When undertaking such research, we need to be wary of creating a binary between scholarly and public space discourse. Social scientific research in this field should be led by public perceptions, attitudes, and views, not by concepts or frameworks that we project onto them.
evolutionary science • public perceptions of science • science and religion in society
Fern Elsdon-Baker is Professor of Science, Knowledge, and Belief in Society, School of Philosophy, Theology, and Religion, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK: e-mail: F.M.Elsdon-Baker @ bham.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12548

A Way Forward for Sociological Research on Science and Religion: A Review and a Riff by Elaine Howard Ecklund, Sharan Kaur Mehta, and Dan Bolger

John Evans’s new book Morals Not Knowledge pushes scholars to rethink contemporary debates about religion and science by moving past the rhetoric of societal elites to examine the perspectives of everyday Americans, identifying the moral conflicts at the heart of debates. We review Evans’s key contributions while also extending and challenging his arguments, urging consideration of how renewed moral debates might be informed by a broader set of U.S. “publics.” Drawing on empirical research, we highlight four sets of voices that are missing from Evans’s analysis. Specifically, we highlight the voices of racial and ethnic minorities, religious communities (as opposed to individuals), members of minority religious traditions, and everyday religious scientists. Through doing so we offer avenues for future research on these diverse publics that will help facilitate a broader set of better and more informed debates about moral conflict between religious and scientific communities.
cross-national research • race • religion • science • secularity • underrepresented minorities
Elaine Howard Ecklund is Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology at Rice University, Houston, TX, USA; e-mail: ehe @ rice.edu. Sharan Kaur Mehta is a graduate student at Rice University, Houston, TX, USA; e-mail: Sharan.K.Mehta @ rice.edu. Daniel Bolger is a graduate student at Rice University, Houston, TX, USA; e-mail: dan.bolger @ rice.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12542

Morality through Inquiry, Motive through Rhetoric: The Politics of Science and Religion in the Epoch of the Anthropocene by Nathan Crick

In an epoch marked by the threat of global warming, the conflicts between science and religion are no longer simply matters that concern only intellectual elites and armchair philosophers; they are in many ways matters that will determine the degree to which we can meet the challenges of our times. John H. Evans’s Morals Not Knowledge represents an important provocation for those committed not only to using scientific method as a resource for making moral judgments but also to creating political alliances with religious constituencies. In this important work, Evans argues that most conflicts between science and religion do not concern a clash between two contradictory ways of knowing, but rather a clash over our moral responsibilities and ultimate values. In my response to his work, I suggest that integrating both John Dewey’s pragmatic understanding of the moral situation and Kenneth Burke’s rhetorical interpretation of motives helps bolster Evans’s cause and provides support for a political movement that aims to bridge the divide between science and religion in the epoch of the Anthropocene.
Gaia • humanism • moral situation • pragmatism • rhetoric of religion • rhetoric of science • Isabelle Stengers
Nathan Crick is Professor in the Department of Communication at Texas A & M University, College Station, TX, USA; e-mail: crick @ tamu.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12539

The Scope and Implications of Morals Not Knowledge by John H. Evans

I greatly appreciate the opportunity provided by the editor of Zygon to further develop the ideas in my book Morals Not Knowledge: Recasting the Contemporary U.S. Conflict between Religion and Science in conversation with four critical commentaries. It is an honor to have one’s work focused upon so intently, and I greatly appreciate the time and effort of the critics. The book was quite intentionally written as a provocation, an attempt at agenda setting, and as a call for changing the thinking of the entire religion and science academic community. In my previous writings I have kept close to the data, allowing myself at best mid-level conclusions, but this book is a foray into the abstraction and inevitable lack of precision required for high-level generalization. I hope that it continues to be generative of debate.
conflict • epistemology • morality • religion and science debate • sociology • values
John H. Evans is Tata Chancellor’s Chair in Social Sciences, Professor of Sociology, Associate Dean of the Social Sciences, and cofounder/codirector of the Institute for Practical Ethics at the University of California, San Diego, CA, USA; e-mail: jhevans @ ucsd.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12541

The Collective Nature of Religion

The Collective Characters of Religious Congregations by T. Ryan Byerly and Meghan Byerly

Our primary aim in this article is to advocate for the interdisciplinary study of the collective character traits of local religious congregations, taking as our focal example local Christian congregations. It should be clear that such study presently lies on the frontier of interdisciplinary religious studies. Yet, as we will attempt to show in the first section, the way has been paved for the study of such collective character traits through salient developments within several academic disciplines in recent decades. This frontier, in other words, is open for exploration, and there are available tools that can help us explore it. We will illustrate how such exploration may be undertaken fruitfully in the second section by focusing on two distinct kinds of virtuous collective character traits of Christian congregations: traits that enable a congregation to fulfill its distinctive role in the missio Dei, and traits that enable a congregation’s members to flourish in their interpersonal relationships. In each case, we will identify a candidate collective virtue of the relevant type, discuss its nature from philosophical and theological perspectives, and, drawing on relevant empirical research, provide reason for thinking that applying empirical methods to it can yield additional insights about its value.
church • collective character • inclusiveness • reconciliation • religious congregation • virtue
T. Ryan Byerly is Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion, Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK; e-mail: t.r.byerly @ sheffield.ac.uk. Meghan Byerly is a PhD candidate, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK; e-mail: Meghan_lindsey @ alumni.baylor.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12545

Praying Together: Corporate Prayer and Shared Situations by Joshua Cockayne and Gideon Salter

In this article, we give much needed attention to the nature and value of corporate prayer by drawing together insights from theology, philosophy, and psychology. First, we explain what it is that distinguishes corporate from private prayer by drawing on the psychological literature on joint attention and the philosophical notion of shared situations. We suggest that what is central to corporate prayer is a “sense of sharedness,” which can be established through a variety of means—through bodily interactions or through certain environments. Second, we argue that corporate prayer, when understood as a kind of shared situation, enables common knowledge, as well as a kind of alignment between participants. Through this process, participants’ attention is focused on the same target and affiliation between participants increases. Thus, we suggest, one benefit of understanding corporate prayer as a shared situation is that it establishes and deepens a sense of community in such a way that common purposes and goals can be enacted more effectively.
practice • prayer • psychology of religion
Joshua Cockayne is Lecturer in Analytic and Exegetical Theology, Logos Institute, School of Divinity, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, UK; e-mail: jlc22 @ st-andrews.ac.uk. Gideon Salter is a PhD student, School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, UK; e-mail: gs213 @ st-andrews.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12543

Drug-Enabled Mystical Experiences

Applied Mysticism: A Drug-Enabled Visionary Experience against Moral Blindness by Virginia Ballesteros

Intellectuals such as William James and Aldous Huxley have thought it possible to develop a technique to apply to this world the mystical-type insights gained during drug-enabled experiences. Particularly, Huxley claimed that the visionary experience triggered by psychedelics could help us rethink our relationship with technology and promote a much-needed cultural change. In this article, we explore this hypothesis. To do so, we build a philosophical framework based on Günther Anders’s philosophy of technique, presenting human beings as morally blind when facing technological development. Mystical experiences are then proposed as a means to improve our moral faculties—and psychedelic drugs as tools to enable them. We finally explore the empirical feasibility of such a hypothesis by thoroughly reviewing the recent scientific literature on the nature of the psychedelic experience, concluding that the long-term effects in the personality domain openness and in nature relatedness point to the emergence of a morally improved agent, thus providing substance to an application of mysticism.
Günther Anders • imagination • morality • mysticism • psychedelics • technology
Virginia Ballesteros is Predoctoral Researcher, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain; e-mail: virginia.ballesteros @ uv.es.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12544

Limitations on the Scientific Study of Drug-Enabled Mystical Experiences by Richard H. Jones

Scientific interest in drug-induced mystical experiences reemerged in the 1990s. This warrants reexamining the philosophical issues surrounding such studies: Do psychedelic drugs cause mystical experiences? Are drug-induced experiences the same in nature as other mystical experiences? Does the fact that mystical experiences can be induced by drugs invalidate or validate mystical cognitive claims? Those questions will be examined here. An overview of the scientific examination of drug-induced mystical experiences is included, as is a brief overview of the history of the use of psychedelic drugs in religion.
attribution theory • consciousness • entheogens • mystical experience • mysticism • neuroscience • psychedelics • scientific study of mystical experiences • Huston Smith
Richard H. Jones is a retired attorney in New York City. He holds a PhD in Philosophy and History of Religions and has published numerous books and articles on mysticism over the past four decades. He may be contacted at rhjones2488 @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12546

The Boyle Lecture 2019

Science, Religion, and Ethics: The Boyle Lecture 2019 by Michael J. Reiss

How do we and should we decide what is morally right and what is morally wrong? For much of human history, the teachings of religion were presumed to provide either the answer, or much of the answer. Over time, two developments challenged this. The first was the establishment of the discipline of moral philosophy. Foundational texts, such as Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, and the growth of coherent, nonreligious approaches to ethics, notably utilitarianism, served to marginalize the role of religion. And then, second, the twentieth century saw the rapid growth of evolutionary biology with an enthusiastic presumption that biology was the source of ethics. Here, I begin by discussing these developments and then examine the extent to which religion is still needed for a coherent account of ethics.
ethics • evolutionary ethics • morality • virtue theory
Michael J. Reiss is Professor of Science Education at University College London Institute of Education, London, UK and President of the International Society for Science and Religion; e-mail: m.reiss @ ucl.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12549

Science, Religion, and Ethics: A Response to Michael J. Reiss by Janet Martin Soskice

Janet Martin Soskice
Creator/creature • ethics • gift • moral formation • scripture • way of life
Janet Martin Soskice is Professor of Philosophical Theology, Jesus College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK; e-mail: J.Soskice @ jesus.cam.ac.uk
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12547


Re-Engineering Humanity by Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger reviewed by Lluís Oviedo

Lluís Oviedo; Antonianum University, Rome, Italy; loviedo @ antonianum.eu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12538

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts