Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
55 (2), June 2020

Table of Contents


Robotic AI, CRISPR, and Free Will by Arthur C. Petersen

If you read this soon after publication, we will still be finding ourselves in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. I would like to use this opportunity to thank all people involved in the production of this issue (authors, editorial staff, and Wiley production staff) for continuing to work on the issue and getting it published published, while being confronted with much changed and often very difficult circumstances. I do sincerely hope that the worst is already behind us, and that you are all well and able to engage in the science-and-religion discussion. Readers who were planning to attend the 2020 IRAS Conference on Naturalism—as Religion, within Religions, or without Religion? will be aware that it has been postponed until next year. Information about the new date and further details will naturally be published under the Announcements in future issues of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12589


The Animal Body Multiple: Science, Religion and the Invention of Halal Stunning by En-Chieh Chao

This article proposes a specific kind of ontological investigation in the field of science and religion. I argue that science and religion can create distinct practices that enact multiple realities, and thus they should be seen as more than different views of the same world. By analyzing the details of scientific experiments crucial for the invention of halal stunning, I demonstrate that religion and science are both permeable to the social, the biological, and to each other, and that seemingly incommensurable realities can co-occur in the body of an animal. Here, animals’ modes of existence are interdependent with the technologies being used, and with the web of interactions that they are drawn into. In the process of inventing halal stunning, it is not so much about the same animal body that is thought about differently as it is about animals spanning across multiple, physiological, realities as they are recruited into different webs of interactions to create a new slaughter method.
animal welfare • halal • ontological turn • religious slaughter • science and religion
En-Chieh Chao is Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan; e-mail: zolachao @ gmail.com; zolachao2@g-mail.nsysu.edu.tw.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12588

The Amazing Placenta: Evolution and Lifeline to Humanness by Graeme Finlay

The placenta arose during mammalian evolution, which is recent in evolutionary terms. Genetic changes underlying placental development remain identifiable by the new science of comparative genomics (approximately post-2000). Randomly arising features of genomes including endogenous retroviruses and transposable elements have provided structural genes and gene-regulatory motifs responsible for innovations in placental biology. Stochastic genetic events indeed contribute to new functionality. Theologically, random mutations are part of the strategy by which the divine purpose for humanity is attained. Placental function critically underlies human brain development, and suboptimal function, associated with environmental conditions and maternal distress, contributes to mental health deficits in the offspring. Many enter life with handicaps arising from contingent events in utero, mandating understanding, compassion, and socioemotional support, imperatives native to moral including biblical values. The extended period of development afforded by placentation enables prenatal parenting, with implications for sensitive and devoted parental commitment.
evolution • mutations • neurodevelopment • placenta • prenatal parenting • providence • purpose
Graeme Finlay is Senior Lecturer, Scientific Pathology, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand; e-mail: g.finlay @ auckland.ac.nz.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12590

Bemba Mystico-Relationality and The Possibility of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) Participation in Imago Dei by Chammah Judex Kaunda

This article interrogates the challenge artificial general intelligence (AGI) poses to religion and human societies, in general. More specifically, it seeks to respond to Singularity—when machines reach a level of intelligence that would put into question the privileged position humanity enjoys as imago Dei. Employing the Bemba notion of mystico-relationality in dialogue with the concepts of the created co-creator and Christ the Key, it argues for the possibility of AI participating in imago Dei. The findings show that imaging is a fluid, participatory activity that aims at likeness, but also social harmony. It also argues that God is the only original creator, humans are created creators, and that every aspect of visible existence, including AI, is inherently divine imaging. However, strong imaging is only attainable based on the only One and True Image—Christ, whose union of the material and the divine means that all creation can image, excluding nothing, even AI.
artificial intelligence • Bemba mystico-relationality • Christianity • Creator • Philip Hefner • image of God (imago Dei) • Kathryn Tanner • theology and science
Chammah Judex Kaunda is Assistant Professor, College of Theology/United Graduate School of Theology, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea; e-mail: ckaunda @ yonsei.ac.kr.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12598

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics: Contributions from the Science and Religion Forum

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics: Contributions from the Science and Religion Forum by Gillian K. Straine

The Science and Religion Forum (SRF) seeks to be the premier organization promoting the discussion between science and religion in the United Kingdom for academics, professionals, and interested lay people. Each year, the SRF holds a conference tackling a topical issue, and in 2019 focused on artificial intelligence and robotics. This article introduces the thematic section which is made up of three papers from that conference and provides a summary of the event.
artificial intelligence • robotics • Science and Religion Forum • theology
Revd. Gillian K. Straine is CEO of The Guild of Health and St. Raphael and Visiting Scholar at The Centre for Human Flourishing, Sarum College, Salisbury, UK; e-mail: director @ gohealth.org.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12596

Personhood and Creation in an Age of AI: Can We Say You to Artefacts? by Michael S. Burdett

This article explores the extent to which the I-You relation should be applied to domains other than the human and the divine focusing particularly on artifacts and technology. Drawing first on the work of Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel, and Martin Heidegger, I contend that the I-You tradition has maintained I-You relations with objects are possible even when these same figures level strong critiques of the I-It relation. I extend these discussions and argue that some kind of You-speaking for artifacts is needed to combat rampant consumption and reduction of the world to pure utility. But, I equally suggest that there are limitations to applying the I-You relation to artifacts precisely when doing so keeps us from having genuine relationships with other people as outlined by psychologist Sherry Turkle. Finally, I outline how this proposal impacts the doctrine of creation. In sum, it expands our intuitions of what is included in that doctrine creation.
Martin Buber • creation • Martin Heidegger • I and Thou • Gabriel Marcel • panpsychism • personalism • posthumanism • technology
Michael S. Burdett is Assistant Professor in Christian Theology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK; e-mail: michael.burdett @ nottingham.ox.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12595

The Artificialization of Mind and World by Mohammad Yaqub Chaudhary

The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) has led to renewed ambitions of developing artificial general intelligence. Alongside this has been a resurgence in the development of virtual and augmented reality (V/AR) technologies, which are viewed as disruptive technologies and the computing platforms of the future. V/AR effectively bring the digital world of machines, robots, and artificial agents to our senses while entailing the transposition of human activity and presence into the digital world of artificial agents and machine forms of intelligence. The intersection of humans and machines in this shared space brings humans and machines into ontological continuity as informational entities in a totalizing informational environment, which subsumes both cyber and physical space in an artificially constructed virtual world. The reconstruction of mind (through AI) and world (through V/AR) thus has significant epistemological, ontological, and anthropological implications, which constitute the underlying features in the artificialization of mind and world.
anthropology • artificial intelligence • epistemology • metaphysics • mind • neuroscience • ontology • worldview
Mohammad Yaqub Chaudhary is Research Fellow at Cambridge Muslim College, Cambridge, UK; e-mail: yc @ cambridgemuslimcollege.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12597

Encounters with Emergent Deities: Artificial Intelligence in Science Fiction Narrative by David Hipple

In the mid-twentieth century, theorists began seriously forecasting possibilities for artificial intelligence (AI). As related research gathered momentum and resources, the topic made impressions on public discourse. One effect was increasingly pointed emphasis on AI in popular narratives. Although considerably earlier thematic examples may be located, we can observe swelling and generally pessimistic threads of speculation in science fiction of the 1950s and 1960s. This discussion identifies some pertinent science fiction texts from that period, alongside public discussion arising from contemporary research. One consistent theme is human receptiveness to the numinous, and the capacity to ascribe personality and even divinity to sufficiently impressive manifestations, even artificial ones. Science fiction has long contemplated such reactions, prefiguring today’s anticipations of AIs that might abruptly develop themselves beyond any possible human comprehension or control. This body of exploratory projections is a useful resource for the engineers and philosophers currently grappling with realistic prospects for Western humanity’s shifting conception of itself.
artificial intelligence • Babylon 5ColossusThe Forbin Project • numinous • science fiction • Singularity • Star Trek • J. M. Straczynski • Darko Suvin • Vernor Vinge
David Hipple is a freelance researcher and author, with a Ph.D. earned studying fantastic narratives. He resides in Milton Keynes, UK, and is the proprietor of exoticnarratives.com and magicspacetime.com; e-mail: davidhipple.research @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12602

The CRISPR Apple on the Tree of Knowledge

The CRISPR Apple on the Tree of Knowledge Conference Highlights: CRISPR in Science, Ethics, and Religion by Arvin M. Gouw

The Institute on Religion in the Age of Science (IRAS) asked Ted Peters, an eminent theologian and bioethicist who was at the forefront of the cloning and stem cell debates in the past few decades, and myself, a molecular biologist, to invite scholars from various fields to brainstorm the religious and ethical implications of the CRISPR revolution. We invited keynote speakers, whose talks will be covered here, as well as other speakers and poster presentations. The conference also hosted question and answer sessions, chaplain sessions, and discussions throughout the week at the beautiful Star Island in the summer of 2019. The purpose of this paper is to highlight and sample the discussions and presentations from that conference. I will organize them into three broad topics: CRISPR in science, ethics, and religion. For readers unfamiliar with CRISPR technology, this overview can also serve as an introduction to the field, and a stepping stone for future ideas for CRISPR discussions.
biotechnology • bioethics • CRISPR • genetics
Arvin M. Gouw is a faculty affiliate at Harvard Divinity School’s Center for Science, Religion, and Culture and an instructor in the Oncology Division of Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA; e-mail: arvgouw @ stanford.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12591

Introducing the Brave New CRISPR World by Arvin M. Gouw

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) has been the buzzword for genome editing in the past few years, especially with the birth of Lulu and Nana, twin girls who were genetically edited using the CRISPR/Cas system. To discuss this, a group of scientists, theologians, and ethicists gathered at the 2019 Institute on Religion in the Age of Science (IRAS) conference to discuss the implications of CRISPR gene editing. It became quickly apparent through our discussions that this CRISPR revolution will impact not only human medicine, but any application that involves DNA in every organism from bacteria to plants and animals. Moreover, there are multiple stakeholders in this technology—not only the scientific community, but also the business, legal, and religious communities, to name a few. As a scientist myself, I am providing a brief overview of the scientific hopes and concerns about this powerful technology.
bioethics • CRISPR • genetics
Arvin M. Gouw is a faculty affiliate at Harvard Divinity School’s Center for Science, Religion, and Culture and an instructor in the Oncology Division of Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA; e-mail: arvgouw @ stanford.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12594

Moral Decisions About Human Germ-Line Modification by Roger R. Adams

Technologies for human germ-line modification may soon enable humanity to create new types of human beings. Decisions about use of this power entail an unprecedented combination of difficulties: the stakes are immense, the unknowns are daunting, and moral principles are called into question. Evolved morality is not a sure basis for these decisions, both because of its inherent imperfections and because genetic engineering could eventually change humans’ innate cognitive mechanisms. Nevertheless, consensus is needed on moral values relevant to germ-line modification. These values could be based on characteristics of human beings that would remain constant regardless of revised genomes.
CRISPR • evolution • genetics • morality • religion and science
Roger R. Adams is a Clinical Psychologist practicing in Guilford, CT, USA; e-mail: roger_adams @ comcast.net.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12592

Navigating the Future in a Sea of CRISPR Uncertainty by Constance M. Bertka

Humanity’s toolkit for altering the world we live in now includes CRISPR. Through an evolutionary process, bacteria acquired a way to protect themselves from an invading virus, making their immediate future more secure. In human hands, this powerful genome-editing tool offers the potential to impact, at a breathtaking rate, not only our own evolutionary future, but the future of other life on this planet. Ethical concerns about altering genomes are not new, but the birth of two CRISPR gene-edited babies last year created a renewed urgency around navigating the future and the lack of an agreed-upon map to guide us is distressing. The goal of this article is not to provide that map but to suggest two essential questions, drawn from the context of events surrounding CRISPR to date, that should guide its drafting—Who do we trust? and When is it time to act?—and to consider what Unitarian Universalism might contribute to answering those questions.
bioengineering • biomedicine • CRISPR • gene editing • germline
Constance M. Bertka is Co-chair of the Smithsonian Human Origins Program’s Broader Social Impacts Committee and the founder of Science & Society Resources LLC, a science education and communication consultancy in Potomac, MD, USA; e-mail: cbertka @ scienceandsocietyresources.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12593

CRISPR, CRISPR on My Mind by Linda Groff

Linda Groff is Director, Global Options and Evolutionary Futures Consulting, Playa del Rey, CA, USA; e-mail: evolvingworlds @ gmail.com. She wrote this poem during the 2019 IRAS Conference.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12585

Rick Repetti’s Buddhism, Meditation, and Free Will

Free Your Mind: Buddhism, Causality, and the Free Will Problem by Christian Coseru

The problem of free will is associated with a specific and significant kind of control over our actions, which is understood primarily in the sense that we have the freedom to do otherwise or the capacity for self-determination. Is Buddhism compatible with such a conception of free will? The aim of this article is to address three critical issues concerning the free will problem: (1) what role should accounts of physical and neurobiological processes play in discussions of free will? (2) Is a conception of mental autonomy grounded in practices of meditative cultivation compatible with the three cardinal Buddhist doctrines of momentariness, dependent arising, and no-self? (3) Are there enough resources in Buddhism, given its antisubstantialist metaphysics, to account for personal agency, self-control, and moral responsibility?
Buddhist ethics • causation • consciousness • conscious will • free will • meditation • moral responsibility
Christian Coseru is Lightsey Humanities Chair and Professor, Department of Philosophy, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA; email: coseruc @ cofc.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12586

Buddhism, Free Will, and Punishment: Taking Buddhist Ethics Seriously by Gregg D. Caruso

In recent decades, there has been growing interest among philosophers in what the various Buddhist traditions have said, can say, and should say, in response to the traditional problem of free will. This article investigates the relationship between Buddhist philosophy and the historical problem of freewill. It begins by critically examining Rick Repetti’s Buddhism, Meditation, and Free Will (2019), in which he argues for a conception of agentless agency and defends a view he calls Buddhist soft compatibilism. It then turns to a more wide-ranging discussion of Buddhism and free will—one that foregrounds Buddhist ethics and takes seriously what the various Buddhist traditions have said about desert, punishment, and the reactive attitudes of resentment, indignation, and moral anger. The article aims to show that, not only is Buddhism best conceived as endorsing a kind of free will skepticism, Buddhist ethics can provide a helpful guide to living without basic desert moral responsibility and free will.
Buddhism • ethics • free will • moral responsibility • punishment • reactive attitudes
Gregg D. Caruso is Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Corning and Honorary Professor of Philosophy at Macquarie University. He is also the Co-director of the Justice without Retribution Network at the University of Aberdeen; e-mail: gcaruso @ corning-cc.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12599

Ego-less Agency: Dharma-Responsiveness without Kantian Autonomy by David Cummiskey

My critical focus in this article is on Rick Repetti’s compatibilist conception of free will, and his apparent commitment to a Kantian conception of autonomy, which I argue is in direct conflict with the Buddhist doctrine of no-self. As an alternative, I defend a conception of ego-less agency that I believe better coheres with core Buddhist teachings. In the course of the argument, I discuss the competing conceptions of free agency and autonomy defended by Harry Frankfurt, John Martin Fischer, Christine Korsgaard, and David Velleman.
agency • autonomy • Buddhism • Christine Korsgaard • free will • Kantian • moral responsibility • no-self • Pudgalavadin • reason responsiveness
David Cummiskey is Professor of Philosophy, Bates College, Lewiston, ME, USA; e-mail: dcummisk @ bates.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12601

Mental Freedom and Freedom of the Loving Heart: Free Will and Buddhist Meditation by Karin L. Meyers

In Buddhism, Meditation and Free Will: A Theory of Mental Freedom, Rick Repetti explains how the dynamics of Buddhist meditation can result in a kind of metacognition and metavolitional control that exceeds what is required for free will and defeats the most powerful forms of free will skepticism. This article argues that although the Buddhist path requires and enhances the kind of mental and volitional control Repetti describes, the central dynamic of the path and meditation is better understood as a process of habituation. This not only involves the dis-identification from mental and emotional content that Repetti discusses—and is commonly emphasized in modern presentations of mindfulness or insight (vipassanā) meditation—but also a transformation of the heart that is effected through the complementary psychological and somatic qualities associated with calm abiding (samatha) and concentration (samādhi) and emphasized in the Pali Nikāyas and commentaries.
Buddhism • free will • meditation • self
Karin L. Meyers is an Independent Scholar living in Barre, MA, USA; e-mail: karin.L.meyers @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12603

A Defense of Buddhism, Meditation, and Free Will: A Theory of Mental Freedom by Rick Repetti

This is my response to the criticisms of Gregg Caruso, David Cummiskey, and Karin Meyers, in their roles as members of the Author Meets Critics panel devoted to my book, Buddhism, Meditation, and Free Will: A Theory of Mental Freedom at the 2019 annual meeting of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association, organized by Christian Coseru. Caruso’s main objection is that I am not sufficiently attentive to details of opposing arguments in Western philosophy, and Cummiskey’s and Meyers’ objections, similarly, are that I am insufficiently attentive to details of Buddhism. I argue that all such objections, however putatively correct, do not rise to the level of objections that actually undermine my account of mental freedom.
Buddhism • free will • meditation
Rick Repetti is Professor of Philosophy, CUNY/Kingsborough Community College, Brooklyn, NY, USA; e-mail: rick.repetti @ kbcc.cuny.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12600


Make Yourself Gods: Mormons and the Unfinished Business of American Secularism by Peter Coviello reviewed by Jerome Ravetz

Jerome Ravetz; Institute for Science, Innovation, and Society; University of Oxford; Oxford, UK; jerome.ravetz @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12587

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts