Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

March 2000 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 35, no. 1 (March 2000).]
© 2000 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2000.00254.x

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Our first issue in this millennial year makes a number of important statements about the journal and about the field of religion-and-science in which we are rooted. Perhaps the first feature that will strike the reader is the size of this issue; in this year, we will publish 1,000 pages. Quantity in itself is no virtue; the decision to go for larger issues this year is prompted by the amount of worthy material, on the one hand, and the fact that our goal of keeping readers in touch with the major developments in the field of religion-and-science demands space. Although we cannot claim to cover all of the worthy efforts in our field, we do intend to present a comprehensive view of things, and this issue does just that.

The content of this issue shows very clearly how Zygon functions both to inform and to promote a program. The person who reads this issue from cover to cover with understanding certainly qualifies as competent for the dialogue between religion and science, with knowledge that is comparable to what might be presented in several college courses in the field. The knowledge conveyed by the issue as a whole is by no means neutral in its impact or value-free. This is a programmatic journal, as stated in every issue’s boilerplate: “Zygon provides a forum for exploring ways to unite what in modern times has been disconnected—values from knowledge, goodness from truth, religion from science.” Our “hypothesis is that, when long-evolved religious wisdom is yoked with significant, recent scientific discoveries about the world and human nature, there results credible expression of basic meaning, values, and moral convictions that provides valid and effective guidance for enhancing human life.” Some articles, like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s, and this editor’s piece on Enlightenment, make that point explicit. Others, that have no conscious intention of pressing an agenda, nevertheless support the program in their content and conclusions.

This year will bring “think pieces” in each issue by biologist Ursula Goodenough and religious studies scholar Gregory Peterson. These are, in fact, intended as extended presentations of opinion that invite responses that can serve as think pieces in future issues. These two articles join several others that press agendas involving religion and science. Csikszentmihalyi offers an agenda for reformulating our mythic life with sophisticated evolutionary concepts; Helmut Reich’s agenda pertains to the concept of God that prevails in Western society.

Arthur Peacocke and David Pailin are concerned with fundamental reshaping of Christian theology, to which Vítor Westhelle responds, with an alternative agenda of his own. Philip Hefner’s introduction to these last-named three authors tries to put these particular agendas into historical perspective. This collection of articles also offers an alternative to the widespread reports in recent years that the Western Age of the Enlightenment is dead and of no significance in a postmodern age.

Two companion articles, each coauthored by Eugene d’Aquili and Andrew Newberg, extend our long-term exploration of the neurosciences to the realm of art and creativity. These are among the last writings of d’Aquili. His death in 1998 leaves this journal and its readers the poorer. We are grateful that Andrew Newberg continues as a prime contributor to our discussions.

Anna Case-Winters interprets the current attempts to renew arguments from design in support of the existence of God and purpose in the world. The December 1999 issue presented analyses of the design argument from a physicist’s and a philosopher’s perspective; Case-Winters brings a theological assessment to the same material.

Norbert Samuelson’s contribution to this issue is important both for historical and constructive reasons. It is another careful demonstration that the “warfare” image is inadequate for interpreting the historical relationships between religion and society in Western culture. Samuelson goes further than to debunk the common views, however, in proposing the image of “symbiosis” for relating religion and science. In this respect, he reveals that, he, too, is offering an agenda for the dialogue, one that is grounded in his Jewish heritage.

Physicist John Albright and theologian-biologist Charles Smith review basic knowledge that is essential for the projects that concern the Teachers’ File. Smith’s article, along with the expanded book review section, engages a broad range of the ever-increasing tide of publications that pertain to the interface of religion and science.

All of these offerings get us off to a rousing start as we segue into the new century. The term segue comes to us from the world of folk dancing. Not a bad image for what we are about as we pursue the Zygon agenda.

Philip Hefner

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts