Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

March 2011 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 46, no. 1 (March 2011).]
© 2011 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01155.x

open PDF version

Classifications in Context

Conflict, Independence, Dialogue, and Integration: these four categories were proposed by Ian Barbour to describe the field of “religion and science.” These categories are not just descriptive. Barbour clearly dislikes the conflict mode. Independence is slightly better, as it avoids conflicts, but is inadequate given that our lives do not play out in “separate compartments” and the biblical conviction that “God is Lord of our lives and of nature” (Barbour 1990, 16). Thus, dialogue and integration are the way forward. Barbour’s scheme has widely been used, in academic teaching and public outreach, to plead for a theology in constructive engagement with the sciences. It has also been challenged as being historically not fully adequate (e.g., Cantor and Kenny 2001, response Barbour 2002). Alternatives have been formulated by Mikael Stenmark (2004) and others. Barbour’s categories are easy to use in teaching and public communication, especially when the audience assumes conflict as the default position. As I see it, the fit is good when secularization is assumed as the context for “religion and science.” The scheme presents three possible responses to mitigate the forced choice suggested by the conflict position (Drees 2010, 3-6). If the persistence of superstition, pseudo-science, and pseudo-religion would have been the context, there might have been more appreciation for those who stress conflictual dimensions.

The classification tends to treat religion as a single whole. However, appeals to science play a dynamic role within religions, legitimizing one religious party rather than others (Drees 2005). In this issue of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, historian of science Richard Olson provides a promising model for analyzing interactions between religious and scientific claims. In his “interacting subcultures model” he gives a central place to conflicts—but then, not as a conflict between science and religion as wholes, but as conflicts between specific subcultures. His model is supplemented with another article by David J. Zehnder, who considers classifications, taking his point of departure in theology.

Each article in this journal is someone’s article. The author is responsible for the ideas presented. However, are they just individuals? Individualism is a multifaceted notion, perhaps all the way from biology (e.g., Dawkins’s Selfish Gene) to psychology and moral philosophy, as recently challenged by Mary Midgley (2010). In this issue, the papers in the section “The Mythic Reality of the Autonomous Individual” address the useful myths of individualism and autonomy in relation to human development, neurology, and psychology, but also in relation to political philosophy.

The issue opens with another reflection on psychology, especially the notion of flow, by Valérie De Prycker. In her article “Unself-conscious Control,” she considers notions from Daoism such as wu-wei in relation to psychological notions about control and consciousness. The second article by James A.T. Lancaster draws upon philosophy of science, and especially the difference between structural and semantic conceptions of science, to analyze evolutionary biology, arguing that this provides another argument against intelligent design. This complements nicely two earlier articles on the attractiveness of the design metaphor (Recker 2010; De Cruz and De Smedt 2010). David Leech and Aku Visala discuss the implications for theism from the cognitive science of religion; a topic discussed recently also in this journal by Greg Peterson (2010)—a discussion to which we will return in this journal.

Willem B. Drees


Barbour, Ian G. 1990. Religion in an Age of Science. (The Gifford Lectures 1989-1991, Volume 1). New York: Harper & Row.

———. 2002. “On Typologies for Relating Science and Religion.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:345-59.

Cantor, Geoffrey, and Chris Kenny. 2001. “Barbour’s Fourfold Way: Problems with his Taxonomy of Science-Religion Relationships.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 36:765-81.

De Cruz, Helen, and Johan De Smedt. 2010. “Paley’s iPod: The Cognitive Basis of the Design Argument within Natural Theology.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 45:665-84.

Drees, Willem B. 2005. “‘Religion’ and ‘Science’ as Advocacy of Science and as Religion versus Religion.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40:545-53.

———. 2010. Religion and Science in Context: A Guide to the Debates. London: Routledge.

Midgley, Mary. 2010. The Solitary Self: Darwin and the Selfish Gene. Durham: Acumen.

Peterson, Gregory R. 2010. “Are Evolutionary/Cognitive Theories of Religion Relevant for Philosophy of Religion?” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 45:545-57.

Recker, Doren. 2010. “How to Confuse Organisms with Mousetraps: Machine Metaphors and Intelligent Design.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 45:647-64.

Stenmark, Mikael. 2004. How to Relate Science and Religion: A Multidimensional Model. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts