Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

March 2017 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 52, no. 1 (March 2017).]
© 2017 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12329

open PDF version

Green Open Access for Interesting Contributions

by Willem B. Drees

In 2015, one of my editorials was about “Publishing in a Changing World” (Drees 2015). Below more on the trend toward open access. Our current copyright contracts allow for “Green” open access, an easy and attractive option. We have many interesting articles to offer, also in this issue—as you will see in the latter part of this editorial.

Open Access—Zygon Is Green and Hybrid

Authors like to have their articles read. Readers nowadays expect information to be accessible freely. So too for academics. For those working within institutions with well-supplied digital libraries, this is the case. However, scholarly articles are not so easily accessible to those outside of the academic world.

Why not make publications free, with “Gold” open access? Many authors receive their salaries from universities; for them, this would not change anything. However, there is labor involved, not just of authors but also of others. Some do this without remuneration, such as the reviewers who evaluate manuscripts and thus help us maintain standards for the field, and your editor, who receives academic recognition for his service. But others, in copyediting, production, setting up websites, and marketing, do this for a living; they deserve their salaries as well as our gratitude.

Gold open access for all publications seems ideal. However, in reality, open access might mean “author pays.” That may be fine when one’s institution covers the expenses, or when one can draw upon a research grant. However, in the humanities there are fewer such resources. Besides, we also publish work of independent scholars and of scientists who contribute their reflections in conversations outside their own research community. The “author processing charges” (APCs) that thus arise keep individuals from offering their publications in open access.

In the Netherlands, where I am based, the government is pushing for open access. The Dutch universities, collectively, have made arrangements with publishers, so-called “big deals.” Basically, the publishers continue to receive from the Dutch academic libraries what those publishers used to receive for licenses and subscriptions. This lump sum now also covers the author processing charge for contributions submitted by academics based at Dutch universities. The net result is that the financial situation for publisher and university does not change, but the article is no longer behind a pay wall. We may hope for more arrangements that make Gold open access a genuine possibility, at least, for those employed at the institutions involved.

“Hybrid” is the current situation: some articles will be open access, for an APC or in the context of such a “big deal,” while most will be under the old regime, based on subscriptions, individually (realized most cheaply by becoming a member of IRAS) or through a library.

“Green” open access is already a possibility for all articles published in Zygon. Authors may deposit their own version as submitted (before the final copyediting and layout has been done) in a repository of the university or on a personal website, but not on a commercial site, nor sites such as academia.edu. The author should add a link to the version as published (the version of reference) once this has been published. Making the penultimate version freely accessible is called Green open access.

A disadvantage is that there will be two slightly different versions “out there”—the official version as copyedited and published, and the penultimate version that does not have the official layout nor the benefits from the final round of copyediting. This makes it harder to trace usage, which is a loss to librarians and others to assess the significance of articles and journals.

The standard copyright agreement for articles in Zygon does allow for “Green open access” of the penultimate version for all articles, while those articles published “Gold” open access are freely available in their final version. Thus, our authors have two ways to share their knowledge and wisdom with others around the world, beyond sending out copies of the published version as pdf, to individual colleagues. Technology changes the world, including the world of academic scholarship and publishing. For now, for all our fascinating articles, we can do with hybrid and green open access.

Genuine Science?

How has science been used to legitimize various practices? Alexandra Prince informs us on the Oneida Community, which in the nineteenth century sought to live according to Christian communitarian ideals. As they aimed for perfection, science was a most important inspiration. They practiced for some time a eugenic variety of “planned parenthood” (stirpiculture). I found it fascinating to learn about this community and the way science served the power of the leadership, but also came to challenge it.

Ismael Apud discusses the history of science and spirituality for another fascinating case, the study of Ayahuasca, a psychoactive brew associated with the Santo Daime cult in Brazil, and “alternative states of consciousness.” Apud discusses extensively developments in Spain in the 1990s, and in consequence the complexities of migration and assimilation of cultural practices. This article further develops a topic considered in Zygon a few years ago in a thematic section on the religious relevance of entheogens (“God”-inducing substances; see Barnard 2014; Cole-Turner 2014; Hummel 2014; Richards 2014).

Ankur Barua discusses “science” in the context of discourse on “Eastern religions,” again, a rich analysis of the diversity of metaphysical orientations that people bring with them, framing how they understand science, its deliveries and limitations. In March 2016, Zygon dedicated a whole issue to East Asian Voices on Science and the Humanities, with contributions, among others, on Confucianism (Chen 2016; Hsu 2016), Shintoism (Kamata 2016), and Japanese Christianity such as developed by Toyohiko Kagawa (Hastings 2016; Hisakazu 2016; Kim 2016). South Asia, with a particular emphasis on Hinduism, was the focus of earlier contributions (Brown 2012; Edelman 2012; Ellis 2012; Gosling 2012; Raman 2012; Balslev 2015).

Stefano Bigliardi considers the way some Muslims in recent decades have sought to find modern science in the Qur’an, a process of interpretation called i‘jāz. In doing so, they appropriate the authority of science, in its modern form as shaped in the West, for the Qur’an, which articulated scientific insights long before these were discovered—a miracle that testifies to its revealed, divine origin. Where it does not seem to fit, the evidence of a fit must have been suppressed. Thus, Bigliardo sees parallels with other forms of “pseudo-science” and “conspiracy theories.”

E. Allen Jones III discusses science fiction, the reception of science that intentionally grants imagination a major role. Such literature and films are brought in a conversation with one of the classic texts of the Hebrew Bible, the book of Job. Though fiction, and acknowledged as such, such literature offers important reflections on the human condition and the way we deal with knowledge. Robots are created—but once created, they become creatures that have an independent status—as others, whether as adversaries or more positively. If they are created creatures, so are we. It reminds me of a fascinating book by Sven Wagner, The Scientist as God: A Typological Study of a Literary Motif, 1818 to the Present, reviewed in Zygon by John Hedley Brooke (2013).

Personal Voices

Astronomer Arnold O. Benz offers his perspective on the coexistence of the scientific study of the universe and a personally engaging one, as we are participants in the universe—a relationship that may be expressed in poetry. He understands the personal involvement itself also in scientific terms, drawing on embodied cognitive science.

Whitley Kaufman speaks of “poetic naturalism,” a label he takes from the physicist Sean Carroll, who argues that there is no objective standing of moral and aesthetic judgments. Upon such a constructivist view, the personal seems to overcome all expectations about universality and objectivity. Kaufman argues that this need not be the conclusion from arguments about the constructed, “higher level,” character of such values.

Doren Recker offers a balanced view on the compatibility of faith and science, and thus of multiple areas of human concern. Crucial in his analysis is that faith is not to be identified with belief—an attitude or orientation and assent to propositional claims. Once the distinction is made, he continues with a careful consideration of the way beliefs may be involved in faith—distinguishing is not isolating the two domains.

Who Could Be against Empathy?

Empathy sounds positive, but it may be unfair—an emotional bias, favoring those near over those further removed, as argued by Paul Bloom (2014). This debate informs the contributions by Gregory R. Peterson and Celia Deane-Drummond. Peterson, considering various experiments, argues that empathy “is modifiable by intentional intervention,” and thus can also be modified in such a way that it serves rather than hinders impartial morality. Rational reflection is not overpowered. Similarly, Deane Drummond argues that empathy and compassion are distinct, but work together in the moral life, if channeled by reasoned judgment, wisdom, and charity—thus involving virtues as articulated by Thomas Aquinas.

Other Articles

Petteri Nieminen, Maarten Boudry, Esko Ryökäs, and Anne-Mari Mustonen argue against Alvin Plantinga’s argument against an evolutionary understanding of reality. Plantinga contends that evolution is supposed to select for survival value, adaptive usefulness, but not for truth. Thus, he concludes, upon an evolutionary view we would have no reason to trust our senses and our science to deliver true insight. With a theistic view, in contrast, this would be expected, as God would have endowed us with the capacities to acquire insight in truth. The authors analyze this argument, and in particular the optimism about the theistic alternative, and find it wanting. Thus, both naturalists and theists have to face skepticism, but, drawing on science, the naturalist has more resources to overcome such doubt.

Konrad Szocik discusses evolutionary explanations of religion. Has it emerged because of adaptive value, or should it rather be seen as a byproduct that emerged because of the adapative value of some related features? Szocik reviews the discussion and argues for the adaptationist view; religious beliefs may have been necessary for the formation and survival of large groups of our ancestors.

Mariam al-Attar does not speak of “religion” in general, but of a particular one, Islam. As do other religions, Islam places restrictions on the food that may be consumed. How should such restrictions be understood when the production of food changes? Is genetically modified food haram, forbidden? Major organizations of Muslims have argued that in principle GMOs may be halal, permitted. Such thinkers do not follow the implicit ideology of “naturalness” that fuels so much resistance against GMOs. Others have argued against GMOs, partially because of the economic interests involved. This article provides insight in a particular debate, but thereby considers the interplay of universal and particular considerations in moral discourse—an issue one finds also in other Islamic voices on technology (Nasiri, Azkia, and Mahdavi 2016), bioethics (Ghaly 2013), and medical ethics (Haneef and Majid 2015).

This issue of Zygon concludes with reviews of a few recent books. These are also of interest, but the preceding articles may well be enough to keep readers busy first.

Willem B. Drees


Balslev, Anindita Niyogi. 2015. “‘Science-Religion Samvada’ and the Indian Cultural Heritage.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 50: 877-92.

Barnard, G. William. 2014. “Entheogens in a Religious Context: The Case of the Santo Daime Religious Tradition.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 49: 666-84.

Bloom, Paul. 2014. “Against Empathy.” The Boston Review, September. Available at http://bostonreview.net/forum/paul-bloom-against-empathy

Brooke, John Hedley. 2013. “Review of Sven Wagner, The Scientist as God: A Typological Study of a Literary Motif.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 48: 236-38.

Brown, C. Mackenzie. 2012. “Conciliation, Conflict, or Complementarity: Responses to Three Voices in the Hinduism and Science Discourse.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47: 608-23.

Chen, Na. 2016. “Why Is Confucianism Not a Religion? The Impact of Orientalism.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 51: 21-42.

Cole-Turner, Ron. 2014. “Entheogens, Mysticism, and Neuroscience.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 49: 642-51.

Drees, Willem B. 2015. “Publishing in a Changing World.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 50: 559-68.

Edelmann, Jonathan B. 2012. “The Role of Hindu Theology in the Religion and Science Dialogue.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47: 624-42.

Ellis, Thomas B. 2012. “Growing Up Amid the Religion and Science Affair: A Perspective from Indology.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47: 589-607.

Ghaly, Mohammed. 2013. “Islamic Bioethics in the Twenty-First Century.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 48: 592-99.

Gosling, David L. 2012. “Science and the Hindu Tradition: Compatibility or Conflict?” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47: 575-88.

Haneef, Sayed Sikander Shah, and Mahmood Zuhdi Haji Abd Majid. 2015. “Medical Management of Infant Intersex: The Juridico-Ethical Dilemma of Contemporary Islamic Legal Discourse.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 50: 809-29.

Hastings, Thomas John. 2016. “Kagawa Toyohiko (1888-1960):Witness to the Cosmic Drama.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 51: 128-44.

Hsu, Kuang-Tai. 2016. “Science and Confucianism in Retrospect and Prospect.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 51: 86-99.

Hisakazu, Inagaki. 2016. “Kagawa’s Cosmic Purpose and Modernization in Japan.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 51: 145-60.

Hummel, Leonard. 2014. “By Its Fruits? Mystical and Visionary States of Consciousness Occasioned by Entheogens.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 49: 685-95.

Kamata, Toji. 2016. “Shinto Research and the Humanities in Japan.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 51: 43-62.

Kim, Seung Chul. 2016. “Religion and Science in Dialogue: An Asian Christian View.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 51: 63-70.

Nasiri, Mahdi, Mostafa Azkia, and Seyyed Mohammed Sadegh Mahdavi. 2016. “Technology and Muslims: A Field Study of Iranian Scholars.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 51: 883-903.

Raman, Varadaraja V. 2012. “Hinduism and Science: Some Reflections.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47: 549-74.

Richards, William A. 2014. “Here and Now: Discovering the Sacred with Entheogens.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 49: 652-65.

Wagner, Sven. 2012. The Scientist as God: A Typological Study of a Literary Motif, 1818 to the Present. Heidelberg, Germany: Universitätsverlag Winter.

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts