Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

March 1972 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 7, no. 1 (March 1972).]
© 1972 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1972.tb00193.x

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With this issue of Zygon, the journal is in its seventh year. The first seven years may be called the seven good years of plenty or the seven lean years of drought, depending on our perspective. In this editorial and in the republished review of Zygon by an outsider, we shall contemplate and evaluate the first seven years. Then here and in the papers we shall be responding to elements of the review.

The first seven years have been good, if we measure them by the rich contributions of many significant papers and by the generous support of members and friends of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) and of Meadville Theological School of Lombard College—the two institutions which in 1965 undertook jointly to publish Zygon.

In recognizing the contributions of IRAS, Mr. Fowler McCormick, a Chicago man, should be known to readers of Zygon because through this quiet, unostentatious person has come great encouragement, support, and wisdom for this journal. He is the only individual I shall name here because he is not otherwise listed or known as related to Zygon. He is a man who in one life has combined the role of being president and chairman of the board of the International Harvester Company, and also of being a keen student of man. He was a pupil and close, life-long friend of the great Swiss psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung. Fowler McCormick is one who shares Jung’s sensitivity to the marvels, mysteries, and needs of human life. Six years ago, by chance he picked up an early issue of Zygon from a friend when visiting at the home of an IRAS officer. On examining it he immediately commented upon the importance of this effort to join scientific illumination with religious wisdom. Readers of Zygon are indebted to him both for his personal encouragement and advice to the editor and for his generous contributions to the Zygon Fund of IRAS. Thus he symbolizes our debt to many members of IRAS who have given wisdom to the editor as well as money to its Zygon Fund, whose total contributions and pledges thus far have provided some forty of the fifty thousand dollars for the subsidy for manufacturing and distribution that has been necessary for the life of the journal.

We have also been generously supported by the administration and trustees of the Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago, who have contributed to Zygon its editor, editorial assistants, and office space as well as some ten thousand dollars of the subsidy for manufacturing the journal. The administration and the trustees of this small school must be credited with the inauguration in 1964 of a bold program in its Center for Advanced Study in Theology and the Sciences (CASTS)—of which Zygon was a part. CASTS may be said to have been a theological school’s equivalent to a “research and development program,” which would, hopefully, sooner or later provide “spin-off” of significance for theology and the education of ministers of religion. In a time when many theologians, clergymen, and students for the ministry, if they saw any implications at all for theology from the sciences, saw them primarily as a threat, the administration and trustees of this school were remarkable in their generous allocation of resources to this admittedly exploratory program. This allocation, based on the conviction that a theological school should examine the potential fruitfulness of this inquiry, made possible the Center and helped bring Zygon into being.

We have also been blessed with the cooperation of the Journals Department of the University of Chicago Press, whose editorial, production, and business members have cooperated with the editorial office of IRAS and CASTS to produce and distribute this journal. The pages of Zygon also reveal the concern and wisdom of many editorial advisors and helpers, many of them not directly connected with either CASTS or IRAS, who over these seven years have helped to make Zygon what it is.

Zygon also has been nourished by some 180 authors whose papers have made the journal a rich resource for those who would understand some of the potentials of the sciences for religion. These authors have been distributed fairly evenly between the scientists on one side and theologians, philosophers, and other humanities scholars on the other side. The scientists have included nearly equal representation from the three main divisions: physical, biological, and psychosocial. The authors have provided some “of the most fundamental and exciting issues which confront our cultural life today,” as Patrick Milburn says in his review in Main Currents in Modern Thought of the first five volumes of Zygon. Milburn’s review is reprinted in this issue of Zygon. I hope readers will find his evaluation of significance and that some of them will respond to the editor with their own critical evaluations and suggestions for the future of Zygon.

The first seven years of Zygon may be considered to be seven lean years in several respects. They are years of drought and starvation in that our subscription income has failed to support even our manufacturing and distribution costs. This lack of funds has prevented us from as yet publishing many excellent papers that have been received by the editor. We need to double the number of individuals and libraries who have been purchasing Zygon, ranging between some fifteen hundred and two thousand. Yet the mailing list is not a bleak picture, since in spite of its small size, it contains a distinguished roll of scientists, philosophers, theologians, clergymen, and men of the world in all continents of the world and in all fifty of the United States. We need help in finding more such people who are ready to wrestle with the difficult problems of attempting to unify our religious understanding with contemporary scientific knowledge so that religion can be more effective in its salvatory function in an age of science. The first seven years have also been lean in that we have not yet adequately succeeded in fulfilling our aim to provide a genuine unification, yoking, or zygon of religion and science.

I wish to respond briefly in this editorial and still further in this issue of Zygon to Patrick Milburn’s evaluations and recommendations.

Milburn says that “the journal has included many excellent essays by notable scholars, … In spite of this, no clear background against which to view man and his values within the realms of nature has yet emerged. … Out of a great toleration, no position has yet emerged which correlates the natural and social sciences with an effective ethics grounded in a renewed theology. … Some of the essays seem to suggest great possibilities for a creative new theology that could take into account current epistemological and ethical questions, and relate these to fertile elements in the Judaeo-Christian heritage. It is in the few instances where this has been done that the greatest hope seems to lie.” I share much of Milburn’s view, and I know many others do also.

I want to forestall one possible misunderstanding that might arise from Milburn’s use of the term “Judaeo-Christian” in the above quotation. My own opinion is that eventually we can and must go beyond the Judaeo-Christian to the wider heritages of mankind. I believe that the sciences provide us with the possibility, sooner or later, of finding a more universal understanding of the common values and functions of all religions. But, of course, a journal in the English language is likely to find its first and predominant focus in the Judaeo-Christian religious tradition, and I concur with Milburn that our greatest hope and opportunity lie in the development of a “creative new theology” that relates simultaneously to the wisdom in traditional religion and the new scientific world view.

To provide more of this element which Milburn is commending, a number of advisors have urged the editor to publish more of his own papers. While in the first five volumes that his review covers, I published only three of my major papers, beginning about a year ago I have put into Zygon several of my papers, hoping thereby to show how the various sciences may be seen to relate to one another and to traditional theology in a coherent or unified view of human destiny.

I hope that readers who are familiar with the new understanding of the nature of man’s evolution and development in terms of sociocultural and psychological as well as biological phenomena as elements in a single dynamic system will evaluate “Natural Selection and God” in this issue as a potentially unifying theory of man and his values that derives simultaneously from the contexts of physics, biology, psychology, and the social sciences, and coheres with basic and long-established elements of theology. Some may recognize it as a kind of systems analysis or system dynamics, names currently given to various attempts at analysis of any more or less coherent system whose phenomena may transcend the limits of any single discipline of human knowing.

We open this issue of Zygon with two papers representing the recognition in the theological community of the need and possibility for Milburn’s “creative new theology that could take into account current epistemological and ethical questions, and relate these to fertile elements in the Judaeo-Christian heritage.” The first is by the distinguished young German theologian, Wolfhart Pannenberg, who is showing that theological notions of God must and may be related to the contemporary sciences. The second is by a not-yet-known younger American clergyman who is wrestling with this same problem and who sees how the ways of knowing in the sciences are not really so different from those of theology and therefore that one can conclude it is no longer necessary for our culture to maintain the increasingly dangerous gulf separating man’s understanding of his destiny and duty from his understanding of the reality of the nature of himself and his world. In my own paper, I try to go more deeply and broadly into an attempt to show how a complex of modern scientific theory allows one to see that its account of some of the primary characteristics of the determiner of human destiny are indeed quite close to the characteristics of traditional Judaeo-Christian and biblical views.

I hope that these and many future papers in Zygon will even more adequately respond to Milburn’s call for “the unifying concepts which allow us to order any domain of experienced reality” and also “to expose or evoke the symbolic unities, as well as the conceptual principles, which give meaning to human life.”

R. W. B.



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