Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

June 1975 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 10, no. 2 (June 1975).]
© 1975 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1975.tb00539.x

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Readers of Zygon are accustomed to finding on these pages essays which make use of physics, biology, and the social sciences to address various issues pertaining to the relation of science and religion. The articles in this issue do not depart from this tradition. Yet they do deal with topics often thought to be under the jurisdiction of the humanities. The following articles address the subject of what it means to be human and a person. The dialogue between science and religion sometimes misses this level of concreteness and intimacy. Yet, if these articles are a trustworthy guide, this need not be the case.

The common feature of these articles is the goal of stating the meaning of the human in a fashion which is compatible with some commanding scientific framework. These articles go beyond speaking about genes, natural selection, free variation, and DNA and speak of such topics as freedom, individuality, community, purpose, intention, and effort. Can these two worlds of meaning and significance be brought together—the scientific world which attempts to discern the predictable regularities undergirding human nature and the humanistic world which speaks of man’s self-transcending capacities such as his freedom, interpersonal communion, creativity, and self-sacrifice? Must the sciences of man continue to relinquish inquiry into these latter more ethereal dimensions of human nature to the historians, literary critics, theologians, and philosophers?

It in no way detracts from the importance of scholarly studies in the humanities to proffer the hope that science can make contributions to the clarification of these issues. As this happens, different styles will emerge. There will be the tough-minded behaviorists with their philosophy of rigorous determinism. But we must agree with John Wagenaar in giving credit to an investigator such as B. F. Skinner who at least is willing to venture an interpretation of such concepts as purpose, intentionality, freedom, culture, and religion from the perspective of his principles of operant conditioning. A more complex point of view on these issues emerges in the essay by Ralph L. Underwood on another behavioral scientist, Abraham H. Maslow. The attentive reader will find interesting similarities between Maslow and William James and their respective philosophies of the person and the human. Yet James is probably closer to Michael Polanyi in the concern to approach the philosophy of the human through the perspective of personal consciousness. Neither neglects the objective perspective of science, but both take the first, although certainly not the last, step into their philosophies of the human through the doorway of personal consciousness. Paul F. Wilczak’s article has the additional feature of demonstrating the practical payoff of Polanyi’s contributions for a concrete discipline such as family therapy.

I am pleased to conclude this issue with part 2 of John Miles’s review of the writings of Arthur Koestler. Throughout a lifetime of imaginative inquiry, Koestler has sought for a philosophy of the human—one which would be consistent with the best that science has to teach us and yet one which feels right to the sensibilities of the creative artist. This is clearly a goal congenial to most of the thinkers reviewed in the pages that follow.

D. B.

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