Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

September 1988 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 23, no. 3 (September 1988).]
© 1988 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1988.tb00629.x

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A major goal of Zygon is to represent a community of scientists and scholars, academics and professionals, experts in various disciplines and laypersons in those disciplines—all in dialogue with one another. The focus of this dialogue is to explore ways of responding to fundamental questions about life’s meaning and purpose, about the foundations of morality and motivation to do good, about the grounds for hope in the face of adversity. Zygon seeks to address such religious and moral questions in a manner that unites or yokes together as a team (zygon) the insights of religious and philosophical traditions, tested historically through centuries of human living, with knowledge from the contemporary sciences, tested according to the canons of modern rational-empirical research.

Even though one of Zygon’s objectives is to promote such dialogue, often actual dialogue in the journal itself has been lacking. Several issues have published papers with commentary and discussion in the past; probably the best example is the September 1976 issue in which Donald T. Campbell’s controversial 1975 presidential address to the American Psychological Association, “On the Conflicts between Biological and Social Evolution and between Psychology and Moral Tradition,” was discussed and evaluated in nine responses. However, the majority of issues of the journal have been devoted solely to articles and book reviews. No doubt this has prompted dialogue in the minds of the readers; nonetheless, with the exception of occasional commentaries, such dialogue has not become public.

One of my goals as editor has been to find ways to publish in Zygon the give and take of exchanges of ideas. This September 1988 issue of the journal breaks new ground in this respect. One half of it is devoted to an exchange of ideas of the Theology and Science Consultation at the American Academy of Religion in December 1987. There papers written in advance by Wesley Robbins, Wentzel van Huyssteen, and Philip Hefner were discussed by Mary Gerhart and Nancey Murphy at the Consultation meeting in Boston. The discussion dealt with the question of a theory of knowledge for religious inquiry in the light of contemporary science and philosophy. The focal point of the papers and their discussion hinged on the respective adequacy of pragmatism and critical realism in science and religion.

The second half of this issue officially inaugurates a new section in the journal called “Controversy.” Articles for this section are selected by the editor in consultation with reviewers because they represent solid research that challenges some of the usual assumptions of contemporary thought and, especially, some of the thinking in Zygon. After this selection has been made, the editor consults with the author of the manuscript, asking him or her to supply a list of potential commentators of the article. From this list the editor selects two to four respondents and then chooses two to four more of his own. After the commentaries are turned in, the author of the article being discussed is invited to write a reply.

Martin Eger in “A Tale of Two Controversies: Dissonance in the Theory and Practice of Rationality” argues that there are apparent conflicting conceptions of rationality in the modern academic community that are revealed when one compares how scientists and scholars have handled the creation-evolution controversy and the controversy concerning moral education in light of moral development theory. Eger’s telling of the tale of these two controversies brings to light issues concerning the nature of science, the relation between science and ethics, and the goals of science education and of education for values in American society. Responses by Mary Hesse, Abner Shimony, Thomas F. Green, Holmes Rolston III, and Daniel R. DeNicola critically discuss his analysis of these issues; and Eger replies to their comments.

It is my hope as editor to continue to increase the dialogue in the pages of Zygon. While “Controversy” will not appear in every issue, my aim is to make it a frequent section of the journal. To help realize this aim, another controversial article with commentaries is scheduled for December 1988. In “Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics in Sociobiological Perspective” evolutionary biologist George C. Williams will present a strong case that nature is immoral, thereby calling into question some of the assumptions of naturalistic ethics and natural theology. Williams’s essay will be discussed by Sara BIaffer Hardy, Michael Ruse, Ralph Wendell BUI-hoe, and John B. Cobb, Jr. The result should be an exciting exploration of how one can yoke together facts and values, science and religion.

Readers of both the September and December issues, as well as of other numbers of Zygon , are encouraged to submit for possible publication, following the format of published commentaries, their own responses to regular and controversial articles and their discussion. In that way we will further enhance the dialogue in the pages of the journal among members of the Zygon community.

Karl E. Peters



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