Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

September 1991 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 26, no. 3 (September 1991).]
© 1991 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1991.tb00822.x

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The founder of this journal, Ralph Wendell Burhoe, often has spoken of the audacity of the enterprise to which we are committed. Some earlier epochs of human history have thought it quite natural to integrate their best knowledge with the insights of the religious traditions, but ours is not one of those epochs. For the past dozen generations, it has taken audacity to suggest such integration, and that audacity has often been rewarded with misunderstanding, disbelief, and even ridicule. This journal’s raison d’être has driven it on the one hand to attempt to dissipate the misunderstanding and, on the other, to chart the methodologies and concepts by which a credible integration or yoking (hence the name zygon) can be undertaken.

The authors represented in this issue of Zygon have each contributed an audacious offering on the interface of science and the tradition of religion and philosophy. Morris L. Shames adds to the important literature that focuses upon the ways in which human beings come to their knowledge and insights, and he does so by suggesting that religion and science (and also literature) share in creativity or discovery as their wellspring. He goes on to elaborate the ways in which discovery is grounded in language and metaphor. Shames fashions a concept of yoking the disciplines at the primordial level where the processes of their creativity take shape. The very breadth of his scan and the potential significance of his argument render it an act of wager. One referee of the manuscript, after praising it highly, asked ironically: “In some sense the article preaches to the converted; will it also lead the as yet unsaved into the true path?” Readers’ responses may provide answers to that question.

Both George Murphy and Willem Drees range the field of physics. Murphy’s audacity lies first of all in his bringing into interaction the current researches into thermodynamics with the details of classical Christian theology. Beyond that, however, he suggests, in very brief space, a synthesis of the two streams of thought that many will admire, even if they do not accept the classical symbols which form the basis of Murphy’s effort. Whereas Murphy deals primarily with what is becoming a consensus in both areas—thermodynamics and classical theology—Drees’s audacity reveals itself in his effort to interpret cutting edge developments in cosmology. Drees enjoys the struggle to provide theological insight into scientific knowledge that is just emerging, and he also takes the risk of allowing his theological theories to share in the same provisionality that marks the scientific efforts. His discussion surely stands as one of the few that interpret the developing theories of Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose in terms of possibly contrasting understandings of God. We have included this article in our “Update” series (whose first installment was Robert Potter’s in March of this year), because it succeeds so well in bringing its readers up-to-date in a segment of current physics and cosmology. These two articles suggest forms of yoking the disciplines that function at a different level than that of Shames, the level of concepts and arguments.

This issue brings the final chapter in our serialization of David Breed’s study of Ralph Wendell Burhoe. In this segment, Breed provides a useful brief summary of Burhoe’s entire intellectual system. We plan to publish all five chapters of this study in book form early in 1992.

The editors share in the final act of audacity in this issue. For the first time in Zygon’s twenty-six years, we present poetry to the readers. The poet, Paul Trainor, reflects upon Benedict Spinoza, in whose perspective nature and God were one, even as science, religion, and philosophy were interdependent. We intend to include more such, in small doses, in subsequent issues, because poetry offers its own form of the yoking to which we are committed.

Philip Hefner



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