This third issue in our thirty-third year of publication is one of the largest we have ever sent out, and it also presents as many proposals for new departures in thinking about religion and science as we have ever published in one issue. Let me enumerate them:
1. Theologian Niels Gregersen makes one of the first attempts we know to relate classical thinking about creation with the new research into the phenomena of complexity, focusing upon processes of autopoeisis. In March, 1999, we will feature a full-length symposium on this article.
Systems theory is proposed as a major resource for reconceptualizing a Christian theology of creation. Section I outlines the principles of the theory of autopoietic systems and discusses in particular Manfred Eigens and Stuart Kauffmans differing views of the emergence of life. Section II shows how biblical texts conceive of Gods blessing as a divine installment and reshaping of spatiotemporal fields for creaturely self-productivity. On this double basis, Section III undertakes a constructive attempt to formulate a theology of self-productivity within a Trinitarian framework. The unity of divine self-consistency and capacity for self-relativization is seen as the clue for understanding how God not only sustains the world in general but also influences particular processes by changing the overall probability pattern of evolving systems.
autopoietic systems • blessing • creation • divine action • M. Eigen • S. Kauffman • N. Luhmann • A. R. Peacocke • systems theory • Trinity
Niels Henrik Gregersen is Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Aarhus, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.
The New Darwinian Naturalism in Political Theory by Larry Arnhart
There has been a resurgence of Darwinian naturalism in political theory, as manifested in the recent work of political scientists such as Roger D. Masters, Robert J. McShea, and James Q. Wilson. They belong to an intellectual tradition that includes not only Charles Darwin but also Aristotle and David Hume. Although most political scientists believe Darwinian social theory has been refuted, their objections rest on three false dichotomies: facts versus values, nature versus freedom, and nature versus nurture. Rejecting these dichotomies would allow the social sciences to be linked to the natural sciences through Darwinian biology.
Charles Darwin • ethics • evolutionary biology • political philosophy
Larry Arnhart is Professor of Political Science at Northern Illinois University. His address is 1015 Ashley Drive, DeKalb, IL 60115; e-mail: arnhart @ aol.com.
Confucian Order at the Edge of Chaos: The Science of Complexity and Ancient Wisdom by David Jones and John Culliney
Many academics extol chaos theory and the science of complexity as significant scientific advances with application in such diverse fields as biology, anthropology, economics, and history. In this paper we focus our attention on structure-within-chaos and the dynamic self-organization of complex systems in the context of social philosophy. Although the modern formulation of the science of complexity has developed out of late-twentieth-century physics and computational mathematics, its roots may extend much deeper into classical thinking. We argue here that the essential ideas and predictions of the science of complexity are found within the social ordering principle of li (the rites) in Confuciuss Analects.
complex systems • Dao • edge of chaos • emergence • li • order for free • ren
David Jones is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Kennesaw State University, 1000 Chastain Road, Kennesaw, GA 30144, in Atlanta. He is also Director of the Collaborative Center for the Development of Asian Studies, a regional center of the Asian Studies Development Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu. John Culliney is a biologist and naturalist in the Sea Grant Program, University of Hawaii, 1680 East-West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822.
Revising Process Metaphysics in Rsponse to Ian Barbour's Critique by Joseph A. Bracken, S.J.
In Religion in an Age of Science, Ian Barbour concludes that the contemporary evolutionary worldview with its emphasis on the interplay of law and chance, relationality and autonomy, can be properly accounted for only by something like the process-relational metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead. At the same time, he expresses serious reservations about certain features of Whiteheads scheme, notably, his perceived inability to account for the ongoing identity of the human self and for the fact of multilevel organization within organisms and in the world of inanimate compounds. In this article, I suggest that both of these difficulties can be resolved if one adopts a revisionist understanding of the Whiteheadian category of society according to which democratically organized societies possess an ontological unity and exercise a corporate agency proper to their own level of existence and activity. Furthermore, if one applies this revisionist understanding of societies to the Whiteheadian doctrine of God, a Trinitarian understanding of God becomes possible within the overall parameters of process-relational metaphysics. In this way, traditional belief in the doctrine of the Trinity can be reconciled with a scientifically credible worldview.
agency • process-relational metaphysics • society of actual occasions • structured field of activity • Trinity
Joseph A. Bracken, S.J., is Professor of Theology at Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH 45207.
Fruitful Interchange or Polite Chitchat? The Dialogue between Science and Theology by William A. Dembski and Stephen C. Meyer
The demand that epistemic support be explicated as rational compulsion has consistently undermined the dialogue between theology and science. Rational compulsion entails too restrictive a form of epistemic support for most scientific theorizing, let alone interdisciplinary dialogue. This essay presents a less restrictive form of epistemic support, explicated not as rational compulsion but as explanatory power. Once this notion of epistemic support is developed, a genuinely productive interdisciplinary dialogue between theology and science becomes possible. This essay closes by sketching how the Big Bang model from cosmology and the Christian doctrine of Creation can be viewed as supporting each other.
epistemic support • explanatory power • interdisciplinary dialogue • rational compulsion • science • theology
William A. Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher, is Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institutes Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in Seattle, Washington. His mailing address is 3010 East Cortez Court, Irving, TX 75062. Stephen C. Meyer is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Whitworth College, in Spokane, WA 99251, and is the Director of the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture at Discovery Institute.
The Teachers File
Toward a New Understanding of Nature, Reality, and the Sacred: A Syllabus by James Yerkes
Adjustments in the understanding of the relation of religion and science since the Enlightenment require new considerations in epistemology and metaphysics. Constructionist theories of knowledge and process theories of metaphysics better provide the new paradigms needed both to preserve and to limit the significance of each field of human understanding. In a course taught at Moravian College, this perspective is applied to the concepts of nature, reality, and the sacred, with a view to showing how we might develop one such paradigm. Key resources for this task are to be found in the work of artist René Magritte; theologians Langdon Gilkey, Arthur Peacocke, and John Haught; philosophers and historians of science Alfred North Whitehead, Timothy Ferris, Ernan McMullin, and Ian Barbour; philosopher of religion Paul Ricoeur; and historians of religion Rudolph Otto and Mircea Eliade. Such a new paradigm calls for an ecologically sensitive religious awareness which is both sacramental and holistic.
constructionist epistemology • cosmology • creation myths • critical realism • holism • nature as fecund source • nature as orderly system • ontology • revelation • sacramentalism
James Yerkes is Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA 18018; e-mail: joyerkes @ fast.net. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article for class use, with this note: Reprinted from Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.
Sex, Aggression, and Pain: Sociobiological Implications for Theological Anthropology by Craig L. Nessan
Theological anthropology can be enriched by paying attention to insights into human behavior taken from sociobiology. The capacity for reflective self-consciousness enables the human animal to respond to basic instincts and drives in unprecedented ways. Humans follow gender-specific sexual strategies, display aggressive behavior, and respond to physical pain as do other animals. Yet human beings have the intellectual ability to express these tendencies uniquely in either destructive or constructive ways. The human being, unlike any other animal, must reckon with sexual ethics, the problem of violence, and the meaning of suffering. In developing the basic concepts of theological anthropology—good creation, natural evil, fall, sin, and image of God—sociobiological research can lead to more adequate understanding of the human.
aggression • creation • fall • image of God • pain • reflective self-consciousness • sex • sociobiology • suffering • theological anthropology • violence
Craig L. Nessan is Associate Professor of Contextual Theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary, 333 Wartburg Place, Dubuque, IA 52004. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article for class use, with this note: Reprinted from Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.
This is a reply to comments on my paper Cog, a Humanoid Robot, and the Questions of the Image of God; one was written by Mary Gerhart and Allan Melvin Russell, and another one by Helmut Reich. I will start with the suggested analogy of the relationship between God and us and the one between us and the humanoid robot Cog and will show why this analogy is not helpful for the dialogue between theology and artificial intelligence (AI). Such a dialogue can succeed only if both our fascination for humanoids and our fear of them are equally accepted. Any avoidance of these emotions, as well as any rejection of the possibility that Cog might one day be humanlike, destroy the dialogue. The interpretation of both scientific theories and religious metaphors as stories replaces seemingly rational arguments with the confession of the respective commitments to a body of stories and opens up a space for exchange and friendship between AI-researchers and theologians—an option that usually remains closed.
artificial intelligence • Cog • dialogue • Mary Gerhart • image of God • K. Helmut Reich • robot • Allan Melvin Russell • scientific and religious stories
Anne Foerst is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 545 Technology Square, NE 43-812, Cambridge, MA 02139. She is also a Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life, Harvard Divinity School. Her e-mail address is annef @ ai.mit.edu. This research was funded by the German Research Society (DFG).
Book Symposium: Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethics, and Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda by Nancey Murphy
Murphy on Postmodernity, Science, and Religion by J. Wesley Robbins
Nancey Murphy claims that a shift in thinking strategy from modern to postmodern modes of thought makes it easier to exhibit the intellectual respectability of theology vis-à-vis the sciences. Her case for this proposition depends on modernist interests, most notably in systematizing the sciences for reasons that have their origin in Platos divided line.
Cartesian minds • Deweyan pragmatists • embedded minds • modernism • Nancey Murphy • postmodernism
J. Wesley Robbins (http://sun1.iusb.edu/~wrobbins/) is Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University South Bend, P.O. Box 7111, South Bend, IN 46615; e-mail: wesrobbins @ worldnet.att.net.
On Holisms: Insular, Inclusivist, and Postmodern by Philip Clayton
Nancey Murphys offer to take us beyond liberalism and fundamentalism is an exciting one: Who wants to be caught in the clutches of a fruitless theological dispute? She argues that the key to our escape is Anglo-American postmodernity. I analyze what Murphy means by this term and why it may turn out to be a more precarious escape route than one might think. Holism or postfoundationalism is indeed inescapable for science/religion discussions today, but an inclusivist holism is preferable to Murphys insular holism.
Anglo-American postmodernity • epistemology • fundamentalism • inclusivist holism • insular holism • Imre Lakatos • liberalism • Nancey Murphy • post-foundationalism
Philip Clayton is Associate Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at the California State University (Sonoma), Rohnert Park, CA 94928; e-mail: claytonp @ sonoma.edu.
Anglo-American Postmodernity: A Response to Clayton and Robbins by Nancey Murphy
In Anglo-American Postmodernity I call attention to recent intellectual shifts in epistemology (from foundationalism to holism), philosophy of language (from reference to use), and metaphysics (from reductionism to nonreductionism), and pursue the consequences of these changes for science, theology, and ethics. Wesley Robbins criticizes the book for making overly optimistic claims for the intellectual status of theology; Philip Clayton criticizes it for giving up the quest for general standards of rational progress. Both criticisms miss the mark in not taking on the account of rationality that I have developed from resources in the work of Alasdair MacIntyre.
Anglo-American philosophy • causation, top-down or downward • postmodernity • reductionism • religion and science
Nancey Murphy is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fuller Seminary, 135 North Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91182.
Genesis by Michel Serres, trans. Genevieve James and James Nielson, reviewed by Raymond Boisvert
Ralph Burhoes ideas have not been well received in European Protestant theology. His approach has been at odds with the dominant resistance to natural theology on the Continent, and it has not fit well with reconciling attempts from the United Kingdom either. However, Burhoes interest in the role of religions in the emergence of human nature and culture, including the interest in noncognitive functions of religion, should be taken to heart. Besides, he has set an example for Europeans with respect to method in dealing with first-rate science.
Ralph Burhoe • European theology • natural theology
Willem B. Drees holds the Nicolette Bruining Chair for Philosophy of Nature and of Technology from a Liberal Protestant Perspective at the University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands. He also is a staff member of the Bezinningscentrum of the Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands; e-mail: wb.drees @ dienst.vu.nl; and the editor of ESSSAT News, the newsletter of the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology.