Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
34 (4), December 1999

Table of Contents


December 1999 Editorial by Philip Hefner

Eighty years ago, T. S. Eliot commented that poets work with the whole of the past literary tradition in their bones (Eliot 1932, 14). It seems appropriate to reflect on his words as we send out what will be the final issue of our journal in this twentieth century (as marked by some Western calendars). This issue is also the confluence of two other anniversaries: thirty-four years of Zygon’s publication and one decade in the tenure of the present editor. To work with the past tradition in our bones includes an awareness of what has happened on the very broad interface of religion and science in this century, as well as the very particular traditions set in motion by our founding editor, Ralph Burhoe (editor, 1966-79), and his successor, Karl Peters (editor-in-chief, 1979-1989; co-editor, 1989 to the present). The traditions of Burhoe and Peters are constituted not only by the several hundred authors whose work has appeared in the journal, but also by the several dozen editorial and production staff persons and consultants who have made the print (and now electronic) pages an actuality for the readers.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1999.00235.x

Nancey Murphy Profile

Physicalism without Reductionism: Toward a Scientifically, Philosophically, and Theologically Sound Portrait of Human Nature by Nancey Murphy

This essay addresses three problems facing a physicalist (as opposed to dualist) account of the person. First, how can such an account fail to be reductive if mental events are neurological events and such events are governed by natural laws? Answering this question requires a reexamination of the concept of supervenience. Second, what is the epistemological status of nonreductive physicalism? Recent philosophy of science can be used to argue that there is reasonable scientific evidence for physicalism. Third, the soul has traditionally been seen as that which enables human beings to relate to God. What accounts for this capacity in a physicalist theory of the person? This essay argues that the same faculties that enable higher cognitive and emotional experience also account for the capacity for religious experience.
dualism • nonreductive physicalism • reductionism • religious experience • supervenience
Nancey Murphy is Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA 91182.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00236

Darwin, Social Theory, and the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge by Nancey Murphy

This essay considers ways in which Darwin’s account of natural processes was influenced by economic, ethical, and natural-theological theories in his own day. It argues that the Anabaptist concept of “the gospel of all creatures” calls into question alliances between evolutionary theory and social policy that are based on the dominance of conflictual images such as “the survival of the fittest” and questions the negative images of both nature and God that Darwinism has been taken to sponsor. The essay also considers developments in biology that have called into question dualist accounts of human nature as body and soul, thus reminding us that we are fully a part of the natural world and thus contributing, in turn, to a better theological grasp of God’s relation to nature.
Charles Darwin • Thomas Malthus • nonreductive physicalism • religion and science • social Darwinism
Nancey Murphy is Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA 91182.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00237

Nancey Murphy’s Work by George F. R. Ellis

Nancey Murphy has been influential in the religion-and-science field through her espousal of the work of Imre Lakatos, more recently developed into a three-tier approach to the joint epistemology of scientific and religious thought incorporating also the ideas of Hempel and MacIntyre. She has proposed a substantial influence of the radical reformed tradition on science and has demonstrated the nature of social influences on the form of Darwinism. She has developed important links between ethics and the science-theology debate and has examined in depth ideas associated with hierarchical structuring, supervenience, and the nature of the soul. Together these form a unique and sharply focused contribution to the understanding of the relation between science and religion.
epistemology • ethics • religion and science • supervenience
George F. R. Ellis is Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, Cape Town 7700, South Africa.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00238

Shaping the Field of Theology and Science: A Critique of Nancey Murphy by Philip Clayton

Nancey Murphy is a key second-generation figure in the field of religion and science. Through a variety of responsibilities, some of which are reviewed here, she has worked as a discipline builder over the last fifteen years. After trying to convey the general spirit of Murphy’s work, the author focuses on five areas where readers might resist her conclusions, including her “postmodern” theory of scientific (and religious) knowledge and truth, her treatment of theology and science as “separate but equal,” and her defense of physicalism.
Ian Barbour • divine action • Alasdair MacIntyre • Nancey Murphy • philosophy of mind • physicalism • postmodernism • scientific method • theological method • theories of scientific rationality
Philip Clayton is Professor and Chair of Philosophy, California State University, Sonoma, Rohnert Park, CA 94928; e-mail: claytonp @ sonoma.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00239

Nancey Murphy’s Nonreductive Physicalism by Dennis Bielfeldt

This essay examines Nancey Murphy’s commitment to downward causation and develops a critique of that notion based upon the distinction between the causal relevance of a higher-level event and its causal efficacy. I suggest the following: (1) nonreductive physicalism lacks adequate resources upon which to base an assertion of real causal power at the emergent, supervenient level; (2) supervenience’s nonreductive nature ought not obscure the fact that it affirms an ontological determination of higher-level properties by those at the lower level; and (3) the notion of divine self-renunciation, while consonant with Murphy’s claim of supervenient, divine action, is nonetheless problematic. Throughout, I claim that the question of the causal efficacy of a level is logically independent from the assertion of its conceptual or nomological nonreducibility.
downward causation • kenotic divine action • nonreductive physicalism • reductionism • supervenience
Dennis Bielfeldt is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007; e-mail: Dennis_Bielfeldt @ sdstate.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00240

Theology and Science within a Lakatosian Program by Nancey Murphy

The writings of Ian Barbour and Arthur Peacocke can be construed as initial contributions to a Lakatosian research program on the relation between theology and science, the core theory of which is the thesis that theology belongs at the top of a nonreducible hierarchy of sciences. The positive heuristic of this program involves showing that theology and the sciences have enough in common epistemologically to be so related and arguing for nonreducibility. The author in this essay “rationally reconstructs” some of her philosophical work as a contribution to these tasks.
Ian Barbour • Dennis Bielfeldt • Philip Clayton • George Ellis • Imre Lakatos • Arthur Peacocke • physicalism • reductionism • supervenience
Nancey Murphy is Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA 91182.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00241


The Fractal Self and the Organization of Nature: The Daoist Sage and Chaos Theory by David Jones and John Culliney

The interconnections between self and surroundings in Daoist thought have been explored in the past in a variety of contexts. This paper, however, explores the Daoist version of the relational self from the general perspective of chaos theory and, more specifically, examines the role of the self in creating emergent form and dynamism in nature and society. The fractal self and world merge through the disciplined effort of the sage until the effort becomes effortless. Both self and world are transformed and become one through the emergent moment. This moment represents a new opportunity for subsequent patterns, or attractors, to emerge. We suggest that the self folds itself into the world, creating and being created by a new attractor, or pattern, in the organization of nature, which we argue is Dao. Our current investigation addresses the following aspects of chaos theory and its relation to Daoism: (1) the Daoist notion of wuwei as perfect congruence; (2) yin and yang at the edge of chaos; (3) the emergent nature of the myriad things; and (4) a Daoist warning against fractal disconnections in the world. Finally, we conclude that the self has the potential to become the world. To approach this amplified condition, the self must dedicate itself to and risk open engagement with events across the complexity of nature. Through openly engaging the world, the self is transformed, leaving the world forever changed.
attractors • Dao (way) • the edge of chaos • emergence • fractal structure • shengren (sage) • wuwei (non [directed] action)
David Jones is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Kennesaw State University, 1000 Chastain Road, Kennesaw, GA 30144 and Director of the 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 at the University of Hawai’i, 1680 East-West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00242

Pragmatism, Critical Realism, and the Cognitive Value of Religion and Science by J. Wesley Robbins

Pragmatism and critical realism are different vocabularies for talking about the cognitive value of religion and science. Each can be, and has been, used to make the case for cognitive parity between religious and scientific discourse. Critical realism presupposes a particular form of cognitive psychology that entails general skepticism about the external world and forecloses scientific inquiry in the name of a preconceived idea of what the nature of human cognition must be. Thus, of the two, pragmatism is the better vocabulary for fostering mutual understanding between religion and science.
critical realism • folk psychology • generic Cartesianism • pragmatism • Timothy van Gelder
J. Wesley Robbins (http://www.iusb.edu/~wrobbins/) is Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University South Bend.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00243

“Intelligent Design” Theory: Two Viewpoints

Does “Intelligent Design” Have a Chance? An Essay Review by Howard J. Van Till

A number of authors have argued the case that there is empirical evidence that the universe (or particular configurations within it) must be the outcome of intelligent design. Recent books by William Dembski and Dean Overman, though different in style and level of argumentation, reach a similar conclusion: the universe, or certain forms within it, cannot be explained without appeal to design as a mode of causation. But exactly what is the operative definition for intelligent design in these works? And how convincing is their case for the necessity of appealing to this type of design in causal explanations?
causal explanation • Designer • intelligent agency • intelligent design • naturalism
Howard J. Van Till is Emeritus Professor of Physics, Calvin College, 3201 Burton S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49546.

This article reviews The Design Inference: Estimating Chance through Small Probabilities by William A. Dembski and A Case against Accident and Self-Organization by Dean L. Overman.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00244

Is “Intelligent Design” Unavoidable—Even by Howard Van Till? A Response by Paul A. Nelson

Howard Van Till has long been a critic of interventionist conceptions of God’s creative activity, and he places the “intelligent design” position in that category. Yet certain lines of reasoning in Van Till’s own work can best be understood as arguing for design. It is likely that this reasoning will eventually bring Van Till into conflict with an increasingly naturalistic scientific community.
intelligent design • naturalism • purpose • Howard Van Till
Paul A. Nelson is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, 1402 Third Avenue, Suite 400, Seattle, WA 98101, and editor of the journal Origins and Design.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00245

The Teachers’ File

The Three Crises: Science, History, and Plurality by Gregory R. Peterson

Modern religions are confronted by three crises: the scientific revolution, the historical revolution, and the pluralistic revolution. The development of each of these diverse revolutions in Western intellectual history has posed serious challenges to traditional conceptions of religious authority. This paper seeks to briefly elucidate the nature of each of these revolutions and their significance for religious traditions. While the specific challenges posed are separate, the revolutions share common traits. Additionally, it is not enough for a religious tradition to deal with only one of the crises; to proceed into the next stage of religious reflection, it must deal with them all.
historical revolution • pluralistic revolution • scientific revolution
Gregory R. Peterson is Assistant Professor of Religion at Thiel College, Greenville, PA 16125; e-mail: gpeterso @ thiel.edu. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article for class use, with this note: Reprinted from Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00246

Biology and a Theology of Evolution by Arthur Peacocke

The challenge and stimulus to theology that is constituted by the scientific version of Genesis which will prevail for the foreseeable future is expounded in relation to the significance of the succeeding stages of the life process and to the general features of biological evolution. A responsive theology of evolution is discerned as involving a renewal of insights associated with the themes of immanence, panentheism, the Wisdom and Word of God, and a sacramental universe. Such a revitalized theology allows one to conceive of humanity and Jesus the Christ in a fully evolutionary perspective without loss of an emphasis on the particularity of the Incarnation.
Burgess shale • causality • chance and law • complexity • death • emergence • evolution • extraterrestrial life • humanity • immanence • Jesus the Christ • monism • natural selection • origin of life • pain • panentheism • propensities • rationality • sacramental universe • suffering • trends in evolution • Wisdom of God • Word of God
Arthur Peacocke was Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre, University of Oxford, from 1985 to 1988 and from 1995 until October 1999. His present mailing address is Exeter College, Oxford OX1 3DP, England; e-mail: arthur.peacocke @ theology.oxford.ac.uk. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article for class use, with this note: Reprinted from Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.
DOI: 10.1111/0591-2385.00247


Is God a Virus? Genes, Culture and Religion by John Bowker, reviewed by Charles F. Smith

Charles F. Smith, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1100 East 55th Street, Chicago, IL 60615
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00248

Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues by Ian Barbour, reviewed by Gregory R. Peterson

Gregory R. Peterson, Assistant Professor of Religion, Thiel College, Greenville, PA 16125
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00248

The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley, reviewed by Stephen J. Pope

Stephen J. Pope, Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02167
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00248

Nature’s Grace: Essays on H. N. Wieman’s Finite Theism by Marvin C. Shaw, reviewed by Karl E. Peters

Karl E. Peters, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL 32789
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00248

The Divine Constitution by Jeh-Tween Gong, reviewed by Stephen M. Modell

Stephen M. Modell, Director of Research—Genetics Policy, Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9744.t01-1-00248

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