Religion and science is a rich field. Among the aspects of religion covered in this issue of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, we have articles dealing with design (The Metaphor of the Architect in Darwin by Ricardo Noguera-Solano), virtue ethics grounded in nature by Nin Kirkham, and our dealing with guilt by George Tsakiridis and with rebirth by David Gosling. Eduardo Cruz considers transhumanism and the impact on ideas and values about natality. If the transhumanist program with its extension of the human life span were successful, we would have to limit new births to avoid overpopulation. The utopian dream borders on a dystopian one, it seems. Transhumanism was addressed in this journal a year ago (Cole-Turner 2012; Geraci 2012; Hughes 2012; Tirosh-Samuelson 2012), and was also a central subject of our first virtual issue (see Drees 2013a). Paul Martin considers one of our conceptual and linguistic tools, the use of metaphors—a classic of religion and science, with works such as those of Mary Gerhart and Allan Russell (1984) and Janet Soskice (1985); see also Masson 2013. Martin uses it to reflect upon the comparison of different religious schemas.
In The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, published in 1868, Darwin used the metaphor of the architect to argue in favor of natural autonomy and to clarify the role of chance in his theory of adaptive change by variation and natural selection. In this article, I trace the history of this important heuristic instrument in Darwins writings and letters and suggest that this metaphor was important to Darwin because it helps him to explain the role of chance, and gives an argument in favor of the free will.
accidental variation • chance • Charles Darwin • free will • metaphor of the architect • natural selection
Ricardo Noguera-Solano is Associate Professor in the Departamento de Biología Evolutiva, Facultad de Ciencias, UNAM, Circuito Exterior S/N, C.P. 04510, Ciudad Universitaria, México; e-mail: rns @ ciencias.unam.mx.
Transcending our Biology: A Virtue Ethics Interpretation of the Appeal to Nature in Technological and Environmental Ethics by Nin Kirkham
Arguments from nature are used, and have historically been used, in popular responses to advances in technology and to environmental issues—there is a widely shared body of ethical intuitions that nature, or perhaps human nature, sets some limits on the kinds of ends that we should seek, the kinds of things that we should do, or the kinds of lives that we should lead. Virtue ethics can provide the context for a defensible form of the argument from nature, and one that makes proper sense of its enduring role in debates concerning our relationship to technology and the environment. However, the notion of an ethics founded upon an account of the essential features of human nature is controversial. On the one hand, contemporary biological science no longer defines species by their essential characteristics, so from a biological point of view there just are no essential characteristics of human beings. On the other hand, it might be argued that humans have, in some sense, transcended our biology, so an understanding of humans as a biological species is extraneous to ethical questions. In this article, I examine and defend the argument from nature, as a way to ground an ethic of virtue, from some of the more common criticisms that are made against it. I argue that, properly interpreted as an appeal to an evaluative account of human nature, the argument from nature is defensible with the context of virtue ethics and, in this light, I show how arguments from nature made in popular responses to technological and environmental issues are best understood.
arguments from nature • environmental ethics • technology • virtue ethics
Nin Kirkham is an Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, School of Humanities, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia; e-mail: nin.kirkham @ uwa.edu.au.
Guilt and the Science of Emotion: How Does Prayer Fit? by George Tsakiridis
This article engages sources regarding evolutionary development of guilt (Richard Joyces The Evolution of Morality, Jesse Prinzs Gut Reactions, and others) and how they can be used to dialogue with material on the alleviation of guilt in the Christian tradition using examples in the work of Anselm of Canterbury and John Chrysostom. This raises a few key questions. If guilt is an evolutionary trait created to build reputation and relationship, how does this mesh with some theological approaches to solutions for guilt? To be more precise, guilt possibly evolved to create a motivation for beneficial communal actions, and necessitates belief in the authority of the rules that one breaks to induce it. That said, does religion play a role in awareness of ones guilt, while also providing a solution to that guilt? The possibilities are explored in this article as they relate to issues of repentance, atonement, and prayer.
Anselm of Canterbury • atonement • John Chrysostom • guilt • Richard Joyce • prayer • Jesse Prinz • repentance
George Tsakiridis is an Instructor in Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University. He may be contacted at P.O. Box 234, Brookings, SD 57006, USA; e-mail: george.tsakiridis @ sdstate.edu.
Embodiment and Rebirth in the Hindu and Buddhist Traditions by David Gosling
The belief that humans are more than their bodies is to a large extent represented in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions by the notion of rebirth, the main difference being that the former envisages a more corporeal continuing entity than the latter. The author has studied the manner in which exposure to science at a postgraduate level impinges on belief in rebirth at universities and institutes in India and Thailand. Many Hindu and Buddhist scientists tend to believe less in a reincarnating entity because of their scientific work, but Buddhists can point to their empty self doctrine, which has resonances with models of an extended self, rejecting the notion of a core self (anattā) and replacing it with a system of interdependent parts (paṭicca samuppāda), which governs previous and future lives.
Buddhism • embodiment • Hindu • rebirth • science
David L. Gosling is a Life Member and former Spalding Fellow of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge. He may be contacted at 2 St. Lukes Mews, Searle Street, Cambridge CB4 3DF, United Kingdom; e-mail: dlg26 @ cam.ac.uk.
Transhumanism and the Fate of Natality: An Introduction by Eduardo da Cruz
Transhumanist thought on overpopulation usually invokes the welfare of present human beings and the control over future generation, thus minimizing the need and meaning of new births. Here we devise a framework for a more thorough screening of the relevant literature, to have a better appreciation of the issue of natality. We follow the lead of Hannah Arendt and Brent Waters in this respect. With three overlapping categories of words, headed by natality, birth, and intergenerations, a large sample of books on transhumanism is scrutinized, showing the lack of sustained reflection on the issue. After this preliminary scrutiny, a possible defense of natality in face of modern and transhumanist thought is marshaled, evoking a number of desirable human traits. One specific issue, the impact of modern values on natality, is further explored, reiterating that concerns about overpopulation and enhanced humans should keep in sight the natural cycle of birth and death.
Hannah Arendt • birth • natality • new generations • transhumanism • Brent Waters
Eduardo R. Cruz is Professor of Religious Studies at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, R. Monte Alegre, 984, Sao Paulo, 05014, Brazil; e-mail: erodcruz @ pucsp.br.
The Exploratory and Reflective Domain of Metaphor in the Comparison of Religions by Paul C. Martin
There has been a longstanding interest in discovering or uncovering resemblances among what are ostensibly diverse religious schemas by employing a range of methodological approaches and tools. However, it is generally considered a problematic undertaking. Jonathan Z. Smith has produced a large body of work aimed at explicating this and has tacitly based his model of comparison on metaphor, which is traditionally understood to connote similarity between two or more things, as based on a linguistic or pragmatic assessment. However, another possible approach is cognitive. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson have championed the view of conceptual metaphor, which regards metaphor as being pervasive not only in language, but also in thought and action. Indeed, according to them, it basically structures our conceptual operations and hence views of the world through partially mapping knowledge across ontological domains, generally from the concrete to the abstract. I shall argue that a similar mechanism can fruitfully be applied to comparing religious schemas, as based on the postulated relationship between the domains of human and divine, physical and abstract, and as realized through expressions of journeying and reflection.
cognitive science • comparative religion • conceptual metaphor • conceptual metonymy • mirror • reflection
Paul C. Martin is a Collaborator in the Research Unit for the Study of Society, Law and Religion at the University of Adelaide, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia; e-mail: cerulean @ internode.on.net.
Emergence and Agency
The Relevance of Emergence Theory in the Science-Religion Dialogue by Mikael Leidenhag
In this article, I call into question the relevance of emergence theories as presently used by thinkers in the science-religion discussion. Specifically, I discuss theories of emergence that have been used by both religious naturalists and proponents of panentheism. I argue for the following conclusions: (1) If we take the background theory to be metaphysical realism, then there seems to be no positive connection between the reality of emergent properties and the validity of providing reality with a religious interpretation, though one could perhaps construe an argument for the positive ontological status of emergence as a negative case for a religious worldview. (2) To be considered more plausible, religious naturalism should interpret religious discourse from the perspective of pragmatic realism. (3) Panentheistic models of divine causality are unable to avoid ontological dualism. (4) It is not obvious that emergent phenomena and/or properties are nonreducible in the ontological sense of the terms; indeed, the tension between weak and strong emergence makes it difficult for the emergentist to make ontological judgments. My general conclusion is that the concept of emergence has little metaphysical significance in the dialogue between science and theology.
emergence • panentheism • reductionism • religious naturalism
Mikael Leidenhag is a PhD student at the Faculty of Theology, University of Uppsala, Thunbergsvägen 3 B, Box 511, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden; e-mail Mikael.leidenhag @ teol.uu.se.
Life as Emergent Agential Systems: Tendencies without Teleology in an Open Universe by Steven L. Peck
Life is a relationship among various kinds of agents interacting at different scales in ways that are multifarious, complex, and emergent. Life is always a part of an ecological embedding in communities of interaction, which in turn structure and influence how life evolves. Evolution is essential for understanding life and biodiversity. Henri Bergsons Creative Evolution suggests a way of examining tendencies without teleology. In this paper I reexamine that work in light of recent concepts in evolutionary ecology, and explore how agential aspects of life are essential for understanding how emergence provides a basis for a process-based metaphysics of life. In support of this project, I will explore how the major transitions of life on Earth have proceeded through increasing levels of cooperation among agents (e.g., mitochondria in animal cells forming a mutualistic relationship), which have allowed further emergences and complexity to evolve. This complexity always, however, emerges in the context of ecological relationships and a nonteleological evolutionary process. Yet, while nonteleological, the progression of life thus far on this planet seems to hold the promise of certain tendencies that seem inherent in life itself.
Henri Bergson • complexity • creationism • emergence • evolution • intelligent design • niche theory • theology of nature • vitalism
Steven L. Peck is Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Brigham Young University, 401 WIDB, Provo, Utah 84602, USA; email: steven_peck @ byu.edu.
Actions and Agents: Natural and Supernatural Reconsidered by Joseph A. Bracken
Using a process-oriented understanding of the relation between actions and agents, the author argues that an ontological agent is the ongoing effect or by-product rather than the antecedent cause of actions. Applied to the relation between natural and supernatural in philosophical cosmology, this allows one to claim, first, that agents (whether natural or supernatural) are not sensibly perceived, but only inferred from the ongoing observation of empirical actions; second, that the distinction between the natural and the supernatural is then conceivably a distinction between interrelated processes rather than between independently existing agents; and third, that a higher order process of supernatural origin could be operative in a lower order empirical process without interference even though its existence and activity could only be established on the basis of a faith commitment, not empirical evidence. What Paul Ricoeur referred to as a surplus of meaning over and above the scientific explanation of an event would be in play with the claim of divine guidance for the cosmic process.
Henri Bergson • Celia Deane-Drummond • empirical effects • nonempirical causes • Paul Ricoeur • LeRon Shults • Jerome Stone • Alfred North Whitehead
Joseph A. Bracken, SJ, is Professor Emeritus of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He may be contacted at 3844 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45207, USA; e-mail: bracken @ xavier.edu.
Einsteins Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religion by Steven Gimbel, reviewed by Joseph A. Edelheit