Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
52 (1), March 2017

Table of Contents


Green Open Access for Interesting Contributions by Willem B. Drees

In 2015, one of my editorials was about “Publishing in a Changing World” (Drees 2015). Below more on the trend toward open access. Our current copyright contracts allow for “Green” open access, an easy and attractive option. We have many interesting articles to offer, also in this issue—as you will see in the latter part of this editorial.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12329


Biblical and Theistic Arguments against “the Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism” by Petteri Nieminen, Maarten Boudry; Esko Ryökäs; Anne-Mari Mustonen

Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism states that evolution cannot produce warranted beliefs. In contrast, according to Plantinga, Christian theism provides (I) properly functioning cognitive faculties in (II) an appropriate cognitive environment, in accordance with (III) a design plan aimed at producing true beliefs. But does theism fulfill criteria I-III? Judging from the Bible, God employs deceit in his relations with humanity, rendering our cognitive functions unreliable (I). Moreover, there is no reason to suppose that God’s purpose would be to produce true beliefs in humans (III). Finally, from the theistic/religious perspective, it is impossible to tell whether observations have natural or supernatural causes, which undermines an appropriate cognitive environment (II). Reliable identification of deceit or miracles could alleviate these problems, but the theistic community has failed to resolve this issue. Dismissal of parts of the Bible, or attempts to find alternative interpretations, would collapse into skepticism or deism. Thus, Plantinga’s problem of epistemic warrant backfires on theism.
cognitive functions • deception • evolution • evolutionary argument against naturalism • miracles • naturalism • Alvin Plantinga • supernatural intervention • theism
Petteri Nieminen is Assistant Professor, Institute of Biomedicine, School of Medicine, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland; e-mail petteri.nieminen @ uef.fi. Maarten Boudry is Postdoctoral Fellow (FWO), Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Esko Ryökäs is Senior Lecturer, School of Theology, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland. Anne-Mari Mustonen is University Researcher, Institute of Biomedicine, School of Medicine, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12327

Religion and Religious Belief as Evolutionary Adaptations by Konrad Szocik

Scholars employing an evolutionary approach to the study of religion and religious beliefs search for ultimate explanations of the origin, propagation, and persistence of religious beliefs. This quest often pairs in debate two opposing perspectives: the adaptationist and “by-product” explanations of religion and religious beliefs. The majority of scholars prefer the by-product approach, which is agnostic and even doubtful of the usefulness of religious beliefs. Despite this pervasive negativity, it seems unwarranted to deny the great usefulness of religious beliefs—particularly concerning their past utility. Instead, adaptationist explanations of religion and religious beliefs must be re-established as interesting and useful approaches to the study of religious beliefs.
adaptation • cognitive science of religion • cultural evolution • evolutionary biology • natural selection • religion
Konrad Szocik is an assistant professor, University of Information Technology and Management, Rzeszow, Poland; email: kszocik @ wsiz.rzeszow.pl.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12324

Food Ethics: A Critique of Some Islamic Perspectives on Genetically Modified Food by Mariam al-Attar

This article critiques some Islamic approaches to food ethics and the debate over genetically modified (GM) food. Food ethics is a branch of bioethics, and is an emerging field in Islamic bioethics. The article critically analyzes the arguments of the authors who wrote in favor of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from an Islamic perspective, and those who wrote against GMOs, also from an Islamic perspective. It reveals the theological and the epistemological foundations of the two main approaches. Moreover, it provides an attempt to critique what is perceived as an exclusivist and legalistic trend adopted by some authors. It argues that an alternative approach that acknowledges the priority of reason in ethics and is at the same time rooted in Islamic tradition would be more inclusive and constructive.
Ash’arism • bioethics • ethics • exclusivism • food ethics • genetically modified food • GMOs • Islam • Islamic bioethics
Mariam al-Attar is a former clinical scientist who is currently Visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of Arabic in the American University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; e-mail: malattar @ aus.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12328

Science, Pseudo-Science and Fiction

Stirpiculture: Science-guided Human Propagation and the Oneida Community by Alexandra Prince

Between 1869 and 1879, the communal Christian group the Oneida Community undertook a pioneering eugenics experiment called “stirpiculture” in upstate New York. Stirpiculture resulted in the planned conception, birth, and communal rearing of fifty-eight children, bred from selected members of the Oneida Community. This article concerns how the Oneida Community’s unique approach to religion and science provided the framework for the creation, process, and eventual dissolution of the stirpiculture experiment. The work seeks to expand current understanding of the early history of eugenics in the United States by placing its practice more than two decades earlier than is generally considered. Additionally, this article situates the Community’s leader John Humphrey Noyes as an early eugenics and social scientific thinker. Finally, the treatment provides a case study for the transitional period in mid to late nineteenth century America whereby scientific modes of epistemology were accommodated within or supplanted by theological worldviews.
eugenics • genetics • natural theology • John Humphrey Noyes • Oneida Community • religion • science • stirpiculture • theology and science • worldview
Alexandra Prince is a doctoral student in the History Department at the University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA; e-mail: alprince @ buffalo.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12319

Science, Spirituality, and Ayahuasca: The Problem of Consciousness and Spiritual Ontologies in the Academy by Ismael Apud

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew from Amazonas, popularized in the last decades in part through transnational religious networks, but also due to interest in exploring spirituality through altered states of consciousness among academic schools and scientific researchers. In this article, the author analyzes the relation between science and religion proposing that the “demarcation problem” between the two arises from the relations among consciousness, intentionality, and spirituality. The analysis starts at the beginning of modern science, continues through the nineteenth century, and then examines the appearance of new schools in psychology and anthropology in the countercultural milieu of the 1960s. The author analyzes the case of ayahuasca against this historical background, first, in the general context of ayahuasca studies in the academic field. Second, he briefly describes three cases from Spain. Finally, he discusses the permeability of science to “spiritual ontologies” from an interdisciplinary perspective, using insights from social and cognitive sciences.
ayahuasca • consciousness • philosophy of science • psychology of religion • science • scientific method • Spain • spiritual ontologies
Ismael Apud is a doctoral student at the Medical Anthropology Research Center (MARC), Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain; a researcher at the National System of Researchers, Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovación (ANII),Uruguay; and an assistant professor at the Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay; and an assistant professor at the Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay; e-mail: ismaelapud @ psico.edu.uy.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12315

Investigating the “Science” in “Eastern Religions”: A Methodological Inquiry by Ankur Barua

This article explores some of the understandings of “science” that are often employed in the literature on “science and Eastern religions.” These understandings crucially shape the raging debates between the avid proponents and the keen detractors of the thesis that Eastern forms of spirituality are uniquely able to subsume the sciences into their metaphysical–axiological horizons. More specifically, the author discusses some of the proposed relations between “science” and “Eastern religions” by highlighting three themes: (a) the relation between science and metaphysics, (b) the relation between science and experience, and (c) the European origins of science. The analysis of these relations requires amethodological inquiry into some of the culturally freighted valences of “science,” “metaphysics,” and “experience.”
Advaita Vedānta • Hinduism • Mahāyāna Buddhism
Ankur Barua is a lecturer in Hindu studies, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK; e-mail: ab309 @ cam.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12316

The “Scientific Miracle of the Qur’ān”: Pseudoscience and Conspiracism by Stefano Bigliardi

This article, after tracing a precise classification of the exegetical trend known as i‘jāz ‘ilmī, summarizes and discusses the criticism leveled at it and examines how the “scientific interpretation” of the Qur’ān is liable to blend with pseudoscience and conspiracy theories to the detriment of a solid harmonization of science and religion and of a genuine appreciation of natural science. Furthermore, the article offers some practical ideas that can be implemented in order to effectively and fairly address i‘jāz ‘ilmī in the Muslim world.
Maurice Bucaille • conspiracy theories • i‘jāz • pseudoscience • Qur’ān • scientific miracle of the Qur’ān
Stefano Bigliardi is an assistant professor of philosophy at Al Akhawayn University, Ifrane, Morocco. E-mail: S.Bigliardi @ aui.ma.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12321

A Terminator, a Transformer and Job Meet: Creator-Creature Relations in Literature and Film by E. Allen Jones III

In this essay, I set the book of Job in dialogue with a number of films from the robot science fiction subgenre. It is my intention to show that both sets of literature are deeply engaged with questions related to how creators and created things can interact, and that they deal with these questions in ways that illuminate and complement each other. The study proceeds in three phases. First, I develop a typology of robot science fiction as I see it in Hollywood cinematic presentation. Second, I turn to unpack God’s response to Job’s complaint in Job 38. In this section, I focus particularly on God’s self-description through constructive and parental metaphors. Finally, I suggest how reading these texts together can sharpen our understanding of the way in which the biblical narrative addresses relational dynamics between a creating God and humans as created beings.
artificial intelligence • creation • Job • robot science fiction
E. Allen Jones III is an assistant professor of Bible, Corban University, Salem, OR 97317, USA; e-mail: ajones @ corban.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12318

Reflective Pieces

Astrophysics and Creation: Perceiving the Universe through Science and Participation by Arnold Benz

I explore how the notion of divine creation could be made understandable in a worldview dominated by empirical science. The crucial question concerns the empirical basis of belief in creation. Astronomical observations have changed our worldview in an exemplary manner. I show by an example from imaginative literature that human beings can perceive stars by means other than astronomical observation. This alternative mode may be described as “participatory perception,” in which a human experiences the world not by objectifying separation as in science, but by personal involvement. I relate such perceptions to “embodied cognitive science,” a topical interdisciplinary field of research in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. Embodied cognitions initiate processes that can convey personal experiences of the stars. Such cognitions may involve religious apprehensions and give rise to sophisticated values. It is argued that the knowledge available through astrophysics and interpretation of the universe as divine creation represent two different ways of perceiving the same reality and should thus be seen as mutually complementary.
astronomy; divine action; divine creation; embodied cognition; participatory perceptions; physicalism; universe
Arnold O. Benz is Emeritus Professor at the Institute for Astronomy, ETH Zurich, Switzerland; e-mail: benz @ astro.phys.ethz.ch.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12320

Poetic Naturalism: Sean Carroll, Science and Moral Objectivity by Whitley Kaufman

Physicist Sean Carroll has developed a new theory of the fundamental nature of reality, which he calls “Poetic Naturalism,” with the stated goal of developing a theory of what is real that is consistent with the findings of natural science. Carroll claims to prove that morality cannot be seen as objectively true. This essay argues that Carroll’s conclusion is not convincing; there is no good reason to reject moral objectivity within a purely naturalistic worldview.
ethics • naturalism • science and morality
Whitley Kaufman is Chair and Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA, USA; email: Whitley_kaufman @ uml.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12325

Faith, Belief, and the Compatibility of Religion and Science by Doren Recker

Recent attacks on the compatibility of science and religion by the “militant modern atheists” (Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens) have posed serious challenges for anyone who supports the human importance of religious faith (particularly their identification of “faith” with “believing without evidence”). This article offers a critical analysis of their claims compared with those who do not equate faith with belief. I conclude that (i) the militant modern atheist interpretation of faith undervalues transformative religious experiences, (ii) that more people of faith hold it for this reason than their opponents acknowledge, and (iii) that meaningful dialogue between religion and science is both possible and desirable.
belief • compatibility of science and religion • dialogue • evolution vs. creationism • experiential religion • faith • God hypothesis • militant modern atheists • spirituality • transformative experience
Doren Recker is Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA; e-mail: doren.recker @ okstate.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12326

Is Empathy Immoral?

Is My Feeling Pain Bad for Others? Empathy as Virtue vs. Empathy as Fixed Trait by Gregory Peterson

The purpose of this article is to (1) critique the primary arguments given by Paul Bloom and Jesse Prinz against empathy, and (2) to argue instead that empathy is best understood as a virtue that plays an important but complicated role in the moral life. That it is a virtue does not mean that it always functions well, and empathy sometimes contributes to behavior that is partial and unfair. In some of their writings, both Bloom and Prinz endorse the view that empathy is a fixed trait, but there is little reason to think this, and the studies that they cite do not support this view. Further, a number of recent studies suggest the opposite: our empathic reactions are malleable and subject to environmental effects and learning. Although our capacities for cognitive and emotional empathy are clearly not sufficient for being moral, I argue that they are functionally necessary traits that, like other virtues, must be cultivated correctly.
Paul Bloom • cognitive empathy • dual processing • emotional empathy • moral psychology • Jesse Prinz • virtue
Gregory R. Peterson is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD, USA; e-mail: greg.peterson @ sdstate.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12330

Empathy and the Evolution of Compassion: From Deep History to Infused Virtue by Celia Deane-Drummond

This article poses a challenge to contemporary theories in psychology that portray empathy as a negative force in the moral life. Instead, drawing on alternative psychological and philosophical literature, especially Martha Nussbaum, I argue that empathy is related to the virtue of compassion and therefore crucial for moral action. Evidence for evolutionary anthropological accounts of compassion in early hominins provides additional arguments for its positive value in deep human history. I discuss this work alongside Thomistic notions of practical wisdom, compassion, misericordia, and the importance of reason in the moral life. The tension between “bottom up” accounts of empathy and that according to a theological interpretation of “infused” virtues also needs to be addressed. From a secular perspective, infused virtue is a projection of the ideal moral life, but from a theological perspective, it is a way of understanding how human capacities through the action of grace can reach beyond what seem to be the limits of psychological moral identity.
compassion • empathy • evolutionary anthropology • infused virtue • misericordia • moral psychology • Martha Nussbaum • practical wisdom • prudence
Celia Deane-Drummond is Professor of Theology, Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, USA; e-mail: celia.deane-drummond.1 @ nd.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12317


Alternative Concepts of God: Essays on the Metaphysics of the Divine edited by Andrei A. Buckareff and Yujin Nagasawa reviewed by Mladen Turk

Mladen Turk; Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, IL; e-mail: turkm @ elmhurst.edu
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12322

Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A. Helminiak reviewed by Brian Traska

Brian Traska; Theology Department, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA; e-mail: traska @ bc.edu
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12323

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts