In “science and religion,” there always are authors who reflect upon the conversation as such. What is this beast, “religion and science?” How should it be approached? Three articles with such a self-reflective orientation have been placed together in a thematic section.
Andrew B. Torrance has written a contribution that I consider very challenging, titled “Should a Christian Adopt Methodological Naturalism?” Both reviewers disagreed with the author’s point of view, but at least one considered this a thought-provoking contribution to the conversation. To understand why this article is perceived as challenging, let us consider the orientation of most contributors involved in “religion and science.” Almost all in this conversation are science-friendly; that is the point of the engagement in the first place. This science-friendly orientation brings with it an appreciation of the scientific approach, and thus of methodological naturalism. And almost all assume that one can be a methodological naturalist while being a Christian or adherent of another faith tradition. The methodological naturalist assumes, so it is often taken to be, that within the work of the scientist it is necessary, as a scientist, and appropriate, as a believer, to operate on naturalistic assumptions. In a recent article on advances in medicine, on diphtheria, the idea that “science is God’s provision” uses a naturalistic rhetorical strategy, appreciating as God’s gift modern medicine for the healing power it provides (Johnson 2017, 296). Torrance, in this issue, shares the science-friendly attitude, but argues that a Christian who is also a scientist need not assume a methodological naturalism. Rather, he argues that a committed Christian should avoid assuming methodological naturalism, a voice that deviates from the mainstream within our area of interdisciplinary discussion, and thus worth listening to.
I examine the ways in which the theological and philosophical debate surrounding transhumanism might profit by a detailed engagement with contemporary biology, in particular with the mainline accounts of species and speciation. After a short introduction, I provide a very brief primer on species concepts and speciation in contemporary biological taxonomy. Then in a third section (titled “Implications for Technological Alteration of Species”) I draw out some implications for the prospects of our being able intentionally to intervene in human evolution for the production of new species out of Homo sapiens. In a fourth section (titled “How Does the Biological Conception of Homo sapiens Relate to a Philosophical (or Theological) Account of Human Nature? And Where Does This Leave Transhumanism?”) I bring in the debate over the proper relationship between biological and theological conceptions of human nature, laying out the major options available (in light of Ian Barbour’s fourfold categorization schema) and considering their possible implications for our understanding of transhumanism. In a fifth section (titled “Potential Applications to Specific Subdisciplines of Theology”) several concrete examples are drawn out pertaining to particular subdisciplines within theology (hamartiology, soteriology, and eschatology). I conclude by briefly laying out some suggestions for future work, focusing on tasks that theologians specifically ought to pursue.
biology • taxonomy • theological anthropology • transhumanism
Travis Dumsday is Canada Research Chair in Theology and the Philosophy of Science in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Concordia University of Edmonton, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; e-mail: Travis.dumsday @ concordia.ab.ca.
Naturalizing Psychedelic Spirituality by Chris Letheby
A pressing philosophical problem is how to respond to the existential, anxiety and disenchantment resulting from a naturalistic worldview that eschews transcendent foundations for meaning and value. This problem is becoming more urgent as the popularization of neuroscientific findings renders a disenchanted conception of human beings ever more vivid, compelling, and widespread. I argue that the study of transformative experiences occasioned by classic psychedelic drugs such as lysergic acid diethylamide and psilocybin may reveal the nature of a viable practical solution to this problem. Despite the apparent centrality of nonnaturalistic metaphysical apprehensions to psychedelic transformation, findings from psychedelic research suggest that key elements of psychedelic or “entheogenic” spirituality are consistent with naturalism. These include disruption to neurocognitive mechanisms underpinning the sense of self, and consequent experiences of self-transcendence and of the decoupling of attention from personal concerns. This liberation of attention can result in the availability of broader perspectives and the development of wonder and appreciation for life.
entheogen • LSD • mysticism • naturalism • neuroexistentialism • neuroscience • philosophy • psilocybin • psychedelic • spirituality
Chris Letheby teaches philosophy at the University of Adelaide and logic at Eynesbury College, Adelaide, Australia; e-mail: cerletheby @ gmail.com.
A Contribution to the Debate on Science and Faith by Christian Students from Abidjan by Klaas Bom and Benno van den Toren
The science and faith debate is dominated by Western voices. In order to enrich this debate, the authors study the discourses of different groups of Christian academics and master’s students in francophone Africa. This article describes the process of reconstructing and analyzing the discourse of a group of master’s students from Abidjan (Ivory Coast) with the help of group model building and focus groups. Three characteristic features that emerge from this discourse include the foundational position of faith, the central role of truth, and the ambiguous connotations of the term “science” in this context. The reconstructed discourse is then brought into conversation with the North Atlantic debate, with a special focus on the concept of scientism.
Christian students • francophone Africa • group model building • scientism • theological reconstruction
Klaas Bom is Senior Researcher at the Protestant Theological University (PThU), Groningen, The Netherlands, and co-leader of the project “Science and Religion in French-Speaking Africa,” a cooperation between Templeton World Charity Foundation and the PThU; e-mail: k.l.bom @ pthu.nl. Benno van den Toren is Professor of Intercultural Theology at the Protestant Theological University, Groningen, The Netherlands, and leader of the project “Science and Religion in French-Speaking Africa”; e-mail: b.vanden.toren @ pthu.nl.
Use of the Phrase “Personal; Relationship with Jesus”: Toward a Comprehensive Interdisciplinary Explanation by Benjamin Bennett-Carpenter
When people use the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus,” how does one explain its significance? Normally attributed to evangelical Protestant Christians, use of the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” is a complicated phenomenon, and an explanation of it requires drawing upon resources from across multiple disciplines rather than a single discipline only. Attempts to explain exactly what the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” means frequently can be mystifying, on the one hand, or dismissive and simplistic, on the other hand. This article moves potentially toward a better context for understanding use of the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” by drawing upon insights from multiple disciplines, including (1) rhetorical and cultural-historical studies, (2) evolutionary and cognitive psychology, and (3) biological/behavioral and social/anthropological studies in order to set forth some basic lines of explanation for use of the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus.” The article concludes with some possible testable statements for future empirical studies.
biological • cognitive • evolutionary psychology • interdisciplinary • Jesus • person • psychological • religion • rhetorical • social
Benjamin Bennett-Carpenter is Special Lecturer in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric and the Bachelor of Liberal Studies Program at Oakland University, Rochester, MI, USA; e-mail: bennettc @ oakland.edu.
How to Do Religion and Science?
Should a Christian Adopt Methodological Naturalism? by Andrew Torrance
It has become standard practice for scientists to avoid the possibility of references to God by adopting methodological naturalism (MN), a method that assumes that the reality of the universe, as it can be accessed by empirical enquiry, is to be explained solely with recourse to natural phenomena. In this essay, I critique the Christian practice of this method, arguing that a Christian’s practices should always reflect her belief that the universe is created and sustained by the triune God. This leads me to contend that the Christian should adopt a theologically humble approach to the sciences (instead of MN), with which she humbly acknowledges that special divine action is not discernible by empirical science. To further my critique, I consider three ways in which the practice of MN can be particularly problematic for Christianity.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer • Christianity • creation • faith • Holy Spirit • Jesus Christ • methodological naturalism • naturalism • Alvin Plantinga • theology
Andrew B. Torrance is Lecturer at St. Mary’s College, The School of Divinity, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland, UK; e-mail: abt3 @ st-andrews.ac.uk.
The Scientific Character of Philip Hefners “Created Co-Creator” by Victoria Lorrimar
Philip Hefner’s understanding of humans as “created co-creators” has played a key role in the science and religion field, particularly as scholars consider the implications of emerging technologies for the human future. Hefner articulates his “created co-creator” framework in the form of scientifically testable hypotheses supporting his core understanding of human nature, adopting the structure of Imre Lakatos’s scientific research programme. This article provides a brief exposition of Hefner’s model, examines his hypotheses in order to assess their scientific character, and evaluates them against the relevant findings of contemporary science. While Hefner’s model is largely commensurate with contemporary science, he at times makes claims that cannot be scientifically falsified or corroborated. Hefner’s accomplishments in demonstrating the scientific compatibility of many theological notions is admirable; however, his overall position would be strengthened with a more tacit acknowledgment of the limitations of scientific knowledge. His anthropology draws also from extra-scientific commitments and is all the richer for it.
co-creation • Philip Hefner • Imre Lakatos • scientific method
Victoria Lorrimar is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford University, Oxford, UK; e-mail: vicki @ lorrimar.id.au.
Assessing the Field of Science and Religion: Advice from the Next Generation by Michael Burdett
The field of science and religion is undergoing a transition today requiring assessment of its past movements and identifying its future trajectories by the next generation of science and religion scholars. This essay provides such assessment and advice. To focus efforts on the past, I turn to Ian Barbour’s own stock taking of the field some forty years ago in an essay entitled “Science and Religion Today” before giving some personal comments where I argue that much of the field has traditionally focused on the conversation between Christianity and the natural sciences. At present, however, we are beginning to see that the future of the conversation lies beyond the dialogue between the natural sciences and Christianity. I suggest that the future dialogue will and ought to expand in several directions: (1) into non-Christian religions and theology, (2) into the human sciences, (3) into science and technology Studies, and (4) into the humanities more broadly.
Ian Barbour • Christianity • cognitive science of religion • myth • naturalism • science and technology studies • technology • theology and science
Michael S. Burdett is Research Fellow in Religion, Science and Technology, Wycliffe Hall at University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; e-mail: michael.burdett @ theology.ox.ac.uk.
Varieties of Knowing in Science and Religion
The Road Is Made by Walking: An Introduction by Pat Bennett and John Teske
We are living in a time of unprecedented challenges: human activity is now the primary driver shaping the planet and we are perilously close to breaching a variety of critical planetary boundaries—a prelude to the possible extinction of our species. How should we be thinking and acting—as persons, communities, institutions and societies—so as to best understand and respond to these challenges? What contribution can the field of science and religion make to develop the knowledge needed to negotiate the civilizational transition we face? Such questions were addressed through a series of dialogues at the 62nd annual conference of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science in June of 2016—“How Can We Know? Co-Creating Knowledge in Perilous Times.” This essay sets the background to these challenges and introduces the set of articles in this themed section.
Anthropocene • civilizational change • cognition • critical thinking • culture • evolution • imagining • knowing • morality • self • tradition • wisdom
Pat Bennett is an independent scholar and works as the Programmes Development Worker for the Iona Community in Scotland; e-mail: pat @ iona.org.uk. John A. Teske is Academic Fellow of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) and a Fellow of the International Society for Science and Religion; e-mail: john.alfred.teske @ gmail.com.
Can We Still Talk about “Truth” and “Progress” in Interdisciplinary Thinking Today? by J. Wentzel van Huyssteen
On a cultural level, and for Christian theology as part of a long tradition in the evolution of religion, evolutionary epistemology “sets the stage,” as it were, for understanding the deep evolutionary impact of our ancestral history on the evolution of culture, and eventually on the evolution of disciplinary and interdisciplinary reflection. In the process of the evolution of human knowledge, our interpreted experiences and expectations of the world (and of the ultimate questions we humans typically pose to the world) have a central role to play. What evolutionary epistemology also shows us is that we humans can indeed take on cognitive goals and ideals that cannot be explained or justified in terms of survival-promotion or reproductive advantage only. Therefore, once the capacities for rational knowledge, moral sensibility, aesthetic appreciation of beauty, and the propensity for religious belief have emerged in our biological history, they cannot be explained only in biological/evolutionary terms. Finally, in this way a door is opened for seeing problem solving as a central activity of our research traditions. As philosophers of science have argued, one of the most important shared rational resources between even widely divergent disciplines is problem solving as the most central and defining activity of all research traditions. As will become clear, the very diverse reasoning strategies of theology and the sciences clearly overlap in their shared quests for intelligible problem solving, including problem solving on an empirical, experiential, and conceptual level.
empirical and conceptual problems • evolutionary epistemology • human imagination • niche construction • reductionist explanations vs. problem solving
J. Wentzel van Huyssteen is James I. McCord Professor of Theology and Science Emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ, USA; e-mail: wentzel.vanhuyssteen @ ptsem.edu.
What if the Human Mind Evolved for Non-rational Thought? An Anthropological Perspective by Jonathan Marks
Our knowledge of the evolution of human thought is limited not only by the nature of the evidence, but also by the values we bring to the authoritative scientific study of our ancestors. The tendency to see human thought as linear progress in rational (i.e., problem-solving) capacities has been popular since the Enlightenment, and in the wake of Darwinism has been extended to other species as well. Human communication (language) can be used to transmit useful information, but is rooted in symbolic processes that are nonrational—that is, they involve choosing among functionally equivalent alternatives, any of which is as good an option as any other. The evolution of human thought cannot be realistically isolated from the evolution of human society or human communication, neither of which is rooted in obvious rationality.
anthropology • cultural evolution • evolution • human nature • language • science
Jonathan Marks is Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, USA; e-mail: jmarks @ uncc.edu.
Right-wing Postmodernism and the Rationality of Traditions by Philip Cary
Modern thought typically opposes the authority of tradition in the name of universal reason. Postmodernism begins with the insight that the sociohistorical context of tradition and its authority is inevitable, even in modernity. Modernity can no longer take itself for granted when it recognizes itself as a tradition that is opposed to traditions. The left-wing postmodernist response to this insight (represented, e.g., by Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault) is to conclude that because tradition is inevitable, irrationality is inevitable. The right-wing postmodernist response (represented, e.g., by Hans-Georg Gadamer and Alasdair MacIntyre) is to see traditions as the home of diverse forms of rationality. This requires an understanding of the Socratic, self-critical aspect of intellectual traditions, which include both modern sciences and the great world religions.
Alasdair MacInytre • modernity • personhood • postmodernism • rationality • Socrates
Phillip Cary is Professor of Philosophy and Scholar-in-Residence at the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University, Philadelphia, PA, USA; e-mail: pcary @ eastern.edu.
Human Phenotypic Morality and the Biological Basis for Knowing Good by Margaret Boone Rappaport and Christopher Corbally
Co-creating knowledge takes a new approach to human phenotypic morality as a biologically based, human lineage specific (HLS) trait. Authors from very different backgrounds (anthropology and biology, on the one hand, and astronomy, philosophy, and theology, on the other) first review research on the nature and origins of morality using the social brain network, and studies of individuals who cannot “know good” or think morally because of brain dysfunction. They find these models helpful but insufficient, and turn to paleoanthropology, cognitive science, and neuroscience to understand human moral capacity and its origins long ago, in the genus Homo. An unusual narrative capturing “morality in action” takes the reader back 900,000 years, and then the authors analyze the essential features of moral thinking and behavior as expressed by early and later species on our lineage. In what has primarily been the province of philosophers to date, the authors’ morality model is presented for further scientific testing.
cognitive science • culture • human lineage specific (HLS) • morality • neuroscience • paleoanthropology • primates • psychopathology • social brain network • sociality
Margaret Boone Rappaport is an anthropologist and co-founder of the Human Sentience Project, Tucson, AZ, USA; e-mail: msbrappaport @ aol.com. Christopher J. Corbally, SJ, is an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory and Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA; e-mail: corbally @ as.arizona.edu.
Philosophical Anthropology, Ethics, and Love: Toward a New Religion and Science Dialogue by Christian Early
Religion and science dialogues that orbit around rational method, knowledge, and truth are often, though not always, contentious. In this article, I suggest a different cluster of gravitational points around which religion and science dialogues might usefully travel: philosophical anthropology, ethics, and love. I propose seeing morality as a natural outgrowth of the human desire to establish and maintain social bonds so as not to experience the condition of being alone. Humans, of all animals, need to feel loved—defined as a compassionate present-with in dynamic dyadic relation such that one experiences the sense of mattering—but that need has an equally natural tendency to be met by creating biased us-and-them distinctions. A “critical” natural ethics, then, is one in which we become aware of and work to undermine our tendency to reify in-group distinctions between “us” and “them.” Religious communities that work intentionally on this can be seen, to some extent, as laboratories of love—or as sites for co-creating knowledge in perilous times.
attachment • Charles Darwin • emotion • ethics • David Hume • love • morality • philosophical anthropology
Christian Early is Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA, USA; e-mail: christian.early @ emu.edu.
Knowing Ourselves as Embodied and Relationally Extended by Warren S. Brown
What does it mean to know oneself, and what is the self that one hopes to know? This article outlines the implications of an embodied understanding of persons and some aspects of the “self” that are generally ignored when thinking about our selves. The Cartesian model of body-soul (or body-mind) dualism reinforces the idea that there is within us a soul, or self, or mind that is our hidden, inner, and real self. Thus, the path to self-knowledge is introspection. The alternative view is that persons are embodied (entirely physical creatures), embedded (formed by our physical and social environment), and at times extended (cognitively soft-coupled to artifacts or other persons). This article emphasizes the bodily, active, contextual, relational, often simulated, and sometimes extended nature of the selves that we are, and that we hope to know.
cognitive extension • dualism • embodiment • human nature • physicalism • self • situational embeddedness
Warren S. Brown is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Lee Travis Research Institute at the Graduate School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, USA; e-mail: wsbrown @ fuller.edu.
Knowing Ourselves by Telling Stories to Ourselves by John A. Teske
Part of the epistemological crisis of the twentieth century was caused by empirically establishing that introspection provides little reliable self-knowledge. While we all have full actual selves to which our self-representations do not do full justice, we focus on the formation and existence of a narrative self, and on problematic reliability. We will explore the cognitive neuroscience behind its limitations, including pathological forms of confabulation, the generation of plausible but insufficiently grounded accounts of our actions, and the normal patterns of narrative creation and checking. The evolutionary logic of self-deception may produce adaptive results, particularly in service of the “commitment strategies” that give our species results otherwise unobtainable. It is largely in our close relationships with other human beings, the relationships so well served by these very strategies, that we may find the powerful counterbalancing feedback which may provide positive change and self-transcendence. Nevertheless, we will also warn about a shadow side for which religion can provide both acknowledgment and hope.
cognitive neuroscience • confabulation • embodied cognition • epistemology • introspection • narrative • self-deception • self-knowledge • self-representation
John A. Teske is Academic Fellow of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) and a Fellow of the International Society for Science and Religion; e-mail: john.alfred.teske @ gmail.com.
Advances in Religion, Cognitive Science, and Experimental Philosophy edited by Helen De Cruz and Ryan Nichols reviewed by Mladen Turk
Javier Sánchez-Cañizares; Group “Science, Reason, and Faith,” Ecclesiastical School of Philosophy, and “Mind-Brain Project: Biology and Subjectivity in Contemporary Philosophy and Neuroscience,” Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain; js.canizares @ unav.es.