Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
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Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
54 (1), March 2019

Table of Contents


Transversality, Apocalyptic AI, and Racial Science by Arthur C. Petersen

Relationality and Health: A Transversal Neurotheological Account This issue witnesses the long overdue publication of elements of Pat Bennett’s doctoral thesis on relationality and health, for which she was awarded the ESSSAT Research Prize for 2014. Bennett’s study brings together in a fruitful conversation medical literature, especially on neuroimmunology (links between “how we feel” and our immune system) and a theological vision of a healthily connected human person. She builds on Wentzel van Huyssteen’s proposal in his Gifford Lectures of 2004 for the use of “transversality” as “a heuristic device that opens up new ways for crossing boundaries between disciplines.” (van Huyssteen 2006, 112; for a recent exposition, see van Huyssteen 2017)
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12492


Are We Closer to Free Market Eugenics? The CRISPR Controversy by Ted Peters

Might the 2018 birth of two designer babies in China write the opening paragraph for the next chapter in the history of eugenics? The worldwide scientific community has tacitly put a moratorium on human clinical application of CRISPR gene editing, waiting until unknown risks can become known. But this ethical agreement has been breached, and calls are now being heard for more rigorous regulations. Perhaps religious and spiritual leaders can join the bioethical chant: the yellow light of caution is flashing.
bioethics • CRISPR • enhancement • ethics • gene editing • therapy
Ted Peters is Professor of Systematic Theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA, USA. He is a co-editor of Theology and Science and directs the CTNS (Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences) Science and Religion Course Program; e-mail: tedfpeters @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12501

Can Personality Underpin Attitudes to Both Science and Religion? by Geoffrey Cantor

Drawing on Peter Harrison’s argument that individuals should be attributed a central role in analyses of the relationship between science and religion, this article proposes that an understanding of personality can help us better appreciate a person’s attitudes to both science and religion. Rather than seeing an individual’s attitudes to these two topics as separate, if sometimes overlapping, parts of their lives, it is suggested that both may result from psychological drives and sometimes from the same psychological drive. Two contrasting case studies are employed to illustrate this proposal. First, Paul Dirac who, it is argued, was on the autistic spectrum, a personality profile that is often linked to both mathematical physics and atheism. By contrast, Michael Faraday’s scientific practice and his commitment to a specific form of Christianity were underpinned by his need for security, as assured by the God-given laws that operated in both the physical and moral domains.
Paul Dirac • Michael Faraday • historiography • personality • psychological perspectives
Geoffrey Cantor is professor emeritus of the history of science at the University of Leeds and senior honorary research associate at University College, London, UK; e-mail: geoffrey.cantor @ yahoo.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12479

Cargoism and Scientific Justification in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence by John Traphagan

This article compares justifications of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) presented by scientists with ideational constructs associated with cargo cults in Melanesia. In focusing on similarities between cargoism and SETI, I argue that, understood in terms of cultural practice, aspects of the science of SETI have significant similarities to the religious elements that characterize cargoism. Through a focus on the construction of meanings, I consider how SETI and cargoism use similar signification systems to communicate meaning related to local social contexts and I draw a parallel with the religious and meaning structure of cargoism to show that SETI and cargoism employ similar strategies to justify beliefs. As a result, in some ways SETI represents a scientific framework that inhabits cultural and epistemological space that overlaps with religious space.
cargoism • cultural critique • scientific justification • SETI • signification
John W. Traphagan is Professor of Religious Studies and in the Program in Human Dimensions of Organizations at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Fellow, Austin, TX, USA; e-mail: jtrap @ `utexas.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12480

Devil in Technologies: Russian Orthodox Neoconservatism versus Scientific and Technological Progress by Marcin Skladanowski

One of the interesting aspects of Russian self-definition in opposition to the West is its attitude toward Western science. Russian distrust of scientific and technological progress in the West is an important force shaping contemporary Russian identity. This article touches on these issues in four parts. The first section characterizes two main conservative circles that are active in today’s disputes over the significance of scientific development for Russian identity. The second demonstrates certain Russian contemporary concerns related to scientific and technological progress, which will enable us to explain the position of the Russian Orthodox Church. The third section presents the political, religious, and identity context for the suspicion toward science expressed by Russian conservatives. The final section, on the other hand, discusses the way in which Russian Orthodox neoconservatism uses Orthodox anthropology to raise suspicion toward scientific and technological achievements.
anti-Occidentalism • Christianity • Russia and the West • Russian neoconservatism • Russian Orthodoxy • theology and science
Marcin Skladanowski is Professor of Russian Religion and Society at the Faculty of Theology of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Lublin, Poland; e-mail: skladanowski @ kul.pl.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12484

An Interdisciplinary Framework for Islamic Cognitive Theories by Paul Kaplick, Yaqub Chaudhary, Abdullah Hasan, Asim Yusuf, and Hooman Keshavarzi

The Islamic psychology (IP) community in Europe has recently witnessed a heated debate about the credentials required to participate in the theoretical substantiation of IP and Islamically integrated psychotherapy and counseling. This debate has provided convenient circumstances for Muslim psychologists and Islamic scholars alike to rethink their roles within the flourishing movement. Specifically, the discussions hint toward the importance of adopting a collaborative research methodology for IP, in particular for basic research. The methodology of choice will need to define the necessary qualifications and responsibilities of scholars and psychologists in a collaborative research process (personal collaboration) and evince its capability to appropriately marry knowledge and data, diverging research methods, and perspectives, concepts, and theories from Islamic studies and contemporary psychology (content-related collaboration). Here, we devise and offer a case illustration of an Islamic Psychology Basic Research Framework (coined the SALAAM Framework). This framework uses the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS) Model of Interdisciplinary Research, developed by the IIS at the University of Amsterdam. Our first aim is to appropriate the IIS model for the IP literature by applying the model’s research process phases and technique for the integration of disparate bodies of knowledge—that is, the identification of common ground—to methodological approaches in the contemporary IP literature. Our second aim is to exemplify the devised SALAAM Framework using the relatively unexplored area of Islamic cognitive theories (ICTs), which remain underdeveloped in contemporary psychological literature, primarily because of a lack of commensurability with the nomenclature of contemporary psychology. We thus provide a primer on the potential scope of ICTs. Toward the end of this article, we discuss the potential of the project of interdisciplinary construction of Islamic psychological theory, and the ability of the SALAAM Framework to establish a research program in IP that centers on cognition. We finally offer our reflections on the distinctiveness of Islamic psychologies in comparison to mainstream and Christian psychology.
‘aql • cognition • cognitive science • intellect • intellection • interdisciplinarity • interdisciplinary • Islam • Islamic studies • neuroscience • psychology
Paul Kaplick is a graduate student, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS), University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Head, “Islam and Psychology” Research Group, Islamic Association of Social and Educational Professions, Munich/Frankfurt, Germany; e-mail: paul.kaplick @ gmail.com. Yaqub Chaudhary is Templeton Research Fellow in Science and Religion, Cambridge Muslim College, Cambridge, UK. Abdullah Hasan is Researcher, Islamic Psychology Department, Alif Institute, London, UK. Asim Yusuf is Fellow, Royal College of Psychiatrists, London, UK. Hooman Keshavarzi is Founding Director, Department of Psychological Research, Khalil Center, Chicago, USA, and Visiting Faculty, Ibn Haldun University, Istanbul, Turkey.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12500

Relationality and Health: Transversal Neurotheological Account

“Landscape Plotted and Pieced”: Exploring the Contours of Engagement between (Neuro)science and Theology by Patricia Bennett

This article—the first of a linked set of three outlining the development and practice of a different approach to science/religion dialogue—begins with an overview of some persistent tensions in the field. Then, using a threefold heuristic of encounter, engagement, and expression, it explores the routes taken by James Ashbrook and Andrew Newberg to develop a dialogue between theology and neuroscience, discussing some of the problems associated with these and their implications for attempts to further develop neurotheology. Finally, it proposes a different way of thinking about this enterprise and points toward a new methodology for supporting this endeavor.
James Ashbrook • cognitive neuroscience • neurotheology • Andrew Newberg • relationality • science/religion dialogue • theology • transversal spaces • J. Wentzel van Huyssteen
Pat Bennett is an independent scholar with a dual background in science and theology. She works as the Programmes DevelopmentWorker for the Iona Community in Scotland; e-mail: pat @ iona.org.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12491

“Things Counter, Original, Spare, Strange”: Developing a Postfoundational Transversal Model for Science/Religion Dialogue by Patricia Bennett

This second of three articles outlining the development and practice of a different approach to neurotheology discusses the construction of a suitable methodology for the project based on the work of J. Wentzel van Huyssteen. It explores the origin and contours of his concept of postfoundational rationality, its potential as a locus for epistemological parity between science and religion and the distinctive and unique transversal space model for interdisciplinary dialogue which he builds on these. It then proposes a further development of the model which has the potential to produce a very different type of additional and original dialogical outcome. While such “transversal” outputs may initially seem counter and strange they not only flow naturally from the models’ own inherent dynamics but also open up the possibility of a distinctively different form of neurotheology.
epistemic parity • Susan Haack • interdisciplinary dialogue • Larry Laudan • neurotheology • postfoundational rationality • Calvin Schrag • transversal spaces • J. Wentzel van Huyssteen
Pat Bennett is an independent scholar with a dual background in science and theology. She works as the Programmes DevelopmentWorker for the Iona Community in Scotland; e-mail: pat @ iona.org.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12493

“Áll Trádes, their Gear, and Tackle and Trim”: Theology, Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychoneuroimmunology in Transversal Dialogue by Patricia Bennett

This third of three articles outlining a different approach to science/religion dialogue generally and to engagement between theology and the neurosciences specifically, gives a brief account of the model in practice. It begins by introducing the question to be investigated—whether the experience of relational connection can affect health outcomes by directly moderating immune function. Then, employing the same threefold heuristic of encounter, exchange, and expression used previously, it discusses how the transversal model set out in these articles has been used to investigate this question and to develop a theoretical physiological model for the proposed link between relationality and health.
cognitive neuroscience • Gabriel Marcel • neurotheology • psychoneuroimmunology • relational connection • transversal space dialogue • Trinitarian theology • J. Wentzel van Huyssteen • Hans Urs von Balthasar
Pat Bennett is an independent scholar with a dual background in science and theology. She works as the Programmes DevelopmentWorker for the Iona Community in Scotland; e-mail: pat @ iona.org.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12497

Artificial Intelligence and Apocalypicism

Introduction to the Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Apocalypticism by Robert Geraci and Simon Robinson

This is an introduction to the Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Apocalypticism, which resulted from a conference hosted by the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM) in Bedford, UK. The introduction provides a brief history of scholarly work in the intersections of apocalypticism and artificial intelligence and of the emergence of CenSAMM from a millenarian religious community, the Panacea Society. It concludes by pointing toward the contributions of the symposium’s essays.
apocalyptic • artificial intelligence • millenarianism • Panacea Society
Robert M. Geraci is a Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY, USA; e-mail: robert.geraci @ manhattan.edu. Simon Robinson works with cultural organizations on visioning, planning, and objective management. He developed the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements between 2015 and 2018, Bedford, UK; e-mail: simonoliverrobinson @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12489

Existential Hope and Existential Despair in AI Apocalypticism and Transhumanism by Beth Singler

Drawing on observations from on- and offline fieldwork among transhumanists and artificial superintelligence/singularity focused groups, this article will explore an anthropology of anxiety around the hoped for, or feared, posthuman future. It will lay out some of the varieties of existential hope and existential despair found in these discussions about predicted events such as the “end of the world” and place them within an anthropological theoretical framework. Two examples will be considered. First, the optimism observed at a transhumanist event will be examined to emphasize the positive affective aspects of certain apocalypse scenarios, especially those with an implicit eschatological direction. Second, an online location where examples of existential despair can be noted will be explored further to demonstrate the kinds of negative responses to certain superintelligence/singularity ideas. These examples of existential hope and despair will demonstrate the intrinsic role of anxiety in ideas about a future artificial intelligence apocalypse.
apocalypse • artificial intelligence • transhumanism
Beth Singler is Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College, University of Cambridge, and Associate Research Fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK; e-mail: bvw20 @ cam.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12494

The Athenian Altar, the Amazoniam Chatbot: A Pauline Reading of Artificial Intelligence and Apocalyptic Ends by Michael Morelli

This article explores questions about chatbots in particular and artificial intelligence (AI) in general from a Pauline, that is, a Christian theological perspective. It does so in a way that focuses on a particular scene in the New Testament: Paul in the Athenian Areopagus, considering an altar to an “unknown God,” quoting Greek poets and philosophers, and sharing curious theology as he dialogues with Stoic and Epicurean thinkers (Acts 17:16-34). By examining the sociohistorical nuances of this scene and their philosophical and theological implications, this article shows how the altar Paul considers philosophically and theologically becomes the focal point for an important dialogue about apocalyptic ends, or ideas about who we are, where we are going, and who or what is responsible for that whoness and where-ness. In turn, this can teach us how to ask practical questions, which can uncover the unsuspected apocalyptic ends represented by, or even contained within, common technological objects such as chatbots.
artificial intelligence • cosmology • divinity • eschatology • ethics • religion • technology • teleology • theology • worldview
Michael Morelli is a doctoral candidate studying theological ethics at the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland; e-mail: mchlmorelli @ gmail.com.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12483

Mind-Uploading and Embodied Cognition: A Theological Response by Victoria Lorrimar

One of the more radical transhumanist proposals for future human being envisions the uploading of our minds to a digital substrate, trading our dependence on frail, degenerating “meat” bodies for the immortality of software existence. Yet metaphor studies indicate that our use of metaphor operates in our bodily inhabiting of the world, and a phenomenological approach emphasizes a “hybridity” to human being that resists traditional mind/body dichotomies. Future scenarios envisioning mind uploading and disembodied artificial intelligence (AI) share an apocalyptic category with more traditional religious eschatologies, though they differ markedly in content; therefore, the insights of embodied cognition and their uptake in technological innovation are considered as they apply to theological concerns. Theology often functions in debates over the technological future to critique or to caution. However, theologians may learn from their technological dialogue partners when it comes to the future of embodiment and its implications for the construction and practice of theology.
artificial intelligence • embodied cognition • mind uploading
Victoria Lorrimar is Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Trinity College Queensland and Flinders University, Brisbane, Australia; e-mail: Victoria.lorrimar @ trinity.qld.edu.au.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12481

“White Crisis” and/as “Existential Risk”, or the Entangled Apocalypticism of Artificial Intelligence by Syed Mustafa Ali

In this article, I present a critique of Robert Geraci’s Apocalyptic artificial intelligence (AI) discourse, drawing attention to certain shortcomings which become apparent when the analytical lens shifts from religion to the race–religion nexus. Building on earlier work, I explore the phenomenon of existential risk associated with Apocalyptic AI in relation to “White Crisis,” a modern racial phenomenon with premodern religious origins. Adopting a critical race theoretical and decolonial perspective, I argue that all three phenomena are entangled and they should be understood as a strategy, albeit perhaps merely rhetorical, for maintaining white hegemony under nonwhite contestation. I further suggest that this claim can be shown to be supported by the disclosure of continuity through change in the long-durée entanglement of race and religion associated with the establishment, maintenance, expansion, and refinement of the modern/colonial world system if and when such phenomena are understood as iterative shifts in a programmatic trajectory of domination which might usefully be framed as “algorithmic racism.”
algorithmic racism • apocalypticism • Apocalyptic AI • existential risk • posthumanism • race • religion • transhumanism • White Crisis • whiteness
Syed Mustafa Ali is a Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK; e-mail: s.m.ali @ open.ac.uk.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12498

Terrence Keel’s Divine Variations: A Symposium

Christian Roots of the Scientific Study of Race by Terrence Keel

The view that science and religion are necessarily in conflict has increasingly lost favor among scholars who have sought more nuanced theoretical frameworks for evaluating the configurations of these two bodies of knowledge in modern life. This article situates, for the first time, the modern study of race into scholarly assessments on the relations between religion and science. I argue that the formation of the race concept in the minds of Western European and American scientists grew out of and remained indebted to Christian intellectual history. Religion was not subtracted from nor stood in conflict with constructions of race developed across the modern life and health sciences.
anthropology • biology • Christianity • culture • determinism • epistemology • genetics • race • philosophy of science • theology
Terence D. Keel is Associate Professor at the Institute for Society and Genetics, with a joint appointment in the Department of African American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA; e-mail: tdkeel @ ucla.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12490

In What Sense Exactly Did Christianity Give Us Racial Science? by Yiftach Fehige

In my contribution to the interdisciplinary discussion of Terence Keel’s study on the Christian roots of modern racial science, I focus on its philosophical assumptions and implications. My primary concern is to relate the findings of this study to recent appraisals of the philosophical notion of a secularized Western modernity. I raise a twofold question: in what sense can one say that traditional Christianity links intimately to modern racial science, and which historiographical decisions inform the substantiation of such links?
Jürgen Habermas • historicism • modernity • reoccupation • secularism
Yiftach Fehige is Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST), Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7, Canada; e-mail: yiftach.fehige @ utoronto.ca.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12488

Christian Thought, Race, Blumenbach and Historicizing by Ernie Hamm

Terence Keel’s Divine Variations: How Christian Thought Became Racial Science attributes the origins of “racial science” to Christian intellectual history. This is a bold and original argument, but it is not without deep difficulties, particularly in the early sections of the book. The concept of “race” is not sufficiently historicized and the treatment of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach needs to be more firmly grounded in the world of eighteenth-century natural history.
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach • Christianity • historicization of nature • race • science
Ernie Hamm is Associate Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada; e-mail: ehamm @ yorku.ca.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12495

The Coevolution of Human Origins, Human Variation, and their Meaning in the 19th Century by Jonathan Marks

Ideas about biology, race, and theology were bound up together in nineteenth-century scholarship, although they are rarely, if ever, considered together today. Nevertheless, the new genealogical way of thinking about the history of life arose alongside a new way of thinking about the Bible, and a new way of thinking about people. They connected with one another in subtle ways, and modern scholarly boundaries do not map well on to nineteenth-century scholarship.
biblical studies • evolution • Ernst Haeckel • scientific racism • Alfred Russel Wallace
Jonathan Marks is Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, USA; e-mail: jmarks @ uncc.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12482

Racial Science and “Absolute Questions”: Re-Occupations and Repositions by Elizabeth Neswald

In Divine Variations, Terence Keel cites Hans Blumenberg’s concept of “reoccupation” as way to approach the relationship between science and religion in racial science. This article explores the potential of a Blumenbergian framework for interpreting the changing forms of this science – religion nexus. It pays particular attention to the shift to quantitative methods, measurement, and descriptive statistics in physical anthropology and the social sciences in the late nineteenth century, which seem to be emphatically secular. Asking whether they too, have a place in the Blumenbergian framework, it proposes that Blumenberg’s “reoccupation of the answer position” has as its counterpart a “repositioning of the question. ”
Hans Blumenberg • physical anthropology • reoccupation • secularization • statistics
Elizabeth Neswald is Associate Professor in the Department of History, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada; e-mail: eneswald @ brocku.ca.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12496

Response to my Critics: The Life of Christian Racial Forms in Modern Science by Terrence Keel

In what follows, I first deal with some of the major philosophical objections raised against my claim that Christian thought has given us racial science. Then, I take on points of dispute surrounding my use of Hans Blumenberg’s notion of reoccupation to explain the recurrence of Christian forms within modern scientific thinking. Finally, I address some historiographic issues surrounding my assessment of Johann Blumenbach and the origins of racial science.
biology • Christianity • Creator • culture • determinism • epistemology • genetics •God • interdisciplinarity • philosophy of science
Terence D. Keel is Associate Professor at the Institute for Society and Genetics, with a joint appointment in the Department of African American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA; e-mail: tdkeel @ ucla.edu.
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12499


Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Think by Elaine Howard Ecklund and Christopher P. Scheitle reviewed by Christopher Hrynkow

Christopher Hrynkow, St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada; e-mail: chrynkow @ stmcollege.ca
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12486

Darwin, Dharma, and the Divine: Evolutionary Theory and Religion in Modern Japan by G. Clinton Godart reviewed by Esben Petersen

Esben Petersen, Visiting Research Fellow, Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Nagoya, Japan; e-mail: esbenpe @ gmail.com
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12487

Naturalism and Religion: A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation by Graham Oppy reviewed by Tiddy Smith

Tiddy Smith, Teaching Assistant and Researcher, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand; e-mail: smiti804 @ student.otago.ac.nz
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12485

Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts