ESSSAT News 7:3

ESSSAT News 7:3 (July 1997) a selection

Templeton awards for European courses – 
Of the 97 winners in 1997 of awards for courses, offered by the Templeton Foundation, 14 went to Europe, of which seven to the UK: Hugh Rollinson, Cheltenham; A.B. Dix, Middlesex; Ian Wright, Brighton; Donald S. Lopez, Bristol; David M. Knight, Durham; John D. Weaver, Oxford; Alexei Nesteruk, Portsmouth. Prizes went also to Lodovico Galleni (Pisa, Italy), Rafael Martinez (Rome, Italy), Sergei Grib (St Petersburg, Russia), Ladislau Nagy (Cluj-Napoca, Romania), and Jean Staune (Paris, France). Congratulations!

NEWS from elsewhere

Ralph Burhoe – 
Ralph Burhoe, founder of the journal Zygon and of the Institute for Religion in an Age of Science, has died on May 8 after a long illness. From an obituary by Phil Hefner:

Convinced that science does not threaten the wisdom of traditional religion, but rather reinforces it, Burhoe developed an extensive theoretical framework to explain how religion emerged within the evolutionary process. … In fact, he saw trans-kin altruism, or love, as the central factor that enabled human culture to survive. Culture carries the information that transforms the ‘ape-man’ into a genuine human being.

Burhoe is not only to be remembered for his work on a co-evolutionary theory of human nature and culture, but also for creating media where eminent scientists, anthropologists, philosophers and theologians have met and will continue to meet each other. Essays on his ideas have appeared in Zygon (including fairly recently one by Hubert Meisinger) and there is a biography by David Breed, Yoking Science and Religion: The Life and Thought of Ralph Wendell Burhoe (Chicago: Zygon Books, 1992); also in Zygon 25 (3 and 4, 1990) and 26 (1, 2 and 3, 1991).


Ursula King, Christ in all things. Exploring spirituality with Teilhard de Chardin. London: SCM & Maryknoll: Orbis, 1997. ix +181 pp. ISBN 0334026830, 12.95. With notes and index. These Bampton lectures deal with the spiritual vision of Teilhard de Chardin in relation to contemporary debates on Christian spirituality, mysticism, world religions, voices of women and of the Third World, and ecological issues. King emphasizes the less known early essays, written in the trenches of WW I, with prayerful meditations. Teilhard de Chardin is introduced in a way which may well make his writings more useful and inspiring than discussions which primarily focus on his particular writings on theology and evolution (which, however, are also dealt with here).

Andrea Günter, Ulrike Wagener (eds.), What does it mean today to be a feminist theologian? Kampen: Kok Pharos/ Mainz: Grünewald, 1996. 191 pp. ISBN 9039002622 (Kok)/3786719578 (Grünewald)/39,-. Antje Jackelén, secretary of ESSSAT, contributes to this fourth yearbook of the European Society of Women in Theological Research a paper on the dialogue between science and theology. While our area is already complicated, she observes that the participation of women is even less obvious. (See for an historical argument the book by M. Wertheim, reviewed in ESSSAT News 6:4.) Jackelén gives an overview of the history of science and religion, concluding that neither a complete divorce nor an easy harmonizing is satisfactory; she prefers a pluralism in which different approaches supplement and correct each other, intentionally seeking `bodily contact’ with reality and with each other, despite our anxieties.

Vincent Brümmer, Marcel Sarot (eds.), Happiness, Well-Being and the Meaning of Life: A Dialogue of Social Science and Religion. Kampen, NL: Kok Pharos, 1996. vi + 162 pp. ISBN 9039002711. /. 69,–. This book is the fruit of a consultation of theologians and social scientists, held in Aarhus in december 1992 under the auspices of the Florida based Center for Theological Exploration. Marcel Sarot offers a substantial introduction. Fraser Watts argues that the belief that problems can be solved rests upon too optimistic a view of our ability to decide what our objectives and problems are. Hans-Günter Heimbrock pleads that theologians should show respect for the return to magical practices in the Western world, thereby freeing theology from rationalistic prejudices. Grace M. Jantzen claims that a theology based on the ideal of human flourishing would be better for gender relations than one based on the notion of sa lvation. James R. Cochrane reflects on soteriology of black theologians and South African basic communities. According to J.A. van der Ven empirical studies show that post-material value systems are in our time increasingly shaping conceptions of well-being. H.J. Tieleman concentrates on ecological problems and the uneven distribution of wealth. The world’s religions need to cooperate so that humanity may gain control over economic processes. Svend Andersen analyses differences between `salvation’ and inner-worldly ethical ideals. Jeffner points to similarities between belief in salvation and secular belief in health. With an index.

Studies in Science and Theology 3/1995. The concept of nature in science and theology, Part I. Edited by Niels Henrik Gregersen, Michael W. Parsons and Christoph Wassermann. Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1997. x + 234 pp. ISBN 2830908597. SFr. 29 . This is the third yearbook of ESSSAT. The section `the concept of nature’ has contributions by Evandro Agazzi, Sophie Deicha, Marios Begzos, Jean-Luc Solère, Mariano Artigas, G. Royden Hunt, John P. Dourly and Rafael Martinez. In the section on ` theology of nature’, there are articles by Wolfhart Pannenberg (in German), Robert J. Russell and Xavier Sallantin (in French). Arthur Peacocke, Kevin Sharpe, Peter P. Kirschenmann and Niels Henrik Gregersen write on `divine action’. The final section is on `man in nature’, with essays by Jitze van der Meer, Adrian Reimers, John A. Teske, Alfred Kracher, Eduardo R. Cruz and Philip Hefner. These are plenary lectures and contributions to workshops from the European Conference on Science and Theology in Freising (1994). Other papers will appear in SSTh 4/1996. This yearbook is a good step forward by showing more thematic structure and coherence and a qualitatively better selection of the contributions to workshops. But in my opinion, we still need to work on the yearbooks if they are to be one of the major regular publications in the field. Aside of a strong editorial hand and an index, I believe that greater independence from the conferences would help. Issues can have their own title, rather than follow a conference for two subsequent volumes. We might select more freely from the conferences, even with respect to plenary lectures. Manuscripts can be submitted to these Studies independently, though that does not seem to be widely known. We might even invite papers as to create a stronger and more challenging thematic whole.

Ecology and religion – a huge field

Steven C. Rockefeller, John C. Elder, eds. Spirit and Nature: Why the Environment is a Religious Issue. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992. xii + 226 pp. ISBN 0807077097.
Mary Evelyn Tucker, John A. Grim (eds.), Worldviews and Ecology: Religion, Philosophy and the Environment. (Ecology & Justice series.) Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1994. pp. 246. ISBN 0883449676.
David Kinsley, Ecology and Religion: Ecological Spirituality in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1995. xxi + 248 pp. ISBN 0131385127.
Roger S. Gottlieb, ed., This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment. New York & London: Routledge, 1996. xii + 673 pp. ISBN 0415912334

The growing literature on religion and ecology connects to the discussions on science and religion. How do we see the world we live in? How do we as humans fit into the world? How does a particular religious tradition relate to universal knowledge and wold-wide challenges? Authors actively engaged in science-and-religion discussions also contribute to these discussions (e.g., Ian Barbour, Holmes Rolston). David Kinsley’s Ecology and Religion is very accessible. It is by a single author, who surveys in a readable (and well informed) way ecological spirituality in various traditions: native Americans and aboriginals, hinduism, buddhism and Chin ese religions. He then reviews two opposing views on Christianity, as ecologically harmful due to its support for human domination over nature and as a resource for ecologically responsible attitudes (e.g., Francis of Assisi, Albert Schweitzer). He then discusses the disenchanted view of nature which is characteristic of modern science. He pays attention to American ecological thinkers as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold. After this survey of resources and history, he comes to contemporary discussions on ecotheology, animal rights, deep ecology, ecoactivism and ecofeminism. With index and bibliography. Spirit and Nature offers essays written from various religious perspectives: native American (Audrey Shenandoah), Judaism (Ismar Schorsch), Christianity (Sally McFague), liberal democracy (Ronald Engel), Islam (Seyyed Hossein Nasr) and Tibetan Buddhism (the current Dalai Lama). Robert Prescott-Allen writes on issues of policy in the context of international debates (United Nations, World Wide Fund for Nature). The editors provide an essay and epilogue which puts the discussion in a wider context. More dense are the essays in Worldviews and Ecology. They too cover a wide variety of perspectives: native American (John Grimm), judaism (Eric Katz), christian (Jay McDaniel), islam (Roger E. Timm), baha’i (Robert A. White), hindu (Christopher Key Chapple, buddhism (Brian Brown), jainism (Michael Tobias) and confucianism and taoism (Mary Evelyn Tucker). The later part of the book is devoted to contemporary perspectives, with reflections on our worldview, ecofeminism, Whitehead, and deep ecology (Ralph Metzner, Larry L. Rasmussen, Charlene Spretnak, David R. Griffin, George Sessions, Thomas Berry and Brain Swimme). This Sacred Earth offers texts from authoritative scriptures, liturgies, theological writings and political documents from various traditions and backgrounds. A treasure for those who wish to introduce students to the variety of views and concerns, while at the same time nourishing mutual understanding. How will this area develop, spiritually, politically and academically? Will it be a common concern of religions, or do we witness the emergence of new religions?

Carol Rausch Albright, Joel Haugen (eds.), Beginning with the End: God, Science and Wolfhart Pannenberg. Chicago: Open Court, 1997. xvii + 458 pp. ISBN 08126 9236 4 (paper) and 08126 9325 6 (cloth); $19,95, $38,95. In November 1988 there was a meeting organized by the Chicago Centre for Religion and Science of scientists, philosophers and theologians on Wolfhart Pannenberg’s writings, especially on his Anthropology in Theological Perspective. Pannenberg is one of the few theologians who has an articulate interest in the sciences. The book begins with a substantial essay by Joel Haugen, one of the editors. The first section consists of four essays by Pannenberg. Part Two is on the structure of Pannenberg’s thought, with essays by Philip Hefner and Robert Potter. Some themes, such as the possibility of a Lakatosian reconstruction of Pannenberg’s program, return in Part Six on methodology, with contributions from Wentzel van Huyssteen, Paul Sponheim, Philip Clayton and Nancey Murphy. In between, there are three sections on particular areas of science, namely cosmology (Frank J. Tipler, Robert J. Russell, Willem B. Drees), contingency and field theory (Jeffrey S. Wicken, Ted Peters) and on the study of human nature, with two essays by Lindon Eaves, challenging Pannenberg to take genetics more seriously, rather than jumping at once from non-linear thermodynamics and other themes from physical cosmology to philosophical anthropologies. The book concludes with a response by Pannenberg to essays by Hefner, Wicken, Eaves and Tipler as they were published before in Zygon 24 (June 1989). All sections begin with helpful introductions by the editors, and the book has a good index. This is a rich collection, though participating authors may have developed and changed their views since 1988.

Hubert Meisinger, Liebesgebot und Altruismusforschung. Ein exegetischer Beitrag zum Dialog zwischen Theologie und Naturwissenschaft. (Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus 33.) Freiburg, Schweiz: Universitätsverlag & Göttingen: VandenHoeck & Ruprecht, 1997. 320 pp. ISBN 3727810769 and 3525539347. DM 138, SFR. 98. This book is based on the dissertation which won in 1996 the first ESSSAT Prize. 180 pages deal with a careful analysis of the love command in the New Testament; 65 pages with a survey of contemporary discussions on sociobiology. Emphasis is laid on certain themes, both in the Biblical material and in sociobiological literature, such as the expansion of the circle of those considered relevant objects of love or altruism. The concluding chapter discusses critically the ways in which Ralph Burhoe and Philip Hefner have related christian faith and sociobiology.

Finding God in All Things: Essays in Honor of Michael J. Buckley S.J. Eds. M.J. Himes, S.J. Pope. New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1996, 371 pp. ISBN 082451629X. $29.95. Twenty essays in this Festschrift for the Catholic historian/theologian Michael Buckley (Berkeley, Notre Dame, now Boston College), on atheism, spirituality, catholicism and the university, and religion and science. In the last category essays by Charles Hefling on difficulties in the dialogue, John H. Wright on spirit and matter, Ernan McMullin on evolutionary contingency and cosmic purpose (see also his contribution to the European conference in Cracow), William Stoeger on divine action, the trinity and time, and Albert R. Jonsen on bioethics.

Paul Jerome Croce, Science and Religion in the Era of William James, Volume 1: Eclipse of Certainty, 1820-1880. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. ISBN 080784506x (pbk) and 0807822000. xxi +350 pp. $17.95 (pbk), $42.50 (cloth ). William James (1842-1910) was a seminal thinker, who may well be considered one of the founders of psychology and of pragmatism as a philosophical school, and perhaps best known for his book The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902). He lived through an era of major scientific developments (e.g., the publication of Darwin’s theory of evolution). In this book, Croce points out that this was not merely a period of extension of science into new areas, but also a time of change, the `eclipse of certainty’. The intellectual landscape became different, not only due to the replacement of one idea by another, say `design’ by `evolution’, but because the conception of knowledge changed, from true and certain – as in deductive structures, such as in mathematics – to probable and hypothetical, as in Darwin’s arguments for evolution. That we not only have to deal with new knowledge but also with new conceptions of knowledge, is an insight of major importance for contemporary reflections on religion and science. Croce’s book is primarily biographical. The father of William James was a man of strong convictions on education (against specialization), religious life (against institutions; a great interest in spiritual movements such as the Swedenborgian one), and with high expectations of the spiritual fruits delivered by true science. The contrast between William and his father is a personal variant of the contrast between a modern explorative attitude and holding beliefs as absolute certainties (in science and in religion) mentioned above. A second volume, dealing with the adult James, is announced.

Evangelium und Wissenschaft: Beiträge zum interdisziplinären Gespräch 31 (Mai 1997). Karl-Heim Gesellschaft. ISSN 09340769. Essays by Günter Ewald on physics and `beyond’ (life after death, etc.) and Wolfhart Pannenberg on the christian hope for the resurrection, reports on three conferences (including ours in Cracow) and six book reviews. In German.

Ted Peters, Playing God? Genetic Determinism and Human Freedom. Routledge, 1997. ISBN 041591521X and 0415915228 (paper). $ 59.95/$ 17.95, , $ 40/$ 13.99. Ted Peters, systematic theologian at Pacific Lutheran School of Theology in Berkeley, is principal investigator of a project on theological and ethical questions raised by the human genome project, funded by the (USA) National Institutes of Health and organized by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (Berkeley). The book of the project is yet to come, but Peters here offers welcome insights in his own views on these issues. `Playing God’ is a powerful metaphor, often understood as a rejection of human interventions in genetic material. However, genetics can contribute to the alleviation of human suffering, and that is a task Christians should have close to their hearts. There is also another concern about knowledge of genetics, namely that this results in a view of ourselves as ruled by our genes. Peters criticizes the myth that `it is all in our genes’. Peters opts for a theological understanding of humans as future-oriented and co-creative. DNA is not sacred, nor is `untouched’ nature more `God’s creation’ than nature as shaped by humans. DNA is not beyond human interference – though the issue is interference for what purposes. Issues discussed include original sin, morality and science, patenting genes, germline intervention, but also theological themes such as divine and human freedom.

Stewart Elliott Guthrie, Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993 (paperback 1995). xii + 290 pp. ISBN 0195098919. $ 17.95. Science-and-religion is often a reflection on worldviews, as if they offer competing or complementary explanations of phenomena in reality. In that context, physics and evolutionary biology are often central disciplines in discussions on issues such as chance, contingency and purpose. However, there is another way in which science has a major impact on the credibility of religious views, and that is by suggesting explanations of religions as phenomena in reality. In this context, central are the social sciences, anthropology, comparative studies of religion and the like. In that context the book of Guthrie is an interesting study, as are other books in the same area, such as J. Samuel Preus, Explaining Religion: Criticism and Theory from Bodin to Freud (Yale Univ.Press, 1987) and Daniel L. Pals, Seven Theories of Religio n (Oxford U.P., 1996). Whereas these two authors concentrate on particular theorists (Preus on Jean Bodin, Herbert of Cherbury, Bernard Fontenelle, Giambattista Vico, David Hume, Auguste Comte, Edward B. Tylor, Emile Durkheim and Sigmund Freud; Pals on Tylor and J.G. Frazer, Sigmund Frued, Émile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Mircea Eliade, E.E. Evans-Pritchard and Clifford Geertz), Guthrie is more after a systematic approach. He distinguishes three types of theories of religion, namely as wishfulfilment (emotions-oriented), as social glue (morality oriented) and as a primitive science (cognition oriented). In science and religion discussions, the first two are typical in the broad class of approaches which separate the areas, whereas the last one is leading to more interaction, either as conflict or as substantial dialogue or even systematic integration. Guthrie considers the emphasis on wishfulfillment and social coherence inadequate, since religions also have contributed to fear and anxiety, and to social divisions. Rather, Guthrie sees religions as cognitive strategies, which are in themselves intelligible, namely to anthropomorphize. We see faces in the clouds and suspect intention behind a disease that strikes us. Though this may be mistaken in many instances, it is not a bad strategy to consider first an interpretation of reality which would be the most significant (i.e. risky). To humans, the presence of other humans matters enormously, for better or for worse. Hence interpreting reality in anthropomorphic terms comes quite natural to us. Guthrie argues at some length that the apparent counter-example of buddhism (without a deity) is not really a counter-example, since popular buddhism is not without its anthropomorphizing. Buddha himself is considered a deva beyond all other devas (Devatideva). Its philosophy may be more cleansed of anthropomorphisms, but as a religion it still fits Guthrie’s theory. Guthrie discusses at some length animism and anthropomorphism in other areas such as the arts, p hilosophy and science (e.g., notions such as attraction, charm etc.), before returning to religion. By emphasizing perception and cognition as common ground of science, common sense and religion, Guthrie locates religion far closer to science than do many others who emphasize emotion or morality. However, closer in kind does not mean more credible as an interpretation of reality; that is to be argued for or against at the level of actual theories or models of reality. A challenging book to participants in science-and-religion.