Editorial - REVER number june, year 7, 2007

Religião e Ciência - Tendências atuais (Parte II)

This is the second issue of Rever in 2007 dealing with the theme of “Religion and Science”. Readers can refer to the previous issue’s editorial for an outline of our goals and an overview of the articles published in that issue. In this second issue we finish our survey of recent research in the field and of possible themes for the study of religion. What follows is a brief outline of the five articles published in this issue.

The first article is by Philip Clayton, a distinguished philosopher conversant with topics in fundamental theology, currently a visiting professor at Harvard. He cites Robert Boyle (1627-1691) as a model for lessons still pertinent in our century and advocates an open frame of mind for today’s naturalists. Here we publish a Portuguese translation of the original article, “The Emergence of the Spirit: from Complexity to Anthropology to Theology”, published in Theology and Science. In this article, Clayton discusses emergentist approaches in contemporary science, suggesting that these can be radically naturalistic, not resorting to divine intervention, while, at the same time, being open to transcendence. The emergence of the Homo Sapiens enables the emergence of a spiritual-symbolic world which, in turn, leads to religion. Clayton suggests that it is possible to distance ourselves from a dogmatic naturalism, finding compatibility between the worldview of the natural sciences with the likelihood of divine creation.

The second article is by Francisco Ayala, a renowned biologist from the University of California, Irvine, who describes the evolution of ethics and of religion in our species. On the one hand, he argues against hypotheses of “Mitochondrial Eves,” a thesis popular until recently. On the other hand, he argues for the unique character of our species, suggesting that it enables a distinctive combination of biological and cultural evolution, which lies at the origins of ethics and religion.

We also have an article from Dr. Juan José Blázquez Ortega, professor of the philosophy of nature at the Universidad Popular Autonoma del Estado de Puebla, Mexico. His piece is entitled “Verdad Teologica y la Ciencia hoy: confrontación de saberes y sentido del hombre” [Theological Truth and Science Today: The Confrontation of Knowledge and Meaning in Humanity]. The author has the same basic concern as Clayton, but he approaches it from an entirely different perspective. He speaks about the underpinnings of an interdisciplinary dialogue, in search for the question of meaning and for a more symmetrical picture of the universe, taking a line closer to that of Neo-Thomism.

Philip Hefner, a well-known theologian at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and editor of Zygon (where this article was originally published), discusses a broader concept of religion in his “Religion in the Context of Culture, Theology ,and Global Ethics” (here in its Portuguese translation). He raises challenges for Judeo-Christian theology drawing on the biological sciences, on the case of diseases (AIDS, in particular), and on the existence of evil. He also presents a number of contemporary responses by authors from the English-speaking world, who offer elements for a union between the natural sciences, cultural reflections on religion, and theology, all in favor of a new global ethics.

Finally, Steven J. Engler, visiting Professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, describes in his article “Types of Christian Creationisms” several contemporary typologies of the creationism, advocated by a number of Christian groups. After a detailed analysis and evaluation, he proposes a typology of his own, encompassing the full spectrum of Christian Creationisms, drawing on the strength of former typologies. The subject is all the more relevant if we consider the growing influence of creationists groups in countries such as Brazil.

The set of contributions presented in the previous and current issues of Rever does not exhaust the array of approaches under the umbrella of “science and religion.” It leans strongly toward western traditions and Catholicism in particular. However, our largely Latin-American readership is better served by this selection of themes, given the religious and academic particularities of our continent.

Eduardo R. Cruz, Guest Editor, with the collaboration of Steven J. Engler.